They might not be official yet, but that doesn’t mean we’re not excited for next year’s smartphones. With the patterns on how they name their model, we have the rumors and know what exactly will be out from those big phone companies.
2017 was a fantastic year for phones. We got skinnier screen bezels than ever, cameras that took better pictures than dedicated compacts, and better-than-all-day battery life.
But we want more. And if the early rumours are any indication, that’s exactly what we’re going to get.
All eyes will of course be on Samsung at the beginning of the year, when the inevitable Galaxy S9 arrives, and Apple is sure to impress in September with a handful of new iPhones, but it’s not just a two horse race. Google and newly-acquired HTC will release their first official collaboration, Huawei is working on something special in the camera department, and Sony might finally be ready to mix things up in the design department.
Here’s what you can expect from all the major players, as well as when they might go on sale.
SAMSUNG: GALAXY S9, NOTE 9
Easily our favourite phone of 2017, the Galaxy S8 had it all: a stunning design, front-filling AMOLED screen and a superb camera, all wrapped up in a metal and glass chassis you couldn’t help but swoon over whenever you pulled it out of a pocket. Familiar features like waterproofing, wireless charging and expandable storage stuck around, as did the headphone jack – a refreshing change from the rest of the smartphone world.
That means the Galaxy S9 has a lot to live up to, and based on what we’ve heard so far, it may not mix up the formula all that much.
Expect a very similar design, with Samsung staples like the curved edge Infinity Display making a comeback. If the bezels don’t get any skinnier, screen size is probably going to stay the same too. Performance will be top notch, of course, with either a Snapdragon 845 CPU or one of Samsung’s own Exynos chips providing the power. The biggest difference will be the camera, which is rumoured to switch to a dual-lens setup like the Galaxy Note 8.
We’re betting on a March or April launch for this one, potentially with a sneak peek at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February.
The Galaxy Note 9 will almost certainly follow later in the year, potentially in late August or early September. This one is more of a mystery, but you can be sure Samsung will find a few new tricks for the S Pen stylus.
APPLE: IPHONE 9, IPHONE X 2?
SONY: A NEW-LOOK XPERIA?
This has been a long time coming, but 2018 might finally see Sony shake things up and launch a radically redesigned Xperia flagship phone. The Xperia line has kept roughly the same look since the Xperia Z arrived in 2013, which is eons in smartphone land. While everyone else has moved onto curvier creations made from glass, Sony has largely stuck with sharp angles and polycarbonate materials.
The latest rumours point to that changing next year, with specs for a possible Xperia XZ2 Premium spotted online. A 5.7in, 4K HDR display gets top billing, in a phone with smaller dimensions than the 5.5in XZ Premium – meaning the bezels must be getting some serious shrinkage. Other specs are still TBC, but a high-end Snapdragon CPU seems like a safe bet.
Sony tends to show off its mainstream phones at Mobile World Congress in February/March, but a top-spec Premium handset could be revealed at CES in January – we’ll have to wait a few weeks to find out if Las Vegas is indeed where Sony will make an announcement.
LG: G7, V40?
LG came so close in 2017, first with the G6 and later with the V30. The G6 managed to beat Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to the punch in March with an 18:9 aspect ratio screen, but without curvy screen edges it just didn’t have the wow factor. Its dual-lens camera is still pretty unique, with a wide-angle sensor for squeezing more into every frame, but image quality just wasn’t up to scratch.
When the V30 arrived in September, it looked like an absolute powerhouse, with a slicker design, improved camera and a dedicated DAC to give your music a boost. The fact it could shoot 4K videos in LOG format for colour correcting should have made it a filmmaker’s dream phone. Unfortunately the OLED panel had some serious issues, with HDR videos in particular looking dodgy.
It means LG has everything to prove in 2018, with an MWC reveal in February looking likely for the G7, followed by a March launch. We’ve not heard much about the G7 yet, and even less about the V40.
GOOGLE: PIXEL 3, HTC COLLABORATION?
