For many of us, 2019 is a year we’re ready to see the back of. When we haven’t been despairing at the weeks of mayhem in Westminster, we’ve been having our Rugby World Cup hopes dashed, and with winter well and truly upon us, we can expect plummeting temperatures and plenty of dispiriting TFL announcements. However, this rather unpopular collection of 365 days has at least one grand claim to fame as we relegate it to near-history: it’s been a hell of a year for the smartphone.
After months of leaks, hype, and drip-fed reveals, the latest generations from the biggest tech hardware giants are now no doubt sitting right at the top of millions of Christmas wish lists. But we know that separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to our most important technological investment can be a tricky business. With this in mind, we’ve looked carefully at all the new handsets to compile a list of the cream of the crop.
Google Pixel 4
We were big fans of the Google Pixel 3, thanks to its progressive design which helps to combat ‘smartphone fatigue’ and encourage a more decluttered approach to modern living. But if there’s one feature that will really get your friends coveting your handset, it’s the Pixel 4’s outstanding camera.
In all kinds of scenarios, the Pixel 4 camera impresses — snapping shots with rich colour and great detail. The Night Sight mode that has wowed us on previous Pixels is here again, doing wonders with limited light, and this year it’s even able to have a go at some astrophotography – provided you can keep the phone perfectly still for four minutes while pointed at the night sky, so it can capture enough detail.
While there’s not a whole lot that’s new about the Pixel 4 compared to the Pixel 3, the design has been significantly updated. It immediately feels like a different device, especially if you opt for one of the matte finishes. The handset has an aluminium frame which runs round the circumference of the device providing a solid structure, finished with a rubberised black coating.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
We know, it can be hard to cut ties with a brand you’ve (quite literally) invested so much in. And, if you’re looking to upgrade but can’t quite face walking away from Apple, the iPhone 11 Pro is undeniably the best offering from the tech giant in years. An extremely impressive battery life, paired with the brand new A13 Bionic processor makes for a powerful device, which comes in a sexy array of colours and finishes.
The headline act, however, is the tri-camera. Notably, the third sensor is a wide-angle lens, bringing a 120-degree field of view, which is ideal for landscapes. The other two remain largely unchanged, with two small but impactful updates – the telephoto lens now has a larger aperture, letting in 40% more light, and the wide-angle sensor now has 100% focus pixels, which essentially means it’s better at focusing in low-light.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
It seems strange to think that the fashion less than a decade ago was for infinitesimally small, sleek handsets — today the craze for so-called ‘phablets’ means that most smartphones can easily double up as television screens. And, with an enormous 93.1% screen-to-body ratio, the pixels on the latest Samsung now stretch from the small top speaker down to the thin bottom chin, and spill over the curved left and right edges. Whereas competitors have rushed to clone the notched screen design that first gained prominence with the iPhone X, Samsung has taken a dramatically different approach with its Infinity-O design.
Also taking steps to appease customers looking for exceptional camera capabilities, the back of this Samsung offering has a triple-lens camera that takes normal, telephoto, and new ultra-wide photos.
OnePlus 7T Pro
When it comes to buying a new smartphone, everyone has different budgets and may not agree on what constitutes a bargain. If you can afford to spend a bit more, but you still don’t want to pay flagship prices, then check out the OnePlus 7T Pro. It tops our list of the best cheap(er) phones out there for a number of reasons, not least for its seamlessly smooth display and seriously impressive camera capabilities.
OnePlus has been making stylish handsets since 2014 when i got started with the OnePlus One. That design heritage shines through in the OnePlus 7T Pro, from the 6.67-inch, 1,440 x 3,120 pixel, AMOLED screen to the pop-up motorised selfie camera. That pop-up camera – which appears and disappears automatically as you switch in and out of selfie mode – means no need for a notch on the front display. With its minimal bezels and slightly curved edges, it’s a great phone to look at, and is likely to turn heads when you pull it out.
Huawei P30 Pro
Sure, it’s a weird time to be talking about Huawei. But, putting aside for one moment that *minor* security breach and the sacking of our Defence Secretary, there’s no denying that its latest handset is an extraordinary piece of kit.
Huawei has teamed up with Leica to provide all of its camera lens tech (a move that proved extremely popular with the earlier P20), and is now bringing a quad camera set-up. The P30 features a main 40-megapixel lens, an ultra-wide angle 20-megapixel lens, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom, and finally, a new Huawei Time of Flight camera. Try reeling that list off after a couple of beers.
Marketing its gadget as a phone with “cinematic capabilities”, Huawei has also developed a SuperSpectrum Sensor, which enables spectacular low-light video capture, so night scenes appear bright and highly detailed. Additionally, the SuperZoom Lens allows for crisp close-ups, while the AI Video Editor enables users to add background music and special effects to their videos, turning the Huawei P30 Series into a mobile production studio.
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