What should be the biggest month of the year for flagship phone launches is now looking very bleak, as GSMA has taken the momentous decision to cancel Mobile World Congress (MWC) for the first time since it began in 2006 following continued fears over the spread of coronavirus.
With many phone manufacturers planning press conferences for the show, it now throws into uncertainty when their new smartphones will launch. Confirmed to go ahead with press conferences on Monday 24 February are Sony, Huawei, Honor and Realme, while both Samsung and Xiaomi have already launched the Galaxy S20, Galaxy Z Flip and Mi 10.
Meanwhile, LG, Oppo and Nokia are postponing their events, and we'll be updating this article when we know more.
All that aside, 2020 is still going to be an exciting year for phones. This year we'll see super-fast 5G connectivity go mainstream, becoming a standard feature of all flagships and increasingly appearing in the mid-range. We'll start seeing screens that refresh at up to 120Hz, which is good news for gaming and video, and camera phones that pile on the megapixels and extra sensors unlike anything we've ever seen before.
Foldable designs are going to become cheaper, and more durable, and battery life is going to get better. Later this year we'll see software enhancements too, with the release of Android 11 (now out as a Developer Preview) and iOS 14.
2020 sure is an exciting time to be buying a new phone. But with so much change on the horizon, when is the best time to buy one?
In this feature we've outlined all the major smartphone launches that are expected in the next 12 months, along with an outline on what new features and hardware specifications are likely to be included. Read on to ensure your next smartphone purchase is not immediately followed by the regret that you should have waited just a few weeks longer and are now tied into a lonnngggg two-year contract. (Remember that there is a chance you could upgrade your contract early.)
Pro tip: As these new phones edge closer, the outgoing flagships will fall in price and you'll be able to scoop up some great deals. If you're not bothered about having the very latest tech, check out our take on what are the best phones you can buy today.
Best new phones coming out this year
Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ & S20 Ultra
The first major smartphone launch of the year took place on 11 February, with the now official Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra available to pre-order and shipping on 13 March (in the UK, 6 March in the US).
All eyes are on that Ultra model, which is new to the line-up (and, in our opinion, too damn big). It packs a 120Hz display and a 108Mp sensor as one of four lenses in its new Domino-style primary camera assembly.
The inclusion of a Snapdragon 865 (or Exynos 990) is exciting not only for the fact it will beef up performance and efficiency, but because it will be sold only with the X55 modem. Ergo, 5G for all.
Well, sort of: you can still get a standard Galaxy S20 with 4G for £799, while the 5G version will retail at £899. If it were our money, this is the one we'd want.
The bad news: the headphone jack is gawn. Sorry guys.
Don't take your fancy? Expect some incredible deals on the outgoing Galaxy S10.
Xiaomi Mi 10 & Mi 10 Pro
Xiaomi intended to show off its Mi 10 to a global audience during a MWC press conference on 23 February, but by this time both Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro would have already been the world's worst-kept secrets with a Chinese online-only launch event event having previously taken place on 13 February.
This is the 2020 smartphone launch we were most excited about, with the next Xiaomi flagship boasting the same 108Mp camera as the S20 (and that we've already seen in Mi Note 10), and the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor that will ensure blistering performance and 5G across the range, here with up to 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage, along with staggeringly fast 50W charging (on the Pro; 30W on standard).
Retailing from 3,999 yuan, which means we could see a circa-£100 price hike over the Mi 9 when it eventually comes to the UK, this is still an incredibly low price. Naturally, you'll be wondering where is the catch. Neither phone has a 120Hz Quad-HD display (actually 6.67in 90Hz full-HD AMOLED displays, now with a punch-hole selfie camera in place of the previous notch) or waterproofing.
Don't take your fancy? You literally cannot be disappointed with the current Mi 9, now just £350 at eBuyer.
Oppo Find X2 & X2 Pro
Oppo was set to make an appearance at MWC on 22 February, where the company had already confirmed it would be showing its Find X2 and X2 Pro. It has now postponed that conference until a later date, which is yet to be confirmed.
We could be looking at a new phone with a 6.5in Quad-HD+ 120Hz display and 65W wired charging, with the latter also seen in the China-only Reno Ace.
