There’s never been a better time to buy a top-of-the-line smartphone, with a large range of truly excellent phones available from a variety of different manufacturers starting at £500 and stretching to a wallet-busting £1,000-plus.
But with all that top-quality choice, it’s difficult to know which one to buy. Here’s a quick guide to get the best flagship phone for you right now.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
RRP: £899 - deals from £650
The Chinese firm might be in the middle of a political storm, but that didn’t stop Huawei from producing the most cutting-edge, feature-packed phone of 2018: the Mate 20 Pro. Headline features include 3D IR-based (the most secure kind) face recognition matching the iPhone XS, a pressure-sensitive in-display fingerprint scanner and a brilliant triple-camera system on the back that is the best in the business.
If that wasn’t enough the Mate 20 Pro also has a huge and beautiful 6.38in OLED screen squeezed into a slim and curved body, which keeps the whole phone relatively easy to handle. Huawei’s own Kirin 980 processor matches or bests rivals, while a large battery means it running for close to two days.
When it does run out, it has really fast cable charging, fast wireless charging and it can even wirelessly charge another device with the flick of a switch.
If you’re going to blow the budget, this is the one to do it on, unless you’re an iPhone diehard.
Apple iPhone XS
RRP: £999 - deals from £749 (with trade-in)
The best iPhone available isn’t the most expensive, nor is it, sadly, the cheapest. The iPhone XS is the middle of the road with best combination of features, size and that premium feel that makes and iPhone special, which it has to have costing this much.
The 5.8in screen is stunning and both big enough for watching videos on the commute and small enough to easily hold and fit in your pocket. The dual camera system on the back is one of the best, the Face ID system works great (there’s no Touch ID or home button anymore) and Apple’s gesture navigation is the best in the business.
Performance is top-notch, but battery life is only about a day compared to almost two for competitors. It still has Apple’s Lightning connector, not the newer universal USB-C standard, but does have wireless charging and will get software support longer than any other phone here.
If you want an Apple smartphone, the iPhone XS is the best, but it costs a pretty penny.
RRP: £499 - deals from £440
OnePlus has made a name for itself by offering top phones that undercut the competition on price, and the latest OnePlus 6T is no exception.
For around half the cost of a Huawei Mate 20 Pro or an iPhone XS you get a phone that’s 90% as good. It has the big and beautiful 6.41in full HD+ OLED screen, slim bezels and a tiny notch for the selfie camera. It has a cutting-edge in-display fingerprint scanner. It even has Qualcomm’s top of the line processor and a battery that will last 1.5 days, plus super fast charging via cable.
OnePlus doesn’t skimp on the software either, with one of the best Android experiences you can get and three years of software updates from release. The only downsides are a camera that isn’t quite as good as the top-priced models, no wireless charging and not formal water resistance.
With a great Android experience second only to Google’s, good battery, top performance and a gorgeous screen, the OnePlus 6T is hard to beat for £500.
Until recently the OnePlus 6T was the king of the cut-price flagship. Now it has some real competition in the form of the Honor View20. Made by Huawei’s e-brand Honor, the View20 has a big, 6.4in full HD+ LCD screen that takes up the entire front with just a small hole in the top left corner for a selfie camera.
It also has good battery life, super fast charging, a premium feel, a great rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and the same processor as Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro making it fast and capable. On the back it has a new generation of 48-megapixel camera, which is really very good and a cut above the OnePlus 6T.
The Android software experience is solid, but not on the same level as the OnePlus, but you get a similar two to three years of updates from release. It’s even still got a headphone socket - a rarity in 2019.
If you want the best camera for under £500, the Honor View20 is a cracking performer that feels and operates like a phone that’s much more expensive.
Google Pixel 3
RRP: £739 - deals from £550
As the Android-marker, the Pixel 3 is Google showing what can be done when you create both the hardware and software together, just as Apple does. And as a result it has the best, most polished Android experience going.
The hardware more or less matches the competition on specifications, but lacks any truly cutting-edge additions. Instead you get advanced software, a brilliant single camera and Android updates first with software support guaranteed through October 2021. Features such as Gmail’s Smart Compose are fun, while the recent update with Night Sight produces some amazing and unparalleled low-light images.
The downside is you have to put up with battery that doesn’t quite match up to the competition lasting only about a day, but at least it has fast cable and wireless charging. There’s a bigger sibling, the Pixel 3 XL, but the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is better all round at that size.
The Google Pixel 3 offers a first-class experience and is the best smaller Android phone currently available.
The runners up - watch out for deals
Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung is due to replace the Galaxy S9 next week, but if you can find it for £400 or less it could be a good deal. The larger S9+ could also be a worth looking at.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Galaxy Note 9 is Samsung’s huge, stylus-equipped productivity beast that’s overkill for most, but if you need a phone to do everything, this is it.
Huawei P20 Pro
Huawei’s original hit, the P20 Pro is due to be replaced in the next couple of months, but is still a great phone with a camera that rivals the excellent one on the Mate 20 Pro and can be picked up for as little as £430. Dual-sim versions are available.
Apple iPhone X
If you don’t want to spend £999 on the iPhone XS and the £749 iPhone XR just doesn’t cut it, Apple’s selling last year’s smash hit, the iPhone X for £769 refurbished. Check Apple’s online store for stock.
Samuel Gibbs is the Guardian’s consumer technology editor