Which is the best smartphone of 2019?
If you’re looking for a new phone then you’ve come to the right place. Here are nine of our favourite phones from 2019.
We update our best lists regularly as new models are released and things change in the market. Following our reviews of all the major 2019 models, this summary features the nine best phones we’ve rated as the standout models of the year.
Scroll down to see our longer, in-depth list, where you can also click through to read a full, detailed review for each product.
- Best all-rounder: Samsung Galaxy S10 and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
- Best camera: iPhone 11 Pro
- Best way to avoid a notch: OnePlus 7T Pro
- Best big phone: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
- Best iPhone: iPhone 11
- Best for clean software: Google Pixel 3a
- Best for Google: Google Pixel 4
- Best value flagship: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Best value OnePlus: OnePlus 7T
Those who already have a specific budget in mind should check out our round-ups of the best budget smartphones and best mid-range smartphones. And if you’re particularly interested in smartphone photography, take a look at our best camera phone guide.
What about 5G?
We don’t think you should be jumping into 5G just yet – it’s just too early. With 5G phones becoming available on some networks, however, we’ve created a guide to the best 5G phones currently available.
1. Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus
The best phone screen we’ve ever seen
- So much versatility with the cameras
- The best screen around
- Lovely new design
- One UI is still a little bit ugly
- Battery life isn’t as good as expected on either model
With increasing predictability, Samsung has released what are likely to be two of the best phones of the year.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and its smaller Samsung Galaxy S10 sibling are both gorgeous pieces of design, with curved glass backs and screens that fill the entire front of the phone. The regular Galaxy S10 packs a 6.1in display, with the larger model upping that to 6.4in. Both support HDR, Quad-HD+ resolutions and impressive overall brightness.
Inside both versions of the S10 there’s an Exynos 9820 (or a Snapdragon 855 in the US), paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. For those looking for more oomph, there’s a version of the S10 Plus with 12GB RAM and storage options rising to 1TB.
Both phones have three cameras on the back: a regular 12-megapixel shooter, an ultra-wide version and a telephoto camera for lossless zooming. The versatility at play here is excellent and it lets you get really creative with your snaps. However, the actual quality of the images can’t compete with the likes of the Pixel 3, especially when the light isn’t great.
Endurance is definitely an issue for both phones – they’ll just about get you through the day but little more than that.
2. iPhone 11 Pro
The iPhone 11 Pro offers Apple’s best-ever image quality
- A lovely, supremely bright display
- One of the best camera systems on any phone
- Includes a quick charger in the box
- Design hasn’t changed much and the notch remains annoying
- 64GB is still the base storage option
- The iPhone 11 is a better pick for most people
Glitzier, flashier and far pricier than the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, along with its larger iPhone 11 Pro Max sibling, sits at the top of Apple’s 2019 phone line-up. For the extra cash you get a Super Retina XDR display, a triple-camera array on the back and higher-end materials. So is this enough to warrant the now overused Pro tag?
Apple has seriously improved its photographic output with the iPhone 11 Pro (and, in many ways, with the iPhone 11) and the model now holds its own among the best phone cameras out there. Packing three distinct 12-megapixel cameras, the iPhone 11 Pro is the first iPhone to feature an ultra-wide-angle lens (13mm equivalent, f/2.4). You also get a standard lens (26mm, f/1.8) and a 2x telephoto lens (52mm, with an improved maximum aperture of f/2.0).
The video recording, audio and super-bright XDR display are all tremendous, and the iPhone 11 Pro is also an absolute performance beast. The new A13 Bionic chipset helps put it up there with the fastest phones we have reviewed. This is also the first 5.8in iPhone that doesn’t feel hamstrung by a battery that needs constant attention to get it through a full day.
Downsides include the meagre amounts of base storage, the speed of the refresh display and Apple’s resistance to fully embracing USB-C. The idea of being able to charge the MacBook Pro, iPad Pro and iPhone 11 Pro with the same block and charger just makes so much sense.
The iPhone 11 Pro offers many improvements on its predecessor, but there are still areas that Apple could have pushed forward in, especially as it has now decided to call these phones Pro. 5G was never going to happen, but would have been nice anyway, and some sort of Touch ID-enabled fingerprint sensor inside the display and the rumoured reverse wireless charging that could have juiced up a pair of AirPods would also have been welcome features.
- Read our iPhone 11 Pro review
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3. OnePlus 7T Pro
The best way to avoid a notch
- Gorgeous 90Hz display
- Impressive design
- Clean software
- Very fast charging
- It’s a very big phone
- No IP rating or Qi charging
There are loads of things to like about the OnePlus 7T Pro. It has one of the best screens we’ve ever used on a phone, costs considerably less than some of the competition and runs a fantastic version of Android.
It’s fast too and is right up there with the iPhone 11 Pro in terms of pure speed. That’s partly down to the high-end Snapdragon 855+ and numerous gigs of RAM, and also because of the slick 90Hz 6.7in Fluid AMOLED display. This refreshes at 90fps, rather than the 60fps you’ll find on most phones, making everything feel so much smoother. Once you’ve gazed at this screen it’s hard to go back to anything else.
