When it comes to looking for a new smartphone, it seems that consumers are already spoiled for choice. If you're not up-to-date will all the latest developments in the tech world, it can be quite daunting to head into your local branch of Carphone Warehouse or Phones4U and confront the vast array of different models laid out on the displays in front of you.
However, it seems most people still restrict themselves to a limited number of brands – call it the comfort of the familiar if you will. In Europe, Samsung is by far the dominant manufacturer, being responsible for almost four out of ten devices. Apple is a clear second, while Sony, HTC and Nokia are among the brands scrapping it out for the leftovers.
But despite this dominance, there always seem to be enthusiastic new entrants that optimistically think their new device has what it takes to be the next big thing. And who can blame them? After all, Apple had no track record in the mobile world before it blew the market apart in 2007 with the iPhone, so if they can do it, why can't someone else?
There's a huge number of new entrants to the market every year – some just looking to build on existing technology like Android, while others are hoping to reinvent the market with something new. Being honest, most of these probably stand little hope of ever being more than a niche, but as we saw with the iPhone, it only takes one bright idea to change an industry.
And one thing the new players have going for them is the itchy feet of smartphone owners. Kantar Worldpanel Comtech recently released figures that show brand loyalty isn't in many buyers' vocabulary, with only 41 per cent staying loyal to a certain brand when they upgrade. Therefore, there's great potential in the market, and with this in mind, here are just some of the many firms looking to make a splash this year.
The left-field candidate – Jolla
Best said in a Nordic accent, this startup has been formed by former Nokia employees, who were disenchanted after the firm dropped its own mobile operating system to get into bed with Microsoft's Windows Mobile offering.
They kept at the project, however, and it has become what's known as Sailfish OS, which Jolla is hoping will be a viable competitor to Android. One thing it's got going for it is it can run on existing Android hardware, though PC Advisor recently described it's first dedicated device as "quite unlike any other smartphone we've seen". It's still a little rough around the edges, but with the experience of the team behind it, who knows where it might go.
The niche performer – Ubuntu
Currently a name only serious tech geeks are likely to be familiar with, Ubuntu is a popular distribution of the Linux desktop OS, which is making its first foray into the smartphone market.
But is it just a left-field alternative for open-source enthusiasts and programmers? One thing's for certain, they're not aiming at the budget market, with company founder Mark Shuttleworth telling the Inquirer this month: "We're going with the higher end because we want people who are looking for a very sharp, beautiful experience and because our ambition is to be selling the future PC, the future personal computing engine."
The mainstream juggernaut – Amazon
The online bookseller-turned-tech-empire has already made a successful incursion into the mobile market with its Kindle Fire range of tablets, which boast easy media viewing and a highly attractive price point, so it's no surprise the rumour mill has tipped it to follow this up with a move into the phone market.
Things were quiet for a while, but recently, news of its 'Project Aria' has resurfaced, with suggestions that it will go down the Kindle Fire route of looking to marry power and affordability with a customised version of Android – perhaps to take on gadgets such as the LG G2.
Like the Jolla and Ubuntu offerings, it's rumoured to be hitting shelves later this year, but unlike its rivals, it's got the advantage of huge name recognition and a built-in userbase, so if anything can make the jump to mainstream, it's this.
Aside from these likely new offerings, other innovations for this year include the possibility of dual-OS smartphones. Chinese firm Huawei is said to be working on a device that will run both Android and Windows Phone later this year – though it's reported that a similar concept by Asus for a tablet has been dropped after both Google and Microsoft politely suggested they'd frown upon such an idea.
But one thing's for sure – the smartphone market isn't set to get smaller any time soon, so if you're already drowning in spec sheets and sales-speak, it's only likely to get worse. Sorry about that.