back to article GSMA report: Sorry, handset makers, 5G is not going to save the smartphone market

A flurry of 5G-capable handsets have hit the shelves, giving punters an opportunity to transcend the limits of LTE data. But will they take the bait? According to the latest edition of the GSMA's The Future of Devices, probably not. The trade body's research arm based the report on its 2019 Consumer Survey, which surveyed 38, …

  1. dave 81

    For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

    What will the extra speed of 5G give me? I can watch HD content already. I don't use the phone for downloading much except an audible book once a month, and that tends to be when I am wifi anyway.

    Okay, if I was to tether then maybe it would be nice, but at the speeds offered by 5G you could run a home network. Hell, even at 4G speeds you could run a home network.

    I don't see any benefit to 5G speeds on a mobile device.

    1. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

      Re: For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

      Yep, I use 4G at home (with a Teltonika router) because wired broadband is crap in the area (rural Durham) and it's OK for that. Never use 4G on my handset though; I always set it to 3G because it's fast enough and I'd rather have the battery life.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

      I don't have broadband at all, I just use a 4G dongle.

      I do 100-200Gb a month, which is way within the average broadband use for a home.

      Never do I see a "speed limit" (i.e. buffering, stopping, pausing, things just not streaming, games jerking, etc.) but it's not the fastest thing in the world (I have 1000 games on Steam, though, so there's quite a bit of downloading large updates every now and then).

      Also works out a damn sight cheaper: £20 a month, all in, on a monthly-rolling contract for unlimited amounts of data (stated "action" only happens over 1000Gb a month).

      5G would be interesting to me, just to up that base speed a little, but other than that... who cares? And, technically, if they bothered to use 4G properly (which we never do in this country) then you could easily reach any speed that I could desire with it.

      When a 5G router, 5G SIM and still-unlimited data is available for a reasonable price? Maybe I'll upgrade. Until then, my smartphone is only on a 4G sim and sees basically zero data use (I just join it to the wifi to take advantange of the above unlimited package, so the only data I use is if I'm actually out and about and I don't tend to stream HD movies in the car or places where there isn't already wifi).

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

      I'm not a big user of data out and about so 3G is fine for me. My phone has 4G but I don't use it because of the excess drain of the battery. I've got wifi at home and access to very fast broadband at work. So I'd be using it mostly during my commute which is on the underground and no 2G let alone 4/5G. A colleague of mine said she needed a 5G phone but couldn't explain what the extra speed would be used for by herself. She was also concerned about battery life being reduced using 5G. Made her reasons for wanting 5G seem odd.

    4. AdamWill

      Re: For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

      Exactly this. Just don't need it. Additionally, since the 4G rollout we passed a sort of tipping point for most people where their phone went from 'cool gadget they love upgrading' to 'annoying and borderline creepy thing they secretly kinda wish they could live without'. Upgrading your phone is now like 'upgrading' your toilet or something - yes, maybe there's theoretically a whizzier (pun absolutely intended!) model around now than whenever you got yours, but that still doesn't mean you're going to rush out shopping unless it actually breaks.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For a mobile device, 4G is more than fast enough for me.

      It's good enough. With 4G you can stream video at a high enough resolution for a mobile screen (anything more than 1080p on a 6 inch screen is overkill) and it's not like people run are running BitTorrent clients to download... um... Linux ISOs on their phone. 5G is a solution looking for a problem.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Last year, Gartner warned that the global smartphone market was actively shrinking"

    I doubt it. A more appropriate phrase would be "getting saturated".

    I can only image that business schools across the world are churning out MBAs who have been told that if you see sales doubling for three successive quarters it means your market is expanding exponentially and will always continue to do that.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "It just so happens that there's something better."

    That remains to be demonstrated. Yes, there is a new protocol, but until it is everywhere and always available, it will not be reliable. Plus there's the fact that 5G needs a lot more access points to be useful - those points need to be created and, until they are, people will be happy with 4G.

    It's time that companies realize that good enough is good enough and people won't bend over backwards to throw cash at them just because something "better" has been announced.

    Seems like 5G is going to be the Betamax of the mobile phone industry.

    1. DCFusor Silver badge

      Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

      Perhaps a side issue for some - but 5g will allow far more detailed tracking of user location by access point data. There's no way to block that if you're connected.

      And of course, in the mountains where I live - the normal, older connectivity is unreliable - even now, people can barely get a signal inside my home on the 2nd floor - and even that only became barely possible a few years ago. So, for that large minority of the population not living in a dense urban area, 5G's completely irrelevant.