It has been confirmed that it will run the Snapdragon 865 processor, which means it will support 5G, and the new X2 could come with up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB storage. A triple-lens camera that includes a 48Mp sensor could also feature.
Don't take your fancy? With similar roots to OnePlus, check out the current OnePlus 7T.
Huawei Mate Xs
An updated version of Huawei's foldable Mate X (pictured), the Xs now runs on a Kirin 990 chip and has an improved hinge and a tougher screen.
It's already been announced in China, and CEO Richard Yu was planning to also show it at MWC in February. Although the 23 February press conference has been cancelled, Huawei will stage an online-only event on 24 February at 1pm GMT/2pm CET.
Don't take your fancy? Here are some more foldable phones to whet your appetite.
Nokia 9.2 PureView
What's throwing us the most over the prospect of a Nokia 9.2 PureView is that the company never released a Nokia 9.1 PureView. So here we are in early 2020 with Nokia going all Sony on us.
That aside, a really interesting rumour about Nokia's upcoming flagship - which can no longer launch during the company's cancelled 23 February MWC press conference, and is more likely delayed until the summer - is that it could feature an under-display selfie camera. That means no unsightly notch, and no punch-hole cutout.
With Samsung, Xiaomi and Oppo all known to be working on this tech, is Nokia really going to be the first to the finish line?
Nokia is many things, but these days it is rarely a trailblazer - and it wasn't so long ago we were hearing (and not questionning) the fact that its 2020 flagship would launch with a 2019 flagship processor (the Snapdragon 855).
Still, we will patiently wait the arrival of Nokia's new phone and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
Don't take your fancy? Here are some more great Nokia smartphones you can buy today.
We saw a Moto G8 Plus and Play launch last year, and only this week the company announced the Moto G8 Power (and in the US the Moto G Stylus), but the standard Moto G8 is still nowhere to be seen. The good news is it could still arrive in early 2020, but we have yet to find out what will happen with the planned 23 February MWC press conference.
The G8 is probably going to look a bit odd in this round-up of the best phones coming this year for the simple reason it is not a flagship, but we do expect it will be among the best budget phones coming this year.
We're not expecting any massive design changes, but the G8 could see a move to a triple-lens camera with the addition of an ultra-wide lens, along with some general upgrades such as to the G7's Snapdragon 632 processor.
Don't take your fancy? Xiaomi's Redmi Note 8T is a fabulous budget phone that's available right now.
Sony Xperia 2
As always, the jury is well and truly out on what Sony will call its next flagship. It could be the Xperia 2, or the Xperia 5 Plus, or even the Xperia 1.1. You can't even try to guess any more. Whatever it is, expect it to be announced during Sony's press conference on 24 February, which takes place at 7.30am GMT/8.30am CET.
Sony had already pulled out of the tradeshow before it was cancelled, yet it had also promised that its press conference would go ahead as an online-only event.
Rumours suggest we'll see a 6.6in OLED panel, complete with front-facing stereo speakers. On the back, a triple rear camera setup will be complemented by 18W fast charging and a 4,000mAh battery.
More interestingly, we could see the first 5G 4K smartphone.
Don't take your fancy? Here are some more great Sony phones.
Honor View 30
The Honor View 30 and Honor View 30 Pro have actually already launched in China, and were expected to see a global launch during a MWC press conference on 24 February. This is still thought to be the case, just not at MWC, with Honor holding an online-only event at 5.30pm GMT/6.30pm CET on Monday.
The Honor View 30 range sports 5G support, a flagship-level processor, a triple-camera setup and a dual hole-punch setup on the front, but there’s one missing element: Google Play. And that may make you rethink your purchasing decision entirely.
Almost certainly launching alongside the Honor View 30 on Monday 24 February, the Honor 30 is likely to be a cheap flagship, but one that comes with the same no-Google problems as other Huawei and Honor handsets.
Successor to the Honor 20 (pictured), this is probably going to be an iterative upgrade, with a performance boost courtesy of the new Kirin 990 processor, along with a bump up from 6GB to 8GB of RAM.
There will likely be a Samsung-esque Infinity-O display, that is a punch-hole-style cutout at the top corner for the selfie camera, but we expect the primary camera will stick at just the four lenses.
