Samsung is about to launch the Galaxy S20, its newest flagship phone and — if history is anything to go by — what will largely be the standard that the rest of 2020’s top phones is measured up against.
Millions of people will buy the S20, which will almost certainly be one of the most popular phones sold in the United States this year.
It’s also going to be the first real test for 5G networks in the US, one that could help establish the networking standard as the true next-generation technology that companies have spent years hyping it up to be — or it’ll shine a spotlight on the half-baked mess of competing standards, technologies, and strategies that currently makes up the 5G market in the US.
All three rumored S20 phones — the regular, the Plus, and the Ultra — are expected to support 5G. Technically, the S20 phones won’t be Samsung’s first 5G phones, but they’re going to be the first 5G phones that matter, both for Samsung and the US market at large.
Last year’s Galaxy S10 5G was a phone without a network. When it was announced in February 2019, no US carrier had launched a 5G network or even offered a date when they would be launching. It was more of a marketing device than a serious product, a big sign that Samsung could point to to prove that it was on the cutting edge with one of the first 5G devices.
The sales reflect that: between the S10 5G and the Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung said it managed to sell 6.7 million 5G phones in 2019. It was more than Samsung said it expected to sell. But compared to the estimated 290 million-plus smartphones Samsung sold last year, it’s a drop in the bucket.
2020 is a very different story. All four major US carriers now offer at least some form of 5G networking (albeit with major differences in coverage, network technology, and speeds). Unlike last year, when Qualcomm offered an optional 5G modem for its flagship Snapdragon 855 processor, the 865 makes it mandatory. More