The most anticipated smartphones of 2018

UPDATED: The latest leaks about the Apple iPhone XI, Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and more

Last year was a fantastic one for phones. We got skinnier screen bezels than ever, cameras that took better pictures than dedicated compacts, and better-than-all-day battery life.

But we want more, and that's exactly what we're getting in 2018. We're only a few months into the year, but we've already seen some knockout options, with the Huawei P20 Pro, OnePlus 6, and Samsung Galaxy S9 leading the pack.

And there's only more to come, as Apple, Google, and Samsung ready their next respective big things. Curious what's coming before 2019 rolls around? Here's what we know about 2018's hugest phones, from what's already been announced to what's pouring out the rumour mill.

Additional words by Tom Morgan

Apple: iPhone XI and SE 2?

The iPhone is Apple's most beautiful handset to date, and a nicely daring twist after a few years of diminishing returns on the same design – but it's also incredibly expensive, putting it out of reach of a lot of prospective iPhone buyers.

What will happen in 2018? If one analyst is to be believed, Apple may extend the full-face screen approach – complete with that divisive notch – to the entire line. Ming Chi-Kuo of KGI Securities believes that Apple will launch an updated 5.8in OLED model, an "iPhone XI" or whatever you want to call it, along with two other models.

One would be a larger model with a towering 6.5in OLED display, and the other would fall right in the middle of the two, purportedly carrying a 6.1in display. The difference is that it would be a lower-resolution LCD screen, with that version acting as the entry-level, slightly cheaper model under the iPhone XI. That might be the new iPhone 9, essentially.

Confusing? Yeah, just a bit – but it does seem likely that the notch-centric, Face ID-packing design is the way of the future for Apple, and it'll only be a matter of time before all of its phones scrap the old 16:9/Touch ID approach.

Whether that will all happen this year remains to be seen, but we certainly expect some big developments from Apple this autumn. September is usually when we see these things, although the iPhone X didn't actually release until November last year.

Meanwhile, rumours are starting to emerge about an iPhone SE 2 - an updated version of Apple's super-small, entry-level handset. We're not expecting any massive changes, but updated specs and a rumoured glass backing would make it a much better option in 2018. Still, it didn't debut at WWDC, so we're wondering if Apple will save it for September instead.

Samsung: Galaxy Note 9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 (seen here) has arrived, and it briefly held the top spot on our list of the greatest smartphones in the world today. It has since been dethroned by Huawei's latest belter, but second place isn't a bad place to be.

What about the Galaxy Note 9, then? Given Samsung's approach of late, we'd expect it to bear more than a passing resemblance to the Galaxy S9, which means it shouldn't be too far off from the Galaxy Note 8 in design - but rumours suggest potential tweaks.

For example, one of the larger rumours pegs an in-screen fingerprint sensor instead of a back-mounted one, which could free up a bit more room inside for a larger battery. That battery could be as large as 4,000mAh, which is the same size as the Huawei P20 Pro, plus a recent rumour suggests a slightly larger 6.4in display this time around.

It's relatively early still in the rumour rounds, so plenty more info could emerge in the coming months. We'd expect to see the phone launch around August again, as the Note 8 did last year, although a recent report suggests Samsung may bump up the timeline a bit and do a July reveal with an August release.

Google: Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, more?

Google took an interesting approach to last year's phones, with the Pixel 2 sticking to a tried-and-tested 16:9 screen and the larger Pixel 2 XL busting the bezels with an 18:9 aspect ratio. It didn't necessarily pay off, with the smaller phone looking dated by comparison and the bigger one suffering from a few screen quality issues. They still had the best cameras you'd find in a phone (at least before the P20 Pro came out), though, as well as a pure Android Oreo operating system.

Leaks suggest that Google will try another two-tiered approach this year, but with even wider differences between them. A purported leak of Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL screen protectors suggests that the larger XL will feature a notched screen, while the smaller Pixel 3 will not. What you're looking at above is a PhoneArena render of what those handsets might look like.

We expect both phones to use the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, while Bloomberg reports that Google will stick with a single back camera on both devices. However, they believe that the Pixel 3 XL will have two front cameras, which the leaked screen protector image lines up with.

The phones should debut in October, as is Google's routine, and they'll be the new vanguard devices for Android 9.0 P, coming later this year.