      1. Jim Mitchell

        Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

        Doesn't the majority of the population live in urban areas these days? Your mountain scenario is the minority.

        1. DCFusor Silver badge

          Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

          Yes, I said large minority.

          I don't believe in or desire a tyranny by a majority myself (it hasn't worked well in history), and happen to think my life is as valuable, as someone leaving needles on the street along with human waste, in between commingling crimes, but hey, that's just me.

          It's quite possible for the majority to be in the wrong. I remember a time when the majority thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea!

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

          Yes, the majority does. But the companies want to sell to everybody, including the minority. In addition, the majority who live in cities sometimes tend to leave their cities. They may go drive or take other transport to another city, or go away from the city for recreation, or move into a suburb, which might be in an area with obstructions to easy coverage. These conditions increase the size of that minority, and depending on the area, they may make it a majority.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

            "But the companies want to sell to everybody"

            And if they don't regulators might make them.

    2. Jeffrey Nonken

      Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

      The reason DAT never replaced cassettes, regardless of hype: cassettes were cheap, simple, convenient, reasonably reliable, and well established. DAT was higher quality. It took MP3 to replace cassettes -- a format that was cheaper, more convenient, and more portable.

      Cassettes were Good Enough for most people.

      4G is Good Enough for most people. 5G holds no draw for me.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

        The same process is evident in the wired sector as well. Only this week VM have announced another round of free upgrades because so many of their customers see no reason to pay for it.

        TBB has pointed out previously that if everyone in the UK paid for the best service available to them we'd be in the global top three for average speed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

        MP3 replaced cassettes at first because it was "free".

        It took Apple convincing music labels (and the writing on the wall of P2P sharing of MP3s) to sell songs ala carte for a reasonable price, rather than selling by albums or overpriced singles, to make AAC/MP3 popular for the reasons you say.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

          And yet vinyl (Albums! In Analog, even!) is making a comeback...

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

            Vinyl isn't making a comeback. It is a niche product with nostalgia appeal, reminding some people of an imaginary time when all was sunshine, roses, and badly-made film cameras artistically leaking light.

            I doubt if even half of new vinyl is ever actually played.

            I do hope vinyl continues to bring joy to many, but it will never again be mass-market.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

              ORLY? They're outselling CDs, for goodness sake. If this is niche, then it's a hell of a niche to have Rolling Stone cover the subject.

              1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

                Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

                I guess you didn't read the article,.... 'poised to outsell' AND that will be by revenue, not unit sales, AND because CD sales are plummeting thanks to Streaming and Downloads. So it's not because Vinyl is succeeding over CD, it's because a niche market is doing OK amongst lacklustre physical sales. Also, many new Vinyl purchases come with a download code, as it's well understood that many Vinyl albums wont get played, they're kind of like a gift card for wankers.

              2. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

                Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

                CDs are a practical format, which means they compete directly with streaming and downloads. Vinyl is for audiofools and hipsters, which are different markets altogether.

      3. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

        It took MP3 to replace cassettes -- a format that was cheaper, more convenient, and more portable.

        Cassettes were Good Enough for most people.

        4G is Good Enough for most people. 5G holds no draw for me.

        They didn't really aim DAT at the consumer market - it was aimed at the semi-professional (or professional) who wanted a high quality medium without paying full-whack professional prices. For domestic uses, CD very quickly replaced vinyl, and except for home recording and some portable (Walkman) uses it also replaced cassettes, and this because the quality and convenience were so much better that people accepted the price - and the price quickly dropped.

        For a while DAT was actually relatively good value for money if you were doing - say - field recording. For considerably less cost than the typical analogue Nagra you could get an hour of digital stereo onto a small and robust cassette.

        Nevertheless, many outfits didn't even need that. The reporters at the local radio station I worked at in the 1990s were still using cassettes, albeit with Marantz units similar to these which we had modified to take balanced microphones. Among several advantages over a normal cassette recorder was the curious double-flywheel drive system. Two counter-rotating flywheels helped to keep the tape speed constant even when slung over a reporter's shoulder and knocked about - something that the helical scan head of DAT really struggled with - and rather than buying cheap 90 minute cassettes we had cassettes holding 10 or 15 minutes per side made from the exact same tape used in our ¼" reel-to-reel machines, slit down the middle by the manufacturer, Zonal. Robust and perfect for voice.

