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Which OEM flagship devices you are most looking forward to in 2015?

Which OEM flagship devices are you most looking forward to in 2015? What do you hope to see differently from the Android world this year?
By
January 2, 2015
crystal ball 2015

It’s the dawn of a new year, but already we are hearing gossip of the next HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S6, the LG G Flex 2 and countless other devices. With that in mind, for this week’s Friday Debate we want to talk about which OEM flagship devices you are most looking forward to (whether immediate upcomers like GS6 or far-off devices like Note 5), and what you hope to see that manufacturer do differently with their next-gen flagships.

Aside from the devices you are most looking forward to seeing, feel free to weigh in on what you think all Android manufacturers as a whole need to focus on in 2015 (battery life, new designs, etc).

As is our recent custom, we start out the Friday Debate by hearing from our community, followed by members of Team AA and finally we’ll give our readers the opportunity to voice their opinion in the comments section. This week’s topic brought on quite a few responses, though this week we’ve chosen to showcase just one: our community’s Jayfeather.

Jayfeather

Xiaomi Mi 5! It looks like it is going to have killer specs and an awesome display with a decent price tag. There are more and more rumors of the upcoming Xiaomi Mi 5, which is set to be released this month, possibly at CES in a few days.

Xiaomi has always been a pretty good company, and their phones never cease to amaze me, especially for the price. For example, the Xiaomi Mi 3 on Oppo Mart costs 269 dollars, and has a Snapdragon 800 and 2 GB of RAM packed into a 5 inch 1080P screen. It is a Nexus 5 challenger that undercuts the price. The Mi 4 is the same way, although it features pretty much the same specs as the Mi 3, but costs about 400 dollars. I am hoping that the Mi 5 will be in this price range, maybe a little more, as it seems to be a whole lot more of a phone.

The rumors are showing that the Mi 5 will have a Snapdragon 810, 3 GB of RAM, and a 1440P screen! I am not usually that excited about many phones anymore. I have a Nexus 5, and it has about all the speed I will ever need. New phones from Samsung, LG, and HTC just don’t really excite me. Samsung is the same thing over and over with spec bumps every year. I love HTC but they have been screwing up with their camera and bezels, and LG is good, but it is just not that exciting. Every company has good phones, but no new phone really makes me go wow.

A phone can have the best specs and features, and have a high price tag, and that’s like, go figure, right? You pay more, get more. However, Xiaomi’s trend is offering inexpensive phones with excellent hardware. Plus Xiaomi phones tend to have decent development with a lot of ROMs. It just really excites me, and I am really pulling for Xiaomi, because their devices seem to be excellent in every way. My dad is looking for a new phone, he as an AT&T S4, and it sucks. I messed up some things on it. We bought it used, and it has a bunch of problems with the screen, in that it won’t register touch and it has air bubbles under the screen, which is just infuriating. He wants a Note 4, but I do not think it is wise to drop 750-850 on a new Samsung when the Xiaomi Mi 5 is just around the corner, and it may be cheaper and better.

After that, I would like to see the HTC One M9. I have always loved HTC. I have an HTC Sensation that still runs like a beast on Lollipop. HTC phones have excellent build quality, and I am sure the M9 won’t disappoint. If it has an improved camera, it would easily be one of the best phones in the world. So Xiaomi Mi 5 is my top pick, and next is the HTC One M9.

What Team AA has to say

Now that you’ve had a look at what community member Jayfeather had to say, it’s time for Team AA to weigh in:

Joe Hindy

The OEM I’m most looking forward to in 2015 is HTC. Their CEO has been fanning the flames saying that they’re going to have an exciting year and their products have been on an upward trajectory for the last 2 years with the One M7 and One M8 along with their midrange Desire series. The thing with HTC is that while their devices are top notch, they’ve been missing that thing that sets them apart from the rest. Samsung and Sony had waterproofing, the Note 4 and Nexus 6 had ridiculous size and powerful specs. The One M8’s solid offerings were consistently overshadowed by the competition. I’m hoping in 2015, they fix that problem.

