Four common characteristics of the average premium smartphone in 2015


2015 is nearing its end, and unless something completely unexpected is about to happen in the smartphone industry, all high-tier smartphone makers have launched at least a premium handset this year. As a poker player would say, the cards have been dealt.

In the Android camp, there are obviously a lot of premium handsets currently available on the market. In the context of this article, however, we’ll restrain our analysis to the products launched by major smartphone makers such as Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG, Sony, and Huawei. We’ll also take a look at the iPhone 6s Plus and the Microsoft Lumia 950 / 950 XL, the iOS and Windows Mobile flagships of this year.

Now that we've defined our sample base, here are four characteristics that paint the portrait of the modern premium smartphone:

QHD displays


While 2014 was the year that brought us the first QHD smartphones, it wasn't until this year that 1440 by 2560 pixels became the new standard resolution in the high-end sector of the market.

Most of the premium phones launched since January come with QHD displays. The Samsung Galaxy S6 series, the LG G4 and the LG V10, the Motorola Moto X Play and the new Droid Turbo 2, the Huawei Nexus 6P, as well a range of other high-end Android handsets all integrate QHD screens. Microsoft’s new flagships, the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950 XL also come with QHD displays.

Exceptions: At the moment, there is a lot of controversy regarding the real-world utility of QHD displays on smartphones, and many reports suggest that people can't actually tell the difference between an FHD and QHD smartphone display at a regular viewing distance.

Sony and HTC, two iconic smartphone makers, have openly embraced this train of thought in the past couple of years. As such, the HTC One M9 and the Sony Xperia Z5 both come with FHD panels.

For its part, Apple doesn’t compete in the PPI race. The iPhone 6s comes with a 4.7-inch display running at 720 by 1280 pixels while the iPhone 6s Plus boasts a 5.5-inch display running at 1080 by 1920 pixels. 


Metallic builds


In the past few years, metallic builds have slowly but surely become a must-have for premium smartphones. Prevalent as this trend has been since the start of the decade, 2015 has seen the matter escalate even further.

Even Samsung, a smartphone maker that was often criticized for its plastic phone builds, has made the radical decision of embracing metallic builds in its new premium phones.

While not all of this year's premium handsets come with an all-metal build, most of these high-end phones integrate a metal frame at the very least.

The HTC One M9, the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Google Nexus 6P, the Sony Xperia Z5, the LG V10, the Motorola Moto X Style, and the Lumia 950 series all integrate metal in their bodies. The iPhone 6s series goes the extra step and embodies a metal unibody, which means that the outer shell also doubles as the chassis.



Sealed but fast-charging batteries


In terms of battery, we've noticed two separate trends among this year's premium Android smartphones: nearly all of them come with sealed batteries and fast-charging capabilities.

The first trend, sealed batteries, isn't something all users agree on. As manufacturers appear to be hell-bent on making ever thinner devices, most of them eventually resorted to sealing the battery in an attempt to save up on internal space. Many users would have preferred the ability to swap a dead battery for a new one instead of being forced to hug a wall plug (or an external battery pack) for a few hours, as our readers are keen on reminding us in the comment section.

Fortunately, another trend that can be noticed is that most smartphone makers now integrate fast-charging capabilities in their premium smartphones. As a result, most of the Android flagships charge significantly faster compared to their direct predecessors: the Galaxy S6 by 38%, the HTC One M9 by 47%, the Sony Xperia Z5 by 17%. Other premium phones that launched in 2015 do not have direct predecessors, but most of them take under two hours to fully recharge the battery. It's far from what these upcoming battery technologies hope to deliver, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.



Fingerprint readers


Although some smartphone makers have integrated fingerprint readers on their precedent flagships, it was in 2015 that fingerprint sensors became a common characteristic for all premium phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note 5, the Sony Xperia Z5, the Google Nexus 6P, the Motorola Moto X Style, the LG V10, the iPhone 6s series, and the Lumia 950 series all come with touch-based fingerprint readers.

Exception: The HTC One M9 is an interesting exception to this rule: the international variant of the phone doesn't feature fingerprint authentication, but the HTC One M9+ - the Asian version of HTC's flagship - does. Given that the One A9 comes with a fingerprint reader, we're willing to bet that HTC's next premium offering will come with a fingerprint reader, just like all of the 2016 flagship smartphones.

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25 Comments

1. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

Subtle yet BIG changes...wonder how 2016 will be.

3. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Don't know what would be greater, the competition between the phone makers or the competition between the fanboys.

10. Acer_Predator unregistered

in next year what is a MUST on smartphone : * USB type C charger * 4GB RAM * QHD screen * 5,5'' (not less) * 3000/4000 mAh battery (not less)

11. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Go to hell with that 5.5 inches size.

16. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

32GB at cheapest model

21. Dr.SamX

Posts: 240; Member since: Jan 19, 2015

So basically Apple is out of the picture! Is that what you are saying?

23. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

3000mAH battery don't cut it with a QHD screen. But apparently common sense and logic don't excist in the mobile world. Just think: A QHD screen has 75% more pixels than a FHD screen. So you'd need 75% more power to drive that screen. Manufacturers compensate this by using extra dim-screens. So that they in reality need a 50% increase in battery. They also know that most o/t time your screen is off. So by making the cpu/gpu a bit more power-efficient they can compensate a bit more. So it'll need in reality between 30% to 40% more juice. Then there's manufacturers obsession with thin devices. So they rarely give you +3000mAh battery while you actually need a 4000mAh (30% increase). In fact S6 got lower capacity battery than the S5. The reality is that screen-on-time is less on QHD devices than on FHD. Not to mention that framerates onscreen (which is more important than offscreen) get a dive when playing games. I'd rather have a 5"(max) FHD Amoled, +4GB Ram (why use 64-bits if less), Fast GPU/CPU, user replaceable battery, micro-SD-card expansion (which I can use to install apps on as well!!!!), a Proper Xenon flash + LED-torch/videolight. And an OS which properly use BLACK to preserve battery-power when the screen is used.

2. runzlord

Posts: 245; Member since: Oct 13, 2013

5. They were all extremely expensive.

4. mihai.a

Posts: 47; Member since: Apr 15, 2015

Yes, they sure are, but that's to be expected from premium phones.

5. Kary1

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 26, 2015

They were almost all phones I wouldn't have bought in 2013.

24. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

They ARE all the phones that I won't buy at ALL!

13. Drsarcastic

Posts: 136; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

Are you kidding me? 2015? The year when premium phones got CHEAPER? Where have you been?

18. ananthu07 unregistered

I do hope you are being sarcastic as your name suggest.

22. Drsarcastic

Posts: 136; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

Moto X Oneplus 2 Nexus 6p and 5x How in the world did flagships get MORE expensive?

6. torr310

Posts: 1659; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Many phones seem to use premium material but most of them have crappy finish/build quality. I would prefer a good material with great build quality. Without a great finish/build quality, it would never be the premium.

7. Cyberthing

Posts: 127; Member since: Nov 18, 2014

Moto x style has a QHD display not Moto x play.

8. AlikMalix unregistered

I think the iPhone looks much more premium with all black front glass... Hate the white faces on phones because the hard edges of rectangular screen does not conform to soft round edges of the device...

25. epdm2be

Posts: 822; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

You're just a snob. The proper reason why you should avoid white faces is shown here http://cms2.mobile88.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/LG-V10.jpg Just look at that UGLY black screen border between the white bezel and LCD-panel! YUK! Another example is here (Galaxy S4) http://cdn01.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/DSC_0051.jpg The black border o/t amoled-panel is less outspoken on the black model but clearly visible on the white model! These examples show the REAL reason why you should stay away from white devices. Unless the manufacturer made it smart like this example below, a silver coloured phone (Nokia 701) but the front is all black. http://images.techtree.com.s3-ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/ttimages/story/116031_1.jpg

9. xperiaZlover

Posts: 202; Member since: Nov 15, 2015

PA forgot about the 4k display on the Z5 premium with a 806ppi.

12. Arthurhkt

Posts: 723; Member since: Apr 19, 2012

Come on man, I wonder why other than Sony there is no manufacturer that still building smaller screen size phone? Like the Nexus 4 (4.7 inch) size is the best for me, I really don't like anything that is bigger than 5 inch.

14. Andrewtst

Posts: 696; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Because the demand of screen size less than 5" is too little now. Once you go big you never ever want small screen size.

15. athos07m

Posts: 137; Member since: Apr 22, 2012

So neither iphones are premium this year? (No QHD screen, no fast charging battery.)

17. Fellwalker

Posts: 538; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

The four correct trends in smart phone design * ridiculously thin due to fashion, risking Bending * small batteries meaning the fast charge is a must, and ensuring that in a year or two the user will become so dissatisfied with their purchase they will buy a replacement phone. Meanwhile they'll need to carry an external battery pack after 6 months or a year. * still small base memory, with very expensive larger memory available to "justify" the lack of sd card slot. * sealed units to prevent user access without being truly water or dust proof.

19. Konsento

Posts: 139; Member since: Apr 10, 2015

Ugh... holes all over this article. 1) The Moto X Play has a 1080p screen, not a QHD one 2) The Lumia 950 series does NOT integrate metal in its bodies 3) The Moto X Style doesn't include a fingerprint scanner 4) You make no mention of the LG G4 and V10 as the exception to the sealed-battery rule

20. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

He messed up the iPhone 6s resolution too.

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