Staying caught up on the latest rumors on the wide world of Android smartphones can be a challenging task. That’s true any time of the year, but especially in the first few months, as smartphone manufacturers big and small gear up for a new year full of new phones and more capable software. So we’ve rounded up the latest, most exciting rumors to catch you up on what Samsung, Google, and other major players in the world of Android have in store for the year ahead.
1. Samsung could launch its own upgrade program
Reuters reports that Samsung is planning to launch its own phone upgrade program, similar to the one that Apple introduced last year when it unveiled the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. The company could begin the program once its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S7, goes on sale in South Korea. The program would enable customers to upgrade their devices each year, and could later be expanded to other countries.
If it works like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, the program would enable buyers to finance the purchase of a new phone with monthly installments. Customers would be able to upgrade their phone yearly. Until the Galaxy S7 actually appears, it’ll be impossible to know whether the rumor will prove to be true. But an upgrade program would incentivize users to get the latest of Samsung’s smartphones each year, and selling more smartphones each year is something that smartphone manufacturers are always looking to accomplish.
2. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 could feature a hybrid dual-SIM port
When Samsung adopted a unibody design last year, it eliminated the removable back and with it the removable battery and microSD card slot. But at least one of those features could make an appearance in the Galaxy S7. As Alexander Maxham reports for Android Headlines, one of the most recent rumors about Samsung’s next flagship phones indicates that Samsung is going to use a hybrid dual-SIM port, with one slot for a SIM card and the other for either a SIM card or a microSD card slot.
If the rumor proves true, the Galaxy S7 wouldn’t be the first Samsung smartphone to use a hybrid dual-SIM card slot, which has also appeared in the recently-announced Galaxy A9. The hybrid slot would give customers the ability to use a microSD card, while still maintaining the desirable unibody design, and offering the option of using dual SIM cards in situations and geographic regions where it makes sense to have two different numbers.
3. Samsung has reportedly cancelled the Galaxy S7 Edge+
Kris Carlon reports for Android Authority that it wasn’t that long ago that rumors held that Samsung would introduce four Galaxy S7 models: the standard S7, the S7 Edge, and a Plus version of both. But according to tweets by Evan Blass, the Galaxy S7 Edge+ may not actually be on its way. If the rumor proves true, that means that Samsung will stick with the standard Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge models, without abandoning the idea of a Plus variant altogether.
Recent rumors have put the size of the S7 and S7 Edge displays at 5.1 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively, which Carlon reports will enable the two devices to fulfill the role of a S7 and S7 Edge+, just with a different naming scheme. Last year, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge had the same size display, so offering the S7 and S7 Edge with different screen sizes would, in reality, just mean that Samsung is dropping the “Plus” name and actually getting rid of the regular-sized S7 Edge. That means that there won’t be an Edge screen option for the standard-sized Galaxy S7.
4. Google could introduce a new Nexus tablet in 2016
Google didn’t release a new Nexus tablet in 2015, for reasons that it hasn’t publicly discussed. But Quentyn Kennemer reports for Phandroid that “we need a new Nexus tablet in 2016,” perhaps even multiple tablets. He posits that “we need some sort of renaissance moment for Android tablets, and a big new Nexus slate could be the trick to getting the ball rolling on that.” A new Nexus tablet could enable Google to inspire other device manufacturers to make affordable tablets with unique features — something that hasn’t happened recently in the lackluster market for Android tablets.
Updating Android N to offer long-needed tablet features would be the first step toward reviving interest in Android tablets, and there would be no better way to show off the new features than a new Nexus tablet. When the operating system supports features that make purchasing a tablet worth it, developers will likely look with renewed interest at the opportunity to build apps that are intended specifically for a larger screen.
5. Amazon may be scheming to steal Android from Google
Amazon’s smartphone efforts so far haven’t worked out so well. But Amir Efrati reports for The Information that the company’s latest effort to get more customers to use its services on mobile is to create tighter software partnerships with Android smartphone makers. Amazon has reportedly discussed working with phone brands at the “factory level” to integrate its services in a deeper way than it currently does by simply preloading apps like it currently does with some manufacturers’ phones. As Efrati reports, finding a third party that would make a phone that resembles the Kindle Fire tablets as far as software goes would help Amazon gain more influence over Android.
As Max Slater-Robins notes at Business Insider, Google has rules that prohibit certain kinds of activity by software makers. The penalty for breaking those rules is a lack of access to Google’s core services, like Google Play. But upsetting Google may not be a problem for Amazon, which has been working on its own app store, which offers many of the same apps that are available in Google’s app store. Amazon clearly wants a bigger presence on smartphones, without having to split revenue with Google.
While it briefly made the Fire Phone, which ran a version of Android that integrated Amazon’s services, the phone was a failure. So the company has been expanding its app offerings and building separate apps for specific features. While iPhone users are currently the most valuable customers, consumers in emerging markets primarily use Android phones, which makes Amazon’s strategy a smart move in the long term.