Several impressive-sounding phones from Apple, Google, Samsung and OnePlus are expected to arrive in the second half of 2023.
2023 is an exciting year for smartphones. In the first few months of the year, we've already seen new devices from Samsung and OnePlus. And as we approach the second half of 2023, there's even more to look forward to from Apple, Google and others, especially if you're interested in foldable phones.
Though it's hard to predict exactly what's in store for the phone industry, it's possible to make some educated guesses since many companies stick to the same launch routine. The iPhone 15 lineup, for example, is expected to arrive in September, possibly with USB-C charging for the first time. Google's rumored Pixel 8 could launch in the fall, likely with a new Tensor processor.
Such launches would follow the subtle but important progress that phones made in 2022. The iPhone 14, for example, gained satellite connectivity for emergencies and car-crash detection, while Google found more ways to make use of its custom Tensor chip in the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. Samsung, meanwhile, gave its flagship Galaxy S lineup a fresh look and an upgraded camera last year, while this year's S23 is a modest step forward.
Here are the new phones we're likely to see in 2023, based on previous launch cycles, rumors and reports.
What we're expecting: Apple's new iPhone family usually launches in September, and we have no reason to believe 2023 will be any different. The adoption of USB-C charging is one of the biggest changes we're expecting to see on Apple's next-generation iPhones.
The European Union recently mandated that all new phones sold in the region must support USB-C charging by 2024. Apple said it would comply with these rules but did not specify whether that means we'll see a shift to USB-C starting in 2023. It's also not confirmed if a USB-C iPhone would get a global release, or if it would remain solely a European model.
Otherwise, we're likely to see routine changes such as some camera upgrades and a new processor. TF International Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is known for making pretty accurate predictions about upcoming Apple products, tweeted that Apple may do more to distinguish the iPhone 15 Pro from the regular iPhone 15.
It already made a step in that direction with the iPhone 14 generation by keeping features like the Dynamic Island and new A16 Bionic processor exclusive to the Pro line. What's more interesting, however, is the idea that Apple could further differentiate the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max from the smaller iPhone 15 Pro, according to Kuo.
The main difference between the regular Pro and Pro Max comes down to screen size. Giving the Pro Max some extra perks could further convince shoppers to splurge on Apple's biggest (and most expensive) iPhone. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman also believes Apple could change the name of the iPhone Pro Max to the iPhone Ultra in the future to better align with other products like the Apple Watch Ultra.
Why I'm excited about it: The iPhone's long-anticipated transition to USB-C is arguably the biggest reason to get excited about Apple's next smartphone. The switch means iPhone users will finally be able to charge their iPhone, iPad and Mac with the same type of charging cable, reducing friction and making the iPhone that much more convenient. I'm also looking forward to seeing whether Apple further distinguishes the iPhone 15 Pro Max from the iPhone 15 Pro. I've argued that Apple needs to give its supersized iPhones more functionality that takes advantage of their larger screens, similar to the iPad.
What we're expecting: OnePlus plans to launch its first foldable phone in the second half of 2023, the company said before its event at Mobile World Congress in February. Unfortunately, we don't know much else. The company has yet to announce any details about the device itself, precisely when it plans to launch the phone, or how much it could cost.
Why we're excited about it: Like Google, OnePlus has a reputation for beating Samsung and Apple on price. That makes me hopeful that OnePlus' foldable phone will be significantly less expensive than the $1,800 Galaxy Z Fold 4. The Oppo Find N2 from OnePlus' sister brand has also been well received, with CNET's Sareena Dayaram calling it the lightest foldable she's ever carried, so there's a chance OnePlus could follow in its sibling's footsteps. Plus, it'll be nice to see Samsung face more competition in this space.
What we're expecting: If Google maintains its tradition, we could see a cheaper version of the Pixel 7 known as the Pixel 7A launch in the spring or summer time frame. Rumors about the Pixel 7A are scarce right now. But developer Kuba Wojciechowski says he found details possibly pertaining to the Pixel 7A in the Android codebase, suggesting that some fairly significant upgrades are in store.
Wojciechowski's findings indicate the Pixel 7A could have a screen with a higher refresh rate of 90Hz and wireless charging -- two characteristics that are noticeably absent from the Pixel 6A. Leaked renders from Hemmerstoffer that were once again published on Smartprix also suggest the Pixel 7A will have a very similar design as its predecessor.
The Pixel 7A could also include the same Tensor G2 processor that powers the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro as well as a camera setup that includes wide and ultrawide sensors. That's if the Pixel 7A follows in the same footsteps as the Pixel 6A, of course.
The Pixel 7A is also believed to have surfaced on the Vietnamese website Zing News, which suggests it will have a 6.1-inch screen and a design that's very similar to the Pixel 7's -- even down to the camera bar.
Why I'm excited about it: Google's A-series Pixel phones are seriously impressive from a value standpoint. That's why the Pixel 6A has received a CNET Editors' Choice award and is our favorite Android phone under $500. If Google manages to address the Pixel 6A's very few shortcomings while maintaining the same price of $449, it'll be an even more formidable challenger to Samsung in the affordable phone market.
