Huawei P30 Pro
Sure, 2018 was an excellent year for smartphones, but we think 2019 could be even better. Why? Because we’ve already seen loads and loads of leaks.
They show a next generation of handsets that are sleeker and sexier than before, smoothing out the rough edges of past smartphones while adding more capabilities than ever. And some of them break fascinating new ground, as well, instead of just improving on what’s come before.
Want an early look at the next super-phone that’ll line your pocket sometime in 2019? Here’s what we know so far about the year’s biggest and brightest smartphones.
Huawei: P30 + P30 Pro
Nearly all of the major leaks proved to be correct as Huawei unveiled both the P30 Pro and standard P30 on 26 March in Paris.
Both phones look a bit like the Mate 20 Pro mixed with a dash of P20 Pro, and feature a tiny teardrop notch and some dazzling backing colour options. The P30 Pro has a 6.47in 1080p panel, the Kirin 980 chip, wireless and reverse wireless charging, a 4,200mAh battery pack, and an in-display fingerprint sensor.
More notably, the P30 Pro packs a quad-camera array that features a truly standout feature: 10x lossless zoom. That’s a huge step up from the 5x hybrid/3x optical zoom in the P20 Pro, and it impressed in our brief hands-on. The standard P30, meanwhile, comes with a 6.1in 1080p display and has a triple-camera array with no 10x zoom, along with a smaller battery pack.
Both phones should reach buyers by 5 April, with the P30 Pro starting at £899 and the standard P30 starting at £699.
Samsung: Galaxy Fold
Samsung is getting adventurous again, as seen with the long-awaited debut of the Galaxy Fold smartphone. Looking like two flagship phones stacked atop each other, the Galaxy Fold has a compact 4.6in display on the outside – but fold the phone open and you’ll find a 7.3in tablet-like Infinity Flex panel inside.
You have to see it to believe it – especially the way that apps seamlessly transfer from one screen to the next depending on whether you want to one-hand the phone or get a better view inside. It’s also loaded with top-end tech, including a 7nm processor, 12GB RAM, 512GB of onboard memory, and 4,380mAh between its two battery packs.
The price is as wild as the concept however: it’ll start at US$1,980 (about £1,520), and that’s surely for the LTE model. We can’t even imagine what they’ll be asking for the 5G edition. The Galaxy Fold ships on 26 April, and we’re definitely looking forward to playing around with it.
Huawei: Mate X
Huawei has already revealed a 2019 phone, however, and it’s a big one – both literally and figuratively.
Shown at MWC in late February, the 5G-capable Huawei Mate X is a foldable phone along the lines of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, but it’s done in a quite different manner. Rather than have a second screen hidden inside the fold, this one extra-large 8in display is wrapped around the outside.
That means you’ll have screen on the front, screen on the back, and then one big conjoined screen when you fully unfold it. The benefit is a slimmer-looking phone; the downside comes with potential scratches, and possibly a flimsier feel than the Galaxy Fold.
In any case, we’re super enticed, especially after going hands-on. The Mate X will ship sometime in the first half of this year, but it won’t be cheap: in fact, it’s hilariously expensive at €2299 (about £1970).
Apple: Next iPhones
We expect to see successors to the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR around the same annual September target that Apple prefers.
Purported leaked renders show three awkwardly-arranged back camera sensors in a huge-looking module, and it may use Sony’s new 3D camera sensors that can measure distance. Another supposedly leaked render from the same leaker shows a center-mounted horizontal camera array, instead; he says that Apple may be deciding between them. The above concept render from Ben Geskin shows the first design on the iPhone XS Max successor, with a smaller notch on the front.
Other rumours are all over the place as of now. All three phones might use OLED displays… or they may not (the next iPhone XR will probably stick with LCD). The pricier models could follow the iPhone XR’s lead and drop 3D Touch support… or maybe not. Apple Pencil support? That’s been rumoured, too.
A Bloomberg report suggests that the new 2019 iPhones will not come with 5G network support – so if that’s something you want ASAP, you may not get it from the next iPhone. At this point, however, it’s too early to put much stock into any of these rumours and reports. We’re enticed by the rumour that the iPhone XS follow-up will have a huge 4,000mAh battery, but a 50% boost like that is unlikely given Apple’s history in that department.
We’ll get juicier and surely firmer details as the year goes on, though. After all, the Apple rumour mill never disappoints.
OnePlus: OnePlus 7
We’re barely a couple months out from the release of the OnePlus 6T, but rumours are already swirling around the incoming OnePlus 7. It’s early still, but there are some compelling details worth knowing.
