Sony has brought its latest and greatest smartphones to the US. Both the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact are now on sale in unlocked form through Amazon, Best Buy, B&H and other shops at respective prices of $599 and $499. Both pack a fair punch for the price between their Snapdragon 810 processors, 32GB of storage and 23-megapixel rear cameras. The big differences are the displays (5.2 inches on the Z5 versus 4.6 on the Compact) and RAM (3GB versus 2GB). They should work nicely on AT&T, T-Mobile and other American networks that share their frequencies. However, you shouldn’t expect exactly the same phone that you’d get elsewhere — there’s a catch.
Unlike the versions for other countries
Neither of the US-oriented models has a fingerprint sensor tucked under the power button. That won’t matter too much using Android 5.1, which you get out of the box, but it could matter more when either Z5 variant receives Android 6.0 and its native support for finger-based authentication. They’re still solid phones, and the Z5 Compact is one of the few small-but-powerful Android phones you can find — just know that you’ll still be entering PIN codes or patterns for a while.
There are quite a few predictable events within the tech world, one being that companies often launch their products in the same month as they did the year before (although rumors push us to think differently). Another predictable tech event is how to tell a new product is coming: usually, it’s evident by constant price reductions of the current product that keep popping up everywhere. In adherence to this familiar pattern, Samsung’s Tizen-powered Z3, designed for the India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka markets, has started seeing price drops at online retailers.
The Samsung Z3 price dropped from Rs. 8,200 to Rs. 6,980 ($123.59 to $105.21) at Snapdeal; from Rs. 8,200 to Rs. 6,900 ($123.59 to $105.36) at popular Indian retail site Flipkart (who discounted Samsung’s Android-powered handsets in honor of Samsung Week); and the phone has seen a Rs. 2,035 drop (from $135.50 to $104.83) at eBay and Amazon, deals that we sighted two weeks ago. While Samsung has not yet made an announcement or dropped any hints as to the existence of a new-generation Tizen-powered handset, if the pattern is true, it’s telling indeed.
While we don’t know the exact announcement and launch dates of the Samsung Z5, we do know that the handset is in testing bearing model number SM-Z500 and could see it arrive this year. With May already here, and Tizen 3.0 set to arrive in September, we could be looking at a September announcement for the Z5 or a high-profile Tizen smartphone to arrive that could provide more attractive specs for the Korean giant’s homegrown OS.
The first Tizen-powered smartphone, the Z1, is due for a 2016 makeover this year, and Samsung intends to not only bring the Gear smartwatch compatibility to the Z3 but to release the discounted Z3 in several European countries. Clearly, Samsung has world domination on its mind for more than just its Android-powered Galaxy smartphone series.
The Galaxy S7 might get the camera sensor featured on the Sony Xperia Z5, as Samsung is currently in talks with the Japanese tech company. The IMX300 sensor is a very important piece which apparently impressed Samsung, and if things go right we might see it on the Galaxy S7 next January, when it is rumored to be launching. DxOMark puts the IMX300 among the top camera sensors, claiming that it’s the best they’ve ever tested which says a lot. Sony’s initial plans were to keep this camera sensor exclusive to the Xperia line but Samsung is negotiating for it right now and they might strike a hard bargain.
Should Sony accept the deal it will be pretty profitable for them because the Galaxy S7 will probably sell millions of units. There’s a lot to be said about the IMX300 in terms of specifications, but word has it that the camera sensor has a 25-megapixel and a 192-point hybrid autofocus system, which turned out to be brilliant on the Xperia Z5 with a focusing time of 0.03 seconds.
Picking the right smartphone can be tough. With Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and plenty of other manufacturers releasing handsets at a steady clip, it can be difficult to keep up with each and every launch. We use our smartphones for work, play and everything in between, so it’s important to settle on the right blend of hardware, operating system and price tag that makes sense for you.
After all, you’re likely going to be spending anywhere from 18 months to two years of your life with your new handset, unless your budget allows you to upgrade on whim. Deciding between so many candidates can be a bit of a struggle, but we’re here to help with our guide to the best smartphones around.
Article prices are based on the RRP, but more up-to-date listings can be found in the buyers guide widget below.
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 6 isn’t as much of an incremental update as some were expecting. The 6s is more powerful and carries a pressure-sensitive display, not to mention significant improvements in the camera department. As well as simply being another easy-to-use iOS device, new features include the “3D Touch” panel, which lets you “peek” inside apps, surfacing information and actions without opening the app fully. The upgraded 12-megapixel camera has a few tricks of its own, too, like the new 4K video mode and animated “Live Photos.” New Rose Gold option aside, though, the iPhone 6s is practically identical in looks to its predecessor. It’s not cheap either, so iPhone 6 owners might find it hard to justify an upgrade.
