XDA’s Top Smartphones of 2019

XDA’s Top Smartphones of 2019

It’s truly crazy to think about all of the new technology that is launched in one year. 2019 was no different, of course. Hundreds of phones, hardware advancements, new software features, and even new form factors made headlines this year. So what was the best of the best? Some of the XDA Staff have put together their picks for the Top Smartphones (and more) of 2019! Here’s a quick breakdown of our picks. Check out the full explanations below the chart.

CategoryMishaal RahmanJoe FedewaAamir SiddiquiMax WeinbachArol WrightIdrees PatelTushar MehtaAdam ConwayEric Hulse
Best Flagship (Value)OnePlus 7 ProOnePlus 7TOnePlus 7TGalaxy A90 5GRedmi K20 Pro/Xiaomi Mi 9T ProRealme X2 ProOnePlus 7TOPPO Reno 10x ZoomOnePlus 7 Pro
Best Flagship (Features)ASUS ROG Phone IIGalaxy Note 10iPhone 11 Pro MaxGalaxy FoldHuawei Mate 30 ProOnePlus 7 ProHuawei Mate 30 ProASUS ROG Phone IIGalaxy Note 10+
Best Overall Mid-rangePixel 3a XLPixel 3aRealme X2Xiaomi Mi 9TRedmi Note 8 ProRedmi Note 8 ProRealme X2Pixel 3aPixel 3a
Best Overall Low-endGalaxy M30Galaxy A10eRedmi 8AGalaxy A10eRedmi 8ARedmi 8ARedmi GoGalaxy M30Moto G7
Best DesignOPPO Reno 10X ZoomHuawei P30 Pro (Dual Tone)Huawei P30Galaxy Note 10+Galaxy Note 10+Huawei P30 ProOPPO Reno 10x ZoomOPPO Reno 10x ZoomGalaxy Fold
Best New Software FeatureDark ModeDark ModeDigital WellbeingNew Google AssistantDark ModeDark ModeFocus ModeAstrophotographyAstrophotography
Best New Hardware FeaturePenta-CamerasPeriscope ZoomPeriscope ZoomRear TOF camerasHigh Refresh Rate DisplaysHigh Refresh Rate DisplaysPeriscope ZoomHigh Refresh Rate DisplaysHigh Refresh Rate Displays
Most ImprovedASUSMotorolaRealmeN/AXiaomiSamsungASUSOPPOiPhone 11 Pro

Mishaal Rahman

Best Flagship Device for Value: OnePlus 7 Pro

When I reviewed the OnePlus 7 Pro back in May, I called it the best smartphone of 2019, with the obvious caveat that the year was only halfway over. Over 6 months later with the phone as my daily driver, and my mind hasn’t changed: the OnePlus 7 Pro has only gotten better over time. Besides the occasional rushed update, there’s no obvious flaw or shortcoming with the 7 Pro. Its display is still superb, even if it’s not the only device with a 90Hz display. Its performance is stellar, even when compared to the Pixel 4. Its design is beautiful, though I do wish it had a flat display. In every other aspect, the 7 Pro is good if not great: software, price, haptics, audio, customizability, battery life, connectivity, and camera. OnePlus still has a ways to go until they’ve caught up with Google when it comes to camera quality, but once they’ve bridged that gap, it’ll be hard to recommend a Pixel over a OnePlus.

OnePlus 7 Pro XDA Forums

Best Flagship Device for Features: ASUS ROG Phone II

ASUS surprised us earlier this year with its change in strategy to cater to power users and gamers. The ROG Phone II is the embodiment of literally everything that smartphone enthusiasts have ever wanted. It’s what you would get if you gave Reddit and XDA a notepad and told us to come up with a list of specifications. Okay, it doesn’t have literally everything – it’s missing a telephoto camera and wireless charging, for example – but it has so much going for it that it would easily be my daily driver had I not picked up the Chinese model. If you’re looking for a smartphone that gives you the smoothest performance, the best gaming experience, and the best battery life, then you’ll find that the ROG Phone II has no serious competition.

ASUS ROG Phone II XDA Forums

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Google Pixel 3a (XL)

My experience with mid-range phones is limited because I always crave the highest-end devices on the market, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Pixel 3a XL when I picked it up at Google I/O this year. It’s basically the Pixel 3 but without any of the quality control issues that initially plagued Google’s 2018 flagship. Mid-range smartphones, especially ones sold in the U.S., tend to get neglected when it comes to camera quality, but that isn’t the case with the Pixel 3a since it has the full Google Camera experience. Against new devices like the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and OPPO Reno 3, though, Google will have to step it up if they want the Pixel 4a to be successful.

