Apparently, the world just caught a glimpse of the world’s first 5G phone, as being claimed by Qualcomm. Qualcomm’s 5G reference design phone is one of its several innovations the chipmaker is showcasing off at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong, all designed to show how 5G spectrum is going to get crammed into small form factors.

Right now, the 5G devices are found to be the size of a breadbox. Qualcomm is also showing off a single-chip 5G modem, the X50, along with a tiny millimeter-wave antenna, designed to capture the extremely high frequencies on which some 5G will be transmitted.

To this, Sherif Hanna, the marketing lead for LTE and 5G NR modems at Qualcomm, regarded, “Counter to prevailing opinion that millimeter-wave is just too finicky to use in mobile, we can use advanced massive MIMO techniques and beam-forming techniques to make millimeter-wave mobile”.

Also, in a recent tweet, he posted a picture with a caption which read, “Hard to believe that I have the world’s first 5G smartphone in my hand!”

But as per Henna, the tiny antennas also have their downsides. He added that phones with the little antenna won’t be able to capture millimeter-wave signals indoors. Rather, they’ll rely on 4G (and on low-band, 600MHz 5G like T-Mobile is setting up) inside, unless they’re in a building that has set up a millimeter-wave repeater system.

Qualcomm chip pic
Image Credit: PC Mag

Speaking of the internal structures, Qualcomm insists that the X50 modem will sit alongside the Snapdragon processor in the first commercial of 5G smartphones, but is not confirmed yet. Although Qualcomm says they’re working hard to minimize this problem, adding a discrete, extra modem to a 4G phone which adds to battery drain. But 2019’s Snapdragons might have an integrated 5G modem as speculated. But right now, Qualcomm has made it clear that the X50 works.

To this Hanna also added that “Our intention is, by creating this 5G smartphone reference design, that we can start testing this out in the field. How are the thermals going to work? There’s obviously a lot of work left ahead of us in the next 12 months, and we want to get a leg up on it now.”

There is also a different ideological method to this madness. Qualcomm is still the leader in high-quality 4G modems, and it wants to show why the absolute highest 4G speeds will be needed, to offer a seamless experience in a 5G world.

Also, the company is trapped in a web of lawsuits over its royalty rates and licensing fees and thus needs to keep creating new, proprietary technologies to keep the money coming. 5G might as will be a global standard, but there are elements smartphone makers will look out for, such as that tiny antenna, which Qualcomm will be able to keep to itself.

Lastly, Hanna concluded that “The miniaturization of the antenna module, that’s going to be proprietary and we believe we have an edge there”.