Inside there’s a big battery and Warp Charging to take from you 0-100% in about 80 mins.
It’s not all great news, though. This is one of the biggest phones we’ve reviewed and can be hard to grip thanks to the slippery body and multitude of curved edges. There’s no wireless charging or official IP rating either, which are both commonplace now among flagship phones.
Little has actually changed from the OnePlus 7 Pro to the 7T Pro, but that’s far from a bad thing as the One Plus 7 Pro is an excellent phone.
- Read our full OnePlus 7T Pro review
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
A fantastic big phone that’s easy to recommend thanks to a lovely screen, versatile cameras and very quick charging
- Lovely big screen
- Very quick to charge
- S Pen is useful
- Versatile cameras
- Camera isn’t quite up there with the best
- Dodgy Live Video bokeh mode
- 65W charger not included
As the name suggests, the Plus is a larger, more feature-packed take on the standard Note 10, complete with optional 5G. This is a great phone and one of the finest all-round Android devices we have reviewed this year. It’s powerful, has just about every feature going and doesn’t skimp at all. In terms of negatives, it’s big, it’s expensive and the display, while fantastic, doesn’t have any fancy tech to enable fast refresh rate, unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro. If you want the best of the best, however, there aren’t many superior options out there.
This brute of a phone has a lovely display, plenty of grunt, huge battery, Qi charging and water resistance, and comes with USB-C buds. There isn’t a whole lot that’s new compared to the S10, but this still stands as the true high-end Samsung phone for the end of 2019.
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The S Pen is undoubtedly the headline feature for the Note series and it is pretty much the only flagship around that lets you draw and take notes with a pen on the display. It’s a pleasure to write and doodle with, thanks to fantastic responsiveness and excellent palm-rejection. With the Note 10 Plus, you can now also plug your device into a Windows computer or Mac for access to a PC-like DeX UI. It includes some new gaming features and the ability to stream games from a compatible PC to the phone.
Audio from this phone is merely OK and this seems to be a side effect of having basically no room for speakers. The same goes for call quality, which can often sound slightly distorted. At least Wi-Fi and cellular strength are excellent.
Samsung has finally ditched the headphone jack from the Note’s design, meaning you’ll have to rely on wireless headphones or a pair with a USB-C connection. There’s a perfectly decent-sounding pair of AKG branded USB-C headphones in the box, although there’s no 3.5mm dongle. Unlike the smaller Note 10, the Note 10 Plus retains a microSD slot for upping the base storage.
Also boasting a whopping 6.8in display and huge 4500mAh battery, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is Samsung’s most feature-packed phablet yet.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review
5. iPhone 11
An excellent camera, a great price and strong battery life make this a clear winner for best iPhone
- Great camera
- Long-lasting battery
- Really nice colour options
- Surprisingly excellent value for an Apple phone
- A screen resolution bump would have been nice
- Still no fast charger in the box
You could think of it as an iPhone XRS: it takes the previous phone, leaves the design virtually unchanged and alters the internals. There are now two cameras on the back, for example, and the same A13 chipset you’ll find in the Pro model. What’s most surprising is that the iPhone 11 starts off cheaper than the outgoing model: £729/$699 for the 64GB base as opposed to £749/$749. This could be the best value iPhone yet.
The 11’s size is the best out of any iPhone. There’s more screen to play with than on the 11 Pro, but the phone doesn’t feel overly bulky or heavy. In terms of battery life, the iPhone 11 is a really long-lasting phone that we found went slightly further than its predecessor on a single charge.
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The new rear cameras are also excellent. The iPhone 11 is much more affordable than the Pro models, but boasts exactly the same wide-angle 12-megapixel optical image stabilised (OIS) main sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and the same 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera (f/2.4).
The only thing you’re missing out on is the Pro’s 2x optical zoom telephoto camera, but if you’d take ultra-wide-angle over zoom, you might well see this as a fair trade – it’s hard to see any differences when comparing photos from the Pro and the 11.
The 6.1in Liquid Retina LCD, however, falls below the competition in terms of resolution and it would have been nice to see the 1792 x 828 panel upgraded to a 1080p version.
Also less than impressive is the 5W charger you’ll find in the box. The omission of a fast charger is clearly a cost-cutting measure and remains a real negative aspect to this phone. The charger that’s included has always felt slow and this is even more obvious now that the iPhone 11 Pro models come with an 18W charger.
Overall, if you’re updating an older iPhone then you’ll notice the vast array of improvements to camera, battery life and design straight away. This is a great buy that’ll hopefully perform comfortably for a number of years.
- Read our iPhone 11 review
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6. Google Pixel 3a
The perfect antidote to the £1000 smartphone – and an answer to Google’s dwindling smartphone sales
- There’s a headphone jack!
- Flagship-quality camera
- Fantastic display
- Great size
- No Qi charging or water resistance
- Can feel slow in certain activities
- Screen is a little dim
Google may have just announced its new Pixel 4, but if you want a handset with a great camera and decent screen, and aren’t as concerned about sheer speed and performance, then you’ll be very happy with the Pixel 3a.
