A smartphone can have top-of-the-line specs and an affordable price tag but if it’s ugly, no one will buy it. Like it or not, design has a huge impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. It can make or break a device.
Most of this year’s smartphone announcements have been pretty average-looking. Some are just plain ugly. However, a few devices sporting super sexy designs, which instantly grab your attention, were also released this year. A really great design is something every manufacturer aims for, but rarely manage.
Here are five of the sexiest smartphones we’ve seen this year. What makes them so alluring? Let’s dive in.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung’s phone design made a huge leap forward with the Galaxy S8. The front of the device is gorgeous thanks to its thin bezels and curved display, both of which give off a futuristic vibe. It’s clean and elegant. It also doesn’t have a Samsung logo on top like its predecessor, which no one liked.
The back of the Samsung Galaxy S8 is simple but still eye-catching.
The Galaxy S8 has a premium-feeling metal frame and glass back too. The back of the handset is simple but still eye-catching and features a nicely designed camera sensor, with the flash module and fingerprint scanner to the left and right. The Samsung branding on the device’s rear doesn’t make it any less gorgeous. The back also has curved edges that not only look nice but help with handling.
Samsung’s flagship features four buttons located on its sides. The power button is on the right, sitting right where your thumb naturally rests— at least if you’re right-handed. The volume rocker is on the left side, above the dedicated Bixby button used for launching Samsung’s digital assistant. There’s a SIM card/microSD card slot on top and a headphone jack at the bottom alongside the USB Type-C port and speaker.
The device comes in a number of colors, although not all are available in every market. You can get it in Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Arctic Silver, Maple Gold, Rose Pink, or my favorite, Orchid Gray.
The Galaxy S8 is a stunning device, but it’s not perfect — no smartphone is. I think the overall design could be improved by placing the fingerprint scanner below the camera sensor, instead of next to it. This would look better and make the scanner a little easier to reach.
Huawei Mate 10
Huawei’s latest smartphone is a stunner and looks way better than its predecessor. It features a bezel-less design, but unlike the Galaxy S8, has the fingerprint scanner on the front. Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you ask, but what’s important here is that the scanner blends in with the overall design and looks really nice.
What makes the Huawei Mate 10 stand out from the crowd is the reflective stripe that runs horizontally across the cameras.
The Mate 10’s glass back is what makes it one of the most beautiful smartphones released this year. It has curved sides and a vertically positioned dual-camera setup along with a flash module and a Huawei logo that’s located on the bottom. The reflective stripe that runs horizontally across the cameras gives the device more character. It’s a simple design element which really improves the overall look of the Mate 10 and makes it instantly recognizable.
The power and volume control buttons are all located on the right side of the device and the SIM card slot can be found on the left. There’s a USB Type-C port at the bottom alongside a speaker, while the headphone jack is located on the top of the smartphone. There are four colors to choose from, as the Mate 10 comes in Black, Champagne Gold, Pink Gold, and Mocha Brown (which is the best one, in my opinion). You can take a closer look at the Mate 10 in the images below alongside the Mate 10 Pro.
The Mate 10 is simple and elegant, but also very stylish thanks to that gorgeous stripe. It has a little bit of everything and doesn’t take things too far, so to speak. Its design is universal and could be the key factor that will allow it to outsell its predecessor globally.
The LG V30 doesn’t have a design “X factor” that makes it stand out from the crowd but is nevertheless one of the most beautiful handsets on the market.
The LG V30 doesn’t try to be too fancy or dazzle you with some crazy design features but instead just sticks to the basics.
It doesn’t try to dazzle you with crazy design features, instead sticking to the basics. It has a bezel-less design with a very clean, branding-free front. The device comes in four color options: Aurora Black, Cloud Silver, Moroccan Blue, and Lavender Violet. No matter which one you choose, the front of the device is always black. This makes it look even cleaner, as the camera, speaker, and proximity sensor aren’t as visible as they would be on a white smartphone.
The V30 has a metal frame and a simple yet stylish glass back. The dual-camera setup is more minimal than on a lot of other handsets but — just like the fingerprint scanner below it — stands out due to the rim that surrounds it. The back also has a flash module to the right of the cameras, the V30 and LG branding, and curved edges for a great feel in the hand.
Looking at the sides, you’ll find the SIM card slot on the right and two buttons for volume control on the left. The power button is on the back and doubles as a fingerprint scanner, which is something that takes getting used to. The headphone jack is on top, while the speaker and USB Type-C port are located on the bottom edge.
There’s not really anything bad I could say about the V30’s design; it’s impressive in every way. One thing worth pointing is that although the glass back looks and feel premium, it can be a fingerprint magnet. So to keep it looking clean as the first time you took it out of the box, you’ll have to wipe it down often.
It might not have a bezel-less design like the rest of the devices on this list, but the Honor 9 is still one hell of a sexy smartphone.
The Honor 9 may not have a bezel-less design like the rest of the devices on this list, but it’s still a sexy smartphone. Its front is simple without any over-the-top design elements, as it features a camera, speaker, and proximity sensor above the display, and a home button/fingerprint scanner along with two capacitive buttons below it. The great thing about the navigation keys is their minimal design, both marked with a small dot for a cleaner look.
Just like the Mate 10, it’s the glass back that got the Honor 9 a place on this list. Its design is minimal and eye-catching. There are two small horizontally positioned camera sensors in the upper left corner along with a flash module, and the Honor branding sits a bit further down.
