This year has already been stuffed with terrific phone launches, so we’ve rounded up the best Android and Apple smartphones you can buy
We all covet those little rectangles in our pockets. Smartphones play a massive part in our day-to-day lives, but buying the perfect smartphone can be an arduous task. However, don’t fret – we’re here to help you buy the best smartphone for you. Here are the best smartphones you can pick up in 2019.
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We’ve painstakingly put every smartphone to the test, with the best coverage in the UK, so we can help you make a buying decision. Our best smartphone 2019 roundup is always kept up to date, so be sure to check back often as and when new phones hit the shops.
Update: Apple unveils iPhone 11 lineup
It’s that time of year again when Apple shows off its next-gen smartphones. While we haven’t had the opportunity to fully test the iPhone 11 lineup just yet, we anticipate an update to our list of the best smartphones you can buy in the very near future, with at least one of the new models kicking the iPhone Xs Max out of the list (you can’t buy it anymore).
How to buy the best smartphone for you
Finding the right smartphone for your budget can be tricky, especially when there are so many expensive contracts to sift through. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about buying your perfect smartphone, as well as what you need to know about picking out a contract.
Should I buy a smartphone on contract or SIM-free?
Generally speaking, buying a phone unlocked and SIM-free is the best option, as you can use any SIM you like and sell the phone when you want to upgrade, but you do have to have the money upfront. If you can’t stomach the upfront cost, go with a contract, but work out the total cost of it over the period to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off: if you can afford a bit more upfront, you’ll most likely save over the contract’s length.
Which smartphone operating system do I need?
There are two smartphone operating systems to decide from in 2019: iOS and Android.See related Best budget smartphone 2019: The best cheap phones you can buy in the UKBest mid-range smartphone 2019: Great, affordable phones you can buy today
You’ll only find iOS on Apple’s own smartphones. The most recent version is iOS 12, which launched alongside the iPhone Xs. Typically, iOS gets apps first and is a wonderfully slick OS. It isn’t as customisable as Android, but there’s no doubt that it’s incredibly easy to use.
Android has a much wider reach than its Apple counterpart and is found on the majority of smartphones on the market. There are many different versions of Google’s operating system available, with the most recent being Android 9 Oreo. Generally speaking, you’ll want a phone running Android 7 Nougat or higher, as older versions will now be outdated. Manufacturers often customise their own versions of Android, which means that the experience can differ between handsets.
What should I look for in a smartphone display?
As most smartphones are controlled entirely with their touchscreens, the size and quality of a handset’s display is very important. A larger screen will make everything easier to read and is particularly useful for web browsing, but a big display makes for a big phone that you may find harder to carry around.
A screen’s pixel density, measured in pixels per inch (ppi), will give you an idea of how clear and sharp text will appear on a screen – a smaller number of pixels stretched across a huge screen, for example, will lead to jagged edges. Screen technology can also be very important, with AMOLED screens and IPS being the two main technologies, each with their own pros and cons.
What about performance and battery life?
Most smartphones are powered by octa-core processors these days. As a general rule, the clock speed of a processor (measured in GHz) shows how fast the phone is and will give you a rough indication of how fluid the operating system feels, and how the phone copes with running apps and games.
Alternatively, lengthy battery life is one of the biggest things you need to look for when picking up a new phone. Our battery tests help you make the right decision about the handset that’s right for you, but generally speaking the bigger the phone’s battery capacity (measured in mAh), the longer it will last on a single charge.
How much smartphone storage do I need?
Generally speaking, a minimum of 16GB of onboard storage is fine if there’s a microSD slot, but you’ll soon find the internal storage filling up quickly. With more of an emphasis on smartphone cameras in recent years, it’s likely that your Instagram snaps will be the main culprit in using up your storage, so we recommend at least 32GB to get you started.
The best smartphones to buy in 2019
1. OnePlus 6T: Still the best smartphone of 2019 (so far)
Yet again, the OnePlus 6T is the definitive flagship killer. Launching just a few months after its 6-branded counterpart, the 6T offers up a handful of much-needed, if subtle, improvements over its predecessor.
In keeping almost the same cost as last year’s (it’s only £30 more expensive), the firm has managed to plonk a 6.41in edge-to-edge AMOLED screen on the front, complete with a tiny drop notch on the top. As before, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor is running things from the inside and we’ve seen some improvements to its dual-camera setup on the rear – particularly when it comes to low-light photography.
