Smartphones of 2019: What to expect from this year’s premium phones

Posted: 27 December 2018 9:34 am
News

From Samsung to Apple to Huawei and more, here's what to expect from 2019's hottest smartphones.

If 2018 was the year of the notched smartphone, when most manufacturers settled on a standard internal smartphone recipe, 2019 looks to be significantly more disruptive thanks to the introduction of the first foldable smartphones, as well as the first 5G smartphones.

Both are likely to be premium offerings at first, but what's actually on the menu?

Samsung Galaxy S10

One of the most anticipated phones of 2019 will undoubtedly be the Samsung Galaxy S10. Or perhaps we should say the Galaxy S10 family, because at this stage it appears that Samsung has either 3 or possibly even 4 phones under the Galaxy S10 banner to launch in 2019.

Early rumours suggested that we might see them launch at CES 2019, but that didn't happen. Instead, Samsung decided to launch the Galaxy S10 family just prior to Mobile World Congress 2019.

The three models we are expecting then should encompass a flat-screen "lite" Galaxy S10 with slightly more of a budget focus, a standard and "plus" model with curved screens and more cameras, with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 CPU on board.

Later in the year, the Galaxy S10 family is expected to be joined by a 5G-enabled variant, apparently internally called the "Beyond X". Besides 5G connectivity, it's rumoured to also feature additional time-of-flight cameras for ultra-fast focus and 3D imaging capabilities.

We've gathered up everything already known about the Galaxy S10 on our dedicated Galaxy S10 hub page.

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Samsung's premium Galaxy

With great battery life and a superior smartphone camera, the Galaxy S9+ has it all.

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Samsung Galaxy X/F

Part of the challenge for the Samsung Galaxy S10 will be the lurking spectre of Samsung's semi-announced Galaxy X (or is it Galaxy F?) "Foldable" smartphone. It was originally pitched as launching in late 2018, but unless Samsung's got a very surprising Christmas present waiting for us – as well as a bunch of executives mad enough to enact such a strategy – that's not happening.

Instead, we'll see Samsung's foldable phone appear in 2019, with a display capable of running up to three apps at once. 5G is probable but not confirmed for the Galaxy X/F, and a premium price point is all but assured.

The presence of a larger-screened secondary Samsung premium phone also puts the Galaxy Note 10 into an interesting position. Will the loyal Note buyers switch to a foldable option with an even bigger display? We'll have to wait and see.

You can read about Samsung's foldable phones and its competitors here.

Samsung Galaxy Note9

Samsung's productivity phone returns

The Samsung Galaxy Note9 features exceptional performance, top-notch battery life and the exclusive features of Samsung's S-Pen in a phone like no other.

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Huawei P30/P30 Pro


Huawei's two primary premium smartphone lines are the Mate and P-series phones, with the latter typically arriving in the first few months of any given year.

There's already a decent quantity of detail around what we'd expect from the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro, currently tipped to feature "teardrop" style displays similar to those already found on the Huawei Mate 20, along with either 3 or 4 rear cameras. Huawei's Kirin 980 would seem to be a lock for the processor of choice, and we can expect a wild range of colours – most of which we'll probably never see officially here in Australia.

You can read all about the Huawei P30 Pro here.

Huawei P20 Pro

A premium phone for camera lovers

The Huawei P20 Pro features three stunning rear cameras, helping you take your mobile photography to the next level.

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What's less certain here is when Huawei will launch its first 5G phone. The Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro are now expected to launch in late March in Paris. They're not expected to be 5G phones in their own right.

That could point to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro's successor being the first Huawei phone to incorporate 5G later in the year.

Then again, there's always the...

Huawei Foldable phone


Huawei has made a fair amount of noise around its foldable phone aspirations without revealing a whole lot of detail about where it's seeing the foldable phone concept actually heading. Like Samsung, at one time it was claiming that it would launch a model in 2018, but clearly that hasn't happened.

Huawei is a Chinese brand, and there's already a foldable Chinese phone in that market – sort of – via the apparently not-terribly-impressive Royole FlexPai. So Huawei may be feeling the pressure to be seen to innovate quickly, especially as it's embroiled in quite a lot of intrigue around its alleged links to the Chinese government. At the same time, it has produced lots of our favourite phones of 2018, including the astonishingly good Huawei Mate 20 Pro, so our hopes are high.

