All-glass design, face recognition and triple cameras are some of the innovations featured in the latest phones from Apple, Google, Huawei and Samsung.
1. Huawei Mate 20 Pro £900
Huawei’s latest phone is something rather special. The Mate 20 Pro packs more cutting-edge technology into it than any other, but unlike most bleeding-edge devices it makes for a great experience.It looks like an iPhone XS mated with a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, with a huge curved 6.39in OLED display and big notch in the top. The screen is great and hides a good pressure-sensitive in-display fingerprint scanner. The curved sides and narrow width makes the massive screen manageable. The top notch hides the 3D face recognition system that uses the same technology as Apple’s Face ID.AdvertisementIf that wasn’t enough, there’s a brilliant triple-camera system on the back that gives you up to 5x hybrid zoom and all the way down to 0.6x for wide-angle photos, which make instant panoramas. The front-facing selfie camera isn’t bad either.Performance is top-notch, while battery life is near double the competition. There’s wireless charging in the back, which can even wirelessly charge other devices at the flick of a switch. The 40W cable charger is superfast, too.Huawei’s EMUI isn’t the best Android experience available, but it’s much improved on older versions. The glass back can even have a vinyl-like texture to it, which makes it less slippery and repels fingerprints.Verdict: The best phone of the year isn’t cheap, but offers a brilliant, cutting-edge experience that lasts ages between charges.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 £899
The oldest phone here, released a month before the rest, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is a different beast.It’s got a stunning 6.4in OLED screen, a top-of-the-line processor, expandable storage, a great dual camera on the back, wireless charging and even a headphone jack – the only phone here to do so.But it is the stylus that pops out from a port in the bottom of the phone that sets it apart. It might be tiny, but it’s one of the best you can buy on any device. Draw, sign, annotate, poke, prod and even click the camera shutter with the new remote Bluetooth button option, to your heart’s content. When you’re done, you can just slot it in the bottom and forget about it. The stylus charges in seconds once docked and lasts about 30 minutes of continuous use.For now, the Note 9 only runs the older Android 8.1 version, not the latest Android 9 Pie like the rest. But the Note 9 is still the do-anything phone, if you can put up with its massive size.Verdict: For those that need a productivity powerhouse, the Note 9 is it.
3. Apple iPhone XS £999
Apple’s iPhone XS is arguably the best smaller phone on the market. Its 5.8in OLED screen is brilliant, while the all-screen design is space efficient, meaning it has a big screen squeezed into a small body.It also has a superfast processor, snappy performance and the excellent Face ID facial recognition system. The home button has been replaced with Apple’s best-in-class gesture system, which takes about 10 minutes to adjust to.AdvertisementThe dual-camera system on the back is great, too, offering some of the best detailed photos, zoom and low-light performance. Apple’s excellent Portrait mode is fun, as are the face-tracking Animoji.Battery life is only OK, managing to get through most days, but you’ll need to charge it before heading out for a night on the town. Wireless charging in the back makes that easy, but the included cable charger is pretty slow.It’s also super expensive, but it has a luxurious feel that’s unrivalled in 2018, and it’s heavier than you might expect, so at least it feels like you’re getting £1,000 worth of phone. Most users will stick it in a case because the glass front and back will smash if dropped.Verdict: Pricey, but the best iPhone available and a brilliant combination of size and capability.
4. OnePlus 6T £499
The OnePlus 6T proves you don’t need £900-plus to buy cutting-edge technology.Building on the excellent OnePlus 6, the 6T has a great in-display fingerprint sensor and a tiny, widow’s-peak-like notch for the selfie camera. For £500 you get top‑of-the-line specs, plenty of storage, dual-sim support and a brilliant screen. You also get a good, but not quite the best, dual-camera system on the back, a good selfie camera on the front and good battery life.The OnePlus 6T is a brutally fast device with an Android experience that’s second only to Google’s Pixel 3. Gaming performance is solid, too, while there are plenty of customisation options, including a solid set of gestures for navigation that rival Apple’s.Despite having a glass back, there’s no wireless charging, but the cable charger is really fast. The alert slider switching between silent, vibrate and ring is a nice touch.Verdict: It may not have the best camera, but you have to spend nearly double to get a better phone than this.
5. Google Pixel 3 £739
The Pixel 3 is arguably the best Android device with a comparatively small 5.5in screen. But unlike most smaller phones, it isn’t a cheaper, cutdown version of something larger.You get a top-of-the-line processor, a cracking single-camera system that’s better than most dual cameras and a bright, crisp OLED screen. You also get the best of Google, including Gmail’s autocomplete for blasting through mundane emails, lots of useful local AI tools, and three years of software updates.The Pixel 3 has an all-glass design, although not exactly all-screen, stereo speakers and even a dual-camera system on the front for shooting wide-angle selfies. Battery is only OK, but the two-tone glass back has wireless charging.But it is the ultra-refined experience that is the big draw, which offers an Apple-level of polish, raising the bar for Android.
Verdict: The best Android experience you can buy in 2018, but not necessarily the best smartphone.
1 Our Top Five New Smartphones Photos