It’s still a bargain, despite the slight price jump, and OnePlus has created one of the most well-rounded devices on the market in 2019. It’s as fast as flagships that’ll cost you a good £300 more and its swish new look is excellent. Get the OnePlus 6T if you’re a little wary of forking over piles of cash for the latest and greatest. It will serve you well for the years to come.
Key specs – Processor: 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845; Screen: 6.41in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 16-megapixel, 20-megapixel; Storage: 128/256GB; Operating system: Android 9
2. Google Pixel 3a: Pixel perfect
Google’s Pixel phones are finally moving back to the mid-range. Cheaper variants than their pricier flagship stablemates, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are both excellent in their own right, but it’s the camera that really sets these Android smartphones apart from the competition. The 12.2-megapixel sensor on its rear is superior to the camera on the iPhone X and last year’s efforts, and it’s capable of taking some truly stunning pictures in low-light, thanks to the new Night Sight shooting mode. It doesn’t have an extra lens like the Note 9 or OnePlus 6T, but if you’re an avid photography fan, the Pixel a3 certainly won’t disappoint, especially considering how little it costs.
Key specs – Processor: 2GHz Snapdragon 670; Screen: 5.6in, 2,220 x 1,080; Camera: 12.2-megapixel; Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 9.0
3. Motorola Moto G7 Power: The best budget buy
Motorola’s seventh-generation budget handset once again strengthens the firm’s flagship beating lineup. All four phones under the G7 name are solid picks, although to be clear we’re recommending the G7 Power variant above all else.
Cheaper than the regular G7, the Power model offers much the same in terms of core specifications while also adding a massive 5,000mAh battery. What this means is that the G7 power lasts significantly longer on a single charge when compared to the rest of 2019’s fleet of flagship, mid-range and budget handsets. if battery life is at the top of your smartphone buying agenda, look no further.
Bu that not all that’s exciting about the Moto G7 Power: the design is lovely, the software is chock full of extras and the camera is rather good for the price, too. There simply aren’t any wrongdoings here, and the Moto G7 power is a spectacular smartphone if money is tight.
Key specs – Processor: 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 632; Screen: 6.2in, 1,570 x 720; Camera: 12-megapixel; Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 9.0
4. Huawei P30 Pro: The flagship phone with five cameras
The US government has ordered Google to revoke Huawei’s Android licence. At this time, we think it’s wise to steer clear of the Chinese manufacturer, at least until the future of the company is clearer.
Huawei’s P30 Pro is certainly one of the more interesting smartphones to launch in the last few years. Huawei believes that adding yet another camera to the mix is precisely the thing to get futurists hot under the collar. Equipped with a total of four rear-facing cameras, the Huawei P30 Pro is far from your bog-standard smartphone flagship, and it’s a near-perfect execution from the long-standing smartphone firm.
But how does that intriguing camera get-up work? Well, the standard 40-megapixel RGB camera delivers images of greater dynamic range in low-light environments than was otherwise possible on last year’s phone, which is supported by a secondary, 20-megapixel ultra-wide sensor. The third camera adds 5x optical zoom to smartphones for the very first time, while the fourth is simply a ToF (Time of Flight) sensor for more effective-looking portrait shots. This combination of cameras makes for an incredibly well-equipped smartphone, capable of producing some of the best quality images we’ve ever seen.
Elsewhere, the phone is powered by Huawei’s newest octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 980 chip clocked at 2.6GHz, paired with 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of onboard storage. There’s also a fancy edge-to-edge display, with a teardrop notch at the top. In all, this is one of the smartphones to beat in 2019 and I expect other manufacturers will follow suit with similar camera arrangements in the coming months.
Key specs – Processor: 2.6GHz Hisilicon Kirin 980; Screen: 6.1in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 40-megapixel, 20-megapixel, 8-megapixel, ToF sensor; Storage: 128/256/512GB; Operating system: Android 9.0
5. Xiaomi Mi 9: Making flagships cheaper again
Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi isn’t yet a household name in the UK, but its affordable smartphones have been quietly attracting a lot of praise, and the Mi 9 is its best offering yet.
Indeed, it’s arguably the best smartphone we’ve ever tested. That’s partly because it’s based on Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 processor, which makes it substantially faster than its rivals. The Mi 9’s screen is excellent too, as is the 48-megapixel camera – and its 23-hour battery life blew us away. What makes all of that even more impressive is the fact that the Mi 9 costs half as much as many current flagship handsets.
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.84GHz Snapdragon 855; Screen: 6.39in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera:48-megapixel, 16-megapixel, 12-megapixel; Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 9
6. Apple iPhone Xs: Excessive excellence
What’s so special about Apple’s latest flagship? Well, aside from its wallet-scaring configuration options (it’s rather pricey), the iPhone Xs represents a bucketload of firsts for Apple: it is the first IP68-rated iPhone; is one with the biggest screen; has the biggest battery and its display is fitted with an HDR 10 panel.
