Best smartphone 2019: The finest Android and Apple phones you can buy in the UK
The past year has been stuffed with terrific phone launches, so we’ve rounded up the best Android and Apple smartphones you can buy. We all over those little rectangles in our pockets. Smartphones play a massive part in our day-to-day lives, but buying the perfect smartphone can be an arduous task. However, don’t fret – we’re here to help you buy the best smartphone for you. Here are the best smartphones you can pick up in 2019.
How to buy the best smartphone for you
Finding the right smartphone for your budget can be tricky, especially when there are so many expensive contracts to sift through. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about buying your perfect smartphone, as well as what you need to know about picking out a contract.
Should I buy a smartphone on contract or SIM-free?
Generally speaking, buying a phone unlocked and SIM-free is the best option, as you can use any SIM you like and sell the phone when you want to upgrade, but you do have to have the money upfront. If you can’t stomach the upfront cost, go with a contract, but work out the total cost of it over the period to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off: if you can afford a bit more upfront, you’ll most likely save over the contract’s length.
Which smartphone operating system do I need?
There are two smartphone operating systems to decide from in 2019: iOS and Android.
You’ll only find iOS on Apple’s own smartphones. The most recent version is iOS 12, which launched alongside the iPhone Xs. Typically, iOS gets apps first and is a wonderfully slick OS. It isn’t as customisable as Android, but there’s no doubt that it’s incredibly easy to use.
Android has a much wider reach than its Apple counterpart and is found on the majority of smartphones on the market. There are many different versions of Google’s operating system available, with the most recent being Android 9 Oreo. Generally speaking, you’ll want a phone running Android 7 Nougat or higher, as older versions will now be outdated. Manufacturers often customise their own versions of Android, which means that the experience can differ between handsets.
What should I look for in a smartphone display?
As most smartphones are controlled entirely with their touchscreens, the size and quality of a handset’s display is very important. A larger screen will make everything easier to read and is particularly useful for web browsing, but a big display makes for a big phone that you may find harder to carry around.
A screen’s pixel density, measured in pixels per inch (ppi), will give you an idea of how clear and sharp text will appear on a screen – a smaller number of pixels stretched across a huge screen, for example, will lead to jagged edges. Screen technology can also be very important, with AMOLED screens and IPS being the two main technologies, each with their own pros and cons.
What about performance and battery life?
Most smartphones are powered by octa-core processors these days. As a general rule, the clock speed of a processor (measured in GHz) shows how fast the phone is and will give you a rough indication of how fluid the operating system feels, and how the phone copes with running apps and games.
Alternatively, lengthy battery life is one of the biggest things you need to look for when picking up a new phone. Our battery tests help you make the right decision about the handset that’s right for you, but generally speaking the bigger the phone’s battery capacity (measured in mAh), the longer it will last on a single charge.
How much smartphone storage do I need?
Generally speaking, a minimum of 16GB of onboard storage is fine if there’s a microSD slot, but you’ll soon find the internal storage filling up quickly. With more of an emphasis on smartphone cameras in recent years, it’s likely that your Instagram snaps will be the main culprit in using up your storage, so we recommend at least 32GB to get you started.
The best smartphones to buy in 2019
1. OnePlus 6T: The best smartphone of 2019 (so far)
Yet again, the OnePlus 6T is the definitive flagship killer. Launching just a few months after its 6-branded counterpart, the 6T offers up a handful of much-needed, if subtle, improvements over its predecessor.
In keeping almost the same cost as last year’s (it’s only £30 more expensive), the firm has managed to plonk a 6.41in edge-to-edge AMOLED screen on the front, complete with a tiny drop notch on the top. As before, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor is running things from the inside and we’ve seen some improvements to its dual-camera setup on the rear – particularly when it comes to low-light photography.
It’s still a bargain, despite the slight price jump, and OnePlus has created one of the most well-rounded devices on the market in 2019. It’s as fast as flagships that’ll cost you a good £300 more and its swish new look is excellent. Get the OnePlus 6T if you’re a little wary of forking over piles of cash for the latest and greatest. It will serve you well for the years to come.
Key specs – Processor: 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845; Screen: 6.41in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 16-megapixel, 20-megapixel; Storage: 128/256GB; Operating system:Android 9
2. Google Pixel 3: Pixel perfect
Google’s pair of third-generation Pixel phones are both excellent in their own right, but it’s the camera that really sets these Android smartphones apart from the competition. The 12.2-megapixel sensor on its rear is superior to the camera on the iPhone X and last year’s efforts, and it’s capable of taking some truly stunning pictures in low-light, thanks to the new Night Sight shooting mode. It doesn’t have an extra lens like the Note 9 or OnePlus 6T, but if you’re an avid photography fan, the Pixel 3 certainly won’t disappoint. The Pixel 3 is also as fast as every other Snapdragon 845-equipped handset and the battery life is long.