Google took an interesting approach to this year’s phones, with the Pixel 2 sticking to a tried-and-tested 16:9 screen and the larger Pixel 2 XL busting the bezels with an 18:9 aspect ratio. It didn’t necessarily pay off, with the smaller phone looking dated by comparison and the bigger one suffering from a few screen quality issues. They still had the best cameras you’ll find in a phone, though, as well as a pure Android Oreo operating system.
Any sequel will need to address these issues by the time Google reveals them, most likely in early October. We’d like to see skinny bezels on both phones, but with OLED screens made by Samsung rather than LG. With Google’s clever algorithms constantly improving, you can expect the camera image quality to take another leap forward, and both phones should arrive with the first taste of Android P.
Google also bought out long-time collaborator HTC in 2017, so it’ll be interesting to see if it will be allowed to continue launching its own phones. The HTC U11 introduced Edge Sense squeezable sides, something Google then borrowed for the Pixel 2, and it took incredible photos without going down the dual-lens approach everyone else seems to be doing. If the two companies work together closely, the resulting phone could be epic.
HUAWEI: TRI-CAMERA P11?
Huawei has been very busy this year, launching four high-profile phones: The P10 and P10 Plus, and the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro. The first two borrowed a lot of design inspiration from Apple’s iPhone, but the latter two showed what could be done with glass – and looked very pretty indeed.
Next year looks to be more of the same, with the P11 apparently arriving in February or March – potentially at Mobile World Congress. Huawei’s Leica partnership looks on track, with the latest rumours suggesting a tri-lens, 40MP rear camera array for 5x hybrid zoom, a 20MP front selfie cam. Too good to be true? Maybe, but you can bet the camera will be a major part of the P11’s upgrades over this year’s phone, with AI assistance tweaking your settings to get the best photos possible from the hardware.
It’ll almost certainly arrive with a Kirin 970 CPU – Huawei tends to launch a chip in the Mate series, then port it to the mainstream P-series the year after. That means the Mate 11 should see the introduction of a new, more powerful CPU, but that won’t happen until September or October.
Let’s not forget Honor, either: Huawei’s millennial-friendly sub-brand knocked it out of the park with the Honor 9, undercutting the mighty OnePlus 5 with a gorgeous glass finish and dual-camera cleverness. The Honor 10 should hopefully join the growing ranks of skinny bezel phones, borrow some AI smarts from the Mate 10 Pro for its camera, and keep the price down as low as possible.
NOKIA: NOKIA 9
The bothie-snapping Nokia 8 is currently the resurrected phone brand’s premium phone, but that looks set to change in 2018. The latest rumours point to a Nokia 9, which would take its place above the 8 in mid-January, at least in China.
It’s expected to arrive with a 5.5in OLED display, possibly with curved sides like Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge. That should make it a lot less boxy than the Nokia 8, and hopefully it’ll come with the skinny bezels that are all the rage right now. Expect a dual-lens camera too, with Carl Zeiss optics – remember the 41MP 808 PureView? This could be the first phone to bring back that old partnership.
Performance should be top of the pack, with a barely-touched version of Android Oreo and 3800mAh battery keeping the whole thing topped up with juice.
ONEPLUS: ONEPLUS 6
It arrived late in the year, but the OnePlus 5T proved OnePlus could still deliver top-spec features and performance for less cash than the rest of the smartphone world. OK, so prices did go up compared to the OnePlus 3 and 3T, but the OnePlus 5 was still a great value phone, and the bigger-screen, thinner-bezel upgrade showed up without charging any extra.
How long will we have to wait for a new OnePlus? Based on previous launches, you can expect the OnePlus 6 to arrive in June or July, with whatever Snapdragon CPU is currently sitting on top of the benchmark leaderboards. Screen resolution might get bumped up to QHD, but the most likely candidate for upgrades is the camera.
Will the price stay the same, though? We’d like to see it go down, if anything, but with Apple pushing prices past the US$1000 mark, staying under $500 is still a big achievement.