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July 8, 2018

Mapping the most important phone announcements remaining in 2018

by John_A

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The second half of the year is setting up to be busy.

We’re in a little bit of a lull in terms of smartphone releases now, as all of the big names got out the door for the first half of the year and we’re now waiting about a month for Samsung’s other shoe to drop. But the Note 9 isn’t the only phone being released in the coming months — here’s a breakdown of what I’m looking forward to for the next few months of Android.

Motorola Z3 and/or Z3 Force – August 2

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Motorola is doing something on August 2 in its hometown of Chicago. The venue indicates that it’s going to be a U.S.-focused announcement rather than a global one, and since Motorola already pulled the trigger on the Moto G and E series, plus a quick reveal of the Z3 Play, earlier in the year.

This is likely to be the Moto Z3 and/or a tougher version called the Z3 Force. Considering how poorly received the Z2 Force was last year I’d like to see Motorola just stick to a standard Z3 that does it all and skips the shatterproof screen, but we’ll see. We know it’ll have Moto Mods compatibility, though. The Moto G and Moto E lines are bankrolling Motorola’s smartphone business, so the Moto Z3 and/or Z3 Force aren’t really of much consequence anyway, but I still really enjoy what Motorola is doing overall and want to see how it can make any attempt at all to stand out in a world of truly great smartphones from so many companies.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – August 9

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Samsung will be the first of the big launches for the second half of the year, and honestly it’s lining up to be a bit of a snoozer. The Note line has lost a lot of its uniqueness as the Galaxy S line has basically taken every feature but the S Pen at this point, and nothing about the latest rumors shows anything different in 2018. If the Note 9 comes out as a slightly larger Galaxy S9+ with a bigger battery (rumored 4000mAh) and some new S Pen features, it isn’t going to move the needle for me. But it’ll sell damn well regardless because of that stylus-toting fanbase that won’t settle for anything else.

The event in set for August 9, which is right around the corner. Samsung typically nails retail availability as well, so I would expect pre-orders to kick off early the next week at the latest — probably August 13 — with full sales and in-store availability a week later. That gets Samsung out well ahead of anyone else launching a big phone in September or October.

Sony Xperia XZ3 – Late August

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We don’t have many details on what Sony could be doing, but it typically uses the IFA trade show in Berlin to launch at least one phone. And given its rapid release cycle, we could be in for an Xperia XZ3 — or, at a minimum, some mid-cycle refresh of the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact. Sony already announced that the XZ2 Premium is coming, so IFA will have to be something else.

It’s hard to get too excited about yet another rapidly refreshed Sony phone, but the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact were solid phones — albeit expensive ones with very few standout features. Maybe Sony has something interesting lined up for the XZ3.

LG V40 – September

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The LG V40 looks like it will once again be a one-up of LG’s flagship from earlier in the year, with a rumored multi-camera setup with 3 cameras on the back and 2 on the front. Yes it’ll have a display notch, like the LG G7, but I’d also guess it’s going to have a larger display and battery as well. I sure hope LG does something more than that, but given how last year worked out I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.

LG launched the V30 at the very end of August officially, but it didn’t make it out to retail until mid-September. Given how much later the LG G7 launched this year compared to the G6, the V40 may be pushed back just a little. Still, I’d expect to at least see an announcement in September even if retailers don’t offer it up until October.

Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL – Early October

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I’m hyped for the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL. I don’t care that the 3 XL has a notch — I want to see the Pixel 2 and 2 XL taken to the next level with new specs, an even better camera, and hopefully much better displays. Happy to see the rumor that the smaller Pixel will have a tall 18:9 display, and dual front-facing cameras could be interesting considering how great Google does with one now. But really it’s all about the software and performance, which should be fantastic.

Google announced last year’s Pixel 2 and 2 XL at a multi-pronged hardware event on October 4, so that’s the timeline we’re currently working with for 2018’s release. That puts us inside of three months away from proper launch territory, which may seem like a long time now but will fly by as we see the rest of these launches before then.

OnePlus 6T – Mid-November

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OnePlus will probably have the year-end capper for big-time smartphone launches if it decides to stick to the twice-yearly cadence of releasing a “T” model — the OnePlus 5T launched in mid-November 2017, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same again this year. Like previous years, I’d expect the OnePlus 6T to be a mere spec bump, perhaps with a change to the cameras and a larger battery or some other small internal refresh. Nothing to get super excited over, but a good opportunity for people who watched several months of OnePlus 6 news trickle out to finally pull the trigger on getting a new phone.

Hardly a boring end to the year, right? With that calendar expanded, I have a few other random thoughts on the week:

  • I’ll have my full thoughts on the BlackBerry KEY2 down into a sort-of-review this week. In the meantime, read Daniel’s and Jerry’s.
    • Super-short version: I actually like the keyboard, but the rest of the smartphone experience doesn’t match what a OnePlus 6 can offer for $100 less, and that makes it a non-starter for me.
  • The latest Android P Beta on the Pixel 2 XL is extremely fast and smooth. The gestures still aren’t perfect, but goodness this is some great software.
  • I went through the dreaded MacBook Pro keyboard replacement process last week, as my keyboard failed for the second time in two years. Good on Apple for replacing it for free this time, but this design is garbage for reliability and I have a feeling it won’t be my last repair.

-Andrew

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