5G phones will become more affordable next year, with some priced at less than half the cost of Apple’s new 4G iPhone11 released this year, helping the Chinese smartphone market recover from three years of declining growth, according to research firm IDC China.

More than 20% of 5G phones will cost less than 2,000 yuan (US$286) next year and prices will be even cheaper over the next five years, says IDC. That will see China’s smartphone market eke out a 0.7% year-on-year increase in shipments after three straight years of decline.

A Huawei logo and a 5G sign pictured at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai on June 28. (Picture: Aly Song/Reuters)

“There is no doubt that 5G phones will have a positive effect on the entire smartphone industry, which will make all-round changes to meet the new era,” said Wang Xi, an IDC China research manager who specializes in the Chinese smartphone market.

IDC noted in a report released in late November that 5G phones will roll out worldwide on a large scale next year, accounting for 14% of total smartphone shipments, far exceeding the 1.3% first-year share for 4G when it was launched in 2010.

Countries around the world are locked in a race to roll out 5G wireless networks, which offer faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings and massive device connectivity. The mobile technology is seen as key to dominance in fields such as factory automation, robotics and autonomous driving.

China is expected to be a front-runner in the roll-out of commercial 5G services with an estimated 600 million 5G subscribers by 2025, according to trade body GSMA, as Beijing presses ahead with plans to lead the next-generation wireless technology. Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies is widely considered the market leader when it comes to building the network infrastructure for 5G although it has faced setbacks after being placed on a US trade blacklist.

While major Android phone vendors such as Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo released 5G phones earlier this year, Apple still does not have a 5G iPhone.

The introduction of 5G phones could help China’s more than 800 million internet users access the network much faster than 4G phones, with the ability to watch an online video anywhere in the timeline with no delay, or play online games without signal drop outs.