Leaks suggest a handset without a notch, punch-hole, or visible camera on the front – perhaps because it has a pop-up selfie camera. This OnLeaks concept render is based on purportedly leaked data, and he has a strong track record with these things.
Another intriguing leaked photo shared by Ishan Agarwal shows what appears to be a significant design shake-up for an upcoming handset. It may not be the OnePlus 7, and it may not even reach production – but it appears to show CEO Pete Lau in view, so it’s worth considering the possibilities.
We expect another handset that mostly matches flagships on quality and components but still comes a little short on price (hopefully), with a Snapdragon 855 processor and probably another 1080p display. And OnePlus has already confirmed that its next flagship will not have wireless charging onboard.
The OnePlus 7 should roll out around early summer, like the OnePlus 6 did in 2018. Also, OnePlus has said that it will be one of the first companies to release a 5G handset, although the company claims that it won’t be the successor to the OnePlus 6T. That’s probably because a 5G-compatible phone will be pricier than the standard OnePlus 7, so it may arrive as a special edition or a differently-named variant.
Google Pixel 4
It’s still very early in the rumour mill, but speculation is already circulating about Google’s next major Pixel phones. And they suggest a bit of inspiration from Samsung.
The concept render above comes from Phone Designer, but it’s based on a simple diagram that’s rumoured to show the Pixel 4 XL’s design. We see a wide punch-hole notch like on the Galaxy S10+, built to accommodate two front cameras, along with two back cameras and the familiar two-tone Pixel styling. The standard Pixel 4, meanwhile, is rumoured to stick to one front and one back camera.
Will it actually come to fruition? We haven’t a clue at this point. Google’s phone designs have consistently fallen short in key ways, and this honestly looks more polished than we’d expect from the company. But it could be on the right track if the diagram is legitimate. We’ll surely hear more in the coming months ahead of an expected October debut.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
It’s not a dramatic leap in logic to assume that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 will probably look like a boxier, stylus-packing update to the Galaxy S10+. That’s been Samsung’s approach for a while now, and there’s little reason to believe that it’ll change too much this year.
Phone Arena mocked up the above concept render, which is purely based on speculation at this point. Previous leaks have pointed to a 6.66in display, and the Note 10 will probably have the Exynos 9820 or Snapdragon 855 chip depending on territory.
And four back cameras like the upcoming Galaxy S10 5G? That makes sense. One wild patent application suggests putting a camera into the S-Pen stylus, but we’re not convinced that there’s enough practical point in that. In any case, we’re still waiting on clearer leaks ahead of what’s likely to be another August launch.
Sony: Xperia 1
We expected the Xperia XZ4 at MWC, but instead we got the totally reimagined Xperia 1 – and that’s a very good thing. Sony’s Xperia efforts were much improved in 2018, and 2019’s flagship looks even better.
It’s an ultra-tall handset with a 6.5in 21:9 display and a little bit of bezel at the top, giving the Xperia 1 a different kind of silhouette than other big phones these days. We called the build “ruthlessly efficient” in our hands-on review, and while not especially flashy, it does have a distinctive allure.
And that screen’s a 4K HDR OLED panel, which sounds ridiculously great. On top of that, Sony has tapped its camera division’s expertise to build the triple-camera array, which has tech from the company’s Alpha line. This phone also packs in the latest Snapdragon 855 processor.
We’ll see the Xperia 1 roll out later this spring for £849.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
The Galaxy S10 is already out, alongside the Galaxy S10+ and smaller Galaxy S10e – but there’s another S10 still on the horizon. And this one’s large and in charge, and fast as hell.
The Galaxy S10 5G opts for an enormous 6.7in Quad HD Dynamic AMOLED display, and the front punch-hole cutout is a bit wider thanks to a 3D depth sensor. There’s also one on the back alongside the triple-camera setup of the S10 and S10+, putting six total cameras on the thing.
Of course, the biggest leap is sure to come with 5G connectivity, which is said to provide massive gains over current 4G LTE technology. It’s starting to roll out shortly, and so too will the Galaxy S10 5G: it’s supposed to release sometime in early April, although we’re not sure if that includes territories outside of South Korea at first. Oh, and it’s sure to be very, very expensive too.
Motorola: Foldable RAZR
Once upon a time, Motorola’s Razr was the hottest phone in the world. And if foldable smartphones end up being the wave of the future, then maybe Moto’s new Razr will repeat the feat.
Rumours and reports point to a Razr revival as foldable smartphone, following the lead of Samsung’s Galxay Fold and Huawei’s Mate X. An official patent filing sketch above shows what’s believed to be the design, carrying over the original aesthetic with a wider frame and one big, extra-tall screen inside – and a smaller screen outside, for good measure.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that a US$1500 price point was expected, which his no longer shocking to hear given the higher price tags of the aforementioned rivals, with a possible (but not yet confirmed) release target of February. Well, February has come and gone, but new reports are still coming with more and more potential details.
