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 even 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 announced in February. They'll pile on the Megapixels - Xiaomi's Mi 9 has a 48Mp triple-lens camera - and also the quality.
Top smartphones announced at MWC 2019
MWC 2019 took place at the end of February, with several of this year's upcoming flagships announced at the show, including two foldable designs in the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold, plus 5G versions of the Galaxy S10, Mi 9, Mi Mix 3, LG V50 and OnePlus 7.
Non-5G, traditionally designed flagships were also announced in the LG G8 ThinQ, Sony Xperia 1 and Nokia 9 PureView. You can read all about each of these phones below.
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 - Out now (sort of)
Xiaomi's Mi 9 has been officially unveiled in Europe and China, but for some reason it's still not available to buy through official channels in the UK. When it does finally arrive here we expect it to cost around £449, with European prices starting at €449.
The Mi 9 will be available in Piano Black and two new colours: iridescent blue (Ocean Blue) and pink (Lavender Violet).
It runs the 7nm Snapdragon 855 processor with Adreno 640 graphics, with 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB, 128GB or 256GB storage. The Explorer Edition features an insane 12GB of RAM, and also upgrades the primary camera.
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 - Out now!
As of 8 March the Galaxy S10 is now officially on sale (see the best deals). It was announced alongside the cheaper S10e and top-end S10 Plus, with a 5G version also promised.
The 10th smartphone in the series, the S10 is quite the upgrade over its predecessor. The screen now occupies 93% of the front surface of the device, with a new Dynamic OLED Infinity-O panel using a punch-hole style notch for the 20Mp selfie camera. Those screens are getting larger, too, with 5.8in, 6.1in and 6.4in displays.
All but the S10e integrate an in-display fingerprint sensor, and run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 or Samsung's own Exynos 9820 chip. There are more cameras, with two at the front of the S10 Plus and three (or even four in the 5G model) at the rear.
Storage and RAM options now go as high as 512GB and 12GB respectively, and there's a microSD slot to add a further 512GB.
Samsung Galaxy Fold - Imminent
Samsung's foldable phone goes on sale in the UK on 3 May (26 April in the US) at the staggering price of €2000/$1980.
There's a 4.6in HD+ Super AMOLED screen on the outside of the device, which can be unfolded to reveal a larger 7.3in QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED display that can display three apps at once. The exterior screen is not usable in this position, but App Continuity allows you to continue what you were doing on the smaller screen on the larger display.
Galaxy Fold has a total of six cameras, with three (16Mp + 12Mp + 12Mp) on the back, two inside (10Mp + 8Mp) and one (10Mp) on the front in its folded position.
The new Samsung phone features 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and a fast 7nm 64-bit octa-core processor. The battery is rated at 4,380mAh.
The phone uses a new custom operating system called One UI, which is much more simplified than what we are used to seeing on Samsung devices, and optimised for one-handed use.
Nokia 9 PureView - Out now!
Nokia announced several new Android phones at MWC 2019, including the flagship Nokia 9 PureView, which is now on sale at £549 (buy here).
As expected it has both highs and lows, with an insane five 12Mp cameras on the rear and an in-display fingerprint sensor, but also some interesting design choices and last year's Snapdragon 845 (which also means no 5G).
LG G8 ThinQ - Out now in the US
LG announced not only the G8 ThinQ at MWC 2019, but also the V50 (below), which we weren't expecting until October time. LG has not yet confirmed UK prices or a release date, though it's available to buy in the US from the likes of Best Buy.
Surprise, surprise, this 2019 flagship also carries the Snapdragon 855 processor, but without 5G support (look to the V50 for that).
Whereas the G8 was once thought to be a foldable phone, its has a traditional design with a full-screen display with notch. There are some fancy features, such as sound on display and a time-of-flight camera, and some gimmicky 'touchless' gestures.
LG V50 - Imminent
Though we weren't expecting the V50 until October 2019, it turns out it is LG's first 5G smartphone, and was announced at MWC 2019 alongside the LG G8. Again, LG has not confirmed pricing or availability.
With the hardware required for 5G (which includes the Snapdragon 855 and X50 modem) and a high-capacity 4,000mAh battery inside, the V50 is something of a chunk - more so when you attach the optional dual-screen accessory.
With this in place the V50 becomes something of a halfway-house to a foldable design, offering much the same functionality and at a lower price, but significantly less cool.
Sony Xperia 1 - Imminent
Announced on 25 February at MWC, the Xperia 1 replaces the XZ3 as Sony's top-end smartphone. The company has changed the naming scheme once again, and this time there's no Compact version in sight.
Expected to go on sale in late spring, the Xperia 1 will cost from £849.You can pre-register your interest here.
The Xperia 1 has much the same hardware as other 2019 flagships, but interestingly is the world's first phone with a 4K HDR screen. This is a huge 6.5in screen with a tall 21:9 aspect ratio.
There's also fancy features such as an in-display fingerprint sensor, triple-lens rear camera, stereo speakers and waterproofing.
Huawei P30 Pro - Out now!
The first Huawei flagship of the year is the P30 Pro, which arrived at a special event on 26 March alongside the standard P30. It's already on sale, and you can check out the best deals here.
Another fantastic flagship from Huawei that takes smartphone photography to the next level, the Pro has four cameras at the rear as expected.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 4
The 5G version of the Mi Mix 3 was announced at MWC 2019 in February, and the timing of this suggests we could see Xiaomi go straight to the Mi Mix 4 in October time rather than announcing a Mi Mix 3S variant in the spring.
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.
Honor 20 - 21 May
A Huawei spin-off, Honor is becoming increasingly popular with consumers in the UK. Its 2019 flagship is the Honor 20, which we expect will be announced on 21 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 20 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.
OnePlus 7 - May 2019
Originally thought to be one of two new OnePlus phones arriving this summer, it's now thought that the OnePlus 7 will launch alongside a more expensive 5G variant than as an entirely separate product line. OnePlus has promised a 5G phone before the end of May, and though we're still waiting on an exact launch date Pete Lau has promised some exciting news this week.
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 - June 2019
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.
HTC U13 - Summer 2019
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.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 - August 2019
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.
The Note 10 is also thought to feature four camera lenses at the rear, and there are some rumours the selfie camera will be moved to the S-Pen stylus.
The jury is out on the name however, with some suggesting a simple change from a 0 to a 5 in the model number could point to a rebrand. We think it could just as easily reference 5G support, since there will almost certainly be a 5G version if it is not built-in as standard.
Apple iPhone XS 2 - September 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 - October 2019
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 - October 2019
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.