Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G networks rolling out here
The Ultra is not for everyone: Samsung is clearly targeting this $1,400 phone toward people who want all of the latest and greatest stuff, including a bunch of features most people don’t need but that gadget-lovers like me still enjoy — like a camera that can zoom 100x and 5G connectivity, long before there’s much of a reason to even use 5G.
The premium market isn’t big for Samsung the way it is for Apple, though. Generally, Samsung’s best-selling products are mid-range and low-cost phones. But Samsung consistently tries to beat Apple to the market with new ideas, whether they work or not: It started with big “phablets” with the first Galaxy Note in 2011. It continued with folding phones like the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip. Now it’s beating Apple to the market with 5G.
But 5G is still confusing, and there’s no real need for it right now until the technology becomes more reliable and widely available.
Here’s what you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Before we dive too much into the phone itself, I want to give a quick overview of Samsung’s Galaxy S20 lineup, which includes the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra. Each phone supports 5G, but not in the same way.
The “regular” Galaxy S20 on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile only runs on low-band LTE, which is more widespread than faster mmWave 5G, but only slightly speedier than the LTE you’ve been using for the last several years. Sometimes I found it’s even slower, but the explanation for that is best told by PCMag’s Sascha Segan, who has a wealth of knowledge on the topic and has been my go-to source for understanding 5G in the U.S.
If you’re planning to keep your phone for two or three years, you should look at the Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra, since they support the variety of 5G flavors in the U.S. You’ll get slightly faster speeds most of the time and much faster mmWave if you find it. Samsung’s intro video shows the Galaxy S20 Ultra downloading movies in just a couple of seconds, so I tried this for myself.
I went to New York City and tested the Galaxy S20 Ultra on Verizon and T-Mobile. Verizon’s mmWave network is wildly fast, but only when you can find it. I used a map provided to me by the carrier and tested it near New York University. When I came within the coverage area, a small symbol showed me I had 5G “UWB,” or ultra wide band coverage. In this area, I saw speeds of about 1,100Mbps, or more than 11x faster than you’d normally find on LTE. I was able to download Netflix movies in a couple of seconds, not minutes. But you need to be right near a tower for this speedy connection to work. If you walk just a half-block away, you’ll lose the signal and fall back to a slower 4G network. These signals also have trouble penetrating walls and buildings, so you’ll likely drop back down to 4G if you go indoors.