Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Note 8 or LG's V30 may be the first phones to jump aboard T-Mobile's new predominantly rural 600MHz network, if we're reading the tea leaves correctly.
T-Mobile won a massive amount of nationwide spectrum in the recent 600MHz auction, and in yesterday's earnings call it committed to releasing its first 600MHz phone this year. The new airwaves are largely occupied by TV channels in more populated parts of the country, but they tend to be free in rural areas, especially in the West. You can see the free areas on this map—it's all the landscape that isn't covered by the purple circles. That means 600MHz will initially be used to enhance T-Mobile's rural coverage.
You'll need new phones to support the network because 600MHz requires a different physical antenna than existing networks. The final piece of the puzzle came when Qualcomm confirmed that it will be adding 600MHz to its X16 modem, which is part of its Snapdragon 835 platform.
- Samsung Galaxy S8Samsung Galaxy S8
That means Snapdragon 835 phones released by the end of the year may have radically better rural coverage on T-Mobile going forward, especially in the western US. The most prominent Snapdragon 835 devices coming this fall will be the Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30, and Samsung is well known (unlike Apple) for pushing Qualcomm's modems to their limits. So there's a good chance the Galaxy Note 8 could be that first 600MHz phone. LG's V20, meanwhile, was the first phone to support T-Mobile's Band 66 network, so the V30 could continue that leadership.
AT&T also bought 600MHz spectrum, so these phones could also get additional AT&T coverage, but AT&T hasn't spoken about how soon it's rolling out coverage on the new airwaves.
Apple will also have the option to choose the X16 for its next iPhone, but it may not do so because of the company's ongoing war with Qualcomm over license fees. This year, Apple used Qualcomm modems for its Sprint and Verizon devices, but used slower Intel modems for its AT&T and T-Mobile phones, presumably because those were less expensive. So the additional coverage may have to wait for the 2018 iPhone release.