As the end of 2018 gets closer, we’ll start seeing the usual “Best of 2018” lists for smartphones and mobile devices. Android Authority will take part in all the fun as usual. No doubt some of these lists (and the comments) will mention how lackluster 2018 was for the mobile industry, with incremental updates and little innovation.
To be clear, 2018 hasn’t been bad. We’ve seen incredibly cool devices that slide, pop, and bend. We’ve seen great products made even better with subtle tweaks and refinements. We’ve seen established brands launch new sub-brands to rousing success. We’ve seen brands still establishing themselves achieve things few would have suspected.
There have also been incredible advancements in photography, with multi-lensed smartphones becoming the norm and AI-powered photography tricks empowering even novices to take professional-quality shots.
However, let’s face it: despite all that, 2018 has also been full of yawns.
It's hard to correctly judge the future, but I think Android in 2018 won't be fondly remembered in the Android history books.
Just look at how nearly every manufacturer jumped onto the notched display bandwagon, resulting in a deluge of iPhone X clones. Regardless of how you feel about the notch, it’s hard to deny there were a lot of look-alike devices this year, which makes for a pretty yawn-inducing market.
We also yawned at the launch of “new” devices that look and feel so similar to the previous device they’re hard to tell apart. A lot of the major smartphone releases were just revamps of previous devices with a few extra bells and whistles added. Just look at the iPhone XS, Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40 ThinQ, and the Sony Xperia XZ3, all of which are minor steps up from the previous models. It would seem appropriate to label 2018 an “S” year.
Even the Google Pixel 3 XL — one of the most talked-about devices of the year — fully leaked months before it launched, and landed to a chorus of yawns.
For these reasons and more, it would be easy for me to write an article where I bash this year’s Android devices. Instead, I’m going to spin things into a more positive take: Android in 2018 will likely be the competent opening act to the true main event: Android in 2019.
Android in 2019
Each major Android OEM has made a lot of promises about what it will have to offer next year. In fact, companies like Samsung and Motorola dedicated large parts of their 2018 device launches hyping up what is coming soon, rather than what they actually had on offer that day.
Let’s check out what a handful of the major OEMs have coming up.
In early November, Samsung finally revealed its years-in-the-making foldable phone. The potentially game-changing device opens up into a bendable tablet, allowing users to do all sorts of things currently impossible to do on a standard smartphone. Samsung didn’t fully reveal the device at the event but promised we’d see it in 2019.
The 2019 iteration of the Galaxy S series (likely called the Samsung Galaxy S10) looks to be a complete overhaul from what we’ve seen over the past two years. We expect three (or possibly even four) variants of the S10 instead of the usual two, and we expect them to sport some unique technology like 3D mapping scanners and ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensors. It’s also possible the S10 line could launch with an Infinity-O display, with a small hole cut out for the front-facing camera.
We also expect to see a 5G-enabled smartphone from Sammy in 2019. However, we aren’t sure if it will be part of the S10 line or something all its own.
Regardless, we know Samsung is currently in a “crisis” and working hard behind the scenes to get consumers excited about buying its smartphones again, which is good news for all of us.
OnePlus is revamping its entire smartphone strategy in 2019 by releasing a 5G model that won’t be a successor to the most recent OnePlus 6T. That means there will likely be two smartphone lines running concurrently from OnePlus. This will be the biggest strategy change for the company since it launched the OnePlus X in 2015.
OnePlus also might release a television in 2019, as weird as that sounds. The Chinese company gets bigger, more popular, and more ambitious every year. 2019 will likely be quite exciting for OnePlus.
The major Android OEMs have made some big promises in 2019 which are making us pretty excited.
Xiaomi is doing some exciting things in 2019, too. It’s already started to trickle into new territories this year, including the U.K. The company is also selling products in the United States, but not smartphones yet. It’s absolutely possible we’ll see Xiaomi smartphones worldwide in 2019, even in the U.S.
The launch of the ultra-cheap Pocophone F1 was one of the surprise hits of 2018, and we fully expect Xiaomi to double down on its new sub-brand in 2019. While the Pocophone F1 was certainly awesome, it wasn’t without flaws, and we hope the Pocophone F2 (or whatever it gets called) will fix some of those issues.
As with most other OEMs on this list, Xiaomi is promising a 5G smartphone in 2019. It’s also promising a foldable phone to compete with Samsung (and possibly LG). Either way, we’d just be happy to finally be able to buy Xiaomi devices in the U.S.
Like Samsung, Xiaomi, LG, and others, Huawei has promised a foldable phone in 2019. However, it is one-upping the competition by claiming its foldable device will be 5G capable and possibly even the first one from a major OEM to market.
Huawei will be pushing its very popular sub-brand Honor hard in 2019. In certain areas of the world, Huawei’s biggest competitor is Honor, which is the best kind of problem for any company to have. As such, you can likely expect more powerful mid-range and budget devices for incredibly cheap prices.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Huawei devices in the United States in 2019. The company could surprise us, but it looks like we’ll still be watching Huawei’s success from afar in the immediate future.
Let’s face it: 2018 hasn’t been the greatest year for LG. After a controversial decision to abandon its original plans for the follow-up to the LG G6, the company launched the LG G7 ThinQ later than planned and to lukewarm sales. The company’s smartphone lineup has gotten incredibly confusing, with the LG V30 quickly followed up by the LG V30S ThinQ and then the LG V35 ThinQ after that, and so on.
However, 2019 could be a new dawn for LG. It’s even apparently hired a “turnaround expert” to solve its mounting financial woes in the mobile sector.
Nothing would please us more than to see LG make a true comeback. LG devices are usually pretty awesome, albeit with a few caveats, but those caveats combined with a usually-very-high asking price make them hard to recommend. Hopefully, LG’s future strategy will take this into account.
Choose your perspective
Many of you reading this might be disappointed with 2018’s phones. You might be holding on to your 2017 device because nothing this year motivated you to run out and replace it. That makes sense.
However, just because 2018 didn’t blow us away, it doesn’t mean we should start with the doomsday talk. We can choose to see 2018 as a stepping stone year, building up the hype for what’s going to really wow us in 2019. There are certainly enough potentially awesome things on the horizon to warrant a positive outlook.
Do you agree? Do you think 2018 is paving the way for an awesome 2019, or do you think next year will be more of the same? Sound off in the comments!