Smartphones are continually getting more and more impressive. Each year they add interesting new features and powerful new components. And they don’t always command the sky-high price tags that we’ve become accustomed to following the demise of the two-year contract. No matter how much you loved 2016’s phones, you can probably admit that you’re at least a little excited to see what’s waiting in the wings for 2017.
It’s common knowledge that major flagship lines will get updates in the new year. You can look forward to the iPhone 8 if you’re an iOS fan, or the Samsung Galaxy S8 if you’re an Android devotee. Or maybe you’re more excited by the prospects of a device like the LG G6, the HTC 11, the OnePlus 4, or even the Microsoft Surface Phone. But before you dive into the rumors about the specific device you’re after, you can learn a lot about how the smartphone landscape will change in 2017 by looking at the features that will appear almost universally in the best Android phones of the year.
Ahead, we’ve covered some of the most exciting components and features that flagships will get in 2017. Not every phone will get each of these, of course. But together, they’ll form the new standard of what you can expect from a high-end Android flagship in 2017. Don’t tell us that you aren’t a little bit excited to get a preview of the what the new year holds.
1. Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Raymond Wong reports for Mashable that Qualcomm has just announced “the chip that will power every premium Android phone in 2017.” The Snapdragon 835 will be produced using the 10-nanometer process. The first phones powered by the chip should arrive in the first half of 2017, and they will benefit from the 10-nanometer technology’s ability to offer a 27% performance boost and 40% reduction in power consumption. With the other features manufacturers likely have in the works for 2017’s flagships, those phones are going to need high-end processors.
2. CPUs and GPUs based on ARM’s Mali-G71 and Cortex-A73
Pete Pachal reported for Mashable halfway through 2016 that “the phones of 2017 will be all about VR” — a prediction we’ll address on the next page. Pachal reported that ARM, which designs the architecture for most of the world’s mobile processors, had just announced a new kind of chip, the Cortex-A73, and a new graphics engine, the Mali-G71. Both designs improve performance and save energy — and are perfect for virtual reality. You can expect 2017’s best phones to feature either ARM’s CPUs and GPUs, or chips based on the firm’s licensed designs, starting early in the year.
3. Virtual reality capabilities
Alex Dobie reports for Android Central that smartphone-based virtual reality is “primed for massive growth in the next year.” The arrival of Google’s Daydream VR platform is expected to prove a “catalyst” at the high end of the market for Android phones. Many 2017 models are likely to get VR capabilities. And to support them, 2017 flagships will need to “meet certain standards in terms of performance (so the thing runs smoothly), thermals (so it doesn’t overheat in the process) and latency (so you don’t experience nauseating lag when moving around).”
4. Dual-lens cameras
Dobie reports that another area where 2017 flagships could take a big step forward is their cameras. 2016’s flagships focused on low-light photography, with wider apertures, bigger pixels, and more advanced optical image stabilization. Most flagship lines have cameras with enough megapixels. (Adding more doesn’t necessarily improve performance, and in fact can hurt it.) But in 2017, you can “expect more high-end phones to pack dual-lens cameras.” Dual-lens cameras can not only offer better performance, but give users more flexibility.
5. Quad-HD screens or 4K displays
As Android Central noted, high-resolution screens will be a must for any 2017 flagship phone seeking to offer users a great virtual reality experience. Trusted Review’s Max Parker, discussing his wish list for 2017’s OnePlus 4, notes that a quad-HD screen is “really the minimum for VR.” Which means that the OnePlus 4, and other exciting 2017 flagships, are likely to feature quad-HD screens, or even 4K displays, as they add virtual reality capabilities.
6. Water resistance
Chris Welch reported for The Verge upon the launch of Google’s Pixel phones that the absence of water resistance from the devices’ spec sheets was “inexcusable.” He noted that water resistance has “become table stakes for premium smartphones in 2016.” Water resistance is useful in everyday situations, as well as in the rare instances when you drop your phone in a puddle or a swimming pool. Accidents happen — and 2017’s best phones should all be water-resistant.
7. Wireless charging
Manufacturers are fine-tuning their wireless charging technology, or working on entirely new implementations of it. Wireless charging is likely to be a standard feature on 2017’s high-end Android phones. The technology gives users more flexibility when it comes to charging their phones at night, or topping them off at the office. And with companies like IKEA building furniture with built-in wireless charging pads, it looks like the tech is just poised to get more popular.