        When I went to record a baritone at Llandaff Cathedral or a carol service at St Woolo's or a male voice choir in a local sports centre I used a DAT machine - albeit one which belonged to the presenter, as the station was too tight to buy one and would probably have suggested I sling a Revox in the back of the car if I wanted something better than cassette :-)

        Your point is just as valid though if you consider the things that were supposed to supplant compact cassettes - Minidisc and DCC. Both were too expensive compared with "good enough" CC and while MD vastly improved on the convenience (the discs were random access, easily re-recordable and very robust) DCC most certainly did not.

        It doesn't work in quite the same way with mobile phones though. To be perfectly honest, many people could get by quite nicely with GPRS data and 2G for calls & texts (remember, for example, that Twitter used to work via text messages), though 3G and particularly HSDPA does make web browsing on a typical bloated site much more pleasurable.

        Unlike home recording formats though, mobile phones tend to have a high turnover rate. This is changing, slowly, but if you are on contract you will more-or-less automatically get a new phone every two years (or whatever). Someone on a 4G contract today might well have a 5G capable phone next time, whether or not they really need one. Even those not on that type of contract will be looking at (at best) a three to five year lifespan - mobile phones have a hard time of it and it's often more economical to replace a four year old phone - which might also need a new battery - than repair a damaged screen.

        I have a six year old Moto G and I'm probably going to have to replace it this year. I really don't need anything more than a solid 3G data connection but I can 100% guarantee that my next phone will be 4G, and if it lasts 4 or 5 years the phone after that will be 5G.

        Not because I need it or want it or am keen for the latest-and-greatest, but because by the time I get around to buying my phone-after-next, 5G will be there by default. Probably.

        M.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

        frankly speaking, 2G is good enough for me, if it works, i.e. I can call and get calls. I don't NEED TO know what my pals think about my latest fb post, or what Trump tweeted NOW. Or book my holiday NOW. Sadly, this makes me a minority's minority and now I HAVE TO have 3G at least. Next year, or in 2 years time they'll switch off 3G and my... three perfectly capable handsets purchased over the last 10 years will become offline gps receivers (and music players) only.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: "It just so happens that there's something better."

          my... three perfectly capable handsets purchased over the last 10 years will become offline gps receivers (and music players) only

          Not necessarily. They might not have 3G any more, but they will all be 2G capable and there's no sign that 2G is going away any time soon - too many IoT devices rely on it! So at the least you'll still be able to make calls and send texts. Standard 2G data was (IIRC) something like 9.6kbps, but if they keep (E)GPRS active you can get by quite well on 160kbps or whatever it offers :-)

          M.

  4. Szymon Kosecki

    I would rather had a decent 4G coverage everywhere than another limited 5G rollout..

    1. Dave K Silver badge

      Couldn't agree more. I'd much rather have UK-wide 4G than yet another speed bump that will likely be confined to towns and cities.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Even when I have a 'good' 4G signal in the city I often get rubbish performance. I doubt that fixing that needs 5G and its not important enough to me to spend much money on it either way.

  5. Spearchucker Jones

    There's also the micro - tracking 5G enables. Cells are much smaller so tracking data much more granular.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cells are only smaller when they are mmwave band. The deployments using the same frequencies as current cellular (which in many cases are 2G/3G retirement/redeployment, or LTE/5G coexistance) they have exactly the same range/size as LTE.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        LTE wasn't very LT then was it. LIES!

  6. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    Most people...

    I own a second home in the boonies where there is no cell coverage, except via Wifi at the house. I'd be more interested in one of the ancient but long range protocols making it there than a new even shorter range one with speed I have zero use for. I'd bet that's true for most people. As for my primary residence, my phone is plenty fast enough, so I have no use for a new phone until this one breaks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most people...

      ok boomer

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Most people...

        Fuck off, tosspot.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Most people...

          given the context (the register's hardly visited by those baby-thingies), my guess is it was probably pseudo-trolling. But, in a sense, correct, the young being young (and well, inexperienced) will eat every turd, as long as it's polished to high state of shiny-shiny. I remember my good old days when I bought into the brilliant idea to buy, for cool 270 quid, a portable, usb cd-recorder, only to get well-acquainted with the concept of "buffer underrun", and what it means in simple English. 5G turd polishing is strong in this one...

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Most people...

