MWC 2018 preview: the smartphones we're most excited to see

MWC 2018 preview: the smartphones we're most excited to see

Samsung, Huawei, Nokia, and more – here's what should debut at this year's Mobile World Congress

It's a new year, and a new year means new smartphones – faster, sleeker, and all-around better smartphones. So obviously, we want to see which handsets we might be wielding in the coming months.

We should get our first glance at many of them at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona in late February. The annual smartphone-centric show usually ushers in the year's first big device debuts, and along with a confirmed Samsung Galaxy S9 appearance, we're expecting to see and touch plenty more in a few short weeks.

As always, we'll be onsite to bring you all of the latest coverage – but for now, here's a look at everything we expect (and hope) to see at MWC 2018.

It's no longer a rumour: Samsung's mobile boss confirmed at CES this month that the Galaxy S9 will make its debut at MWC. And we've already heard quite a bit about the sequel to last year's top Android thanks to a bevy of purported leaks.

The gist of it? Well, the Galaxy S9 will probably be a lot like the Galaxy S8, much like the Galaxy S7 didn't go nuts on changes after the dazzling Galaxy S6. But when you're building off of the absolute best phone on the market, it's hard to be disappointed with that approach.

We expect the Galaxy S9 to mostly retain the design of the S8 aside from minor nips and tucks, packing in a faster new Exynos chip or Snapdragon 845. The one significant change may be the swap to a dual-camera module on the back, like the Galaxy Note 8, albeit with the rumoured addition of adjustable aperture for serious smartphone shooters. That speculative render above isn't legit, but it should be close based on the leaks.

What's Lenovo got on tap? If recent leaks are any indication, it'll be a whole lot of Moto phones. Droid-Life received a load of renders and specs for the next-gen Moto line, and even notorious leaker Evan Blass says he's never seen a leak "as thorough, as early, and as potentially damaging to a company" like this before.

We don't know yet if all of these phones will debut at MWC, but the new Moto G6 models are likely given that the G5 launched last spring. According to the leaks, there will be a standard Moto G6, a Moto G6 Plus, and a Moto G6 Play. All three will seemingly have 18:9 extra-tall displays (5.7in on the G6 and 5.93in on the G6 Plus), offering up a budget-friendlier alternative to the flagship trend, along with Galaxy S8-like 3D glass on the back instead of metal.

Given when the other phones launched last year, it's less likely that the Moto Z3 and Moto X5 will debut at MWC. The leaks show a Moto Z3 and Z3 Play with 6in, 18:9 borderless screens at 1080p resolution – a step down, but the leak suggests another Z3 model may release at Quad HD resolution.

And what's a little mind-blowing is word that Lenovo may release a Moto Mod for the Z3 that adds 5G speed capabilities. How would that work? No idea! But we're into it.

Meanwhile, the Moto X5 marks a big design shift: it has an iPhone X-like notch with the display wrapped around a pair of front cameras. So that might be happening. We'll probably find out later this year, though, since the X4 was just released a few months back.

Nokia's smartphone comeback story has been good but not great so far - and the Nokia 8, shown, underwhelmed. But we're hoping the Nokia 9 is the phone to finally make the Finnish legend a true heavyweight again.

From the leaks and rumours, we expect a flagship-level handset with an extra-tall, 18:9 screen and a design that pairs Galaxy S8-esque curves with a more familiar Nokia touch. And with a price pegged to be around that of the OnePlus 5T, it might be able to undercut some of its flagship rivals while offering a comparably strong experience.

That's the rumour, at least, but we'll wait and see how it turns out. And Nokia could unleash quite a bit more: an updated Nokia 6 has already launched in China and could go worldwide, and perhaps there will be a full line update to try and put up a stronger front in 2018.

Chief product officer Juho Sarvikas says to expect their MWC showing to "be awesome," so we're certainly intrigued.

Last year's Xperia XZ Premium (shown) went crazy on the specs, packing in a 4K HDR display along with top-of-the-line everything else, but underwhelmed a bit overall with lacking cameras and too much bulk. But maybe the Xperia XZ Pro can make a bigger impact.

That is Sony's hope, at least, and some leaked specs suggest it could happen. We'll reportedly see another 4K OLED screen at 5.7in, although it didn't seem terribly consequential the last time, but this time it'll be a taller 18:9 display like nearly every other new flagship on the market.

