Verizon’s Galaxy S10 5G Price Blows Straight Through the $1K Barrier

 

We knew the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G was going to be expensive, given that the Galaxy S10e, S10, and S10+ start at $750, $900, and $1000, respectively. Now that Verizon has announced its pricing for the Galaxy S10 5G, we know exactly how expensive it’s going to be. Spoiler alert: This phone is an incredibly bad deal.

If you want a Galaxy S10 5G with 256GB of storage (the base model), Verizon will be happy to sell you one for the low, low price of $54.16 per month for 24 months, or $1,300. If you want the 512GB version, you can pick that up for just $1,400, or ~$580 less than the Galaxy Fold.

What does $1,300 – $1,400 buy you? It buys you the right to try to lock on to a 5G signal in a bare handful of areas in a handful of cities, provided you aren’t behind glass, around a corner, or down the street from the nearest 5G base station. Also, you’d best hope it isn’t raining.

640089-5g-speed-with-distance-from-site

5G speed graphed against distance from site depending on intervening objects. Image by Sascha Segan, PC Mag

This image, from PC Mag’s in-depth and exhaustive Verizon 5G evaluation in Chicago, shows just how bad the range is on 5G at present, and how uncertain the performance. You should not buy this phone. At the very least, you should not buy this phone because you care about 5G performance, because unless you literally live in the geographic equivalent of a golden sample, you aren’t going to get 5G performance out of it.

Verizon-Laughable

Verizon is offering a $650 credit on the Galaxy S10 5G, which sounds like a great way to relieve the purchase pain until you read the fine print. In order to qualify for the full $650, you need to be a new Verizon member, sign up for an unlimited plan, and trade in a flagship phone from one of the last few years. If you can’t get more than $450 for your iPhone XS Max on eBay, even used, you’re doing something wrong.

Also, Verizon removed 5G service from its cheapest Go Unlimited plan, according to Gizmodo, which means you’ll be looking at a minimum service fee of $50 per line as a starting rate. That’s probably no big deal if you can afford a $1,300 – $1,400 phone, but it’s another hoop you’ll have to jump through.

In addition to Chicago and Minneapolis, Verizon expects to roll out service to 20 more cities in 2019, which include Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Washington DC. But so what? During its earnings call this week, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg admitted that T-Mobile is quite correct about 5G’s limited coverage capabilities and performance outside high-density urban areas.

“We all need to remind ourselves, this is not a coverage spectrum,” Vestberg said on the call. 5G performance will vary depending on which network bands are used to carry the signals in an area. Where mmWave technology is deployed and the end-user is sitting on top of a 5G modem, performance should eventually hit gigabit-class levels. Everywhere else? It won’t. Statistically, you probably live in “It won’t” territory.

We don’t know yet exactly what performance will look like, but analyst expectations are that 5G deployments that use spectrum currently dedicated to LTE-A should perform an awful lot like LTE-A, maybe with some incremental improvement. Exact levels and expectations have not been qualified, and of course, replacing old LTE equipment with brand-new 5G equipment may still result in larger gains if the LTE deployments date back to the early days of that technology. But either way, Verizon and other companies are gearing up to slap enormous premiums on hardware that doesn’t intrinsically justify them.

Unless you’re a unicorn, 5G in 2019 won’t be for you. Make your phone buying decisions accordingly.

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