Waterproofing and wireless charging have not featured in the line previously, but it's likely that their inclusion might bump up the price a step too far to be feasible.
LG G9 ThinQ
Another phone that was almost certainly going to make an appearance at MWC 2020 in February was the LG G9 ThinQ. The company was one of the first to pull out of the event citing coronavirus concerns, promising a separate launch event in the near future, at a guess March. However, we should point out that its predecessor, the LG G8 ThinQ, never even launched in the UK (though you can buy the LG G8S).
In the past LG told us all future V-series phones would pack 5G, while the G-series will stick with 4G. That means the rumour that it will run on the Snapdragon 865 is either incorrect (and it will come with something older and slower), or that Qualcomm overruled that decision. We're hoping it's the latter.
As with many 2020 flagships the G9 is thought to feature a 120Hz display, but where we'd really expect LG to impress is the audio. Stay tuned for more.
Don't take your fancy? Here's a decent LG phone you actually can buy.
LG V60 ThinQ
Another LG phone that was expected to see a February MWC launch is the V60 ThinQ, with the V50 (pictured) appearing much earlier in the year than anticipated in 2019. But, as with the G9 ThinQ, it may never be sold in the UK. Expect a launch around March time.
So the interesting thing about the V-series is the dual-screen design, which was arguably more interesting before any truly foldable-screen phones went on sale. As before this will likely be detachable, and possibly using some redesigned hinges.
5G on a Snapdragon 865 chip is pretty much a given. We could also finally see LG integrate the fingerprint sensor to the screen.
Apple iPhone SE 2 (iPhone 9)
A smaller, cheaper iPhone has been on the cards for like ever, but in 2020 it could finally become a reality. Specifically, an update to the iPhone SE 2 could be announced during a rumoured March Apple event - although this, too, could be delayed by coronavirus.
We've heard that the new iPhone will feature a 4.7in display with Touch ID and look a lot like the iPhone 8. It will run on Apple's A13 chip, with 3GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
Likely to come in Space Grey, Silver or Red, prices could start as low as £399/US$399.
Don't take your fancy? There are some amazing Android phones available right now.
Huawei P40 & P40 Pro
Huawei had a really tough 2019 with all its US troubles, and yet that hasn't stopped it toppling Apple to become the #2 global OEM behind Samsung (Xiaomi is in fourth place), according to Counterpoint Research.
The whole will it, won't it debate in terms of Google services and apps has seemingly come to an abrupt end with the company now saying it could forego Google apps even if the trade ban is lifted. So that leaves us faced with some fantastic phones that don't (by default) run the software we want.
The March launch of the Huawei P40 is therefore going to be an intriguing one, but arguably not for the right reasons - the P40 is set to be a very appealing phone!
It will run the company's own Kirin 990 processor, and is currently rumoured to feature (at least in the Pro edition) a 6.5in 120Hz display and a penta-lens camera with 10x optical zoom. Around the front we could see two selfie cameras and, most interestingly, on the inside it could use graphene battery tech.
OnePlus 8, 8 Pro & 8 Lite
The original OnePlus One started life as a flagship killer that cost just £229/US$299/€269, but we've seen pricing creep up ever since. So it's welcome news that in 2020 a slimmed-down OnePlus 8 Lite will join the line-up alongside the bi-annual updates to the standard and Pro models. Typically arriving in May, there are rumours we could see the new OnePlus trio as soon as April. (Expect the OnePlus 8T and 8T Pro to follow in October 2020.)
The company has already confirmed that the Pro will feature a 120Hz display, and we are also expecting 5G to become a standard feature with a move to the Snapdragon 865 with X55 modem.
We're also expecting to see a 6.7in display, a 4,500mAh battery and 50W fast charging in the Pro model, and there is talk that OnePlus could *finally* introduce wireless charging and waterproofing here.
Don't take your fancy? You won't find better value than in some of the best Xiaomi phones on the market.
Asus Zenfone 7
Asus makes some incredible smartphones, but is somewhat underlooked in the UK market. The upcoming Zenfone 7 could change all that when it arrives later this year - most likely in May.
