Flagship phones get better every year, and in 2019 we have some gorgeous handsets to look forward to from the likes of Samsung and Apple, LG and HTC, Huawei and Honor, Xiaomi and OnePlus, Sony, Motorola, Nokia and more.
In the next 12 months you can expect to see the first phones capable of connecting to 5G networks (here's what that means), and the futuristic in-display fingerprint sensor should become commonplace, even trickling down to the mid-range.
The processor of choice will be the Snapdragon 855, a 7nm octa-core chip that promises a 45% performance bump and a lot more besides, though the likes of Apple, Huawei and Samsung will continue to build in their alternatives.
Expect phones to get faster, screens to get bigger (and taller, and possibly bendier), and batteries to last longer. Above all they'll become smarter, with AI becoming widespread and implemented system-wide. We'll see new creative ways to get around the screen 'notch', with Samsung trying out a new punch-hole-style Infinity-O display and others sure to follow suit.
Cameras, too, will multiply in number, with the first penta-lens smartphone from Nokia tipped to be imminent. They'll pile on the Megapixels - Xiaomi's upcoming Mi 9 could feature a 48Mp triple-lens camera - and also the quality.
Smartphones due at MWC 2019
MWC 2019 kicks off this weekend, which means we're due an influx of great new phones. But some phone makers just can't wait to tell us all about their new devices.
While LG has already issued a couple of press releases about its upcoming G8, Xiaomi is holding separate launches for the Mi 9 in China (20th) and Spain (24th), and has already held a 'mini-launch' on social media that tells us pretty much everything we want to know in any case.
Samsung's Galaxy S10 is still unofficial, but it's competing with both the G8 and Mi 9 for the title of world's worst-kept secret. It will be announced in an Unpacked event tomorrow (20 February) alongside the Galaxy Fold.
Sunday 24 February is the busiest day at MWC, kicking off at 10.30am with Xiaomi and it's by then twice revealed Mi 9. This is followed by Nokia, hopefully with the Nokia 9, and LG - and while we already know quite a bit about the G8 it has done a better job of keeping the V50 under wraps. Huawei is also holding a press conference, but it's not for a phone - the P30 line-up will arrive on 26 March.
Sony's conference is not until the morning of Monday 25 February, but it will be worth the wait with the launch of the Xperia XZ4 and XZ4 Compact.
Top smartphones coming in 2019
Below we've listed the flagships expected to arrive in 2019 from the world's biggest smartphone makers. Though launch dates are yet to be confirmed we've attempted to keep things roughly in date order, so you have a good idea of how long you'll be waiting to upgrade.
Xiaomi Mi 9
It doesn't officially launch in Europe until Sunday (10.30am CET), but the Mi 9 has already received a 'mini-launch' online, and will launch again in China tomorrow (20 February). By Sunday the only thing we won't know is the UK price, though we could hazard a good guess at around £459.
The Mi 9 will be available in Piano Black and two new colours: iridescent blue (Ocean Blue) and pink (Lavender Violet).
It will run the 7nm Snapdragon 855 processor with Adreno 640 graphics, with 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB storage. An Explorer Edition will feature an insane 12GB of RAM, but there will also be a transparent version of the Mi 9 that is not the Explorer - we presume like the outgoing Mi 8 Pro.
A 6.4in 19:9 display uses Samsung Super AMOLED tech, and has a new waterdrop-style notch to house the 20Mp selfie camera. The screen-to-body ratio has been raised to 90.7% with a 40% reduction in the size of the chin. The rear camera display has also been tweaked, now a triple-lens model with 48Mp + 16Mp + 12Mp lenses.
An in-display fingerprint sensor is 25% faster than in the Mi 8 Pro and Explorer, and additional new features such as Game Turbo mode, a system-wide dark mode, and a customisable Always-on Display.
Samsung Galaxy S10
The Galaxy S10 will launch tomorrow at 7pm GMT during an Unpacked press conference ahead of MWC. The 10th smartphone in the series, this update is expected to be revolutionary.
Samsung will work to further maximise the available screen area, refusing to go down the notch route to house the selfie camera and instead opting for a punch-hole-style cutout in its new Infinity-O display. Those screens are getting larger, too, with 5.8in, 6.1in and 6.4in displays.
Hang on, three? Actually there will be four Galaxy S10 variants, with the S10 E, S10 standard and S10+ followed later in the year by a 5G variant.
All versions will integrate an in-display fingerprint sensor (the more pricey models a fancier version), and run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 or Samsung's own Exynos 9820 chip. There will be more cameras, with two at the front and three or even four at the rear, and faster wireless charging (up to 27W). Storage, too, will be bumped up to UFS 3.0, and go as high as 1TB.