The back has curved edges and is very clean, which is always a good thing in my opinion. A clean design can sometimes be a bit boring, but that’s not the case with the Honor 9 mainly due to its light-refracting composition that enables some enthralling reflective patterns. Sure, its shiny back might not be to everyone’s taste, but it definitely gives a boldness to the phone’s minimalistic look. In terms of colors, you can get it in Blue, Amber Gold, Gray, and Black.
The smartphone sports a metal frame that makes it feel sturdy in the hand and has the power as well as volume buttons on the right edge. The SIM/microSD tray is on the left. An IR blaster can be found on the top. The bottom edge features a speaker, USB Type-C port, and 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Overall, the Honor 9 offers the best of both worlds in terms of design. It keeps things simple, but also comes with a shiny glass back to prevent it from looking boring like most recent smartphones.
HTC U11 Plus
The U11 Plus is without a doubt the most beautiful smartphone HTC has ever made. I mean, just look at it.
The front of the device looks very minimalistic thanks to the thin bezels surrounding the screen and the lack of HTC’s branding. The back is also quite simple, as it only sports a camera sensor, a flash module, the company’s logo, and a fingerprint scanner that blends in nicely and doesn’t stand out too much.
However, the back does have a liquid glass surface already seen on the HTC U11that’s quite reflective and gives the device more character. It’s very eye-catching and is the main reason that makes the U11 Plus one of the sexiest smartphones in the world.
The Translucent Black version of the U11 Plus is gorgeous and unique, as it reveals parts of the internal components.
The HTC U11 Plus comes in Ceramic Black, Amazing Silver, and the gorgeous Translucent Black that stands out from the crowd. What makes it unique is its translucent glass back that reveals various internal components. It’s a bold design feature that makes the device instantly recognizable.
The smartphone sports a metal frame for a premium look and feel and a textured power button that’s located on the right side, below the volume rocker.
The HTC U11 Plus is a real stunner, and there’s not a lot of bad things to say about it. The only thing worth mentioning is that although the back is extremely sexy, it’s also hungry for fingerprints — just like the majority of glass smartphones.
Each smartphone on this list is unique in terms of design, but they all have a couple of things in common. The first is that they are made from a combination of metal and glass, which is clearly the trend this year. Which doesn’t mean that smartphones with full metal bodies aren’t sexy anymore; metal handsets can look just as gorgeous and premium as those made of glass — just look at the OnePlus 5. However, a glass design is more eye-catching, especially if it has a reflective mirror finish and is paired with a vibrant color.
But a smartphone with a glass back does have a major drawback: it’s a fingerprint magnet. This means that after using it for a while, it won’t look anywhere near as gorgeous as when you took it out of the box for the first time. You’ll have it wipe it down often to keep it looking clean, which is a problem you won’t experience with a metal device. Glass phones are also much more likely to crack if dropped, but I guess that’s the price we pay for fashion.
The other thing these smartphones have in common is that what makes them sexy is a combination of simplicity and something a little bit extra. For example, the Galaxy S8 has a curved screen, the Mate 10 has a beautiful stripe that runs horizontally across the cameras, while the U11 Plus sports a reflective liquid glass surface and is available with a translucent back.
HTC has quietly started to push the Android 7.0 Nougat update to the Desire 530 now available at Verizon, You can Check it here how to Update. Launched on the market last year, the HTC Desire 520 wasn’t supposed to be updated to Nougat since it’s rather a budget-friendly smartphone.
Surprisingly, HTC confirmed recently the Verizon Desire 530 is now eligible for an Android 7.0 Nougat upgrade. It even published a very short changelog that contains some of the most important new features and improvements included in the update.
According to HTC, besides Android 7.0 Nougat, the update adds the August security patch, a bit older than what we’ve been expecting, but that will do until the Taiwanese company releases another security update (if ever).
Before proceeding with the update, make sure your phone’s battery is charged to at least 35%. Also, the update should take around 20 minutes and requires around 1.5GB free storage. The smartphone will reboot multiple times during the upgrade process, so don’t worry about that.
Android 7.0 Nougat is likely to be the last major OS update that HTC Desire 530 receives, so if you’re hoping to get Android Oreo in the future you shouldn’t get your hopes up.
Dual camera systems on smartphones have been around for several years now. Some of the earliest examples include the weird 3D camera on the HTC EVO 3D. Then it was HTC again who introduced it in a different form on the One m8. Then LG decided to drop in with its cool wide-angle lens with the G5 and the same year, Apple decided to take in the other direction by adding a telephoto lens on the iPhone 7 Plus. Meanwhile, Huawei had other ideas, with its Leica branded monochrome camera on the P9.
But just how many types of dual camera systems are out there and how do they differ from each other? Most importantly, are they any good or is it just a passing fad? Let’s find out.
The Depth Sensor
We will start with this as this is the most basic form of dual camera system. In this system, the primary camera is accompanied by a second camera whose only function is to 3D map the area in front of the camera. As you may know, we are able to see in 3D because we have two eyes with slightly different perspectives that help us convey depth, especially for things that are close to us.
The HTC One m8
The secondary camera in this system works similarly. With the second camera, the system can now tell roughly how far the objects in front of it are with respect to each other. This information is then used to separate the foreground subject from the background.
