2015 was a great year for Android. BlackBerry created its first ever Android device, and actually did quite a good job at it. Samsung revamped the design of its Galaxy S and Note lines, Sony produced its best device yet and finally changed its strategy in the hope of becoming profitable and Motorola once again proved that high-end and premium can still be affordable.
Most manufacturers that were struggling in 2014 managed to find their footing this past year, but for HTC this unfortunately wasn’t the case. They failed, I’d say miserably, at producing a successor to the highly-praised HTC One (M8) and later in the year, as a last resort, announced a device that looked suspiciously like an iPhone 6.
After such an eventful year, what happens next? Today I’m going to look through the events of the past year and what I’d personally like to see from each major smartphone manufacturer in 2016.
You’ve made a huge amount of progress, so don’t start slowing down.
If you look at it’s Galaxy S line, the company is clearly one of the most improved OEM’s of the past year. Previously the company relied on the same design and simply added software gimmicks to its devices in the hope of shifting them. Now that they actually have a design that most people like, I’d like to see them remove some of the bloatware. I personally feel that the latest update to TouchWiz, with its rounded, cartoon-like icons, seems a bit childish, which, in my opinion, doesn’t go well with the rest of the device. If the company really wants a personalized interface, they should look at HTC Sense. It’s unique, with hints of stock in it and doesn’t look or feel childish, if anything it looks quite sophisticated, a good thing if you’re trying to sell premium devices.
Another change I’d like to see, at least in its Galaxy S series, is an increase in battery size. Considering the Galaxy S6 was only 6.8mm thick, it shouldn’t be that hard to increase the battery size and still end up with a relatively thin device. Most people would probably like to see a microSD slot added, but that doesn’t bother me too much as long as there is enough internal storage, but, according to the rumours, a microSD slot will be added anyway.
Regarding the camera, Samsung already has one of the best smartphone cameras out there, which actually makes me really excited about what’s to come this year. Smartphone cameras improved a lot in 2015, and we probably won’t see the improvements slowing down anytime soon. With that said, now is clearly not the time to be slowing down on camera development. HTC has proved this over the last few years with its much hyped UltraPixel camera that ultimately disappointed and lost it sales, but now the competition is even hotter so its even more important.
Be original and unique again, don’t try copying others.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a big fan of some of HTC’s devices. I previously owned the HTC One X, which was a brilliant device. It was quick and snappy, the software wasn’t too bloated and the camera was one of the best around at the time, its only downfall was its battery which was simply awful, to be frank. Its successor, the HTC One, had an amazing aluminium design, which caused many other manufacturers to adopt the material, and it was also one of the best devices around at the time, especially with the brilliant BoomSound speakers. Its main downfall was the camera. In 2014 they announced the One (M8) which was everything that the One bought, just improved and refined in every way. The design, though similar, was even more premium than before. This was a perfect example of the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” actually working in the company’s favor.
Because the One (M8) sold well, the company appeared to get a bit cocky and decided to reuse the design for a third time in a row. This time though, the differences were so minimal that it was hard to distinguish it from the previous flagship (even the company mistook them in an advertisement). The hardware was improved, but the reviews just weren’t good enough, and all the hype around the new 20MP camera on the rear turned out to be for nothing as the sensor produced mediocre photos. Ultimately, this affected sales so much that it bought the company back into the red, after an extremely good year in 2014.
Towards the end of the year, the company was getting desperate, so it launched a new mid-range device, which looked suspiciously like an iPhone running Android. HTC obviously denies any wrongdoing and simply claims that it went back to its original “innovative design” roots and created what we know as the One A9. The device wasn’t created to be different, innovative or original, it was simply created to win back profits. If you don’t like iOS, but you like the design of the iPhone 6, then try the One A9, that’s why it exists.
It seems as though the company doesn’t get that everyone who liked the One or even the One (M8), liked them because they were different and original, there weren’t any devices out there that were similar at the time, at least when they were announced. The One M9 and A9 though, couldn’t be any less original and are ultimately quite boring.
The company does need to go back to its roots, but it needs to produce something unique that will wow people, without removing features that the company is known for such as its BoomSound speakers. I also think that they should include the UltraPixel camera once again, but this time as the selfie sensor on the front, and maybe with a couple of extra UltraPixels thrown in, instead of the usual four. One last piece of advice for the company, if you are going to name your flagship the HTC One, maybe just keep it at one device, or maybe even two, but don’t start announcing one device after another, it destroys the exclusivity of the HTC One name. From my point of view, the One A9 shouldn’t use the One name at all, it belongs under the Desire line, just like the rest of the company’s mid-range devices.
All in all, whatever the One M9’s successor is called – hopefully just the “All new HTC One” – it needs to be unique, innovative, have brilliant specs, and most of all, look different.
Keep doing what you’re doing.
I personally think the company is doing an outstanding job so far, even though it is perhaps not the most profitable company. It has been doing some really interesting things over the past few years. It all started with the original Moto X from 2013, which proved that a smartphone can still be considered high-end even if it doesn’t have the best specs on the market. That mindset was carried to the 2014 Moto X as well, which turned out to be one of the better smartphones of the year, despite its bad camera.
