Over the past few years, it’s become harder and harder for the makers of Android phones to differentiate themselves. Every new Android phone features a pretty fast processor, relatively current version of the operating
The tension of looking for innovation but being constrained by the basic assumptions of Android phones was notable in many of the introductions. LG’s Juno Cho, CEO of LG’s mobile business, pretty much admitted that its emphasis on a modular line with last year’s G5 was a failure, though he said LG was “still proud to have made that effort.” But he said the competition in phones now is all about “usability.”
In announcing a, David Lowes, CMO of Samsung Electronics Europe, said the company still had a willingness to “push boundaries” and introduce “innovation of a kind this industry hasn’t seen in a long time. But he had to start his presentation by recapping what the company was doing to address the battery overheating issues that the Note 7 experienced.
LG had what I thought was the most surprising innovation this year, introducing the LG G6 with a 2:1 ratio display, what the company called 18:9 ratio or “FullVision,” instead of the 16:9 ratio that is now standard (on phones and most laptops and TVs). Effectively what this means is that you can have a phone that is as wide as one with a 5.2-inch display, but still with a 5.7-inch display, so that it goes longer when you hold it vertically. I only was able to take a quick look at this during the introduction, but it appeared it could really be a better format for web browsing, email, and Facebook—things I spend a lot of time doing on my phone. The company also has software designed to make
Another change relating to the screens: displays are simply better, in
The LG G6 also supports HDR, with support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision,Dolby Vision support from both Amazon Prime and Netflix. The other big differentiating feature is photography, continuing a trend of the past couple of years.
I was particularly impressed with some of the new photo features in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. This comes with a 19-megapixel memory-stacked Exmor RS sensor similar to that used on premium compact cameras. This camera system, which Sony calls “Motion Eye” has some interesting features including a “super slow motion” feature that looked great and the ability to pre-fetch three photos before you push the capture button, using the memory on the sensor. If you’ve ever just missed the shot—which we all have—I can imagine that being quite useful..
Huawei introduced its flagship P10 and P10 Plus models, and the whole focus was its “Leica style portraiture” with the smartphone maker talking about its partnership with the camera vendor. This features a dual rear-camera setup that is becoming increasingly common, in this case with a Summilux H lens with f/1.8 support with one 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and one 12-megapixel RGB sensor, with OIS (optical image stabilization) and 4K video recording. The company says this will enable better low-light performance, and improved bokeh (with background blur, as with typical SLR photography). It also has a 3D-sensing feature that can determine the location of a specific object.
That sounds good but what’s more unusual is the involvement of Leica on the 8-megapixel front-facing camera as well, with software to detect if it’s a single person selfie or a group shot and adjusting the photo appropriately. I’m not much of a selfie taker, but I can see where people will like this..
It’s a shame that we don’t see much of Sony or Huawei in the U.S. market, as these devices show some real improvements, particularly in the photo area. The LG G6 also had some interesting photo features, including a number of options for square photos, including a guided shot for duplicating the composition of another photo, a match shot for two side-by-side photos, and a grid shot where you combine 4 photos automatically. I can see a lot ofusers liking this.
Of course, there were also a lot of mid-range phones that aren’t really breaking new ground. Lenovo’s Motorola group launched the new Moto G5 and G5 Plus (above), the latter of which looks like a good new entrant in the U.S. market. (Here’s.) HMD Global, which now controls the Nokia name, announced a slew of new Nokia branded phones. ( .)
In the next few
Recently, Samsung announced its own 8895 processor, similarly built on its 10nm process, while MediaTek announced its Helix X30 with 10 cores, planned for TSMC’s 10nm process, and expected to follow shortly. Again, we didn’t see phones based on these yet, but I’m expecting them later in the year. I’ll have more thoughts on the processors later. (Meanwhile, the LG G6 is based on the current but still strong Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, while the Huawei P10 is based on the firm’s own Kirin 960, a 16nm design that debuted a few months ago in the Mate 9.)
Of course, there are always people who are happier with the past, and to that end, HMD Global re-introduced the. It’s not what I want for my phone these days, but it does bring back memories.
I’d rather look forward than back, and it’s great to see a variety of companies taking another look at what it takes to really change the smartphone.