      There's essentially no coverage at the Mountain Fastness (you can get sometimes get a decent signal in some parts of the grounds), so I got a used AT&T microcell unit off eBay. (My wife has AT&T; I use an MVNO which resells AT&T service.) Hooked it up to our router - we have fiber Internet service - went to the AT&T site, registered it, and presto: excellent service for anyone with AT&T service whom we add to the device, as long as the power and Internet are up.1 It needs to be sitting near a window so it can get a GPS signal, but that's not a problem.

      Obviously this requires a carrier that allows microcells and a reasonable Internet connection for backhaul, but it's worked well for us.

      1Nearly always, despite the rural location.

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Not surprised

    First, 5G does not offer an immediate advantage to most, 4G is borderline overkill for many. Also, buying a new phone is becoming one of replacing the old, worn out phone not running out to buy the latest and greatest, there are no new features on a phone that are really with the money. Plus for many if it is a phone or something else, the something else will probably win out.

  8. Stuart Halliday
    Windows

    Still can't get 4G in Supermarket car parks

    As a husband sitting in my Car whilst my wife goes shopping, I want 4G at least whilst I wait for my dearest to return.

    Why would anyone want 5G when it's not available for 99.9% of us?

    Give us 99.9% 4G first.

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Still can't get 4G in Supermarket car parks

      Why don't you give your wife a hand and someone to chat to?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why don't you give your wife a hand?

        ROFL

        You are obviously one of the 'dorks' (there really is no other word for it) that you see at weekends supposedly helping their other half with the supermarket shop. They push the trolley and get in the way of everyone else. They clearly don't want to be there by their body language.

        The wife could get the shop done in half the time if they were on their own.

        OTOH, there is the first hour crew. These are the people (mostly men and me included) who are waiting for the shop to open at 07:00. They are organised. They get in and out and are back home by 07:30. They even stack the checkout belt in the order for things to go into bags properly. Very few women do that as many checkout operators have commented.

        These are also the people who would not be seen dead in the same shop in the middle of the day.

        Go shopping with the 'Dorks' and all the children? you gotta be joking.

        Yours

        Grumpy of Tunbridge Wells.

        :) :) :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The wife could get the shop done in half the time if they were on their own

          this goes against common sense, experience and scientific facts (unverified, as I don't have a link). Males (even white, male chauvinist pigs) are much more efficient (at least in terms of time-efficiency) at supermarket shopping. As long as:

          1. they do it alone

          2. got a list

          Practically, I can do in 10 - 15 min alone, what takes my wife, me and the kids, about 45 - 60 min together. I'm sure supermarket brands tremble in their wellies to think lone male weekend shopping could become mainstream...

          1. dave 81

            Re: The wife could get the shop done in half the time if they were on their own

            Yep, I write a list before I go, do the family shopping, and I am back in half the time.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Still can't get 4G in Supermarket car parks

        Or alternatively - and since going retro seems to be the in-thing these days - why not go back to the old-fashioned way of shopping, and leave the big supermarket shop to once a month or so, collecting the bulky items you can't get elsewhere like the massive boxes of washing powder or ginormous bags of pasta, and in-between times shop locally (always assuming you have that option - I'm aware many don't)? Whoever has the spare 30 minutes on a particular day - perhaps on the way home from work or while a sprog is at Scouts - gets to do that day's shopping.

        This has two advantages. First, it means that the supermarket shop can be quicker because you are not having to stand in front of half a mile of soup tins wondering if a shrink-wrapped four-pack is better value than the "4 for 3" offer on individual tins, or whether you can save 10p per tin buying one brand over another without risking the children turning their noses up.

        Secondly, you can support your local convenience store, butcher, greengrocer, baker. It may also surprise you that prices at these shops (well, around here - I can't comment for the parts of London that seem to have different physics) are not always more expensive than supermarkets, and you can save money in some ways too - for example just the other week I bought my mum four sausages in two varieties from the butcher. Supermarket sausages come in packs of six or eight as a normal minimum, so she would have had to split the packs and freeze the rest.

        It does mean more trips to the shop, but each trip can be much quicker if you are just buying things for two or three days and you get to know the staff, and often the local gossip is valuable too :-) The other downside is that local shops don't tend to stay open to 9 or 10pm, which could be a dealbreaker if you have the kind of busy lifestyle that means you can't make it to the butcher before he closes for the day.