In a sentence: Apple’s iPhone 6s is a great phone and safe bet, especially for anyone moving from an older 5 or 5s.
Price: £539 and up
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 takes everything that made the S6 great and improves upon it. The outcome is a flagship with a gorgeous Quad HD display, outstanding performance and subtle design tweaks that make the marriage of metal and glass that bit more appealing. Those already leaning in Samsung’s direction will be thankful for the return of expandable storage, with cards of up to 200GB capacity finding a microSD slot to call home. An IP68 water- and dust-resistant rating only sweetens the proposition. Only minor progress has been made in the imaging department, but the S7 has a capable and versatile camera nonetheless. A steep price is one of the only downsides of the device, but you’re paying for premium.
In a sentence: Easily one of the best Android smartphones available.
Motorola’s made a name for itself putting out great devices at reasonable prices, and the Moto X Style is a perfect example of that philosophy. A fondness for larger displays is a must. If that’s the case you’ll get a pleasing 5.7-inch Quad HD display to poke at, and Moto Maker means you can customise an already expedient design with whatever colour and texture combination you see fit. Purists in particular will enjoy the vanilla Android build with a light drizzle of Motorola chocolate sauce on top. The Moto X Style has a great camera, too, even if it isn’t quite as good as those on some rival devices. Similarly, the handset offers flagship performance, but it’s not the most powerful device around. There are compromises, but none that should tempt you to overlook the Moto X Style considering its relatively low price.
In a sentence: An expert lesson in striking the balance between user experience and price.
Price: £369 and up
Apple iPhone SE
Score: 89/100 Many people felt left behind by Apple’s turn to bigger-screened iPhones, and the SE is an attempt to regain their favour. The 4-inch form factor feels both familiar and fresh in its design — like an iPhone 5s with softer curves — and the SE benefits from the inclusion of the same internals found in the iPhone 6s, meaning it’s lightning fast. The two also share the same, excellent camera, though the iPhone SE lacks “3D Touch” functionality and possesses an older, slower Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Still, it offers fantastic battery life and happens to be the cheapest iPhone Apple’s ever sold. Oh, and lest we forget: Rose Gold.
In a sentence: A no-brainer for champions of the 4-inch form factor wanting to upgrade from an older iPhone.
Price: £359 and up
The HTC 10 marks the end of a few uneventful years at the company, defined by a series of unremarkable flagships. But what a return to form. The HTC 10’s sleek, all-metal design packages a 5.2-inch Quad HD display and internals that are almost unmatched in their performance. While its competent 12-UltraPixel camera isn’t the best on the market and battery life is distinctly average, HTC has cleaned up its Android skin and included a few attractive extras like hi-res audio support and AirPlay compatibility. HTC has again created a flagship handset that can hang with the best of ’em, but that means you’re looking at premium pricing to match.
In a sentence: On the podium as one of the top Android smartphones on the market.
Google Nexus 6P
The Nexus 6P is another device for those who prefer a larger-than-average screen. The 5.7-inch, Wide Quad HD display isn’t all the handset has to offer, though, with an abundance of processing power and impressive battery life. Being a Google device, the Nexus 6P also receives Android updates as soon as they become available, so you’ll always be on the latest version. Combine all these features with a solid camera, and you get a large-screen smartphone at a pretty competitive price. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the Nexus 6P lacks a microSD slot to expand storage, and its all-metal design is like the smartphone equivalent of Marmite.
In a sentence: A great option for people who like a larger screen that also benefits from the most up-to-date Android software.
Price: £449 and up.
When Motorola launched the first Moto G a few years ago, it immediately stood out as offering unparalleled value for money. Now in its third generation, the Moto G is still one of the best all-round smartphones for anyone on a budget, or those that would rather not pay for bells and whistles they’ll get little use out of. While it doesn’t excel in any one area and ignores flagship-grade components to keep costs down, there are no particularly uninviting compromises either. The Moto G’s outward appearance can also be heavily personalised using Moto Maker, at which point avid mobile gamers and users of more demanding apps might want to pay a little extra for more RAM and internal storage.
In a sentence: A decent, affordable Android smartphone that makes minimal sacrifices to hit its low price point.
Price: £149 and up.
OnePlus is in the business of making serious smartphones and selling them for a fraction of the price of competitors. Case in point: the OnePlus 2. It has all the guts and performance of a market-leading flagship, with style and build quality being far from an afterthought. Those features alone make the price tag easy to justify, and that’s without mentioning the versatile 13-megapixel camera. OnePlus has held back in a couple of areas, understandably, such as opting for a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a Quad HD panel. Other compromises include a lack of expandable storage and NFC, which are likely to be either deal-breakers or features you can easily live without.
