Well, gee willikers, who could’ve possibly seen this coming?

5G, the mobile industry’s oft-cited savior for slow smartphone sales, isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire — especially here in America. In fact, if anything, it appears to be doing just the opposite: 5G is actively acting as a negative asterisk to otherwise fine phones and encouraging people to avoid them entirely. And really, who can blame ’em?

Let’s back up for a sec and set the stage to this story — because there’s a fair amount of context to consider here. Smartphone sales in general, y’see, haven’t been in particularly great shape for quite a while now. And it’s no wonder: In spite of endless efforts to come up with flashy-seeming “innovations” like folding phones and a variety of curving, sloping, and suggestively gyrating screens (okay, so maybe not that last one, but it’s probably just a matter of time), people are hanging onto their perfectly fine old devices for longer and longer.

So the companies that make their money by selling said devices have been growing increasingly desperate for an answer. And most of ’em seemed downright convinced 5G would absolutely, positively, no doubt whatsoever be the magic ingredient that’d have everyone clamoring to open up their wallets and move into some shiny new top-dollar hardware.

Think I’m exaggerating? At a lavish media event in Hawaii just before the start of 2019, a Verizon spokesperson told reporters the carrier “believes customers will pay for utility and value” — going on to say, confidently, that “there will be that, definitely, in 5G.” (“Plus, we know we can tack pretty much anything onto people’s phone bills and get away with it,” the spokesperson presumably forgot to add with a cackle.)

Sprint’s former managers were even more optimistic, telling investors in late 2018 that the carrier would “have a lot of room to increase our price of unlimited” and that it was “looking at 5G as an amazing opportunity for the company not only for the position of the company, but also to charge for the blazing fast speeds.” (Weird how we haven’t seen that in an ad yet, isn’t it? “5G: An amazing opportunity for us to charge you more!”)

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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