Nine months in and 2019 has already been an incredible year for new smartphones.
We've seen stellar innovations and evolutions – from gorgeous 90Hz screens to punch-hole cutouts and 10x zoom cameras – packed into all kinds of different configurations, with brilliant flagship phones at the top and nearly-as-compelling handsets for far less cash.
We're still awaiting a couple of big announcements and a few notable releases, but so far the year's been brilliant for smartphones. Here are the handsets we've loved the most to date.
15) OnePlus 7 (£499)
You'll have to read a bit further down the list to find the latest and greatest OnePlus models. The standard OnePlus 7 isn't quite as mind-blowing; it's essentially a spec-bump update to last year's OnePlus 6T. Even so, we're talking about an enhanced version of one of 2018's best smartphones.
In short, it's still awesome. The OnePlus 7 delivers a great 6.4in AMOLED screen with a teardrop notch, a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 chip, a strong dual-camera setup, and one of the best Android skins around in OxygenOS. It's not the most exciting new smartphone on this list, but it's still a fantastic phone at the £499 price point.
14) Google Pixel 3a (£399)
Google's own smartphone focus to date has been pricey Android flagship phones with more than a whiff of Apple influence about them, but ones that have sometimes struggled to match up to the high-end competition. Google's new tactic? Aim lower.
Just a little bit, at least. The Pixel 3a looks, acts, and thankfully snaps photos just like a standard Pixel 3, but it uses a mid-range processor, swaps in plastic for some of the glass and aluminium, and thankfully sheds hundreds of quid in the process. The end result is one of the most appealing Pixels to date, and the best camera you'll find on a mid-ranger today. The £469 Pixel 3a XL is just as strong, if you want a larger screen.
13) Xiaomi Mi 9 SE (£349)
You can get a super impressive handset today without breaking the bank. Case in point: the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE can be found for about £300, yet it has the polish and many of the perks that you'll find in top-end flagships.
The 5.97in display is sharper than many pricier rivals, the triple-camera setup is the best you'll find in this price range, and the Snapdragon 712 chip (with 6GB RAM) delivers the most power in the mid-range. The standard Mi 9 is a larger, higher-end option, but we're admittedly even more impressed by the smaller SE.
12) Sony Xperia 1 (£849)
The Xperia 1 isn't the flashiest high-end Android around right now, but Sony's latest flagship still has a very distinctive edge: it's incredibly tall. It's also incredibly sharp. This 6.5in display has a 21:9 aspect ratio and arrives at a wild 4K resolution, giving you loads of screen space for multitasking, watching media, or whatever else you please.
The Snapdragon 855 provides loads of power, while near-stock Android is appreciated here and the camera is quite good. We'd say there are still better flagships in this price range, but if you dig Sony's aesthetic and like the idea of an extra-long screen, there's a whole lot to like here.
11) ASUS ROG Phone II (£829)
Do you need a gaming phone? Does anybody? "Need" is a strong word – but if you want a cutting-edge Android that has tippy-top-of-the-line specs… and you don't mind the aggressive aesthetic… then the ASUS ROG Phone II is a winner.
It packs in the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ chip, along with a 120Hz screen and an absolutely monstrous 6,000mAh battery pack. Those specs along might grab you, but it also has impressive cooling technology, as well as an adapter that lets you shift the USB port for more hand-friendly charging while playing. No doubt, it's a gaming phone… and it's a darn impressive one at that.
10) Sony Xperia 5 (£699)
Sony's new Xperia 5 takes the best parts of the pricier Xperia 1 – super-extra-tall screen, plenty of power, and versatile camera – and shrinks it down just a smidge for a more manageable (and more affordable) option.
Granted, the £700-ish price range is super competitive, but there's a lot to love here. The 6.1in OLED screen's 21:9 aspect ratio gives the phone a different look and feel than most, not to mention a bit more screen real estate, and it's easier to one-hand than the Xperia 1. Sony makes one heck of a premium phone, as evidenced here.
9) Motorola Moto G7 (£239)
The Moto G7 is the cheapest phone on this list by a decent margin, yet it's snuck its way into the Top 10 amidst phones that all cost at least twice as much. How did that happen?
Easy: Motorola's latest budget phone delivers an excellent all-around experience at just £239. No, it can't compete with the flagships on this list, but that's not the point. Using the Moto G7, it's easy to realise just how unnecessary it is to spend several hundred quid on a phone these days, when something this affordable still provides strong overall everyday usage.
8) Honor View 20 (£499)
You don't have to spend £899 to get a bold punch-hole display or a flashy backing design. The value-packed Honor View 20 delivers on both fronts, with a great screen, a stellar camera, excellent battery life, and flagship-level power packed inside.
