The best phones that should have debuted at MWC 2020

Huawei Mate XS review
(Image credit: TechRadar)

MWC 2020 would have been the stage that plenty of companies were planning to use to debut their new smartphones, but alas, the conference was canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus. While some countries delayed their launches, others revealed their new handsets anyway online. The show must go on.

So what were the best handsets shown off at this week’s shadow-MWC?

Even if the show had proceedeted as planned, it would have stood in the shadow of the Samsung Galaxy S20 line; as happens every year, the tech giant debuted its flagship lineup before MWC was scheduled to occur. At Unpacked 2020, the world got its first look at top-tier handsets that will likely have a strong presence throughout the year.

But some of the year’s eagerly-anticipated phones were set to be revealed at the show in Barcelona, like the dual display LG V60 ThinQ 5G and the Vivo Apex 2020 concept. Others, like the refined Huawei Mate Xs foldable, were going to make their first appearance outside China.

That’s what the first section will cover: the phones we wish we’d seen in person as the most exciting handsets that launched during MWC 2020’s planned run. The second section, on the other hand, are all the phones we didn’t see – and which were delayed for reasons we can only speculate to.

LG V60 ThinQ 5G

(Image credit: Future)

LG V60 ThinQ 5G

The LG V60 ThinQ 5G is the next generation of LG flagships: a big, powerful, modern-looking phone that retains the Dual Screen extra display with connectivity to next-gen networks. 

Not just mmWave, either. Like other handsets debuting in 2020, the LG V60 can connect to sub-6 frequency networks too, though only in one version of the phone. Hearkening back to the days when each carrier had a different version, in the US, Verizon will get this model while AT&T and others will get a model that won’t be able to link up to mmWave.

Otherwise, the V60 is a big phone, with a 6.8-inch OLED 20.5:9 display. The Dual Screen add-on, which is packaged with the phone free of charge (at least for now), adds another identical display, letting you open two apps simultaneously for serious multitasking - or at least just watching your favorite show while you game. 

The V60 is the culmination of LG’s phone  philosophy, and while it’s not quite as cutting edge as other flagships, it’s great for anyone who wants more screen at a lower price than a foldable.

Huawei Mate XS review

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Huawei Mate Xs

The Huawei Mate Xs is nearly identical to the Huawei Mate X released last year, a foldable phone that wasn’t widely released beyond China. That’s partially due to a skeptical US that’s kept Huawei devices away from American carriers, though Google has recently appealed the part of the ban that’s kept Google Services off Huawei devices.

The biggest change with the Mate Xs is an upgrade to the latest Kirin 990 chipset (the original ran the Kirin 980). Huawei claims they’ve made other quality-of-life refinements, too, like a refined hinge, which has been a worry for foldable phones. 

The other new addition is 5G connectivity. Given how nascent those next-gen networks are, we’re not sure which of them the Mate Xs would be able to connect to outside China. But we’re still excited - once it hits the market, it’ll be the most powerful foldable in the world.

Vivo Apex 2020

(Image credit: vivo)

Vivo Apex 2020

Unlike the other phones, the Vivo Apex 2020 is a concept device, showing impressive new technology in a device that won’t be sold to the public at scale. Still, its neat innovations should trickle out to mainstream devices in the coming years.

Chief of these new tricks is a zero-port body, which even extends to the buttons - which aren’t physical, but pressure-sensitive parts of the display, which extends over the sides. That also makes it reliant on wireless charging - but Vivo claims its new phone manages 60W, which is big if true.

There are other advancements, like an in-display selfie camera, 5x-7.5x optical telephoto lens, and gimbal-like stabilization of the main camera. Given it’s a concept, we weren’t looking to see this as a preview for 2020 handset tech, but witnessing these feats in person would have made us excited for the years of phones to come.

Sony Xperia 1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sony Xperia 1 II

Sony might have pulled out of MWC 2020, but the company ended up revealing the Sony Xperia 1 II (pronounced Xperia One Mark Two) as the tech giant’s next flagship phone. As expected, it’s an iteration on the Xperia 1, with the same long, narrow frame and 4K 6.5-inch display - but this time, it’ll allow 90Hz refresh rate.

Other improvements are similarly de rigueur for a 2020 Android flagship, like a Snapdragon 865 chipset and 5G connectivity. It also has a bigger 4,000mAh battery and faster charging. 

Sadly, Sony didn’t show us the phone in person - we read all these alleged updates on paper, so we can’t say quite how the Xperia 1 II will differ from its predecessor. Neither do we have a price - and for a release date, only a vague ‘Spring 2020’ (Q2 2020) window.

Honor 9X Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Honor 9X Pro

We were expecting the Honor View 30 phone to get a global debut at MWC 2020, but in lieu of the cancelled conference, the Honor 9X Pro got a surprise global launch instead. It hasn’t been long at all since the Honor 9X came out at the end of 2019, so what’s changed? Some improvement in specs, of course - and the first Honor phone to launch without Google apps. 

Instead, the Honor 9X Pro will use the alternative app suite and app store that Huawei has cooked up for its phones, the Huawei Mobile Services. Obviously, this is the long-delayed consequence for the US Huawei ban, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it works.

The Honor 9X Pro will arrive in several non-UK European countries as well as Egypt, Malaysia, and Saudia Arabia in March 2020 and will retail for €249 (roughly £210, $270, AU$410).

Phones that didn’t debut during shadow-MWC 2020

Motorola Moto Z4

(Image credit: Future)

Moto Z5

Around MWC, we typically get our first look at a new Motorola flagship. This year, we were expecting a new Z-series phone - perhaps the Moto Z5 - which would have given us a window into Motorola’s phone strategy for 2020. Given the refined G-series budget phones have already been announced

For instance, a Z5 would likely be compatible with Moto Mods, but it might also include advancements made in the last year’s Motorola One phones, which were introduced as devices that would debut new features outside of the company’s typical Z-series and G-series launch cycles. 

The bigger question might be: will the Z5 come with 5G, thus obviating the need for a 5G Moto Mod introduced alongside its predecessor, the Moto Z4? Without a flagship introduced early in the year at MWC, it’s unclear what 5G plans Motorola has for 2020.

Nokia 9 Pureview

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Nokia 10

We were anticipating that a follow-up to the Nokia 9 Pureview would debut at MWC, but haven’t heard anything since Nokia pulled out of the show. Given how little we knew about the phone beforehand, we can only guess at what the Nokia 10 will bring. 

...or the Nokia 9.1, or whichever numerically-loose name Nokia opts for. When the company releases annual iterations on its lineup, it tends to count up by decimal places - just check our best Nokia phones page for evidence. That’s somewhat helpful, as features and price generally escalate with the number.

But the Nokia 9 Pureview is such a radical outlier to the other phones with its spider-eye 7-hole/5-lens rear camera suite that we’re eager to see how the phonemaker refines some of the rougher UX edges on its 2019 flagship. Or if it abandons the concept entirely - something we’ll only know when the Nokia 10 resurfaces.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.