Key specs – Processor: 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845; Screen: 5.5in, 2,160 x 1,080; Camera: 12.2-megapixel; Storage: 64/128GB; Operating system: Android 9.0
3. Motorola Moto G6: A flagship beater
Motorola’s sixth-generation budget handset is a welcome return to form after the disappointment of the G5 – and its G5S replacement for that matter. Again, the Moto G6 is equipped with the best budget phone camera in the business, capable of capturing excellent Instagram-worthy shots for its super-low price.
But that’s not all that’s exciting about the Moto G6: the design is fabulous (with an 18:9 display no less) and the software is chock full of extras, despite the look and feel of stock Android. The Moto G6 rights the wrongs of its predecessors and is a spectacular smartphone if money is tight.
Key specs – Processor: 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 450; Screen: 5.7in, 2,160 x 1,080; Camera: 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel; Storage: 32GB; Operating system: Android 8.0
4. Huawei Mate 20 Pro: The triple-camera phablet
Never mind Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, there’s another phablet worth considering. Yep, this is Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro, a – rather unexpected – contender for the plus-sized smartphone crown.
Complete with a gorgeous, bezel-less 6.39in 2,160 x 1,080 screen and a stunning design, this is a smartphone that looks great in your palm. Likewise, Huawei’s previously naff smartphone processors – the Kirin series of chips – are significantly better than before, and give Qualcomm’s efforts a proper run for their money. Pair all that with an exceptional set of triple rear cameras and you’re looking at smartphone perfection.
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.6GHz Kirin 980; Screen: 6.39in, 3,120 x 1,440; Camera: 40-megapixel, 20-megapixel and 8-megapixel; Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 9.0
5. Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Making phablets exciting again
The Note 9, rather unsurprisingly, is an excellent Android phablet. Equipped with Samsung’s S Pen stylus for on-the-go note-taking – which has been upgraded with Bluetooth functionality – the Note 9 is the very definition of a plus-sized phone for the high-end user, with a suitably-high asking price to match.
That’s why the Note 9 just misses out on the podium. It’s the best Android phone we’ve ever seen – with top-end performance, a lovely design and a cracking 6.4in WQHD+ screen – but its starting price of £899 is far too high for most smartphone-lovers’ wallets. And that’s a real shame.
Still, if you’ve got almost four figures of cash burning a hole in your pocket (lucky you), there’s simply no other phone on the market that matches the Note 9’s high praise.
Key specs – Processor: Samsung Exynos 9810; Screen: 6.4in, 2,960 x 1,440; Camera: Dual 12-megapixel; Storage: 128GB/512GB; Operating system: Android 8.1
6. Apple iPhone Xs: Excessive excellence
What’s so special about Apple’s latest flagship? Well, aside from its wallet-scaring configuration options (it’s rather pricey), the iPhone Xs represents a bucketload of firsts for Apple: it is the first IP68-rated iPhone; is one with the biggest screen; has the biggest battery and its display is fitted with an HDR 10 panel.
The iPhone Xs, naturally, is the priciest iPhone to date. If you had your eye on the 512GB iPhone Xs Max – which essentially adds a bigger, higher-resolution display – you’ll be looking at spending £1,449. Still, you do get a lot for the price, and should you be lucky enough to have that much cash to burn on the latest upgrade, it’ll serve you well. For the sake of your bank balance, though, please make sure to protect it in a case.
Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core Apple A12 Bionic; Screen: 5.8in, 1,135 x 2,436; Camera: Dual 12-megapixel; Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB; Operating system: Apple iOS 12
7. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: Pricey Android perfection
“Why is Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus so far down this list?” I hear you cry. Well, Samsung’s fresh-faced flagship may be setting the benchmark for the next generation of Android handsets, but there’s one rather wallet-frightening flaw attached to it. Despite its near-perfection, the Galaxy S9 Plus is ludicrously expensive.
Okay, so Samsung’s latest plus-sized handset may look similar to last year’s efforts, but internal upgrades to Samsung’s latest Exynos 9810 processor (or the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, if you live in the US) make this the fastest smartphone we’ve ever tested. Not only that, but the new f/1.5 camera breaks new ground for low-light smartphone photography, which is made even better with the added 2x telephoto zoom lens.
Make no mistake, this is an unrivalled smartphone, but it’s a very difficult package to recommend at its current rate. £869 is a heck of a lot to pay for any phone. No matter how good it is.
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Samsung 2.7GHz Exynos 9810; Screen: 6.2in, 2,960 x 1,440; Camera: Dual 12-megapixel; Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 8.0
8. Huawei P20 Pro: Triple threat
Huawei’s P20 Pro is certainly one of the more interesting smartphones to launch in the last few years. Huawei believes that adding another camera to the mix is precisely the thing to get futurists hot under the collar. Equipped with three rear-facing cameras, the Huawei P20 Pro is far from your bog-standard smartphone flagship, and it’s a near-perfect execution from the long-standing smartphone firm.