Pixel 3a XL XDA Forums

Best Overall Low-end Device: Samsung Galaxy M30

Once the undisputed dominant smartphone brand in India, Samsung now faces tough competition from Chinese OEMs like Xiaomi, OPPO, Realme, and Honor. In response, Samsung revamped its mid-range and budget line ups, bringing what were once premium features to lower price points. The Galaxy M30 is a great example of how Samsung is taking its newfound threats seriously. At a price of around $200, the Galaxy M30 offers a 6.38″ Infinity-U AMOLED display, a 5000mAh battery, triple rear cameras, up to 6GB RAM, up to 128GB of internal storage and expandable storage, and a USB Type-C port. Many of these features are rare to find in budget smartphones, and even if you do find a few budget devices with comparable specifications, how many have received the same level of software support as the Galaxy M30? I would wager only a few.

Galaxy M30 XDA Forums

Best Design: OPPO Reno 10X Zoom

Dazzling color gradients are just as appealing to me as they are to anyone else, which is why I love the design of my Nebula Blue OnePlus 7 Pro, but what’s the point of these beautiful designs if I end up slapping a case on the phones for 99% of their lives? I use cases on all my phones because I want to avoid scratching the camera(s) when I move a phone on a table or other surface. The camera is exposed on almost every phone out there – except for the Reno. There’s no camera bump at all, and better yet, the O-Dot below the camera keeps the phone from sliding around on the table. The Reno has one of the most streamlined smartphone designs I’ve seen this year, and it’s thus the only phone I would feel comfortable using without a case.

OPPO Reno 10X Zoom XDA Forums

Best New Software Feature: Dark Mode in Android 10

Google finally came to its senses this year when they introduced a system-wide dark mode toggle in Android 10. Not only do dark themes improve battery life (on phones with OLED displays), but they can also reduce eye strain. I use dark themes in every app that has one, and I actively seek out third-party alternatives when the official app doesn’t offer a dark theme. Technically, dark themed apps aren’t actually new — any Android app could offer a dark theme in their settings, and some even did. However, Android 10 is the first Android version to expose a dark mode toggle outside of Developer Options, and many apps are only now offering dark themes since Google made dark mode a platform feature.

Best New Hardware Feature: Penta-Camera Modules

Throughout 2019, smartphone manufacturers have designed devices with triple and sometimes quadruple-camera modules. Then came Xiaomi with its penta-camera Mi Note 10. Its camera array consists of a primary 108MP sensor, a secondary super wide-angle sensor, a tertiary 5x optical zoom sensor, a quaternary portrait sensor, and a quinary macro sensor. This might sound like overkill, but I think it’s genius as the Mi Note 10 offers the best camera versatility out of any smartphone. The 108MP sensor is great for daylight photos, and when binned, for low-light photos, too. It also allows for crisp digital zoom between 1X and 5X, after which the optical zoom sensor takes over for the 5X to 10X zoom levels. The portrait sensor helps for depth detection to separate the subject from the background in portrait mode shots, while the macro sensor allows the phone to focus on close-up objects. Finally, the wide-angle sensor completes the package by letting you grab photos in your field-of-view without having to step back. I think this will be a major trend in 2020, as evidenced by the leaks of the Samsung Galaxy S11 (S20?) line.

Most Improved: ASUS

Before 2019, ASUS was a smartphone brand that was only mildly interesting for me due to its ZenFone Max Pro line. When ASUS said that their strategy this year would be to cater to power users, they meant it. They really hit their stride with the ZenFone 6 and ZenUI 6. The ZenFone 6 had no notch, a large battery, a flip camera module that turned out to be more useful than I thought, a headphone jack, and a clean UI packed to the brim with features. They even reached out to the XDA community to seed devices, released the kernel source code and bootloader unlock tools right after launch, maintained active contact with developers, and pushed software updates frequently. ASUS has done everything right to become a brand we’d recommend. Now they just need to work on their supply issues so they can actually get a device into the hands of everyone who wants one.

Joe Fedewa

Best Flagship Device for Value: OnePlus 7T

While it’s true that OnePlus have been slowly increasing the price of their phones, I would argue they still offer great value. The company had a lot to offer in 2019, but I think the OnePlus 7T is the best of the bunch. It takes all the great stuff from the OnePlus 7 Pro and refines it just enough to be a worthwhile update.

