In many respects, December 31st will simply be another cold Tuesday. Yet it will also bring down the curtain on a decade when the smartphone arrived – and came of age.
Ten years ago, there was no Instagram. There was no WhatsApp. The BlackBerry still seemed futuristic, and few people had phones capable of accessing app stores.
Considering how much has changed over the course of this decade, it’s unsurprising that smartphones are a quantum leap above those on sale a decade ago.
The new handsets reaching the market as this decade draws to an end are a perfect representation of how far we’ve come.
But which newly-released devices deserve your consideration? And are there any features your next handset needs to offer?
Let’s answer the last question first.
The must-haves and the have-nots
Although it’s only available in certain towns and cities at present, 5G services will soon be rolling out across the country.
If you live within striking distance of a major population centre, we’d recommend ensuring your next phone is 5G compatible.
The difference from 4G will be like comparing dial-up with broadband.
It’s also advisable to have a phone with biometric unlocking, since a fingerprint or facial scan is far more secure than a four-digit PIN number or a tap-to-unlock code.
Conversely, some features are probably best avoided for now.
Even smartphone manufacturers admit there may be issues with the durability of folding handsets, which are still in their infancy and consequently very pricey.
The phenomenon of triple camera lenses is nice but hardly essential. Serious photographers will probably still use an SLR, and the rest of us won’t notice that much difference.
IP68 resistance is useful if you’re regularly found beside a hotel pool, but most modern phones will survive a quick dip in the sink (or toilet) without needing this level of protection.
The best new handsets of late 2019
These are the new handsets you could justify popping under the Christmas tree as a present to yourself, starting with perhaps the best smartphone ever released…
Google Pixel 4
Also available in a 6.3-inch XL version, the standard 5.7-inch Pixel 4 is a fine piece of kit.
Key features include stereo speakers, facial recognition, IP68 water and dust resistance, and a 4K video camera with optical image stabilisation and wide-angle functionality.
Pixels also benefit from being the first to receive the latest versions of (Google-owned) Android, while Motion Sense lets you skip songs or snooze your alarm with hand gestures.
Apple iPhone 11
Released in mid-autumn, just a month before the Pixel 4, Apple’s latest-generation iPhone tries hard to justify its premium price tag.
Capable of staying underwater for half an hour, its 6.1-inch screen is powered by the fastest CPU ever fitted to a smartphone, while the battery can be half-charged in 30 minutes.
There are also Pro and Pro Max versions – the latter sporting a huge 6.5-inch Super Retina display with Dolby Atmos sound, and a larger battery for hours of 4K entertainment.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Blurring the boundaries between a phone and a tablet, the Galaxy Note 10 comes with a Bluetooth stylus pen and a minimum 256GB of storage (the iPhone 11 has just 64GB).
It can charge up other wireless devices by sharing its superb battery life with them, while a microSD card slot hints at the Note’s more professional outlook.
Blisteringly fast in laboratory testing, it also dovetails with Windows, though some users might find the standard Galaxy S10 easier to hold and use than the Note.
OnePlus 7 Pro
Putting aside its maths-question name and mid-priced Chinese origins, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a genuinely impressive piece of hardware.
A huge 6.7-inch screen refreshes at 90Hz, with a triple-lens rear camera emerging from the metal chassis when it’s in use before silently retracting.
Other notable features include up to 256GB of internal storage and 12GB of RAM, plus the ability to latch onto even the feeblest of GSM signals.