Though the race to offer the world’s first 5G smartphone ended with the near-simultaneous launches of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G and Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod for Moto Z3, the second round of early 5G devices is coming very soon — though it’s a little unclear where and how well they’ll work. China’s Lenovo and ZTE have confirmed that they’re only days away from launching their new 5G phones, while South Korea’s LG has pressed pause on its V50 ThinQ 5G release, citing last-minute technical concerns.
Of the three devices, Lenovo’s Z6 Pro is certainly the most hyped and heavily leaked, but it’s finally going to have an official unveiling on April 23. Lenovo first teased the phone last August, claiming on Weibo that it would be the world’s first 5G smartphone and use Qualcomm’s yet-to-be-announced Snapdragon 855 processor. But soon thereafter the company deleted the Weibo post and went quiet.
Once the device was officially identified as Z6 Pro at Mobile World Congress in February, Lenovo offered a light preview of its capabilities, promising that it can record and play ultra high-bitrate “Hyper Video” content. Since then, the company confirmed on Weibo that the Z6 Pro will include a roughly 6.4-inch screen with four rear cameras ranging from a 48-megapixel main sensor to a Time of Flight depth sensor, 2X lens, and wide-angle lens. The specifics of Hyper Videos have remained unclear.
A cheeky but somewhat concerning image on Weibo underscores the fact that Lenovo is implementing some form of PC-caliber liquid cooling technology to keep the Z6 Pro running. Steampunk-style rendering appears to exaggerate the phone’s depth and internals, showing everything from the Snapdragon 855 and a 4,000mAh battery to big Dolby-powered speakers and a giant liquid chamber. While the real Z6 Pro will miniaturize these parts, the image and heat references reinforce early 5G engineering concerns that chipmakers have more recently downplayed.
Separately, China’s ZTE has confirmed via Weibo that it will be releasing the Axon 10 Pro on May 6, following a February preview of its first 5G device. Like Lenovo’s Z6 Pro, this Axon model will have a roughly 6.4-inch screen, a Snapdragon 855 processor, Dolby stereo support, and a 4,000mAh battery. There will be three rear cameras, but no Time of Flight depth sensor. The display will actually be a hint larger than Lenovo’s, while featuring in-screen fingerprint scanning and a 20-megapixel front camera.
The key question with both ZTE’s and Lenovo’s phones is where they’ll be usable. ZTE’s early May release date for Axon 10 Pro is apparently solely for China, which hasn’t officially launched commercial 5G networks, while global availability is expected to begin later in May or June. Lenovo promised to be early with the Z6 Pro, but it’s unclear whether the company’s April launch date will actually be accompanied by deliveries across the world.
There’s still reason to wonder just how widespread any of the early 5G smartphone hardware rollouts will be. LG’s optionally dual-screened V50 ThinQ was set to be the second 5G phone released in South Korea, but after touting the device’s 5G-AI features just 10 days ago, LG unexpectedly postponed today’s scheduled launch.
Initial reports suggested that LG was consulting with Qualcomm regarding the V50’s Snapdragon-powered 5G capabilities, but LG subsequently said South Korean carriers advised it to wait until 5G networks were more stable. The advice followed complaints about Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G network-switching performance and 5G availability that reached a critical mass soon after the device’s April 5 launch.
LG hasn’t offered a revised South Korean release date for the V50, leaving customers in the country with only one smartphone option for the time being. The phone is expected to launch on Sprint in the United States as soon as next month, but no date has been set in stone, as Sprint hasn’t yet confirmed the details of its promised May 5G rollout.