In a sentence: A inexpensive, near-flagship device that prioritises performance and price.
LG has released some excellent flagship smartphones in the past, but this year the company has skipped an incremental upgrade in favour of something much more adventurous. Top-tier performance and fun, flexible dual-camera array aside, the bottom bezel of the device is completely removable, making space for a couple of modular accessories LG calls “Friends.” These include a hi-res audio attachment and a camera grip that also extends battery life, which is pretty average otherwise. At this point, however, you have look beyond the few accessories currently available and hope others will explore the potential of the modular design even further.
In a sentence: A powerful Android smartphone that dares to be different
Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 is either another of Sony’s beautiful, polished products, or a slightly lazy attempt to tweak its tired “Omnibalance” design. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, you can’t dispute the build quality and high waterproof rating. The Xperia Z5 offers the kind of performance you’d expect from a genuine flagship, but pairs that with a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Gorgeous it might be, but it does fall short of competitors’ higher-resolution screens. What your money is primarily going towards is the 23-megapixel rear camera, which happens to be one of the best on the market. The Xperia Z5 isn’t cheap, but it won’t disappoint serious smartphone photographers.
In a sentence: Another lovingly built Sony smartphone with one of the best cameras around.
Fledgling British brand Wileyfox has made an extremely good first impression with the Swift. Like the Moto G, the Swift is all about crafting a low-cost smartphone that still provides an excellent user experience. With a relatively charming, all-plastic design, a bright 5-inch, 720p display and easily customisable Cyanogen software, there’s plenty to like. You also get a decent amount of processing power for an affordable device, though the 13-megapixel camera leaves quite a lot to be desired. However, aside from its underwhelming camera, the Swift deserves serious consideration if you’re after a good smartphone that doesn’t weigh heavily on your wallet.
In a sentence: An affordable Android smartphone that represents excellent value for money.
A couple of months back when Qualcomm was yet to fully unveil the Snapdragon 820 it was rumored that the new chipset was also facing overheating issues like its predecessor the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm was quick to shoot down those rumors and said that the Snapdragon 820 performed well within the parameters. Nevertheless it remains a concern for those who never fully took Qualcomm at its word that the Snapdragon 810 didn’t have any problems with overheating even though there was ample evidence to support the findings.
A new report out of Asia claims that to ensure that the Snapdragon 820 does cause such problems for the Galaxy S7 Samsung is now seeking internal heat pipe suppliers for its next flagship handset. The company is apparently experimenting with several different types and shapes of heat pipes, it will decide based on these experiments whether or not to include a heat pipe in the Galaxy S7 for the purpose of heat dissipation. This method has already been used in devices like the OnePlus 2 and the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium for this exact same purpose, it really won’t be groundbreaking at all if Samsung decides to do the same with the Galaxy S7. We exclusively confirmed a few months back that Samsung is going to release two models of the Galaxy S7 with variants being powered by either the Exynos 8890 or Snapdragon 820 processor based on the market.
It was reported that Samsung has sped up the development of its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S7, and the company is expected to unveil the device sometime in February 2016. Now, it is being reported that the Galaxy S7 will feature faster cellular connectivity.
According to a new report from Samsung’s homeland, both variants of the device will feature LTE Cat. 12 connectivity. Theoretically, LTE Cat. 12 download speeds max out at 600Mbps, while the upload speeds can reach upto 100Mbps. In comparison, the Galaxy S6 features LTE Cat. 6 with maximum download speeds of upto 300Mbps. Obviously, real-life speeds would be slower and it is necessary for your carrier to support these faster standards to achieve mentioned speeds.
In other sea of rumors and reports, the devices are expected to come in three processor variants – Exynos 8890, Exynos 7422, and Snapdragon 820 – that will be released in different markets along with 4GB RAM. The Exynos 8890 features Samsung’s first ever custom CPU cores, the M1 (a.k.a Mongoose), which will compete with Qualcomm’s Kyro and Apple’s Twister cores.
Samsung is also said to be testing multiple camera sensors for the Galaxy S7 including a 1/2-inch BRITECELL sensor with dual-photodiode technology and Sony’s IMX300 sensor that is used in the Xperia Z5 trio. It might also feature a magnesium alloy body, improved sound quality, and a USB Type-C port. Are you guys excited after realising that we might be just 3-4 months away from Samsung’s most feature-packed smartphone ever?