2017 Smartphone Trends and Predictions for International and Local Brands

As we welcome 2017, I reckon it's good to talk about what consumers can expect to get this year from the top players in the most popular gadget category today, the smartphone segment.

Let's start with possible trends in the flagship level.

I believe that many key features of upcoming top-of-the-line releases will merely be improved versions of main selling points of successful battleship models from 2016. These include the following:

1. Water and Dust Resistant build
2. Shell crafted from luxurious real metal and glass panels
3. Dual-optics camera module with variance in rendition per brand
4. 4K video recorder with OIS
5. High resolution front cam along with selfie-centric beautification software
6. Quad HD display panel
7. Modular construction (most likely limited to Moto models)
8. Iris Scanner or Next generation fingerprint scanner (integrated into the screen)
9, USB Type C port
10. Higher battery capacity.

As for the software and internal hardware of these pricey 2017 phones, I expect those running Android to feature version 7.1 Nougat and to be powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor complemented by at least 6GB of RAM.

Now, allow me to give you my predictions for international and local handset brands that are popular here in the Philippines:

Apple

Steve Jobs flaunting the first generation iPhone released in 2007 (Credit: Digital Trends)

Known for celebrating milestones, the Cupertino company surely has something amazing up their sleeves for the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Apple fans are already looking forward to a complete design revamp, thinner and lighter build, as well as improved display quality and resolution on the next generation model.

Additional Reading: Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, 5 Reasons They'll Be Worth The Wait

Samsung

Expect the Korean Giant to bounce back strong after the Note7 debacle of 2016. This year, the world's top handset vendor will prove that it is more than capable of rising above challenges and leading the pack in terms of introducing mobile innovations.

On December 19, 2016, I received an email from Samsung Philippines' official PR agency, dishing out interesting details about the company's 2017 flagship smartphone, which some are already calling Samsung Galaxy S8. Set to be announced within the next few weeks, the device will most likely have 1P68 Water and Dust resistance, around 16 MegaPixel resolution for the front camera 264GB of ROM, Dual SIM capability, bigger battery with fast charge support, and USB Type-C port.

OPPO

In 2016, popular Chinese brand OPPO achieved tremendous success in the Philippines with the breakout market performance of OPPO F1s Selfie Expert. In fact, according to GFK, the company is now the second most prolific handser vendor in the country, trailing only Samsung; This is an incredible feat considering that they've only been here for less than 36 months.

This year, we can expect OPPO to raise the level of its game as its competitors adjust to its growing dominance. I believe the company will also try to expand the reach of its popularity beyond the midrange segment with the release of a strong flagship level model combining stellar build, powerhouse internal hardware, good imaging capabilities, and industry-leading selfie-centric features.

LG

As someone who has owned an LG G3 and has played with the LG V20 extensively, I will tell you that the Korean company makes some of the best cameraphones out there. In 2017, I'm expecting LG to reinforce this image with the release of LG G6, which is rumored to also have a Dual Camera set-up and a military-grade construction similar to the V20. Oddly enough, however, (or perhaps, understandably so,) it's said that this year's flagship will no longer have the modular form factor and value-added feature of its predecessor.

Asus

If there's one thing I know for sure about Asus, it is that they make incredible devices - across all categories and price segments - that give consumers great value for money. And I know that they'll simply continue doing this in 2017. I'm personally expecting to see Water-and-Dust-resistant upgrades to all ZenFone 3 models this year. Oh, and a Dual-Camera main shooter set-up would be nice too.

Sony

Some of the best and most gorgeous cameraphones I've ever owned were made by Sony. There's no question to the legendary Japanese company's ability to craft amazing products -- not just in the smartphone category but across the board. However, last year, many consumers (and even Sony fans) got confused when the company changed its Xperia devices nomenclature and when it made an announcement to focus more on midrange handsets. Personally, I think everything about Sony Xperia Z5 Premium was a move towards the right direction; I mean, the fact that it had a 4K display proved that the company is still a trailblazer after all these decades. Perhaps, it would be best for the brand to build on that model in crafting the new flagship that can recapture everyone's fancy and imagination.

