This year has been great for smartphones. Like previous years, we see faster and faster innovation and upgrades for our beloved, intelligent cell phones. The launch of the HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z2 and Galaxy S5 as well as the recent launch of the LG G3 have been very successful for all companies. The launch of the OnePlus One also captured the attention of just about every tech and Android enthusiast in the world, although saying that it has completely “launched” might not be the right thing to say because of the limited invites going out.
All these phones have been very impressive, but when I look at all of them, I think of one thing. The end of the aging Android 4.x era, and the coming dawn of Android 5.0, the next generation of Android phones.
I’m one of those people that views a product and wonders just how future proof it is, and whether it will matter in a year. If I were to pick one phone this year that I was most impressed with, it would be the One M8 and shortly followed by the OnePlus One. The One M8 has some of the best software optimization I’ve ever seen on Android, with buttery smooth navigation and freakishly fast multitasking. When I use Sense 6.0 on the M8, I wonder how on Earth Samsung has not gotten their act together with cleaning up and polishing TouchWiz. One example that strikes me on the S5 is Samsung attempting to implement their version of Blinkfeed called My Magazine, but it isn’t integrated into the homescreen like Blinkfeed, but merely launched when you swipe to the right, which is just awkward after using the M8. I like the Galaxy S5, but I’ve always cringed at Touchwiz.
I picked OnePlus One as my second favorite because it is an all around rule breaking phone. OnePlus took a look at the normal phone with compromises and said F#%& that! Their slogan Never Settle caught a lot of attention as the makers promised a phone with zero compromises and an affordable price. After many teases and announcements, the One was launched with top of the line specs that topped the S5 and M8, at half the price. The design is simple, like a Nexus phone, and comes pre-loaded with a decked out version of Cyanogenmod for all of our customization wants and needs. Cyanogenmod has also promised an update to Android L within 3 months of release. This phone could almost be considered a perfect phone, but one thing that has steered a big group of people away is the size. It is a phablet. A 5.5 inch screen is no small phone, and a lot of people are still uncomfortable with a phone that big.
The LG G3 is the newer flagship on the market, and it also considered a phablet with it’s 5.5 inch display. But LG has managed to shrink the top, bottom and side bezels to a size that fits somewhat more comfortably in the hand compared to the Note 3 and OnePlus One. It’s QHD display is quite impressive, even though most apps are not optimized yet for 1440p displays. But while having a Quad HD displays is cool, when I put the LG G3 and Galaxy S5 or the One M8 next to each other to compare, I like the 1080p displays on the S5 and M8 better. The colors and brightness on the S5 and M8 are beautiful, and I just can’t say I’m as amazed with the G3’s 1440p display as I was with the G2’s 1080p display. Like many people, I’m amazed by the fact that the G3 has such good battery life with that kind of resolution. But I’m frustrated by the fact that it could’ve been so much better had they stuck with a 1080p display and invested more into a better battery rather than an even sharper screen. The average customer needs better battery life, not Quad HD displays just yet.
The purpose of this article, however, is not just to talk existing phones, but to look ahead of what phones will soon be available to you.
Today, Motorola has sent out an even invite for the announcement and launch of a few devices, including the successor to last years Moto X, dubbed the Moto X+1. I’ve got a sharp eye on this phone, mainly because of Motorola’s approach to the Moto X last year. They gave us a phone without gimmicks and operated smoother and faster than just about every phone out today. Active Notifications on their AMOLED screen was perfect, and I loved their push for hands-free use of the phones with “Ok Google” when the phones is off. While none of the Moto X+1’s features have been leaked yet, I’m sure we will see some pretty cool things when it’s announced. Hardware specs seem to include a 5.2 inch 1080p AMOLED display (which sounds absolutely perfect in my opinion), a custom Snapdragon 800 or 801 processor like they did with last years Moto X SoC, 2GB of RAM, 12 megapixel back camera, as well as an improved selection of back covers, like wood and leather. I’m glad Motorola is supposedly sticking with 1080p for their screen, and it will look absolutely beautiful with AMOLED technology. And if they optimize their software right like they did with the Moto X, this custom Snapdragon chip is going to shred anything that comes it’s way. You can check out the leaks of the phone for yourself and see the apparent aluminum sides with the wooden back. I believe this could be the phone of the year if Motorola includes some unique software features into this nice looking hardware.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has also just been announced and is definitely looking like Samsung’s answer to the upcoming iPhone 6. The build looks nicer than any other Samsung phone I’ve seen with the nice metal sides, and it looks to be very fast with a new Exynos processor inside. However, I’ll have to see how the battery holds up when the phone comes out, because the 1,860mAh battery sounds very weak, even with the 720p screen. I can’t consider this phone on the same level as flagship devices with the specs included, no matter how nice the phone looks on the outside. But for an iPhone user looking for a nice looking Android phone that gets the job done, I’m sure this will be a very tempting option.