We're expecting the next Zenfone to be slightly more expensive than previous models with the addition of 5G and a Snapdragon 865 processor. It's also rumoured to finally bring the convenience of wireless charging to users.
Memory and storage look to also increase, to 8GB and 256GB respectively, but we're hoping one thing that won't change is the unique flipping camera module that serves as both primary camera and selfie camera.
Don't take your fancy? The Asus Zenfone 6 is still available for just £468 from GearBest.
Asus ROG Phone 3
It sounds as though more and more 2020 flagships are moving to true gaming phone specs, with 120Hz displays and super-fast processors and graphics, but there is still a market for proper gaming phones such as the Asus ROG Phone.
The next iteration, version 3, is likely to make an appearance in the summer - possibly in July - and on sale by September.
It's some way off, so rather that rumoured features here's what's on our wishlist: a 144/240Hz display; Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 with Adreno 650 GPU, a refined design that is as flashy as ever; improved cameras; and some bundled gaming accessories.
Don't take your fancy? Here are the best gaming phones you can buy today.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 & Note 20+
For some time the Samsung Galaxy Note's future has been under threat, with the S series edging ever closer in size, power and design, leaving only the S Pen stylus to differentiate between the two. But plenty out there think the Note's not dead yet.
It's likely we'll see many of the changes brought in with Galaxy S20 in the Note 20, including the new Domino-style rear camera with 108Mp sensor, and the 120Hz display. Under-glass selfie cameras have also been tipped for a Samsung phone coming later this year.
Should Samsung decide to continue its Note series, you can expect the next Galaxy to arrive in early August.
Don't take your fancy? There are some incredible deals around on the current Samsung Galaxy Note 10.
Apple iPhone 12 (Late 2020)
In September we'll see the annual refresh to the Apple iPhone, which in 2019 arrived in standard (6.1in), Pro (5.8in) and Pro Max (6.5in) versions.
We're hoping 2020 is going to be a year of significant design change for the iPhone, with that large screen notch now looking more than a little dated. Moving more in line with the latest Android phones, iPhone 12 may also come with 5G connectivity and an in-display fingerprint sensor, and potentially a quad-lens rear camera.
This could also be the year Apple finally ditches the Lightning port in favour of USB-C, which could temporarily upset some Apple fans but would be worthwhile in the long run.
We expect to see an Apple A14 Bionic processor, along with 4GB of RAM and storage options of 64-, 256- and 512GB. At least the most expensive models will have OLED displays, and we hope that Apple will standardise this across the line.
Don't take your fancy? Check out the best deals on older and current iPhone models.
Huawei Mate 40 & Mate 40 Pro
The message has probably got across to you by now, but it is incredibly unlikely that Huawei's Mate 40, expected in September, will feature Google apps and services. If this doesn't bother you, read on.
It's way too early for extensive rumours, but it's pretty much a given that the Mate 40 will run the next-gen Kirin chip. This is the one that comes after the Kirin 990, and is reportedly already in trial production, apparently using a 5nm manufacturing process.
We'd really like to see a return of physical volume buttons on the Pro model, plus an enhanced camera that is more in line with the P-series than older Mate models.
Don't take your fancy? Huawei Mate 20 X comes with full Google apps and is available at around £650.
Google Pixel 5 & 5 XL
Following a May launch of the Pixel 4A, Google's flagship line should see an update during its annual hardware conference in early October.
These phones are interesting largely for being among the first to offer the latest Android operating system (which, in 2020, will be Android 11), but also for offering the purest software experience.
In other respects, gone are the days when Google's own phones offer the best value, or the best specs. They still fare pretty well on the cameras, however, if that floats your boat.
Chief among our wishlist for Pixel 5 is a higher-capacity battery and a more modern design.
Don't take your fancy? In May we could see a new Pixel 4a, which could bring 5G to the mid-range.
Microsoft Surface Duo
Microsoft announced the Duo back in 2019, but it won't ship until "Holiday 2020".
The long-awaited Surface Phone, Duo is a dual-screen folding smartphone that has a pair of 5.6in displays separated by a 360-degree hinge, and can be bent into various forms a bit like a 2-in-1 laptop. It runs Android rather than Windows, and works with a stylus, but little else is known right now.