I know the big conversation about flagships is that a lot of people think they should be cheaper. While I would certainly love a cheaper high-end smartphone, I don’t believe that everyone’s end game should be to make the cheapest smartphone that they can. In my humble opinion, I think OEMs should approach the outcry like laptop manufacturers do. Have the “Alienware” for expensive that has all the best specs and cutting edge tech, the “HP/Toshiba/etc” midrange for those who want most of the features but not all the best, and the “Chromebook” smartphone that does what you need it to do, is super cheap, but doesn’t feature the cutting edge stuff. Pretty much every OEM is going to release at least 3-5 smartphones this next year. Why not target all three demographics at once?

As a whole, OEMs have been focusing a lot more on expediting updates and larger batteries. We saw a lot of phones coming out with over 3000mAh batteries which allowed them to live much longer than is generally expected. I would love to see that trend continue and improve. Maybe they’ll find a way to squeeze a 4000mAh battery into a 5-inch phone. That’d be wonderful, eh?

There are two things I think Android manufacturers should focus on in 2015. The first is design. Pretty much everything is the same old thing inside of a new coat of paint. The Xperia Z series all look like the same phone with minor alterations. The same with the Samsung Galaxy series. HTC is falling into that habit as well with the One. LG did something really interesting with the back-side volume rocker. I’d love to see more bold designs like that to differentiate from the past.

The other thing I think Android manufacturers need to do is leverage the Google Play Store more. HTC has done this a little bit by releasing a few of their apps to the Play Store for everyone (not just HTC owners) and other OEMs have released their apps there for easier updating. Nokia may be the winners in this area with HERE Maps and the Z Launcher which are both intensely popular and well regarded. However, the looming threat of China invading the Europe and the West is a very real one, especially if they continue to produce cheap smartphones with decent specs. The main difference is the Play Store. The app stores on Chinese smartphones are amateur in comparison to the mammoth gold mine of games, apps, security, and customization sources that is the Google Play Store and it would be wise of Android manufacturers to start pointing that out now. It is a valuable asset and feature that pretty much all manufacturers ignore or downplay and when the Chinese start releasing $200 flagships, the fact that their app stores only have a few hundred thousand apps is going to be a lot more important.

It’s going to be an exciting year in hardware because last year was such a disappointment in terms of sales. Jobs were lost, new hires were made, Companies now realize that they need to shake things up a bit to get money in their pockets. The winners will be us, the consumers.

Eric McBride

2015 might be one of the most exciting years when it comes to smartphones, especially as Chinese companies and other OEMs that were “quieter” during the Samsung/Apple reign seem to be getting a better hold on things. That being said, there are a couple of devices that I am very much looking forward to seeing in 2015.

First up is Samsung. I have learned in life that sometimes being backed into a corner can be one of the best things to happen, as it FORCES you to do something to change the situation. Samsung is now in a position that they haven’t been in for years, as the Galaxy S6 and Note 5 MUST work, and work WELL. No ifs ands or buts about it. If these 2 devices don’t have some massive sales (Note 5 I think will, but I have my doubts about the S6 for some reason), the trouble that Samsung is currently in will look miniscule compared to the problems they will have next year and in 2016. It’s now or never for Sammy, and I can’t wait to see what they bring to the table.

HTC would have to be my second choice, simply because they seem to be hyping things so much lately. The thing with HTC is that they have always brought good devices to the table, despite the fact that they have had lackluster performance over the past years. As Joe pointed out, the M7 and M8 were and still are amazing devices, and with Samsung on the rocks, this could be their real chance to restablish themselves as a real force to be reckoned with.

LG is my next pick, simply because I like the consistency and style of devices they have put out lately. For some reason, I have a feeling that LG might shock us with something amazing, huge, and curved. I’m honestly rooting for them, as they have really climbed from the ashes to become relevant again.

When it comes to tech to focus on, better software optimization and battery life (one could literally be the solution for the other) are what I’m after. 2015 shouldn’t just be the year of specs, as phones with “mid range” hardware and amazing performance have emerged and proved that 17 14ghz processors aren’t needed to make Android fly. Sure I want new processors and 3 to 4gb of RAM in flagships, but I would love to see more focus on getting more power out of existing hardware vs always having to up the speed for everything. Efficiency ftw!

Gary Sims

I’ll start by saying what I am not looking forward to from the major OEMs in 2015, another round of Samsung Galaxy S and Samsung Galaxy Note devices. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Note 4 is a fantastic device, but its physical size is just too large for me, plus it costs way too much for my pocket. And I guess the S5 is also a good phone as well, but really it is just another iteration of the devices that came before it. Which is why I am not waiting with bated breath for another iteration.

