While mobile internet connections on 4G networks are quick enough for most average users, enabling them to stream HD video or download music, apps and games on the go, 5G, the next evolution of wireless networks, has really taken over in the last year.
While Samsung and several other smartphone makers released their first 5G handsets in 2019, Apple jumped on the 5G bandwagen in the fall of 2020, bringing the new standard to the entire iPhone 12 product line. Having sold more smartphones in the last three months of 2020 than any company ever before in a single quarter, Apple’s 5G debut definitely provided a major boost to the new technology.
According to estimates from Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report, the number of 5G smartphone subscriptions worldwide will blow past one billion this year, almost doubling from 2021. That would mean 5G reaching that milestone two years earlier than 4G did after its introduction, and, according to Ericsson’s estimates, subscriptions will double once again by 2024.
The world’s first 5G network launched in 2019, and 5G networks have now been delivered by at least 209 operators, spanning 83 countries. 5G offers significantly improved performance over earlier network technologies. But have consumers really noticed? Download speeds are now much faster, but most smartphone applications do not need higher speeds. It can also support a greater number of devices in one location, but while social distancing is no longer mandatory, towns remain less crowded than before the pandemic, so the need for a technical upgrade may therefore not be pressing.
Deloitte’s research, based on a poll of 31,600 respondents in 18 countries, suggests that consumers appear indifferent to 5G. Proactive upgrading to a 5G network is not a priority for them. Furthermore, 5G support is only a minor factor when considering new phones.
5G is not a purchase priority but will become a necessity
Smartphone vendors tend to prioritise the specifications that are most likely to influence purchase decisions. 5G does not appear to be a leading differentiator. According to our research, only 9 per cent of respondents ranked 5G as the most important feature of a smartphone (figure 2). Nine other attributes were of greater importance.