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've gotten in 2018. We're nearly done with the year, of course, but it's brought us so many delightfully desirable handsets, including the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Apple iPhone XS Max, and the OnePlus 6T.
There isn't much left at this point, but we could still see a couple of killer phones before 2019 rolls around. Here's a look at what's still coming, along with an overview of which top phones already shipped in 2018.
Additional words by Tom Morgan
Samsung: The Galaxy A9
But before that, Samsung has something rather unique coming to the upper mid-range space: the Galaxy A9, the first smartphone to pack four cameras on the back alone. And you thought three cameras on the Huawei P20 Pro was enough…
Each camera does something a bit different: there's a 24-megapixel main sensor, a 10MP telephoto camera with 2X optical zoom, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, and a 5MP depth sensor for playing with the depth of field on portrait shots.
Toss in a 6.3in 1080p panel, a mid-range Snapdragon 660 chip, and a hefty 3,800mAh battery pack and it seems like a pretty compelling handset… but at £549, it's basically a flagship phone with a little less power onboard. We'll see how that shapes up when the Galaxy A9 ships later in November.
Nokia: Nokia 9?
Nokia dropped a whole bunch of phones earlier this year at MWC, but the company might be saving its best for last. Leaks point to a full-bodied flagship Nokia 9 phone.
Rumours and leaks suggest a notch-and-chin approach, along with possible ceramic backing and a gold finish, a 6in AMOLED Quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 845 chip inside. We could also see a very large 3,900mAh battery pack, and there are whispers of an in-display fingerprint sensor like the one in the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
The most compelling bit amidst the rumours is the possibility of a truly crazy camera setup, recalling the super-powered cameras from Window Phone-era Nokia phones. Leaks now suggest a staggering penta-camera setup on the back, with five back cameras arranged as seen in this speculative render, which follows leaked photos of purported prototype devices.
It sounds over-the-top to us, but that's why we love the rumour. We'd love to see Nokia come out swinging and reassert itself as a maker of truly innovative, must-have handsets. Even if all of these details don't prove true, we can't wait to see what they have planned… although the rumoured US$999 price point, the same as the Apple iPhone XS, gives us pause.
A recent rumour suggests a 5 December reveal in Dubai, although other rumoured reveal dates have come and gone in recent months. Let's hope it's correct this time around.
What's already been released this year
We're halfway through 2018, which means plenty of phones that previously resided on this list are no longer anticipated - they're available to purchase. And many of them are truly excellent handsets.
Here's a quick look at the best of the best of the year so far, complete with review links.
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro: This tech-packed powerhouse delivers the complete high-end smartphone experience.
- OnePlus 6T: This revision model brings in nice upgrades while keeping the same winning "budget flagship" approach.
- Apple iPhone XS Max: The iPhone X meets the iPhone 8 Plus for a super-sized, super-beautiful, and super-pricey handset.
- Apple iPhone XS: It's basically the iPhone X, but faster and with a pretty fantastic camera. And still £999.
- Samsung Galaxy S9: It's a small improvement on last year's phone, but still one of the best Android experiences around.
- Huawei P20 Pro: Our previous favourite phone in the world packs three back cameras, slick design, and flagship quality throughout.
- OnePlus 6: The previous OnePlus proves you can still get a 2018 Android flagship, notch and all, without spending top dollar.
- Apple iPhone XR: It's the iPhone XS with less-premium components, but still pretty great... especially at that £250 discount.
- Honor 8X: A huge phone and a huge value: it's shocking that this stellar phone is just £229, despite a couple of omissions.
- Honor 9 Lite: Pricey looks and a taller 18:9 screen suggest flagship, but this sharp deal settles in just under £200.
- Sony Xperia XZ3: The Xperia XZ3 shows big gains over the solid XZ2, with plenty of power and a brilliant OLED display.
- Google Pixel 3 XL: Google's latest is a fine Android flagship, but the huge notch distracts and the camera isn't the class-leader this time.
- LG G7 ThinQ: LG's G7 brings some unique quirks to the table, plus it's cheaper than many other top-end flagships at £599.
- HTC U12+: HTC's latest is a sleek flagship option, but weak battery life and gimmicky features don't put it a cut above the rest.
- Huawei Mate 20: Pales in comparison to the Mate 20 Pro, but there's still a lot to like about this flagship.
- Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro: A pretty strong iPhone X-esque Android that's a capable alternative to the OnePlus 6T.
- Razer Phone 2: Ideal for hardcore mobile gamers, but a bit pricey and lacking a strong camera setup.
- Asus ROG Phone: Gamer and proud of it, the Asus ROG Phone is certainly unlike the Android competition.
- Honor 10: Want a phone that's almost as good as the OnePlus 6 but saves some cash? Consider the Honor 10.
- Nokia 7 Plus: Some camera annoyances aside, this is one of the best big-phone values on the market today.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9: It's an incredible phone for productivity, but the high price and underwhelming battery life hold it back.
- Oppo Find X: Pop-up camera, almost no bezel, and a stunning screen? It's fabulous, but with a few flaws too.
- Honor Play: Honor's gaming-minded phone is a bargain, but you won't forget that it's built for a budget.
- Huawei P20: The standard P20 doesn't impress as much as the Pro, but it's still a fine flagship that's cheaper than an iPhone.
- BlackBerry Key2: Need a keyboard on your smartphone? The Key2 will do, but this productivity-centric phone isn't ideal for entertainment.
- Asus ZenFone 5: Although outdone by the OnePlus 6 and Honor 10, this notched mid-ranger has solid appeal.
- Motorola Moto Z3: Next year's 5G Moto Mod could make this modular phone spectacular. For now, it's still quite good.