Then in summer, the company did something unexpected and launched the new Moto X Style, available unlocked from just $399.99 for the base model. For a brand new, high-end device directly from the manufacturer, this was an amazing price and still is today.
As well as the new Moto X line, the company also launched the new generation of the Moto G and E, which brought some big improvements too. With 2GB of RAM and a 13MP camera, the Moto G was now on par with many upper mid range devices, while still maintaining the low-end price tag. Another big selling point was the addition of Moto Maker customisation. The Moto E also got a big upgrade and now includes 4G LTE on all models.
Overall, the company should simply carry on with its current strategy of producing devices with good specs and features at a low cost.
Work more on improving the software experience.
I don’t think many people would disagree with me when i say that the LG G4 and V10 were easily two of the best devices of 2015. They have a more original design than most flagships which sets them apart from the competition and they both have one of the best smartphone cameras around. As well as all of this, LG is one of the last manufacturers that still offers a removable battery and a microSD slot, much to many consumers delight.
The LG V10, on the other hand, is basically a G4 on steroids, keeping all of the good and just improving on the rest, but, as with the G4, the software, more specifically the UI, still isn’t good enough. The current software is somewhat bloated and the look and feel is a bit mismatched.
Given the fact that they already make some of the best hardware, if they manage to improve the software experience, the company could significantly improve its sales numbers.
Maybe actually change the design this year.
Sony is probably not the first manufacturer you think of when talking about smartphones, especially if you are from the USA, but it doesn’t mean they produce bad ones.
The company consistently produces some of the best hardware, but often enough, there aren’t enough changes over the previous model. They are known for their Omnibalance design which has been in use since the original Xperia Z, announced back in 2013, and has been refreshed every six or so months ever since, each time with very minimal design, hardware and even software changes, so minimal that it is often hard to distinguish the models.
This September, the company finally appeared to get the memo that a very minimal update every six months was not beneficial for itself or for its customers. It skipped a number and went straight to the Xperia Z5, which probably was one of the biggest updates to the line in a long time, in terms of hardware at least. There’s a new processor, a long awaited new camera and a new fingerprint sensor. Also launched was the larger Xperia Z5 Premium, the first device with a 4K display. All of this, as well as the compact model, marked a change in the company’s strategy and a new focus on high-end devices.
It’s clear the company can produce a good device, but it has taken the philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” way too far. The design changes from one device to another have been so minimal that they are virtually indistinguishable from each other. Even with the latest iteration, the only noticeable difference is the frosted glass rear, which, up until now, has been glossy.
Another area where they need to improve is software, specifically the speed of updates. A 6 month wait for an update to the company’s flagship is simply unacceptable, especially when you have an overlay that is pretty minimal. After all, HTC manages to do it in 90 days with its flagships, and Motorola managed to roll out the Lollipop update to its flagship before even the Nexus devices had received it.
Improve your software before it’s too late.
The past two years have been really good for Huawei, especially 2015, but there’s still a lot of improvements that can be made.
Huawei has released a number of smartphones this year –the Mate S, P8, P8 Lite, Honor 7… – all of which have very good hardware and features for the price, and in some cases a premium build and very capable cameras. The only problem, in my opinion, is the software. Much like LG, the UI, called Emotion UI, is quite a bit behind the current level of its hardware. Frankly it looks very childish from my perspective and tries too hard to imitate iOS.
Huawei proved to us this year that it can make a truly brilliant device with brilliant software, which came in the form of the highly praised Nexus 6P, which, to many, is considered the best Nexus device by far, and is certainly one of the best devices available. The hardware that the Nexus 6P features is of no higher standard than what Huawei would use in its flagships, but what makes this device stand out is, in fact, the software it uses.
The fact that Huawei’s Emotion UI is not of the standard of stock Android means its other devices aren’t as compelling, especially its flagships. If Huawei can rework its software this year, and bring it up to standard, there’s a good chance the company could easily end up becoming one of the biggest competitors around.
You’ve proved you can do Android devices. Now keep improving them.
Before BlackBerry released the Priv, the only mobile presence it had was in the enterprise market. The only benefit to buying a BlackBerry over an Android or iOS device was the high level of security that it provided, which is why the company decided to change its strategy and develop what we now know as the BlackBerry Priv.
The Priv, which stands for privilege and privacy, was the first Android flagship in years to sport a physical keyboard. It provided a near stock experience and pretty good hardware inside a device with a relatively premium design.
The device, though BlackBerry’s first one to run Android, turned out to be one of the best smartphones released in 2015. This alone proves that the company knows a lot about making smartphones and that there’s still a lot of life in the company. The main downside to the device though, was its pricing.
Over the past few years, smartphone prices have gradually decreased, up to the point where the new Moto X Style can be bought unlocked for just $399.99. The Priv offers similar hardware to the Motorola, but it cost a hefty $699.99.
BlackBerry should continue making Android devices, but maybe think of lowering the price a little on future devices, otherwise they’re just losing customers for no reason.
So this is what I want to see in 2016, let me know in the comments below if you agree or if there’s anything you’d like to see from the manufacturers.