As the first 5G mobile devices are expected next year, the smartphone manufacturers are sharpening their arsenals to meet the challenge. The major challenge is to keep the phone thinner to accommodate the 5G radios along with the cameras, processors and brighter screens.
The 5G will rely on much higher-frequency spectrum than the present mobile networks in use. The higher frequencies enable those multi-gigabit speeds. But at the cost of penetration is going to be costly. Higher frequency radio waves travel less distance than mid-band or low-band signals, and most importantly, they cannot penetrate through objects well.
If the hand holding the phone is sitting over the antenna or obstructing the line-of-sight to the cell station, then your connection may be impaired or lost. Antenna design is the major challenge, phone manufacturers are going to face.
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Will the ugly propping up antenna will be reappearing?
5G smartphones to become mainstream may take time. Unless 5G networks become more common, rolling out 5G across a broad range of spectrums will take even more work than upgrading networks from 3G to 4G. As a result the wireless carriers will have to build hundreds of small-cell sites in every city.
As the 5G calls for major design compromises, the mobile phone operators may not be in a hurry to go after this technology. For example Apple has never been in a rush to include the latest cellular technologies in its iPhones, especially if it comes at the cost of design compromise