You can read more about foldable phone plans of Huawei here.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Huawei's flagship camera phone

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro combines the power of Huawei's own Kirin 980 chip, an exceptional battery and a class-leading triple camera array.

  • Amazing camera.
  • Battery life that easily beats any other handset.
  • Kirin 980 processor is top notch.
  • Reverse wireless charging.
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Huawei Nova 4

This is technically cheating, because we know almost everything about the Huawei Nova 4, set to arrive in China early in the new year. It will be Huawei's first phone with a "hole punch" camera design, and will run on either the Kirin 970 (as the Nova 4) or Kirin 980 (in some markets as the Honor View 20) with an impressive 48MP rear camera amongst its bag of tricks.

It will also be a more affordable phone, with converted Chinese pricing suggesting it could launch here at around $650-$750 outright.

What's not clear is when, or indeed if, Huawei will launch the Huawei Nova 4 in Australia. We do tend to get Huawei's better phones relatively quickly, and it appears that Europe will see a Nova 4 launch after its Chinese debut, so here's hoping.

You can read all about the Huawei Nova 4 here.

Huawei Mate 20

Huawei provides power for less

The Huawei Mate 20 gives you the power of the Kirin 980 processor, triple cameras and great battery life for a lot less than you might think.

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Apple iPhone XI

OK, it's a little early for the Apple rumour mills to have all that much of substance around Apple's 2019 handsets, given that we're only a month or so past the launch of the Apple iPhone XS, Apple iPhone XS Max and Apple iPhone XR.

Apple iPhone XR

Apple's more affordable flagship

The iPhone XR provides Apple's latest processor and operating system in a package that's more affordably priced than the iPhone XS Max.

  • Good battery life
  • A12 Bionic processor is still great
  • Wide choice of colours
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Will Apple stick with its notched display and FaceID-only approach, or go down the "hole punch" camera route already shown in phones like the Samsung Galaxy A8s and Huawei Nova 4? Only Sir Jony Ive knows for sure.

Apple iPhone XS

Apple's most advanced smartphone

The iPhone XS is Apple's vision of what the future of smartphones looks like. Get yours today.

  • Apple's A12 Bionic processor is super fast
  • Dual cameras shoot well
  • Gigabit LTE enabled (with a supported network)
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One feature that seems likely not to appear on Apple's 2019 iPhones is the inclusion of 5G. Apple switched modem camps from Qualcomm to Intel in 2018 amidst some particularly brutal legal battles with Qualcomm.

That puts it in a position where Apple is reliant on Intel for a 5G modem. All reports indicate that Intel may not have those chips ready to roll in 2019. Qualcomm's 5G modem strategy is already well-known, but with it having blocked Apple from selling select iPhone models in China over patent issues, the likelihood of the two sides making up in time for a 5G-enabled iPhone in 2019 seem slim.

Apple iPhone XS Max

The cream of the crop

If you want the very best smartphone money can buy, Apple's iPhone XS Max won't leave you wanting.

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Google Pixel 3 Lite


Image: Rozetked

Google will, fairly inevitably have a Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL in late 2019 to announce, but there's scant information around those handsets just yet.

Where there's more information to be shared is around the budget version of the Pixel 3, which at one time was rumoured to launch alongside the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3XL.

Google Pixel 3

Google's newest flagship

The Google Pixel 3 provides the best of Android and Google's own vision of a premium smartphone that's uniquely Google-centric.

  • Good battery life
  • Camera works well
  • Powerful for a small phone
  • Android Pie onboard with updates to come
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The Pixel 3 Lite is expected to be a plastic body phone with a screen display possibly just a shade larger than the Pixel 3 itself.

It's expected to cut costs with the use of an LCD display rather than OLED, as well as dropping to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor. One fascinating rumour suggests that the Pixel 3 Lite might be blessed with a headphone jack, a feature you plain don't see at all on the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3XL.

While Google knows just about everything about the world around us, it's remaining notably quiet about the Google Pixel 3 Lite, so we'll have to wait and see when and if it appears, or if it indeed becomes part of the Pixel 4 line-up instead.