You can pre-register your interest now at Carphone Warehouse for the chance to win a £1,000 Currys/PC World gift card.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung's upcoming foldable phone is one of many such devices tipped to hit the market in 2019, with Xiaomi, Huawei and LG also said to be working on the format, but expect outrageous pricing to put them out of reach for most consumers.
The Galaxy Fold will arrive in the first half of 2019, with many sources suggesting it will launch alongside the Galaxy S10 tomorrow. The Unpacked event starts at 7pm GMT (click here to watch).
The 7.3in-screen device can be folded in half to fit in a pocket. We know that it will run Samsung's new OneUI and can run three apps on the 4K Infinity Flex Display at once.
Nokia 9 PureView
At 4pm CET on Sunday 24 February Nokia is holding a MWC press conference, and after a very long (two-year) wait, this could be the day we are finally rewarded for our patience with the Nokia 9 PureView.
That it's expected to feature last year's Snapdragon 845 rather than the brand-new 855 is disappointing, if not at all surprising, though the Nokia 9 could wow in other ways: it's thought to feature a penta-lens rear camera with Zeiss branding.
The Nokia 9's 5.99in Quad-HD screen could also see an in-display fingerprint sensor integrated, and we expect to find Android One and a capacious 4,150mAh battery running the show. Waterproofing and wireless charging should also be standard.
LG G8 ThinQ
LG is holding a MWC press conference on Sunday 24 February at 7.30pm CET, and it's already confirmed that the G8 ThinQ will be announced.
Surprise, surprise, this 2019 flagship will also carry the Snapdragon 855 processor, but it's unlikely to support costly 5G - LG is expected to announce another phone for this.
Whereas the G8 was originally thought to be a foldable phone, LG has now put to bed rumours that its foldable device will launch this year. Instead it will be another notch-screen full-display smartphone, with confirmed features including sound on display and a time-of-flight camera.
That screen could go 4K, but perhaps with LCD rather than AMOLED tech to keep down costs. A triple-lens camera is also rumoured, but just a dual-lens camera is depicted in renders.
One of two LG flagships anticipated in 2019, also expect an LG V50 to launch before the end of the year.
Though we weren't expecting the V50 until October 2019, fresh rumours from South Korea suggest the V50 will be LG's first 5G smartphone, and that it will arrive at MWC 2019 alongside the LG G8.
Available in the US and Europe from March, the same source says we'll see a 6in QHD display, Snapdragon 855 processor and 4,000mAh battery.
Sony Xperia XZ4
Launching on 25 February 2019 (8.30am CET) at the MWC tradeshow, the Xperia XZ4 will be Sony's latest flagship. It's likely to look an awful lot like the XZ3, though perhaps with a flatter screen.
Leaked renders of screen protectors suggest there will be no notch, but a very tall 21:9 aspect ratio. Case renders also point to at least two cameras at the rear, but potentially three.
In common with the Huawei P30 Pro there is some talk of Sony reversing its decision to remove the headphone jack, though we think this unlikely.
The Snapdragon 855 will also feature, and Sony fans will be pleased to learn a Compact version of the XZ4 is also expected to be announced.
Huawei P30 Pro
The first Huawei flagship of the year will be the P30 Pro. But while Huawei is holding a launch event at MWC on Sunday 24 February, the P30 will arrive at a separate event on 26 March.
The latest renders of the upcoming phone point to the return of the headphone jack, as well as an in-display fingerprint sensor and new waterdrop-style screen notch. Though there may again be a triple-lens rear camera on the standard model, the Pro could see a four-lens assembly.
We anticipate the new Huawei phone will use the same Kirin 980 seen in the Mate 20 Pro, and we'd also expect it to 'borrow' features such as the curved screen and 3D face-scanning camera.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3S (& Mi Mix 4)
Although the Mi Mix 3 is only going on sale in the UK on 16 January (priced at £499), we can expect to see two more Mi Mix phones heading our way in 2019. The first, the Mi Mix 3S, likely around March time, and the second the Mi Mix 4, arriving around October.
Changes thought to be coming to the line include the possibility of a foldable screen (don't hold your breath for this in the 3S, where we expect to find a refined version of the existing magnetic sliding screen), as well as an update to the Snapdragon 855 and addition of a third periscope lens to the rear camera assembly.
With flagship specs the anticipated price of the upcoming Mi Mix phones is outrageous: around £500.
A Huawei spin-off, Honor is becoming increasingly popular with consumers in the UK. Its 2019 flagship is the Honor 11, which we expect will be announced in China in April, and possibly the UK in May.
Its predecessor (pictured) had an attractive £399 price tag, which is something we hope Honor will stick to this time around. As a result you get some top-level specs, but not as much as you might expect from the likes of the Galaxy S10.
Following on from the already announced Honor View 20, which is one of the first phones we've seen to use a punch-hole-style selfie camera cutout, the Honor 11 will likely get the same treatment.
