Smartphones had a great run in 2019. We got our first wave of foldable smartphones giving us a glimpse of the future, camera capabilities grew in terms of number and performance, fast charging and USB Type-C became common across all price segments, and manufacturers finally started understanding the importance of a great software experience.
With 2019 now behind us, the TechRadar Middle East team sat down to highlight the best phones from the past year. There was plenty of discussion and disagreements, and in the end, we realized that there were way too many good phones released during 2019.
The smartphone market has matured to a point where flagships aren't vastly different from each other. So instead of choosing just one phone for each category, we’ve picked three, and you can't go wrong selecting any of them.
We have listed them in Alphabetical order (based on company name) so just because one phone is above another, doesn't mean we prefer it.
Here are the categories for 2019:
- Most Innovative Smartphone
- Best Flagship Smartphones
- Best Mainstream Smartphones
- Best Affordable Smartphones
- Best Budget Smartphones
- Best Camera Smartphones
- Best Gaming Smartphones
- Best Compact Smartphones
Most Innovative Smartphone
The most interesting technology in phones is usually shared through concept devices such as the Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha or the Huawei Mate X. However, the phone that actually shipped this year was the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
While not perfect, the Samsung Galaxy Fold ushers us into the next generation of smartphones with its foldable display. This technology allows us to turn our phone into a tablet or into a compact form.
We can't wait to see the foldable phones releasing in 2020, but hats off to Samsung for being the first to showcase foldable technology to everyone.
Best Flagship Smartphones of 2019
Flagship phones pushed boundaries with their capabilities this year- improving and excelling in every area from screen technology to cameras, performance and battery life. These phones are on the higher-end of the pricing spectrum, but offer nothing but the best.
Here are our three picks for best flagship phones of 2019:
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Although the iPhone 11 Pro looks identical to its predecessor, Apple has improved it in almost every way. It has a better screen, faster performance, a superb camera and battery life to last all day.
Huawei P30 Pro
The P30 Pro is as close to a perfect phone as you can get. It has everything you want from a modern flagship: stellar cameras, beefy performance, hefty battery and a gorgeous design.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
The Note 10 is the best that Samsung has to offer right now. While it doesn’t bring game-changing updates from its predecessor, it still has a lot going for it with its outstanding hardware, an incredible AMOLED display, excellent battery life and consistent camera performance.
Best Mainstream Smartphones of 2019
Though flagship phones offer the best a manufacturer offers, they can be very costly, and if you don't want to live on the bleeding edge of technology, you can save yourself some cash by choosing the next best phone on offer.
Here are our three picks for best mainstream smartphones of 2019:
Apple iPhone 11
The iPhone 11 is one of the best flagships you can get your hands on right now. Apple has improved on the previously released iPhone XR in every way by loading up the iPhone 11 with an excellent camera, terrific battery life and even faster performance.
OnePlus 7T Pro
The OnePlus 7T Pro is one of the most impressive handsets of the year. It doesn’t cost nearly as much as other flagships and can go toe-to-toe with the likes of iPhone 11 Pro in terms of performance. There’s also a stunning 90Hz notch-less display on board, along with a hefty battery and decent camera setup.
Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung’s feature-packed Galaxy S10 is one of the best Android phones around. It has a gorgeous, all-screen design with an in-display fingerprint sensor, wireless charging with PowerShare, beefy specs, and a triple camera setup with consistently good performance.
Best Affordable Smartphones of 2019
How do you define an affordable phone? Here at TechRadar, we chose phones that are under AED / SAR 2,000, and there are tons of great phones in this price range. Features that were considered flagship in previous years have trickled down to the affordable phones category.
Here are our picks for the three best affordable smartphones:
The OnePlus 7T offers massive upgrades over OnePlus 7 and is one of the best value phone around right now. There’s a top of the line Snapdragon 855+ under the hood for all your performance needs, a smooth and stunning 90Hz display, good cameras and superb battery life.