The most common use of this technique is to create a shallow depth of field effect. While it’s something that comes naturally to DSLR cameras with their big sensors and big lenses, the small smartphone cameras cannot achieve the same shallow depth of field. So instead, this technique is used to first figure out the borders of the foreground subject and then apply an iris blue effect on everything else. This gives the illusion of shallow depth of field.
Sample from the HTC One m8. Didn’t always work this well.
While sound in theory and occasionally in practice, this technique has its pitfalls. Unless your subject is a cardboard cutout, it will have depth to it and because this depth is not as much as the depth between the entire subject and the background, the camera occasionally ends up blurring the edges of the subject as well. Even when it does work reasonably well, it never quite looks natural, especially since most smartphone cameras that have this feature apply an even blur on everything in the background whereas with a DSLR, the intensity of the blur increases with the distance from the focus point.
Camera systems with a dedicated depth sensor is one of the rarest types of dual camera systems. The first popular use of it was seen on the HTC One m8 but these days only the most basic smartphones, such as the Honor 6X or the Lenovo K8 Plus, can be seen using a dedicated depth sensor lens.
The Monochrome Camera
A slightly more popular implementation of the secondary sensor is the monochrome camera. In this method, the primary camera is accompanied by a mostly identical secondary camera. Both cameras usually have identical sensors, apertures, lenses and focusing systems. The main and usually only difference between the two is that the second sensor lacks an RGB color filter. This means that the sensor cannot capture color information but on the upside, because there is one less thing blocking the sensor, the monochrome camera can capture more light.
Every time you take a picture, the camera system combines the output of both cameras and layers them into one image. In theory, the two images when combined will have greater detail and reduced noise. Alternately, you can also just shoot from the monochrome camera and get slightly better image quality at the cost of all the color information.
One of the first examples of this system was the Huawei P9 and since then, few other devices have also shipped with this system. To us, the advantages of this system are nebulous at best. While sound in theory, we can’t really say for sure if the feature does really work as advertised. We have seen some good results with this system in the past but its hard to tell if it was the dual camera doing all the work or it was just good image processing system.
Monochrome image from P9
There is no real disadvantage to this system and we do appreciate that it’s the only one of the systems discussed here that tries to do anything about the actual image quality instead of adding additional features but still, we would rather take some zooming ability over marginally improved image quality.
The Wide-Angle Camera
Debuted first on the LG G5 early last year, the wide-angle camera is pretty much what it sounds like. To take LG’s example, the phone had a 16 megapixel, 29mm equivalent f1.8 primary camera and 8 megapixel, 12mm equivalent f2.4 secondary camera. The 12mm focal length gave the secondary camera a crazy wide field of view that allowed the user to capture a much wider area without having to move back or capture interesting perspectives afforded by such a wide-angle lens.
We have mainly seen this on LG phones, with Motorola recently incorporating it in the X4, and we are fans of how it works. The wide-angle lens gives a very unique perspective that you simply don’t get at all on smartphone cameras and apart from having practical value (capturing a large group of people from up close) also lets you capture some really cool looking shots.
The early iterations of this system did have its disadvantages. On the G5 and V20, the ultra wide-angle lens image quality was nowhere near as good as the primary camera and also had significant barrel distortion that made it look like the footage from a GoPro with a fish-eye lens. However, LG has been steadily improving the system with every iteration and in its latest avatar on the V30, the secondary lens not only has highly respectable image quality but also significantly less distortion around the edges, making it far more useful.
Wide-angle on top and ultra wide-angle below from G5
With good implementation, this system does have the potential to be a really cool second camera system for particular scenarios and we wish more manufacturers adopted it.
The Telephoto Camera
The most common of all the dual camera systems today is the telephoto camera. In this, the primary camera is paired with a second camera that has a telephoto lens. As you can tell, this is the exact opposite of the wide-angle camera system, wherein it actually lets you zoom into your subject instead of zooming out.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Since the iPhone 7 Plus, manufacturers have stuck to using a 2x factor for the second telephoto lens. This means the secondary lens has twice the focal length of the primary lens, giving you an instant 2x optical zoom.
There are many advantages of this system. First is the most obvious, where you get 2x lossless optical zoom. Zooming on smartphones has largely been digital until now but with this you get to quickly move 2x closer to your subject with very little quality loss. Any further zooming is done digitally still but because the digital zoom is now being applied on top of 2x optical zoom, it gives much better results.
Wide-angle above and telephoto below from the iPhone 7 Plus
Shooting with a telephoto lens also has other advantages. Telephoto lenses are more suitable for portraits than wide angle as they have less distortion and is more flattering to the subject. Most manufacturers go one step ahead and also implement the background blur effect that we saw with the very first system we talked about today (the primary lens now acts as the depth sensor). The combination of a telephoto lens and background blur gives far superior results than just applying background blur on wide-angle images.
Of course, this system too has its disadvantages. So far none of the manufacturers have been able to get complete parity between the two cameras. When the iPhone 7 Plus launched last year, it had a much smaller aperture (f2.8) compared to the main camera (f1.8) and no OIS on the secondary sensor. The iPhone 8 Plus ships with similar arrangement (although the sensors are better this year) and even the iPhone X still has f2.4 for the second camera (although it does have OIS). The Note8 was the first phone with a telephoto camera to have OIS but even then it’s still f2.4 (compared to f1.7 on the main lens) and the second sensor is slightly worse even if it has the same resolution.
iPhone 8 Plus Portrait Mode with Studio Lighting
Due to this, there is generally a quality difference when shooting with the telephoto lens. It’s even worse in lowlight, where due to the small aperture, most manufacturers just choose to disable the telephoto camera entirely, and instead when the user taps the 2x button, the camera just does a 2x digital zoom on the primary wide-angle lens. Needless to say, any further zooming is also digitally done on the primary lens. There are ways to force the camera to use the second lens on some phones but the results are generally not worth it.