I think we will find that 2015 will be the year of the Chinese OEM. OnePlus made a big splash onto the scene this year and although there has been teething problems I think 2015 can only be better. A friend came around over the holidays with his OnePlus One and the phone looked great. I asked him about the various problems that have been reported, and he said he had experienced none of them. So I am looking forward to the OnePlus Two.

I am also looking forward to see what Xiaomi and Meizu can do in 2015. I also think that Huawei could surprise us with more interesting devices from its Honor brand. Plus, I am interested to see what ZTE can do. All of these companies need to heavily push online sales distribution channels and cut out the carriers. Let carriers provide the cellular services but they shouldn’t be dictating which phones we use and how much they cost. That would be like the construction companies that build our highways also selling the cars. There is no freedom, no choice in that.

Besides the Chinese OEMs, I really want to see more from HTC. I think it has produced some solid devices over the last twelve to eighteen months and I think it has more potential. I also think it is really the best company to disrupt the status-quo. If HTC got into online selling and bypassed the carriers, I think it could regain its former glory, why let OnePlus do it when the HTC brand is already so well known and the phones so well respected?

Last but not least, I am looking forward to LG’s offerings for 2015. I think the G series has been brilliant and whenever I go past the window of a phone shop, the LGs always look good compared to their neighbors.

The key factors for 2015 aren’t higher resolution displays or crazily high megapixel counts, it will be price and distribution channels. And any OEM that doesn’t see that will see a loss of market share.

Jonathan Feist

It’s that time of year again, Christmas phone-giving is over, and now we save up our pennies to see what the next round of flagship phones will look like.

It is hard not to be excited for each and every new marquee device coming out of most Android handset manufacturers. With the next round of flagships likely to announce in just a few short weeks at WMC 2015, I expect lots of 64-bit technology, large(r) screen devices and bigger batteries.

Thing is, as excited as I am to see what Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and more bring to the table, as far as most people’s wallets go, these devices do not matter.

Like most others, above all else this year, I really want to see a significant price drop on the average flagship phone. Because I do not imagine that will happen, that phones like the Galaxy S6, HTC One (M9), LG G4 or the Sony Xperia Z4 will not come in at Moto X pricing, or lower, I think I’ll turn my attention elsewhere.

Let me start with OnePlus. Yes, I know what you may be thinking, don’t do it – no support, screen issues, the whole invite thing is a joke. Thing is, round 1 is over, OnePlus got its butt kicked a little bit (or did they?) learning the hard way how to build a phone and deliver it to the masses. I want to believe that they’ve learned enough to step things up, to become a ‘real’ manufacturer.

Maybe I am wrong to put my expectations in the ‘flagship killer,’ but if they can bring another high-end device to market for less than $400, and sell it without all the hoopla, I’d be interested.

HTC is another player I will keep my eyes on. Maybe not for their flagship offerings, but I will say that I am growing somewhat fond of the Desire line of mid-range devices. Bang for the buck, they’ve got some hits on their hands. Keep the 13MP and larger cameras coming, and I’ll keep an eye on what you are selling.

What I really, really want to see in 2015, a new Nexus device. Let me call it Nexus 5.5. I want a 5.5-inch AMOLED phone, I want a Snapdragon 810 SoC (or better 64-bit chipset), 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage with microSD slot, front facing speakers, a battery large enough to provide up to 8 hours screen-on time, a camera in the 13-16MP range with OIS and optical zoom and no non-sense real world usability. Am I asking for too much?

Like Joe said, I am glad for the progress most manufacturers are making in terms of the hardware, there are pros and cons no matter what decision you make, but in the end, much was learned in 2014 and there is a healthy amount of competition in the market – we will all be winners because of it. 2015 is going to be a good year.

Luka Mlinar

I’m gonna have to go with the Xiaomi Mi5. At the moment they are my last big hope for a true flagship phone with the next generation Snapdragon 800 series chip that doesn’t cross the 5″ border into phablet territory. One can always justify adding an extra 0.2″ but personally I consider my 5 inch phone large enough as is. Screen size aside, my love for the up and coming Chinese OEMs has grown almost as fast as they have. While top global OEMs are fighting over adding that one feature that will set them apart over the rest, Xiaomi, OnePlus and Meizu are trying to reach the same heights wile keeping cost at almost half that of the competition. I find that extremely exciting.

