Trying to stay up to date on the latest rumors about what’s going on in the wide world of Android smartphones? It can be a difficult area to keep tabs on, particularly as smartphone manufacturers big and small gear up for a 2016 full of new phones and upgraded software. Fortunately for you, we’ve rounded up the latest must-know rumors and reports to clue you in on what Google, Samsung, LG, HTC, and other major Android players have in store for the year ahead.
1. Samsung could introduce at least three Galaxy S7 variants
As Alex Dobie reports for Android Central, the rumors about the next generation of flagship Android phones are picking up ahead of this year’s Mobile World Congress. A decent number of those rumors are about Samsung’s Galaxy S7, which might appear in at least three different variants at MWC. Multiple variants aren’t new for Samsung, but as Dobie notes, “launching the regular, curved edge and bigger curved edge+ models all at the same time would be a big deal.”
2. Google I/O 2016 is scheduled, and speculation is just starting
As Chris Welch reports for The Verge, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has announced that the company’s I/O developer conference will be held May 18 to 20 at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre. The announcement sparked immediate speculation about what Google will announce at the event, which is traditionally used to unveil the next major release of Android.
Some think the venue change was prompted by Google’s need for an easier place to demonstrate its fleet of self-driving vehicles (or at least one that’s a little more convenient than San Francisco). Many tech fans, those at The Cheat Sheet included, have noted that improvements to Android for tablets are at the top of this year’s wishlist for Android N, which should include some support for side-by-side app multitasking. The absence of such features has limited the appeal of devices like Google’s Pixel C.
At I/O 2016, Google could also make some announcements that clarify its much-rumored plans to bring Android and Chrome OS closer together. Other topics that Google is likely to address at the conference include updates to Android Wear, Google Chrome upgrades, announcements related to Android Auto, a possible launch for Project Ara, progress on Project Fi, and announcements on the company’s projects on self-driving cars, virtual reality, and the smart home.
3. HTC might make two Nexus phones this year
As Brad Reed reports for BGR, a new rumor posted on Weibo claims that HTC will produce not one, but two Nexus phones this year. The rumor indicates that HTC is expected to make a 5-inch display and a device with a 5.5-inch display, though it doesn’t share any additional specifications that you can expect from the Nexus phones Google will unveil this fall.
It’s safe to assume that both devices will run the next version of Android, which we’ll hear more about at Google I/O. While HTC has been criticized for the One M9 and the One A9, which was widely regarded as an iPhone copycat, HTC still makes quality hardware. In a collaboration with Google, Google would be calling the shots on the specifications and hardware, which would likely feature a camera at least as good as the one in 2015’s Nexus 6P.
4. The first Project Tango smartphone is coming
Google and Lenovo made the announcement at CES that they’re collaborating to introduce the first consumer-ready smartphone equipped with Project Tango, a project that “combines 3D motion tracking with depth sensing to give your mobile device the ability to know where it is and how it moves through space.” As Android Central reports, the smartphone is still in the prototype phase, and the companies didn’t share a mockup at CES, though it did share renderings of what the phone may look like when it’s ready for consumers.
As Dean Takahashi reports for VentureBeat, Qualcomm will supply a Snadpragon processor that will power the device, and both Google and Qualcomm have collaborated with Lenovo to develop the smartphone. The smartphone will have a screen that measures under 6.5 inches diagonally, and more than 5,000 developers are already making apps. The device’s 3D sensing capabilities will enable games and apps that are aware of your surroundings, offering an augmented reality experience using technologies like computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors.
5. The LG G5 could feature a modular design
LG has already sent out invitations for its event at MWC, and speculation about the company’s G5 smartphone, the successor to last year’s well-received LG G4, is heating up. Rob Triggs reports for Android Authority that one of the latest rumors indicates that LG’s next flagship phone could feature a modular design that enables users to disassemble the lower portion of the smartphone in order to slide in a new battery.
If that’s true, the smartphone would likely feature a USB port, speakers, and even a headphone jack that can all be disconnected and reconnected. The modular design is apparently aimed at creating a thinner unibody smartphone, possibly with a metal construction, while still retaining the ability to integrate a removable battery. If LG is planning to implement the design in the G5, it would also likely move the volume rocker to the side of the smartphone.
The phone has also been rumored to feature a “Magic Slot” that serves as an expansion port for plugging in accessories like a virtual reality headset, an external keyboard, or even an audio amplifier. Other specifications that have been shared include a 5.3-inch QHD display, a secondary ticker display, a Snapdragon 820 processor, a 16MP camera, and a fingerprint scanner.
6. Huawei could launch four P9 smartphones in 2016
Rob Triggs reports for Android Authority that Huawei, which has become a major player in the global Android smartphone market, is planning to launch a small range of P9 smartphones this year in order to appeal to a wide range of consumer preferences.
Though the source of the rumor doesn’t share details on the specifications of those different models, the source does say that Huawei plans to launch four different versions of its 2016 flagship phone, including the standard P9, the budget-friendly P9lite, a larger P9max, and an “enhanced” P9 that would incorporate additional hardware features. The P9max is reported to feature additional RAM and more storage than the standard P9, while the enhanced P9 could integrate a dual 12MP camera sensor.
Huawei is expected to stick with 1080p displays for the smartphones in the P9 range, since the company has concluded that the additional battery drain that would result from a QHD display isn’t worth the slight boost to the image quality. Huawei is reportedly going to forgo announcing these phones at Mobile World Congress, and will instead hold its own, dedicated event to unveil them a few weeks after the event.
7. The optical sensors at the top of your phone could be replaced by ultrasonic ones
As Pete Pachal reports for Mashable, if you’ve been annoyed by the ugly black sensors that have appeared at the top of smartphones for the better part of a decade, then you’ll probably be glad to hear that those unsightly black dots could finally go away thanks to new technology being developed by a startup.
The tiny but noticeable dots are your phone’s proximity sensors, and they enable it to do things like dim the screen when you lift the phone to your ear to answer a call. Pachal explains that optical proximity sensors “have to be black and ugly,” but ultrasonic sensors don’t. Ultrasonic sensors can be built directly into the audio components speaker, which would eliminate the black dots and make their functionality even more accurate.
An Oslo-based startup named Elliptic Labs says that it’s developed a way to turn a phone’s microphone and earpiece into an ultrasonic proximity sensor, which would make a big aesthetic difference on most Android phones. (If you have a Samsung phone, for instance, you’re probably pretty familiar with the twin dots above the display.) Switching from optical sensors to ultrasonic ones would also free up some space within the phone for other components, like higher-capacity batteries.
Elliptic Labs says that it’s made agreements with five smartphone manufacturers, two of them major global brands, with more companies signing up. Replacing optical sensors with ultrasonic ones could also pave the way for ultrasonic gesture control, and ultimately an Internet of Things play that Pachal says we can expect to hear more about at this year’s Mobile World Congress.