Still, most of these limitations seem to be temporary and something year after year advancements should take care of eventually. This is still by far the most practical solution of all the systems we discussed today. Not only does it give the user a much needed optical zoom ability but at a pinch also lets them take some pretty decent looking shallow depth of field images.
That’s pretty much it for the dual camera systems. Let us know in the comments which one do you prefer, and if you have any further queries or other topics you’d like us to discuss in the future.
HTC’s Edge Sense is arguably one of the most interesting new features to launch on a smartphone in 2017, so it’s no small surprise that the folks at HTC are doing everything they can to make it more useful. The Edge Sense app launched with only a handful of features, but HTC has slowly been adding more like squeeze to screenshot or launch an app.
Earlier this month we wrote about a beta update to test performing actions within apps using the Edge Sense feature, but it looks like this new feature is finally ready for prime time. HTC has posted a short video to their YouTube page demonstrating how to set up in-app squeeze gestures with the Kindle app by setting up squeeze to turn pages.
The new Edge Sense feature can be used to simulate any single or double tap on an app and it can be set according to screen orientation, so there are lots of options available to you. Here’s how to set it up on your HTC U11.
How to use HTC’s Edge Squeeze in any app
Open the app tray and tap Settings.
Scroll to the bottom and tap Edge Sense.
Scroll to the bottom and tap add more in-app options.
Select your app.
Tap Short Squeeze.
Your app will automatically open with a red hand at the top.
Tap the red hand and then select the area you want to interact with.
Since you can simulate single and double taps in any app you want, there are lots of ways you can use this feature if you have an HTC U11. Squeeze your phone to send a new status update in Facebook or Twitter, or anything you can dream up with the ability to create your own custom actions with Edge Sense.
espite the recent acquisitions by Google of some HTC’s smartphone team, it seems HTC has no plans to stop rolling with their smartphone division, or at least for now. A year ago we reported some code names which were leaked by LlabTooFeR. The HTC Ocean, HTC Ocean Note, the HTC Ocean Smart and the HTC Ocean Master. The Ocean came to fruition in the form of the HTC U11, the Ocean Note became the HTC U Ultra and the Ocean Smart has disappeared entirely. Now according to a report from the French Android blog Frandroid, we may be seeing the HTC Ocean Master, dubbed the HTC U11 Plus, a lot sooner than you may think.
Frandroid has reported a full list of specifications of the new device, citing a source at HTC for the leak. They suggest a November reveal initially in the Chinese market, with a likely release in the west in the future. HTC is reportedly entering the bezel-less market, with the help of an 18:9, 2880×1440 screen (supplied by Japan Design Incorporated) and no headphone jack (again). The full list of the specifications of the HTC Ocean Master (HTC U11 Plus) can be found below.
The “Edge Sense” feature is making a return, even if it largely turned out to be a gimmick (though, luckily, HTC began offering users more customization options). It seems this device is largely built on the successes of HTC’s previous devices, with improvements in some departments, notably their display efforts. The same camera sensor is allegedly the same one found on the HTC U11 as well, which is reassuring knowing how well the U11’s camera performs. It may also seem that the price may be lower this time around, as Frandroid points out that the HTC U11 was regarded as expensive at launch ($650), which HTC was not happy about. The waterproof rating is also great to see, as it means that it has total protection from dust and significant protection against water in depths over 1 meter.
The device is said to be announced at a conference on the 11th of November in China, as an attempt to regain some of the Chinese market.
HTC has submitted a new trademark application in both Europe and the US, specifically requesting the use of a new name: Vive Focus.
First revealed at Google I/O 2017 developer conference, both HTC and Lenovo announced they were building standalone VR headsets for the Daydream platform. Neither headset revealed its perspective name, only showing concept art and a black silhouette for HTC’s new headset.
Today, the Dutch publication LetsGoDigital (via VRFocus) brought the trademark applications to light, which were initially filed on September 8th. While HTC still hasn’t said anything on the matter, leaving some doubt about whether the naming scheme is indeed intended for the standalone headset, Google had said the devices will launch later in 2017. With the holiday season fast approaching, we’ll have a definitive answer either way soon enough.
image courtesy LetsGoDigital
The standalone Daydream VR headsets are said to include inside-out positional tracking—a decisive upgrade over the rotational-only tracking of the smartphone-powered Daydream View headset. Using a computer vision-based sensor system, that the company is calling ‘World-sense’, the tracking tech won’t require any external beacons or sensors to enable a room-scale mobile VR experience.
Both HTC and Lenovo standalone headsets are basing their work on Qualcomm’s ‘VRDK’ reference device, unveiled at Google I/O in May. We got a hands-on with an early prototype of Qualcomm’s VRDK standalone headset, and despite the fact that it was essentially one year-old tech at the time, Road to VR executive editor Ben Lang said that when left to roam a 10 foot diameter circular carpet, that the tracking was pretty robust. More importantly, the reference design clearly showed the signs of integrated eye-tracking, which puts the Focus naming scheme in a different light. If the supposition is true, it would mean Focus was named specifically to sell the benefit of eye-tracking to consumers.