OnePlus 7T XDA Forums

Best Flagship Device for Features: Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Everyone talks about the big Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, but I think the non-Plus model is the real winner. You get all of the great features that Samsung includes in the Note line, most notably the updated S Pen, much-improved software support, top of the line AMOLED display, super-slim bezels, and good cameras, all in about the same size package as the Pixel 4.

Galaxy Note 10 XDA Forums

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Pixel 3a

Google’s flagship Pixel devices may be struggling to find their place, but the company hit a home run with the Pixel 3a. It’s everything we love about the Pixel series in a much more affordable package. You’re getting Google’s clean Pixel software, (usually) fast updates, and, most importantly, stellar camera quality. That alone is hard to beat.

Pixel 3a XDA Forums

Best Overall Low-end Device: Samsung Galaxy A10e

Honestly, there are so many really good low-end Android phones to choose from nowadays. The Samsung Galaxy A10e is a device you can get for $180 unlocked and it has an HD+ display with slim bezels and waterdrop notch, 8MP camera, 2GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, headphone jack, and microSD card slot.

Best Design: Huawei P30 Pro (Dual Tone)

Huawei makes some of the best-looking smartphones on the market, but one design, in particular, caught my eye in 2019. The P30 Pro launched in early 2019 in a few gradient color options, but in September the company released two dual-tone colors. The top third of the back glass is a high gloss, while the bottom two-thirds is matte. It’s a Pixel-esque design and I really dig it.

Huawei P30 Pro XDA Forums

Best New Software Feature: Dark Mode

Dark Mode is certainly not a new concept, but it really hit its stride in 2019. That’s thanks in large part to Android 10’s system-wide dark mode setting. I’ve been using dark mode almost exclusively since Android 10 launched and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.

Best New Hardware Feature: Periscope Zoom

One thing that has always annoyed me about smartphone photography is not being able to get high-quality photos that are zoomed in. We saw a lot of progress in this department in 2019 with periscope zoom cameras. Several manufacturers have hopped on this trend and I’m hoping it continues in 2020.

Most Improved: Motorola/Lenovo

You’ve heard about the new Motorola Razr, right? If not, you’re one of the few who hasn’t. I’ve heard a lot about this phone from people who don’t typically follow technology. Foldable phones are hot right now and Motorola is staking their claim with a name from the past. People don’t typically get excited about Motorola phones, so that’s a huge improvement in my book.


Aamir Siddiqui

Best Flagship Device for Value: OnePlus 7T

Despite OnePlus’s gradual price creep, the OnePlus 7T is the best value flagship device of 2019, in my opinion, coming out ahead of flagship killers like the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro and the Realme X2 Pro. The OnePlus 7T borrows all the correct bits from the OnePlus 7 Pro, shares software improvements to the camera, and continues on providing the OxygenOS experience alongside a very healthy development community.

Best Flagship Device for Features: iPhone 11 Pro Max

I would crown the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max as the best premium flagship of 2019. With the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I feel Apple has taken a bigger leap forward, especially in the camera department, and Android flagships have not been able to match it just yet when looking at the complete and cohesive experience across areas like performance, battery life, camera (photo and video), software experience, and software support. Rather than just throwing a ton of features on the wall and hoping they would stick, Apple’s walled garden approach gives them the advantage of harmony and synergy.

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Realme X2

I would crown the Realme X2 as the best mid-range smartphone of 2019. The Realme X2 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC, a Super AMOLED display, and 30W VOOC charging, all of which make it stand out for its ₹16,999 (~$238) price tag. The phone also has a competitive 64MP quad rear camera setup, a headphone jack, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and many more features that allow it to provide a very good smartphone experience. ColorOS 6 is a bit of a downside and there’s a lot of room to improve on this end. But for the price tag, you get a lot of smartphone for your money.

Realme X2 XDA Forums

Best Overall Low-end Device: Xiaomi Redmi 8A

The Redmi 8A is the best overall low-end device in my opinion. For a price of just ₹6,499 (~$92), the Redmi 8A remains unmatched in the features that it provides. You also get some standouts for its price range, like a 5,000 mAh battery, USB Type-C port, and 18W fast charging support, along with a decent smartphone design and a decent HD+ display. It is a low-end phone though, so performance obviously isn’t its best feature.

Redmi 8A XDA Forums

Best Design: Huawei P30

The design on the Huawei P30 combines all the right elements that I look for in a smartphone. I have grown to dislike curved displays, so most of the newer smartphones lose their charm. I also dislike punch-hole displays, mainly for the fact that it leaves area in my status bar unusable. So the “best” design in my eyes would be a phone that has a flat display and a centered waterdrop notch that does not unnecessarily give me a very thick status bar either (a la Pixel 3 XL‘s bathtub notch). Bonus points go for a pocketable phone size, thin bezels, rounded corners, and a relatively flat rear camera.

