Best upcoming phones of 2015

Summary: Keen for a glimpse at the best future smartphones coming soon to a store near you? We break down which upcoming handsets you should be waiting for.

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2014 was a good year for phones. We not only saw solid releases from the usual suspects, but a few of Android’s underdog contenders finally stood up and revealed themselves as solid manufacturers. Sony had the Z2 and Z3 and LG unveiled the G3 to great appreciation. HTC and Motorola continued apace with their respective new approaches and even Apple shook things up by doubling its premium iPhone offering and upping the size of its screens.

It was also a year where the Chinese phone makers started to move in on new territory. Huawei, OPPO and new manufacturer OnePlus released some impressive phones for a lower price than their more-established (in some markets) competitors.

So, what can we expect from 2015 and what do we already know? It’s all rumor and speculation at this point, but based on past history there are some pretty strong bets we can make.

Samsung Galaxy S6

In early December, some leaks came out about the GS6. The general bent is that it will be faster, have better screen resolution and a significantly upped camera in terms of Megapixels.

In the leak the CPU is said to be an octo-core processor, like the one found in the Note 4. Also like in the Note 4, it is slated to have 3GB of RAM. Neither of these would be surprising; it’s the general direction that both Samsung and the Android market as a whole is going in.

The 20MP camera is a bit alarming. There’s really no need for cramming that many MP in to a phone camera just yet – as evidenced by the 8MP shooters in the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, which leave everything else on the market for dead.

There’s also mention of a 2K resolution (2560 x 1440), which is the same as that found on the Note 4 and LG G3. It offers 75% more pixels than a 1080p panel, making for a seriously crisp screen. It’s arguable whether or not the user actually benefits from such a huge resolution, but you can bet the farm that Samsung will go ahead and include it. Where marketing is concerned, Samsung loves pushing the ‘bigger is better’ angle every time.

Unfortunately, that motto hasn’t transferred over to the battery department. Despite the huge demand for a two-day battery, Samsung keeps cramming in more power-hungry features and leaving charge life by the wayside.

What we actually know:

Samsung hasn’t seriously shaken up its game since it released the Galaxy S III in May 2012. Since then we’ve seen incremental upgrades to its premium smartphone line and little in the way of changes to physical design.

The S6 will probably look quite a bit like the S5. With any luck, the introduction of a partially metal frame on the Note 4 is an indication that Samsung is finally focusing on making its devices feel top of the line, on top of functioning that way.

The GSIII was unveiled in May 2012 and released in June. The GS4 had a March debut and April 2013 shelf date. The GS5 was earlier in the year yet again with a February announcement and April release date. This last time Samsung didn’t host its own event. Rather, it made the announcement at MWC in Barcelona, alongside many other manufacturers’ new devices.

It’s likely the GS6 will also be announced at MWC, so keep your eyes open towards the end of February.

HTC One (M9) / HTC Hima

The next “One” phone from HTC has also had some unverified leaks hit the web centring around camera, CPU, RAM and battery size (but not battery life).

It’s being referred to right now as the HTC Hima, which is almost certainly a development-phase codename. The leak specifies 3GB of RAM, a Spadragon 810 processor and a 20.7MP rear with 13MP or 4UP front-facing camera, all running on a pretty standard 2840mAh battery. The screen is said to be the same 5 inches as the current One (M8) with, surprisingly, a 1080p resolution.

However, other reports have suggested a 5.2 inch display and Snapdragon 805 processor.

What we actually know:

HTC’s big year was 2013. That was when it released the HTC One, which was retro-actively renamed the HTC One (M7) once the One (M8) came out in 2014, so as to not confuse its customers.

The (M7) focused on delivering a smooth, minimalistic user interface housed in the most beautifully crafted phone the market had ever seen. In 2014 it took the same approach. The (M8) was even prettier than its predecessor and its UI even more simplistic. Nothing new was brought by the (M8), except that its camera sported a somewhat gimmicky depth sensor and its body was made from a single piece of machined aluminium, instead of also sporting a plastic rim around the edges.

More recently, HTC has been dabbling in water-resistant design. The HTC Desire Eye is the first IPX7 phone that doesn’t rely on a delicate flap to cover its USB port. This is the same phone that brought us a 13MP front-facing camera, which is where the source of the (M9)’s selfie-cam rumor undoubtedly originated.

The (M8) was unveiled after the Galaxy S5 on March 25, but was released on the same day on the Verizon network in the US. That means, despite its later announcement, it hit shelves before Samsung’s 2014 flagship.

We may see a similar tactic this year, but HTC would do well to show off its new front-runner a little earlier, if only to build a little hype before sales go live.

Sony Xperia Z4 and Z4 Compact

The Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact were a good team. It’s safe to assume that the upcoming Z4 will also sport a plucky little sidekick. And wouldn’t you know, they’ve both turned up in leaks. The Z4 is expected to be revealed as early as January 5 2014, but the Compact may be delayed until as late as Q2.

The full-sized Z4 has been said to boast a 5.4 inch 2K display, a Snapdragon 805 processor and 4GB of RAM. Keep in mind this is somewhat doubtful at this stage. 4GB of RAM is quite a bit more than the current market-leading 3GB phones have. We would expect to see a more powerful processor than an 805 before we saw this much RAM.

The smaller of the two, the Compact, is slated to have a 4.7 inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM. This, along with the predicted 32GB of storage and 20.7MP/5MP front/rear camera combo would definitely make it the best Android phone of its size on the market.

What we actually know:

Sony has adopted a 6 month release schedule for its phones, so a January announcement doesn’t sound too far-fetched, but it may be optimistic. The Z1 was announced at IFA on Sept 5 2013, the Z2 on February 24 at MWC in Spain, and the Z3 at IFA again on Sept 4 2014. Whether Sony will follow its precise pattern and go for a February 24 announcement, or jump the gun and get in before the MWC announcements is impossible to say.

Going by the last three releases from Sony, we can say with certainty that the next line of Xperia phones will be highly water resistant and probably sport a 20.7MP rear camera. Expect only minor updates in hardware and software. After all, there’s only so much a company can accomplish in six months.


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