Apple’s 2017 iPhones will inevitably influence the top end of the smartphone market. Here’s how it looks at the moment, with a number of key launches expected soon.
Smartphones are the focus of most people’s digital lives these days, and are likely to remain so until computing becomes truly ‘ambient’ — probably involving some seamless combination of wearables (particularly augmented reality [AR] goggles), IoT devices, cloud services and artificial intelligence (AI).
Following the launch of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, it’s a good time to take stock of the current state of the smartphone market by examining the vital statistics of leading vendors’ flagship handsets.
Apple‘s new iPhones, and Samsung‘s Galaxy S8/S8+ and Galaxy Note 8, show the general direction in which top-end smartphones are heading: powerful, attractive (and expensive) handsets whose user experiences increasingly leverage AI and AR, integrated with an ecosystem of add-on devices and services in various sectors including gaming, AR and VR, smart home, healthcare, shopping and office productivity.
Following last year’s well-publicised Galaxy Note 7 debacle and strong fourth-quarter performance from Apple, Samsung briefly ceded first place to its main rival in the Q4 2016 smartphone market. However, the Korean company swiftly returned to the number-one spot in 2017 (see chart). Apple‘s new iPhones face stiff competition from Samsung, Huawei and other top-five vendors, and from several manufacturers in the ‘Others’ category — including Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, OnePlus and Sony — that also offer premium smartphones.
“Despite some key launches in the second quarter from some well-known players, all eyes will be on the ultra-high-end flagships set to arrive this fall,” said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, when the Q2 2017 figures were released at the beginning of August. “With devices like the iPhone 8, Pixel 2, Note 8, and V30 in the pipeline, the competition will be fierce come September. We expect all the key players to promote their latest and greatest flagships with an assortment of deals, bundles, and trade-in offers across a variety of channels in most key markets,” he added.
Here’s how the flagship smartphone market looks following Apple‘s 2017 iPhone launch, presented as far as possible in graphical form. (Note: we’ll update this article as new handsets from Google, Huawei, LG and any other leading vendors are released.)
Screen size & Pixel density
Screen size — measured in inches across the diagonal — is a smartphone’s defining design characteristic, and the range on offer from leading vendors is now very wide. BlackBerry‘s 4.5-inch keyboard-equipped KEYone is the smallest, while Samsung‘s Galaxy Note 8 currently leads the field at 6.3 inches, with 16 out of the 25 handsets covered here falling between 5.5 and 6 inches. Display technologies are split between IPS LCD (Apple, BlackBerry, Huawei, HTC, LG [G6], Sony) and various species of OLED (Apple [iPhone X], Google, HP, Huawei [Mate 9 Pro], LG [V30], Motorola, OnePlus and Samsung).
Recent developments in smartphone displays include curved minimal-bezel screens with on-screen home buttons, 18:9 aspect ratio, Gorilla Glass 5 screen protection and — in the HTC U Ultra — a small secondary screen for notifications and other useful information (an idea recently dropped by LG when updating the V20 to the V30). Samsung‘s Note 8 is the only handset covered here that offers a stylus (the S-Pen). Apple‘s 2017 iPhones add True Tone technology (first seen in the 2016 9.7-inch iPad Pro) that automatically adjusts colour temperature and intensity to the ambient light, while the iPhone X made more space for the screen by removing the home button (and Touch ID) altogether.
The other key statistic here is pixel density, measured as pixels per inch (ppi), which factors in the display resolution. The graph below shows that Samsung (Galaxy S8) and LG (G6) lead the mainstream field with pixel densities of 567 and 564ppi respectively. The outlier is Sony‘s 5.5-inch Xperia XZ Premium, which offers a maximum 4K resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 for a massive 807ppi. This looks extremely impressive, but note that, for much of the time, the Xperia XZ Premium works at 1,080p resolution to save battery life, resulting in a much more mundane 403.5ppi.
Not everyone is comfortable with a large-screen handset, but if you want a leading-edge device, that’s increasingly what you’re being offered. If you’re happy with a large screen (>5.5in.) and also want high pixel density (>500ppi), you should be looking at Samsung‘s Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8+, LG‘s V30 or, if you’re happy to run Windows 10 Mobile, the HP Elite x3. If your hands are on the small side, the 5.3-inch Nokia 8 offers a good combination of moderate screen size and high resolution (550ppi).
Screen-to-body ratio & Thickness
Another key smartphone design metric is the screen-to-body ratio, which measures how much of a handset’s fascia is occupied by screen compared to non-display elements like bezels, camera lenses and control buttons.
If low screen/body ratios are ‘old-fashioned’, then Apple’s 2016 iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were showing their age at 65.5 percent and 67.5 percent respectively — and their 8 and 8 Plus successors have done nothing to change that. Apart from BlackBerry‘s KEYone, only four other handsets have sub-70 percent ratios: Google Pixel, HTC U Ultra, Nokia 8 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. The 4.5-inch KEYone is an outlier at 55.9 percent because, of course, it has a hardware keyboard, which decreases the screen-to-body ratio (and also increases the thickness compared to touchscreen-only handsets — see below).
At the other end of the scale, Samsung‘s Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8 handsets, with their curved Infinity Display screens and on-screen home buttons, lead the field with screen/body ratios of 83-84 percent. LG‘s V30 and Apple‘s new iPhone X are the only other flagship handsets with screen/body ratios over 80 percent.
