Best flagship phones 2019 - buyer’s guide

GSMArena team, 22 Nov 2019.

If you are after the very best on the smartphone market, you've come to the right section of this buyer's guide.


The highest of high-end phones are in this category. The Galaxy Note and the iPhone are the default choices at this level, with OnePlus climbing to almost be accepted at that tier. All of these have high-quality OLED displays, battery life to spare, and no less than three cameras on their backs that deliver excellent output. What sets them apart?


Editors' choice

Samsung Galaxy Note10+

Samsung Galaxy Note10+

Specs
  • Only option with a stylus, and it's great if you have a use for it
  • Short of a high refresh rate, one of the best displays all-around
  • Expandable storage
  • Questionable ergonomics - power button on the left, fingerprint reader not great
  • Samsung caved and removed the 3.5mm jack

The latest in a line of stylus-wielding Galaxies, the Note10+ has it all. Of course, the build-quality and looks are befitting its price, the maker of the best displays has fitted one of the best displays and evolution has meant the Note10+ has some of the greatest camera output you can get. A longer tele would have been appreciated, maybe, as well as an autofocusing ultra wide - both of these can be had in the OP below.

The Note10+ will also need some getting used to thanks to a relocated power button and an under-display fingerprint reader that can be infuriating at first but gets usable over time. The Note does have most of the niceties that you've come to expect like IP68 rating for dust and water protection, loud and clear stereo speakers and a memory expansion slot, but it's lost the headphone jack for this generation - a flagship trend we're trying to come to terms with.

Read full review
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

Specs
  • 'Best iPhone ever'
  • Robust build - steel frame, IP68 and then some
  • Most potent chipset on the market
  • Huge notch, thick bezels, dated design, heavy and bulky
  • No memory expansion, Lightning port
  • Buggy software in the early days
  • Expensive

The iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn't have the 3.5mm jack either, nor does it offer memory expansion. It's the most expensive mainstream phone too, has a three-year-old design with the biggest of notches, and is thick and heavy, plus it got off to a rocky software start.

All that aside, it's inevitably a refinement over the previous generation, offering an extra camera, improved dust and water resistance (still IP68, but deeper and for longer), and unmatched performance. If you’re at all an iPhone type of person, the 11 Pro (Max or otherwise) is a no-brainer.

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Sony Xperia 5

Sony Xperia 5

Specs
  • Small-ish size (narrow for sure)
  • Is a Sony
  • No night mode
  • No wireless charging
  • Frustrating fingerprint sensor

The Xpeira 5 is perhaps best suited to Sony loyalists too, but it's our favorite Xperia of late (no, the 1 isn't it) and it's objectively a great top-tier smartphone. It's one of the more compact high-end entries this year, even if it's not a true 'Compact'.

Now, the Xperia 5 isn't without its flaws, including lack of wireless charging, night mode, and 4K60 video recording, plus its audio output (through a dongle, of course) isn't on the level of its peers. It does have a great display, excellent battery life, and capable cameras, however, and all it takes is a little Sony love to have you convinced.

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OnePlus 7T Pro

OnePlus 7T Pro

Specs
  • 90Hz screen
  • 3x telephoto camera in a land of 2x's
  • Ultra wide cam has AF
  • Faster charging than the big two
  • Clean, yet feature-rich OS
  • No IP rating
  • No memory expansion
  • No wireless charging

OnePlus phones have their own fan base, and it's for good reasons. The latest OnePlus 7T Pro wows us with its high-res 90Hz notchless OLED display - the big names above are stuck at 60Hz. The 7T Pro doesn't stop there - it's also got an autofocusing ultra wide camera, once again one-upping the trio above.

Admittedly, it doesn't have the Note and the iPhone's wireless charging, it's not officially water-resistant, no matter what ambiguous claims you may read here or there, and OnePlus has never been a fan of expandable storage. The 7T Pro is not available in the US, where you'll have to settle for the 7 Pro non-T, though we can't call the differences significant.

Read full review

Almost there

Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Specs
  • Waterfall display looks awesome
  • Unique ultra wide camera, 3x tele
  • Top-class speakers
  • Great face recognition
  • No Google Play Services
  • Questionable ergonomics (1 physical control, potentially tricky to handle)

We'd be all over this one if only… if only it could work outside of China, which it realistically can't due to lack of Google Play Services support as a result of the US-China trade dispute.

Which is likely the greatest disappointment of the year, seeing how the Mate 30 Pro has some one-off features going for it. In no particular order, we're loving the ultra wide camera for its huge sensor and autofocus capability (even though it's not as wide as most competitors'), the waterfall display (mostly for its looks, though it's not a nightmare to handle either), the Face ID that's hard to find on Androids, and the 3x tele that's moderately rare as well.

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Best phones by category

Reader comments

  • Danny

Your opinions is nonsense,I phone pro max still relevant and still no 1 in the world..suck android and last Huawei phone is suck..

  • Anonymous

I think people pinning the ROG 2 as a Gaming phone fail to acknowledge that it is a great phone for daily use and non gamers as well. Personally, I Don't play that many games on my ROG 2 but still using it over the S10 as a daily driver.

  • AhmedRashdi

Let's get some things sorted out. The list should go like this: 1. Samsung Note 10+ 2. Huawei Mate 30 Pro 3. OnePlus 7T Pro 4. Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro Premium 5. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max 6. ASUS Zenfone 6 7. Sony Xperia 1 8. Realme X2 P...