This January is a quiet time in the mobile phone industry. We’re in a bit of a lull: all of the major U.S. carriers rolled out their holiday lineups last month, and big manufacturers including Samsung, LG, and HTC are all waiting for Mobile World Congress in late February to announce their 2013 lineups.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to wait for. New phone models are like New York City buses—if you just missed one, don’t worry, there will be three more along in five minutes. We saw a few interesting phones at CES in January, and both RIM and Samsung have signaled there are big things coming from them in the next few months.
You’ll notice I don’t have any rumored Apple or Amazon phones on this list. There just isn’t enough known about those rumored devices yet. We don’t know if Amazon is building a phone at all, although I think it should. Apple will obviously have more phones this year, but we don’t know when, what they’ll be called, or in fact anything about them. So we’ll hold back until we have some actual details there.
I’m also leaving out the admittedly interesting Chinese phones we saw at CES from Huawei, ZTE, and Alcatel (TCL). Those manufacturers don’t have a good track record of getting their flagship devices picked up by U.S. carriers, so we’ll wait until we see bona fide U.S. versions of their phones to include them in a list like this.
Anyone who lived through last year should have a disaster preparation kit right now, and that kit should include a simple, 911-capable phone. The SpareOnePlus is an excellent upgrade to the phone everyone should have, but nobody should ever have to use. It lasts 15 years on a single AA battery, and it works with any GSM SIM card. I’d pair it with an unactivated SIM from ReadySIM and rest assured that I can call for help when needed. The SpareOnePlus will be available early this year for $99.99.
5. Sony Xperia Z
Our other favorite phone from CES is slim and waterproof, with a gorgeous 5-inch 1080p display and all the other features you expect from a high-end Android phone nowadays. It’s a step forward for style when it comes to ruggedized phones in the U.S. While it hasn’t been announced for any US carrier, AT&T has been picking up Sony flagships recently, so we’re hoping to see this pop up there.
One of our favorite phones from CES is coming to the US by the end of the year. The Yotaphone is a well-designed Android phone with a 4.3-inch e-ink screen on the back. You can ‘throw’ images onto the back screen to turn it into a custom case; you can also use it to show the time and date, weather, RSS feeds, or other useful information. This is genuinely useful rather than a gimmick, and it’s genuinely new, too.
3. BlackBerry Z10
At its BlackBerry 10 launch event on January 30, RIM is anticipated to announce two new smartphones. I’m pretty sure this full-touch device is the model RIM will announce as its flagship. RIM will talk about how excellent its touch keyboard is, and the Z10 has the better chance of going up against phones like Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S III just by virtue of being full-touch. When I think “BlackBerry” I think “communication,” though, and then I think “savior from the universal purgatory of touch-screen keyboards,” so please excuse me if the Z10 is the new BlackBerry I’m less looking forward to.
2. BlackBerry X10
This is the BlackBerry I’m looking for. The X10 will have a physical QWERTY keyboard, and nobody does physical keyboards better than BlackBerry. Along with that keyboard, the X10 will run the new BlackBerry 10 OS, with spectacular multitasking, great new camera features, and the reliable, speedy messaging you’ve come to expect from BlackBerry. For existing BlackBerry fans, this will be the flagship model.
1. Samsung Galaxy S IV
It hasn’t been announced, but everyone knows it’s coming. Samsung will probably announce the next edition in its best-selling Galaxy S line at a standalone event in April, if past history is any guide. What will be in it? Well, at CES, Samsung was showing off a 5-inch 1080P AMOLED screen panel, so the S IV might have that. Samsung also announced the dual-quad-core Exynos 5 Octa processor at CES. As that’s the follow up to the quad-core Exynos in the international Galaxy S IIIs, the Octa might be the chip in the GS IV. We’ll see in April.
By Sascha Segan, PCMag