Huawei P30 XDA Forums

Best New Software Feature: Digital Wellbeing

This does not exactly come under “new” features since Digital Wellbeing was announced at Google I/O 2018. But over this year, the feature is seeing wider rollout and implementations, as well as features such as Scheduling, Take a Break, Minimal Phone Mode, and much more. OEMs have also added their own features to the idea, with OnePlus’s Zen Mode coming in very handy for me personally when I really needed to sit down and study for my exams.

Phones are all I do every weekday for work and most weekends for leisure, so features like Winding Down are absolutely essential for me to retain my sanity and my sleep schedule.

Best New Hardware Feature: Periscope Cameras

Periscope cameras are what I would vote as being the best new hardware feature on smartphones. It is one of those ingenious solutions that once implemented, makes you go “why didn’t they think of this before?”. I widely use optical zoom in situations like product launches, when I don’t really get the best seats in the house. So having the ability to take a photo without losing quality is very practical for me. Optical zoom through a periscope camera setup would give me even more freedom in choosing poorer (but more comfortable) seats/positions, yet allow me to retain comparable quality.

Most Improved: Realme

Realme as a brand has made some very strong progress in 2019, and I would crown them as the most improved for this year. They get fair credit for competing against Xiaomi, a company that was itself bringing in some very heavy competition to an already saturated market. The odds were stacked against them, but the company has proven that not only can it make good budget smartphones, it can also extend its product lineup to include mid-range devices and flagship killers. These improvements are also backed by strong numbers as reported from the ground, and consumers have eagerly embraced the company with open arms, which is surprising considering the hyper-competitive nature of the budget and mid-range sub-market and the plethora of options already existing.


Max Weinbach

Best Flagship Device for Value: Samsung Galaxy A90 5G

The Samsung Galaxy A90 5G has some of the best specs for the best price. It has a great camera coupled with a great display, huge battery, and 5G. With the snazzy dual-tone back it also looks really good. The software is great with One UI and has all the features you will need.

Galaxy A90 5G XDA Forums

Best Flagship Device for Features: Samsung Galaxy Fold

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is just the best phone and has the most features. The amount of features is due to it being both a tablet and a phone. You are able to run up to about 10 apps at once thanks to split-screen, it has all of Samsung’s features, and it just has amazing hardware. It’s an all-around great phone.

Galaxy Fold XDA Forums

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Xiaomi Mi 9T

The Xiaomi Mi 9T is my favorite mid-range phone. I used it for a few weeks and I honestly couldn’t tell it was a mid-range phone. It feels fast and has a great display. The camera is honestly fantastic as well. It is an all-around great phone and the best mid-range phone by far.

Xiaomi Mi 9T XDA Forums

Best Overall Low-end Device: Samsung Galaxy A10e

The Samsung Galaxy A10e is probably the best low-end device. It cost $150 and has a 5.8-inch HD+ display along with good enough specs to last you for the two years of updates you get with Samsung A series phones. It’s a great phone if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a mid-range or flagship phone.

Best Design: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

The design awards have usually gone to Samsung and I think this year is no exception. Samsung designed a beautiful phone with a front display that is almost all screen. The rear glass also has the new trippy Aura Glow color which just looks fantastic. That along with the curves and edges just makes it the best looking and feeling device on the market in 2019.

Galaxy Note 10+ XDA Forums

Best New Software Feature: New Google Assistant

The best software feature, by far, is the new Google Assistant from the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. It is so much faster and just works well. Included in this is the better voice transcription. It is so fast and accurate it is almost like magic. Google’s AI is really amazing and that’s why their most consumer-facing AI has to be the best for 2019.

Best New Hardware Feature: Rear TOF cameras

Front-facing 3D scanners have been a thing for a while now. We’ve seen them from Samsung, Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Google, LG, and more. They all help with Face ID, my favorite hardware feature from last year. The reason rear TOF cameras are the best for this year is portrait mode and 3D scanning. 3D scanners greatly improve the accuracy of portrait shots making them look more realistic. You can also use them as a 3D scanner, this isn’t the most useful thing ever but it is pretty cool and really fun.


Arol Wright

Best Flagship Device for Value: Redmi K20 Pro/Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro

This was a close call with the OnePlus 7T and the ZenFone 6, two devices providing excellent value for your money, but we’re talking pure value here, and for less than $400 you likely won’t be able to get better value than what you will be getting with the Redmi K20 Pro (or the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, depending on where you live). Unlike the Pocophone F1 from last year, it doesn’t make a lot of compromises, allowing it to qualify as a flagship phone: it brings a full, notchless display with a pop-up camera, a 48MP triple rear camera setup and, most importantly, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor for its brains. If you live in China you can also snag the Premium Edition with a Snapdragon 855 Plus, up to 12 GB of RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage — and the highest-end option will still be less than $500.

Redmi K20 Pro XDA Forums

Best Flagship Device for Features: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Despite all of the hardships that Huawei endured this year, the Mate 30 Pro remains a solid device, although probably one that will not ever see a Western release. A Leica quad rear camera setup that’s at the top of the DxOMark ranking for best smartphone cameras, a front-facing Face ID-like 3D-sensing face unlock system, a 4500 mAh battery, a Kirin 990 processor, reverse fast charging, a waterfall-like curved display… It’s packed with so many features that, except for its one, big flaw (not having Google apps), it could potentially be the closest thing to the perfect flagship phone out there. It’s really awesome, and it’s a real shame that we can’t see this launch internationally because of political woes and bouts.

Best Overall Mid-Range Device: Redmi Note 8 Pro

The Redmi Note 7 and Redmi Note 7 Pro launched earlier this year marked a big change of pace for Xiaomi in the mid-range marketplace, and its successors, the Redmi Note 8 and Redmi Note 8 Pro, were just natural evolutions from this winning formula. The Redmi Note 8 Pro, in particular, packed up to 6/8 GB of RAM (depending on where you live), 128 GB of storage, and a MediaTek Helio G90T for its brains which delivers a similar punch to other SoCs such as the Snapdragon 730/730G. It also has a 64MP quad-camera that, while far from the best in the market, does well enough and it’s very capable and versatile. All in all, it’s probably one of the best midrangers out there, and its competitive pricing only helps its case.

Redmi Note 8 Pro XDA Forums

Best Overall Low-End Device: Redmi 8A

I reviewed the Redmi 7A earlier this year and found it to be a great contender to the spot of the best low-end Android device, and the Redmi 8A, as its successor, only brings the bar even higher. At a very similar price, you get the same Snapdragon 439 system-on-chip (which performs the same as the Snapdragon 625 packed by so many Xiaomi smartphones in the past), a bigger 6.2” 19:9 display, a better camera sensor, more RAM and storage, USB-C, and more. It also has an awesome, mammoth 5000 mAh. It is a phone I can easily recommend to anyone looking for a cheap smartphone that does the job and does it well.

Redmi 8A XDA Forums

Best Design: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Very few companies can pull off design better than Samsung can, and the Galaxy Note 10 lineup serves as a testament to that. The device is a beautifully built machine: a 19:9 display with a centered punch-hole front camera and almost no screen bezels at all, a squared design and frame, a cornered triple/quad rear camera setup, and several, amazing-looking color options to match. While it definitely has the horsepower and feature set to match its looks, is a device that can be as sleek or eye-grabbing as you want it to be, especially the rainbow-looking Aura Glow variant.

Best Hardware Feature: High Refresh Rate Displays

High refresh rate displays are one of those features that you don’t really know you needed in your life until you actually use them, but they actually make a massive difference, to the point of spoiling you completely when coming back to regular 60Hz displays. The first mainstream phone to actually introduce such a display was the Razer Phone back in 2017, but back then it was considered a gaming gimmick until the arrival of the OnePlus 7 Pro and its 90Hz display earlier this year. From there, 90Hz and even 120Hz display have only started to become more and more popular. In 2020, we will see a lot more devices from different OEMs start coming out with these displays, and believe me, I’m excited about that.

Best Software Feature: Dark Mode

Dark mode has been something that we’ve been asking for years. Google introduced Material Design over 5 years ago with a blindingly white UI that has only gotten lighter and lighter each year for some reason. Then, with Android 10, Google implemented its dark mode feature which shifted all that white into dark gray and black. Not only system apps, but it was also a system-wide toggle that also turned black compatible apps. It is a simple feature, yet one that I’ve been expecting since 2014.

