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The Race to Launch India's First 5G Smartphone is Completely Pointless

The Race to Launch India's First 5G Smartphone is Completely Pointless

Two new 5G smartphones are coming to India next week, but how does that even matter?

The year 2020 is said to be the year when 5G is finally going to make its presence felt. We’ve seen 5G-enabled smartphones making their way to a few markets in 2019 itself, but smartphone makers are now aggressively launching devices that support the high-speed next-gen connectivity. Recently Samsung launched its new Galaxy S20 series with all three models offered with support for 5G. Later in the year, we are expecting Apple to launch its new iPhone range that should come with new modems to support 5G.

The story in India however, is quite different. Trials for 5G are yet to happen, which means that it could take at least a year or two before the actual auctions take place. But does it make a difference for smartphone makers? Not at all.

Realme just announced that it is bringing India’s first 5G smartphone. This is days after iQoo announced it will be launching its first smartphone in India, which is also going to be the first 5G phone in India. *Facepalm*

Now for the ones who are unaware, iQoo is a sub-brand of Vivo which has launched a couple of phones in China in the past. The company recently announced its plans of entering the Indian smartphone space by launching a new product on February 25. It is being said that the handset will be loaded with the new Snapdragon 865 processor, hence becoming the first phone to offer the new flagship chipset as well as 5G connectivity.

Realme has now countered iQoo by announcing that it will be bringing the Realme X50 Pro 5G to India on February 24. Since the launch is a day before iQoo, the company has now taken over the claim of saying that it will launch India’s first 5G smartphone. To put things into perspective, Realme X50 Pro 5G was supposed to launch at MWC (Mobile World Congress). But since the expo has been cancelled due to the critical Coronavirus outbreak, Realme is now hosting a global launch elsewhere and the same time launching the phone in India.

Practically speaking, launching India’s first 5G smartphone is completely pointless. There is no 5G in India and there won’t be any, at least until the next year. As I mentioned above, India is far from allocating spectrum to telecom operators, heck, most of the operators in the country are running in losses. Another thing to note here is that chipsets with 5G connectivity cost way more than phones with LTE, including the Snapdragon 865. Sure, everyone loves to upgrade to a new faster processor, but would you pay extra for a marginal increase in performance, which is hardly even visible? Maybe bring these 5G modem equipped chips once the pricing is a bit more stabilised?

Now I am not pointing fingers at Realme or iQoo. My point is that smartphone manufacturers shouldn’t bother pushing 5G smartphones to India yet. This marketing gimmick is not actually going to make sense. Rather they could highlight the fact that their phones are coming with the latest flagship processor, a tactic that actually works in India as consumers love to compare specifications. What is the point of offering a certain feature to the consumer when they can’t actually make use of it? It is like becoming the first to make a nuclear-powered car, only there is no stable nuclear fuel to power the vehicle.