        M.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boo, hiss

    I bought a new iPhone a couple of months back, perhaps a generation before I would have normally, because it looks as if this year's model is going to put money in Qualcomm's pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boo, hiss

      Well wait a few years and Apple will probably have their own LTE/5G modem built in to iPhones. But Qualcomm will still get money from them, because Apple is always going to have to license patents from them (and Huawei, who owns the largest share of 5G patents)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "palatable $520"?

    $5 is an impulse buy. $50 is a hesitant impulse buy. $500 is only an impulse purchase if you make a fat sack of cash every year & consider dropping $1K the same way some of the rest of us treat dropping $1.

    Someone earning minimum wage is going to think long & hard before dropping their rent/food/meds/utility bill money on a phone. That's a "nice to have" not "required to survive" style item. Unless they're also the kind that thinks nothing of living on maxed out credit cards so they can live in a lifestyle far beyond their means, you get yourself a phone that works, that you can afford comfortably, & you keep it until it physicly falls apart. You can't afford to splooge $1k+ on the newest shiny device just because the marketing fucktards tell you to.

    TL;DR: Make devices priced in the impulse buy range for lower income folks and you *might* see those sales figures go up, but price it as something they may have to choose between food/rent/bills/meds and your device? Kiss those sales goodbye.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: "palatable $520"?

      I realise things are moving away from the model, but many people still buy phones on contract which makes it seem much easier. I saw an advert this morning for a Pixel 4 with "unlimited" data for £44pcm - a phone that retails SIM-free for somewhere around £600 IIRC.

      I personally will not go back to a contract phone, and I will be looking to spend no more than £150 on my next handset, but I can see how a lump sum of even just £150 could seem more difficult for some people to afford than £44.

      Ironically given the subject matter under discussion, the small print of the advert points out that the unlimited data plan is a "lite" plan which limits the download speed to 2Mbps. You don't even need 4G for that - 2Mbps is trivially achievable on 3G HSDPA.

      M.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: "palatable $520"?

      I earn a pretty good wage, and probably could afford to spend £500 on a phone every year, but I've yet to find a tangible difference between a £100 phone and one five times that price (except that the cheaper ones are more likely to have things like a headphone port, and an SD card slot).

      So I'll be sticking to my £100 phone with LTE. If I need more speed I'll just jump on the nearest wifi network, because in a big city (ie the only places getting 5G for the foreseeable future), there's a free wifi network within range most of the time.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: "palatable $520"?

        Agreed. I'd hardly notice the budget impact of an occasional $500 for a phone. (Recently I spent more than that replacing my daughter's electric range because the oven stopped working. Very likely just needed a new control board or thermocouple but it was December 23rd and cookies needed to be baked, so we just popped in the car, fetched a new one, and swapped the old one out.)

        But spend $500 on a phone? Ugh. An electric range could last 10 or 20 years. Most of the phones I've bought have died after two or three. And those non-replaceable Li-ion batteries lose capacity steadily, even if the device itself keeps working. Screw that.

        Fortunately, I have no interest in 5G.

  11. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    What 5G?

    Phones support very few 5G bands so the odds of them matching your carrier are slim. I'd consider all matches in the mmWave bands to be entirely useless.