Google Pixel 3 XL

Google's newest big flagship

The Google Pixel 3 XL combines a clean Android interface with the smarts of Google in a handset clearly designed for Android lovers.

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LG Foldable phone

LG's had a rough couple of years in the premium space, producing handsets that have been generally of very good quality, but just not punching into the truly premium space by comparison with handsets from other manufacturers. At one point that didn't matter so much because LG priced very aggressively, making its phones good value regardless, but more recent models have lacked that luxury.

So what's coming in 2019? It appears that LG too has foldable phone plans in its 2019 mix, with a number of patents pointing to potential models. There's some hype that suggests that LG might show off foldable prototypes at CES 2019, although that would be awfully early for an actual phone launch.

It's also likely that we'll see a successor to the LG G7 ThinQ in 2019 in a more regular form factor.

LG G7 ThinQ

LG's AI-enhanced smartphone

With the power of LG ThinQ AI onboard, LG's latest premium smartphone brings top-notch performance home.

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Nokia 9


Image: Ben Geskin

Nokia – or to be strictly accurate, HMD Global, the folks who hold the licence to produce phones under the Nokia branding – had an astonishing 2018, producing some of the very best budget and mid-range phones money could buy.

Nokia 7.1

Nokia's HDR-ready Nokia 7.1

The Nokia 7.1 offers a superior display along with the power of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 636.

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However, its premium aspirations were less stellar. The Nokia 8 Sirocco wasn't a bad phone by any stretch of the imagination, but it really did very little to justify its asking price against its premium competition.

Nokia will have another tilt at the premium market in 2019 with a phone tipped to be called the Nokia 9, or possibly the Nokia 9 PureView, tipped to launch at Mobile World Congress 2019.

If you're wondering what the whole "PureView" business is about, it's a callback to older Nokia camera-centric phones, and it does appear that cameras will be the Nokia 9 PureView's real calling card.

Quite a lot of cameras, in fact, with early renders and leaks suggesting that it will feature five rear camera sensors, alongside a flash and mysterious 7th sensor hole (maybe it's a time-of-flight sensor?) on the rear of the phone.

Nokia has a tie-up with premium lens maker Zeiss, and we'd expect its prowess to be present in the Nokia 9 PureView.

Nokia 2.1

A return to form for the Nokia brand

The Nokia 2.1 makes good on the company's promise of premium style at a budget price for its return to the smartphone market, delivering impressive looks and value at a very agreeable pricepoint.

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Given Nokia's strength so far has been far more in the more affordable end of the spectrum, pricing will be key for the Nokia 9 PureView.

One of the more worrying trends in the premium space in 2018 has been the emergence of increasingly expensive handsets tipping towards (or beyond) the $2,000 price point. Some rumours suggest that Nokia might dip into those kinds of price points, so we've got to hope those cameras really are something special to justify it.

OnePlus 7

If you want budget premium handsets, OnePlus is the brand to follow, even if it doesn't seem all that keen on releasing handsets officially here in Australia.

OnePlus finished out 2018 by launching the OnePlus 6T, and it doesn't take too much crystal ball-gazing to suggest that it will follow it up with a OnePlus 7 at some point in 2019.

OnePlus has tended to follow industry trends while keeping costs down for the more price-conscious consumer.

OnePlus 6

Flagship features at a fantastic price

The OnePlus 6 packs all the amenities of a full-priced premium smartphone while clocking in significantly cheaper than the competition.

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While there's not a lot of solid information around likely features or designs, it's likely that we'll see some kind of hole punch camera design, almost certainly Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855, and (sadly) not much likelihood of storage expansion, because it's not been a feature of previous OnePlus handsets.

There's also the intriguing possibility that OnePlus might wait until later in the year and instead launch the OnePlus 7 as a 5G handset.

OnePlus has stated that it wants to be "one of the first" manufacturers to launch a 5G device, but it's very unclear as to whether this would be the OnePlus 7, or an all-new line of phones from the Chinese manufacturer. Given they exist under the same corporate umbrella, we can also expect similar moves from sibling brand Oppo – and, of course, there's every likelihood that we'll actually see those phones launch down under.

Oppo R17 Pro

A stylish and powerful camera phone

Oppo combines a gorgeous design, powerful battery and triple-camera array in the exceptional Oppo R17 Pro.

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