Apple will unveil its newest iPhones in one week, and possibly an upgraded smartwatch, as well. But the rest of the industry has been trying to anticipate Apple’s moves with new phones and watches of their own. And the competition is bringing more useful new features to consumers than ever.
At the IFA trade show in Berlin last week, LG, Sony, and Lenovo’s Motorola introduced new phones. And after announcing its Galaxy Note 8 phone in New York two weeks ago, Samsung debuted several new smart wearables at IFA, as did Garmin. And Fitbit finally took the wraps off its long-awaited smartwatch on August 28.
Still, none of those new products garnered as much attention as Apple will grab next week on September 12 when it shows off its latest and greatest mobile devices. Apple is expected to show three new iPhone models, two that are quite similar in appearance to the current iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and one that is all-new, which analysts have dubbed the iPhone X, iPhone Edition, or possibly just the iPhone 8. A third generation of the Apple Watch is rumored to look like the current models, but includes an LTE modem to connect to wireless networks all on its own.
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Last year, Apple won the all important holiday shopping season, just narrowly beating out Samsung, according to IDC. Apple shipped 78.3 million phones versus Samsung’s 77.5 million. But that was in the middle of an ugly recall of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, which had a propensity to overheat and even explode due to a flawed battery design. At the same time, Apple failed to generate as much excitement as in the past by sticking with a similar exterior design for a third year in a row.
This year, both companies are hoping to improve. Analysts are salivating that Apple’s new designs for 2017 will stimulate a massive upgrade cycle and get iPhone sales booming again. Apple’s share price has already climbed 41% this year in anticipation and touched an all-time high of just below $165 last week. Samsung created new safety procedures to ensure no repeat of last year’s battery debacle.
Samsung’s new Note 8 is ready to take on the upcoming iPhones with an even bigger 6.3-inch screen that has narrow bezels so that the display covers more of the front of the phone. None of Apple’s models are rumored to have a screen bigger than 5.8 inches, but they will match the Note’s bright, sharp display by using OLED technology for the first time.
On the flip side, Samsung caught up to last year’s iPhone 7 Plus by adding a second camera to the back of the new Note that adds an optical zoom and can create a blurred background effect. Rumors suggest Apple is tweaking the dual camera design on this year’s models to improve image stabilization.
Lots of Phones
A lot of other phones are going to OLED displays with narrow bezels, including the new LG V30. The V30 also has dual cameras, but with some of the best specs every put in a phone, including the widest aperture too take in more light in darker photo opportunities and a video color mode that will help pro videographers process footage for the best appearance.
Sony’s new XZ1 will be one of the first phones to compete with the latest Android software against the new iPhones and the upgraded iOS 11 operating system. The 5.2-inch phone has am industry-leading 19 megapixel camera.
Motorola decided to bring out new phones that can compete on a different feature: price. With starting iPhones expected at the usual $650 and the all-new top-end model going for $1,000 or more, some competitors decided to bring out much cheaper models to fill the void with penny pinching consumers. Moto’s X4 starts at 400 euros, or about $477.
But Sony (SNE) and Motorola have struggled to match Apple and Samsung in advertising, distribution, and consumer excitement in the past, and that doesn’t seem much likely to change this year.
There are still several areas where Apple is likely to trump all of the Android contenders. Most of the Android phones rely on Qualcomm’s central processors, but Apple has its own line of chips and leaked benchmark tests suggest the new A11 chip could be considerably faster than Qualcomm’s cutting edge Snapdragon 835. And despite Google’s best efforts, none can match the iTunes ecosystem of the newest cutting edge mobile apps.
In the smartwatch market, Apple is rumored to be adding wireless capability to make its device less dependent on a nearby iPhone for connectivity.
Several competitors that rely on Google’s (GOOGL) Android Wear software tried that trick last year, but without much success. The key for Apple (AAPL) may be maintaining solid battery life with the additional power draw from a wireless modem. LG made its LTE-capable smartwatch ticker and heavier to include a bigger battery and still lasted barely a day.