We've spent the last week scouring the halls and show floors of the Consumer Electronics Show in gaudy Las Vegas, and we've found something worth writing home about. A few new smartphones big and small, expensive and inexpensive, and a few world firsts, were on display — and will be coming to Australia.
Huawei Mate 9, Mate 9 Pro
The Chinese smartphone giant took the opportunity of CES to introduce a few new phones that should make their way to the Australian market, namely the Mate 9 and Mate 9 Pro. The two phones are Huawei's first to be compatible with Google's Daydream VR virtual reality platform, use Huawei's own in-house-built Kirin processors and have massive 4000mAh batteries hidden behind those 5.9-inch 2K screens. Both also have the same dual-lens Leica camera that we saw and loved on the P9, and the overall design has had a refresh that means smoother bezels and a more refined look — the Mate 9 Pro actually reminds us a lot of the gorgeous Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung Galaxy A3, A5, A7
A trio of good, better, best mid-range smartphones launched in the lead-up to CES from Samsung, we'll see these come to Australia in the next few months but local pricing is still a mystery. From a small to medium to large-screened size, the A series brings a lot of the good stuff we saw in last year's S7 into a more affordable price — including water and dust resistance. We've seen the A series be a bit of an early preview at what future S-series and Note series phones would look like, so keep the look of these in mind if you're considering an upgrade to a future flagship device from Samsung some time in 2017.
Alcatel A3 XL
The 6-inch Alcatel A3 XL is a monster; the company does admit that it squarely straddles the line between phone and tablet, but for all its size and heft it's still quite a good looking mid-range phone. You also get a fingerprint reader. We should see the A3 XL enter Australia either officially or unofficially at someone point through the first quarter of this year.
It doesn't officially have a name yet, but the next Blackberry smartphone with a hardware keyboard was teased at CES. The device, codenamed 'Mercury' internally, will make its way back to Australia from everything we've been told, and purports to boast "the most complete security available for an Android smartphone". The keyboard is definitely going to be the new phone's biggest selling point, though — it's the reason that Blackberry was able to survive as long as it did in the face of ceaselessly improving competition from iOS and Android devices back in the Blackberry OS days.
Asus ZenFone AR
Asus' phones have always been a bit tricky to come by in Australia, but the ZenFone AR is interesting mainly because it's the first gadget we've seen that supports Google's Project Tango augmented reality tech. That's on top of Google Daydream VR support, too. The ZenFone is a specs monster — 8GB of RAM, anyone? — and should hopefully be a pretty smooth operator in terms of outright power. Google's depth-sensing Tango goodies will be the real appeal, though.