THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB
This year’s best smartphones
APPLE IPHONE XS MAX
Apple’s latest is the most powerful iPhone yet. It’s about the same size as last year’s iPhone 8 Plus but it has an all-screen front, with a 6.5in pin-sharp OLED screen – great for watching videos. The rear cameras are Apple’s most advanced and include a brilliant new Portrait mode where you can choose the depth of field after you’ve taken the photo. Because the front is all screen, the fingerprint sensor has been replaced by Face ID: a special front-facing TrueDepth camera can recognise your face reliably, and quickly, even in the dark. It’s secure enough for making payments with Apple Pay, too. The powerful processor means this phone is lightning-fast even when using demanding apps, and the battery lasts all day with ease.
A new feature, Dual Sim, is brilliant for business travellers. One sim card plus one e-sim mean you can have two numbers on one phone. Use your main number for calls and texts, but buy a local data plan for the e-sim to save on roaming charges.
This is a big phone but there’s also the iPhone XS, which is smaller and more manageable. Apart from screen size and battery life, the two are identical. iPhone XS, from £999; iPhone XS Max, from £1,099, apple.com/uk
HUAWEI MATE 20 PRO Leica makes outstanding cameras and this brand-spanking new phone from Chinese brand Huawei has three of them on the back. One even has a remarkable 40-megapixel resolution. The cameras can work together intelligently to deliver the strongest images and artificial intelligence can spot what you’re shooting and adjust accordingly.
For instance, it can tell cats from dogs and emphasise their eyes or their fluffy fur respectively. It similarly shoots differently according to whether your subject is a landscape or a plate of food. There’s also a 24-megapixel selfie camera, if you must. Apple’s latest iPhone XS cameras give the Huawei a run for its money, but this is brilliant for photography.
It also has two amazing features: the fingerprint sensor is embedded under the display, so you press the screen. This feature works well. Coolest of all, it has wireless charging that allows it to both receive and give a charge. Press the Mate 20 Pro against another compatible phone and it’ll charge the other handset! Business users will like that this is a solid powerhouse in a slim case. This is easily Huawei’s classiest phone yet. £899, huawei.com SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE9 The latest from Samsung has a screen almost as big as the iPhone’s (6.4in), ideal if you take a lot of notes. Thanks to the slim S-Pen that springs out of the phone’s base, you can write on the screen even on standby. There is a button that works as a wireless trigger for the camera and which also wirelessly moves your presentation to the next slide. The Note9 has two highly capable cameras, especially in low light, thanks to large sensors and advanced software. The battery life is excellent, easily enough for a full day. And if you need a lot of storage, the Note9 is unbeatable: with the larger-capacity model and a suitable memory card, you can store 1TB. Unlike most of the phones here, the Note9 has a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use whatever headphones you like. (The other phones with this kind of connector are the OnePlus 6, Motorola One and BlackBerry KEY2.) £849, johnlewis.com MOTOROLA ONE A quick glance and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at the iPhone XS; this Motorola handset offers strong design at a keen price. The screen resolution is noticeably lower than others here, mind. Still, it boasts twin rear cameras, sculpted glass 5.9in display, dual-sim capabilities and decent storage capacity (64GB), all unusual at this price. The dual sim capability is handy for business travellers: pick up a local sim on arrival overseas. It comes with a fast-charge plug, promising six hours of use after a 20-minute charge. A plain Android set-up means software updates will be prompt and it has some Motorola extras: a double twist launches the camera, while a double shake turns on the torch. The Moto logo on the rear houses the fingerprint sensor and Motorola even includes a transparent phone case that guides you to find the sensor without looking. £269, motorola.co.uk
ONEPLUS 6 OnePlus has a history of making high-end phones at mid-range prices and this one is half the price of some. The screen is large and covers most of the phone’s front, though it’s not as high-resolution as others. But it’s a very fast phone: apps spring open instantly, video playback is smooth and multitasking is efficient. It has face recognition, but it’s not as reliable as on the iPhone, nor deemed secure enough for banking apps, however the fingerprint sensor on the back is fast. Although it lacks the wireless charging capabilities of some phones, the reasonably good battery charges very quickly: use the Dash Charge cable and plug and you’ll get almost a day’s use from a 30-minute charge – handy when you’re on the move. The OnePlus 6T is imminent and will include a fingerprint sensor buried in the phone’s display but will come at a higher price. From £469, oneplus.com SONY XPERIA XZ3 This is the first Sony with an OLED screen and it looks fantastic, with a curved glass back and amazing levels of contrast and vibrant colours. The 6in display is big enough to make watching programmes or movies immersive – you might even leave your tablet at home when you’re travelling. Although it’s a big phone, there’s a clever addition: tap the edge and a list of app shortcuts appears, lined up at the side to make one-handed use easier. Artificial intelligence learns your habits and suggests different apps according to whether it’s a weekday morning at home (traffic and news apps), a weekend afternoon (Netflix, perhaps) or on a working day abroad (which might be translation and calendar apps).
Note that the fingerprint sensor can take a little getting used to: it’s a little lower on the back of the phone than your digits might initially expect. £699, sonymobile.com GOOGLE PIXEL 3 XL The Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3in display and, like the iPhone XS Max, a smaller-screened (5.5in) sibling is also available: the Pixel 3. Google’s own-brand phones don’t have the dual- or triple-camera options of some, but the camera is still remarkable. It uses highly intelligent software both to improve results in very low light and to create depth-of-field and other effects. A feature called Top Shot claims to be clever enough to avoid taking a shot when someone blinks, shooting several images quickly and choosing the smiley, not the frowny, one. It also has a zoom mode that stitches multiple images together for greater detail. Mind you, it does have two front-facing cameras to give you more versatility with selfie shots.
Business users might like the way the phone uses AI to screen calls. Tap the screen call button when the phone rings and a Google robot will ask who they are and why they’re calling. You see a transcription on the screen and can decide whether to answer or not. No more spam calls, Google says.
£869, store.google.com →
BEST FOR PERFORMANCE
BEST FOR PRICE
BEST FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
BEST FOR NOTE-TAKING
BEST FOR INNOVATION
BEST FOR FEATURES
BEST FOR SCREEN QUALITY