This year has seen a number of excellent smartphone releases, which we'll no doubt be discussing for a long time. But as we approach the end of 2015, our attention is turning to the smartphones which lie just around the corner. Here are the new Android phones to get excited about in early 2016.
Motorola Moto G (4th gen)
Motorola's G series made its name by producing low-cost handsets with good specs, but this year's Moto G (3rd gen) didn't delight, because it 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. If Motorola did manage to include such a screen on a low-priced device though, the Moto G (4th gen) could be an awfully compelling handset.
Approximate release date: July 2016
Samsung Galaxy S7 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: areas 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.
Approximate release date: April 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 produced consistently high-quality, with little in the way of sacrifices.
While it's true that 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 lacked in premium materials, it makes up for with premium features.
We hope the LG G series stays on this path. If the LG G5 manages to deliver in the important areas once again, 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.
Approximate release date: Q2, 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: Q1, 2016
LG G Flex 3
LG's G Flex series is known primarily for its curved-screen design, but the G Flex 2 was more than a one-trick phone-y. The LG G Flex 2 was the first smartphone to come with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor, which would later appear in many of the 2015 flagships, and housed a stunning camera.
The latest device in the G Flex series should appear in early 2016, and is rumored to be the first device to launch with the upcoming Snapdragon 820 processor. Additionally, it could house a 6-inch QHD display, 4 GB of RAM and a 20.7 MP camera. If these specs are are accurate, it will be another excellent handset from LG.
The design of the G Flex 2 made it seem like niche product, when really it was a high-quality phone in its own right. Here’s hoping the LG G Flex 3 delivers something similarly strong, with enough sales to keep this underrated series going.
Approximate release date: February 2016
Project Ara won't produce a flagship, 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 a 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 is 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 a 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 egg-shell 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 many of the annoying file transfer troubles you'd had in the past could now become completely automated.
The Nextbit Robin is already taking pre-orders – find out more over at its Kickstarter page.
Approximate release date: Q1 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. It was first introduced at CES 2015, so we hope to get a glimpse of the third generation of the device in January. If Asus can include a more impressive display on the Zenfone 3, while keeping the price low, it could be a superb handset.
Approximate release date: Q2 2016
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 of others. Let us know in the comments what phone you're most excited about in 2016.