Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, the first Android Circuit of 2019 includes details on the three new Galaxy S10 smartphones from Samsung, OnePlus continuing to roll out software updates, five lenses for the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, more details on the Nokia 9, and my choice for ‘Smartphone of the Year’.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
This Is The Galaxy S10
Lots of details are emerging around Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Lite, S10, and S10 Plus. Let’s start with the workhorse Galaxy S10, with a number of leaked images and video coming out this week. Forbes’ Gordon Kelly reports:
As you can see in the image below, the Galaxy S10 (codename ‘Beyond 1’) will be an almost entirely bezel-less phone with the exception of a cut-out in the corner of the display for the front-facing camera.
The design is likely to polarise opinion with some preferring a notch or standard bezel, but credit goes to Samsung for daring to be at the forefront of what is likely to become a new trend in 2019 (and for iPhones in 2020) with its most important device.
Samsung Galaxy S10 “Beyond 1,” in the wild. pic.twitter.com/EMquh59Kln
— Evan Blass (@newsoftwarepathways.comevleaks) January 3, 2019
Details are also out on the larger Galaxy S10 Plus. Thanks to leaks of some third-party cases, coupled with details already known, we can see how the S10 Plus has increased the size of the screen without impacting the dimensions:
…Ice Universe shows in a new video that the phone (which is expected to have a display up to 6.7-inches) has a chassis no larger than the 6.2-inch Galaxy S9+. How? By making the tiny bezels of the Galaxy S9 even smaller.
…In an accompanying video, Ice Universe shows the Galaxy S10+ will switch up to a horizontally aligned triple lens camera (primary + wide-angle + 2x optical zoom) but perhaps the biggest news is what doesn’t change: the cases show Samsung has chosen to retain the headphone jack for another generation.
Then there’s the Galaxy S10 Lite. The entry-level model does come with a single rear camera (matching the main camera of the dual- and triple-lens higher models), an in-screen fingerprint reader, and a flat screen (i.e. no curved edges). That could satisfy many people, but the relatively smaller size means Samsung’s traditionally small battery volume trend will continue:
With each passing year, Samsung has been giving fewer reasons for customers to opt for the smaller of the Galaxy S flagships. The gap keeps widening and may well reach a tipping point with the Galaxy S10. Early reports suggest that the basic version of the Galaxy S10 will lose out on the triple rear camera and dual front camera setups, as well as on the curved display. The device could also be on the receiving end of a few other specs, such as base storage. And now the new revelations about its battery capacity aren’t promising either.
The South Korean certification for the S10 Lite battery reveals a Li-ion battery with a rated capacity of 3,000 mAh and a total capacity of 3,100 mAh, so the actual performance may be similar to the Galaxy S8 or S9’s battery.
Is Samsung Listening To Apple?
Is there a warning flag for Samsung in Apple’s very difficult week? Given part of Apple’s issue is the global markets, yes (although Apple’s pricing policy and push to be a ‘fashion name’ is unique to Cupertino). Vlad Savov thinks so:
Smartphones, the iPhone especially, have been on a constant growth trajectory for so long that we’ve come to expect them to keep perpetually expanding as a category. But, just as desktop PCs eventually reached a saturation point where almost every home that could afford a computer had a decent one, smartphone shipments had to eventually hit a level at which demand for them tapered off. That point was reached sometime over the past couple of years, driven by three major long-term factors: the shrinking benefit when upgrading from a recent phone to the latest model, the increasing average price of new devices, and the concordant reluctance to treat smartphones as things to be disposed of every year or two.
More on that theory at The Verge. And let’s not forget that Samsung Display, while a separate business unit to Samsung Mobile, counts Apple’s iPhone line as one of its biggest customers.
OnePlus Continues To Push Software Updates And Development
OnePlus has kept everything ticking over in terms of software updates. Following last week’s release of Android Pie for the OnePlus 5 and 5T, the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T have picked up the latest beta versions of OxygenOS, just as we left 2018:
The Shenzhen-based company has already pushed Android 9.0 out to the OnePlus 6, while the OnePlus 6T had the latest major version of Android out of the box. The Open Beta program continues the development of OxygenOS with the latest Android code and a number of new additions…
Of course as beta software these downloads may not be completely stable, but they are optional. Once the bugs (if any) are found, then the changes will make their way to the mainstream release of OxygenOS, hopefully without any noticeable flaws.
Huawei Mate 30 Pro Could Hold A Penta Lens
Although it is turning into a similar story to the ‘how many blades in a razor’ method of selling smartphones, 2019’s latest trend could well be the penta-lens camera. The latest manufacturer to hint about the specification busting conglomeration is Huawei. Its latest patent includes a number of case design renders. Ricky and the team at GSM Arena investigate:
It is believed this case isn’t for the upcoming P-series flagship that Huawei usually announces during H1, but more possibly for the next Mate-series device which won’t be announced until sometime in H2. We couldn’t even make the argument that this is actually a P-series case because Huawei puts the cameras in the corner for the P-series, but centers them for the Mate series.
There are a couple of peculiar things about these renders. The first and most obvious one is how much larger the opening is than on the Mate 20 Pro. When compared to the initial renders of the Mate 20 Pro’s case from the same source, the camera window is the same width but definitely taller than the Mate 20 Pro’s. This leads to speculation of Huawei using this extra space for a five-camera setup.
Nokia 9 PureView “Beholder.” HNY pic.twitter.com/x4Kh3anP46
— Evan Blass (@newsoftwarepathways.comevleaks) December 31, 2018
Nokia 9 Penta Lens and In-Display Fingerprint
Huawei may not be the only penta-phone on the market during 2019. Noted leaker Evan Blass has tweeted the latest image of the Nokia 9 (above). The Nokia 9 is expected to be announced at next month’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, with the five lenses a key distinguishing feature. Babu Mohan picks up the story:
…the upcoming Nokia flagship smartphone will not be significantly different from the current Nokia 8 Sirocco in terms of design. We can also see that the smartphone has a glass back and a solid metal frame in the middle.
Thanks to the glass back, Nokia 9 PureView will offer Qi wireless charging support. The smartphone appears to feature an 18:9 aspect ratio display with relatively thick top and bottom bezels compared to most recent Android flagship smartphones. The smartphone’s PureDisplay display panel will measure 5.99-inches diagonally with 2K resolution and HDR10 compliance. While the smartphone will not have razor-thin bezels, it will sport an In-display fingerprint sensor, a feature that we have not seen on any Nokia-branded smartphone so far.
As 2018 came to an end, my quixotic task of deciding on my ‘smartphone of the year’ arrived. But how could I decide?
There’s no empirical way to measure this, and that means the process is more about looking at a list of this years phones; thinking about how I feel about the handsets, the manufacturer, and their day-to-day usage; and deciding which handset rises to the challenge, says something about the manufacturer behind it, and has made a lasting impact on the industry in the last twelve months.
But before I name my personal winner, I want to talk about some of the notable smartphones that didn’t reach the top spot.
Tiny spoiler, it’s not an iPhone. To find out the winning handset, read the full annual review here on Forbes!
Android Circuit rounds up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!