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New Android phones to get excited about in 2016

Update: The new list is here

It's already been a great year for Android. The OnePlus 3 proved once again that you don't need to break the bank to buy a good phone and the Samsung Galaxy S7 showed us that, well, the premium-tier Android handsets can still be pretty incredible. But more interesting smartphones lie just around the corner; here are the new Android phones to get excited about in 2016.

Nexus Sailfish and Nexus Marlin

Two of the most hotly anticipated Android smartphones of the year are still to come. In September, it's expected that we will see the release of the Nexus Sailfish and the Nexus Marlin, the new Google flagships. Last year, Google partnered with LG on the Nexus 5X and Huawei for the Nexus 6P – this time, all signs indicate that HTC is in the driver's seat.

Unlike the aforementioned 5X and 6P, 2016's Nexus phones are expected to house mostly the same specs as each other, with the major difference being the display size and resolution. Rumors suggest the Nexus Marlin will house a 5.5-inch QHD display, with a metal frame, while the Nexus Sailfish would house a 5.2-inch Full-HD display, with a plastic frame. Battery capacities are also likely to differ between the two. 

HTC Nexus Sailfish grey
A mockup of what the Nexus Sailfish would look like. / © Reddit

Beyond those, speculation suggests the other specs would be the same across both devices: a Snapdragon 820 or 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 13 MP rear camera, 8 MP front-facing camera and 32 GB of storage on the base models.

The major selling point of Nexus phones is, ostensibly, the early chance to take the latest version of stock Android for a ride. In this case, that would be Android 7.0 Nougat. These devices may be only weeks away and thanks to the (almost) 'same specs, different size', approach, they could both prove equally popular.

Approximate release date: September 2016 

Xiaomi Redmi 4 and Mi Note 2

Xiaomi has made a name for itself by making solid Android products that undercut the price of competing phones with similar specs. The brand is wildly popular in China but is yet to make a splash in the US – not least because of copyright concerns.

Its Redmi series is known for its low-cost handsets and impressive specs. The Redmi 4 is expected to arrive rocking Android 6.0 Marshmallow, a 5-inch 1080p screen, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage space. Speculation suggests this would cost the Chinese equivalent of about $105. Xiaomi's pricing is nothing if not aggressive.

XiaomiRedmi4 weibo
Purported front and rear of the Xiaomi Redmi 4. / © Weibo

The Redmi 4 is rumored to launch in August, with the Mi Note 2, the latest in its Mi phablet series, said to be coming in September. Said to start around $375, it's rumored that this would be a 5.7-inch device with a curved display, similar to the Galaxy Note 7 (which costs upwards of $800). If it can compete with that device, at half the price, it would be stunning.  

Approximate release date: August-September 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 ($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, this was a great mid-range offering.

Now, just when we thought Asus couldn't get any more outlandish, it has revealed the Zenfone 3 series, which includes a model with 6 GB of RAM and a 6.8-inch phablet. 

Three variants will be available at launch, the Zenfone 3, Zenfone 3 Deluxe, and Zenfone 3 Ultra, all of which house a Full-HD display, fingerprint scanner and metal unibody design.

The Deluxe version costs $499 and comes with a Snapdragon 820 processor, 23 MP Sony camera and the aforementioned 6 GB of RAM. By all accounts, it's going to be a powerful flagship. 

The Zenfone 3 Ultra, on the other hand, costs $479 and includes 4 GB of RAM, in addition to a whopping 4,600 mAh battery and 6.8-inch screen.

When we first wrote about it, we said that if Asus included a 1080p display on one of the Zenfone 3 models, while keeping the price low, it could be a superb smartphone. At $249, it seems that the standard Zenfone 3 will be just that. 

Approximate release date: Q3 2016  

zenfone3 button asus
This is the Asus Zenfone 3. / © Adrenaline/ANDROIDPIT

Project Tango

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: End of summer 2016

lenovo project tango smartphone 1
Project Tango: it's going to look something like this. / © Google

Project Ara

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: Q3 2016 (pilot) 

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. 


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  • Skip the Asus 6.8 phone...the camera is ok but not all that. The battery life for being 4600 mah isn't that great, it's quirky and when you speak while the speakerphone is on, no one can hear you. The speakers are the best I've ever heard and the screen is great but otherwise...why can't they make a huge phone with a great battery and a fantastic camera.

  • gpon 1 month ago Link to comment

    Never trust HTC again. Too bad Nexus is teaming up with them. Let them go broke.

  • Loffea 1 month ago Link to comment

    I am looking forward.

  • WHEN is one of you blogger pukes going to notice the ZTE Axon 7??
    I Have owned one for a month and it is a True Flagship with the BEST warranty in
    The phone Industry.
    Metal Body fingerprint reader 2k display 4 gb ram 64 gb onboard memory
    Decent camera and all for 399.00 U.S.

    • Eric 1 month ago Link to comment

      Have to change my old Note 3 and cannot decide between the Axon 7 and V20... I prefer 5.7 inches as I read a lot (ebook) and watch a lot of movies/episodes on my phone (with headphones) . Still waiting to see the V20 pre-order price. Price wise the Axon 7 is really cheap and reviews are good. Just a little bit afraid of Chinese phones (that's why I didn't get the Nexus 6P yet).

  • so ugly phones

  • What about Nokia?

  • If the Note 6/7 doesn't deliver in terms of next gen hardware including a 4k screen,
    then Project Ara will more than satisfy my addiction to the smartphone, next year.

  • Update my phone

  • where are nexus phones ??????

  • Mark 4 months ago Link to comment

    The Phone I am excited about is the successor to the LG V10.

  • Axon 7

  • CJ Brown 5 months ago Link to comment

    Thank you for a thorough and well-written article :)

    Xiaomi Mi5

    Xiaomi also impressed me at CES this year in Las Vegas
    The Xiaomi Mi5 has nice specs

    $470 is still not in my price range for an unlocked Android Smartphone

    I would pay $350, for stock Android OS Marshmallow
    With guaranteed Android OS N update this year

    Healthy competition keeps LG Samsung HTC in check
    Sorry Motorola, you screwed me once (never again)

    Screw you, too, Asus
    (Zenfone 2 screen malfunction after a month, no refund offered)

    OnePlus, Sony, Project Tango, Nextbit - no thank you!

    Project Ara, Allview P8 - I'm interested - why was ZTE left out this year?

  • Alex R. 5 months ago Link to comment

    I am more excited about the upcoming OnePlus 3 as I was very much impressed and used their predecessors OnePlus One,OnePlus Two and OnePlusX, they always bring the best out of the best and Cool and Impressive features for less money,I am awaiting for the upcoming OnePlus 3 very-much!!

  • I see your still going on about the Sony Z6! Don't think so?

  • Note 6, and the next Nexus... and very interested to see where Lenovo are going with this year's X.

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