It's already shaping up to be a great year for Android, with the Honor 5X and Xiaomi Redmi 3 proving once again that you don't need to pay a premium for high-quality on Android. But yet more new smartphones lie just around the corner. Here are the new Android phones to get excited about in 2016.
OnePlus is one of the most exciting smartphone manufacturers right now. Two years in a row it has produced reasonably priced flagship phones that have been (almost) capable of going toe-to-toe with the major manufacturers. While OnePlus' "flagship killer" slogan may be a little hyperbolic, there's no doubt that its phones are of a high standard.
It's early days for the OnePlus 3, with little information available beyond some questionable leaked renders. We do know that the company wishes to ditch its invite-only purchase system at some point and co-founder Carl Pei has admitted that omitting NFC on the OnePlus 2 was a "misstep". This could give us some clue about the direction the OnePlus 3 will take.
We're sure to learn much more in the coming months. If there is one thing OnePlus knows well, it's how to build #hype.
Approximate release date: Q3 2016
Xiaomi is the incredibly popular Chinese manufacturer edging its way towards the West. It's yet to release one of its flagships in the US, but that hasn't stopped Xiaomi becoming the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer (based on market share) in the world during 2015.
The Xiaomi Mi5 is the company's next flagship, and is set to be launched at MWC 2016 in Barcelona. There has been a ton of rumors about this device and all signs indicate it will be another powerful and full-featured smartphone and will undercut the price of Apple and Samsung flagships.
Xiaomi Vice President Hugo Barra announced the Mi5's presence at MWC with a tweet saying "it's everything you imagined, and more." Sounds good to us.
Approximate release date: February 24, 2016
Motorola Moto X (4th gen)
The Moto X range was split in 2015, with the Droid Maxx 2, known as the Moto X Play outside of the US, and the Moto X Pure Edition, also known as the Moto X Style. The former is a mid-range handset with a big battery, and the latter is a high-end flagship that we once described as a much better and only fractionally more expensive Nexus 5X.
Following comments at CES 2016 that Lenovo would be "phasing out" the Motorola brand name, the status of the Moto X was in question. However, it was quickly clarified that the Moto brand would live on.
The Moto X (2016) or Moto X (4th gen) is the new flagship, which may house a Snapdragon 820 processor and a huge camera sensor, or look much like the Moto X Pure, with slightly updated specs. The next round of rumors will hopefully clear this up.
Approximate release date: September 2016
Motorola Moto G (4th gen)
Motorola's G series made its name by producing low-cost handsets with good specs, but last year's Moto G (3rd gen) failed to strike the same price/performance balance as its predecessors. Will Motorola's fourth-generation Moto G reclaim the budget Android crown?
If that is indeed its aim, the Moto G (2016) might need to include a Full HD display. Sony released the expensive Xperia Z5 Compact with a 720p display only a short time ago, so it may still be too soon to expect this technology on a budget device like a Moto G, but if Motorola did manage to include such a screen on a low-priced device, the Moto G (4th gen) could be an awfully compelling handset.
Approximate release date: July 2016
Project Ara isn't the only new Google phone/prototype/thing that's set to arrive in 2016. There's also Project Tango, for which Google has teamed up with Lenovo to transform "your smartphone into a magic lens that lets you place digital information on your physical world". OK...
What this means is that the Project Tango smartphone is equipped with extra sensors that enable its camera to perceive depth, expanding the opportunities for what app and software developers can achieve with a smartphone.
Lenovo hasn't finalized the design yet – the image below shows a number of possibilities – but we do know that it will arrive in the summer and will cost less than US$500. Check out some of these Play Store apps to see the kinds of things the technology can be used for.
Approximate release date: Summer 2016
Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, and Galaxy S7 Edge+
Samsung's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge changed a number of important aspects of the Galaxy S series design. They lost the removable battery and expandable storage, and a lot of people fell out of love with the Korean manufacturer as a result. However, Samsung still produced two fantastically fast handsets, with delicious displays and compelling cameras, things that Samsung rarely gets wrong.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are likely to be only incremental upgrades to their predecessors, with a similar glass and metal designs. This time, though, there are rumors that Samsung will implement its own 3D touch technology, as well as bring back microSD card support.
Approximate release date: February 2016
LG has made some seriously good phones in the past couple of years, along with some seriously weird ones. But its flagship G series has been consistently high quality.
While LG hasn't pursued the glass and metal design like most of its competitors, and many see this as a flaw, we called the LG G4 "impressive in all the right places" in our review; what the G4 lacks in premium materials, it makes up for with premium features.