What we're expecting: Google's Pixel 7 and 7 Pro have only been out since mid-October 2022, but rumors have already started to surface about the Pixel 8 family. German tech blog WinFuture reports that it found references to two unreleased Pixel smartphones in publicly available code. The findings indicate that these two devices are codenamed "Shiba" and "Husky" and that they're powered by a new processor codenamed "Zuma." The code also suggests these devices will run on Android 14 and include 12GB of RAM, according to WinFuture.
Prolific leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer also partnered with the tech blogs MySmartPrice and SmartPrix to publish what are said to be renderings of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Based on these images, both phones will have a similar design with softer edges compared to the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro.
Why I'm excited about it: There haven't been many rumors about the expected Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, which means there isn't too much to get excited about yet. But what I'm most interested in is what new features Google's next-generation chip will bring to its future phones. Google's current Tensor chips have enabled features that seem practical and useful in everyday life, such as Magic Eraser and Face Unblur for improving photo quality and the ability to add speaker labels to transcripts in the Recorder app. That makes me excited about where Google could take things next.
What we're expecting: Google hasn't entered the foldable phone race yet, but that could change very soon. The search giant may release a foldable Pixel phone as early as June, according to 9to5Google and WinFuture.
Google's take on the foldable phone could look like the Oppo Find N, according to 9to5Google. YouTube personality Dave2D says he received a blank model showing what the rumored Pixel Fold's design could look like, and it kind of resembles Microsoft's Surface Duo.
Developer Kuba Wojciechowski also reportedly discovered clues in the Android 13 beta hinting at a possible foldable Pixel device. The code suggested the phone would have a main, telephoto and ultrawide camera just like most premium phones, along with the same inner selfie camera as the Pixel 6.
Why we're excited about it: We won't know anything for certain unless Google announces a foldable phone. But there are a couple of reasons why I'm excited about the idea of a Pixel Fold.
Google typically undercuts Samsung and other phone makers on price, meaning the Pixel Fold could end up being fairly affordable compared to competitors. Foldables are also still largely a novelty. They appeal to early adopters, but most people still don't really see the value in foldable phones just yet. Foldables phones are only expected to have accounted for 1.1% of the global smartphone market in 2022, according to The International Data Corporation's estimate.
Since Google operates Android and has a history of coming up with unique features for its regular Pixel phones, I'm hoping it'll do the same for a Pixel Fold. With its current Pixel devices, Google has added helpful features like the ability to sharpen photos that are out of focus and have Google Assistant wait on hold for you. If it does release a foldable, I'd like to see it follow the same approach and develop creative, useful features that take advantage of a foldable screen.
What we're expecting: Even though foldable phones are still new to most people, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold will be on its fifth generation in 2023. The next version of Samsung's phone-tablet hybrid could have a slot for storing Samsung's S Pen stylus, a lighter design and a less noticeable crease, according to Korean news outlet The Elec. The report didn't definitively say the Z Fold 5 will have these improvements, but did say Samsung has cited them as barriers that must be overcome to make foldable phones more popular.
Other more recent reports from The Elec, ET News and well-known leaker Ice Universe suggest Samsung could implement a water drop-shaped hinge on the Galaxy Z Fold 5. That new hinge would likely help with minimizing the device's crease and thickness.
Otherwise, we can probably expect to see routine improvements to the camera and processor in the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Samsung also added some new multitasking features to the Z Fold 4 this year, such as the ability to use the bottom portion of the screen as a mini trackpad when the display is folded halfway. So there's a chance we'll see other software enhancements in the future, too.
Samsung typically releases its new foldable phones in August, meaning we're likely to see the next Z Fold around that time.
Why I'm excited about it: The Galaxy Z Fold 5 needs a lot more than an included S Pen to bring foldables into the mainstream. But making the S Pen a bigger part of the experience could go a long way in further defining who the Z Fold is for and why it exists in the first place. Samsung is promoting the Z Fold 5 as a productivity-oriented device, so having an embedded S Pen seems like a natural move. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Fold 3 are both compatible with the S Pen, but they must be purchased separately.
What we're expecting: Samsung's next flip phone may have a larger cover screen and a less noticeable crease, according to Ross Young, cofounder and CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants. Ross recently tweeted that the Z Flip 5 will have a cover display measuring around 3 inches and a new hinge design that could make the crease more subtle. That would represent a sizable increase from the current Z Flip 4's 1.9-inch cover screen. Like with the Z Fold 5, there's a chance we'll see general improvements to camera quality and software as well as a new processor.
Why I'm excited about it: Making the cover screen slightly larger would address one of the Z Flip's biggest shortcomings. As my colleague Patrick Holland wrote in his review of the Z Flip 4, the cover screen is the biggest area where Samsung could be doing more. I'm also hoping to see longer battery life from the Z Flip 5 considering that's another area where Samsung's current flip phone could use some improvement.
It seems like some of the biggest improvements we're expecting to see across the board on new smartphones in 2023 will have to do with battery and charging improvements, as well as camera and design upgrades. We'll know more throughout the year as more reports and rumors arrive, and as Samsung, Apple and Google actually debut their devices.