Mobile Technology

The best smartphones of 2019

The best smartphones of 2019
The verdict is in on our favorite phones of the year
The verdict is in on our favorite phones of the year
View 10 Images
The verdict is in on our favorite phones of the year
1/10
The verdict is in on our favorite phones of the year
In a lot of ways the iPhone 11 Pro is the phone to beat
2/10
In a lot of ways the iPhone 11 Pro is the phone to beat
The Samsung Galaxy S10 shows just how good Android phones can be
3/10
The Samsung Galaxy S10 shows just how good Android phones can be
The Google Pixel 4 scored a lot of hits, and some misses
4/10
The Google Pixel 4 scored a lot of hits, and some misses
The Xperia 5 is another top-notch handset from Sony
5/10
The Xperia 5 is another top-notch handset from Sony
Google shook up the mid-range in 2019 with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
6/10
Google shook up the mid-range in 2019 with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
The iPhone 11 is the best 2019 iPhone for a lot of people
7/10
The iPhone 11 is the best 2019 iPhone for a lot of people
The Samsung Note 10, for the serious power user
8/10
The Samsung Note 10, for the serious power user
The OnePlus 7T Pro shows OnePlus going from strength to strength
9/10
The OnePlus 7T Pro shows OnePlus going from strength to strength
The Huawei P30 Pro is Huawei at the top of its game - in partnership with Google
10/10
The Huawei P30 Pro is Huawei at the top of its game - in partnership with Google

Another 12 months in mobile technology have flown by – and these are our picks for the best phones of 2019, the handsets that showcase the best of what a modern-day smartphone can be in terms of both hardware and software.

We've focused on the premium end of the market, the phones that provide the best specs rather than the best value (though some devices tick both boxes). Keep watch for prices on these flagships getting better and better as we go through 2020.

As in past years, 2019 has seen very good mid-range and budget phones from the likes of Nokia, Motorola, Honor and Oppo, but there are only so many slots available in our best-of-year picks ... and these are the phones we liked the most.

Honorable mentions too for the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X, which both made us believe 2019 might be the year of the foldable phone – with those handsets still in limited supply and experiencing one or two early issues though, we might have to wait until 2020 for a real foldable breakthrough.

1. iPhone 11 Pro

In a lot of ways the iPhone 11 Pro is the phone to beat
In a lot of ways the iPhone 11 Pro is the phone to beat

At a glance: 5.8-inch, 1,125 x 2,436 pixel OLED display, Apple A13 Bionic CPU, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB storage, 12 MP f/1.8 + 12 MP f/2.0 + 12 MP f/2.4 (2x optical zoom) rear camera.

When it comes to the iPhone 11 series, going for the Pro model (or the 6.5-inch Pro Max) gets you a better camera and a better screen, and we reckon the extra investment is worth it – Apple has done wonders with the triple-lens rear camera here, especially in terms of low light performance, while the design of the iPhone remains as stylish and iconic as ever.

The new Apple A13 Bionic CPU gives you more power than you'll know what to do with, and despite one or two teething problems, iOS 13 is the most complete mobile OS Apple has put out yet. Apart from the price, it's hard to think of anything to put in the negative column for the iPhone 11 Pro – it's a true powerhouse of a phone in every respect.

Buy the iPhone 11 Pro from US$999

2. Samsung Galaxy S10

The Samsung Galaxy S10 shows just how good Android phones can be
The Samsung Galaxy S10 shows just how good Android phones can be

At a glance: 6.1-inch, 1,440 x 3,040 pixel OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB / 512 GB storage, 12 MP f/1.5-2.4 + 12 MP f/2.4 + 16 MP f/2.2 (2x optical zoom) rear camera.

Samsung really outdid itself with its first flagship of 2019, the Samsung Galaxy S10. It has a brilliant screen (as is the norm from Samsung), it's packed with power under the hood, it comes with software that's comprehensive and customizable, and it has a rear camera that can hold its own against the very best smartphone cameras put out by Samsung's rivals.

What's not to like? Well, it's expensive of course, and the Android software doesn't quite have the polish that it does on a Pixel or OnePlus phone, but really these are minor gripes. You can definitely argue that the Galaxy S10 showed just exactly how good Android phones can be in 2019 – and how they can still give the iPhone some serious competition.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S10 from $849.99

3. Google Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4 scored a lot of hits, and some misses
The Google Pixel 4 scored a lot of hits, and some misses

At a glance: 5.7-inch, 1,080 x 2,280 pixel OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, 6 GB RAM, 64 GB / 128 GB storage, 12.2 MP f/1.7 + 16 MP f/2.4 (2x optical zoom) rear camera.

