The Best of MWC 2018

5 High-End Smartphones to Put on Your Radar


March 1, 2018 Tech By Photo by Jarry Truong

Even though Apple and Google didn’t have a presence this year, Mobile World Congress (MWC) is still the mobile industry’s biggest annual trade show. And at this year’s show, a lot of smartphones were announced, including the next-gen flagships by Samsung, Sony, Asus and even Nokia. There were cool concept phones and several iPhone X copycats, too. Here’s are the five most important smartphones you need to know about.

Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+

The Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ are the company’s new flagship smartphones, taking the torch from last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+. In many ways, they are the best of what Samsung’s previous Galaxy S8/S8+ and Galaxy Note8 had to offer, with a few new neat tricks.

The good: The camera is the big selling point here. Compared to last year’s Galaxy S8 and S8+, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ have improved rear-facing cameras with Samsung’s all-new dual-aperture camera system, which allows users to adjust the aperture from f/1.5 (the widest aperture ever on a smartphone) to f/2.4. The result of this is that both phones are great for shooting in low-light situations. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ also promise to be great at capturing slow-motion videos thanks to a camera sensor that’s four times faster than the one found in last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+. What really separates the two phones’ cameras are that the S9+ is the first Galaxy “S” smartphone with a dual-lens camera system, similar to last year’s Galaxy Note 8. Other notable charges on both phones include relocation of the rear-fingerprint sensor (to the center) and an improved “Intelligent Scan” feature that combines combining Retina and facial scanning to make unlocking the S9/S9+ is more secure. Both phones have stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support.

Watch out for: The Galaxy S9/S9+ look and feel virtually the same as last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+. The front cameras, battery capacity and ruggedness of both phones are the same, too. The dedicated Bixby button is still there. Samsung has improved its DeX docking station for those who want to edit photos or play mobile games on a larger screen, but we’re guessing most people won’t use/buy it.

Availability: The Galaxy S9 and S9+ will be available to order on March 2, and they’ll be in stores everywhere on March 16. The Galaxy S9 will cost $720 and the Galaxy S9+ will cost $840. The phones will be available in three colors: lilac purple, midnight black and coral blue.

Read our first of the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+, here.

Key Specs:

Display: 5.8-inch Quad HD+ Curved Super AMOLED (S9) / 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Curved Super AMOLED (S9+)
OS: Android 8 Oreo
Processor: Snapdragon 845 (both)
Rear-facing camera: 12MP AF (S9) / Dual 12MP AF wide and tele photo (S9+)
Front-facing camera: 8MP AF (both)
Memory: 4GB RAM (S9) / 6GB RAM (S9+) / Expandable up to 400GB (both)

Sony Xperia XZ2

Sony’s flagship smartphones haven’t been much to write home about in recent years. The Xperia XZ2 (along with the new Xperia XZ2 Compact, which essesntially is the Xperia XZ2 with a smaller 5-inch display) looks to change that. It’s a smartphone with the hardware and design chops that match it up against the best new Androids of 2018.

The good: The Sony Xperia XZ2 has a large 5.7-inch display with a “tall but thin” 2:1 aspect ratio. It’s built with a snappy Snapdragon 845 processor and runs on the latest Android 8.0 Oreo OS. It has an impressive 19-megapixel camera that can shoot 4K HDR video as well as good slow-motion videos (1080p at 60fps). It supports AptX HD and LDAC codecs for hi-fi listening, and it also has stereo speakers. Sony also integrated something called “Dynamic Vibration System,” which makes the phone vibrate when you’re watching certain videos and other media to make them feel more immersive (you can turn this feature off if you want). Its water-resistant and supports wireless charging.

Watch out for: There’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. The display doesn’t take up the entire front of the phone — aka, its bezels are pretty prominent compared to other flagship smartphones. There’s no dual-lens system for the main camera.

Availability: The Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact will be available this coming March. Both will ship with Android 8.0 Oreo. US pricing has yet to be confirmed.