Nokia

New Nokia Android Smartphone Concept Design by AllTechFishy

On May 18, 2016, legendary Finnish giant Nokia officially disclosed that it's making a landmark comeback to the featurephone and smartphone industry via a strategic agreement covering branding rights and intellectual property licensing with HMD Global Oy (HMD). According to various sources, this return will commence in 2017 with the release of at least one flagship level Android smartphone within the first quarter of this year, followed by several midrange models.

Lenovo/Moto

A couple of months back, Lenovo Group President and CEO Yang Yuanqing announced that the Chinese company will focus only on releasing Moto branded smartphones this year and beyond in all relevant markets across the world. Lenovo Philippines has already started implementing this strategy with the release of Moto Z, Moto Z Play, and Moto G4 Plus as well as the introduction of Moto's new celebrity brand ambassadors. In the coming months, we should see the follow-up to these three amazing models; But I'm most excited about the update to the Moto Z, which I call the 'most daring and innovative smartphone of 2016' because of its well-rendered modular form factor.

Huawei

In 2016, the Chinese tech giant's partnership with imaging industry legend Leica bore fruit as both Huawei P9 and P9 Plus became best-sellers here in the Philippines and in many other key markets around the world. This year, the challenge for Huawei is to come up with strong upgrades to these models that incorporate new features while maintaining stellar camera performance. Personally, I think it would be great if Huawei P10 could have an IP67-certified body and 4K video recording capability for it to be considered as a viable alternative - yet again - to far more expensive flagship smartphones that will be released in 2017.

O+ USA

O+ Compact Pro 80GB and O+ Ultra 3.0 released in Q4 2016 are proof that the trusted handset maker is keen on crafting and releasing more cameraphones in the upper midrange price bracket moving forward. As an O+ fan and partner, I'd like to see the follow-up to the Compact Pro to still have top-notch internal specs while featuring a larger battery pack like that of the O+ Ultra line and to have front-facing soft LED flash for selfies.

Cherry Mobile


Last year, Cherry Mobile truly led the local handset industry in releasing devices with great internal hardware and value added features usually found on expensive handset models by international brands. For example, flagship-level Cherry Mobile M1 was the first Android smartphone from a Pinoy brand to have a Deca-Core processor, a USB Type C Port, and 4GB of RAM. On the other hand, Cherry Mobile Taiji is one of the first handsets in the world to have a secondary e-ink display at the back on top of the IPS screen in front! In 2017, I'm sure that CM would still be at the forefront of giving budget-conscious Filipinos a chance to experience the coolest innovations in the smartphone category for less.

Starmobile

Happy Man Philippines - maker of Starmobile devices - is actually the first local company to release a handset with Dual-Optics camera module. The sleek and powerful Starmobile Knight Spectra was launched in November 2015 and still remains to be the brand's top-of-the-line smartphone until today. This year, I'm excited to see a great upgrade to this aspirational model. Will the follow-up still have a dual camera set-up? I sure hope so as Spectra is already on the right track.

CloudFone

CloudFone made a lot of noise and captured a considerable fanbase in 2016 with the success of the metal-clad Thrill series as well as the handsome Next flagship release. In 2017, the challenge for the company is to make the most of the growing interest of Pinoys consumers in their devices as well as to reinforce their identity and branding. Consistency will be key for CloudFone in the coming months and years.

MyPhone

A huge chunk of 2016 was spent by MyPhone evaluating and changing its business strategy. The result was the release of several midrange Android smartphones with DTV feature, an across the board change in product nomenclature, and the seeming shelving of the brand's flagship-level Infinity line. I'm rooting for MyPhone -just like I do with all brands in this list - and this year, I'd love to see them reach the same success that they had in 2014 with the Rio series. It will be tougher because they now have more competition but with the right decisions, it's not impossible.

2016 is a year of extremes. For a couple of brands, it was marked by tremendous success. But for several companies, it was plain bad and even tragic. Here's to hoping that 2017 would be more fruitful and rewarding for all players in the smartphone industry. Because when all brands are doing well, they can come up with stellar devices that in turn benefit Pinoy consumers. Cheers, everyone!

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