If the LG G5 manages to deliver in the important areas once again, but also improve the device finish (which looks likely), it should be one of the best phones to come out next year.
You can read more about why I would be keen to buy a new LG flagship at the link, including all the latest on its inventive always-on display plans.
Approximate release date: February 2016
Sony Xperia Z6
Sony is now approaching the sixth device in its Xperia Z series and like the HTC One M10 (see below), it could be a make or break device.
The Xperia Z devices are based around Sony’s OmniBalance principle: a water-resistant, dust-proof, aluminum and glass body. The devices have changed very little between each generation, but as the sixth iteration approaches, we wonder if it's time for a refresher.
We noted in our Xperia Z5 review that, despite the presence of a MicroSD card slot, fingerprint scanner and water-resistant design, the Z5 isn't superior in enough ways to justify its steep asking price (£549 or around US$850). The Z series is becoming less and less relevant and Sony needs to act quickly to turn things around with the Xperia Z6.
Approximate release date: Q2, 2016
Project Ara won't produce a flagship phone, instead, it will allow you to create a flagship yourself, to your own specifications. The core components of the device – the display, camera, battery, etc – are all interchangeable and can be easily swapped out of the device and upgraded.
We've already had a glimpse at some of the capabilities of Project Ara – as well as unique components such as an X-Ray camera module – and the range of design opportunities that it presents are extremely exciting.
Consider this: typical smartphone manufacturers must include components that attract as wide a demographic as possible. It's not built for you, it's built for everyone. Project Ara asks: "What are you into? What do you want to see from a smartphone?" and will let you create your own answers.
Though the Project Ara team has now ditched its electromagnetic component design, you can get an idea of why Project Ara is so interesting in the video below.
Approximate release date: Q1, 2016 (pilot)
HTC One M10
HTC hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire recently. The HTC One A9 looks like an iPhone knock-off, and the company itself was valued as worthless by investors. Its profits have been in decline for years, and HTC badly needs to produce a big-selling phone. Will the HTC One M10 be it?
Little is known about the HTC One M10 yet, but we can only hope that HTC addresses some of the concerns of its predecessor. A device redesign may be in order, and we hope it drops the HTC bezel that has plagued the bottom of the display since the One M7.
HTC played it safe with the One M9 and it has been a relative failure. HTC's next handset may need to be something radical.
Approximate release date: April 2016
The Nextbit Robin could really shake things up in the world of Android. It's made by a company comprising Google, HTC, Amazon and Apple employees, and is a bold new device that's looking to do things a little differently.
The design is an interesting one, with its round buttons and eggshell color, but the real originality lies in the cloud functionality. The Nextbit Robin's cloud-integration means it’s always backing up your data to keep space available on your device for the files you need most, archiving those you use least. This means that file transfer could become completely automated.
The Nextbit Robin is already taking pre-orders – find out more over at the Nextbit website.
Approximate release date: February 2016
Asus Zenfone 3
The Zenfone 2 was notable for a number of reasons. With 4 GB of RAM and a low price of admission (US$299), it was a cheap and powerful handset. The design was a tad boring, and the display could have been better, but with a 64-bit CPU and fast-charging, the Zenfone 2 was a great mid-range offering.
The Zenfone 2 was introduced at CES 2015, but its successor was missing from the 2016 show. The latest rumors suggest that two versions of the device are in the works, a smaller, higher-powered device, and a cheaper 5.9-inch device.
If Asus does include a 1080p display on one of the Zenfone 3 models, while keeping the price low, it could be a superb smartphone.
Approximate release date: Q2 2016
Sponsored: Allview P8 Energy PRO
The Allview P8 Energy PRO comes with a large battery with power-saving options to keep the device running for a long time. Under normal usage, the P8 Energy PRO runs for three days without a charge. Under heavy, continuous usage, it runs for two days. But under 'Extreme power saving mode', Allview claims it will run for 225 hours.
The metallic frame of the Allview P8 Energy PRO is ergonomic but also quite stylish. Its 2.5D glass screen melds seamlessly with the curved frame. Although it's a bigger phone, you are able to use it with one hand. The interface is clean and easy to navigate.
The Allview P8 Energy PRO brings some performance features that the large battery complements. It has a clear 6-inch HD AMOLED display with detailed colors and automatic adjustment for lighting conditions. It's packed with a 1.3 GHz octa-core processor and 3 GB RAM for gaming or watching videos. To read more about the P8 Energy PRO, have a look at the article below.
Those are the devices that we're looking forward to right now, but we'll add to the list as we edge closer to the release dates of others. Let us know in the comments what phone you're most excited about in 2016.