Most Improved: Xiaomi

Xiaomi was already doing amazingly in 2018, but they improved greatly in 2019. The separation of the Redmi branding into a separate sub-brand has allowed them to do amazing things in the more affordable side of the spectrum, putting out amazing phones such as the Redmi Note 7/8 and the Redmi K20/K30, phones that have managed to put the bar higher and higher in terms of what a cheap phone can do. In the premium space, they also continue to impress: the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and its 108MP camera is just an example of this. The Xiaomi Mi MIX Alpha concept phone also served to remind people that they, too, can innovate and put interesting things on the table.


Idrees Patel

Best Flagship Device for Value: Realme X2 Pro

The Realme X2 Pro is 2019’s flagship killer. The phone one-ups Xiaomi’s Redmi K20 Pro/Mi 9T Pro by offering better specifications like a 90Hz display, 64MP primary camera, and 50W charging at a slightly higher price. In terms of software, it’s fair to say that ColorOS has come a long way, even if the phone hasn’t received Realme’s customized version of the much improved Android 10-based ColorOS 7 yet. When it comes to the overall value proposition, the Realme X2 Pro beats the OnePlus 7T as well as the OnePlus 7, the ASUS ROG Phone II, and the Redmi K20 Pro. The 90Hz refresh rate itself at such a low price point makes the phone worthy of recommendation.

Realme X2 Pro XDA Forums

Best Flagship Device for Features: OnePlus 7 Pro

I know the logical pick for this section would be the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. The Huawei Mate 30 Pro would be mentioned here if the trade ban didn’t exist, while the Huawei P30 Pro still has a superb camera setup. In the end, I have to go with the OnePlus 7 Pro. The OnePlus 7 Pro was the first phone to have a 90Hz QHD+ AMOLED display – it was a real pioneer in this respect. Moreover, its display still remains excellent. The phone’s fluidity is class-leading thanks to the high refresh rate, speedy SoC, and the smooth OxygenOS software. It was great to see OnePlus adopting the pop-up camera, but it will be sad to see the company moving to the hole-punch camera with the OnePlus 8 series. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s camera has been significantly improved with numerous software updates, even if it still isn’t in the top-tier. The phone doesn’t offer the best camera, the best battery life, or the best price-to-performance ratio, but it remains my personal favorite phone of 2019.

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro

Xiaomi and Realme have been battling it out in the low-end and mid-range segments of the market, which means there is no shortage of competitors here. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro gets my nod here because of its class-leading performance, good camera performance, and a great design. The Realme X2 and the Realme XT come a close second, but the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s higher price-to-performance ratio helps it stay at the top. Its predecessor, the Redmi Note 7 Pro, was the top phone in this segment for the first half of the year, and Xiaomi hasn’t lost any momentum so far in the face of Realme’s sustained challenge.

Best Overall Low-end Device: Xiaomi Redmi 8A

As a low-end phone, it’s hard to beat the Xiaomi Redmi 8A, which offers a decent entry-level experience. I don’t recommend the Redmi 8 here as its SoC was substantially downgraded compared to the Redmi 7, but it’s still an okay choice. If we move slightly higher in terms of pricing, the regular Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 offers a great overall user experience for less than $150.

Best Design: Huawei P30 Pro

The Breathing Crystal color of the Huawei P30 Pro still has the best design of a 2019 phone; the Huawei Mate 30 Pro subjectively doesn’t beat it. Huawei did something special here with the color scheme; the design warrants a “wow” response at first glance. It’s so good that it has been adapted by other Chinese device makers in their newer phones. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s Nebula Blue finish and the shark fin pop-up camera of the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom are also worthy of mention here.

Best New Software Feature: Night Modes

Night modes are now found in flagship phones from all major device makers. These days, even mid-range and budget phones are now starting to incorporate this feature. The implementation of these modes varies significantly. Huawei, Google, and Samsung have the best implementations, with OPPO slightly behind the top players. On the other hand, vendors such as OnePlus, Xiaomi, and ASUS have work to do here. Still, it’s a great feature that’s being carried forward from the pioneering phones of 2018. I expect to see further improvements in the field of computational photography in 2020.

Best New Hardware Feature: High Refresh Rates

High refresh rate phones become a reality in 2019. The OnePlus 7 Pro led the charge. Now, OnePlus offers it in the cheaper OnePlus 7T as well. The ASUS ROG Phone II has a 120Hz AMOLED display, while 90Hz AMOLED panels are found in the Realme X2 Pro, Google Pixel 4, OPPO Reno Ace, and others. Xiaomi has a 120Hz LCD in the Redmi K30, and I expect to see most major vendors adopting high refresh rates in their 2020 flagship phones. It makes such a perceptible difference to scrolling and device fluidity that it’s hard to go back to a 60Hz display, even when using a flagship SoC.