  12. TorrentPatchus

    Financing the Cell Companies

    The reasons that people like me are not going to rush out and spend $500-$2000 on a new cell phone include: (1) It's a phone. A lot of people remember the days when a phone cost $8 a month, it didn't leave the house, we didn't have to bother with them when we were in a movie, out to dinner, or having sex; (2) For all the useful things a smartphone can do other than being a telephone, we don't really need them. I can do everything I want to do at home on my computer. I can get directions, etc., but HORRORS, I would have to print those out! But what I'm saying is that it's rarely very urgent to use my phone away from home as a phone let alone to check for a competitive price when I'm shopping, etc. In fact, I can do THAT before I leave home.; (3) Phones are too small to do most things well. Even my tablet isn't as "good" as my desktop unless I hook up a bluetooth keyboard and mouse - and THEN, it's a desktop, isn't it?; (4) 4G is damned fast enough.; (5) WHICH IS THE BIG ONE - these companies trotting out 5G want us to finance the transition for us when 5G, as fast as it is going to be, isn't going to mean appreciably faster and better "experiences" for us end users. The whole 5G thing is aimed at systems that will work in backgrounds without smartphones. In other words, 5G just doesn't improve smartphones much and "they" (the handset makers, the Internet Service Providers, the cell phone companies) who stand to profit from it want it to improve their marketing to us. They want us to buy "smart" appliances but beyond that, they also want to sell us new cars and improve traffic patterns and improve driver ability with sensors and near or complete "self driving". They want 5G to improve the ability of robots to do their work in manufacturing. None of the smartphones we'll buy will improve the consumer's "experience" up front. 5G will primarily improve the ability of government and big business to make things and help us "do things" WITHOUT smart phones. The whole thing is that businesses who want to profit from 5G want us to rush out and pay $2,000 for $30 worth of kit to finances their grand plans. So far, it ain't happening. And this has been the way that communications industries have always done it - I remember when a long distance telephone call a State away was more than $3 a minute. Why was that? Did the variable costs make that necessary? It's a rhetorical question. Of course not. Once the telephone lines were strung up, there were very small variable costs. The fixed costs were large and the communications industry (primarily AT&T - a pack of vipers, admittedly back then and maybe now) wanted to realize profits faster. Their calculations were stupid and industry-destructive as proven when the courts forcibly deregulated carriers and long distance went from dollars per minute to pennies per minute and the carriers grew exponentially once they let the markets determine their value - they were only rewarded for quality/price balance and not for monopolistic nonsense. It's all very similar to music industry patterns - they tried to set prices so high, thinking that the higher the price the more money they would make and when consumers were allowed to copy their music (or DVDs, etc.) for preservation, while prices decreased, profits increased exponentially. The point here is that when an industry functions to "stick it to" consumers so violently that they have consumers spending their futures away, then industry is hurting both itself and consumers; industry doesn't profit as much and consumers don't get the best products at good prices. When industry has to finance itself and compete and when those things balance where consumers get goods and services and improvements to them at prices that are reasonable, then technologies can flourish and get adopted more quickly. Consumers aren't financiers and that's the misconception. If AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and handset makers want to finance anything, they need to sell stock or pay fewer dividends, etc. What they're doing, rather, is paying CEOs and Directors huge paydays for doing virtually nothing; they are underpaying their workers, they are diluting the value of their stock prices by giving stock away to CEOs and Directors who, in turn are gaming the stock prices by trying to finance new tech on the backs of individual consumers instead of offering the best products and good prices. When they've drained a company of value, these self-perceived hotshots leave and suck out yet more money in severance pay. It's a scam. We got enough bandwidth and speed to do what we want. You want to make more money? YOU finance it. Not US.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Financing the Cell Companies

      "For all the useful things a smartphone can do other than being a telephone, we don't really need them."

      Really?

      "I can get directions, etc., but HORRORS, I would have to print those out! But what I'm saying is that it's rarely very urgent to use my phone away from home as a phone let alone to check for a competitive price when I'm shopping, etc. In fact, I can do THAT before I leave home"

      Directions can get lost or become unreliable. One time those vaunted PRINTED directions led me to the middle of nowhere, in unfamiliar territory, and me unable to ask directions due to not being fluent in grass. A map app allowed me to get a bearing even in the middle of nowhere and get new directions (which didn't know at the time one of the roads stated had been torn up).

      Shopping research only works in advance if you know in advance what you intend to buy. If a flash sale hits, or you chance upon the last of something interesting and it's currently in your cart, a little on-the-spot research would be handy. It let me snap up a bargain or two and walk away from some potential bad deals.

      I guess you can plan all you wsnt, but Murphy can always throw a googly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Financing the Cell Companies

        One time those vaunted PRINTED directions led me to the middle of nowhere, in unfamiliar territory, and me unable to ask directions due to not being fluent in grass. A map app allowed me to get a bearing even in the middle of nowhere and get new directions (which didn't know at the time one of the roads stated had been torn up).

        Only when it still works. When getting lost in the middle of a mountain, with no data, at low battery, on foot and getting dark, Having a backup options in case the map app isn't working is great. If a printed map is all you got, it is still better than speculating the stars for the right direction on a cloudy night.

        Shopping research only works in advance if you know in advance what you intend to buy. If a flash sale hits, or you chance upon the last of something interesting...

        Not saying we shouldn't research on the spot at a flash sale, but it is a rule of thumb that unless it's something of interest before the flash sale you should not buy it, as it almost always at a disadvantage to the customer because stores often change their prices to make it looks like a good deal on that day (aka they are bad deals). On none sales day on the other hand... whip our your phone quick!

        1. Mark #255

          Re: Financing the Cell Companies

          When getting lost in the middle of a mountain, with no data, at low battery, on foot and getting dark, Having a backup options in case the map app isn't working is great.