Smartphone vendors often make much of the slimness of their handsets, and it’s clear from the chart below that Huawei is particularly keen on this design feature. Conversely, Samsung and Google (and BlackBerry) deliver notably thicker handsets:
Motorola‘s modular Moto Z2 Force, at 6.1mm with no Mods fitted, is the thinnest handset here. There are trade-offs though: the camera lens housing protrudes from the rear, and the device’s body is too thin to accommodate a 3.5mm headset jack. With the increasing use of glass on both the front and back of premium handsets (to accommodate wireless charging), most people immediately put their expensive and shiny new handset in a protective case, which renders the quest for extreme slimness somewhat pointless.
Volume & Weight
As you’d expect, there’s a clear relationship between a smartphone’s physical volume and its weight, although the variation around the trendline is interesting.
For example, the handsets that are thick for their screen/body ratio — notably the HTC-designed Google Pixel and Pixel XL, HTC U Ultra and U11 — are also relatively light for their volume, suggesting that there’s plenty of room for components inside the case. Another handset that’s below the weight/volume trendline is Samsung‘s Galaxy Note 8 — evidence, perhaps, of design changes following the Note 7 debacle (especially as the Note 8 also packs a smaller-capacity 3,300mAh battery than its ill-fated predecessor, which ran on a 3500mAh unit). Conversely, it’s noteworthy how Apple‘s iPhone 8 Plus is particularly heavy (at 202g) for its volume, that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are slightly bulkier and heavier than their predecessors, and that the 5.8-inch iPhone X is considerably lighter and more compact than Samsung’s 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 8.
Dust and water resistance
Another key smartphone design factor is resistance to the ingress of foreign matter, as commonly indicated by a two-digit IP rating: the first number describes dust resistance on a 1-6 scale, while the second describes water resistance on a 1-8 scale. The highest rating among the flagship handsets covered here is IP68, where ‘6’ indicates that the device is ‘dust tight’ and ‘8’ signifies that it can withstand immersion in water (usually at least 30 minutes to depth of at least 1m).
An IP rating of 5 for dust means the device is merely ‘dust protected’, while 7 for water means it can withstand immersion in up to 1m for 30 minutes, 4 means it can resist ‘splashing water’ and 3 means it can handle ‘spraying water’, both of the latter for at least 10 minutes.
IP ratings are not available for the BlackBerry KEYone, Huawei (and Honor) handsets, HTC U Ultra, Motorola Moto Z2 Force (although it does claim a ‘water repellent nano-coating’) and OnePlus 5. However, two of the flagship smartphones — the LG V30 and HP Elite X3 — also boast a military-grade MIL-STD 810G ruggedness certification.
Somewhat surprisingly, Apple‘s 2017 iPhones did not bump up their IP ratings from IP67 to IP68, to match Samsung‘s Galaxy S8/8+/Note 8. Looking ahead, it will be surprising if Google‘s second-generation Pixel handsets don’t move beyond IP53.
Chipsets, CPU & GPU performance
A flagship smartphone should do its job — launching, running and switching between apps, and displaying on-screen content — quickly and smoothly, without any delays or glitches that would mar the user experience. It shouldn’t become uncomfortably hot in operation either — or, of course, burst into flames.
Chipsets from four main vendors power the handsets covered here:
Apple‘s 4-core A10 Fusion (iPhone 7/7 plus) and 6-core AI- and AR-optimised A11 Bionic(iPhone 8/8Plus/X)
Samsung‘s 8-core Exynos 8995 in the Galaxy S8/S8+/Note 8 (worldwide versions)
Qualcomm’s mid-range 8-core Snapdragon 625 (BlackBerry KEYone); 4-core 820 (HP Elite x3) and 821 (Google Pixel/XL, HTC U Ultra, LG G6); and top-end 8-core 835 (HTC U11, LG V30, Moto Z2 Force, OnePlus 5, Galaxy S8/S8+/Note 8 [US/China versions], Sony Xperia XZ Premium)
HiSilicon’s Kirin 960 in the Huawei and Honor handsets.
Here’s how these platforms shape up in terms of processor and graphics performance, as measured by the Primate Labs’ multi-core Geekbench 4 (Gb4) and Futuremark’s 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (ISU) benchmarks respectively:
The top-performing chipset — on these measures at any rate — is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, with Gb4 and ISU scores of up to 6500 and 40000 respectively. Note that the Exynos 8995 versions of the Samsung S8 and S8+ deliver better CPU results but weaker GPU performance (benchmarks are currently only available for the Exynos 8995 version of the Galaxy Note 8).
Apple‘s A10 Fusion-powered iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were strong performers, with scores of around 5400 (Gb4) and 37000 (ISU), and the new A11 Bionic-powered iPhones are sure to see a significant speed bump when benchmarks appear (here’s a leaked report). At the 2017 launch, Apple claimed that the A11 Bionic’s two performance CPU cores are 25 percent faster than the A10, while its four high-efficiency cores are 70 percent faster. Apple‘s 2nd-generation performance controller is reportedly 70 percent faster for multithreaded workloads, while the A11’s GPU is 30 percent faster and delivers A10-level performance at half the power, according to Apple.
Also prominent are the Kirin 960-powered handsets from Huawei and Honor, which cluster around the 6000 (Gb4)/27000 (ISU) mark. Again, we expect to see a performance boost when the AI-optimised Kirin 970 chipset becomes available in the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro in October.
