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12 best smartphones: the latest launches

From Samsung’s upcoming release to affordable contenders from OnePlus, we pick out the best new handsets

New features of the Samsung S10+ include a fingerprint sensor and two-way wireless charging ( )

What do you want from a smartphone? Everything, probably. After all, it’s your camera, satnav, email, social media hub, games machine, digital wallet, video viewer and portal to the internet. Oh, and it makes phone calls. Priorities today are different from even a few years ago: big screens are popular, full, edge-to-edge screens especially. But the desire for good battery life remains unchanged.

There are two operating systems to choose from: iOS which runs only on Apple devices like the iPhone or iPad and Android, from Google. Android is the system which every manufacturer other than Apple has now adopted (even companies like Nokia and BlackBerry who previously went their own way).

The advantages of iOS include the smooth, seamless way it integrates with Apple products such as your iPad, Mac and the smart HomePod speaker. Android users, however, will find switching from one Android brand to another, say from Huawei to Sony, a painless process, as Google insists on a degree of uniformity for companies using the platform.

The move to screens which cover the whole of the front of a phone, or almost, has led to something called “the notch”, a cut-out at the top of the display where the camera sits. In the case of the iPhone XS, XS Max and forthcoming XR phones, that’s where the TrueDepth camera sits, which delivers high-quality facial recognition that obviates the need for a fingerprint sensor.

Other phones have this notch, and sometimes facial recognition – but Apple’s system is the only one that’s good enough for you to remove the fingerprint sensor, and it works safely with the digital wallet, Apple Pay.

Other phones have fingerprint sensors too, on the back in every case here, apart from the BlackBerry.

Many phones now have twin rear cameras (and one even has three). Often these are lenses with different focal lengths to help overcome the feature that phone cameras lack: optical zoom. If one camera has twice the focal length of the other, you effectively have a 2x zoom. Twin lenses also mean you can shoot both cameras at the same time and software can work out what’s what, so it can create a delightful bokeh effect where the subject is in sharp focus and the background artistically blurred.

Note that most flagship phones now lack a traditional headphone jack, so you’ll need to use the supplied headphones, an adaptor with your favourite headphones, or wireless cans. Most phones, though not the latest iPhones, include an adaptor – in Apple’s case you can buy it separately for £9.

Apple iPhone XS: from £999, Apple

Screen size and resolution: 5.8in, 1125 x 2436 pixels, 458 pixels per inch
Screen technology: OLED​
Storage capacity: 64/256/512GB
Expandable storage? No
Camera (rear): 12MP wide, 12MP telephoto
Camera (front): 7MP
Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm
Weight: 177g
Headphone jack? No

The iPhone XS comes in two sizes: XS and XS Max. The XS is the same size as last year’s iPhone 8, and the Max is like the iPhone 8 Plus, but both are all screen, 5.8in and 6.5in respectively. The Max is big, so definitely worth holding before you buy, but the display is immersive and appealing – and big enough for watching a movie. Smaller phones usually mean fewer features or reduced components, but apart from battery life, price and screen size, the two iPhone XS models are identical, so all details apply to both.

There’s that cut-out at the top of the screen where the Face ID camera sits. The facial recognition is highly reliable and works even in the dark. The design here is sumptuous and appealing, with a glass front and back which makes it compatible with wireless charging. It also means that, despite Apple’s claim that this is the most durable glass on any smartphone, that it may be worth buying a case, as it’s not totally invulnerable.

It is waterproof, like many on this list. The camera is exceptional and includes a portrait mode where you can adjust the level of background blur after you’ve shot the image. Some other phones can do this but not as well. These are expensive phones but they have a lot to offer. Battery life on the XS is a day, and over a day on the XS Max.

Buy now

Samsung Galaxy S10+: £899, Samsung

Screen size and resolution: 6.4in, 1440 x 3040 pixels, 522ppi​
Screen technology: OLED
Storage capacity: 128GB/512GB/1TB​
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 12MP wide-angle, 12MP telephoto, 16MP ultra-wide
Camera (front): 10MP plus 8MP​
Dimensions: 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm
Weight: 175g​
Headphone jack? Yes

The latest in the Galaxy S series from Samsung come in three versions: S10e, S10 and this model, the S10+, while a Galaxy S10 5G will follow later in the year. The S10+ has a dazzlingly attractive, high-resolution screen which is bright and vivid. It has a very cool fingerprint sensor which is buried in the display itself. Press, and a ripple effect appears and the phone unlocks. It also has two-way wireless charging. This means that not only can you charge the phone by placing it on a wireless charging pad, you can turn the phone into a charger. When you launch the Wireless PowerShare app, it will charge another compatible phone by holding the two together and it doesn’t need to be another Samsung phone, just any wireless chargeable handset. Until now, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro was the only phone with this feature. Samsung has its own virtual personal assistant, called Bixby. Though no match for Siri, it’s getting better (though she sometimes sounds very stroppy, which isn’t always what you want).

The three rear cameras are very fast and work well even in low light. The ultra-wide lens is great for landscapes. Battery life is strong and performance is fast. Instead of a notch out of the display, the front facing cameras (there are two of them) peep out from a small cut-out in the screen. This is by far the smartest-looking phone yet from Samsung.

