The TCL 10 5G UW is the newest 5G phone currently exclusively available on the Verizon network, and it's the cheapest 5G-enabled phone right now – at least for now. A device payment plan costs $ 399, or $ 16.67 per month, for 24 months. For those of you careful, the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G UW got that award in July with a price tag of $ 649, so prices are definitely falling fast. TCL originally announced this phone at CES 2020, but today's announcement adds the carrier and price.
What's impressive is that the TCL phone costs $ 200 less than the Verizon-specific version of the Google Pixel 4A 5G, while staying on spec in terms of hardware, including the Snapdragon 765G processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
$ 399 is a price that TCL sees as an easier hurdle for people who want to experience 5G without spending more than $ 1,000 on a flagship phone like the Samsung Galaxy S20 or the cheaper, but still expensive, iPhone 12 . And for the price, it's noteworthy that TCL's new phone supports Verizon's newly launched sub-6GHz 5G spectrum to deliver speeds greater than LTE across much of the U.S., as well as millimeter-wave ultra-wideband (mmWave) that not as common, but considerably faster if you can to experience it.
6.5 from 10
- The 6.5 inch screen is bright and high in contrast because it is an LCD
- Meets the specifications of the Pixel 4A 5G for $ 200 less
- Supports both Sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G
- The software and camera finesse of the Pixel 4A 5G are missing
- No water or dust resistance
- Medium photo chops
5G works as expected with the TCL 10 5G UW. In my Brooklyn neighborhood, I have one mmWave spot a short distance away and several more within a mile of where I live. If you haven't experienced mmWave before, it can be incredibly fast, possibly faster than your home internet. I saw the phone download from TCL at around 500Mbps. You may reach gigabit speeds depending on where you live. Verizon's recently launched sub-6 GHz spectrum 5G network is accessible right outside my apartment. There I can achieve download speeds of around 100 Mbit / s, which is considerably faster than usual in my region.
Above is a headphone jack – a hardware feature that we can still rely on with such mid-range devices.
This device has USB-C charging and bottom firing speakers. Unfortunately there is no water or dust resistance here.
It's great that you can get fast internet speeds on a phone at this price point, and the rest of the 10 5G's specs aren't an issue. The capabilities of the Snapdragon 765G are the same as those of the Pixel 4A 5G and LG Velvet – and even outperform their respective battery capacities with a 4,500 mAh battery that has no problems throughout the day, as well as some. The short version is that the Snapdragon 765G doesn't hold a candle on the flagship Snapdragon 865, but it's perfectly fine to run most applications and some games smoothly. TCL gets kudos for meeting Google and LG's specs for far less, but the 10 5G UW is not without compromise.
It has a 6.5-inch LCD screen that is sharp and high-contrast in most situations, and it even has technology that can be used to upscale SDR content to HDR10 content. But it is best seen directly and otherwise has poor viewing angles. In addition, dark scenes in movies, TV shows, and games look gray and washed out. Both the more expensive Samsung and Google phones mentioned above have OLED screens that offer unmatched picture quality for any type of content.
Verizon wants you to know that this is an operator lock phone. Plus, there's tons of bloatware to remind you in case you somehow forget about it.
This phone glows beautifully in the right light.
The 10 5G UW from TCL is also lagging behind in terms of software and starts with Android 10 with the promise that Android 11 will be launched "in the coming months". Software versions aside, the feel of TCL's spin on Android required a period of adjustment for someone like me who normally uses a pixel. Software navigation with three buttons is activated by default. You can turn on full gesture navigation if you'd rather use the entire screen with no software buttons. It lacks the option to switch to Google's pill-shaped home button on Pixel phones, which can be swiped to quickly switch apps. Samsung users may feel right at home as this interface allows you to swap the placement of the back and multitasking buttons.
Given that this is a carrier-exclusive phone, here's what you may have seen: Verizon absolutely filled it with bloatware. Verizon's cloud, digital secure, and call filtering apps will be installed on the home screen. Verizon's Messages + set as the default SMS app; together with the following preinstalled apps (but luckily removable):
- Apple Music
- Google assistant
- Candy Crush Soda
- CrossWord Jam
- Disney Plus
- Forge of empires
- June's trip
- Yahoo! Finances
- Merge Dragons!
- My Verizon
- House advisor
- News break
- Pluto TV
- Verizon Smart Family (How's it going?)
- Solitaire (I hope you are fine.)
- Scrabble Go
- Yahoo! Sport (We're almost done with this list.)
- Toon Blast
- Yahoo! Mail
- Yahoo News (you did it!)
In case you're wondering, this isn't TCL's top performing or full featured phone. Earlier this year, my colleague Jon Porter reviewed the TCL 10 Pro, a $ 449 phone where design takes precedence over the connectivity and speed of this exclusive Verizon model. The 10 Pro has a 6.47-inch OLED screen with curved edges, a built-in fingerprint sensor, and very small bezels. For comparison: the 10 5G UW has a larger lower bezel and a square fingerprint sensor on the back. Speaking of which, this sensor can launch different apps depending on which finger you're using to unlock your phone. That's smart.
From left to right: flash LED, macro lens, wide-angle lens, main lens and another flash LED.
In terms of cameras, the three-camera array of the TCL 10 5G UW can't quite keep up with the four-lens stack of the 10 Pro, but it does deliver respectable images in favorable lighting conditions. The cheaper phone includes a 48-megapixel main sensor (versus 64-megapixel) with an aperture of f / 1.8, a 5-megapixel macro lens, and an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens. It lacks the Pro's dedicated low-light video camera, although it does have the dual flash LEDs. I took some nice looking shots with the 10 5G UW in my apartment, although most of my other shots weren't inspirational enough to feel the urge to share.
Aside from these differences and shortcomings with TCL's high-end phone, for $ 399, this device is an aggressive game for both TCL versus Google and Samsung, and Verizon versus other vendors trying to get you to invest in their vision for 5G. Normally I would never recommend that anyone buy a phone just for 5G, but if Verizon's 5G service is abundant in your area or you're ready to meet it halfway, this device is so affordable that it isn't It is so wild to imagine buying it for that reason.
The service indicator reads "5G UW" if you are lucky enough to come across a millimeter wave.
Low-cost phones like this one show that Verizon wants to scale 5G devices (which the iPhone 12 will likely do anyway), but it now needs to be solved in order to scale the 5G network. My experience with it so far has not been exemplary – in the largest city in the USA, no less. Even today, if 5G is "real" with the release of the iPhone 12, I'll have to physically move towards one of its impressive mmWave emitters, and I don't see this change anytime soon.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge