BEST TOP SMARTPHONES 2019

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★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - OnePlus 7 Pro
 The OnePlus 7 Pro has a massive, gorgeous screen, is the fastest-feeling phone by miles and has a competition-beating in-display fingerprint scanner. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

The latest superphone undercuts the competition on price while offering a better experience in almost every meaningful way. The OnePlus 7 Pro is the firm’s biggest yet with a monster 6.67in QHD+ AMOLED screen, which is arguably the best on any phone. It runs at a refresh rate of 90Hz – compared with 60Hz for the competition – which makes everything from scrolling through lists to smashing through games super slick.

The screen is edge-to-edge in every direction too, lacking any intrusions by the notches plaguing rivals as the selfie camera has been moved to a motorised module that pops out of the top of the phone when needed.

Speed is the name of the game. The OnePlus 7 Pro is the fastest-feeling smartphone by miles. Part of that is the firm’s excellent version of 9 Pie called OxygenOS, which is on-par with Google’s on the Pixels, and the other is the top-of-the-line hardware.

It has Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 855 processor, at least 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. But that storage is also much faster than rivals using the new UFS3.0 standard, and the difference in day-to-day usage is palpable.

Even the optical in-display fingerprint scanner is the best in the business, beating that on the  P30 Pro and matching traditional capacitive sensors for speed.

The triple camera system on the back matches rivals combining a 48MP main, a 16MP ultra-wide angle and an 8MP telephoto camera. It can’t beat the P30 Pro, but it matches or beats the rest on detail and utility.

Battery life is good, but not Huawei-beating. It charges really fast using OnePlus’s WarpCharge system, but there’s no wireless charging, which is a shame. It is water resistant to some extent, but doesn’t have an IP rating. It has dual-sim support in most markets too.

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★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - iphone xs

Buy if: you want the best iPhone

The best iPhone is not the biggest or most expensive. The iPhone XS combines a stunning, good-size 5.8in screen, svelte body and top-notch performance into the most appealing package from  to date.

Apple’s Face ID is the best face recognition system in the business, the dual-camera system on the back is excellent, as is the performance of the A12 Bionic processor and the class-leading gesture navigation system of iwhich has replaced the home button of iPhones of yore.

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smartphone buyer's guide - samsung galaxy s10

These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.

If you want the sweet-spot between a big, stunning screen and smaller phone size that’s easier to handle and fit in a pocket, that’s the Galaxy S10.

The 6.1in QHD+ AMOLED screen with a small hole-punch notch in the top right is one of the very best on the market and is big enough to make the most of apps and movies look great.

Small bezels all round make the phone pretty compact compared to rivals, and it’s light too. It’s still a glass and metal sandwich, which means you might need a case to protect against falls.

The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor mounted under the display works well, although it’s no longer the fastest on the market.

Samsung’s new One UI software, based on Android 9 Pie, is a big leap in making large phone easier to use, putting things you have to touch toward the bottom of the screen and information towards the top. Samsung also gives you the choice of traditional navigation keys or swipe gestures.

You should see around three-years of software support from Samsung, although the company is often slow to deliver big Android version updates.

The rear triple camera is one of the best allowing you to zoom from 0.5 through 2x, and on to a 10x hybrid zoom. It won’t beat the Huawei P30 Pro, but it keeps up with rest. The selfie camera pokes straight though the screen and is one of the best on the market.

Performance is good, but battery life is the S10’s one weakness. It will last a day of usage but not much more. There’s both cable and fast wireless charging to top up during the day and the wireless power share feature turns the phone into an ad-hoc wireless charger for other devices.

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★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - huawei P30 pro

These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

The best camera on a phone is the Huawei P30 Pro by some margin. No other phone provides as comprehensive a combination as Huawei’s new Leica quad camera.

The 20MP 0.6x ultra-wide angle camera is fun, the main 1x 40MP camera is terrific and it’s joined by a new periscopic 5x optical zoom camera that gets you closer than any other smartphone. If five times magnification wasn’t enough, there’s an excellent 10x hybrid zoom on top and then a digital zoom all the way up to 50x. A 3D depth-sensing time-of-flight sensor rounds out the modules on the back.

Remarkable levels of zoom aside, the P30 Pro also has game-changing low-light performance that instantly turns night into day without having to wait for a couple of seconds of capture.

The rest of the phone is excellent too with stunning colour options. The large 6.47in FHD+ OLED is one of the best, with a small notch in the top containing the selfie camera and slim bezels all-round. The curved edges keep the width of the phone to a narrow 73.4mm wide, meaning it’s still relatively manageable and easier to wield day-to-day particularly compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro or iPhone XS Max.

The in-screen optical fingerprint sensor is second only to the OnePlus 7 Pro’s. Huawei’s top-notch Kirin 980 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, provides great performance and a battery that’ll last around two days. Plus charges the fastest and has wireless charging and power sharing.

Why should you buy it?

The camera is game-changing in meaningful, not gimmick-filled ways, while the rest of the phone is excellent

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★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - oneplus 6t

These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

If you want a massive, top-spec phone, but don’t want to spend £900, then the OnePlus 6T is the one to buy.