Also coming from Samsung this fall is the latest entry in the very powerful Note series, the Galaxy Note 4. The Note 4 is looking to pack a 5.7 inch Quad HD screen, Snapdragon 805 chip and possibly 4GB of RAM according to a couple leaks. The Note 4 has been rumored to feature a wrap-around display that could spill onto the sides of the phone, but that seems unlikely. Power users and fans of phablets should definitely keep their eyes on this phone as the Note series has always had the image of a phone with desktop power and feature capabilities.
Sony also is looking to release another Xperia flagship later this year, the Z3. The Xperia Z2 caught a lot of people off guard by how sturdy and good looking it was. The software was sleek and stylized, but not too far from stock android. It’s powerful specs and waterproof body have attracted many loyal fans. But those loyal fans might be a little upset at how fast Sony is preparing to release and upgraded version of it. So far, the Z3 doesn’t appear to be a whole lot different from the Z2, with a 1080p 5.1 inch screen, updated Snapdragon processor, 3GB of RAM, Android 4.4.2 and a 19 or 20 megapixel camera. If you are a fan of Sony’s Xperia line, keep an eye on this. But since the Z2 took a while to hit US retailers, it’s likely the Z3 will be the same.
The dawn is coming, however, of the next generation of Android. We were teased with it at Google I/O earlier this summer, but that was but a fraction of everything that will be unveiled by Google in late September/early October.
Android 5.0 is finally upon us.
With every new version of Android comes the flagship hardware to hold it. The device that inspires glory and creation in developers and Android fans. We have loved them in the past, and like every year, a new one is almost here. The next Nexus phone. Codenamed “Shamu”, rumors are pointing towards Motorola to make this years Google phone, and the specs of it are very much up in the air. We heard that the phone could be a very large phablet at 5.9 inches, but recently we heard it will be 5.2 inches with a 1440p display. The recent leak suggests this device will be extremely powerful, with a Snapdragon 805 chip capable of 64-bit processing and 4GB of RAM to actually make it a true 64-bit smartphone. Android 5.0 “L” of course brings full support of 64-bit processing so it seems likely that Google would want their Nexus phone to take advantage of that. And with Motorola‘s upcoming Moto X+1 phone looking to have a 5.2 inch screen, it really seems like the Nexus phone will be based of it. At least, I hope it will.
With Google’s new Material Design approach to how apps should look and behave on Android in the future, I’m very optimistic about the release of the next Nexus phone and Android L. We will be seeing speeds unlike any Android device before it and better battery saving thanks to Android L’s Project Volta as well as a look and feel we haven’t experienced yet in an Android phone, with lots of animations and plenty of new features.
So there you have it folks. Need a 2014 flagship phone very soon/today? I ranked:
- HTC One M8
- OnePlus One
- LG G3
- Galaxy S5
- Sony Xperia Z2
But if you can wait, which I recommend you do. We’ve got announcements and launches coming up for:
- September 3rd Announcement: GALAXY Note 4
- September 3rd Announcement: Xperia Z3
- September 4th Announcement: Moto X+1
- Early September Launch: GALAXY Alpha
- Late September/Early October Announcement: Nexus 6
Comments, agreements, disagreements, fiery hatred? Let me have it in the comment section!