But how does that intriguing camera get-up work? Well, the standard 40-megapixel RGB camera and 20-megapixel monochrome camera work together to deliver images of greater dynamic range with lower noise than would otherwise be possible with a single camera, while the monochrome sensor captures detail-rich black and white photographs. The third camera – an eight-megapixel 3x telephoto lens (80mm equivalent focal length) – adds optical zoom. This makes for an incredibly well-equipped smartphone in the camera department, capable of producing some of the best-quality images we’ve ever seen.
Elsewhere, the phone is powered by Huawei’s latest octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 970 chip clocked at 2.4GHz, paired with 6GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of on-board storage. There’s also a fancy edge-to-edge display, with an iPhone X-like notch at the top (although it’s slightly smaller than Apple’s). In all, this is one of the smartphones to beat in 2019 and I expect other manufacturers will follow suit with a similar camera arrangement.
9. Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Size doesn’t matter
Sony’s Xperia XZ2 Compact successfully proves that a 5in smartphone has some relevance in 2019. With displays getting bigger, phones getting larger and trouser pockets bulging, small-screened phones are likely to be a relic of the past, but not here.
Despite its palm-friendly size, the XZ2 Compact is packed with the same flagship internals as its plus-sized competitors, with a Snapdragon 845 and an excellent 19-megapixel rear camera. Sony certainly didn’t scrimp on performance, and its dinky display is one of the more colour-accurate screens we’ve seen so far. For just £529, the XZ2 Compact is generously priced – just don’t use the 3D image-scanning feature, it’s naff.
Key specs – Processor: 2.7GHz Snapdragon 835; Screen: 5in, 2,160 x 1,080; Camera: 19-megapixel; Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 8.0
10. Motorola Moto Z2 Play: The modular wonderphone
The Moto Z2 Play is an incredible smartphone for £379. It faces strong competition from the slightly more expensive OnePlus 6, but the Moto Z2 Play has a couple of fancy party tricks to make it stand out. Chief among these is its modular design.
Unlike the LG G5, the Moto Z2 Play’s extra attachments can simply snap onto the back of the phone, allowing you to slap on a speaker, optical zoom, battery pack or miniature projector as and when you please. It’s a brilliant bit of design, and the so-called Moto Mods themselves are infinitely superior to those you could buy for the G5.
The Moto Z2 Play’s real boon, however, is its stonking battery life. Lasting almost 20 hours in our continuous video playback test, which is one of the best battery-life scores I’ve ever seen, even outstripping Samsung’s colossal Note 7 (when it wasn’t exploding). If you want a smartphone that can go the distance without breaking the bank, the Moto Z2 Play is the smartphone for you.
Key specs – Processor: 2.2GHz Snapdragon 626; Screen: 5.5in, 1,920 x 1,080; Camera: 12-megapixel; Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 7.1.1
Additionally, we have the launch of the new Samsung S10 launch in March.
The Galaxy S10 range
With 3 models to choose from, the Galaxy S10 range offers an option for everyone.
The Galaxy S10+ is the culmination of a decade of S series innovation—a powerful phone that helps your customers work for longer, wherever they do business. The large curved-edge Infinity-O display helps them focus on work, multi-tasking and editing documents with ease. The powerful battery keeps them going, when it matters most. And with PowerShare, they can bring a colleague’s drained phone back to life*. The Galaxy S10+ has 5 cameras, including an ultra-wide angle lens, so they can capture documents, presentations and designs in full detail. Samsung DeX** lets them easily connect to a large screen with a single cable for a desktop-like experience. Plus, everything is kept safe and secure with the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner and Samsung Knox defence-grade security.
The Galaxy S10 is a powerful, long-lasting phone, built to make a difference to the way your customers work. It’s large, curved-edge display lets them see and do more, with an uninterrupted view. It also features built-in Samsung Knox defence-grade security and ultrasonic fingerprint scanning to keep their phone and business data safe and secure. With a front camera and 3 rear cameras, they can capture every little detail in their photos. And with a superfast processor that really delivers, frozen screens will be a thing of the past. Plus, if they want to present work on a big screen, they simply connect via Samung DeX* with a single cable for a desktop-like experience.
The Galaxy S10e features everything your customers expect from an S series phone. It packs all Samsungs latest technology into a convenient and compact design that makes a difference to the way they work. The flat Infinity-O display lets them view documents and apps clearly. The fast processor helps them work quickly and productively. And the powerful, long-lasting battery means they’re always on. With Samsung DeX* they can easily connect to a large screen with a single cable for a desktop-like experience. Plus, with Samsung Knox defence-grade security built in, their phone and data are totally secure.