Best smartphones to look forward to in 2016

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With the pace of smartphone evolution moving so fast, there’s always something waiting in the wings. No sooner have you spied the latest handset, then there’s anticipation of something else, the next big thing.

We’ve rounded up the best smartphones for 2015, those we consider to be the best across all platforms, and we’ve regularly updated that list as the smartphone world has evolved.

You can find those in our Best smartphones 2016: The best phones available to buy today feature. If your budget is a little smaller, there is also our Best budget smartphones 2016: The best phones available to buy for under £250/$375.

Here we’re looking at those phones that haven’t yet launched, those we know are coming, or are anticipated. We’ll be updating this list on a regular basis, with those device rumours we think are credible and exciting, and devices just announced but yet to hit the shelves.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note device usually launches in the second half of the year and based on the rumours, it looks like the Note 7, as it will apparently be called, will follow the pattern. Before the Note 5, the range debuted at IFA in September, but after 2015’s model appeared in August, speculation suggests the Note 7 will also be August, ahead of the trade show.

Rumours are suggesting there won’t be any radical design changes from the Note 5 for the Note 7. Other rumors suggest it will essentially be a S7 Edge lookalike with an S-Pen. It is thought the new phablet will come with IP68 water and dust resistance though, just like the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S7 series and an iris scanner has also been touted, by several sources.

It has been claimed the Note 7 will offer a 5.8-inch or 5.7-inch Quad HD display, while other rumours suggest a 12-megaixel snapper, which would be the same resolution as the recent flagships, both of which have been praised for their camera capabilities. There has also been talk of 6GB of RAM and storage options of 64GB and 128GB.

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Next Nexus

Google tends to announce its Nexus devices around September/October but there have already been plenty of rumours surrounding the next Nexuses.

Most rumours suggest both devices, codenamed Marlin and Sailfish, will be manufactured by HTC and although details are still thin on the ground regarding their designs, two big leaks have given us a good indication of the hardware we might see.

The Nexus Marlin is thought to be the bigger and more powerful device with a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display expected, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 128GB of internal memory. Other specs include a 12-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera and a 3450mAh battery.

The Nexus Sailfish is said to be the smaller device with a 5-inch Full HD display reported. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor is expected, along with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. Cameras haven’t been detailed but the battery is rumoured to be 2770mAh.

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As sure as the sun rises, there will be an iPhone 7. It’s likely to stick to the same launch cycle as it has done previously, and won’t appear until October 2016.

That hasn’t stopped the rumours circulating though. The iPhone 7 is said to be ditching the headphone socket. This isn’t a new idea and it’s one of the oldest components on the handset, taking up a lot of internal space – space that could be filled with more battery or unicorn tears. The Lightning connector already supports audio, so it’s not too far fetched.

We’d expect a new design, as the 6 and 6S share the same looks, and Apple updates the iPhone design on a two-year cycle, although it has been claimed the design change may not be too radical this time. If true, it goes along with speculation that Apple maybe be leaning towards a new 3-yearly cycle for major design changes.

Waterproofing has been suggested, as well as a similar design to the iPhone 6Sbut with the removal of the antenna strips across the back, as well as a camera lens that sits flush with the metal. There has also been a suggestion that there could be a different model, going by the name of the iPhone 7 Pro, that could see a dual-camera setup, along with the Smart Connector from the iPad Pro range introduced.

It will launch with iOS 10 (we can easily predict along) with more powerful hardware. As for new features, we suspect Apple will want to refine the camera experience and work on increasing the functionality of the 3D Touch display.

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Moto Z and Moto Z Force (2016)

Lenovo recently unveiled its latest flagship Moto-branded phones at its Tech World event in San Francisco, and it looks like we’re going to have to wait until at least September before these phones become available to buy. But if you can wait, it may well be worth it. From a spec standpoint they look great, and the modular backplate system looks far better than what we’ve seen from LG.

