WE’VE entered a new era of super smartphones: devices stuffed with the latest high-end spec for those willing to pay big for it. Samsung’s Galaxies, Google’s Pixels and Apple’s wallet-denting iPhone X have set a new standard. Now the next flagship phones are ready to take them on, as they make their mark on the Android market and tempt you to spend your gadget pocket-money. But which to go for?
£799.95 (sim-free), johnlewis.com
You may scoff at the thought of shelling out so much cash for a Huawei handset. But with excellent battery stamina, fast face unlock and fingerprint-scanning tech and its own take on Android 8.1 Oreo baked into a gorgeous glossy water-resistant glass design, trust us when we say it’s nothing if not bringing its A-game. Its triple camera system is the main attraction (see main picture above). Leica-branded 40MP RGB and 20MP monochrome sensors produce exceptional snaps with plenty of detail regardless of light conditions, while its optically stabilised 8MP sensor adds 3x optical zoom for clearer close-ups.
Snaps aren’t always spot-on but with manual mode and the ability to almost instantly identify the scene and adapt settings accordingly, a high-res front-facing 24MP, portrait mode, 4K shooting and 720p super slow-motion video at 960fps, you’re looking at a versatile photography pro and one of the best smartphone snappers on the market.
You can camouflage that iPhone X-style cut-out/notch on its gorgeous 6.1in 18:9 edge-to-edge OLED display and it has the competition standard of 128GB of memory. Fast charging is supported and the fact it houses the latest processor around means performance is snappy and responsive, making the P20 Pro a top-end phone, albeit with a price tag to match.
From £599 (sim-free), sonymobile.com
A curved water-resistant aluminium design sees Sony ditch its long-standing hard-edged aesthetic, combining it with a breathtaking 5.7in 18:9 HDR display that relies on its Bravia TV tech to upscale content to HDR-like quality. With a tweaked version of Android 8.0 Oreo running the show and plenty of horsepower, it laughs in the face of multitasking, with a solid battery and power-saving options.
Not having dual cameras, it feels a step behind the competition but expect great image quality when the light is right and grain-obscuring fine detail when it’s not.
Sony has also brought its dedicated capture button to the 19MP party and 4K video recording, alongside 960fps super slow-motion footage at 1080p, although performance is a bit hit and miss.
It’s loaded with plenty of 2018 flagship trimmings though, such as the latest processing power, wireless charging, microSD storage for up to 400GB and Hi-Res audio — but no headphone jack. The XZ2 packs plenty of characteristics to make it a good phone but does fall short of being a truly great one.
From £469 (sim-free), oneplus.com/uk
Continuing its quest for awesomeness, the glass-covered OnePlus 6 squeezes top-of-the-line specs, such as a bright 6.28in edge-to-edge AMOLED screen and the latest stutter-free processing power, into its most polished design yet.
It delivers on high-end features such as fast phone-unlocking facial recognition and fingerprint scanning, up-to-date Android, great battery life and the option to swap virtual buttons for gestures.
Its 16 and 20MP dual lens combo serves up plenty of detail in the right light and brings a number of photography tricks such as DSLR-style depth of field using portrait mode, 2x optical zoom, optical image stabilisation, manual settings tweaks and improved pictures in low light. But image quality can’t compete with its pricier rivals.
The 6 also gives users an early glimpse of the latest Android P OS, while 64, 128 and 256GB models cover all storage options.
Despite its mid-range status, the OnePlus deservingly earns a place among this year’s best flagships by undercutting the competition to deliver a combination of power and value for a price that won’t make you choke on your morning coffee. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can hide that notch.
£649, (sim-free), clove.co.uk
Nokia’s comeback may be synonymous with retro-inspired reboots but its latest efforts tick a few flagship boxes: Samsung Galaxy-esque curves, a good-looking water-resistant steel and glass design, and a sharp 5.5in OLED screen that means less finger gymnastics and no home button for more screen and less bezel. Its year-old processor might make you think it drags its multitasking or gaming heels but it runs extremely smoothly. That’s largely down to Android One, a platform dedicated to running stock Android for a mostly unmodified Oreo OS experience.
On the photo front, its Zeiss-branded 12 and 13MP set-up and front-facing 5MP cam are capable of excellent shots but quality can’t compete with the competition, while portrait mode to create a depth-of-field effect relies on a slider.
Elsewhere there’s face and fingerprint unlocking tech, 128GB of storage, fast and wireless charging, and if you minimise Candy Crush marathons its battery will keep going until the next day. It’s every bit the high-end phone, but a lack of exciting features means it doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the competition.
From £699 (sim-free, pre-order), htc.com/uk
HTC has fine-tuned its phone with a design that bears all the hallmarks of a flagship: a 6in 18:9 quad-HD screen with barely there bezels, a good-looking, if chunky, water-resistant glass design and a circuitry-exposing translucent model.
Improving the unique usability of its action-triggering edges, the U12+ brings responsive pressure-sensitive volume/power nubs to the squeezable soiree, alongside customisable double-tap and hold gestures for added convenience.
Unlike the rest, it boasts twin 8MP front-facing cameras for selfies with blurred backgrounds and improved face unlock. Flip it round and its 12MP OIS lens and 16MP sensor offer sharp photos with excellent colour reproduction and handle low light remarkably well. This camera combo also means 2x optical zoom, bokeh (blurred) shots and smooth 4K video capture.
On top of that there’s Hi-Res audio, an awkwardly placed fingerprint sensor and up to 256GB of microSD storage, while top-of-the-line processing power means everything runs judder-free.
It’s certainly good enough to rival the best but with little fanfare surrounding its release, the U12+ is the underdog of the Android world.
NEXT month sees the launch event for Chinese manufacturer Vivo’s all-screen and no-notch Apex concept that caught the attention of show-goers at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress in February.
But it wasn’t just the 1.8mm of black stuff flanking the 6in OLED screen that had delegates frothing at the mouth: it was also the integrated in-screen dual-fingerprint readers for added security, and a cleverly hidden 8-megapixel front-facing camera that pops up from the top of the handset for those selfie moments. The concept is finally set to become reality in at a launch event in Shanghai on June 12.