From ever-shrinking bezels to the best OLED displays we’ve ever seen to dual rear cameras trickling down to budget devices, smartphones have changed dramatically in 2017. And with a new year on the horizon, a new generation of groundbreaking handsets is waiting in the wings.
Apple figures to continue its design dominance with potentially not one, but multiple successors to the iPhone X. Samsung has hinted 2018 will give us the first truly foldable smartphone. Even Huawei, a company not particularly well known in the States, appears ready to stake its claim on our shores with an AI powerhouse in the form of its Mate 10 Pro. Here’s a look at what’s coming up and what we know about 2018’s hottest smartphones.
Image Credit: Galaxy S9 Concept by DBS Designing/BGR
We've been hearing rumblings for years that a foldable smartphone from Samsung was just around the corner. That won't be in 2017, but the new year looks like we'll see Samsung finally take the wraps off this long-anticipated device.
The most popular rumor has Samsung producing a compact phone — possibly called the Galaxy X — which would fold out into a larger tablet. The phone could feature a hinge in the middle that will let you fold the smartphone open to interact with two OLED panels. (The already shipping Axon M from ZTE works like this.) This past September, Samsung Mobile CEO DJ Koh officially recognized the project, hinting that the Galaxy X will likely come out in 2018 and that it will fall under the Note brand.
Since then, a prematurely published support page on the Samsung’s own website, in addition to a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, have only added fuel to the fire for one of 2018’s most hotly-anticipated and potentially game-changing handsets. (Image Credit: Foldable concept by Almesryoon.com)
MORE: Latest Galaxy X rumors
With the launch of the iPhone X (pictured here) out of the way, what’s next for the future of Apple’s flagship smartphone? According to early rumors, 2018 will see Apple expand the X’s unique design to a larger form factor — a Plus variant, if you will. Additional reports indicate the company is looking to introduce a lower-cost handset that’s not quite as futuristic as the X, but also a step beyond the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. This device could contain an LCD screen rather than an OLED one, and mark the return of metallic backs sold in a multitude of colors. In terms of size, the next iPhone is currently pegged at 6.1 inches — a bit larger than the 5.8-inch iPhone X, but not quite as big as the rumored iPhone X “Plus,” which will reportedly measure 6.3 inches.
It’s still very early in the rumor cycle for Apple’s upcoming smartphones, which typically don’t arrive until the fall, so take these reports with a grain of salt. To make matters more interesting, it’s possible these won’t be the only new iPhones we see in 2018. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)
It’s been nearly two years since the 2016 release of the iPhone SE, Apple’s 4-inch handset packing the same power and camera as its iPhone 6S. The iPhone SE is still one of the most powerful small phones out there, which isn’t saying much considering how small phones typically get shafted when it comes to specs. However, a new model could change that.
Rumors have been swirling about a follow-up iPhone SE for a while now, and it was assumed we’d have a successor by this point. Nevertheless, reports indicate the schedule has been pushed back to the first half of 2018, though nobody is quite sure what direction Apple will take with the design. Some have said Apple will play it conservatively, retaining much of the exterior of the existing iPhone SE (pictured here), while others claim it boast an all new look.
Then again, as consumers turn to phones with larger displays inside smaller form factors, it’s quite possible Apple could simply let the current iPhone SE ride into the sunset without an update, as it has with the iPad Mini. Only time will tell. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)
Sony's phones have always been good under the skin, though they've been lacking in the design department for generations now. Thankfully, that looks to be changing. The Xperia XA2, Sony's latest family of midrange handsets, brings with it an edge-to-edge display, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor (finally!), and slightly reduced bezels at the top and bottom. It's no Huawei Mate 10 Pro, OnePlus 5T, or Galaxy S8 in terms of those bezels, but it is better than Sony's previous efforts. The XA2 will be the smaller of the two devices, with a 5.2-inch display. However, we're more excited for the 6-inch XA2 Ultra. The larger model adds a second front-facing camera with optical image stabilization, as well as a flash – which could make it the best selfie-taking machine of the year. The Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra will debut in February for a price yet to be announced. (Image Credit: Sony)
Huawei's youth-focused budget brand Honor is bringing its next flagship to the U.S. The Honor View 10 utilizes the same Kirin 970 system-on-chip as Huawei's Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, as well as the same Neural Processing Unit. This means the phone's dual cameras will be able to identify certain objects and scenes, like people and food, and automatically tune exposure parameters on the fly to deliver the best possible shot. The handset's A.I. smarts will also enable facial recognition for unlocking purposes, and allow it to run a faster, more powerful version of Microsoft's Translator app without the need for an internet connection. The View 10 is currently slated for release on our shores in the first quarter of 2018. Although we don't have word on a price yet, the fact that the phone is going for €499 in Europe hints at a sub-$500 price for American customers, putting it squarely in competition with the OnePlus 5T. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)
Rumors about Samsung’s next-generation flagship are rolling in hard and fast as we approach the spring, though all signs point to a conservative upgrade for the Galaxy S9 following last year’s revolutionary redesign.
That means you can expect Samsung’s curved Infinity Display (shown here on the Galaxy S8) to make a reappearance, and the expected improvement to Qualcomm’s newest high-end processor, the just-announced Snapdragon 845. However, the Galaxy S9 also figures to inherit a popular feature from its larger sibling, the Note 8, by gaining a pair of dual rear cameras. Rumors also suggest Samsung will heed the complaints of critics and users alike and relocate the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor to a more comfortable central position. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)
MORE: Samsung Galaxy S9 Rumors
It seems like only a few months ago that the Mate 9 was hitting the U.S. with built-in support for Amazon's voice-powered Alexa assistant. Huawei isn't resting on its laurels, though. In fact, the company has already released a pair of successors, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro in Europe and Asia.
We reviewed the Mate 10 Pro in November, and although Huawei has remained tight-lipped on North American availability, sleuthing in the phone’s firmware indicates the higher-end model may eventually see release on AT&T here in the U.S. Features include vertically stacked dual rear cameras and a rear fingerprint sensor; up front, you'll get an edge-to-edge display with minimal bezels on the top and bottom.
But the real story is the phone's Kirin 970 CPU, which includes Huawei’s first-ever Neural Processing Unit designed to handle artificial intelligence tasks locally on the phone instead of relaying them to the cloud. The NPU can even identify objects through the Mate 10 Pro’s cameras, the use that information to cleverly tweak exposure parameters to deliver the best possible shot. (Image Credit: Tom's Guide)