The regular Moto Z is undoubtedly the more fashion-focused smartphone of the two, and is impressively slim at just 5.2mm. The Moto Z Force, on the other hand, is 7mm thin, which is still pretty thin for a big smartphone. Battery size is the biggest reason for the difference in thickness, with the Z Force boasting a large 3500mAh battery that could get you well into a second day on a full charge. The regular Z has 900mAh less, with its 2600mAh one-day battery.

There are two other key differences between the two phones. First: the Force has a ShatterShield display, meaning you won’t be able to break it by dropping, or even throwing it on the floor. The Force also happens to have a much higher resolution camera with its 21MP sensor, versus the Moto Z’s 13MP camera. Both equipped with f/1.8 lenses, which means you should get great low light shots and be able to create lots of background blur.

Apart from that, they’re both the same. They have the most powerful Snapdragon available inside, with 4GB RAM, and 5MP cameras on the front as well as a fingerprint sensor and a USB Type-C connector on the bottom edge. Screens are the usual flagship affair: 5.5-inches with Quad HD resolution.

Of course, the biggest point of interest is the modular system which allows you to switch out the backplate for one of many different colours and finishes, or even add a magic module with a bespoke feature. For now, those include the likes of a JBL speaker, a pico projector and some battery packs.

We don’t have any specific release date or pricing information yet, but Lenovowill reveal those closer to the time they’re due to land on store shelves.

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Sony’s next flagship

There are few smartphone updating machines quite as determined as SonyMobile. The Xperia Z3+ was only on sale for a few months before the launch of the Xperia Z5 family. Before MWC 2016, there were rumours of the next step, the Xperia Z6. They will probably stop now though as Sony confirmed the “Xperia Zline has reached its culmination”.

The company announced the X series at Mobile World Congress, which is said to”represent a new chapter and evolution” of Sony Mobile’s product strategy. The X Performance was originally announced as an Asia-only device, although this appears to have now changed, but it is flagship material bringing a lovely metal design with a glass front, coupled with a similar design to the Z5 but improved specs including the SD820 chip.

Rumours suggested the Xperia Z6 would appear in the second half of 2016. We suspect this is still likely but it won’t be the Z6, it will just be Sony’s next flagship. Have a good look at the Xperia X series because the Performance is what we suspect Sony’s next flagship will base itself on.

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BlackBerry Neon / Argon / Mercury

There have been numerous rumours relating to various BlackBerry devices that are expected to launch sometime this year. The latest leak suggest we will see three BlackBerry devices appear between now and the beginning of 2017.

The first device is codenamed Neon and it is claimed to be coming with a 5.2-inch Full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of memory and a 2610mAh battery. There will also apparently be a 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera.

The second rumoured handset is the Argon, which is set for an October launch. It is reported to offer a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, SD820 processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. A fingerprint sensor, 3000mAh battery, USB Type-C, 21-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera have also been reported.

The last device is being called Mercury, but it was previously known as Vienna. This handset is said to be following the more traditional BlackBerry form factor with a large touchscreen and physical QWERTY keyboard. Specs include a Qualcomm SD625 processor, 3GB of RAM, 3400mAh battery, 18-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel front camera.

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Microsoft Surface Phone

The Surface Phone is something of a Windows phone holy grail. With Nokia thenMicrosoft Devices producing plenty of Windows Phones, the spectre of the Surface Phone has been hanging around as the idea of the ultimate Windowsmobile device. Given the recent sale of virtually all of its phone patents, and announcement that it’s no longer focussing on Windows Phone development, the Surface Phone may never see the light of day.

It’s rumoured that the new premium device will be Surface branded and Intel powered, possibly coming in three different variants. Given the same team behind the Surface Tablets are said to be behind the Surface Phone, you can expect a solid build if it ever does appear.

There’s also the suggestion that Surface Phone will run a brand new update ofWindows 10, aiming to capitalise on the branding and offer the ultimate experience. Launch originally wasn’t expected until the latter half of 2016, but this has since shifted to beginning of 2017. That’s if it appears at all.