With the standard OnePlus 7 taking a sleepier approach to this year's upgrade, the Honor View 20 packs more of a punch at this price point – although you really can't go wrong either way.
7) OnePlus 7T (US$599)
Underwhelmed by the standard OnePlus 7 from earlier this year? Yeah, we were too – even if we still thought it was a great handset overall. OnePlus didn't offer a very compelling upgrade over the OnePlus 6T, but now the OnePlus 7T is here to right that wrong.
It knocks the T-series upgrade out of the park with a 90Hz screen like the pricier OnePlus 7 Pro, along with a slightly faster processer, a more versatile triple-camera setup on the back, and even faster wired charging. We don't have official UK pricing yet, but the US pricing above suggests a price bump – but we suspect it'll be well worth it, and still seem like a bargain compared to the top-end flagships it's battling against.
6) Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro (£399)
What's the catch? Even after testing the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, we're still not totally sure. This stunner is priced like a mid-ranger, but packs in a flagship-level Snapdragon 855 chip with plenty of power, as well as 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, and great battery life via the generous 4,000mAh cell. It even keeps the headphone port.
Sure, it lacks perks such as water resistance and wireless charging, which might push you towards a rival handset – but overall, it does the classic OnePlus thing at a price that OnePlus hasn't landed at in quite some time. It's a seriously amazing value.
5) Oppo Reno 10x Zoom (£699)
The Oppo Reno 10x Zoom is like a hybrid of the OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro, a pair of phones you'll find higher up this list. It has the notch-less screen and pop-up camera approach of the OnePlus, and a long-range 10x zoom like the Huawei.
For our money, it doesn't top either of those phones; the screen is better on the OnePlus 7 Pro and the 10x zoom delivers better results on the P30 Pro. But this is still a very impressive handset, especially at £200 less than the P30 Pro; it's an easy recommendation for anyone who wants a bold screen with some stellar camera tricks alongside.
4) Samsung Galaxy S10 (£799)
If you were underwhelmed by Samsung's samey Galaxy S9 last year, then maybe the stunning Galaxy S10 will pull you back into the company's orbit. With a gorgeous punch-hole display, the Galaxy S10 trims down most of the bezel to deliver a superb overall look – and the triple-camera setup is powerful and effective indeed.
Elsewhere, Samsung's usual perks apply, between the powerful Exynos 9820 chip and Gear VR headset support. It's pricey, sure, but this is an incredibly well-rounded Android flagship that looks flashy and doesn't have any fatal flaws (although the in-display fingerprint sensor isn't the best around).
3) OnePlus 7 Pro (£649)
OnePlus took a risk by smashing past the £499 price point with the OnePlus 7 Pro, the company's first attempt at delivering an uncompromised, truly premium phone. Thankfully, the OnePlus 7 Pro delivers.
It has one of the absolute best screens we've ever seen on a phone, thanks to the notch-less, full-screen 6.67in Quad HD AMOLED panel – and very importantly, the 90Hz refresh rate that gives everything a silky-smooth finish. Add in a Snapdragon 855 chip and the best in-display fingerprint sensor we've used to date… and a pop-up selfie cam… and you have a heck of an impressive phone that looks like a million bucks. The triple-camera setup isn't the best of the best, but it's still quite good.
2) Apple iPhone 11 Pro (£1,049)
Yes, it'll break the bank – even more so than the iPhone XS before it – but the iPhone 11 Pro is Apple's finest iPhone to date. It's largely an evolutionary upgrade, but even so, the many enhancements are strongly felt.
The new triple-camera setup is one of the best you'll find on a phone today: versatile and capable of capturing fantastic detail, with a killer night shooting mode. The processing power is unmatched, the screen is brighter and better than ever, and iOS 13 is a delight. Aside from limited storage, price is really the only knock here… but you probably already know whether or not you're willing to pay for the "Apple tax."
The larger (but otherwise mostly identical) iPhone 11 Pro Max comes in at £1,149, but you can save some solid cash by opting for the standard iPhone 11 (£729). It's less fancy overall, with a lower-res screen and one less back camera, but still nails most of the iPhone fundamentals.
1) Huawei P30 Pro (£899)
As before, the star here is the camera. Packing in four back cameras sounds impressive on paper, but the real number worth knowing is 10x. Yes, the P30 Pro can hit a hybrid 10x zoom between optical and digital, and the results are frankly pretty astonishing. It's the killer feature that sets this otherwise beautiful and powerful handset apart from the pack.
Huawei's spat with the U.S. has seemingly sunken the new Mate 30 Pro's chances, given the lack of Google apps and services... if it even releases in the UK. But for our money, the still-viable P30 Pro is the year's best phone to date.