Bigger iPhones, New Android & Windows Phones, And Selfie Sticks

iPhone 6 - 4.7 & 5.5 inch screens rumored

After a quiet summer, we’re heading into the season for new product announcements. Here’s a roundup of some of the phones that will be arriving soon.

Apple – iPhones

The big announcement of the season will be the new iPhones, which will be announced by Apple on September 9. It is widely believed that Apple will offer two models with larger screens than the current 4” iPhone – probably a 4.7” screen and a 5.5” screen. The news will be greeted with joyous screams and possibly fainting, and Apple will be hailed as an innovator for finally catching up to a trend toward larger devices that has been in progress for a couple of years now.

Make sure you hold them in your hand before you order one. A phone with a 5.5” screen is big, no matter how thin it is. At the moment the sweet spot for most people is a 5” screen; Apple is missing that size for its own inscrutable reasons.

The phones will undoubtedly be lovely and include some interesting new features. If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, it will be a good time to upgrade. If you’re not already in the Apple ecosystem, keep in mind that buying an iPhone is potentially a lifelong commitment.

John Paczkowski at re/code predicted today that Apple will also introduce its long-rumored iWatch, or some wearable technology, at the September 9 event, with connections to its two new platforms, Healthkit for health and fitness, and HomeKit for controlling home devices.

Apple – iPads

It’s worth noting a rumor from Bloomberg this week that Apple is preparing to offer an iPad with a 12.9” screen, far larger than the current 9.7” model. Tablet sales have plateaued this year as people have moved instead to phones with bigger screens, leaving Apple looking for something to shake up the iPad line. Bloomberg predicts that production of the larger iPads will begin in the 1st quarter of 2015.

If the rumor pans out, Apple will be hailed as the most innovative firm in the universe for coming up with the idea of a larger tablet. Who would have thought of that? Why, it makes me sit back from the 12” screen on my Surface Pro 3 tablet/laptop hybrid and shake my head in wonder.

Android phones

A recent report estimated that there are nineteen thousand distinct Android devices in the world today, with more flooding onto the market daily. Big, small, cheap, expensive, locked to a carrier, unlocked – trust me, if you start trying to comparison shop, you will be overwhelmed.

Just about everyone has new models coming out this fall. Wait a month or two before upgrading to a new Android phone.

Sony and Samsung are expected to announce new phones at a tradeshow in the first week of September. LG will have a new phone but the rumor mills are mostly buzzing about its expected round smartwatch. Motorola (now owned by Lenovo) will be announcing new products on September 4, likely including a new version of the Moto X Android phone that was a favorite among techies in its 2013 incarnation because of its “pure” Android experience. Many reviewers are fond of the HTC One M8, now a few months old. (More about the HTC One below.) There will be many, many more.

Keep an eye on the advertising and note one cultural shift: many of the new phones will be built to emphasize their forward-facing cameras instead of the rear camera, and advertised as “selfie phones.” It’s not good or bad, it’s just a reflection of how we’re using our phones. If you travel, watch the people taking pictures. They’re not taking pictures of the landmark or the sunset – they’re taking pictures of themselves in front of the landmark or the sunset.

And if you want a glimpse of the real horror that lies ahead, go read about selfie sticks. Apparently they’re used routinely all over Asia, and Paul Thurrott just returned from a trip to Barcelona shivering with horror at how many people were using them in Europe. I have to think they’ll be commonplace here within a few months.

Windows Phones

HTC is the first major manufacturer to release a Windows Phone running on the same hardware as a popular Android Phone. The HTC One M8 with Windows is literally identical to the HTC One M8, but running Windows Phone instead of Android. Microsoft is now offering Windows Phone to manufacturers for free and relaxed the hardware requirements so new Windows phones can appear on Android hardware without requiring expensive development from scratch. If HTC is successful, other manufacturers may follow suit.

Microsoft will announce new Lumia phones in the next month or two. At the moment they’re expected to be midrange phones, not expensive flagships, but presumably Microsoft will keep improving the cameras, one of the strengths of the Lumia line. Don’t overlook the value of the cheap Lumia 530 and Lumia 630, available unlocked for almost nothing. They’re perfect as near-burner phones when paired with a month-by-month plan from AT&T or T-Mobile.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. The next couple of months will be a blur of new devices and barrages of high-intensity advertising to go with them.