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Sony announced a range of smartphones at Mobile World Congress called the X Series. There were originally three devices within the Sony X series including the X, XA and X Performance, but the company has since added the XA Ultra to the line up. Both the X and XA are on the market now, but we’re still eagerly awaiting news of the X Performance and the larger XA Ultra’s retail launches.

The Sony Xperia X Performance has the highest spec of the device and is easily the current flagship phone with waterproofing and the Snapdragon 820 processor on board. There’s also a full HD 5-inch display, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage with microSD expansion, as well as a fingerprint sensor, just like the Z5, and a 23-megapixel rear camera, 13-megapixel front camera and a 2600mAh battery.

The XA Ultra is a larger version of the XA, which boasts 1920 x 1080 resolution in an edge-to-edge display spread across 6-inches. Like its smaller sibling, the XA, the Ultra has a Mediatek processor powering it, but has 3GB RAM and 16GB internal storage which can be expanded by MicroSD card. Despite its size, it only has a 2,700mAh battery which may be enough for a smaller phone to last a day or two, but doesn’t sound quite enough for such a big phone.

The Xperia X Performance, Xperia X, Xperia XA and Xperia XA Ultra all feature metal and glass designs following the same cues as other Xperia devices. They will be available from Summer 2016. Availability and pricing of the X Performance has yet to be revealed but the X will arrive on 20 May for £499/$748.5, the XA will arrive on 10 June starting at £239/$358.5 and the XA Ultra will hit shelves in July, although no pricing has been detailed for this model either yet.

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Xiaomi Mi 5

The Xiaomi Mi 5 is the Chinese company’s latest flagship smartphone, announced at MWC. It’s not clear if or when it will make an appearance in the UK, US or Europe but it has been released in the Chinese and Indian markets and it is available to buy on a range of Chinese sites.

The Mi 5 sports a premium design with a metal core and a 3D glass or ceramic rear for a beautifully slick finish. It measures 144.55 x 69.2 x 7.25mm and weighs just 129g, making it one of the lightest smartphones out there, especially with a glass back.

There is a 5.15-inch display with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution for a pixel density of 427ppi and it features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, supported by 4GB of RAM on the Pro version and 128GB of internal storage. There is also a regular version that will offer 32GB or 64GB of storage with 3GB of RAM but neither have microSD.

A 3000mAh battery is on board, along with a 16-megapixel rear camera and dual-tone flash, as well as a 4-megapixel front camera.

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Acer Predator 6

Acer announced the Predator 6, a high-end smartphone aimed at gamers, during its pre-IFA 2015 press conference. The device has a 6-inch screen and deca-core MediaTek processor – that’s 10-cores of power – and there is 4GB of RAM in order to play console-style games when on the move.

There’s a 21-megapixel camera on the rear, four speakers and haptic feedback when held in portrait mode to help simulate joypad controls on the touchscreen. The Acer spokesperson on stage said it would “dominate any mobile games you can throw at it”.

Few other details have been released about the phone so far, but it joins a whole family of gaming products from Acer, all of which come under the Predator banner. A Predator 8 tablet was announced earlier in 2015 and the high-end smartphone has much of the same functionality. We will keep you updated.

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Google Project Ara

Originally created by Motorola, and now part of Google’s ATAP division, Project Ara looked dead in the water until the company gave it some renewed attention at Google I/O 2016.

Although Project Ara started as a concept for allowing users to swap out literally every part of the phone’s hardware, it’s now a lot tamer, more fun and is actually heading to market in the next year. Although you won’t be able to remove the display, or switch out its main battery, processor, memory or storage, there will be a ton of useful modules.

Some modules will be purely fashion-focussed, while others will offer better camera or audio quality. There will be kickstands, secondary displays, extra battery power, expandable storage, glucometers and much more.

Developers can register now and receive a developer kit from the end of this year, and a consumer version is targeted for launch in 2017.

(pocket-lint.com, http://goo.gl/yKxzGe)

 

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