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How will 5G affect how we build for mobile?

Ben Halpern
A Canadian software developer who thinks he’s funny. He/Him.
・1 min read

Whether native or mobile web, how will the adoption of 5G in some areas affect the decisions developers and teams make?

Discussion (23)

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sirseanofloxley profile image
Sean Allin Newell

Hot take: if ISPs don't create slow/fast lanes, developers too invested in 5G will create experiences and pages that really only work on 5G, thus creating a gap where 5G devices work on a larger set of the net than older devices. #wildGuess #opine #hotTake

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Ben Halpern Author

Yeah, I think that's a big concern. With 5G rolling out unevenly and much of the world only just getting online or connecting from remote areas, developers need to be thinking progressive enhancement and broader accessibility, but that just hasn't always been the case.

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codedgar

This is already going on since a long time ago tho. Most websites nowadays just really don't pay attention to size/speed optimization. Once I was working with a studio in Spain and I complained about the size of the website (Around 50MB) and they said "Well, everybody here in spain has fast speed internet, so it really doesn't matter".

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Noah Pederson • Edited

Hard disagree. If this were the case, high speed wired connections would've resulted in the same thing. Also 5G won't be as revolutionary as people think, it's a generational leap in protocols that results in speed improvements and better saturation of high frequency bands (sub 6Hhz, and 24.25 GHz-52.6 GHz) which because of physical properties will perform poorly in buildings and other areas with lots of physical objects to block the signal. The big thing is population (ie. device) dense areas such as sports stadiums will be able to support the number of devices better than 4G.

It's also unlikely phones will see huge leaps in performance, so your power sipping ARM CPU-powered phone is still going to struggle on poorly optimized websites (or chug and drain your battery like crazy).

The notion that slow/fast lanes at the ISP level is a good idea is honestly dangerous and I hope people don't latch onto it.

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Rémy 🤖

Well yes. As I said in another comment, 5G is in part exactly like 4G. The real difference of 5G is the ability to handle massive amounts of users. So in less dense areas it's going to be literally identical to 4G.

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Rémy 🤖

5G is several things:

  • Exactly the same as 4G but with a backbone that supports massive concurrency
  • Different frequencies with super-low latency

The usual argument is "but who needs this" yet I find that all the time when a new class of specs get out it's enabling a new class of tech. Of course the old class of tech can't make use of it because it was designed for smaller capacity but the new class can.

My bet on the future is on VR/AR/MR. And 5G is going to allow doing so in crowded environments. Meaning we can get reliable AR streaming from the cloud in places like sport events, protests, conventions, etc.

That's where the value of 5G is going to shine. What could you stream from/to the phone during a massive public event?

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Rémy 🤖 • Edited

Also, for US readers, in my experience as a traveller I've tested 4G in many places around the globe and that the US is by far the worst (and China is by far the best). In short, 4G is much more powerful than what you've seen in the US.

But the super speed of 5G comes only in specific scenarios, most of the time 5G has 4G capacity and indeed there is no reason to raise the bar.

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Jonathan Yeong

The faster the internet the more ads that can be loaded without slowing down the page, right? 🤑

In all seriousness, I think there will be a slow adoption rate for 5G. You will definitely have the enthusiasts who'll be building awesome, flashy mobile sites. But for the majority of developers it's not going to be easy justifying optimizations for 5G when most of the developed world is on 4G.

However, I'm hoping as more people adopt it, an explosion of cloud development apps that take advantage of 5G will follow. For example, if I could do all my development on the road not tethered by WiFi networks I totally would.

This could really open up development for remote communities, or for the underprivileged that can't afford a standard laptop and WiFi setup (assuming 5G isn't bonkers expensive).

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Nicolas Bailly • Edited

I don't think it will. Right now a good 4G connection is faster than many landlines in terms of downstream bandwidth (at around 80Mbps), so if you're building for the best connection available right now you shouldn't be limited compared to desktop.

Now the main thing that 5G should improve is latency which will be useful for real time apps and games... But most of those already expect you to be using wifi with a good landline anyway.

So yeah... From a user perspective 5G might mean more situations where you have the same experience as wifi+fiber, but I don't think it will change the way we build apps.

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Uli Troyo

I hope it doesn’t? Sites and apps are bloated enough, and already abusing the capabilities of 4G, to the point that most become unusable in 2 and 3G networks. Kyle Simpson asks people to send him links to sites when he’s traveling on 2G; his impressions so far are poor.

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Mike

I hope it doesn't. I understand that it does give the power to build more intense apps but it will still be such a small part of the world who gets 5G. I think these days it is so easy to forget about our users with slow internet. That's why I appreciate sites like this who keep it pretty minimalist.

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Matt Seymour

Even in a crowed or congested area 5G cannot be guaranteed, a phone may hope between different network speeds. My guess is not much will change between users of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. You only have to take home broadband as an example, some people have 1gpbs others have 5mbps except for streaming quality users experience much the same content.

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Isaac Lyman

I think software resilience to network changes, dropped requests, etc. will become even more important. My understanding is that 5G is faster than 4G but has a much shorter range and the signal is easily obstructed. Most of the responsibility for navigating those issues and providing a smooth experience for users rests on hardware manufacturers, but I think we've all seen cases where even the best hardware can struggle with a capricious connection. That's where smart code comes in: automatic retries, good error messaging, caching, PWAs, and so forth can make a huge difference to UX in complex networking situations.

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Tobias SN

5G will simply mean faster load times, nothing more. In my opinion it’s overhyped.

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Sebastian Vargr • Edited

I recon not much, unless we only target urban living people.

edit, reworded to make sense

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mindset profile image
Jayesh Tembhekar ⚡

Work form Home will become a new trend.
5G will encourage tech learners and employees to do work from home.
Freelancing will boom.
Especially for women, it will be more beneficial :)

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krishna kakade

Everything thing will be superfast on Internet but people loose their patience that's it.

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Harsh Shandilya

It frankly won't. Penetration of even 4G at a population level is dismal, and existing networks are overloaded to the point of speeds being no better than 3G or even 2G at some places.

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Julien Maury

IMHO, it should not affect how we build for mobile. 5G is for early adopters even if they announced 65% in 2025 (I seriously doubt it).

We should build a faster and lighter web for everybody.

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Jaime Rios

I think in might accelerate VR apps and more technologies will be available both collecting data and providing AI enabled features.

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Gary Chisholm

I think, writing code that is more battery friendly. People will want to have rich experiences that won't make someone regret opening you app or site.

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