The Christmas season is typically a quiet one for mobile phone rumours. All the major manufacturers have put their best devices forward, hoping for big sales between now and the end of the year. In early January, the rumour mill will kick into high gear once again at the CES trade show, followed by the second whammy of the even more mobile-focused Mobile World Congress (MWC) in late February.
Now that we have the iPhone 5S, Moto G, Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2, Nokia Lumia 1020, and BlackBerry Z30, what's there left to wait for? Rumours and mysteries, my phone-loving friend, rumours and mysteries. I've thought of seven potential phones which I'm going to be keeping my eye out for over the next few months, and you can guarantee that this list will grow and change after the two big trade shows of early 2014.
There are two kinds of phones you won't find on this list... yet. I'm very excited about hearing Windows Phone announcements at MWC, but I haven't seen any Windows Phone rumours that are solid enough to hang my hat on – just some really predictable guesses at upscaled Nokia Lumias.
Also, there's no Apple phone here; we don't expect to see any new iPhones until September 2014.
If you're interested in phone rumours and upcoming devices, I hope you follow Evan Blass on Twitter @evleaks. He's the master of mobile phone mystery. Meanwhile, check out our picks for the top upcoming smartphones below.
The Amazon Phone
We know Amazon is working on a phone. The company confirmed that it wouldn't come out with a smartphone in 2013, but, of course, 2013 is almost over. As with a lot of rumoured devices, there's so much noise around the Amazon phone that it's tough to separate the fact from really silly fiction.
The rumours so far include claims that Amazon is going to produce either one, or two phones. One of them might have a simulated 3D UI created by tracking the user's head position. They might be sold at cost (although Amazon says they won't be free). At the very least, they'll have a phone version of Amazon's new Fire OS, with its simple interface and Mayday customer service feature, shown on the Kindle Fire tablet to the right.
Amazon likes to go it alone with product releases, so it won't show these new phones at a trade show. If I were to guess an announcement date, I'd plump for March.
If BlackBerry doesn't stop selling phones, its next two major phones may be the Z50 – a larger-still touchscreen phone – and the QWERTY keyboard-toting Q30, according to CrackBerry. Just as I was more excited for the Q10 than for the Z10, the Q30 looks interesting because it keeps that niche, hardware keyboard flavour alive. The current rumour is that the Q30 will come out in the second quarter of 2014, likely at BlackBerry's annual developer conference in May.
The very existence of the Q30 is in question, though, because these new phones were creations of the previous Thorsten Heins regime at BlackBerry. With the new CEO, John Chen, all bets are off and all options are open. He could continue to release phones – or he could scrap the whole line and turn BlackBerry into a software company. We'll know that by May, for sure.
HTC One 2 (aka M8)
I hate codenames. I like real product names. So I'm calling the "HTC M8" (that's now popping up all over the rumour sites) the "HTC Two," although others have called it the "HTC One 2" or the "HTC One+." With the flagship HTC One now almost a year old, it's clearly time for an upgrade.
What's in that upgrade? So far, it sounds like the Snapdragon 800 processor, another 4-megapixel Ultrapixel camera, and a 5in 1080p screen, just like on the HTC One. This will likely be topped by Android 4.4 KitKat and a new version of HTC's Sense OS skin. However, HTC will have to do more than just bump up the power in its well-regarded but financially unsuccessful flagship phone, if the company wants to make a big splash.
LG G Flex
LG's curved smartphone will probably be the first curved-screen phone to hit our shores. Display expert Ray Soneira says that the curved screen actually has a purpose: It reduces reflection and makes images more visible.
The G Flex has a 6in 720p screen, a Snapdragon 800 processor, a 13-megapixel camera, and a "self-healing" coating on the back that can fix scratches (in theory, though it wasn’t quite as impressive as we hoped in our hands-on testing). The volume and power buttons are on the back of the phone, like on LG's G2. Thanks to a very slim bezel, it's relatively narrow for a phone with a 6in screen.
We’ll hopefully see the G Flex emerge during the first quarter of 2014.
Samsung Galaxy S5
When, oh when, will we see the follow up to the wildly popular S4? Probably March – Mobile World Congress or even CES if we're lucky. Since this is a Samsung flagship phone, expect everything to be bigger, better, and more, more, more. Also – more.
Rumours have Samsung swapping out its traditional plastic shell for a metal frame, using an octa-core, 64-bit Exynos processor, 16-megapixel camera, and packing either a bigger, curved, or higher-definition screen. At CES, expect to hear more from Samsung about how its cameras and TVs will work together with phones, as well.
If you're a spec hound who wants the most of everything, you'll probably want to keep your ear to the ground for this one.
One oldie but goodie still on the want-list is YotaPhone's dual-screen Android phone (with a second E-ink screen on the rear) which is scheduled for a December release in Russia. Hopefully it will be out in the UK fairly soon, as Yota certainly has plans to sell the device across Europe.
The YotaPhone is a curiosity, but it's a very interesting one. I love the idea of a phone that puts its back cover to good use, in this case for custom wallpapers or to store maps, boarding passes, or other relatively static information you might need to consult throughout the day.
The phone's specs are still good enough for late 2013: It has Android 4.2.2, a dual-core processor, a 13-megapixel camera, and a 4.3in 720p screen. The one worry is the price, though, but this is still an innovative device well worth keeping an eye on.