We have written a lot recently about the seeming uniformity of current smartphones and how this can lead to a lack of excitement for new models. However, it doesn’t take much to look beyond the mainstream and into a world of phones with interesting designs, niche features, and unique hardware. This is a list of eight phones available now or in the near future that are paving their own way in the smartphone market.
For the crypto investor: Sirin Labs Finney
The Sirin Labs Finney is a blockchain powered smartphone set for release in November. It will have flagship specs, a ton of blockchain-related features, and a second screen that slides up from the back. Its crypto pedigree will come from the fact that users will be able to use the phone as a cold storage wallet and that the Android 8.1-based Sirin OS is capable of automatically converting crypto tokens. Additionally, users will be able to download decentralized apps from the D-App store. These apps are said to offer secure resource sharing between Finney phones.
For the serious photographer: Red Hydrogen One
You can already record excellent quality video and take great photos on the majority of smartphones. However, Red Hollywood Studios looks set to take things one step further with its Red Hydrogen One phone, currently set for release in August this year.
The phone is expected to have two niche selling points: its photography capabilities and a holographic screen. In terms of taking photos, Red is planning to release a modular sensor that will allow users to mount professional camera lenses onto the device. As well as this, users will be able to plug the phone into any existing Red camera to be used as a display. As for the holographic screen, while we don’t know much about it, reports from those who have seen it have generally been positive.
For those who like to type: BlackBerry KEY2
BlackBerry is still pretty much the only OEM making phones with physical keyboards. The BlackBerry KEY2, with its 35-key QWERTY keyboard, is the latest such device. In our review, Jimmy Westenberg said the keyboard is “terrific” and that it made him not want to go back to a regular device. Due to the size of the keyboard, however, the KEY2’s 4.5-inch display is one of the smaller ones out there. Other than the keyboard and small display, the device has some solid mid-to-high-range specs including a Snapdragon 660 CPU, 6GB RAM, and 64GB storage.
For those who want both a tablet and a smartphone: ZTE Axon M
While Samsung is said to be readying its foldable display smartphone for early next year, those who want a foldable phone now will have to settle for the ZTE Axon M. This phone has two 5.2 inch displays that connect in the middle. When unfolded they make up a 6.75-inch tablet-like display. This allows for multitasking or the ability to browse the web or watch videos on a screen much larger than your average smartphone.
For rich people who want a flip phone: Samsung W2018
The “rich people who want a flip phone” market may seem like it would be a small one, but that hasn’t stopped Samsung from regularly releasing super-expensive high-end flip phones. The Android-powered Samsung W2018 features a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 64GB storage, and was the first Samsung device to feature dual aperture, before even the Samsung Galaxy S9. However, these specs come at a price; the phone cost over $2,000 upon release.
For those who want a full-screen display: Oppo Find X and Vivo Nex
A high screen to body ratio is something that pretty much all OEMs seem to be trying to achieve on their flagship devices. However, no other brand has yet attempted anything similar to the popup cameras found on the Oppo Find X and Vivo Nex. Until the devices see a wider release or other manufacturers copy the style, we won’t know if popup cameras represent the beginning of a trend or a flash in the pan.
For those who miss smaller phones: Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Just a few years ago it would have been crazy to suggest that a well-made device with high-end specs and a 5-inch display would be considered niche. However, that is exactly where we stand with the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. Despite having the same size screen, it is smaller than the Google Pixel and comes with a Snapdragon 845 processor. If you are after a device with high-end specs that you can easily use with one hand and that fits in your pocket without any problems, then the Sony XZ2 Compact may be your best bet.
For those who love to game: Asus ROG
Since the release of the Razer phone last year, several OEMs have announced phones dedicated to gaming. Perhaps the most exciting of these is the Asus ROG. Its gaming related features include touch sensors that work as shoulder triggers when you hold the phone in landscape and a high-performance mode. Asus has also unveiled accessories such as a cooler for use in intense gaming sessions and a Nintendo Switch-like handheld dock with a secondary display. The phone is expected to be released in Q3 2018.
There you have it — our quick look at some of the most unique Android smartphones out there. Which one’s your favorite? Any niche Android phone that deserves a shoutout?