So what of Google? The Pixel 4 (and the 6.3-inch Pixel 4 XL) has a lot to recommend it, including a 90-Hz screen, a super-speedy Face Unlock mechanism, and the usual bunch of Pixel extras – like a real-time transcription app, automatic screening for spam and robo calls, and smart display-esque mode that kicks in when the phone is charging wirelessly.

As last year, the camera is phenomenal: there's a second lens this time, enabling some really impressive zoom capabilities, and you can even take photos of the night sky ... if you can keep the phone still for a four-minute exposure. Battery life could be better though, and we think Apple has edged Google in 2019 in the smartphone design department.

Buy the Google Pixel 4 from $699

4. Huawei P30 Pro

The Huawei P30 Pro is Huawei at the top of its game - in partnership with Google
The Huawei P30 Pro is Huawei at the top of its game - in partnership with Google

At a glance: 6.47-inch, 1,080 x 2,340 pixel OLED display, HiSilicon Kirin 980 CPU, 6 GB / 8 GB RAM, 128 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB storage, 40 MP f/1.6 + 8 MP f/3.4 + 20 MP f/2.2 + TOF 3D (5x optical zoom) rear camera.

It's been a tough year for Huawei, with the US imposing restrictions on its access to Android and Google's suite of apps – but the Huawei P30 Pro was released before that ban came into full effect, and it's a reminder of just how good the Chinese giant is at making smartphones. The P30 Pro is excellent in just about every department that matters.

The rear camera is outstanding, as you would expect from Huawei, with an innovative periscope lens design enabling a full 5x optical zoom, while the specs are as good as you're going to find on a smartphone in 2019. Huawei's take on Android isn't quite the best in the business, but it's a small mark against what is otherwise a handset that oozes quality.

Buy the Huawei P30 Pro from $710

5. Sony Xperia 5

The Xperia 5 is another top-notch handset from Sony
The Xperia 5 is another top-notch handset from Sony

At a glance: 6.1-inch, 1,080 x 2,520 pixel OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, 12 MP f/1.6 + 12 MP f/2.4 + 12 MP f/2.4 (2x optical zoom) rear camera.

Sony continues to pump out very good smartphones year after year, which then continue to struggle to make a mark in the market as a whole – but as the Xperia 5 proves once again, Sony knows how to make handsets that are powerful on the inside, stylish on the outside, and packed with all the key features you're likely to need from a smartphone.

As always with Sony, the display and the camera are of the highest quality, so whether you're streaming videos from the web or snapping photos in challenging light conditions, the Xperia 5 won't let you down. With a bit of a sharper take on Android, and slightly more modern hardware design, the Xperia series could really start to challenge the big players.

Buy the Sony Xperia 5 from $799.99

6. Google Pixel 3a

Google shook up the mid-range in 2019 with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
Google shook up the mid-range in 2019 with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL

At a glance: 5.6-inch, 1,080 x 2,220 pixel OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 CPU, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, 12.2 MP f/1.8 rear camera.

You can make the argument that the Pixel 3a and not the Pixel 4 was the most impressive phone that Google put out during 2019. The Pixel 3a is less powerful, but it's significantly less expensive too, and it keeps the best feature of the Pixel 3 intact – the fantastic camera. Even with a single lens, it remains one of the best mobile cameras currently on the market.

Getting such a good phone camera at such a low price is going to appeal to a lot of smartphone buyers, even if the phone skimps on the internal storage and screen size a little bit. It's going to be interesting to see if Google puts out a Pixel 4a and a Pixel 4a XL during 2020, but in the meantime it's got a mid-range phone that it can be proud of.

Buy the Google Pixel 3a from $399

7. iPhone 11

The iPhone 11 is the best 2019 iPhone for a lot of people
The iPhone 11 is the best 2019 iPhone for a lot of people

At a glance: 6.1-inch, 828 x 1,792 pixel LCD display, Apple A13 Bionic CPU, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB / 128 GB / 256 GB storage, 12 MP f/1.8 + 12 MP f/2.4 rear camera.

As good as the iPhone 11 Pro is, the price is admittedly a little eye-watering – but you can save a significant chunk of money by opting for a slightly inferior screen and a slightly poorer camera with the iPhone 11. This is still a fine smartphone though, following on from the good work Apple did with the iPhone XR (which was the equivalent phone for 2018).

