Phone fans, start your engines. We’re anticipating some exciting new reveals from Apple, Samsung, Google and more. Are we pumped for the iPhone 13? You bet. The Pixel 6‘s new design and Tensor chip? Absolutely. And Samsung may have recently Unpacked its foldable phones (the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3), but there may be a few more devices waiting in the wings to look out for as well, like the rumored Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S21 FE.
Let’s take a moment to round up some of the devices we’re keeping a particular eye on, including those with rumored camera upgrades, refinements on previous devices and possible new ideas that could step up how we use our phones in the future.
Apple iPhone 13
Starting with Apple, we’re expecting the iPhone 13 to make its big reveal this September as has been the traditional reveal month for the flagship line. Like the iPhone 12 series, we’re expecting multiple models in the lineup, including a standard and Pro version, and hopefully a more affordable iPhone 13 Mini, too.
We’re not expecting many big physical changes, beyond a slick new sunset gold color, but we may see a shallower notch on the front as well as integrated Touch ID — which would be a great workaround for unlocking the phone while wearing a face mask. The best current alternative requires also having an Apple Watch.
The cameras are rumored to be getting a decent boost too, particularly with better night mode on the wide-angle lens, and even a much improved zoom system. That’d be great, as even the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 2.5x zoom pales into insignificance against the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s zoom skills.
Video, always a highlight of the iPhone’s camera, could be getting improvements like higher-quality ProRes recording for video, that fancy portrait mode background blur and a new set of filters designed to improve how colors look. In fact, the camera upgrades may likely be the biggest changes we see on the phone, which, as a photographer, I’m fine with.
Otherwise the iPhone 13, along with many other phones released by Apple in the last few years, will receive iOS 15 when its final edition becomes available without requiring the beta.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series isn’t expected until next year, historically around February or March. There aren’t a ton of rumors about the next generation of the phone, and much of the overall Samsung rumor mill has centered on the just-confirmed Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 foldable phones. But there are at least a few renders purporting to show big changes to Samsung’s high-end phone.
Like the iPhone, it seems like the S22’s upgrades could be more focused around the camera, with teases from Samsung’s own social accounts hinting at a whopping 200-megapixel image sensor. That’d be the biggest resolution we’ve seen so far on a phone and will likely go a long way in improving the quality on those huge 30x and 100x zoom images that you can take on the current Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Speaking of zoom, the S22 Ultra is also rumored to get a continuous optical zoom, rather than set 3x or 10x optical zoom lenses to switch between.
Beyond the camera, we’re not expecting major design upgrades or feature changes. We’re confident that there’ll be a range of handsets in the Galaxy S22 line, but the Ultra model would be the main one to get the bigger camera upgrade.
Google Pixel 6
Google’s Pixel 6 line got an early reveal this month, confirming a brand-new design that showcases a camera bar along the back. Breaking from its tradition of doing a base and XL model, the Pixel 6 will be joined by the Pixel 6 Pro — the latter including a telephoto lens.
The Pixel 6 has some major camera upgrades of its own, including a better image sensor that can capture 150% more light. More light often means better photos, particularly in low-light situations. The Pro model is also confirmed to include a 4x optical zoom.
But one of the biggest changes is that Google will be using its own custom-made Tensor system-on-a-chip, rather than using one from Qualcomm as it’s done on previous handsets. Google presented a number of demos to members of the press to demonstrate the Tensor’s prowess, which includes speech recognition, live translation and photography enhancements. Those demos include the phone making use of Live Caption and Interpreter Mode simultaneously to quickly transcribe a French presentation into English, and a photo demo that combines multiple photos together to create a clearer image of a quickly moving subject (a toddler).
The Pixel 6 will also be among the first phones running the latest Android 12, which on Google’s phones will include the option to create an entire interface theme based on the dominant colors of the image you choose for your background wallpaper. That customization will extend across a new design language in Android 12 that Google calls Material You.
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
While we are certainly looking ahead to next year’s Galaxy S22 line, there is still likely to be one more addition to the Galaxy S21 line to look forward to. We’re expecting a sequel to the Galaxy S20 FE, the “Fan Edition” lower-priced phone that included many of the Galaxy S20’s best features. That sequel, which we presume will be called the Galaxy S21 FE, could arrive this fall as a cheaper alternative to the higher-end phones expected to hit the market at the same time.
The Galaxy S20 FE was such a great deal last year that I named it the “midrange phone to beat” and gave it a CNET Editors’ Choice Award.
Some leaked specs for the rumored sequel point toward a 6.4-inch display, a triple rear camera with an improved 32-megapixel main camera resolution, fast charging and an in-display fingerprint scanner. There are no specific rumors on the phone’s price as of yet, but the Galaxy S20 FE came in at $699 in the US, a full $300 lower than the base Galaxy S20. This year’s Galaxy S21 had a lower starting price of $799, but here’s hoping Samsung can find a way to trim at least $100 or so for the next fan edition.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2
Microsoft’s Surface Duo is a quirky dual-screen device which CNET’s Scott Stein found to be a bit hit and miss. Interesting hardware, but awkward software and a lack of apps that can take advantage of two screens means it didn’t exactly take the mobile world by storm after its debut last year.
So what can we expect from its replacement? Purported Surface Duo 2 leaks point to a triple rear camera setup and more high-end internal specs, including 5G connectivity. Improved photography and data speeds could go some way toward making up for issues with that first edition of the dual screen device, but Microsoft will also need to step up the software support to take better advantage of the phone’s unique design.
Still, Microsoft’s Surface Duo offers a different idea in the growing folding phone space, following Samsung’s newer Z Fold 3 and efforts by Motorola’s Razr line. Hopefully in the coming months we can get an official look at where that line is heading.