As far as phones go, 2020 will be known as the year 5G-equipped flagships brought their ‘A’ game.
But which is right for you?
It can be bewildering trying to differentiate between handsets. And when many of them start nudging uncomfortably over £1,000 you want to be sure it’s money well spent.
And while 5G is here, the coverage is by no means universal. Internet providers are hurrying to deploy the network across greater swathes of the UK.
So the next phone you end up getting will be crucial for seeing you through the next few years as 5G truly comes into its own.
We pitched the top contenders against each other to find out who really comes out on top.
The best all-rounder: Samsung Note20 Ultra 5G
Samsung’s supersized smartphone feels ultra-premium but will require two hands to use it.
And even though its matte finish is fancy, you can’t ignore that not-so-subtle bump protruding from its backside, housing its triple camera set-up.
But that camera combination of a 108-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra-wide and telephoto sensors make it one of the best Android cameras. With an impressively clear 5x optical zoom it’s ready to take your close-up, while 50x digital zoom, 4K video, an easy-to-use camera interface and the 960fps super slow-mo videos equally impress.
Samsung’s spring-loaded S Pen stylus once again enables you to remotely snap photos and new gesture controls mean pulling up recently used apps or grabbing a screenshot hands-free.
The Ultra pretty much has it all: a fancy curved 6.9in screen, a quality camera, a high 120Hz refresh rate, all-day battery life, a speedy fingerprint scanner and super-fast guts.
The best camera: Huawei Mate 40 Pro
It’s no secret that Huawei’s put its stamp on some of the most technologically advanced hardware available.
With a giant 6.76in curved screen, excellent stereo speakers, brilliant battery stamina and incredibly fast wired and wireless charging, the Mate 40 continues this quest of excellence.
Its cutting-edge triple camera system-cum-Space Ring Design is the main attraction, and is hands down one of the best snappers on the scene. This is largely down to the Leica-branded 50-megapixel main and 20-megapixel ultrawide sensors that work to produce exceptional snaps with plenty of detail regardless of lighting conditions, while its optically stabilised 12-megapixel telephoto lens adds impressive 5x optical zoom.
It also shoots 4K video at 60fps, and that pill-shaped cutout around front consists of a 3D depth sensor and selfie cam for superior selfies.
Huawei gets extra points for hands-free AI gestures, like swiping through web pages or an air press gesture to play and pause music, and for its incredibly powerful insides.
A fast 3D facial-scanning system, loud stereo speakers, 256GB storage and a drool-inducing, water-resistant design are the cherry atop this Google-less cake, which brings us on to the elephant in the room.
While Huawei’s made notable strides, like introducing Petal Search for app downloads, no Google will likely be a deal breaker for those unwilling to adjust their smartphone habits.
The best design: iPhone 12 Pro
At a glance you’d be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu given the water-resistant iPhone 12 Pro has ditched the rounded edges, replacing them with flat ones and that goodlooking boxy finish made popular by the iPhone 4/5 – and, more recently, iPad Pro.
Warning: peeling the protective plastic cover to reveal that glass-and-stainless-steel design might get you a little hot under the collar.
The OLED screen is also crammed with tougher Ceramic Shield Glass. There’s plenty of photographic grunt with a trio of 12-megapixel ultrawide, normal and telephoto zoom lenses aided by a LiDAR system, which paves the way for enhanced AR.
Night Mode is stunning, providing you can keep those hands still. Even better, it now works superbly with the front-facing camera, bringing those party ‘groupies’ into the light.
You can also record, edit and watch HDR video in Dolby Vision at 60fps too, for realistic and accurate colour and brightness reproduction. Chuck in impressive stabilisation and just call yourself Steven Spielberg.
Powered by Apple’s super-fast A14 Bionic chip, the 12 Pro laughs in the face of multitasking, while the MagSafe system means magnetic accessories and wireless chargers.
So it’s a most excellent smartphone. Battery life could be better, and if photography and AR (which is still in its infancy) aren’t top of your features list, it’s worth shaving £200 off and bagging the almost identical and equally awesome iPhone 12.
Want to know even more about it? Check out our full iPhone 12 Pro review right here.
The best bang for your buck: OnePlus 8T
It’s a bummer when your smartphone has nary a scratch before being shoved aside for a newer model just six months after release.
However, that’s the story behind the 8 and 6.55in 8T, which boasts a faster and beautifully bright 120Hz screen for buttery smooth video and gaming, alongside rapid charging that takes it from flat to full in a jaw-dropping 37 minutes.
Its 16-megapixel front-facing snapper is more than suitable for video calls and selfies. Flip it around and the quad cameras are made up of a 48-megapixel main sensor with optical image stabilisation, while a 16- megapixel ultrawide, dedicated monochrome and 5-megapixel macro cameras complete the line-up.
Photos and 4K video are excellent, with lots of detail and accurate colours when the lighting is right, but expect the camera to stutter when the lights go low.
Elsewhere, the 8T performs as fast as its predecessors but crank that screen up to 120GHz and your battery will deplete quicker than a bogus pack of double AAs.
There’s no wireless charging or official water resistance. But with a distinctive design, decent battery life, dual SIM-slots and 128GB or 256GB options, there are enough improvements here to justify not spending more than £600 on a phone.
Want to know even more about it? Check out our full OnePlus 8T review right here.
The best simple smartphone experience: Google Pixel 5
The Pixel 5 arrives minus the headline-stealing hardware or the gimmicks of the competition.
What you are getting, though, is an excellent 6in OLED display and a streamlined take on Android, all crammed into a water-resistant 100 per cent recycled aluminium overcoat.
A 16-megapixel ultrawide lens coupled with a 12.2-megapixel sensor sees Google’s genius photography software do tricks like killer lowlight shooting with Night Sight mode, which is now available for Portrait Mode.
Meanwhile, its Super Res Zoom software processing manages 2x zoom with impressive clarity to make up for a lack of a dedicated lens; any higher, though, and you’ll lose detail.
Overall, the camera performs brilliantly in virtually all conditions, spitting out pics with impressive clarity and brightness, with speedy autofocus. Video stabilisation modes are a much welcomed addition too.
The 5 ditches facial recognition in favour of a physical fingerprint sensor on its backside, which isn’t as slick as an in-display scanner, but given we’re all wearing masks right now, it’ll prove useful.
Wireless and reverse wireless charging are fantastic features, especially since the latter means powering devices from its backside. Chuck in its Extreme Battery Saver to avoid those lowbattery moments and you’re looking at a winning formula.
Want to know even more about it? Check out our full Google Pixel 5 review right here.
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