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The most exciting smartphones coming in first half of 2018

These upcoming flagships are exciting from a product as well as a business perspective. Here's why.

Published onFebruary 9, 2018

A lot the smartphones to be released in the first half of the year will be exciting, as well as important from a product and a business perspective. Let’s take a look at what makes a few of them so interesting.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Why will they be exciting/important:
  • The smartphones are rumored to feature variable apertures.
  • This could put pressure on rivals to innovate more in the camera department.
  • The S9 series might cost more than its predecessor, which could result in a domino effect.

Rumor has it the Galaxy S9 smartphones will have a few new features on board, the most exciting one being variable aperture.

According to the image of an alleged Galaxy S9 retail box, the camera will be capable of switching between f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures. The wider f/1.5 aperture should result in better low-light images because it would allow more light into the sensor. It would also lead to a shallower depth of field, producing a more pronounced blurring of the background and giving photographers some extra creative flexibility with their shots.

However, a wide aperture can overexpose images when light is plentiful. So limiting the light that can enter the sensor with a second smaller aperture (f/2.4) could get you the best of both worlds.

Variable aperture is not a brand new technology. We’ve already seen it on Samsung’s China-exclusive W2018 flip phone. Bringing it to the Galaxy S9 series gets us excited because it would force other companies to innovate more in the camera department. You can check out what it looks like in action below.

Other exciting features include a possible dual-camera setup on the larger smartphone, which would be a first for the Galaxy S series. Then there’s the ability to capture slow-motion videos at 1,000 fps, an improved iris scanner, and a new fingerprint scanner location. Check out our Samsung Galaxy S9 rumor roundup post to learn more.

The Galaxy S9 series will also be important from a business perspective because it dictates pricing on the market. Samsung’s rivals typically sell their flagships at slightly lower prices than the tech giant to grab attention. Rumors have it the S9 handsets could be more expensive than their predecessors, which is bad news. If true, we can expect a domino effect  other manufacturers may also start increasing prices.

Of course, too high a price point could also have a negative effect on the Galaxy S9’s sales, as consumers could opt for a rival smartphone to save a few bucks. It remains to be seen if such a strategy will see Samsung generate as much money in 2018 as it did in 2017, which was a record-breaking year for the tech giant.

The Galaxy S9 series will make its debut at MWC on Feb. 25, 2018.

HUAWEI P20 and P20 Plus

Why will they be exciting/important:
  • The P20 smartphones could be massive upgrades over their predecessors.
  • They might be imaging powerhouses.
  • The flagship series could help HUAWEI narrow the gap with Samsung and Apple.

The P20 and P20 Plus could be big upgrades over their predecessors. The smartphones might sport a triple lens 40 MP rear camera setup with 5x hybrid zoom, which would set them apart from the competition. A 24 MP selfie snapper may also be on board.

This would make the devices imaging powerhouses and far more appealing to users than the P10 series. But it isn’t the only exciting new feature they could offer. The handsets are almost certain to come with the Kirin 970 chipset under the hood, which will add a few AI-related features. These include photo-based translations and various smart tips like suggesting to enable Eye Comfort mode when reading in a dark environment.

We may also see a brand new design with thin bezels, larger displays, and facial recognition said to be more accurate and safer than Apple’s Face ID. Check out our HUAWEI P20 rumor roundup post to learn more.

HUAWEI is the third biggest manufacturer in the world and aims to overtake Apple and Samsung by 2021. To reach its goal, the company needs a more attention-grabbing flagship. The P series smartphones released so far are great, but they aren’t nearly as popular as Samsung’s Galaxy S series.

If the P20 series outsells its predecessor by a wide margin, the company could slowly start to increase its global market share and narrow the gap with Apple and Samsung. This could also boost HUAWEI’s chances of inking a deal with a U.S. carrier, which it failed to do with the Mate 10 Pro.

Huawei’s P20 series is expected to make its debut in Paris on March 27, 2018.


Why will it be exciting/important:
  • LG could take some serious risks with the G7.
  • The device may come with a strong USP to make it stand out from the crowd.
  • The company needs a successful flagship to turn things around.

The G6 was a big improvement over its predecessor, but it still wasn’t a massive success. The smartphone didn’t stand out from the crowd, which is something LG wants to change with the G7.

What excites us is that LG could take a few risks with its upcoming flagship. The company’s CEO has apparently ordered a complete rethink of the device to find a strong selling point previous G smartphones were missing. Expect to see a few new features on the G7 along with a possible new design.

Also read: LG G7: Everything we know so far

We want LG to bet big with the G7. We want to see a smartphone that can truly rival Samsung’s Galaxy S series. More competition is always better for consumers because it drives down prices and forces companies to innovate more.

The LG G6 brought Dolby Vision HDR to the mix upon its release.

The G7 will be an important device for LG from a business perspective too. The company’s mobile unit has been struggling financially and needs to turn things around. The G7 could make or break the brand, so LG has to get it right.

