With Samsung opting to announce the Galaxy S10 family at its own Unpacked event the previous week, MWC 2019 had the potential to be one of the least exciting editions of the world’s biggest mobile technology show in recent memory.
The good news is, it wasn’t. Instead, it allowed the other manufacturers from around the globe to step up to the plate and embrace the lack of new Samsung flagships by taking the limelight with their own releases.
Below we’re going to talk you through every phone announcement at MWC 2019 that you should care about. Just because they’re in this list doesn’t mean you should buy one though; this is simply a look at the devices we think look the most exciting based on their initial announcement and first impressions.
Huawei Mate X
Samsung’s Galaxy Fold isn’t the only foldable phone you’ll be able to buy later this year – there’s also the Huawei Mate X, and we awarded it the most exciting innovation award of MWC 2019.
When folded out, the Huawei Mate X comes with an 8-inch display with a resolution of 2200 x 2480, but even when it isn’t folded out you’ve got the benefits of a 6.6-inch display to move around your apps.
With the latest top-end Kirin chipset powering the phone along and three cameras on the rear, we’re expecting some big things from the Huawei Mate X. Just don’t expect to get it cheap, as it’s a hugely expensive phone at somewhere around $2,600, £2,000, AU$4,770.
This phone is a big focus for Huawei going forward, and while the company is set to announce the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro next month it is currently plastering the Huawei Mate X all over billboards around Barcelona to soak up the hype.
- Read our hands on Huawei Mate X review
Sony Xperia 1
Sony’s latest phone comes packing all of the top-end tech you’d expect from a flagship device in 2019, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, 6GB of RAM and a powerful triple-lens rear camera, but the truly exciting feature is on the front of the phone.
With the world’s first 4K HDR OLED screen on a phone, Sony’s Xperia 1 is a powerhouse when it comes to watching films on the move. It has a 21:9 aspect ratio - that’s why it looks taller - which the company is certain looks better when watching video in landscape orientation.
We’ve yet to try the phone out properly as we’ve only been allowed to handle demo units without a working user interface, but it’s sure to be one of the best phones if you’re a commuter who often spends their journey engulfed in a film on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
Special mention also goes to the Sony Xperia 10 and Xperia 10 Plus - phones we have tried as they’re already on sale in some countries - which are mid-range devices that also sport 21:9 aspect ratio displays, offering you that widescreen experience.
- Read our Sony Xperia 1 first look
LG V50 ThinQ
The highlight of the phone is arguably its support for 5G. A few phones have recently been announced with support for this next generation of mobile networks, but there aren’t many yet, so get a 5G signal (once 5G networks have actually launched) and the V50 ThinQ should handle data far faster than most handsets.
The screen is also a high point. The LG V50 ThinQ has a 6.4-inch 1440 x 3120 AMOLED screen with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and support for HDR10 - which makes for an impressive if fairly typical flagship spec. But the phone also has a trick up its sleeve in the form of an optional second screen attachment dubbed the LG DualScreen.
The V50 ThinQ also has a triple-lens rear camera, with a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP telephoto one and a 16MP ultra-wide one, as well as a dual-lens selfie camera, a 4,000mAh battery, a premium - if ordinary - design, and strong audio skills.
- Read our hands on LG V50 ThinQ review
Nokia 9 PureView
The Nokia 9 PureView aims to take smartphone photography to a whole other level, as it has a full five lenses on the back, as well as a time of flight (ToF) sensor.
They’re all 12MP f/1.8 lenses and two shoot in color while three are black and white. So why offer five near identical lenses? Because the Nokia 9 PureView can optionally capture images with all of them and combine these into one seriously detailed shot.
The Nokia 9 PureView also has a 5.99-inch 1440 x 2880 P-OLED screen, so visuals are sharp, and there’s an in-screen fingerprint scanner and a glass and metal build - though the phone sticks with bezels above and below the screen rather than a notch or punch-hole.
In some ways the Nokia 9 PureView is less impressive, as alongside 6GB of RAM it’s stuck with a Snapdragon 845 chipset, which was top-end in 2018 but has now been superseded by the Snapdragon 855. As such its performance probably won’t quite be a match for most of 2019’s flagships, but given the $699 (around £535 / AU$980) price it doesn’t need to be.
- Read our hands on Nokia 9 PureView review
Samsung Galaxy A50
Unlike the other phones on this list the Samsung Galaxy A50 is not a flagship. Instead, it’s a mid-range device, but one with plenty of style and features.
That includes a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2340 Super AMOLED screen with a tiny teardrop notch and a fingerprint scanner built into the display itself - which is a feature that even the Samsung Galaxy S10e doesn’t have.
The Galaxy A50’s camera is also set to impress, or rather, it’s cameras are, as there are three of them on the back. There’s a 25MP f/1.7 main lens, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide one and a 5MP f/2.2 depth sensor, which should make for a lot of versatility, especially as they’re paired with a 25MP f/2.0 front-facing camera.
You should be able to snap for a long time too, as there’s a big 4,000mAh battery with support for fast charging. With a mid-range octa-core chipset, either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage too, this could be a real winner if the price is right.
- Read our hands on Samsung Galaxy A50 review
And then there's the rest...
While the above five phones are the clear highlights of MWC 2019, they’re far from the only handsets that were announced.
And those are just a few examples. Many other phones from those companies and others have also been announced and you can find a full overview of them in our MWC 2019 hub.
MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.
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James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.