Telstra demands a premium for Australia's first 5G smartphone but it's probably not worth paying top dollar for the handset if you won't see the full benefit for months or even years. That will depend very much on where you live and work.
On sale Tuesday, and exclusive to Telstra, the 256GB model Samsung S10 5G starts at $132 per month on a two-year plan, including handset payments.
In return, you get unlimited calls and texts but only a measly 3GB of data.
Prices rise if you need more data or more on-board storage, up to a hefty $199 per month. Unless you're on this plan, you're paying an extra $15 to $36 per month for the benefit of 5G, compared to the 4G-capable Samsung S10+.
Keep in mind, these prices are for mobile lease plans, where you don’t actually own the phone but you have the option to upgrade your handset after 12 months.
Consumer pricing is due later in the week, which will likely add $10 to all but the most expensive plans. Telstra is also simplifying its plans by the end of June, so better deals could be on the way.
If you've already bought the S10+ from Telstra, you can upgrade to the S10 5G for free. In return the 5G model also offers a slightly bigger screen and larger battery, plus an improved rear camera, although this bumps up the weight by another 23 grams.
Prices will rise even further as, after 12 months, Telstra intends to slug 5G customers an extra $15 per month if you're not on one of the two most expensive plans. At this point, on a 50GB plan, you'd be paying a hefty $51 per month for the privilege of being on 5G.
Buy before June 30, or trade up from an S10+, and you won't pay the 5G surcharge for the life of your plan. Getting in early will save you $180 on the second year of your contract, although Telstra could always decide to scrap the surcharge next year.
So is it worth making the leap to 5G today? Not unless Telstra's fledgling 5G network is set to reach where you live and/or work.
Right now 5G is available in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Launceston, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast – but only if you live within a few kilometres of the centre of town.
In Melbourne, it stretches from Carlton down to South Melbourne and from Port Melbourne across to Richmond – which admittedly is better than the earliest days for 4G. Sydney is a lot of hit and miss, apart from the CBD you've got patches around Mascot, Randwick and Mosman.
Across the country, Telstra's 5G footprint currently includes areas "where more than four million people live, work or pass through every day," says Telstra consumer executive Kevin Teoh.
It's hardly worth paying extra for 5G if you'll merely "pass through" the 5G coverage area for a few minutes each day and then fall back onto 4G with everyone else.
Over the next 12 months, Teoh expects Telstra's 5G coverage to "increase in area almost five-fold" and extend to at least 35 Australian cities.
If 5G coverage is unlikely to reach you in the next 12 months then you're better off waiting to see what next year's deals look like, when you'll have a wider choice of handsets and plans, plus perhaps even choice of mobile networks.
You always paying a premium for first-generation devices. Next year's 5G handsets could well be a little cheaper, while probably packing more grunt. There'll also be an improvement in battery life, and/or a reduction in bulk, once mobile processors have built-in 5G capabilities rather than relying on a standalone 5G chips.
Opting for the S10 5G today also means missing out on support for the faster millimetre wave 5G bands, which Telstra doesn't use yet but will switch on in the next few years.
Holding off on a 5G handset could see you get faster speeds down the track. Telstra demonstrated speeds of 1200Mbps down and 64Mbps up at Monday's launch, but that's obviously going to drop once there are more 5G users in your area.
Considering you'll squeeze 50 to 100Mbps out of the 4GX network on a range of cheaper handsets and plans, across a far wider area of your city, you really need to be sure you’ll have access to 5G soon – and you’ll put that speed boost to good use – before taking the plunge.