Cut through 2015’s smartphone chatter

If you need a quick recap of what most major mobile brands have been up to over the past few months, this four-minute brief is a great refresher

This month has been pretty hectic for consumer technology, though January with the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and February/March with Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) aren’t any different. Luckily, of late, Apple has chosen to stick with September as its go-to month for new products, so we can club it together with IFA. However, as soon as September ends, we have a few days to justify why we need new tech toys before Gitex Shopper starts.

For those lucky ones who have stayed away from tech news over the past month and just need a simple recap of what went down and why you should care, turn the page to find out what most of the major smartphone brands have done so far.

Apple

Let’s begin with the brand most would like to hear about, Apple. Its two new smartphones, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, are a little better, slightly faster and much less bendier than their predecessors. Well, they would have to be wouldn’t they? But you already knew that. So moving on… both devices feature something quite cool called 3D Touch, which allows the device to sense how much pressure you apply to the display. This feature, called Force Touch, was first seen in last year’s MacBooks and Apple Watch, and ushers in an entire new era of user-smartphone interaction. I wonder if any other brands were inspired by this?

Huawei

Huawei was — its own Force Touch, announced a week before the latest iPhones, is spot on. Before long, every Tom, Dick and HTC will urge us to squeeze our screens, exercising the muscles in our thumbs we never thought we would ever use again. Huawei has stepped up though. Its metal-bodied Mate S (Click here for our  hands-on review) is easily one of the top Android phones available.

The Honor sub-brand, Huawei’s younger hipper sibling,  is doing quite well too, shipping about 20 million devices in the first six months of the year, with revenue of $2.63 billion (Dh9.66 billion). The Honor 7 features a fair amount of similar tech to the Mate S but looks younger, more exciting and a lot more affordable than other mid-range Android devices available. Cornering both ends of the market, it seems like there is a new player in town, and its not going anywhere anytime soon.

Samsung

Samsung gave us the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ mid-August and used IFA to promote its internet of things tech. The S6 Edge+, however, is a spectacular device. It was extremely well-received and is the go-to contender for the iPhone 6S Plus, holding the Android flag high while tech journos the world over poke and prod at every spec between the two trying to find a winner.

Since we can never stay content with the tech we have at hand, the next logical question would be: when can we get the S7 and S7+?

Codenamed Project Lucky — really — we could see these phones announced in February, possibly at the MWC. We do know that Samsung is dabbling in holographic displays and foldable tech, and though it is highly unlikely they will make feature in the S7, imagine how exciting it would be if they do.

HTC

I can’t sugar-coat this — HTC’s not doing very well. Last month, the company announced a 15 per cent cut in its staff of about 15,700 after a second-quarter loss of $247 million. And this month, the Taiwanese stock exchange removed HTC from its FTSE TWSE Taiwan 50 Index.

On the smartphone front, you would have noticed that HTC’s been rather quiet of late, though many HTC fans would rather the brand takes its own sweet time getting the One M10 right for 2016 instead of rushing out with it. We do know that HTC will be releasing a “Hero Product” in this quarter. Since it probably won’t be the M10, it could be called the HTC O2, Aero or One A9. The device is rumoured to boast powerful specs and an all-metal body. Whatever is it, whatever it has, and whenever we get it, all we can say is get in there HTC — We’re rooting for you!

Xiaomi

Xiaomi? Yep Xiaomi — the world’s fourth-largest smartphone brand after Samsung, Apple and Huawei. Xiaomi sold about 61.12 million phones last year and is extremely well received in its home country China, as well as in India and Southeast Asia. It’s only a matter of time before it could potentially challenge for the top two spots.

The simple-spec’d Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 for example, launched last month, sold 800,000 units in 12 hours and climbing to about 1.5 million in the first two weeks of its launch. Another wonder launched last week, the China-only Mi4C. Dubbed “The Little Prince of Android” by Xiaomi, the Mi4C features 13MP and 5MP cameras and the latest USB Type-C reversible connector. There’s also a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 thrown in, the same processor that’s found in the LG G4. How much does this smartphone cost? About Dh750.

Alcatel OneTouch

Despite operating in an extremely competitive market segment, Alcatel OneTouch comes off as a brand that’s just out to have fun. The Idol 3 released earlier this year is one of the best devices we’ve had in the office so far. It also featured in Avicii’s Waiting For Love music video — how cool is that?

This month, the brand announced the Go Play shockproof, waterproof and dustproof smartphone. This device can shoot pictures underwater, comes in eight crazy colours and ships with waterproof headsets. I’m not making this up.

With smartphones called Idol, Go Play, Conquest and Flash, as I said earlier, Alcatel OneTouch just wants to have fun.

Sony

Yes, everyone’s still talking about the Z5 — #GNTECH included (Click here for our thoughts on the device) — but what’s next for Sony? Though there are several rumours as to what the Xperia Z6 would feature, what we do know is that it could be released towards the end of 2016’s first quarter at MWC. Sony has set the bar quite high with the tech they packed into the Z5, so one of its successor’s variants is sure to pack in a 4K display.

If you thought the Z5 was sleek, it’s about the get sleeker. James Bond will be rocking the Z5 (the Xperia, Z5) in November’s Spectre. Sony also released an advert called Made for Bond where Miss Moneypenny is chased down by baddies as she tries to deliver Bond’s new Xperia smartphone. We’re not shaken, but definitely stirred.