The exact launch date of the device is unknown for now. The G7 was expected to make its debut at MWC in February, just like its predecessors, But the CEO’s order for a complete rethink may push the date back a few months.

Note: The smartphone might not be called the G7, as LG plans to retire the G brand. There’s no word on what exactly the new name will be, so we have referred to the device as the G7 in this post.

Essential Phone 2

Essential Phone
Why will it be exciting/important:
  • The Essential Phone didn’t sell well, so we can expect big changes with its successor.
  • Essential needs a smash hit to stay relevant in the market.

Essential got a lot of things right with its first smartphone. It came with stock Android, a premium body made of a combination of titanium and ceramic, and had a better approach to modularity than LG’s failed G5.

It also has many drawbacks, which resulted in poor sales. Official numbers weren’t released, but it’s estimated Essential only sold 50 thousand units in it’s first four months.

The low sales number could encourage Essential to take more risks.

The low sales number will likely encourage Essential to try new things and add more features to its upcoming device, which excites us. The company needs a successful device to stay relevant in the market, so taking more risks is an obvious way to go.

There’s no word on what the company will try, but we have a few ideas. The Essential Phone has a gorgeous design with the exception of that hideous notch housing the camera. Removing it would likely make the device appealing to more users.

The upcoming smartphone also needs a strong USP  to stand out. Stock Android isn’t enough. We’ve seen it on many other devices so far. The modular functionality isn’t popular enough to lure consumers away from the competition. Don’t get us wrong, we still want to see these two things on the upcoming device  but an additional feature or two would grab more attention.

Then there’s the price. The Essential Phone launched at $700, which is a lot for a company without a proven track record. For comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 launched at $725. A lower price tag for its successor is  a good way to boost sales.

It will be exciting to see what ideas Essential comes up with to make its smartphone a worthy competitor to the Galaxy S9 series and other 2018 flagships. There’s no word on when it will be released, but we’ll likely see it in May or June if Essential sticks to an annual release cycle.

Sony Xperia XZ Pro

Why will it be exciting/important:
  • It could be Sony’s first smartphone with a dual-camera setup.
  • The device might feature a new design with an edge-to-edge display.
  • The Xperia XZ Pro could be the change Sony desperately needs.

The Xperia XZ Pro could come with a few features that would be a first for Sony. A dual-camera setup is one of them. Then there’s also a so-called bezel-less design, which became the standard for flagships in 2017.

These two things alone are good enough reasons to get excited about the Xperia XZ Pro, but there are a few more worth pointing out, including top-of-the-line specs and a 4K OLED display.

The Xperia XZ Pro could be the change Sony needs.

Sony has been stuck in its ways for a while now and the Xperia XZ Pro could be the change the company so desperately needs. The smartphone might be the first step towards getting back to profitability, so it will be an important one for the tech giant.

But there’s one problem: the price. Rumors have it the Xperia XZ Pro could cost more than $900, putting it right up there with the Galaxy Note 8. The high price tag will likely have a negative effect on sales — Sony’s brand doesn’t have the same appeal as Samsung’s.

The Sony Xperia XZ Pro is expected to make its debut at MWC in Barcelona this month.

OnePlus 6

Why will it be exciting/important:
  • The OnePlus 6 might be the company’s most expensive smartphone to date.
  • The OnePlus brand might lose its appeal due to a possible a price hike.
  • The device is rumored to come with facial recognition similar to Apple’s FaceID.

The OnePlus 6 will be an important smartphone from a business standpoint. The company could opt for one of two strategies. It could pack as many features into the device without increasing its price, which we hope will happen. The second option is a price hike, which could blow up in the company’s face.

OnePlus smartphones have always been synonymous with great price-performance ratios. However, the company has been increasing prices since the reveal of its first device. The OnePlus One started at $300 back in 2014.  The current 5T will set you back $500.

HONOR View 10 review: a OnePlus 5T challenger emerges

The massive price hike didn’t do any damage to the manufacturer’s business results so far. The 5T is the fastest-selling OnePlus device to date, despite being the most expensive one. The company is also doing great financially with revenues exceeding $1 billion for the first time, in 2017.

But everything has its limits. The brand could lose its appeal if the company decides to increase prices again this year. Let’s face it, not a lot of people would buy a OnePlus device if it would cost the same as the Galaxy S series.

From a product perspective, we’re looking forward possibly a new design. This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it’s a safe bet. Each OnePlus handset brought something new in the design department — except for the T models.

This is also the year OnePlus could finally add water protection and a higher resolution display to its flagship. Additionally, rumors suggest the flagship will have an improved onboard facial recognition feature to take on Apple’s FaceID.

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed the smartphone will launch in the second quarter of the year, but didn’t reveal an exact date.

There you have it — these are the most exciting flagships coming in the first half of the year in our opinion. Have we missed any major ones? Let us know in the comments!