In a blog post, Counterpoint research associate Matthew Orf said the increased adoption of 5G devices in the US had been partly driven by the release of the 5G-capable iPhone in 2020.
"In the first half of 2020, there were no carrier-compatible 5G smartphones with retail prices below US$400, but the release of T-Mobile’s REVVL 5G, the LG K92 and TCL 10 5G changed that," he said.
"Additionally, releases like Google’s Pixel 4a 5G, Motorola’s One 5G and Samsung’s Galaxy A51 5G were all on promotion at points during Q4, bringing their prices below US$400 and adding competition to a 5G price segment that did not exist just months before."
During the first two months of the year, OnePlus had introduced the Nord N10 5G at US$300, Motorola had released the One 5G Ace at US$399 and ZTE has unveiled the Blade X1 5G at US$384.
"With a growing array of devices for consumers to choose from, OEMs are packing their 5G devices in this range with improved specs and differentiating features," Orf wrote.
"For example, the Motorola One 5G Ace comes with a 5000mAh battery that is marketed as lasting up to two days on a single charge. The OnePlus Nord N10 5G features 30W fast-charging and 90Hz refresh rate.
"With battery life being one of the most common pain points for consumers, features like a 5000mAh battery and 30W fast-charging should help OEMs attract customers.
"As the price band becomes more crowded in 2021, consumers can expect competition to push OEMs to include even more impressive specs. Improved cameras, higher refresh rates, more RAM and more powerful processors will be on the radar."
He said the lower price points were likely to lead to a cutback in features but this would make the technology accessible to a larger segment of the American populace.
:Consumers will have broader access to 5G networks from carriers and a more diverse array of 5G price points to choose from in 2021," Orf added.
"According to our monthly channel share tracker, 65% of devices sold in December were 5G-capable. This number should surpass 80% in 2021 with the further introduction of 5G devices in new price bands."
However, he pointed out that sales of popular non-5G devices, like older iPhones and the lower market share of individual low-cost devices, would create a ceiling, as could the current chip shortage.
"While most users will only have access to sub-6GHz bands on low-to-mid price devices in 2021, this may change at the upper bounds of this range as mmWave is deployed in more cities and users expect more from their device," Orf said.
"With competition driving more impressive specs and the expansion of 5G coverage driving 5G devices into new price points, consumers will be the winners in 2021."