We're seeing super-fast 5G connectivity start to take hold; becoming a standard feature across flagships and appearing with increasing frequency within the mid-range space. We're now seeing screens that boast 120Hz refresh rates, which is good news for gaming and video, and camera phones continue to pile on the megapixels and extra sensors, unlike anything we've ever seen before.
In this feature, we've outlined all the major smartphone launches expected to take place in the remainder of 2020 and early 2021, along with an outline of what new features and hardware specifications have been or are likely to be included.
Read on to ensure your next smartphone purchase is not immediately followed by the regret, tying you into a long 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 the best phones you can buy today.
Best new phones coming out in 2020/2021
OnePlus 8T - 20 October (UK), 23 October (US)
OnePlus typically announces two flagship phones per year, so despite the fact the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro have only recently gone on sale we still got a OnePlus 8T launch on 14 October - though there won't be a Pro version.
The big upgrades are a 120Hz display, 65W fast charging, and support for Android 11 out of the box, while the design has had a pretty serious tweak too.
Perhaps surprisingly it still uses Qualcomm's existing flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset, in place of the upgraded 'Plus' model, while the camera setup is also nearly identical.
The price has dropped by £50/$50 though, which is more than enough to make up for what's otherwise a modest upgrade.
Huawei Mate 40 & Mate 40 Pro - 22 October
The message has probably got across to you by now, but it is incredibly unlikely that Huawei's Mate 40 will feature Google apps and services. If this doesn't bother you, read on.
Set to launch on 22 October, the phone has leaked surprisingly little so far.
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 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.
Apple iPhone 12 - 23 October
The annual refresh to the Apple iPhone is here, with the new iPhone 12 phones going on pre-order this week before hitting stores on 23 October - well, some of them at least.
2020 has brought us four new iPhone 12 models. The standard iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro launch in October, but the diminutive 12 mini and super-sized 12 Pro Max don't arrive until 6 November.
All of them bring a new squared design, OLED screens, and 5G support, not to mention the A14 Bionic processor. More controversially, none of the new iPhones ship with headphones or a power adapter - an environmentally friendly measure that will still force some Apple fans to spend extra on a charger.
OnePlus Nord Lite - Q4 2020
We loved the original OnePlus Nord, giving it five stars and declaring it to be the best mid-range phone of 2020. OnePlus always say that Nord was the start of a new product line though, and there are more Nord phones on the way.
Rumour has it that not one, but two new Nords might be due before the end of the year – and unlike the first one these models might actually launch in the US.
The main model is expected to use the Snapdragon 690 and boast a 64Mp camera, while an even cheaper model will use the Snapdragon 662 or 665, and may cost as little as $200.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 FE - Q4 2020
The recent announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (on sale 2 October) has led many to believe a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 FE may also be on the way, perhaps in place of a Galaxy Note 20 Lite. If true, it could arrive any time in Q4 2020.
We would expect it to feature a 6.7in AMOLED display and an Exynos 8250 (Europe) or Snapdragon 865 (North America) processor, but some slightly slimmed down core memory and storage specs over the standard Note 20. It is also likely to feature a plastic case to help bring down the price further, and you should expect some camera downgrades, too.
Xiaomi Mi 11 - Q1 2021
MWC might have been pushed back to June, but that doesn't mean Mi 11 (or maybe Mi 20) will see the same fate, traditionally launching in China ahead of its European launch in Q1 2021.
Most of the Mi 11 talk is currently speculation, almost entirely based on some dubious concept renders. However, one feature that's almost a given is inclusion of the Snapdragon 875, a chip that's said to be built on the 5nm manufacturing process.
Other rumours include a move (at last) to Quad-HD displays, here a 6.9in Samsung Super AMOLED panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, HDR 10 and a 32Mp under-display selfie camera... Apparently. Mi 11 is also said to get a battery boost to 5500mAh, with up to 100W wired charging, and a camera upgrade to 192Mp!
Samsung Galaxy S30 - Q1 2020
In recent years Samsung has preferred to hold its own Unpacked announcements for its new flagships rather than sticking to MWC and IFA, so we are still expecting to see a Galaxy S30 series in February 2020.
It's likely the new line-up will move to the new Snapdragon 875 processor, which will be announced in December, and we'd be surprised if 5G didn't come as standard across the range.
The S30 is likely to feature a design evolution rather than revolution, with the same 120Hz (possibly even 144Hz) displays and tweaked 108Mp cameras we saw introduced in 2020, potentially dropping the ToF camera.
A bigger change will come to wired charging, with the S30 tipped to hit as much as 65W.
New BlackBerry Phone - H1 2021
You read that correctly, BlackBerry is back from the dead again. In August, that US company Onward Mobility licensed the BlackBerry name and has announced that it will work to release a new BlackBerry device in the first half of 2021.
According to Onward Mobility, the new BlackBerry will have 5G network capabilities and a physical keyboard. These really are the only two indications of specs that we have aside from the phone running Android, as currently the announcement is only of the partnership’s existence and nothing more.
OnePlus Nord 2 - H1 2021
Aside from Nord Lite models, we're still expecting OnePlus to unveil a true successor to its mid-range Nord phone some time in 2021.
There haven't been any leaks about the device yet, but it's likely it would jump from 90Hz refresh rate to 120Hz and upgrade to the 65W fast charging seen in the OnePlus 8T.
Throw in Android 11 and a new processor and that would make the Nord 2 very tempting indeed.
Apple iPhone SE Plus - H2 2021
Apple's new iPhone SE went on sale back in April, but it was always expected to arrive alongside a Plus model. If you're thinking that might be imminent, though, don't hold your breath; we could be waiting until the second half of 2021.
This is not simply a larger version of the iPhone SE, mind you. Prolific Apple leakster Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the iPhone SE Plus will feature either a 5.5 or 6.1in display and, crucially, it’ll sport a “full-screen design” like that of the iPhone 11 range. It may also have Touch ID built into the power button.
Microsoft Surface Duo - UK release TBC
Microsoft announced the Duo back in 2019, and it finally went on sale in the US on 10 September. Here in the UK we're still waiting for a release date.
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 it 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.