Key Specs:

Display: 5.7-inch FHD+ (2160 x 1080)
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Processor: Snapdragon 845
Rear-facing camera: 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera
Front-facing camera: 5-megapixel
Memory: 4GB of RAM

Vivo Apex

Vivo, a Chinese smartphone maker, revealed a stunning new concept smartphone called the Vivo Apex. Not only does it have an full-screen display with even fewer bezels than the iPhone X and Essential Phone, but it’s decked out with a front-facing camera that’s totally unique.

The good: The Vivo Apex has a “wow” factor unlike anything else at this year’s MWC. It has a better screen-to-body ratio than the iPhone X (82-percent compared to the Vivo Apex’s 95-percent) and a selfie camera that pops up from the inside of the phone, sort of like how the viewfinder pops up on some point-and-shoot cameras. Maybe most impressive is that Vivo is the first smartphone manufacturer to include a fingerprint reader that’s built directly into the phone’s display. The Apex has this feature, plus a proximity sensor and a speaker that is also built into the display. That speaker is particularly interesting because instead of traditional speakers, the Apex’s screen vibrates to create sound.

Watch out for: The Vivo Apex is such an innovative phone with so many new technologies that there will be doubts about how well the smartphone will work as a whole. It’s still a concept phone, however, and it’s likely that it won’t come to market anytime soon. Or at all.

Availability: No pricing or availability information has been released.

Key Specs:

Display: 6-inch edge-to-edge OLED (2,160 x 1,080 resolution)
OS: N/A
Processor: N/A
Rear-facing camera: dual-camera system (exact specs N/A)
Front-facing camera: 8-megapixel pop-up camera
Memory: N/A

Nokia 8 Sirocco

Last year, HMD Global, the company that bought the rights to sell Nokia phones in 2016, released the first Nokia-branded Android smartphone, called the Nokia 8, and it was more or less underwhelming. This year’s Nokia 8 Sirocco, however, is an upgraded versions of last year’s smartphone that feels very different. For starters, it’s beautiful.

The good: The Nokia 8 Sirocco is 95-percent glass with curved glass edges, making it feel not too dissimilar from the newer Samsung Galaxy S smartphones. (These edges are admittedly flatter than the aforementioned Samsung’s, though.) It has a 5.5-inch display, similar to the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus, and a dual 12-megapixel camera system with Zeiss optics. It has Pro Camera mode, which last year’s Nokia 8 didn’t, to give photographers more manual control options. It also supports wireless charging.

Watch out for: There’s no traditional headphone jack, so wired headphones will need a dongle or to connect via USB Type-C. It has neither the latest Snapdragon processor nor run the latest Android OS. There’s no US release date yet, either, and this phone is likely to be expensive.

Availability: It will be available in April for roughly $1,000, but only in Europe. US availability and pricing have yet to be released.

Key Specs:

Display: 5.5-inch (2,560 x 1,440)
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo One
Processor: Snapdragon 835
Rear-Facing Camera: 12-megapixel standard lens, 13-megapixel telephoto
Front-facing camera: 5-megapixel
Memory: 6GB RAM

Asus Zenfone 5

The Zenfone 5 is Asus’s mid-range smartphone with specs that fall between the company’s flaghip, Zenfone 5, and its entry-level Zenfone 5Q smartphones. It looks eeirily similar to an iPhone X and has what Asus calls an “AI Display,” which keeps the screen lit up while you’re looking at it.

The good: The Zenfone 5 looks great if you like the way the iPhone X looks. It has the signature notch and vertically-mounted dual camera system. Essentially, you can get the look of an iPhone X for less. It has a very fast processor and a pretty good camera. It also has a very good dual-speaker system that supports DTS Headphone:X surround sound technology.

Watch out for: Even though the Zenfone 5 looks like an iPhone X, it obviously isn’t. You won’t run iOS or have nearly as good of a camera or have many other features that the iPhone X has. It also has an LCD display, rather the vivid OLED of the iPhone X.

Availability: The Zenfone 5 is expected to be available in the US this April. No pricing information has been released.

Key Specs:

Display: 6.2-inch Full HD+ (2,246 x 1,080)
OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
Processor: Snapdragon 845
Rear-facing camera: 12-megapixel standard (ƒ/1.8) and wide-angle lens
Front-facing camera: 8-megapixel (f/2.0)
Memory: 8GB of RAM

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