The remaining Snapdragon 821-powered smartphones on this chart — notably Google‘s Pixel and Pixel XL — are well behind the 2017 curve, and will certainly be updated with the 835 chipset in due course. Very much in last place in this company is BlackBerry‘s KEYone, which is powered by Qualcomm’s mid-range 8-core Snapdragon 625 SoC.
RAM & Storage
When it comes to memory, the clear leader of the pack is the OnePlus 5, which is currently unique in offering 8GB or 6GB of RAM. Next come seven flagship handsets with a maximum of 6GB, all of which bar the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 also have a 4GB variant. The most common RAM complement is 4GB, which is the only choice with 11 handsets and the maximum for BlackBerry‘s KEYone (which also comes with 3GB).
Apple has always fitted less RAM in its iPhones than the Android competition, and that hasn’t changed with its 2017 handsets: the iPhone X and 8 Plus have 3GB (like the iPhone 7 Plus), while the iPhone 8 has 2GB (like the iPhone 7).
As far as internal storage is concerned, Apple‘s 2017 iPhones stand out with their maximum complement of 256GB — a feature that betrays the company’s disdain for external storage expansion via a MicroSD card slot. Samsung‘s Galaxy Note 8 also offers a maximum of 256GB (in some territories), but has a MicroSD card slot too, making it the top choice for the data-hungry.
Google‘s Pixel handsets and the OnePlus 5 also lack MicroSD expansion and, like the previous-generation iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, provide up to 128GB rather than 256GB of internal storage.
The most common maximum internal storage complement is 128GB, which is offered by 13 of the 25 handsets covered here.
Cameras have become a key battleground for smartphone makers, and several approaches are currently on view among the flagship population. Although it wasn’t the first to do so, Apple kick-started a trend last year by offering dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus: a primary 12-megapixel (MP) camera with an f/1.8 wide-angle lens and optical image stabilisation (OIS), and a secondary camera with an f/2.8 telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom but no OIS.
As well as adding telephoto capability, Apple‘s dual-camera system allowed depth information to be calculated, enabling features like bokeh — sharp foreground and blurred background — to be supported on portrait shots that were previously the province of expensive digital SLR cameras with high-end optics.
Apple‘s 2017 dual-camera phones, the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, remain at 12MP but the sensors are bigger, faster and deliver better low-light performance, according to Apple. The iPhone 8 Plus has the same basic lens specs as the 7 Plus (f/1.8 wa + OIS, f/2.8 tele), while the iPhone X has an f/2.4 aperture on the telephoto lens and implements OIS on both cameras. Apple also takes advantage of A11 Bionic chip’s machine-learning optimisation and custom ISP to deliver a (beta) Portrait Mode feature called Portrait Lighting: here, depth sensing and facial mapping are combined to deliver real-time analysis of the light on a subject’s face and provide alternative lighting schemes — either pre- or post-capture.
For dual-camera handsets, the top bar is the wide angle or colour camera, while the bottom bar is the telephoto or black-and-white camera.
Huawei‘s Leica-branded camera system pairs 12MP RGB and 20MP monochrome sensors with 27mm f/2.2 lenses (f/1.8 in the P10 Plus), supporting OIS on the primary colour camera. As well as enabling true monochrome shooting and adding detail to blended RGB/mono shots, the 20MP secondary camera supplies depth information for bokeh-style images. The Honor 8 Pro has a similar (non-Leica-branded) system, but the secondary mono camera is 12MP rather than 20MP and there’s no support for OIS.
LG uses two 13MP sensors on the G6, one coupled with an f/1.8 autofocus lens with OIS and the other with an f/2.4 wide-angle lens lacking both OIS and autofocus. The LG V30 takes a similar approach, but uses a 16MP primary sensor with an f/1.6 lens (with AF and OIS) and a 13MP secondary sensor with an f/1.9 lens (no AF or OIS).
Both Motorola and Nokia take the Huawei approach, with colour and monochrome cameras: the Nokia 8’s Zeiss-branded system supports OIS on the colour camera, but the Moto Z2 Force does not offer OIS on either.
OnePlus and Samsung (Galaxy Note 8) go for the wide-angle/telephoto dual camera design, OnePlus with 16MP (wa) and 20MP (tele) cameras and electronic image stabilisation (EIS) rather than OIS, and Samsung with two 12MP cameras, both with OIS. Samsung also introduces a couple of neat dual-camera features: Live Focus lets you adjust the bokeh effect pre- and post-capture, while Dual Capture simultaneously captures photos from both the wide-angle and telephoto cameras.
Single rear cameras are an increasing rarity among the flagship population, but are headed (in resolution terms) by Sony and HP, with 19MP and 16MP units in the Xperia XZ Premium and Elite x3 respectively.
The fashion for ‘selfies’ and authentication via face recognition means that front-facing cameras, once something of an afterthought with a nod to video calls, have seen significant recent evolution.
Samsung, for example, offers both face recognition and iris scanning on its Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8 handsets, as well as a capable 8MP camera, while the Nokia 8’s Dual Capture feature lets you take pictures with the front and rear camera simultaneously (a.k.a. ‘Bothies’). Even more recently Apple more than matched Samsung’s functionality with the front-facing TrueDepth camera system and Face ID on the new iPhone X:
Apple’s True Depth camera system occupies a notch at the top of the iPhone X’s OLED screen.