Buy now

Sony Xperia 10 Plus: £349, Sony Mobile

Screen size and resolution: 6.5in, 1080 x 2520 pixels, 422ppi​
Screen technology: LED
Storage capacity: 64GB​
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 12MP wide-angle, 8MP telephoto
Camera (front): 8MP​
Dimensions: 167 x 73 x 8.3mm
Weight: 180g​
Headphone jack? Yes

The Sony Xperia 10 Plus and its smaller sibling, the Xperia 10 look strikingly different to other phones because they have a different screen ratio, 21:9, which is cinema widescreen. So it’s possible to watch a movie on this phone with no black borders and the full image onscreen. It’s a brilliant display, designed in conjunction with Sony’s LED TV division. The twin rear cameras are good, though there is sometimes shutter lag. Still being able to shoot using the entire screen as a viewfinder is tremendous. Battery life is consistently very good on Sony phones and that’s the case here.

Buy now

Huawei Mate 20 Pro: £799, Carphone Warehouse

Screen size and resolution: 6.39in, 1440 x 3120 pixels, 538ppi​
Screen technology: OLED
Storage capacity: 128GB/256GB​
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 40MP wide-angle, 8MP telephoto, 20MP ultra-wide
Camera (front): 24MP​
Dimensions: 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm
Weight: 189g​
Headphone jack? No

Like the Samsung Galaxy S10+, this has two brilliant innovations, a fingerprint scanner in the screen itself and two-way wireless charging so you can recharge a friend’s phone. The triple rear cameras, all made in conjunction with Leica, are amazing, matching sharpness with detail and rich colours. The camera is very fast and takes reliably good shots. Huawei has built artificial intelligence into the camera to adjust images according to the subject (a cat will have more detail in the fur but a picture of a dog will enhance its eyes). The design is very eye-catching and the phone feels good in the hand.

Buy now

Samsung Galaxy Note9: from £849, Samsung

Screen size and resolution: 6.4in, 1440 x 2960 pixels, 516ppi
Screen technology: OLED
Storage capacity: 128GB/512GB
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 12MP wide-angle, 12MP telephoto
Camera (front): 8MP
Dimensions: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
Weight: 201g
Headphone jack? Yes

Samsung is one of the few companies that builds a traditional headphone jack into its flagship phones – and there’s no notch on the display either. The Note9 is so named because it has a stylus, called the S Pen, which pops out of the base of the handset and is used for scribbling notes on the large display, for instance. The latest S Pen also works as a wireless trigger: press the button and it’ll shoot a photo on the phone’s camera or advance your presentation to the next slide.

The screen is big but so is the battery – the biggest ever in a Samsung phone – and it lasts a full day with ease. This is also a phone with a very polished design. Because Samsung adds its own look to the Android operating system, it can take longer for the latest updates to arrive, compared to a phone from Nokia or Google, for instance.

Buy now

HTC U12 Life: £299, HTC

Screen size and resolution: 6in, 1080 x 2160 pixels, 402 pixels
Screen technology: LCD
Storage capacity: 128GB
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 16MP, 5MP
Camera (front): 13MP
Dimensions: 158.5 x 75.4 x 8.3mm
Weight: 175g
Headphone jack? Yes

HTC is known for its particular, elegant version of Android and that’s evident on this phone. The Taiwanese company is also famous for smart design and a great sense of colour. This phone looks much more expensive than its sticker price, thanks to a striped rear glass cover which aims to make it less slippy in the hand as well as better looking.

Although this is a mid-range phone it’s still a decent performer with battery life that will last all day. The blank areas above and below the screen (called the chin and forehead) are bigger than on some phones here, an indication that this is not a flagship phone. But for most people, it will look and perform well enough and is keenly priced. It goes on sale in the next few days.

Buy now

OnePlus 6T: £499, OnePlus

Screen size and resolution: 6.41in, 1080 x 2340 pixels, 402ppi​
Screen technology: OLED
Storage capacity: 128/256GB​
Expandable storage? No
Camera (rear): 16MP, 20MP​
Camera (front): 16MP​
Dimensions: 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2mm
Weight: 185g​
Headphone jack? No

OnePlus is known for phones with high specifications but at a low price. This phone, for instance, has extremely good performance, good cameras and elegant design, all in a handset that’s much cheaper than comparable performers.

It also includes a fingerprint sensor in the screen itself, like the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and Huawei Mate 20 Pro – this one is very slightly faster. The battery will last through a full day and is also fast charging, with a half-hour charge enough to take the phone to 60 per cent capacity. 

The phone’s cameras are strong and work especially well in low light. The screen covers almost the whole phone, though it’s not as high-resolution as on some phones here. There is a notch, but OnePlus has included software to disguise this if you wish: it clever hides the non-screen bit by making each side of the display pitch black.

