Smartphones to watch for in 2015

From a shiny new Samsung Galaxy to a smartphone that scans your eyes, this year's Mobile World Congress delivered quite a diverse lineup

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The new smartphones of 2015

How many phones can be launched within a single week? That seems to be the question device makers tried to answer at Mobile World Congress, an annual orgy of mobile technology that wrapped up in Barcelona on Thursday.

MWC is always a wild rush of announcements, with everyone from Microsoft to Samsung shouting about their latest and greatest pocket-destined products. Some of the smartphones shown were big-name devices that pulled a lot of media attention, while others were from lesser-known companies that might have been overlooked, but were no less worthy of notice.

Here's a tour of the more memorable phones from the MWC floor, with a focus on those that'll land (or at least might land) on U.S. shelves.

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Credit: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

The brightest star of MWC 2015 came from none other than Samsung's ever-expanding Galaxy. The Galaxy S6 marks the company's departure from plastic construction and into a more premium and sophisticated level of hardware design.

With its glass and metal exterior and high-end internals, the S6 manages to be both sleek and powerful. The phone promises a top-of-the-line camera experience along with an improved fingerprint sensor. The Edge model, meanwhile, features a curved glass display that slopes over the sides to create a distinctive wraparound effect.

The downside -- for a niche subset of power users, at least -- is that, unlike past Samsung devices, the new Galaxy phones lack removable batteries as well as SD card slots for external storage expansion.

The Galaxy S6 and S 6 Edge are expected to go on sale in April. Specific launch dates and pricing have not been announced for U.S. carriers, though marketing materials suggest the phone could cost around $780 unlocked.

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Credit: HTC
HTC One M9

It may look similar to last year's One M8 flagship, but don't be fooled: HTC's new One M9 packs some meaningful (if subtle) new enhancements. The M9 follows the same basic design as its predecessor, which was lauded for its premium nature and outstanding build quality, and focuses mainly on fixing the few areas where the M8 fell short.

To wit: The One M9 maintains HTC's trademark all-metal construction but slims down the frame and adds a more pronounced border to make it easier to hold. It also moves the power button from the top to the side of the phone for less awkward one-handed access.

HTC's UltraPixel camera, meanwhile -- which excels in low-light photography but is less versatile than other smartphone shooters -- has been moved to the front of the M9 for selfie-centric use. The device's main camera is a new 20-megapixel unit.

The One M9 is expected to ship sometime this spring. Pricing has yet to be announced.

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Credit: BlackBerry
BlackBerry Leap

Wait -- BlackBerry is still making phones? It's true: The company announced a new device called the BlackBerry Leap at this year's MWC. The all-touch (no physical keyboard) phone features a relatively low-resolution 5-in. 720 x 1280 display, an 8-megapixel camera, and a 2800mAh battery.

The noteworthy number about the Leap, however, is its price: The phone will sell for $275 unlocked and off-contract -- a figure far lower than what you'll find with most flagship phones. (To be fair, anyone not devoted to the BlackBerry brand might do better with Motorola's budget-level offerings, the Moto G and Moto E, which sell for $180 and $120, respectively. But hey, some people still love those 'Berries.)

BlackBerry also vaguely teased a new slider keyboard phone with a curved touchscreen display this week. The company hasn't provided a release date for either device.

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Credit: Silent Circle
Blackphone 2

If security's a top priority for you, Silent Circle's new Blackphone 2 may be right up your alley. The follow-up to last year's original Blackphone, the Blackphone 2 puts privacy first with a custom version of Android designed to keep your communications confidential.

The new Blackphone, which is focused on enterprise use, promises completely secure encrypted calls and texts along with the ability to monitor exactly what types of data individual apps send and receive. The second-gen hardware also features significant upgrades from its predecessor, with a more premium design and a larger, higher resolution display.

According to reports, the Blackphone 2 is should be on sale in July and will cost about the same as its predecessor, which is priced at $629.

