If you’ve stepped into a cell phone store in the last few years, you’ve probably heard the term 5G. You might have even heard all the hype surrounding the latest generation of wireless technology, offering faster speeds and higher rates of data transmission. 5G is an exciting step forward for cell service and other wireless tech, but what does it mean for the folks buying their next phone?
Since 5G is still evolving and being rolled out, it can be hard to follow what exactly you get with certain devices and which ones are the best options for those looking to make the most of 5G. Hopefully, we can clear things up in this guide to the best 5G phones in 2022.
What Is 5G?
The “G” in 5G refers to the word “generation,” as it does in 4G and 3G. It’s the newest version of wireless technology that has a whole new approach to creating networks, so data can move much faster and more responsively. It’s great for cell phone users, but it also has some big implications for connected technologies, like sensors and smart devices.
Wireless networks are made up of various cell sites across the coverage area. They are divided into sectors that transmit data over radio waves. 4G networks use massive, high-powered cell towers that send signals across long distances.
5G takes a different approach, sending signals through a large number of small, discreet cell stations. They’re attached to structures like light posts and buildings. These smaller cell stations are important because 5G works on a different radio wave spectrum — millimeter wave (mmWave) — that can only travel short distances. Weather and physical objects can also interfere with it.
Because of this change in infrastructure, the 5G rollout has been a long process, especially since there are different “tiers” of 5G. The highest band, mmWave, is the fastest but shortest option. Currently, mmWave is only available in select areas, so for many people who already have 5G, it feels similar to 4G. In fact, they may even be running 4G most of the time, depending on the area. That should change soon, as more networks expand 5G capabilities. Even if your phone doesn’t feel too different now, the fun stuff is starting to roll out, and a 5G-capable device is primed to take advantage of it.
Different carriers approach 5G in different ways, and not all phones are capable of supporting low-, mid- and high-bands. For the most part, high-band 5G is only available in major cities, but it should be more widespread in the future. Low-band 5G is pretty well-covered across the country. You can always check your carrier’s website for more information on coverage.
Keep in mind that carriers might call their high-band networks something different, so here’s what you’ll need to look for:
- Verizon: Verizon offers mid- and high-band coverage under 5G Ultra Wideband (UW).
- AT&T: AT&T’s high-band option is called 5G+, alongside their standard 5G coverage. Keep an eye out for the term 5GE, which refers to 5G Evolution. This is technically a 4G network that’s a bit more advanced and lays the foundation for strong 5G performance when the time’s right.
- T-Mobile: T-Mobile’s low-band service is called Extended Range (XR) 5G, while their mid- and high-band option is called Ultra Capacity (UC) 5G.
You might also see the term C-band, which is typically a mid-band option. Other carriers may have different terms, so be sure to read carefully and check the coverage map before you buy.
The Benefits of 5G
We know how it works and that it’s fast, but what else do you get with 5G? This latest wireless technology offers:
- High data transmission rates: The actual speed of 5G networks depend on many different factors, but theoretically, you could get data transmission speeds of 1-10 gigabytes per second (Gbps), with an average speed of about 50 megabytes per second (Mbps). For comparison, 4G speeds reach a maximum of 150Mbps, with an average of around 10Mbps.
- Low latency: Latency is the amount of time it takes for a phone to send data and receive a response. If you’ve ever been playing a game and your player doesn’t move for a few seconds after you push a button, that’s latency in action. In fact, gaming is one of the best applications for 5G, as far as cell phones are concerned. 5G should offer latency of around 10 milliseconds on average and as low as 1 millisecond in some situations.
- High bandwidth: With higher data capabilities, 5G also supports more devices on networks at once. Many cities and crowded areas, like arenas and concert venues, deal with congestion problems with so many people accessing the network simultaneously.
These are just the main effects of 5G on cell phone users — it also has huge implications for businesses and advanced technologies, like self-driving cars and drones that need immediate responses and high-volume connections. We could see some truly game-changing technology thanks to 5G.
Which Are the Best 5G Phones?
If you want to see what 5G is all about, you’ll need a phone that can support it. Here are our picks for the top 5G phones currently on the market.
1. iPhone SE, 12 and 13 Lineups
Apple has offered 5G support for a while now, and you can get one of the best 5G smartphone experiences with the Apple® iPhone SE, 12 or 13 lineups. All of these phones — including the mini, Pro and Pro Max varieties — can tap into 5G. The iPhone 12 and SE offer it at a more affordable price point, while the 13 gets you the latest Apple technology. The 13 also offers Smart Data mode, which automatically adjusts to save power if you don’t need those super-fast speeds.
All phones will give you the coveted Apple experience with excellent camera tech and a user-friendly interface:
- iPhone SE: The latest iteration of the iPhone SE, the SE third generation, is a great phone, with 5G and Apple’s fast A15 Bionic chip, all at a retail price of under $500. The camera isn’t quite as sophisticated as the newer options, and it features a home button, unlike the screen-to-screen displays of the other iPhones. Still, the iPhone SE is an excellent way to get an Apple device and 5G without a high price point.
- iPhone 12: Another option is to go to the iPhone 12. This phone came out in 2020 and offers many modern features, like a dual-camera setup and the still-very-fast A14 Bionic chip. It comes in a compact mini version, the standard model, a higher-powered Pro and a massive Pro Max. Compared to the SE, the 13 offers a high-contrast, brighter screen, improved water and dust resistance, MagSafe accessories and Night Mode photography. The Pro and Pro Max add some great photography options.
