Should You Still Buy A 4G Smartphone In 2021 — No 5G?

Should you buy a 4G phone in 2021
Image: Unsplash

According to a recent report, roughly 134 million 5G smartphones were sold in the first quarter of 2021. This is a 458% growth over 2021 first-quarter sales. That said, is it still a good idea to buy a 4G smartphone in 2021?

We can argue that 5G will be blazing fast and create a world of difference compared to 4G. On the contrary, not all 5G networks are created equal, which means your location will be an important factor in deciding if you should get a 4G smartphone in 2021.

Not All 5G Are Created Equal

5G speed representative image
Image: Unsplash

Basics first, 5G is the fifth generation of cellular data, which is a massive improvement over the existing 4G LTE. That said, the full potential of 5G is yet to be exploited by most of the world.

The 5G in the U.S. vs 5G in India will be poles apart in terms of performance and speed. It is so because 5G works at different speeds, depending on the frequency on which it runs. The blazing-fast 5G speeds are possible because of the mmWave frequency. These frequency bands range between 24GHz to 40GHz.

Then we have the sub-6GHz 5G network. This is certainly faster than 4G LTE but doesn’t use the full 5G potential. For example, the top speed for mmWave 5G is 1.8 Gbit/second, and the top speed for sub-6GHz 5G is around between 100 to 400Mbit/second. So if you’re living in a suburban or rural area, even in the U.S., you’ll probably miss out on mmWave 5G for now.

Fact: Only the U.S. version of the iPhone 12 Pro Max supports mmWave 5G. So if you have any other 5G iPhone 12, you’re not going to get the full 5G treatment.

One major problem with mmWave 5G is that you need to be close to a tower to get the signal. It is so because higher frequencies like the mmWave cannot travel far. This means the sub-6GHz network is the popular one, which means real-life 5G usage may not be as fast as you thought it to be. That said, let’s talk about buying a 4G smartphone in 2021.

Buying A 4G Smartphone In 2021

Buy a 4G phone in 2021
Older phones come with more goodies in the box!

Apple stepping into the 5G game is a big reason for the sudden increase in sales of 5G phones. The latest iPhone 12 lineup is 5G-ready, which means everyone getting the latest iPhone is getting an upgrade to 5G. Apple alone has a 30% market share in 5G handsets. Manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi have also seen increased demands in 5G smartphones.

This increase in demand means more 5G smartphones from the companies. In fact, today, there are hardly any new 4G smartphones rolling out. However, even if you buy a mid-range 5G smartphone, it isn’t going to be as future-proof as a flagship from last year.

For example, have a look at the video comparing the 5G Samsung Galaxy A52 (2021) with the Samsung Galaxy S10 (2019). They’re almost at par. You can get a refurbished Galaxy S10 for the same price as the new A52, and it will still last longer and perform better.

I think you should buy a 4G phone in 2021. It is so because 5G is rolling out but will take its sweet time. A new 5G phone is definitely future-proof, but 4G smartphones are not obsolete yet. So yes, you can buy a 4G LTE smartphone in 2021 and save some money.

While 5G is definitely the future, you can buy a 5G smartphone when it is as uniform as 4G. Till the time we have high-frequency mmWave speeds everywhere, I think the flagships running 4G are better than the mid-range phones running 5G. If you’re considering the options, I’ll urge you to have a look at our coverage on how to buy a second-hand or refurbished iPhone or Android smartphone.

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