Most Improved: Samsung

Samsung has made big strides in 2019, particularly when it comes to handling the low-end and mid-range segments. In previous years, Samsung cheapened out its budget phones and was in danger of completely losing the market to players like Xiaomi and Realme. The course correction with 2019’s Galaxy M and Galaxy A series was much-needed, and the company is catching up to the leaders with features such as a 6,000mAh battery in the Samsung Galaxy M30s. Even in the flagship segment, Samsung offered a remarkably complete product line-up that covered most price segments with the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S10e. In terms of performance and design, Samsung made a big step forward this year, which was nice to see.


Tushar Mehta

Best Flagship Device for Value: OnePlus 7T

The OnePlus 7T strikes a balance between enticing aesthetics and unmatched performance. Its abilities to take up any demanding task or game and its overall flagship demeanor make it a practical and versatile device. On top of that, the OxygenOS offers fluidity and customizations making it even more desirable than stock Android.

Best Flagship Device for Features: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Huawei doesn’t fail to surprise with its innovation with each new flagship and the Huawei Mate 30 Pro is no exception. The elegant design along with the curved display, the button-shaped Leica-powered quad camera, and the 3D TOF camera for face unlock make the Huawei Mate 30 Pro desirable even without warranted support from Google.

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Realme X2

Even though it came pretty late in the year, the Realme X2 is among the most advanced devices and also offers excellent value for money. Its glass design, a vibrant Super AMOLED display, 30W fast charging, and most importantly, a gaming-centric Snapdragon 730G – all of this at a price of less than $250 make Realme X2 the most compelling mid-ranger for me.

Best Overall Low-end Device: Xiaomi Redmi Go

The market for low-end devices is flooded with several alien brands and even though Xiaomi traditionally caters to the segment, a $65 phone from a renowned brand like itself is still surprising. Xiaomi’s Redmi Go, the company’s first Android Go smartphone, is just about covering the basics of a smartphone along with the assurance of a brand.

Best Design: OPPO Reno 10x

The first-gen OPPO Reno with a periscopic 5X optical zoom module definitely makes it intriguing but its shark-fin pop-up and a sleek rear surface without any camera bump are what make it one of the most visually compelling phones of the year.

Best New Software Feature: Focus Mode

With Android 10, we saw an array of new software features but one thing that has really helped me cut out distractions is the new Focus Mode. Not only is the mode useful in reminding you to prioritize essential apps over others for the purpose of entertainment, but now, it also comes as standard for all Android devices running Android Pie and upwards as part of Digital Wellbeing.

Best New Hardware Feature: Periscopic Zoom

The periscopic telephoto setup on the Huawei P30 Pro and the OPPO Reno 10X is several steps ahead of the typical 2X or 3X telephoto setups on phones. The periscope’s 5X telephoto compounded with digital zoom brings far off structures as well as astronomical bodies such as the moon really, really close.

Most Improved: Asus Zenfone 6/6z

Last year, the ASUS ZenFone 5/5Z was launched as an affordable and realistic smartphone with Snapdragon 845. Its successor, the ASUS ZenFone 6/ASUS 6Z abides by the same ethos of practicality while adding a nimble 180º swivel camera that forges equality between the front and the rear cameras. Besides its dynamic camera, the chunky 5000mAh battery makes the ZenFone 6 a versatile device.


Adam Conway

Best Flagship Device for Value: OPPO Reno 10x Zoom

My top flagship for value this year may surprise you, but I believe it to be the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom. The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom is actually my favorite phone of the year and is one that I keep going back to. The cameras are fantastic, the battery is great and performance is stellar. The haptics are good, the speakers sound nice and the really cool shark-fin pop-up camera has drawn looks of interest from friends and family. I don’t like the software at all, but it isn’t a dealbreaker. With ColorOS 7 on the horizon as well, my one and only gripe with this phone will soon be rectified.

Best Flagship Device for Features: ASUS ROG Phone II

The ASUS ROG Phone II is my pick for the smartphone with the most features. It literally has everything in the form of mobile attachments. There are so many, from a Nintendo Switch-like dock, to a gamepad, to a cooling fan, it’s incredible.  The software is decent too, but its specialties lie in its peripherals.

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Pixel 3a

Want a good camera with killer software? The Google Pixel 3a has your back and was one of the more surprising smartphones to launch this year. Even in Ireland, a market which typically does not find the same value in mid-range smartphones as in the US, the Google Pixel 3a has been one of my recommended smartphones all year-round since it came out. It has a somewhat high price tag for just a Snapdragon 670, but it justifies it by putting a great focus on everything else that goes into a smartphone.

