The 6 most important smartphone trends to watch for in 2019

With 2019 nearly upon us, the prospect of 12 months full of new phones and mobile trends is something worth getting excited about. We separate the best from the rest.

Just what will define phones in 2019? Let’s have a look of what trends we think will become popular over the next year.

1) 5G arrives

The is the biggest development to look out for – 2019 will be the year 5G becomes a reality. For how many and at what cost, however, remains to be seen.

The recent announcement that the flagship processor from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 855, will possess the required modem for 5G has finally made the successor to 4G a reality for the masses.

OnePlus has already announced it’ll be bringing the first 5G-enabled device to the UK thanks to an EE partnership and Motorola has previously shown off the 5G Moto Mod.

Related: Best smartphones

Obviously having access to 5G – and the fast download speeds that come with it – isn’t as simple as picking up a compatible phone. You’ll need to be on a network that supports it, in an area where the tech is live and, we suspect, pay more for the privilege.

Rumours Apple is skipping 5G until 2020 might be a good sign that while we’ll see 5G in 2019, it won’t hit the big-time until the years after.

2) High-speed charging

Try to charge an iPhone XS Max with the bundled charger Apple packs inside the box and you’ll be waiting hours. Plug the Huawei Mate 20 Pro with its much larger battery into the 40w plug Huawei includes with the phones and it’ll go from 0-100% in about 60 minutes.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The Mate 20 Pro packs 40w charging

Apple’s reluctance to include faster charging methods is frustrating to say the least and we expect 2019 to be the year much faster charging speeds are seen across the board.

3) In-display fingerprint scanners

While we’ve seen plenty of 2018 phones possess the ability to be unlocked by a press on the screen, it’s in 2019 when this tech should really not only become more common but a lot better.

Phones with in-display sensors currently, like the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro, all suffer from the same issues: it’s slower than traditional fingerprint tech and you have to physically press your thumb hard against the display.

It’s futuristic and novel to begin with, yet after a few weeks we’re turning them off completely or wishing that physical pad was still a thing. That’s not a good sign.

OnePlus 6T fingerprint sensor

With Qualcomm supporting the tech at the chip level with the Snapdragon 855 and the likelihood that bigger names, Samsung for instance, giving the tech a whirl in upcoming devices, all signs point towards it becoming a lot more mainstream in 2019.

4) Novel ways of ditching the notch

The notch is a necessary evil in phone design: you want that slim bezel and all-screen look but don’t want to lose the selfie camera or front-firing speakers.

Expect 2019 to bring with its more novel ways of removing the requirement for a notch, or at least ways of making it smaller. OnePlus, among others, started this with ‘teardrop’ notch, while other Chinese brands have begun to employ sliding mechanisms and pop-up cameras.

Samsung has already revealed designs of possible screens where the notch is small, and Honor is teasing a product launch in January that’ll see one of its phones have a ‘pin-hole’ notch – this is where the notch is just camera cut out and nothing else.

5) HDR displays on budget phones

One of the first new smartphones hitting shelves in 2019 is the Nokia 8.1. This £379.99 device packs a mid-range Snapdragon processor, multi-camera system and an HDR display.

Related: What is HDR?

High dynamic range support (improving colours and contrast in media) is nothing new for phones in general and this isn’t even the first Nokia phone to pack the feature, yet it does signal the clever screen tech could begin to become more widely adopted by budget phones.

Nokia 7.1 hands on front in hand

Nokia 7.1 has an HDR display

6) Dedicated low-light shooting modes

Another trend we’ve seen grow suddenly in popularity is dedicated low-light shooting modes, and it only feels like it’s going to become more and more common. These modes are available on phones like the Google Pixel 3 and OnePlus 6T, combining multiple frames and exposures together along with using computational tech to steady to camera.

See the samples from Google below.

Night Sight Off

Night Sight On

It takes an extra few seconds tom capture the shot but the results, especially on the Pixel 3, are excellent. Pictures which were previously virtually useless are now brighter and far more detailed.

With the fast-rising popularity of this mode we’d expect to see it in loads of phones, both high-end and more affordable, in 2019.

What smartphone trends do you expect to be big in 2019? Tweet us @trustedreviews.