From ever-shrinking bezels to dual rear cameras trickling down to budget devices, smartphones have changed dramatically in 2018. And things are set to change even more as we enter 2019.
On the horizon, we hope to see radical new designs from Samsung, which is finally gearing up to unveil the foldable phone it’s been prototyping for years, as well as new iPhones from Apple that are more of a departure from the relatively iterative iPhone XS and XR. Sprint, Verizon and AT&T are vying to deliver U.S.’ first 5G-capable device in the first half of 2019, while Xiaomi — the Chinese firm that kicked off the entire bezel-free trend with its Mi Mix way back in 2016 — has an excellent opportunity to further innovate with the successor to the Mi Mix 2S, pictured here.
Here’s a peek at what’s in store for 2019 and beyond.
Samsung Galaxy F (2019)
For years, Samsung has told us its first foldable smartphone, tentatively named the Galaxy F, was just around the corner. That corner wasn’t in 2017. However, there’s new reason to believe 2019 will be the year, as Samsung revealed a prototype of the device at its developer conference in November. The Galaxy F is expected to contain a 7.3-inch display that reveals itself when the device is unfolded; when it’s closed, there’s a display on the outside reported to measure 4.6 inches. The Galaxy F’s most similar counterpart would have to be ZTE’s Axon M, an AT&T-exclusive foldable handset that came out in 2017. Though we hope the idea is better implemented than ZTE’s buggy effort.
Yes, three new iPhones were unveiled only a few weeks ago. But this is the smartphone industry, and things move very, very fast. Devices are planned years in advance before they ever see the light of day, and so it’s not terribly surprising that rumors about next year’s iPhones are already beginning to emerge.
KGI Securities analyst and all-around Apple soothsayer Ming Chi Kuo says Cupertino’s future handsets will continue the dual-camera lens setup and probably ditch 3D Touch in an effort to keep costs down. Perhaps Apple will change the design after two years of the notched iPhone X look. And one report signals that Apple could embrace advanced 3D cameras from Sony in order to enable gesture control in games, sophisticated room scanning capability and more.
Google Pixel 3 Lite (2019)
With the release of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, you probably thought we’d heard the last of any Pixel rumors until the cycle kicked into high gear for the company’s 2019 models. Well, it appears Google isn’t through yet, because there is rumored to be a third Pixel in the works — a midrange, low-cost handset code named “Bonito.” Now, we’ve been hearing about Bonito for a while — so long, in fact, that we were beginning to become quite skeptical if the device ever existed at all. And then the leaks started.
Based on the device shared on Russian tech blog Rozetked, we’re looking at a Snapdragon 670-powered, 5.5-inch LCD-toting Pixel with 4GB of RAM, one front-facing camera, and — perhaps most surprising of all — a headphone jack. According to the report, this phone carries 32GB of internal memory and a battery about as large as the Pixel 3’s. But what really has us excited is the 12.2-megapixel rear camera, which the leakster suggests will be exactly the same as the one inside the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. There might even be an XL version of the Lite, sans notch. A budget Android phone with a flagship-beating camera? Sign us up.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
Xiaomi may not be a particularly well-known company on this side of the Pacific, given that they don’t really sell anything here. However, their devices are important and world-renowned for two reasons: they take chances with design, and they build quality products at prices that are lower, on average, compared to the competition. And that has us very excited about the Mi Mix 3 — the third iteration of Xiaomi’s range-topping, almost bezel-free smartphone that actually kickstarted the trend two years ago. The Mi Mix 3 sports a slide-out front camera system similar to Oppo’s Find X, a whopping 10 GB of RAM and even support for 5G networks. Of course, you may have some trouble finding a 5G network to run it on — or even an LTE one, for that matter — as the Mi Mix 3 is not expected to release in the West. Global availability is uncertain too, though the phone has already begun reaching Chinese customers.
Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition (Late 2018/Early 2019)
Vivo’s Nex S was already one of 2018’s most innovative devices, with its pop-out front-facing camera that enabled a nearly bezel-free design, as well as its in-display fingerprint sensor. But apparently that wasn’t enough for the company, which decided to return to the drawing board soon after to unveil this — the Nex Dual Display Edition. This model puts a second OLED screen on the back of the handset, which eliminates the need for a separate front-facing camera. Anytime you want to snap a selfie, simply turn the phone around and capture your mug using the device’s triple-lens main shooter. The Nex Dual Display Edition is so far only limited to Asian markets, though we hold out hope that one day, the company will expand its operation out West.