- iPhone 13: The latest option, the iPhone 13, has all those features and more. This lineup gets exceptional battery life, the lightning-fast A15 chip and a high-powered camera system with Cinematic mode.
2. Samsung Galaxy S22 Lineup
The Samsung Galaxy S22 is one of the best 5G mobile devices for the Android fans out there. As Samsung’s flagship phone, it rivals the other major competitors with a fast processor, excellent camera system and a fairly long-lasting battery. You can choose from the standard Galaxy S22, the S22+ and the S22 Ultra. All three give you 5G access and top-of-the-line Samsung features.
The S22 and S22+ are virtually identical, except for the larger screen size of the S22+. They both have a stellar camera system, with wide, ultra wide and telephoto lenses and a powerful night photography mode. It also gets a high-tech screen that sports adaptive refresh rates, a slick option that adjusts your display’s “smoothness” according to what you’re doing. If you’re gaming and need a super responsive display, it’ll ramp up to 120 Hz. If you’re just scrolling through social media, it can drop down to 60 Hz to maximize battery life. You can choose from screen sizes of 6.1 or 6.6 inches and a wide range of colors.
If you want something a little higher-powered, the S22 Ultra offers a bigger battery, more storage options and a whopping 6.8-inch screen. Its camera system also gets an upgrade, with a 108-MP wide lens and an additional 10-MP telephoto lens with 10x optical zoom. Plus, the front camera ramps up to 40 MP.
3. Google Pixel 5a, 6, 6a and 6 Pro
With the Google Pixel phones, you can get a great mid-range 5G device with everything you need for a great experience. If you’re looking for the best budget 5G phones, consider this one. The Pixels offer everything you expect from a modern smartphone with plenty of premium features thrown in. The Google Tensor chip supports machine-learning processes, like speech recognition and security tools, while the camera system offers exceptional performance with dark and fast-moving subjects.
If you want a 5G Google Pixel, you have a lot of options, including:
- Pixel 5a: The smallest of the bunch, the Pixel 5a, has a 6.3-inch screen, and a new one comes in at under $450 retail. The camera system is solid, with 12.2-MP and 16-MP rear cameras and a wide range of modes and features. One of the Pixel’s biggest claims to fame is its battery life. The 5a offers an all-day battery and can last over two days on the Extreme Battery Saver mode.
- Pixel 6a: Another affordable option, the Pixel 6a has a compact 6.1-inch screen with ultra-high contrast and a handy high-brightness mode. It gets the longest-lasting battery yet, offering a typical charge of over 24 hours and up to 72 hours on Extreme Battery Saver mode. The camera system is similar to the 5a, with a 12.2-MP wide camera and a 12-MP ultrawide rear camera. Otherwise, it isn’t a huge departure from the Pixel 5a.
- Pixel 6: The Pixel 6 is just slightly bigger at 6.4 inches and features improved water and dust resistance. The typical battery lasts longer than a day, and you can even use it to charge other wireless devices. The 6 uses Google’s own Tensor processor and beefs up the camera system with a 12-MP ultrawide lens and a 50-MP wide.
- Pixel 6 Pro: With the Pixel 6 Pro, you get a large 6.7-inch screen with a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. It also increases RAM to 12 GB and gives you storage options of up to 512 GB. The camera system sports the same lenses as the 6 and an additional 48-MP telephoto camera.
4. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and Flip3
If you’re looking for something a little more novel, the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Flip3 are two unique options. Both use Samsung’s folding-screen technology that let the phones collapse in half. The Fold3 opens up like a book, while the Flip3 opens vertically like an old flip phone. You’re not going to get camera systems or battery life that rival the S22, but they’ll cover the basics. These are certainly not the cheapest 5G phones you could get, with the Fold3 starting at well over $1,000.
The Z Fold3’s screen opens up to a whopping 7.6 inches with a built-in ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. It comes with Samsung’s S Pen, but the camera system isn’t very competitive, offering just one 12-MP rear camera and a 10-MP front camera.
The Z Flip3 expands to a 6.7-inch screen, with similar specs to the Fold3. It offers slightly higher RAM and doubles your maximum storage options, but it won’t work with the S Pen.
5. Samsung Galaxy A53 5G
One of the cheapest 5G smartphones is the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G. It offers 5G mmWave performance and a great user experience. It won’t be quite as robust as flagship phones, but it has some surprisingly impressive specs for a sub-$500 phone.
The A53 5G has an optical fingerprint sensor, a large battery, expandable storage up to 1 TB and a 120 Hz refresh rate, along with other common Samsung features like fast charging and various camera modes. The camera is pretty hefty, with four rear cameras — including ultrawide, main, depth and macro cameras — and a 32-MP selfie camera.
Find Your 5G Fit With Gazelle
5G is ushering in the next generation of technology, with faster, stronger wireless service. If you want to start taking advantage of it sooner rather than later, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the devices in this list of the best phones for 5G. And remember, you don’t need to spend a fortune on 5G, especially if you buy your phone used.
Here at Gazelle, we strive to make it easy to buy used phones, with thorough testing procedures and hassle-free 30-day returns. We have a wide selection of 5G phones, so you can choose the right one for your preferences and budget. Plus, they’re unlocked, so you can select whichever provider has the best 5G coverage in your area. Whether you’re looking for top-of-the-line 5G phones or something more affordable, we’ve got you covered. Explore our used 5G phones online to see for yourself!