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Updating hardware for a new phone network

Apr 05,2019
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Left: LG Electronics’ V50 ThinQ 5Q. Right: People look at Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S10 5Q on April 1 when presales started. [LG ELECTRONICS, NEWS1]
5G phones are finally available to the general public in Korea from today.

Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S10 5G was officially launched late Wednesday night for a few handpicked customers, but it is widely available from today. By April 19, the company’s local rival LG Electronics will also roll out its first 5G-enabled phone, the LG V50 ThinQ 5G.

These phones, for the time being, will be two of the most prominent 5G-enabled devices in the world, but how are they actually different from existing 4G LTE phones?

First, the phones each contain two separate antennae. One antenna is similar to the one found inside 4G LTE phones and is used to pick up that signal, and the other receives 5G signals. While the phones will try to use 5G wherever they can, such as in the greater Seoul area where 5G infrastructure is already relatively robust, they will still be able to revert to 4G LTE when the 5G connection is weak or nonexistent.

The second major difference is that 5G phones come with larger screens and greater battery capacity compared to the previous generation of phones.

The Galaxy S10 5G, for instance, comes with a 6.7-inch display and a 4,500 milliampere hour battery. The screen is larger by 0.3 inches compared to Samsung’s flagship phablet Galaxy Note9. The battery has a larger capacity than other Galaxy S10 phones, such as the Galaxy S10+ that is equipped with a 4,100 milliampere hour battery.

Samsung’s 5G phone also uses super-fast 25 watt charging, which offers double the speed of the more common 10 watt chargers. Faster charging is necessary for 5G phones as heavy data consumption for games, movies and virtual reality content uses up large amounts of power.

LG’s V50 ThinQ comes with a 6.4-inch screen and an extra 6.2-inch screen that can be attached so that consumers can use the phone in a dual display mode. The second screen comes as an accessory. With the dual display, users can watch videos with the main screen and search for words they don’t know with the second screen, all at the same time. The phone is equipped with a 4,000 milliampere hour battery, 20 percent larger than the battery on the previous V40 phone.

Samsung is also gearing up to launch a new 5G phone. The company’s first foldable phone, dubbed the Galaxy Fold, will roll out with a 5G-enabled version next month. When folded, the phone looks just like a normal phone with a 4.6-inch screen. When unfolded, the phone offers a tablet-like display with a 7.3-inch screen. The phone has a 4,380 milliampere hour battery and six cameras.

While Chinese phone maker Huawei introduced its own foldable 5G phone Mate X to compete with the Galaxy Fold, the launch date is yet unclear. According to Huawei’s specs, the Mate X’s screens will be larger than the Galaxy Fold, both when folded and unfolded.

The 5G phones’ upgraded specs come at a hefty cost. Samsung and LG’s first 5G phones both cost over a million won ($880). The store price of the S10 5G is 1,397,000 won for a 256 gigabyte model. For the larger 512 gigabyte model, the price goes up to 1,556,500 won.

While LG Electronics’ V50 ThinQ is a bit cheaper than the S10 5G at 1,199,000 won, it still costs more than a million won. The price of the to-be-released Galaxy Fold is expected to be around 2.4 million won according to industry insiders.

Despite the spotlight on 5G phones, iPhone maker Apple is yet to come out with a plan to release its 5G phone. Apple has a considerable market share in Korea, with about 15 to 20 percent of Koreans using iPhones.

One major difficulty for Apple is securing the 5G chipset for its phone, largely due to a patent dispute with Qualcomm.

A source from the electronics industry, who requested anonymity, said, “Apple asked Samsung for 5G modem chip supplies, but Samsung said it has tight supplies even only for Samsung phones, as of what I know.”


BY KIM YOUNG-MIN [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]