How to Choose the Next Android Phone: 2016 Version

The Mobile World Congress , the largest smartphone trade show of the year, is taking place this week, with companies like Samsung and LG showcasing the hot new phones they want you to buy. All of this gives us an idea of ​​how Android phones will evolve in 2016 and what you should look out for before you go shopping for your next smartphone.

Every year, major smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, LG and HTC release a new batch of phones that set the bar for the entire Android ecosystem. We’ve looked at the most popular and upcoming phones from each to see where the industry is headed and to help you pick your next device.

When will every major manufacturer launch their next big phone?

Major carriers have ditched the subsidized contract model in favor of device financing (paying a small amount of money to your phone each month in exchange for staying with the carrier) and direct purchases . This means you have more freedom when buying a new phone. Depending on the company or flagship you are interested in, at certain times of the year you should look for a new phone:

  • Samsung (March / October): Samsung’s latest flagships, the S7 and S7 Edge , were announced this week at Mobile World Congress. They will be out on March 11th. If you’re more interested in the Samsung Galaxy Note lineup, you’ll have to wait longer for the newest version. The most recent version, Note 5, was released last August. Typically, notes are updated between August and October. At the moment, the Note 5 is new enough to be worth buying, but if you’re going to buy it in the summer you can wait.
  • LG (April): The totally insane new LG G5 comes out in early April. According to our friends at Gizmodo , the phone is a stark contrast to its predecessors. It has an all-metal frame with a removable battery, something that even Samsung or Apple failed to do. The G5 should go on sale around the beginning of April .
  • HTC (April-May): HTC decided to skip the Mobile World Congress this year, so we haven’t seen an official announcement for its next phone. However, HTC usually releases its phones in mid-spring. Some leaks have already shown what this is likely to look like , but you can only rely on technical rumors . Expect a new version of HTC’s flagship to be released sometime in April or May .
  • Moto / Lenovo (Mid-Summer): Technically, Motorola hasn’t existed as a manufacturer since it was acquired by Lenovo in 2014. Lenovo will continue to use the Moto brand for some of them, but the phones they announced at Mobile World Congress are aimed at lower end markets . Moto’s current flagships are Moto X Style and Moto X Play , which were released in July and August 2015, respectively. You can probably find updates for these phones around the same time this year.
  • Google Nexus (early fall). Google’s current Nexus phones include the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X , which were released in late September and late October, respectively. Google usually announces new Nexus phones sometime in September, and they hit shelves in a month or two. These are the youngest flagship phones from last year, so if you’re going to buy anything now, the Nexus phones are the newest. Plus, they’re the first in line to receive Android updates , so they’re durable.

These are not the only phone makers, but they make up the bulk of the US market. Major flagships are also looking to set the bar for low-end phones. If you want a cheaper phone, you can usually get last year’s model around the same time the new one comes out, for a lower price.

If you’re not thinking about a specific phone, then early spring is the perfect time to start looking. While it is entirely possible that there will be some new phone that you would like to buy in three months, there are most announcements from most manufacturers between February and April.

Smartphone Trends That Will Matter to You This Year

Smartphones haven’t been revolutionary lately, which is a good thing . However, there are a few trends to watch out for.

Fingerprint sensors are finally mainstream

Google added fingerprint sensor support to Android Marshmallow last year. With the fingerprint sensor, you can unlock your password manager, sign in to banking apps, pay with your phone using Android Pay, and even bypass the lock screen with your fingerprint instead of a password or PIN. Now almost every manufacturer is joining us. The new LG G5 and Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge will have fingerprint sensors (although the Galaxy S6 also had, it used Samsung’s own proprietary software since Marshmallow hadn’t been released yet). The current batch of Nexus phones also includes fingerprint sensors, so you have a lot to choose from if this feature is important to you.

You can also expect phones that arrive later this year to have fingerprint scanners as well. Rumors suggest that the upcoming flagship HTC M10 will include a fingerprint sensor , and Lenovo’s chairman of mobile products has officially announced that they will be installed on all Moto-branded phones this year .

Most phones can display information even when locked

The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will feature an easy- to- read display that lets you see the time, calendar, and notifications without having to unlock or even pick up your phone. Since an AMOLED display only includes the pixels it needs, this can save battery life in the long run.

Samsung is not the first to create such a feature. Motorola introduced the active display in the original Moto X and still uses it in the Moto X Style and Play. HTC also has a Dot View feature that shows the time and notifications even when your phone is in the flip case. This year, the LG G5 is joining the party with lock screen notifications to appear when the phone is locked. While implementations may vary, expect some sort of fast display to be a competitive advantage for most phones this year.

Removable batteries and expandable memory are back

In the early days of Android, everyone believed that a removable battery and expandable storage were standard options on every phone. Then Google started shipping Nexus phones without them. Much to our disappointment, several manufacturers followed suit. Several companies are now realizing that people need these features.

Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are bringing back SD cards. Samsung has put the SD card and SIM card in the same tray to save space so you finally get expandable storage again. Meanwhile, the LG G5 has a removable battery. How can this be if the phone is completely metal? Because the G5 has a completely removable bottom . In addition to extending the battery, you can also use this slot for additional accessories such as camera controls. The G5 also has an SD card slot.

Of course, not every manufacturer can bring both of these features back to all of their phones. The S7 still doesn’t have a removable battery. Nexus phones are unlikely to have the same, as Google removed them as more of a philosophical than a practical choice . However, if you’re hungry for one or both of these commonly requested features, 2016 will be the year for you.