Further specs suggest a new Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB RAM, 128GB of storage, and a dual 18MP/12MP back camera setup. We'll have to see how much Sony is charging for it, however, and whether they can pack in a bit more style than before.

Normally, we'd expect an LG phone to be near the top of a list like this, but that's not the case for 2018. 

If a recent report proves true, we may not see the G7 at MWC – or for a few more months. Korean site The Investor claims that LG's CEO ordered the project rebooted, and that it could be April at the earliest that we see the G7 appear. Given LG's gradual slide out of the smartphone spotlight of late, they'll need some bold moves to regain steam.

Instead, an updated version of the V30 is on the cards. LG has confirmed as much, saying it will reveal new AI-powered camera features for a 2018 edition of its top-spec handset. This Vision system should be similar to the one on Huawei's Mate 10, Google Lens on the Pixel 2, and Bixby Vision on the Galaxy S8. Apparently it'll improve your low-light photos, too.

Whether the updated V30 will have extra storage, a faster CPU, or a screen that copes better with HDR content than the original remains to be seen.

Possibly the biggest launch from someone not called Samsung or Sony will be the Asus Zenfone 5. Last year's ZenFone 4 was an excellent mid-ranger, if a little too expensive in the light of the OnePlus 5 and Honor 9, so Asus will be aiming to get it right this time around. A huge leak seemingly revealed the ZenFone 5 weeks before MWC, with dual selfie cameras and an 18:9 screen up front, plus another two cameras at the back. Expect confirmation on the 27th, when Asus holds its press conference.

BlackBerry will launch two phones in 2018, including a new version of the KeyOne (original version shown), so we may well see one of those handsets launch at MWC.

Xiaomi will attend MWC, and is rumored to debut a super-powered Mi 7 with a Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB RAM, a 6in AMOLED screen manufactured by Samsung, wireless charging, and facial recognition abilities. If so, it could provide some heated competition for the world's flagship giants.

Alcatel will also bring its new line of phones to MWC, with the 5 series, 3 series, and 1 series models all offering 18:9 displays and facial unlock features with varying specs and price points.

Oppo and ZTE may also make announcements, but there aren't any solid rumours at this point.

Meanwhile, on the wearables front, we'd expect announcements from the likes of Misfit, Fossil, and Nokia – but again, we don't have much to go on right now.

Given Google's recent acquisition of part of HTC's smartphone team, we honestly can't say whether they'll have anything at MWC. Google's Pixel 3, of course, wouldn't come until late in the year.

We won't see anything from Apple, that's for certain – their big phone debuts come in September, like clockwork. And while a newer iPhone SE could perhaps launch sometime in the spring (please, Apple), it would be on Apple's own time, not amidst loads of other phone reveals at MWC.

And Microsoft? Well, unless the company has decided to reverse course on the dead Windows Phone platform, we won't be seeing anything from them.

Keep tabs on this page, though, because we'll be adding more rumours and leaks as they pop up in the weeks leading into MWC 2018!

We liked the Huawei P10 and especially the P10 Plus (shown), but both phones felt overshadowed by the Galaxy S8 last spring. Luckily, Huawei will have another chance to make a stronger impression with the P20. Or will that be P11?

Either way, Huawei has confirmed it won't be pulling back the curtain at Mobile World Congress - it'll be doing its own thing in March instead. That should put enough disatance between it and the Galaxy S9, which is all but guaranteed to dominate the headlines in Barcelona.

Concrete details on the hardware itself are still thin, but a recent benchmark leak suggests an 18.7:9 aspect ratio for the screen, which would come in at 1080x2244 for the P20. We assume the P20 Plus would bump up to Quad HD specs, but in any case, the aspect ratio suggests an edge-to-edge screen like so many other phones from the last year.

Another rumour suggests that Huawei will try to stomp dual-camera arrays by putting three cameras on the back of the P20 - and one of them is suggested to be a 40-megapixel shooter, which sounds downright insane. But hey, Huawei needs to make a big splash, so we'll see what happens.

Instead of smartphones, Huawei will likely launch a new MatePad tablet or MateBook laptop - it has already sent invites out to the press teasing some kind of portable that looks a lot larger than a typical smartphone, anyway.

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