The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is hitting reviewers’ hands today, and it’s the first phone that can handle all three layers of T-Mobile’s 5G “layer cake” network: short-distance millimeter-wave, long-distance low-band, and the mid-band T-Mobile will get through buying Sprint.
I’ll be testing the way the S20 Ultra hands off between T-Mobile’s various forms of 4G and 5G over the next few days, but for now I wanted to note that—for now—there’s one way the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren is ahead of the S20 Ultra.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has a lot of frequency bands and a lot of cameras.
Yesterday, OnePlus and T-Mobile announced that they’re enabling a new 5G feature—dual connectivity on 600MHz. That lets the McLaren use 600MHz LTE and 5G at the same time, which should improve 5G performance where T-Mobile doesn’t have millimeter-wave (which it only has in seven cities right now). Combining the two chunks of 600MHz lets phones access 10-20MHz more of spectrum depending on where in the country they are, so … maybe a 50Mbps jump on downloads.
“The update enables the device to tap into 600MHz LTE and 600MHz 5G at the same time, getting the benefit of additional download bandwidth and accessing all of T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum. The update also enables 5G uploads in more places and, with dual connectivity, provides more upload bandwidth in some areas by combining 600MHz 5G and mid-band LTE,” T-Mobile said.
The Ultra, I’ve now been informed, currently lacks that feature, but the hardware supports it, and it could come in a software update. It’s a little disappointing that the device doesn’t have the software yet, as it muddies the narrative of “one phone to rule all the 5G networks.” For now, in cities where T-Mobile has or intends to have millimeter-wave, like New York and Atlanta, the Ultra will perform better than the McLaren, but in outlying areas, the McLaren may perform better than the Ultra.
The OnePlus McLaren can work wonders with low-band but lacks high-band abilities.
The T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G also lacks the feature, but my sources weren’t clear on whether it could be enabled through software on that phone.
Samsung could clear this up by enabling the feature on the S20 Ultra, and hopefully it will. I’ve reached out, and will update this story when I get a response.