2021 is off and running with CES and one thing is quite clear and that is people are talking about 5G. Specifically, companies are showcasing it as an included feature in their laptops.
Out of curiosity, I started a simple poll on the YouTube Community page for the channel and asked people to vote on how they felt about cellular connectivity in laptops. After a day, the following results were tallied:
The results were interesting. Approximately two-thirds of respondents didn’t see the need or felt the cost was a barrier. Several people commented that if they needed the internet they either tethered from their phone or used their phone to create a mobile hotspot. One commenter even suggested the benefits of doing this as it allows you to position the “antenna” (the phone) in a better position for a signal without the need to move the entire laptop. I found this thought very sound having done so myself on several occasions.
The question then is of course, who are these laptop manufacturers targeting with 5G? The answer I suspect is the same people that have always been targeted with cellular connectivity in laptops. Businesses. If they have employees that need to have internet access to do their job then it makes sense for the business to purchase a machine and a data plan to ensure they get it. I note a change already at CES this year, with 5G seemingly being used to target consumers as well. But for the average user, I suspect the data plans that are already being paid for as a part of a phone plan are enough. With people still mainly stuck and home or under travel restrictions, being in a location without WiFi is not currently a common experience for many users.
The big question is, will cellular modems break into the mainstream anytime soon? With cellular bands like 5G almost becoming a branding item like multi-lens cameras on smartphones, I could see it happening. There is also the potential for something like this to be great in areas where traditional infrastructure is not as reliable as cellular service. Time will tell if the consumer values this added feature that I suspect will be coming to more laptops this year than ever before. I suspect many customers however will see this and start to count on their fingers how many times and how much they are paying for internet access.