To analyse your physiognomy, the flood illuminator detects your face, the infrared camera takes an IR image, and the dot projector places than 30,000 IR dots on your face. These data are fed into a neural network (in the A11 Bionic chip) to create a mathematical model of your face, which is then checked against the stored model on the handset — all in real time. The True Depth camera also enables Portrait Mode selfies with Portrait Lighting, and animated emoji called ‘Animoji’.
Here are the front camera megapixel counts for the 25 handsets under consideration, 12 of which are 8MP units:
Video capture is becoming an increasingly important smartphone camera feature — witness the fact that all bar one of the handsets covered here can record 4k (2160p) video with at least a frame rate of 30fps. The exception is BlackBerry‘s KEYone, which doesn’t support 4k video capture at any frame rate. Apple‘s new iPhones just upped the ante by supporting 4k video at 60fps, which will doubtless kick off another round of feature catch-up.
Slow-motion video is another popular feature, and Sony‘s Xperia XZ Premium leads the field here, supporting HD (720p) video capture at a startling ‘super-slo-mo’ 960fps. The current ‘standard’ for slo-mo video is 720p at 240fps, although Apple has again pushed the boundary by supporting full HD (1080p) video at 240fps in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X.
As resolutions and frame rates rise, image stabilisation — either optical or electronic — will become ever more important. It’s noticeably absent from Motorola‘s Moto Z2 Force, for example.
As flagship smartphones pack in faster processors, more memory, larger and higher-resolution screens, and ever more functions, so the toll on the handset’s battery increases. There are multiple trade-offs here: no smartphone user wants to have to recharge during a typical day’s usage, but manufacturers cannot simply fit ever higher-capacity batteries into designs that need to be as lightweight and elegant as possible in order to keep buyers interested. Get it wrong and a vendor can have a Galaxy Note 7-style debacle on its hands.
The state of the art in smartphone batteries is currently around 4,000mAh, while 14 of the 22 handsets charted here have battery capacities between 3,000 and 4,000mAh. Apple has not divulged the battery specs for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, and we’re awaiting the teardown analyses that will supply them.
A bigger battery obviously means longer battery life, as the chart below clearly shows. But given that design and safety constraints preclude the shoehorning of big batteries into tight-fitting cases, manufacturers also need to make it as convenient as possible for users — especially ‘power’ users who subject their devices to heavy workloads — to recharge their handsets.
Following LG‘s decision to drop the removable battery when updating the V20 to the V30, this feature is now absent from all of the top-end smartphones covered here. Fast charging is supported on all but the now-outdated iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, while wireless charging is available on Apple‘s new iPhones (8, 8 Plus and X), HP‘s Elite x3, the LG G6 and V30, and Samsung‘s Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note 8.
High-end smartphones are never going to be cheap, but Apple‘s newly launched iPhone X has broken new ground — the combination of Apple‘s historically high margins and a significant amount of new technology have seen to that. The entry-level 64GB iPhone X configuration costs $999, and if you must have the top-end 256GB model, be prepared to part with a princely $1,149 (and the same figure in UK pounds).
That’s a record for a mainstream flagship handset, although you can spend even sillier money on specialist secure/luxury devices like Sirin Labs’ Solarin if you really want to (although, as it turned out, few did).
Here are the list prices in US dollars for most of the premium handsets covered in this feature:
Notes: the LG V30 prices are converted from Korean won; the Nokia 8 price is converted from euros. The following handsets are not officially available in the US: Honor 8 Pro, Huawei Mate 9 Pro, Huawei P10 and P10 Plus. Where available, prices for entry-level and top-end configurations are shown.
Recent launches from Samsung and Apple have highlighted the increasing importance of artificial intelligence and augmented reality in high-end smartphones, with the underlying chipsets and developer resources evolving appropriately. At least for now, the smartphone will remain the portable hub for your digital life, and the flow of new devices will continue apace.
We aim to keep this roundup updated as new products, specification details and benchmarks appear. The next big launches expected are Google‘s second-generation Pixel handsets, Huawei‘s Mate 10 and 10 Pro, and LG‘s G7. Check back for updated information on these and other devices.
If you follow the news, you probably know that HTC U11’s standout feature is the Edge Sensepressure-sensitive frame which lets users squeeze the sides of the phone to get it to perform a certain action. Unfortunately, up until now the Edge Sense’s functionality was restricted to a few commands HTC had baked in.
But this won’t be the case for long. The Taiwanese company is in the process of rolling out a new beta update for Edge Sense which adds a bunch of new functionalities. It’s currently available for participants who have enrolled in the app’s beta program.
Most importantly, the new software update brings the ability to program short of long squeezes to prompt a specific function inside any app. You might remember that not so long ago HTC detailed some new Edge Sense squeeze actions including zoom in and out of Google Maps or Google Photos, browse around and exit the calendar, answer and end calls or turn off alarms. These default actions are now finally available to HTC U11 owners.
But the main draw here is that you can create your own shortcuts for any app of choice. For example, if you are an avid YouTube user, you can program a squeeze-to-play or pause action for this particular app.
The steps to do so are really simple. Open up the app to which you want to add the Edge Sense functionality and look for the little red icon sitting at the top of the screen. Hit it and then tap the exact area of the app you want the squeeze to activate.
However you won’t be able to activate more than one shortcut in one app, although enabling Edge Sense’s Advanced Mode will give you an additional action.
It worth mentioning here that an Edge Sense-like gimmick will be coming to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The feature will be dubbed “Active Edge”, but it remains to be seen whether it will be more useful than the Edge Sense.