Oppo Reno 2
Oppo’s second wave of Reno devices get a lot of things right. With its versatile camera setup, premium design and build, the Reno 2 strikes a nice balance between price, performance and features.
Xiaomi Mi 9
The Mi 9 is another mid-range stunner from Xiaomi. It has all the bells and whistles of a premium flagship phone such as a beefy chipset and powerful camera array, without the eye-popping price tag.
Best Budget Smartphones of 2019
Moving further down the price range, we restricted budget phones to a maximum of AED / SAR 1,000, and were surprised to see the number of phones competing for our top spot.
Here are the three that made it for our top picks for the best budget smartphones:
The Honor 9X brings enough to the table to make it a compelling budget phone. There are enough trappings of a modern phone to ensure that it lasts you a long time such as an all-screen display, a pop-up selfie camera, as well as decent performance and cameras to boot.
With its strong main cameras, smooth performance and premium design, the Nokia 7.2 stands out as one of the best value phones of the year.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
The Redmi Note 8 Pro offers a lot for its price tag - a versatile quad-camera setup, fast performance, premium design and a large, crisp display.
Best Camera Phones of 2019
This year, we saw most manufacturers move to multiple camera lenses on their smartphones. Ultrawide sensors became the norm, with many flagships also adding a telephoto lens for an extended focal range.
Here are the three phones that take the best photos:
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
The iPhone 11 Pro has one of the best camera systems on any phone. With three distinct 12MP cameras including an ultra-wide lens and optical zoom, it’s perfect for taking stunning photos on the go and crisp 4K videos at 60fps.
Huawei Mate 30 Pro
The Mate 30 Pro’s cutting-edge quad-camera array offers a powerfully versatile setup that can take stunning photos and videos in almost any lighting condition.
Oppo Reno 10X Zoom
The Reno 10X offers a ton of versatility and photo taking prowess for mobile creators. Its highlight is the 10X hybrid zoom on the rear cameras that can take detailed shots, and a motorized shark-fin pop selfie camera on the front.
Best Gaming Smartphones of 2019
Mobile gaming is booming, and we now have dedicated phones for playing games on the go. But instead of choosing a gaming phone, we chose the best three phones that can easily handle the high demands of mobile gaming, including a great screen, fast processor, and decent battery life.
Here are our top picks:
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
The iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 6.5-inch screen and a battery that lasts for more than day, which makes it a perfect platform to experience Apple Arcade - Apple's subscription service for games.
Huawei Mate 20 X
The Huawei Mate 20X has one of the largest screens we’ve seen on a recent smartphone, measuring a mammoth 7.2-inches. Needless to say, games look incredible on such a large screen. Paired with Graphine cooling and an insane battery life, the Mate 20X provides a fantastic gaming experience.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is a powerhouse of a phone, with the best 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display making your games look beautiful. A rather large battery should also keep your gaming sessions going for a long time.
Best Compact Smartphones of 2019
As capable as smartphones are getting, they are moving towards large sizes that aren't too comfortable to use with one hand. We have chosen three phones that are still manageable with one hand, and offer almost all the perks of their larger siblings
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
With a 5.8-inch screen size, the iPhone 11 Pro is manageable with one hand and comes with all the features found on its larger sibling such as a triple camera setup, wireless charging and FaceID.
The Huawei P30 has a screen size of 6.1-inches, yet Huawei manages to fit that in a body of a compact phone. You lose some of the features of the P30 Pro such as the higher zoom range and wireless charging, but still end up with an extremely attractive handset that’s priced well.
Samsung Galaxy S10e
The Galaxy S10e turned out to be a fan favorite from the Galaxy S10 lineup due to its compact form factor and a flat touchscreen that measures 5.8-inches. You lose out on the in-screen fingerprint sensor and the third camera, but still continue to enjoy great performance from this phone.
That's all for the first edition of TechRadar Middle East Mobile Awards. Big thanks to our jury members, readers, and partners for making this possible.
Season's greetings and a Happy New Year!