The guts of the phone are the same as the more expensive iPhone 11 models, so this phone is just as speedy and slick, and available in some better color choices too. All the usual iPhone goodies are included as well, including waterproofing, wireless charging, and seamless integration with everything else that Apple makes (from HomeKit to Apple TV).

Buy the iPhone 11 from $699

8. Samsung Galaxy Note 10

The Samsung Note 10, for the serious power user
The Samsung Note 10, for the serious power user

At a glance: 6.3-inch, 1,080 x 2,280 pixel OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, 12 MP f/1.5-2.4 + 12 MP f/2.1 + 16 MP f/2.2 (2x optical zoom) rear camera.

As with every year in recent memory, Samsung has followed up on its flagship S series phone with a flagship Note 10 phone – a little bit more of everything, essentially, plus a stylus. And the stylus is the key here, as the S Pen has evolved to be a camera remote and a media controller as well as a very handy digital sketching and note-taking instrument.

The triple-lens rear camera is almost exactly the same as the one on the Galaxy S10, though you do get a bit more screen space here (see the S10 Plus and the Note 10 Plus for even bigger displays). It's the latest version of what is now a truly iconic phone, but with a stylus and a price this high, it's really only for the serious smartphone power users.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 from $949.99

9. OnePlus 7T Pro

The OnePlus 7T Pro shows OnePlus going from strength to strength
The OnePlus 7T Pro shows OnePlus going from strength to strength

At a glance: 6.67-inch, 1,440 x 3,120 pixel OLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU, 8 GB / 12 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, 48 MP f/1.6 + 8 MP f/2.4 + 16 MP f/2.2 (3x optical zoom) rear camera.

Hats off to OnePlus: its prices might have crept up a little in the five years since the OnePlus One appeared on the scene, but it continues to push out top-quality handsets that give the likes of Samsung, Apple and Google plenty to think about. The most recent OnePlus 7T Pro is, as you would expect, the best phone with a OnePlus badge so far.

That pop-up selfie camera might come across as something of a gimmick, but it means the gorgeous 6.67-inch screen isn't spoiled by any kind of notch or hole punch cut-out. Add in the excellent specs running behind the scenes, and the very tastefully designed OxygenOS (the OnePlus take on Android), and it's easy to see why this phone has so many fans.

Buy the OnePlus 7T Pro from $689.98

10 comments
Joe Botha
Eh? The S10 "showed exactly how good Android phones can be in 2019"? Like better than the so-called top phone by just about every useful metric. At $150 less. How exactly is the iPhone better again?
Wolf0579
I still recall the smartphone's original designers saying if they made PC's that betrayed their owners as much as smartphones did, they'd be drawn and quartered. Do any of these phones NOT spy on you?
Crazyoldranga
Is the OnePlus a rebadged Oppo Remo? Or vice versa? Asking for a friend.
LesBorean
Note 10 rated lower than S10??? Note 10 plus not rated at all??? "How exactly is the iPhone better again?" This is not legit.
Wombat56
Most of the reviews I've seen of the Apple phones think the iPhone 11 is much better value than the 11 Pro. Also there is much general enthusiasm for the Pixel 3a as a mid-range phone. It's one of the only Google phones left with a 3.5mm audio jack.
Alec Margolin
Can vouch for the OnePlus, absolutely blown away my expectations. Speedy in every aspect, OS is smooth and intuitive, and the camera is stunning (not just surprised for the price). With regularly updated too it's tipped to last me a lot more than the year and a half my last phone did
Alec Margolin
^I got the OnePlus 7T, not the pro version. Also, screen is fantastic
Pmeon
I bought a Sony phone once before. It had a special feature called self breaking glass and after showing the distributor the problem with 8 pages of google complaints showing the same issue he said he doesn't read online reviews. Avoid Sony phones, there is a good reason they are at the bottom of the sales market.
ljaques
A grand for a phone every year or two? Why not? I'm made of money. (not) // Good memory, Wolf, and that betrayal is even more true today.
warren52nz
From my experience with Apple products I'd never own another one. Two out of three of their products failed within a year and weren't worth fixing. My brother bought a Mac Pro laptop and the power supply failed in the first week and they were going to send it overseas to get repaired. He just asked for a refund and bought a PC based laptop that was cheaper, more powerful and is still working 3 years later.