2019 could see a major step change in smartphones, with the looming arrival of a glut of super high-end, pricey phones with folding screens.
After years of sticking with the tried and trusted formula, the likes of Samsung, Huawei and LG are hoping that flexible, foldable phones are just what’s needed to outdo Apple’s iPhone once and for all.
That’s not to say standard–looking phones won’t also be a source of innovation, though.
With quad cameras set to become standard, alongside 5G-compatibilty and ever-more powerful processors, there’s plenty to look forward to if you prefer a more traditional smartphone.
Here’s our survey of the year ahead…
1. iPhone XI
At this point, we know more about what Apple’s next iPhone won’t include than what it will.
Recent reports from Bloomberg, citing sources close to the tech giant, say that 5G won’t be a fixture.
That could be a massive omission, amid reports that most high-end Android phones will be 5G-compatible by the end of 2019.
Early rumours suggest the iPhone XI could come with a triple-lens camera and, potentially, in–screen Touch ID tech.
The latter is unlikely, seeing as Face ID is so powerful.
Whatever happens, expect to see that notch trimmed down and Apple to offer three models, just as it did in 2018.
2. Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung Galaxy S10 concept full screen hero size
Samsung Galaxy S10 concept all screen front hero image
Set for launch at Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in February, it’s due to come in a variety of sizes: A standard model, a Plus–sized handset with a screen over six inches and a Lite version aimed at taking on Apple’s iPhone XR.
Rumours suggest it will feature 1TB of internal storage, a powerful new Qualcomm processor, a triple-lens main camera and dual-lens front camera.
Throw in the heavily tipped Infinity O screen, and the Galaxy S10 will be a must–have.
3. Samsung Galaxy F
Undoubtedly the most anticipated new phone of 2019, Samsung’s folding phone has already been unveiled and is due to go on sale some time during the first half of the year.
Samsung showed off a prototype of the device during its San Francisco developers’ conference back in November, although chances are the final version will be a lot slimmer and look a lot more polished than it does in these images.
Billed as a two-in-one gadget, it comprises a 7.4–inch tablet screen that can be folded down into a 4.6–inch screen smartphone.
Reports suggest it will pack 512GB storage and be available in silver and black.
The catch? It’s expected to sell for close to £2,000. That’s eye-watering, by anyone’s standards.
Keen to find out more? Here's everything we know so far about the Galaxy F.
4. OnePlus 7
OnePlus’s 2018 phones were superb examples of why top–end phones shouldn’t require owners to take out a second mortgage.
The OnePlus 6 and warmly reviewed 6T came equipped with cutting edge camera tech, best-in-class screens and fast Android updates, as well as an in–screen fingerprint scanner in the case of the 6T.
The OnePlus 7 is likely to offer refinements rather than revolution, with tweaked design and a boost to imaging capabilities.
One big change should be official waterproofing and wireless charging. The latter is much missed on the 6T and could push the OnePlus 7 to the next level.
5. Google Pixel 4
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL really failed to capture the imagination, with Google’s flagship phones offering somewhat tired design and some off-putting bugs that hampered sales.
The Pixel 4 will need to do better, but will at least be the first new phone to be powered by the forthcoming Q version of Android.
The search giant may finally see fit to offer a dual lens camera, as well as boosting AR smarts in order to compete with Apple and Samsung.
6. Nokia 9
Originally slated for releaser in 2018, Nokia’s top-end new phone is now being readied for launch at the MWC expo in February.
Its key selling point will doubtless be its five-lens camera, which leaks have shown looks every bit as bizarre as expected.
This could give the resurgent Nokia something to shout about, however, especially as it’ll be coupled with the very impressive Android One software and the rejuvenated company’s increasingly standout designs.
Can't wait for next year's Nokia phones? Take a look at the best of its current range.
7. Huawei Mate Flex
According to patent filings, Huawei’s foldable phone could be called any one of four names: Mate Flex, Mate F, Mate Fold or Mate Flexi.
Either way, it will purportedly be larger than Samsung’s Galaxy F, with an eight-inch main screen and a smaller five-inch smartphone display.
The Chinese mobile-maker is said to be planning a Korea–only release at first, as the phone packs 5G, something that only works at full capacity in the Asian country.
Other rumours point towards a February launch, during the annual MWC event.
8. LG Flexi
LG’s ailing smartphone business is in real need of a phone that grabs the headlines. And its foldable phone could be just the ticket.
With Fold, Flexi or Duplex in the frame as names, little else is known about the forthcoming handset.
Some have speculated that the Duplex moniker could tally with patents for a phone equipped with two batteries, two headphone slots and two displays, although that seems a touch fanciful.
Expect it to cleave closely to whatever design Samsung and Huawei adopt for their folding phones.
9. OnePlus 5G
OnePlus keeps on releasing excellent, affordable phones with amazing specs. And 2019 will see it release its own 5G model, separate from the aforesaid OnePlus 7.
The Chinese manufacturer confirmed its plans in November and says it will have something to show off early in the year, most likely at MWC.
It will doubtless be a more costly proposition than the current OnePlus range.
But will likely be cheaper than rival companies’ 5G models, making it the perfect entry point for first adopters who want to try the 4G–bashing new tech.
10. Sony Xperia XZ4
Sony has found life hard when it comes to smartphones. So with its new Xperia XZ4, it’s set to make significant changes, by incorporating a unique 21:9 screen.
This will make the handset extra tall, but will at least mean it’s good for streaming movies.
The speakers will be placed at the bottom, with a side–mounted fingerprint scanner helping mark it out even further. An early 2019 release is nailed on.
Can't wait for next year's crop of phones? We've picked out some great deals on the best phones you can get right now.