10 smartphones launches to look out for in 2019

2018 was a great year for phones. We saw huge leaps in the power of computational photography, cheap phones that look and feel like they could pass for a model three times the price, and glass designs as far as the eye can see.

Will 2019 top it? Judging by what's coming, quite possibly.

Next year we'll get 5G phones, the first true folding screen model from one of the big names, still more CPU power. And, with any luck, even more progress in phone cameras.

Here are the launches you need to watch out for in 2019 that will bring these goodies.

  • The best smartphones of 2018: US | UK | AU | AE

Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus will be among the first flagships to launch in 2019

When? March 2019

Sure, by the end of 2019 we may end up recommending you buy a Galaxy Note 10 rather than the Galaxy S10. However, it's the Galaxy S10 we'll see first, and it will set the tone for Samsung's 2019 phones.

The big feature here is the follow-up to the notch. Instead of a lip on the top, screens will look as though they've been attacked with a hole punch. While you may be able to make fingerprint scanners that sit behind screens, standard camera sensors aren't designed to deal with that hurdle. That hole is needed.

It looks a bit odd at first glance. But hopefully once your eyes have adjusted it'll stop looking like someone has stolen a tiny portion of your OLED.

Sony Xperia XZ4

Sony Xperia XZ3

Sony still felt a step behind the competition in 2018. Can it move ahead in 2019? 

When? March 2019

Sony has had a bit of a struggle in staying relevant as a maker of top-end phones. In 2018 it did a pretty good job, though, with an OLED screen and a price far lower than some of the direct competition, in the Sony Xperia XZ3.

The Sony Xperia XZ4 may go bold with its screen tech once more, and use a 21:9 aspect display without a notch. This would make the phone arguably the most "cinematic" to date, as it is close to the 2.39:1 anamorphic standard.

Sony reportedly designed a 21:9 phone in 2017, the Xperia X Ultra, but it was never released.

Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei P30 Pro

The Huawei P20 Pro was great, but we want even more from the P30 Pro

When? March/April 2019

If you're not impressed by Huawei's phones these days, you should be. After the amazing P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro in 2018, the Huawei P30 Pro is right near the top of our 'most wanted of 2019' list. 

The big question is where Huawei can go next with its camera technology. Early reports suggest it will use a 38-megapixel main camera sensor, the Sony IMX607. However, it will be tough to improve the already-great low-light image quality of the P20 Pro.

From a user experience point of view, though, perhaps speed rather than a drastic image quality change is what Huawei wants. The P20 Pro can take up to 6-7 seconds to shoot a low-light photo. If it can bring that down to a second or two, the P30 Pro will be even more fun to use.

Motorola Moto G7 and G7 Plus

Moto G6

The Moto G6 is the best budget phone of 2018, so the Moto G7 will have its work cut out

When? March/April 2019

We're in the recommendations game. As much as we love new and exciting tech, telling you which phone, laptop, speaker or graphics card to buy is perhaps our most important job. And that's why the Moto G7 and Moto G7 Plus are so important.

Motorola's G-series phones may not be the flashiest around, but each year since 2013 they've offered some of the best value choices for those after a phone that works well and doesn't cost too much.

The Moto G7 is expected to have a small teardrop notch, to fit more display onto its front, and have at least two cameras on its back.

LG G8 ThinQ

LG G7 ThinQ

The G7 ThinQ was a solid smartphone, but lacked head-turning features. The G8 needs to step things up

When? May 2019

LG's early 2018 flagship the LG G7 ThinQ stood out because it had an ultra-wide rear camera instead of the more popular zoomed kind. But nowadays several phones have both a zoom and a wide. Including LG's own five-camera LG V40 ThinQ.

What LG will do next to stay relevant is a head-scratcher. We've written an entire article on what we want from the LG G8 ThinQ.

Right now the price seems the most important part to get right. Sorry LG, but you might struggle if you try to go dollar for dollar against the Samsung Galaxy S10.

Samsung Galaxy X

Samsung Galaxy X

The foldable Samsung Galaxy X could be the most exciting phone of the year

When? Mid-2019, TBC

The top candidate for strangest phone of 2019 is an easy one to call. It's the Samsung Galaxy X, the foldable phone rumored for half a decade. And it is almost here.

A prototype version of what is presumed to be this foldable monster was seen in 2018 at the Samsung Developer Conference. 

It's effectively a vehicle for Samsung's Infinity Flex display technology, the OLED panel and folding mechanism and makes such a futuristic-looking design possible. OK, so it's "2002-era futuristic", but we still want to give it a try.

You effectively get a phone-shaped handset with a screen on the outside that can open up to reveal a tablet-size display. It's one way to let a phone take on the serious jobs you might otherwise use a laptop for. One snag: it's likely to be hugely expensive, enough to make the Galaxy S10 look cheap.

OnePlus 7

OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T added an in-display fingerprint scanner and a smaller notch

When? Before end of May 2019

OnePlus thrives on "leaks" and teasers rather than carefully keeping them to a tight pre-release schedule. And we already know the next OnePlus phone, which may be called the OnePlus 7, will have 5G mobile internet.

It will make it one of the first to offer 5G mobile internet. And unless you live in a country with some of the best mobile network infrastructure in the world, it also likely means that extra speed won't be meaningful for a while.

Still, shiny new things still shine. OnePlus let this tease out at Qualcomm's Snapdragon conference in December 2018, suggesting the phone will use the Snapdragon 855 CPU. You can expect existing OnePlus goodies too, like an in-screen fingerprint scanner and, probably, largely glass build.

The one snag is the price. OnePlus has suggested the 5G version of the OnePlus 7 will be $300 more than the norm, so let's hope there's a 4G version for us mere mortals too.

iPhone 11 and 11 Max

iPhone XS

The iPhone XS and XS Max were incremental upgrades, so we're hoping for big things from the iPhone 11

When? September

As ever, it'll be months before we see anything vaguely reliable leaked about the next iPhone. Apple likes to keep its surprises fresh for the big day, and that big day isn't until (most likely) September.

The roll call of current spurious suggestions about what the iPhone 11 will be like include a pop-up camera module, a TouchBar display on its side and an iPad Pro-like stylus. 

We don't believe a word of it, but we're happy to be proved wrong.

Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

Google Pixel 3

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have some of the best cameras on a phone - how will the Pixel 4 improve?

When? October

It's too early for any major Pixel 4 leaks. But some references to 2019's upcoming 'first-party' Android have already appeared. Product codenames were spotted in the ARCore developer kit. This is what developers use to make Android AR apps.

"Bonito and Sargo" may be the behind-the-scenes names for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. This also suggests they may have next-generation augmented reality abilities. 

Such a feature would work in Google's favor, as it may well mean they have something rivals around at the same time lack.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro

The flagship Mi 8 Pro is a feature-packed, yet safe option. We want Xiaomi to surprise us in 2019

When? TBC

This is a very important time for Chinese phone maker Xiaomi. After racking-up massive sales in China and India, the brand is moving further west. It finally made its official UK debut in 2018. 

And while the US may be a tougher proposition thanks to the continuing friction between the US government and Chinese giants Huawei and ZTE, Xiaomi's intentions are clear.

The company has many phone series, but the Xiaomi Mi 9 will be one of its key 2019 flagships. You can expect a large screen, in-screen fingerprint scanner and, most important for many buyers, a lower price than those of Samsung and Apple, for a comparable phone.

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.