With a new year upon us, I thought I’d run down the handsets that are going to make the biggest splashes in 2016. Whether you’re looking forward to your next straightforward upgrade or thinking of jumping ship to a different manufacturer I’ll summarise what’s coming when and whether it’s worth getting excited about. We’ve gone with the flagship handsets here, as those generally attract the most attention before release and we’ve stuck to the big guns too, rather than include niche or unusual designs that will probably never see the light of day (we’re looking at you Project Ara). This list will be updated regularly as we get more information about exciting releases, although we’ll cover most of the handsets here in more depth in their own individual rumours articles – look out for the links in the copy below.
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Motorola Moto G 4 – July
The fate of Motorola’s Moto G phones is currently unknown at this point in time, as Lenovo announced earlier in the year that it would be phasing out the Moto brand on Motorola’s smartphones for all except its top-end handsets over the next year. Does that mean we’ve seen the last of the Moto G? When we asked Motorola UK, it said it couldn’t comment on any future product launches, but it might not be the end of the Moto G just yet. Images have surfaced on PhoneArena recently that seem to suggest that the fourth generation Moto G (or Moto by Lenovo, as it will now be branded) is indeed alive and kicking.
Of course, very little is currently known about the specifications of the new Moto G, but we’d expect it to have the same 5in 1,280×720 resolution display, but a renewed design and potentially an improved processor – perhaps one of Qualcomm’s newly-announced Snapdragon 435 chips or (and this is wishful thinking) the Snapdragon 625. We’d also expect an improved camera sensor, although with the current Moto G already coming equipped with a 13-megapixel sensor, it’s probably more likely that Motorola will add new features, such as optical image stabilisation perhaps, rather than increase the resolution.
As for a release date, Motorola launched the 3rd Gen Moto G in July of last year, so it’s likely it will be around the same time again if indeed it does release a fourth generation Moto G for 2016.
Sony Xperia Z6 – September
This feels like a make-or-break year for Sony, with the company going to have to make a big impact with the Xperia Z6 if it wants to compete with the big boys. Sony has previously released flagship phones every six months; with the Z5 launching in September 2015, the Z6 should arrive around February or March time. However, the six-monthly cycle doesn’t work particularly well: by the time you buy one flagship Sony phone, the company has pretty much made it redundant with the launch of the next. For that reason, I think that there’s a good chance that Sony will wait for a full year before unveiling the Z6 in September 2016.
What will the company have in store for us? Well, a Snapdragon 820 CPU, Android Marshmallow and a pressure-sensitive screen all seem to be on the cards. I’ll bring you more details as they come, included updated release dates as more information starts to leak.
Apple iPhone 6C/7C – March or September
Rumours keep popping up that Apple plans to launch a smaller handset to complement its flagship range, with a new handset set to replace the ageing. The reasons behind the launch are because a lot of customers are, apparently, unhappy with the sizes of the top phones, with the iPhone 6C’s 4.7in screen considerably bigger than the 4in screen of the 5C. As we moved into 2016 more and more information has leaked out claiming that Apple is getting ready to launch a new plastic phone.
Recent rumours point at the phone coming out in March, as a separate launch away from the main event of the iPhone 7; although other rumours have suggested that the phone will not be launched until September. It looks as though we’ll have to wait a couple of months to find out which it will be. It should have a 4in screen with a resolution of 1,366×640, an A9 SoC and an 8-megapixel camera. It has been said that the phone will have a high-quality plastic body, just like the 5C had. The one real point of contention is, what will the name be, the 6C or 7C? I think that the answer will depend on when the phone is launched: if it’s March, it will be the 6C; if it’s alongside the iPhone 7 it will be the 7C. Keep up-to-date with our iPhone 6C/7C rumours article.
Samsung Galaxy Note 6 – August/September
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 was not released in the UK officially, although it’s possible to get an imported version. Instead, Samsung decided to stick with the S6 Edge Plus in the UK. So, what will the company do this year? Well, there’s very little information at there at the moment, as all attention is focussed on the S7 launch. However, the Galaxy S7 information gives us some insight into what Samsung might be up to.
