It's already been a great year for Android, with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 proving once again how good the premium-tier Android handsets can be. But more interesting smartphones lie just around the corner. Here are the new Android phones to get excited about in 2016.
Samsung Galaxy Note 6
If there is one device guaranteed to grab headlines this year, it's the Galaxy Note 6. Following the release of the outstanding Galaxy S7, all eyes are on Samsung to deliver again with the sixth device in its impressive phablet series.
It's a little early for image leaks, but there have been plenty of feature rumors regarding the Note 6: speculation that it would act as a touchpad for compatible laptops, that it could feature a curved display, and even that its stylus might double up as a kickstand. We've also seen four different specs rumors, three of which suggest that the Note 5 will house 6 GB of RAM.
I've taken some time to consider what could be the key areas of the Galaxy Note 6 in comparison to the Galaxy Note 4 (a device which is still a firm favorite among many Android fans), but right now nothing is confirmed. Whatever Samsung does with it, though, the Korean manufacturer has been so strong in 2016 already that the Note 6 could prove to be something very special.
Approximate release date: August 2016
Lenovo Moto Z Play and Moto Z Pure
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, recent leaks have suggested that the new Moto devices will be known as the Moto Z Style and Moto Z Play.
We have a handful of pictures of the supposed devices, as well as some rumored specs, and it seems the new phones will follow a similar pattern to last year's Moto X handsets.
The Moto Z Pure would be a flagship with QHD display and Snapdragon 820 processor while the X Play would be a slightly cheaper variant, reduced to a Full HD display and Snapdragon 625 chipset. Also in keeping with last year's devices, it's the lower-cost handset which will feature the larger battery; the Z Pure and Z Play battery capacities are rumored to be 2,600 mAh and 3,500 mAh respectively.
Approximate release date: June 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.
The OnePlus 3 is just around the corner and we already think we know how it will look (see the image below). OnePlus wants to ditch its invite-only purchase system at some point in the future 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.
Meanwhile, we recently learned that OnePlus has co-developed a VR headset which will allow consumers to buy the OnePlus 3 before anyone else in a virtual marketplace.
We're sure to learn much more about the OnePlus 3 in the coming weeks, though: if there's one thing OnePlus does well, it's build #hype.
Approximate release date: Q2 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: End of summer 2016
Sony Xperia Z6
Sony is now approaching the sixth device in its Xperia Z series and like the HTC 10, it could be a make or break device.
The Xperia Z devices are based on 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)
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.