Google’s Pixel 3a aims to take the amazing camera from the Pixel 3 and offer it at a much lower price. A £399 smartphone that boasts a camera this capable is an appealing prospect. Google has ported much of the Pixel 3’s feature set to the 3a, including exactly the same 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture.
Pixel 3a also ships with the latest version of Android 9 along with the latest iteration of the Pixel Launcher. Visually, it’s identical to the software you’ll find on the flagship Pixels and for many that’s a good thing. With these more affordable phones – especially if you want the highest-spec devices available – you’re often restricted to convoluted software from the likes of Oppo, Xiaomi and Huawei.
Google hasn’t removed many features, either. You’ll find Pixel stalwarts such as Call Screen (the US-only self-answering phone trick), unlimited storage for your snaps in Google Photos, and the same Digital Wellbeing dashboard.
Other smaller but no less welcome features, such as the always-on display (facilitated by the OLED panel) and access to Google Assistant by squeezing the phone’s sides, also suggest that Google wants your experience with the £400 3a to be similar to that of an £800 Pixel 3 phone.
By sacrificing its luxury features, Google has managed to squeeze the essential Pixel features into an excellent, more affordable phone.
This isn’t the right choice for intensive gaming or multi-day use, and you’ll still get better value by upping your budget to pick up a device such as the Honor View 20 or Xiaomi Mi 9. If you value software and user experience, however, then the Pixel 3a is a great option.
- Read our Google Pixel 3a review
7. Google Pixel 4
The best phone for Google
- Compact design
- Camera is unmatched on an Android phone
- Clean Android 10 install
- Battery life just isn’t very good
The Google Pixel 4 isn’t the complete package that we might have been hoping for, but it still deserves its place on this list due to a stunning camera and software that remains one of the best implementations of Android. It’s just a real shame that the battery life on both this and the larger XL model isn’t what we’ve come to expect.
Let’s start with the positives. The display now refreshes at 90Hz (in certain circumstances and at varying brightness levels) which gives it a much smoother look. It generally makes the whole phone feel snappier and we would like this to become a common feature for many phones.
Google has added a secondary camera on the back for the first time, pairing a 12-megapixel wide-angle and 16-megapixel telephoto camera. These two sensors work together, improving everything from general picture quality to low-light shooting and zooming. Snaps from this phone are great and the added versatility of the new lens is welcome.
The software is great too, ditching pesky third-party apps for a clean install, with Google Assistant integrated pretty much everywhere. You’ll also be first in line to get new updates from Google.
One of the big new features this time around is the radar sensor. This lets you interact with the phone through gesture and it powers the face unlock functions. While the facial unlocking is good (and needs to be, as there’s no fingerprint sensor) the gesture stuff is a bit of a gimmick. Aside from stopping alarms with your hand, there’s not much else you can do.
But it’s the battery life that’s the biggest weakness. We would often struggle to get comfortably through the day without reaching for a USB-C cable and that’s not something you expect in 2019.
- Read our Pixel 4 review
8. Xiaomi Mi 9
Could this be 2019’s best value flagship?
- Versatile camera experience
- Superb value for money
- Fantastic performance
- Excellent screen
- Slightly temperamental fingerprint sensor
- No IP certification
The Xiaomi Mi 9 expands on the principles of its predecessor with a refined design, more features and a superior rear triple-lens camera that can compete with the most capable snappers on the market.
It fixes some of the key pain points found on the company’s late 2018 Mi 8 Pro flagship, with the addition of wireless charging (up to 20W fast wireless charging at that), as well as an improved in-screen fingerprint sensor. It’s also one of the first phones of the year rocking the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, meaning it performs like a champ, not least because it’s backed up by 6GB of RAM.
The standout feature is the phone’s triple primary camera, centred around a 48-megapixel sensor – just like the Honor View 20, which relies on pixel binning to create top-notch 12-megapixel stills. It’s also accompanied by a 12-megapixel telephoto camera with a 2x optical zoom and 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, granting you the same level of quality and versatility as the likes of the far more expensive Samsung Galaxy S10.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi 9 review
9. OnePlus 7T
A huge update on the OnePlus 7
- Great software experience
- Top-notch performance
- Great battery life
- 90Hz display
- No wireless charging
- No IP certification
While the OnePlus 7T Pro wasn’t a huge update, the OnePlus 7T was. This is what the OnePlus 7 should have been, with a flat 90Hz display that looks gloriously smooth.
A Snapdragon 855+ runs the show and provides loads of power, along with 8GB RAM and enough storage for even the biggest media hoarder. OnePlus remains excellent at software too, with OxygenOS arguably feeling a little more feature-packed than even Google’s Android on Pixel phones.
The cameras are good, if not the best, and the Warp Charge 30T juices a phone from dead to full in about 1hr.
- Read our OnePlus 7T review
How do we select the best smartphones?
Every handset on this list has been reviewed thoroughly using the same combination of real-world use cases and repeatable benchmark tests.
This means that we test everything, from battery life and processor performance during the full range of everyday tasks right up to call quality and screen calibration. Most importantly, we take these phones out and use them as our own over an extended period of time, living with them to learn their quirks and discover any hidden treasures. Discover more about how we test phones.
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