When the transition to 4G began around the turn of the decade all those years ago, the first 4G phones shared one thing in common: a near-complete lack of 4G network interoperability. A 4G phone bought on Verizon would never work with 4G on Sprint, and a 4G phone bought on T-Mobile would never or barely work at all on AT&T's 4G, a situation which persisted for years (and which continues on many cheaper phones to this day).

With 5G, it seems we finally be past the days of major handset network fragmentation. Speaking to Samsung at a briefing regarding the Galaxy S20, the company confirmed that all American variants of the Galaxy S20, including the carrier unlocked version, will work on all current 5G networks in the US. No ifs, ands, or buts about it (at least, based on what we know for now). That means if you buy a Galaxy S20 Ultra on Verizon and decide to have it unlocked in order to switch to T-Mobile, you'll get T-Mobile 5G, and vice versa. No more worrying about weird, obscure band support.

Samsung wasn't able to answer specific questions about niche carrier features like video chat and advanced messaging crossing over between unlocked or branded variants, so we're not sure yet if full support for things like HD Voice or carrier-specific RCS implementations will just flip on the moment you're on the network. That depends more on the carriers than Samsung, unfortunately, so it'll be more of a "wait and see" kind of thing. Granted, these features matter less and less on modern smartphones, and many, like Wi-Fi calling, have become easier to provide standalone support on as the Android platform has matured and carriers have slowly warmed to the idea of unlocked handsets on their networks.

I'm personally surprised by all of this. I fully expected to return to band compatibility hell with the first real generation of mainstream 5G phones, but it actually looks like the transition will be relatively painless from that end of things. Of course, saying and doing are two different things, there could be hidden asterisks to that "compatibility" we haven't yet discovered, so I don't want to count my chickens before they've hatched. But based on what Samsung told us, there's every reason to be optimistic here.