Buy now

Motorola One: £269, Motorola

Screen size and resolution: 5.9in, 720 x 1520 pixels, 287ppi
Screen technology: LCD
Storage capacity: 64GB
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 13MP, 2MP depth sensor
Camera (front): 13MP
Dimensions: 149.9 x 72.2 x 8mm
Weight: 162g
Headphone jack? Yes

This is a great budget phone, squeezing in a nearly all-screen display and dual cameras for a much lower price than you might imagine. And if you like the look of the iPhone XS, this isn’t dissimilar, and hides the fact that the screen doesn’t reach all the way down by putting the Moto logo there. It uses Android One, a platform which, because it uses a very plain version of the Android operating system, guarantees speedy updates for at least two years.

Twin rear cameras work using a medium-resolution sensor with a lower-resolution second sensor just used for depth sensing, to improve sharpness in low light and elegant bokeh effects. This is a fun and enjoyable phone to use. It goes on sale in the next few days.

Buy now

BlackBerry Key2: from £469, Blackberry

Screen size and resolution: 4.5in, 1080 x 1620 pixels, 434ppi
Screen technology: LCD
Storage capacity: 64/128GB
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 12MP
Camera (front): 8MP
Dimensions: 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5mm
Weight: 168g
Headphone jack? Yes

If you like to text on a physical keyboard instead of a glass screen, the BlackBerry is ideal. The screen is the smallest here, though still big enough for watching video, if not, an epic movie. The keys themselves are tremendous; comfortable and with enough travel to make typing at speed a reality. They are also smart keys and you can “swipe” letters or words onto the screen. And there’s an extra secret, as the space bar is also the fingerprint sensor.

A special key lets you move quickly between apps, which is useful and quickly becomes second nature. And BlackBerry is known for its high security options that sit on top of the Android operating system. The cameras are good enough, though outshone by others here. Battery life has always been key to BlackBerry and is decent in the Key2.

Buy now

Nokia 7.1: £299, Carphone Warehouse

Screen size and resolution: 5.8in, 1020 x 2280, 432ppi​
Screen technology: LCD
Storage capacity: 32GB​
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 12MP, 5MP depth sensor
Camera (front): 8MP​
Dimensions: 149.7 x 71.2 x 8mm​
Weight: 160g​
Headphone jack? Yes

Nokia phones are now made by HMD Global, a Finnish company which has the licence to use the name and has much in common with the previous Nokia, including continuity of many designers and engineers. That’s evident in the stylish design here, the phone feels solid and appealing. Nokia has had an association with lens company Zeiss for years and that continues with this model – the camera is highly capable. Nokia uses a very plain version of Android (apart from the camera, the apps are all standard Google), which means Android updates come quickly. Nokia phones have outstanding build quality and this is no exception.

Buy now

Honor 8X: £229.99, Honor

Screen size and resolution: 6.5in, 2340 x 1080, 396ppi
Screen technology: LCD
Storage capacity: 64GB
Expandable storage? Yes
Camera (rear): 20MP, 2MP depth sensor
Camera (front): 16MP
Dimensions: 160.4 x 76.6 x 7.8mm
Weight: 175g
Headphone jack? Yes

Honor is a division of Chinese company Huawei and aims for the budget end of the market. Despite that, it has strong design and feels classy and expensive. The processor is middle-of-the-road rather than exceptional and the screen resolution is beaten by most rivals here – though it still looks good. Despite being LCD, Honor has created a phone with small bezels and an impressive full-screen effect. Like Huawei, Honor thoughtfully clads its phones with a screen protector in place when you buy it.

It also has Huawei’s AI photo processing technology, though this camera is no match for the Huawei P20 Pro either in terms of the image quality or responsiveness of the sensor. But for everyday use it works well with reasonable battery life and performance. Above all, it’s the phone’s look which makes it.

Buy now

Google Pixel 3 XL: from £869, Google

Screen size and resolution: 6.3in, 1440 x 2960, 523ppi
Screen technology: OLED
Storage capacity: 64/128GB
Expandable storage? No
Camera (rear): 12.2MP
Camera (front): 8MP
Dimensions: 158 x 76.7 x 7.9mm
Weight: 184g
Headphone jack? No

The Pixel series are the only Android phones where software and hardware are made by the same company. The new Pixel 3 comes in an XL and a smaller regular size. The XL has a notch at the top of the screen, and it’s a slightly weird looking one at that, but the smaller phone does not. Google has eschewed the dual camera system favoured by many, making effects like bokeh happen entirely through software.

This may sound like a poor solution, but in fact it works extremely well and like other phones here, Google uses AI to improve exposures and other details for better results. It performs especially in low light thanks to a Night Sight feature – though the Huawei P20 Pro is also very proficient in near-dark situations. It also uses AI as a system to screen calls automatically, the company claims. Google’s own-brand phones always have the very latest software first, which is useful.

Buy now

Verdict: Best smartphones

Apple’s iPhone XS, though pricey, is full of features and high-end components. The Face ID system is brilliant, and the cameras are hard to beat. This, and the larger iPhone XS Max are easily the best iPhones yet.

The very latest phone on the list, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ came very close to beating the iPhone. It looks amazing, has serious innovations like the in-screen fingerprint sensor and delivers strong battery life. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has the same kind of fingerprint sensor and an astonishingly good camera set-up.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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