With expansion into newer markets, will they adjust their OS to a more vanilla like look? How long can they keep their price down or were the first few models sold cheaply just to create a costumer base an put their foot in the door? These are just some of the question I have and I’m hopefully that 2015 will bring a lot of answers.

As far as what I think OEMs should focus on? Well, we got the internal components where we want them; 8 core 64 bit processors with 3GB of RAM and so on. For 2015 i would like manufacturers to make the exterior of their devices look and feel as good as their internal components are. To take a risk and go beyond the designs of the past. To follow in the footsteps of Google’s MD and reinvent what we thought we knew about design.

Robert Triggs

As a big fan of LG’s last two flagships, I’m really keen to see what can be squeezed into the LG G4. I’d like to see LG keep on the same track, slightly undercutting the big flagship names in terms of price and ignoring the gimmicks, while offering more reliable build quality and superior camera and display features than the low-cost Chinese brands.

Like Joe said, I’m looking for even more diversity this year. I want Samsung’s Galaxy S6 to really justify its ultra-high price tag this time, but with useful features and better software rather than gimmicks. I’m equally stoked to see what Xiaomi can do with its low-cost Mi5 and what Huawei, Lenovo and Meizu will bring to the table this year. That said, I’d hate to the majority of manufacturers race to the lowest price, the Android market will be better off if OEMs can find a market segment to appeal to.

Some OEMs will no doubt try to fractionally improve upon the 5-inch 1080p, 8MP, Snapdragon reference designs that clogged up the end of 2014, but that’s been perfected. I want to see someone try out a slim-bezel 4.2 incher, pack a stellar 20MP camera into a mid-range phone, or try some weirder designs that push functionality further than the G3, Note Edge or Oppo N3. I’m looking at you Project Ara.

Matthew Benson

The device I am most looking forward to for this year is the LG G Flex 2. As mentioned a few weeks back, my device of 2014 was the original, and it is thus with great anticipation that I await the technological advancements that LG will inevitably bring to the table. Hopefully it will have a full 1080p display, and retain the same curved angle as the original (as opposed to the Galaxy Round). Also LG had mentioned it could have bent the original in an even more pronounced fashion than it did, thus it would be interesting to have something even more rounded, or perhaps something that could actually be bent. The idea of a semi-“rubber” chassis would be quite an interesting idea. The phone would literally be able to flex, but still be hard enough to retain a certain shape.

Personally I have been partial to LG devices in recent years. While the OEM provides as much “bloat” as Samsung, LG has far more to offer with the insane level of customization options. The ability to manually select the on-screen navigation buttons (including their order) as well as change every single icon’s picture is something that Samsung could stand to include. Likewise, LG devices seem to have excellent battery life, especially the original G Flex.

Beyond that, I am actually looking forward to a “flagship” Samsung Gear device. The Gear S is actually quite nice for what it is, but the thing looks like a cheap toy when push comes to shove. The LG G Watch R has a much more professional and “traditional” look to it, and it would be fantastic if Samsung could offer something similar. Some weeks ago I wrote a post about a rumored “ring display” watch Samsung had patented: that would be a step in the right direction.

Likewise, I am also very interested to see what flagship tablet Samsung can release this year, especially if it will have another SAMOLED screen. The best possible offering would inevitably be the Galaxy Note 10.1 2015 Edition, or perhaps a successor to the Galaxy Note 8.0. Last years Galaxy Tab S duo were nice of course, but the lack of additional functionality that the Note series offers was a bit of a downer.

The one feature that really needs to be implemented this year is quick charging. Simply put, I’m disgusted with the excruciating amount of time required to charge any kind of tablet device. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 in particular took an insane wait, and even the Nexus 9 is exceedingly excessive. It’s high time that more thought be put into this component because when you’re dealing with batteries that keep getting bigger and bigger, there is just no excuse why you need to wait 4-6 hours (or more) to top them off.

Now it’s your turn

You’ve heard from Jayfeather and Team AA, now it’s your turn. What OEM handsets are you most looking forward to? What other kind of Android-related devices are you hoping to see this year? Tell us what you think in the comments!

*Note poll was originally featured in a post from yesterday, but is applicable here as well*