By the time December wraps up, phone makers will have shipped about 1.43 billion smartphones worldwide. Handsets of all shapes and sizes have flooded the market in record numbers, even if the rate of growth has slowed a bit. IDC predicts 2015 will be the first year to see single digit growth, at 9.8% compared to 2014.
The landscape continues to change with players old and new all trying to find the right balance of features, design, and performance.
Apple and Samsung dominate the industry in terms of overall shipments, but a handful of small Chinese companies are beginning to take a sizable bite out of the goliaths' market share. Some giants of yesteryear have fallen and upstarts are already taking their place. Finding success in the smartphone space isn't assured, and fortunes can go as easily as they come.
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The competitive market is good for consumers, who have an incredible and diverse selection of smartphones waiting at the local wireless shop. Phone makers have to do a lot to stand out. Here are the five smartphones that made the biggest impression as 2015 unfolded.
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung took a bold step with the Galaxy S6. The company re-envisioned its flagship smartphone and fielded an attractive, competitive handset made of metal and glass. The phone may not have been the hit Samsung wanted, but it is a remarkable achievement of engineering and design. The phone runs on a Samsung-designed processor and includes one of the best cameras available in a phone.
Apple iPhone 6s
The iPhone 6s may carry over the design of the 2014 model, but Apple changed just about everything else. The A9 chip delivers blistering performance in a user-friendly smartphone that marks the debut of 3D Touch for interacting with the screen. App developers are putting 3D Touch, which can be used to call up secondary menus/actions, to effective use. Toss in the great camera, world-class app selection, and solid build quality, and it's easy to see why Apple sold more than 13 million iPhones the first weekend it was available.
Motorola Turbo 2
Few phones can claim to have a shatter-proof screen. The Motorola Droid Turbo 2 is one of them. Motorola spent years engineering an all-but-indestructible smartphone that won't break when dropped repeatedly. The Droid Turbo 2 is a great smartphone for klutzes who can't manage to keep anything in their hands. Motorola took it a step further by giving the Turbo 2 incredible battery life, a solid camera, and the ability to customize its appearance via the Moto Maker tool.
The V10 is a bit of an oddball, but it makes a strong case for our list thanks to a balanced set of features. The V10 has a secondary screen above the main display that can reveal notifications and other information without draining the battery. LG tread new ground with the V10 as far as the design is concerned by adding metals for the first time. The phone is rugged, to a degree, and has one of the best cameras available.
Huawei Nexus 6P
This google-branded smartphone is a great value. The quad HD screen, swift performance, excellent fingerprint sensor, and stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow make it an excellent choice -- especially at $500. The Huawei-designed smartphone is slim, attractive, and powerful. It showcases Android at its best.
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