          Preparation is all.

          Printed maps are great for spreading over a table to plan a walk, but I much prefer a small, water-resistant phone running Osmand (with the contour lines plugin), and the appropriate maps preloaded. The USB battery to recharge the phone is kept in the bottom of my rucksack, next to the silvered bivvy-bag.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Financing the Cell Companies

          "Only when it still works. When getting lost in the middle of a mountain, with no data, at low battery, on foot and getting dark, Having a backup options in case the map app isn't working is great. If a printed map is all you got, it is still better than speculating the stars for the right direction on a cloudy night."

          That actually happened to me...out of the country. And it was a HARD fail (Note 4 internal flash fault, phone bricked two days later, but not before I made sufficient backup). But, like the old Boy Scouts, I WAS prepared for such an exigency: a spare PHONE, which kept me going for the remaining month of my stay. And forget about paper maps. They simply didn't exist. Where I was, most people went by landmarks and muscle memory.

          And the shopping research depends on where you shop and the circumstances. Some sales are distress sales, for example, meant to dump last season's inventory, and most frugal shoppers will tell you there's little wrong with last season's inventory. Plus there are the secondhand stores whose inventory is by definition nigh unpredictable.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Financing the Cell Companies

        I'm with the OP. I don't need my mobile phone. I carry it around mostly so my family members can get in contact with me when they want. Occasionally it's useful for me, but I survived just fine without one for decades, and before we got the microcell at the Mountain Fastness my wife and I both went without service in the house for weeks at a time. When we go on vacation to Lake Michigan, we generally don't have service. Somehow life goes on.

  13. Roland6 Silver badge

    "There haven't been many earth-shattering breakthroughs over the past five years."

    I can't think of any earth shattering breakthroughs in smartphones(*) since the launch of the iPhone (2007) and phones running Android 2.

    Yes my 2019 released Android Pie phone is a lot faster etc. than my ancient Android Frodo phone and so delivers a better UX, but I'm hard pushed to describe any of the differences as earth shatter.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "There haven't been many earth-shattering breakthroughs over the past five years."

      I don't think the innovations have been very important, but until 2015 or so, you could at least notice them. The new phone would have a better screen than the last one, would load apps faster, maybe last a bit longer on battery*. The same being true of communications--data over 2G was nearly unusable, 3G was good, 4G was great. Now, although processors in phones get faster and faster, I don't really see any effects on my general usage. I'm sure some people use more processing and have noticed the changes, but I doubt it's their major consideration. A logical response from the manufacturers would be to try to experiment with new things or to compete on price. They've made a couple attempts at the former, but their treatment of the latter is strange and doesn't seem to be helping them all that much.

      *New phones running for longer on a battery: I am only comparing like for like here. I know that non-smartphones ran for longer, and that a new phone with a larger screen will run shorter. For a while, phones using new chips and the same quality screen would improve their battery life. Now, every saving in battery is used to allow an even bigger or higher resolution screen.

  14. Jemma

    When I can buy...

    A perfectly good octacore rugged mobile with android 9 & splitscreen for £100 (Ulefone X5). Only thing it's missing potentially is a fingerprint sensor, and you can get that on the Armor 5. Why on earth would I waste £1000 on overpriced cack even if I could afford it?

    As for 5G I switch all my mobiles to 3G on the very rare occasions I enable data and since its faster than copper broadband, why would I need anything else. Saves battery life and stops the damn thing hunting for signal all the time.

    The sooner the general consumer realises that there are good, reliable, cheap android phones floating around, the better for them, and the worse for manufacturers like Crapple and Shitesung - that's always a good thing.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: When I can buy...

      >Only thing it's missing potentially is a fingerprint sensor

      From the website the two things that struck me as being missing are:

      1. Depth gauge - it is only claimed to be waterproof to 1.5m, yet claimed to be a usable underwater camera and being suitable for watersports.

      2. ANT+ Support - marketed as being suitable for cyclists, yet no support for sensor integration.

      1. Jemma

        Re: When I can buy...

        Oh, that's good, a cyclist. If you see a ivory over green Wolseley 18/85 bearing down on you at speed - that'll be me.

        I don't recall mentioning it would be good for some lycra clad deathwishophile called Roland, I mentioned that it would be good enough for the average person and more than that since I've written whole books on a Nokia E70 no less.