The iPhone Xs, naturally, is the priciest iPhone to date. If you had your eye on the 512GB iPhone Xs Max – which essentially adds a bigger, higher-resolution display – you’ll be looking at spending £1,449. Still, you do get a lot for the price, and should you be lucky enough to have that much cash to burn on the latest upgrade, it’ll serve you well. For the sake of your bank balance, though, please make sure to protect it in a case.
Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core Apple A12 Bionic; Screen: 5.8in, 1,135 x 2,436; Camera: Dual 12-megapixel; Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB; Operating system: Apple iOS 12
7. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: Pricey Android perfection
“Why is Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus so far down this list?” I hear you cry. Well, Samsung’s fresh-faced flagship may be setting the benchmark for the next generation of Android handsets, but there’s one rather wallet-frightening flaw attached to it. Despite its near-perfection, the Galaxy S10 Plus is ludicrously expensive.
Okay, so Samsung’s latest plus-sized handset might not look like anything different, but internal upgrades to Samsung’s latest Exynos 980 processor (or the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, if you live in the US) make this the fastest smartphone we’ve ever tested. Not only that, but the f/1.5 camera continues to break new ground for low-light smartphone photography, which is made even better with the added 2x telephoto zoom and wide-angle lenses.
Make no mistake, this is an unrivalled smartphone, but it’s a very difficult package to recommend at its current rate. £899 is a heck of a lot to pay for any phone. No matter how good it is.
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Samsung 2.73GHz Exynos 9820; Screen: 6.4in, 3,040 x 1,440; Camera: Dual 12-megapixel and 16-megapixel; Storage: 128GB, 512GB, 1TB; Operating system: Android 9.0
8. Xiaomi Pocophone F1: Flagship features, palatable price
Smartphone flagships are getting better and better, but with these top-notch innovations comes an increased cost. Paying almost four figures for the latest top-end smartphone simply isn’t doable for most consumers, but thankfully Xiaomi’s Pocophone F1 offers a flagship experience at a vastly reduced cost.
Xiaomi’s mid-range handset has seriously reset the benchmark of what to expect from a smartphone in 2019. Equipped with Qualcomm’s super-speedy Snapdragon 845 chipset, the Pocophone F1 is a flagship in every single area, but is half the price of the usual smartphone big-hitters.
In fact, aside from the rather uninspired design, the Pocophone F1 doesn’t falter in any area. If you’re craving the latest flagship phones, but seemingly put off by the sky-high price tags, the Pocophone F1 is where your wallet should be headed.
Key specs – Processor: 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845; Screen: 6.18in, 2,246 x 1,080; Camera: 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel; Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 8.1
9. Huawei Mate 20 Pro: The triple-camera phablet
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we advise that you avoid purchasing a Huawei product until the future of the company becomes clearer.
Never mind Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, there’s another phablet worth considering. Yep, this is Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, a – rather unexpected – contender for the plus-sized smartphone crown.
Complete with a gorgeous, bezel-less 6.39in 2,160 x 1,080 screen and a stunning design, this is a smartphone that looks great in your palm. Likewise, Huawei’s previously naff smartphone processors – the Kirin series of chips – are significantly better than before, and give Qualcomm’s efforts a proper run for their money. Pair all that with an exceptional set of triple rear cameras and you’re looking at smartphone perfection.
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.6GHz Kirin 980; Screen: 6.39in, 3,120 x 1,440; Camera: 40-megapixel, 20-megapixel and 8-megapixel; Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 9.0
10. Honor View 20: The forgotten flagship
We also advise that you steer clear of Honor handsets like the View 20. The trade ban imposed on Huawei by the US government affects them too, which means the future is uncertain.
You might not be immediately familiar with Honor. An offshoot of Huawei, Honor is well-versed in launching cutthroat, midprice handsets that put those expensive flagship to shame, and the Honor View 20 is certainly no different.
Why? Well, Honor’s latest smartphone hits all the right notes, without too much of an impact to your wallet. Sure, it might not be the cheapest smartphone on this list, or perhaps not even the best-priced, but in the areas that matter the Honor View 20 is a force to be reckoned with.
For £500, the View 20 is an incredible package. It’s as powerful as any of 2019’s long list of flagships and arguably beats them all with its innovative notchless design and terrific photographic capabilities with its 48-megapixel camera. At this price, there’s very little to compete with the Honor View 20.