It has a big and beautiful 6.41in full HD OLED screen, a tiny widows peak-like notch for the selfie camera, slim bezels all round and a good-feeling metal and glass construction matching the quality of most others.

It has a top-of-the-line processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and 30-hour battery life too. The Android experience on the OnePlus, Oxygen OS, is second only to Google’s on the Pixel; it is brutally quick and smooth in operation. OnePlus guarantees two years of software updates and an additional year of security updates from the release date of the phone.

It even has the cutting-edge in-display fingerprint scanner, which is almost as good as the best dedicated capacitive sensors, and dual-sim support for having two mobile phone network connections at the same time.

The downsides are a good, but not great, camera that doesn’t quite match the competition here, no formal water resistance rating and no wireless charging.

Apple iPhone XR

★★★★☆

smartphone buyer's guide - iphone xr

Apple’s slightly cheaper iPhone XR offers most of the features of the iPhone XS. It has better battery life too, but has a worse camera, a slightly larger, but worse screen and is made of aluminium and glass, instead of stainless steel, losing its luxurious feel and the knowledge that it’s the best Apple can make.

The iPhone XR looks stunning in red, but it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, costing as much or more as true flagship phones from competitors. The iPhone XS still the one to buy if you want an iPhone, but if you want to save money, switch to Android.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.

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Apple iPhone XS Max

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★★★★☆

smartphone buyer's guide - iphone xs max

If you must have an iPhone and it must have a massive screen, then the iPhone XS Max is your only option. But it’s even more expensive and bigger and heavier, making it pretty difficult to handle day-to-day, meaning the smaller iPhone XS is the better option.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

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★★★★☆

smartphone buyer's guide - samsung galaxy s10e

The smallest, cheapest variant of Samsung’s current S10 line is still good, but falls slightly short of the high bar set by the regular Galaxy S10. The Galaxy S10e loses the optical zoom with only two cameras on the back, has a flat, slightly smaller screen and a lower capacity battery. It also ditches in the in-screen fingerprint scanner for one embedded in the power button – great for right-handed users but not so for the left handed.

It doesn’t feel any smaller in the hand, but can be had for less if you must have a top-end Samsung for the lowest possible cost or dislike curved screens.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

Samsung Galaxy S10 +Plus

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★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - samsung galaxy s10 plus

The bigger version of the Galaxy S10 with a 6.4in QHD+ display has the best screen available on any device. The oval-shaped hole-punch notch is novel, containing two good selfie cameras. The triple rear camera is good, but not a patch on the Huawei P30 Pro. Performance is good, so is the software, but the battery life is slightly disappointing compared with the best.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

★★★★☆

smartphone buyer's guide - samsung galaxy note 9

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 offers something a bit different, with long battery life, a massive screen and the all-important S Pen stylus. If you’re looking for a productivity powerhouse, the Note 9 is it. But it’s also huge with a slightly dated design.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro

★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - huawei mate 20 pro

The Mate 20 Pro has the big, attractive 6.39in QHD+ screen, svelte body, long battery life and great performance that made it the top phone of 2018. However, its excellent triple camera system with 3x optical zoom has been outdone by Huawei’s newer P30 Pro, which has a Leica quad camera with 5x optical zoom. It is worth looking out for deals, particularly if you want the 3D face unlock option.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.

Honor View20

★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - honor view20

Huawei’s Honor brand has made a name for itself cut-price but good phones.

It has a top-of-the-line Huawei Kirin 980 processor (as seen in the Mate 20 Pro), a good-looking 6.4in FHD+ LCD screen, plenty of storage, 6 or 8GB of RAM, a super-quick fingerprint scanner on the back and it even still has a headphone socket. Standout features are a hole-punch notch in the screen, through which an excellent 25MP selfie camera pokes, and a really great 48MP camera on the back.

Google Pixel 3

★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - google pixel 3

The Pixel 3 is all about Google’s camera and software. The 5.5in OLED screen is small by 2019’s standards and has large bezels at the top and bottom, which make the phone bigger than it needs to be and give it a dated look.

But Google’s fantastic single rear camera, excellent software and fast updates are worth buying into. Performance is good but battery life is a bit weak. Buy if you want a smaller phone and the Samsung Galaxy S10 isn’t for you.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.

Google Pixel 3 XL

★★★★★

smartphone buyer's guide - google pixel 3 xl

The larger Google Pixel 3 XL has everything that makes the Pixel 3 a really great phone, but is bigger with a huge notch at the top of the screen. It’s more difficult to handle than its smaller sibling and is more expensive, but has slightly better battery life. If you like the Pixel 3 but want a bigger screen, this is the phone for you, but on the whole the smaller version is a better device for most people. The Mate 20 Pro is a better big-screen phone all round.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

★★★★☆

smartphone buyer's guide - xiaomi mi mix 3

Xiaomi’s first slider phone offers more than most for the money, with top-flight specs for 2018 competing directly with the OnePlus 6T and Honor View20. It takes a different approach to the problem of where to put the selfie camera in an all-screen design, hiding it behind the screen on slide-out section.

Good, but quite as great as its competition, this huge phone is held back by a heavy weight and a software experience that just isn’t as good, despite solid gesture navigation options.These regularly updated deals have been sourced through a third-party price comparison service. The Guardian may make a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. 

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