This year you can finally play with virtual reality toys

As we saw at this year’s CES, VR is getting more and more popular in 2016 . If you are anxious to play with it, Samsung will probably grab your attention. They’re giving away a free Gear VR headset to anyone who pre-orders a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge (otherwise it’ll cost $ 100 after the phones launch). Gear VR uses a Samsung phone as a display for virtual reality applications. While it’s not as high-quality as the Oculus Rift, it’s also one of the most affordable forms of VR out there, and it’s more convenient than sticking your phone into a piece of cardboard .

Meanwhile, HTC has announced its own $ 800 VR headset, created in collaboration with Valve. In some ways, the Vive is even better than the Oculus Rift . It uses a positional tracking system that allows you to walk 15 square feet without breaking your illusion. It is equipped with cameras, so applications and games can see not only the virtual, but also the real world. Plus there are a couple of controllers included. Vive is a self-contained unit, so he really has nothing to do with the phones, but it is likely that HTC will have some exclusive features that only the phones can be used with Vive. So if you love VR and love HTC, this is something to keep in mind.

Current flagship smartphones (Feb 2016)

Most manufacturers only select a few major Android phones to focus on each year. At the time of this writing, these are the flagship devices of the largest Android manufacturers. We’ll be updating this section throughout the year as each company announces new hardware:

Samsung: Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge / Note 5

  • 5.1 inches (S7) and 5.5 inches (S7 Edge) 2560×1440 Super AMOLED display
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • Snapdragon 820 processor
  • Internal memory 32 GB or 64 GB (with expandable slot)
  • 12MP main camera
  • Front camera 5 MP
  • Battery capacity 3000 (S7) or 3600 (S7 Edge) mAh

The S7 and S7 Edge have mostly the same internals and will go on sale in March. Their cameras use the new Dual Pixel technology , which makes shooting in low light easier and helps stabilize shaky images. It still uses the old micro-USB style charging port, which means you can keep all your old charging cables for another year. The phones are also waterproof, while most mainstream phones are still not.

The Galaxy Note 5 was released in August 2015. It features a 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display. It comes with 4GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. In many ways, its internals are very similar to the newer S7. It uses its own Exynos 7420 octa-core processor. It packs a 3,000mAh battery, which is a bit dim compared to its newer counterparts given its size. a little outdated.

LG: G5

  • 5.3-inch display with 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • Snapdragon 820 processor
  • Internal memory 32 GB (with expandable slot)
  • 16MP and 8MP rear cameras
  • Front camera 8 MP
  • Battery 2800 mAh

The LG G5 has a completely new metal body that compares favorably with its predecessors. It has two rear cameras, one with a standard 16MP lens and the other with an 8MP ultra wide angle lens. LG says this should help with landscape photography, tall buildings, and other types of photography that require very wide shots. As we mentioned earlier, the G5 has a removable battery slot that is also used for add-ons . It uses a new USB Type-C connector, so you will need new cables.

HTC: One (M9)

  • 5-inch 1080p display
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • Snapdragon 810 processor
  • 32GB storage (with expandable slot)
  • 20MP rear camera
  • 4 “Ultra-pixel” front camera
  • Battery 2840 mAh

HTC’s latest flagship is almost a year old, so you’re probably better off waiting for the One M10. While this 20MP camera sounds better than the phones we’ve seen so far this year, more megapixels doesn’t always mean better shots . Our friends at Gizmodo found the camera to be okay . The M9 is a decent choice if you’re looking for a cheap old phone, but if you want the most bang for your buck, wait.

Lenovo (formerly Motorola 🙂 Moto X Style

  • 5.7-inch display with 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • Snapdragon 808 processor
  • 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB non-expandable memory
  • 21MP rear camera
  • Front camera 5 MP
  • Battery 3000mAh

The 2015 Moto X line represents the best Lenovo has to offer right now. However, Moto phones are perhaps best perceived as truly high-end mid-range phones. You won’t find the best specs here, but they’re hundreds of dollars cheaper than Samsung or LG flagships, with the Moto X Style starting at $ 400. Moto phones usually get Android updates faster as they only slightly tweak Android. However, Motorola was heavily criticized last year for ditching a few high-profile phones too early . It is unclear if this will affect future models.

Google: Nexus 6P / 5X

  • Display 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440 (6P) / 5.2-inch, 1080p (5X)
  • 3GB (6P) / 2GB (5X) RAM
  • Snapdragon 810 (6P) / 808 (5X)
  • 32 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB (6P) / 16 GB or 32 GB (5X) non-expandable memory
  • Main camera 12.3 MP
  • Front camera 8 MP (6 pixels) / 5 MP (5X)
  • 3450 (6P) / 2700 (5X) mAh battery

Google aims to set the bar for its Nexus phones while keeping the price relatively low. The most recent crop, released at the end of 2015, performed surprisingly well . The Nexus 6P is such an expensive model that you can get it for $ 500. It’s not as cheap as the Moto brand, but it’s cheaper than what you’d pay for Samsung’s brand new flagship.

He also has a younger brother: the Nexus 5X. This phone starts at $ 379, which gives it a pretty big price advantage over other smartphones that can be twice as expensive. You make some sacrifices , but it’s still a Nexus, which means relatively high quality for this price point plus super-fast updates.

Admittedly, specs might not tell you much, but they might tell you where the bar is set. If you’re looking for a powerhouse and are willing to pay for it, Samsung and LG are the best options. If you’re looking to save some money while still getting some really great hardware, the Lenovo Moto and Google Nexus product lines are for you. HTC … well, their most interesting gadget right now is not a phone at all. This is a VR headset. But let’s see what happens in a few months.


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