        As for your other whinge - ever heard of Scuba diving? On that subject Humboldt Squid are very personable chaps - when they flash red & white it means they like you. Oh and if you happen to visit Komodo or Flores you should wear white, the dragons like that. PS when they curl their tail that means they like you and want to be stroked... Seriously.

        What is it with contrarywise cretintards who have to have their thruppence worth?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: When I can buy...

          >I don't recall mentioning it would be good for some..

          You didn't, as I said: "from the website" (and I was referring to the Armor 5 to be precise)...

          I looked at the website because I'm interested in rugged devices and over the years have encountered many use cases which look at these devices as more of a pocket computer platform than a phone. The Ulefone website I found irritating, as it was big on marketing but difficult to find out the real device capabilities and specifications.

          >"Wolseley 18/85 bearing down on you at speed"

          Isn't that a contradiction, or have you pimp'ed it? Most of the Wolseley's (and similar cars) round here are driven by the cloth cap brigade and so have seen better days, so I tend to find myself overtaking them, albeit with caution as they are prone to unpredictable meanderings across the road...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: worse for manufacturers like Crapple and Shitesung

      I don't think people who buy (latest) Samsung and Apple devices would look to replace them with a phone sold for 100 quid. Or 200. Or even 500 quid. Many reasons for it, little to do with "reasonable reasons". But yes, mainstream users will, slowly, settle for cheaper and cheaper handsets.

    3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: When I can buy...

      @Jemma I'm hanging onto my olde Shitesung Note4 until it breaks, then I'll be looking for any manufacturers offering that has a 3.5mm phone jack, a user replaceable battery, an SD card slot, an IR blaster and a stylus. I pretty sure I'll be S.O.L. at that point though. I might go live in a cave. But yes, we should accept commodity level pricing for decent spec phones, and forget paying stupid money for cutting edge crap.

  15. BGatez Bronze badge

    el reg is overpaying methinks

    "retails at a perfectly palatable $520." Not sure what qualifies over $500 as "perfectly palatable" if you're paying and not your employer, especially if you need phones for the family.

  16. jemerlia

    The fears about 5G's safety are not completely without foundation. At c. 30GHz materials, including organic tissue, are much more opaque thus requiring greater transmission power and by the same token are much more absorptive. Microwave quanta are non-ionizing but they don't have to be to be dangerous. Complex organic structures often possess folded molecular structures with critical shapes, electrical contours and positioning of functional groups, typically held in place by weak hydrogen-bonding or similar and easily disrupted by localized thermal or vibrational absorption effects. Authoritative input from a biochemist or two might be useful here...

  17. elwe

    5G will be useful to many people, but in a more niche scenario. In crowded places the greater speed will allow a greater speed per person once all the contention is dealt with.

    For example, 4G is usually useless to me while I wait for the train to leave Waterloo at peak time, as the available bandwidth is divided among so many devices modern usage patterns overwhelm it. So I usually forget about using data until we move on to the next cell outside Waterloo. With the increase in 5G bandwidth the amount per device is going to go up and hopefully will make it useable. You can easily get the same in a stadium.

    Having said that, I won't be upgrading any time soon. The first couple of generations will have terrible battery life and only access to a small subset of frequencies. Once the radio designs become more mature it will be worth having.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    retails at a perfectly palatable $520

    another proof to support parallel universe theory, and within the goode olde earthe too! :)

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: retails at a perfectly palatable $520

      Silicon Valley is a warped parallel universe. People can buy a phone like it was a pair of shoes but affording a cramped little house is beyond the imagination. Mortgage plus property taxes would be in the ballpark of buying a new $520 phone every other day.

  19. AK565

    Keep the shiny-shiny....

    Are those of us who actually do shit with our phones really such a small segment of the buying public?

    If I could have my way I'd want a BBerry 9900 or Nokia e70 with a large enough screen for my clients to e-sign forms with their finger. Imd like a battery to actually last a day and the phone tought enough to handle the occasional tumble onto concrete or dip into water.

    As for speed, what do you need for decent video calling? Sign language is a bitch with less than 1080p 30f/s. But IIRC, even decent 3G can give that or am I mistaken?

    Beyond that, I don't care. From what I read, most El Reg readers don't either. So what's wrong with these cell phone manufacturers?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Keep the shiny-shiny....

      Nothing at all. They're following the money, and people are paying top dollar for the latest and greatest every year. As far as they're concerned, we're not worth the time in comparison. As Badfinger once sang, "Will you walk away from a fool and his money...sonny?"

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