First, there are the rumours that the S7 Edge will be larger than the S7, effectively removing the need for the ‘Plus’ edition. Instead, all varients of the S7 will be launched shortly. That leaves room for the Note 6 to have its own launch away from any other phones, which is just what it needs. What’s a little harder to work out is when. Samsung traditionally launched the Note at the IFA show in Berlin, but in 2015 it went early and announced the Note 5 in August. So, assuming that Samsung sticks to the same rough plan, it’s a safe bet to suggest that the Note 6 will come out either in August 2016, at its own event, or in September 2016 at the IFA show. As more details leak, I’ll bring you more information. Of course, it’s not even definite for now, if the Note 6 will even get a UK launch.
Nexus 5/6 2016 – October
This one’s a little funny, as it’s always hard to tell what Google is up to with its own-brand phones and we’re not always guaranteed to get a like-for-like upgrade every year. However, it feels as though Google got into its stride last year with the 5.2in Nexus 5X and the 6in Nexus 6P, both replacements for older handsets. So, what will 2016 bring?
Well, the current rumours have said that Huawei will be returning to the Nexus fold, manufacturing another new handset for Google in 2016. Given that Huawei made the Nexus 6P, the smart money would say that it will manufacture its replacement. We’re not sure on names at the moment, so will have to stick with Nexus 6 2016 or Nexus 6P 2016. If Huawei were to make this phone, it would leave the path clear for another Nexus 5, potentially manufactured by LG again. I haven’t heard any rumours about this phone, so we’ll have to wait to find out some more details.
As with previous versions of new Nexus phones, it’s a safe bet to say that they’ll launch with the next version of Android: Google likes to show how a new OS can work by partnering it with new hardware. As with previous launches, October 2016 seems like a safe bet for these new phones.
Huawei P9 – April
Huawei is steadily upping its game and has big ambitions to become one of the world’s biggest smartphone producers. Not only that, it wants to thrust its flagship handset into the limelight and have it compete against the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7. With last year’sHuawei P8 we found that the phone was exceptionally well made and looked fantastic, but the battery life and speed let it down a little compared with the competition. If Huawei can fix these two issues for the P9, then it stands a good chance of producing one of the year’s most desirable Android phones.
Things are certainly looking good, with recent leaks suggesting that the company is developing its own Kirin 950 SoC. According to leaked benchmarks, reported on byWCCFTech, the Kirin 950 looks like it’s going to be a lot faster than the incredibly quick Exynos 7420, Samsung’s current flagship SoC. That’s not all, either. The P9 is also set to have 6GB of RAM, a Full HD 5.2in display and a 16-megapixel resolution. While some rumours said that the phone would appear at CES 2016, that date has come and gone. More realistically, we’ll have to wait until April, one year after the P8 launched, to see the new phone. I’m certainly excited and a bit more high-end competition has got to be a good thing all-round.
Samsung Galaxy S7 – March/April
Samsung’s handset plan for 2016 is as predictable as Apple’s. The Samsung Galaxy S7 will follow the current Galaxy S6 as night follows day. The timing of the announcement might be edged forward a little in the year but I can’t see the phone being available much before March even then and I wouldn’t be surprised if it came out in April as usual.
With the move from plastic to a metal chassis handset in 2015, I’m not expecting another radical redesign this year. A bigger question is whether Samsung will continue to produce standard and curved screen variants of its flagship handset. Personally, I’d like to see the current design tweaked to make it less slippery, as it’s very hard to get a grip on at present.
There’s also talk of a 4K display, but given that there’s no support for such resolutions in Android at present, which caused problems for us in the 4K Xperia Z5 Premium, I can’t see that happening quite yet. Other rumours point to a return to a Snapdragon chipset, at least in some regions, as Samsung again confuses us with multiple iterations of the same handset – see Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.