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Credit: ZTE
ZTE Grand S3

Fingerprint scanning may be all the rage in mobile products these days, but ZTE is ready to one-up the game with its retina-scanning new Grand S3 smartphone. The Grand S3's front camera is capable of keeping prying eyes out of your device by making sure your eyes are the only ones allowed in.

The phone's Eyeprint ID system checks out your peepers on video and looks for unique vein patterns to confirm they're actually yours. If there's no match, the device won't unlock. The authentication process is said to take about a second to complete.

Eye-scanning aside, the Grand S3 has a respectable set of specs: a 5.5-in. 1080p display; a Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor with 3GB of RAM; and 16GB of internal space along with an SD card slot that supports up to 64GB of external storage. There's a 16-megapixel camera on the phone's back and an 8-megapixel camera on its front.

The Grand S3 is launching first in China. ZTE says it'll reach more parts of the world later this year.

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Credit: Microsoft
Microsoft Lumia 640 LTE and 640 XL

Microsoft is holding off on flagship phones until Windows 10 arrives, but that hasn't stopped the company from debuting a couple of new low-cost devices in the meantime. Enter the Lumia 640 LTE and 640 XL, two Windows 8.1 smartphones aimed at budget-conscious shoppers.

The Lumia 640 LTE has a 5-in. 1280 x 720 display, while the Lumia 640 XL bumps up to a 5.7-in. screen at the same resolution. Both phones have reasonably good cameras for their class: an 8-megapixel main shooter on the 640 and a 13-megapixel unit on the 640 XL. And both devices are expected to be upgraded to Windows 10 when that software becomes available later this year.

These aren't exciting phones, per se, but they're affordable: In Europe, the Lumia 640 LTE will sell for €159 (about USD $175) unlocked, while the 640 XL will run €219 (about $241). The phones are expected to be available in the United States on AT&T and T-Mobile this spring.

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Credit: Alcatel
Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2+

Aside from its distinction of having the most complicated name of any phone launched in recent memory, the Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2+ is significant for its software: The Hero 2+ runs Cyanogen OS -- the custom version of Android popular among enthusiasts and brought to the forefront with last year's OnePlus One phone.

The current version of the software is based on Google's 16-month-old Android 4.4 KitKat OS, but includes a number of features not present in the base operating system, such as elaborate options for customization and advanced tools for controlling privacy and security.

The Hero 2+ has a 6-in. 1080p display and 13-megapixel front-facing camera. It'll work with AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States and will available this spring for $299 unlocked.

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Credit: LG
LG Magna, Spirit, Leon, and Joy

With its G Flex2 on the way to store shelves and its G4 flagship still under wraps, LG took time at MWC to unveil a series of new midrange phones. The Magna, Spirit, Leon, and Joy all follow LG's general design language, with squared-off bodies, plastic materials made to look like metal, and volume buttons on the back (except for the Joy, which is the lowest-end of the bunch and sports a more mundane style).

The phones get smaller and less fully featured as you move down the line: The Magna boasts a 5-in. HD display along with an 8-megapixel main camera, for instance, while the Joy has a 4-in. WVGA display and a 5-megapixel camera. All the devices run LG's custom user interface, meanwhile, atop Google's Android 5.0 Lollipop OS.

No word yet on how much the models will cost or when they might make their way to U.S. carriers.

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Credit: Saygus
Saygus V²

Saygus -- a.k.a. That Company No One Has Heard Of -- is hoping its new V² phone packs enough punch to put its name on the map. The Saygus V² (evidently pronounced "V-squared") has all the stuff you'd expect in a flagship phone, like a 5-in. 1080p display, a 3100mAh battery with wireless charging, and a quad-core processor accompanied by 3GB of RAM.

What sets the phone apart from the pack, though, are unusual features like two microSD card slots, a fingerprint scanner, and optical image stabilization on both the rear- and front-facing cameras. The V² is also waterproof and protected by a "hardened Kevlar edge." All that's missing is a current version of Android: Amidst all the whiz-bang specs, the V² ships with last year's Android 4.4 KitKat OS.

The Saygus V² will set you back $599 for an unlocked model in charcoal, pink, or white. The company hasn't yet said when the device will be available.