Best Overall Low-end Device: Samsung Galaxy M30

The Samsung Galaxy M30 is the low-end smartphone of the year to beat. It has a decent chipset, 3GB of RAM to 6GB of RAM, a 1080p 6.4-inch AMOLED panel and a 5000 mAh battery. If you’re on a budget, this is a phone I’d definitely keep an eye out for.

Best Design: OPPO Reno 10x Zoom

This one again has to go to the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom. I love the design, and the included sandstone case in the box honestly adds to the device’s aesthetics, while also being reasonably protective as well.  There’s no camera bump as the cameras are flush with the glass back, and the pop-up camera is super cool.

Best New Software Feature: Astrophotography

For this year’s best software feature, I’m going to have to roll with the new Astrophotography feature which made its way to the Google Pixel line of smartphones earlier this year. I’m a big fan of astrophotography and I’ve been known to take a tripod and camera with me when I know that I’m going to a place which will have reduced noise pollution. Astrophotography is a game-changer, and should make it easier than ever to take those photos.

Best New Hardware Feature: 90Hz Displays

While I might classify folding displays as the best new hardware feature, the truth is that the hardware isn’t quite there yet. I think 90Hz displays take the cake, as the difference is highly noticeable when compared to a 60Hz display. I use a 144Hz monitor on my computer, which may account for why I’m highly sensitive to the difference between 60Hz and 90Hz and why some may not be. I think the fluidity of smartphones going into 2020 will hinge heavily on the refresh rate of the display.

Most Improved: OPPO

OPPO has done a massive turnaround in their products in the past year, and I’m impressed by a lot of the work that they’ve been doing. They’ve shown that they can produce quality flagship smartphones with eye-catching designs and are willing to listen to the community. With ColorOS 7 around the corner, I’m really excited for the future of OPPO going into 2020.


Eric Hulse

Best Flagship Device for Value: OnePlus 7 Pro

OnePlus had a great year with their devices. The OnePlus 7 Pro is a great looking device with typical top-notch specs. While I didn’t find their cameras to be all that great, everything else is top-notch. With a starting price of under $700 for all you get? It’s a no brainer value.

Best Flagship Device for Features: Galaxy Note 10+

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ this year wasn’t a huge leap forward from the Note 9 in any area except for design really, but the Note 9 was already so feature complete it’s almost hard to improve. The Note 10 is packed to the brim with specs and features and is the only real stylus option around. Overall, it’s an incredibly complete package that’s a joy to use.

Best Overall Mid-range Device: Pixel 3a

For the price, it’s hard to get a more reliable, pleasant phone to use, than the 3a. The Pixel 3a packs most of Google’s camera chops, great battery life, clean frequently updated software, all for half the price of the Pixel 4. It’s no surprise Google seems to have sold a ton of these.

Best Overall Low-end Device: Moto G7

Motorola continues to compete well at the low-end. The G7 boasts a clean design, respectable specs, and a good software experience. For the price, it’s hard to beat.

Moto G7 XDA Forums

Best Design: Galaxy Fold

I absolutely love my Galaxy Fold. It’s a completely ridiculous, expensive, outrageous, impractical device, but every single time I unfold that giant display it still feels like the future. It’s an attention grabber in public and actually brings some neat multitasking features to justify the big display. I love it.

Best New Software Feature: Google’s Astrophotography

While Android (and iOS) creep closer to feature parity and maturity, little things like Astrophotography photos are such a delight. This is a clever way to use existing hardware and create a little magic with it.

Best New Hardware Feature: 90Hz (or better) Displays

This one is easy for me, with the Razer Phone 2, ASUS ROG Phone, OnePlus 7 Pro, and Pixel 4 all packing at least a 90Hz display, we’re finally starting to see mainstream high refresh rate displays.  The increase in perceived fluidity is a very welcome addition to any smartphone for me, and I look forward to seeing far more of this in the coming years.

Most Improved: iPhone 11 Pro

This year Apple earned a lot of goodwill across their product lines by giving users what they’ve been asking for. The iPhone 11 Pro is a small(ish) device in a large phone world, but we got a huge increase in battery life, along with a massive jump in camera quality. The iPhone XS was fine, but the 11 Pro is an excellent device.


Everyone has different criteria for what makes a phone the “best.” We made our picks and now we want to hear yours! Share your top smartphones of 2019 in the comments below!