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After the hype, 5G reality set to unfold

By Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-10 07:22
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Fans take pictures of the Huawei Mate X smartphone, ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain earlier this year. [Photo/Agencies]

After being overwhelmed by big 5G announcements and advertisements for months, domestic consumers can finally get their hands on the much-awaited 5G smartphones in June.

Pinning hopes on the next-generation devices to revive a market mired in an innovation lull and a sales slump, smartphone vendors are scrambling to woo early adopters and hope to gain a first-mover advantage in the global 5G battle.

Consumers can apply to be part of Oppo's 5G smartphone experience program starting on Wednesday and the company will officially bring the commercial models to the market within two months. Huawei's 5G foldable smartphone Mate X is also scheduled to hit the market by the middle of this year.

The 5G handsets by Vivo, Xiaomi and OnePlus are timed to be available in the middle of this year, the third quarter and the second half of 2019 respectively, according to statements from the companies.

The next-generation smartphones are expected to deliver superfast speeds, be able to download high-definition movies in seconds and better enable complicated virtual reality games such as fighting a 3D-dinosaur in a living room.

Though some of these initial applications are possible in 4G, "it is 5G that is going to be a significant jump forward for phones because only with the latter's higher bandwidth can these applications be more sophisticated and adopted by most consumers, delivering a really amazing impact," said Nicole Peng, senior director of market research company Canalys.

According to a report by the research institute China Center for Information Industry Development, the prices of the first-batch of 5G smartphones will exceed 10,000 yuan ($1,470).

But with telecom carriers spending money to subsidize consumers, the prices are likely to drop to 5,000 yuan to 6,000 yuan by the beginning of 2020.

By September 2020, Apple is expected to unveil its first 5G smartphone and the production costs will plummet. As a result, the average prices of domestic products are likely to continue declining to about 2,000 yuan, the report added.

"Starting next year, more consumers will upgrade their handsets to 5G smartphones. And the prime time period will last till 2023, triggering an explosive growth in smartphone shipments," said Kang Jialin, one of the authors of the report.

"With more 5G base stations constructed, new smartphone applications will emerge, injecting new impetus to the sector. But this year, only a small number of 5G devices will be shipped," Kang said.

The report forecast that about 10 million units of smartphones are expected to be shipped this year and the number will hit 250 million in 2023.

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