For example, XDA Developers reports that the phone’s outer display can be used as a trackpad when you’re using the larger inside screen, and that it will show “Quick Settings” tiles when closed to offer rapid access to some features. The outer screen can also be tapped to take a photo when the phone is unfolded.
LG: V50 ThinQ 5G
LG’s V Series just got a compelling new twist with the V50 ThinQ 5G – and it’s not the titular 5G compatibility that sets this phone apart from the pack (although that’s great).
Instead, it’s the optional second screen attachment. You can buy a 6.2in 1080p display that hooks onto the V50 ThinQ 5G via a case-like design, augmenting the existing 6.4in Quad HD display on the handset. With two screens, you get something akin to a Nintendo DS.
Why bother? Well, LG points to the ability to use one screen as a controller for a full-screen game on the other, or the possibility of browsing the web on one screen while watching a video on the other. It seems like LG is positioning the phone as its competitor to foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, but at what should be a much lower price.
With the Snapdragon 855 within, a 4,000mAh battery pack, and vapour chamber cooling to keep everything in check, it should be a pretty intriguing handset. We don’t know when it’ll ship, however, or what the price will be.
LG: G8 ThinQ
Meanwhile, the LG G8 ThinQ looks an awful lot like the G7 ThinQ before it, but there are some hidden tricks within. The G8 adds the Snapdragon 855 and upgrades to an OLED panel, but the most distinctive additions come with the wave of a hand.
Huh? It’s because of the front-facing time-of-flight “Z” camera, which enables touchless gesture controls. And that’s not it: the phone can also scan your hand to recognise your veins, opening up another type of security. Sound weird? Maybe a little eerie? Yes and yes. But its also kind of neat.
The LG G7 ThinQ arrived at a compelling price below much of the flagship competition, but we don’t know yet what we’ll be paying for the LG G8. If it sticks around the same £599 price point, then this palm-reader could be a top option indeed.
Google: Pixel 3 Lite
Remember how we knew essentially everything about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL several weeks before the phones were actually announced? Well, it looks like history is about to repeat itself again, as purported Google Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL handsets have seemingly leaked.
Unless this is an elaborate hoax, an extensive hands-on video was posted to YouTube showing the device in action, and there have been other leaked photos as well. Both phones look nearly identical to the standard Pixel 3 (no notch!), but feature some lower-end specs. They sport plastic instead of glass on the back now, use a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 chip, and have 1080p LCD panels. The Pixel 3 Lite is said to come in at 5.5in, while the Pixel 3 Lite XL goes for 6in.
On the upside, it purportedly has the same kind of excellent single back camera as the other Pixel 3 phones, which could make it the mid-ranger of choice… depending on price. A launch is expected sometime this spring.
(Leaked Pixel 3 Lite photo via Rozetked)
Already reviewed in 2019
Those are the phones still on the horizon, but 2019 has already seen some stellar smartphone releases. Here’s a look at the phones that we’ve reviewed so far this year, along with a quick verdict and a link to the complete appraisal.
Honor View 20: This dazzling mid-ranger shows the strength of a hole-punch cutout and is one of the best phones in its class.
Motorola Moto G7: Moto’s latest core budget model impresses with premium styling and solid power for the price.
Motorola Moto G7 Plus: The Plus-sized G7 adds a welcome boost of power and a better camera for a little bit extra.
Motorola Moto G7 Power: It has some limitations, but that incredible 5,000mAh battery will keep you chugging along for ages.
Motorola Moto G7 Play: The true budget gem of the G7 line punches above its weight, and it’s only £149.
Vodafone Smart X9: Despite limitations, Vodafone’s latest is an incredible value for £119.
Samsung Galaxy S10+: It doesn’t beat Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, but the Galaxy S10+ is still a stunner of a top-end flagship.
Xiaomi Mi 9: No gimmicks, just great hardware with high-end specs and a versatile triple-camera array.
Huawei P Smart (2019): You can’t do too much better for £200, as the new P Smart has a great screen, a sleek look, and solid battery life.
Honor 10 Lite: It’s a good-looking budget handset, but with performance hitches and a cheap-feeling build, it’s beaten by the P Smart.
Sony Xperia 10 Plus: Why the long face? The 21:9 screen is compelling, but this too-tall phone has narrower appeal than expected.
Sony Xperia L3: Sony’s latest budget blower does the job, but there are much more exciting handsets in this price range.