We'd expect a largely similar spec to the Huawei P30, which means there could be a powerful Kirin 980 inside.
HTC used to be big news in the Android market, but these days less so. Despite some rumours before Christmas that there would be no HTC U13, the company has insisted that its future flagship smartphone efforts will focus on 5G, artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual-reality applications.
We don't expect the next flagship from HTC to arrive until at least late-May 2019, and thus there is little right now to go on in the way of rumours. A few early concept videos have leaked and, worryingly, all point to a mid-range Snapdragon 660 processor rather than a chip worthy of a flagship.
We'd like to see the U13 reduce its screen bezels, move to AMOLED tech, and integrate an in-display fingerprint sensor. It proved its worth with the camera on the U12+, so let's see it do that again here.
One of two new OnePlus flagships expected to arrive in 2019 (with a 5G phone also promised to launch before the end of May), the OnePlus 7 will see a summer launch around May-June time.
Tipped to be another flagship killer at an affordable price, anticipated specs include the Snapdragon 855, fast UFS 3.0 storage and the triple-lens rear camera that was rumoured for the OnePlus 6T before it, as well as that phone's in-display fingerprint sensor.
We'd love to see the OnePlus include proper waterproofing and wireless charging, but only time will tell.
Moto Z4 Play
Motorola's upcoming flagship may not be a flagship at all, with a mid-range processor inside, potentially the Snapdragon 710. The 2018 flagship (the standard Moto Z3) never made it to the UK, so it's likely we'll see only the cheaper Play model again in 2019.
We've seen some CAD-based renders of the upcoming Motorola handset, which is expected to arrive in June, and they point to a move from a dual-lens camera at the rear to a single-lens model. Odd, but perhaps a cost-cutting exercise in order to squeeze in an in-display fingerprint sensor, with a rear-facing version nowhere to be seen on the images.
This is one of several changes likely to come to the display, and we may also see a new waterdrop-style screen notch to house the selfie cameras and sensors.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
The third Samsung flagship to arrive in 2019, the Note 9 will mark itself out with an even larger screen (now up to 6.66in), a higher-capacity battery and an S-Pen stylus.
Almost certainly arriving in August 2019, the Galaxy Note 10 is said to offer 8% more usable screen area, and will also feature Samsung's new Infinity-O display (with punch-hole-style cutout for the selfie camera).
We can expect to see all the same improvements that come to the Galaxy S line in February with the S10, including the in-display fingerprint sensor, Snapdragon 855/Exynos 9820, UFS 3.0 storage and Samsung's new OneUI.
Apple iPhone 2019
iPhone 11, iPhone XI, iPhone XS 2019... for now no-one really knows what to call the next iPhone, though history tells us it will be announced in September 2019. Once again there will likely be three models, in essence standard, lite and plus versions.
As always there is an awful lot of speculation over what will feature in the next iPhone, but chief among those rumours is a triple-lens camera, a reduced screen notch, even tougher screen protection with Sapphire glass, and a move from Lightning to USB-C (which will be sure to annoy a lot of Apple fans and delight the rest of the world).
The next iPhone could also see the return of the fingerprint sensor, with an in-display Touch ID module, and a move to OLED panels on all models.
Google Pixel 4
Google's annual own-brand smartphone release will come in early October 2019, running new Android 10 Q.
Early rumours suggest the company will push the boundaries of the all-screen front, with a dual-lens selfie camera and dual speakers built directly into the display and no notch in sight. With more focus on the front we could see a jump up in size from 5.5in to around 6in on the standard model, and from 6.3in to something closer to 6.6in on the Pixel 4 XL.
Another thing Google will work to improve is photography, with a dual-lens camera with 2x optical zoom expected to feature. And performance will improve, with the Snapdragon 855 onboard (which could also pave the way to 5G support), though we'd like to see Google go beyond 4GB of RAM as standard.
Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Unlikely to arrive until October 2019, the Mate 30 Pro could be Huawei's most expensive phone to date.
Some things are a given, like the fact it will see a processor bump to the Kirin 990. Others, we can speculate on, and some leaked case renders suggest a much larger camera cutout on the Mate 30 Pro. It already had three camera lenses at the rear, so in 2019 we could see four or even five.
Huawei's CEO Richard Yu says the company will continue to focus on AI this year.
Like the mysterious Mate 30 Pro and Pixel 4, Razer's third-gen Razer Phone is rumoured to be released in October 2019. The Razer Phone 2 is one of the best gaming-focused smartphones on the market right now, boasting a 120Hz display and RGB lighting on the rear.
How will Razer improve?
It's hard to say beyond upgraded internals, but we're holding out hope for the introduction of a suite of mobile gaming accessories alongside the Razer Phone 3.