The pandemic has been something of a plague in the mobile world as well as the physical one, with Mobile World Congress cancelled for the first time since it began in 2006 (and already postponed to late June in 2021), and other events also being nixed. Many mobile manufacturers had to completely rework their launch strategies in the first half of 2020, too.
But COVID has not hit the new smartphone market as hard as we feared it might – not only have we seen some exciting releases already this year, but there’s still more to come in 2020 and early 2021.
We’re seeing super-fast 5G connectivity start to take hold; becoming a standard feature across flagships and appearing with increasing frequency within the mid-range space. We’re now seeing screens that boast 120Hz refresh rates, which is good news for gaming and video, and camera phones continue to pile on the megapixels and extra sensors, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
2020 sure is an exciting time to be choosing a new phone, but with so much change on the horizon, when is the best time to buy one?
In this feature, we’ve outlined all the major smartphone launches expected to take place in the remainder of 2020 and early 2021, along with an outline on what new features and hardware specifications have been or are likely to be included.
Read on to ensure your next smartphone purchase is not immediately followed by the regret, tieing you into a long two-year contract. (Remember that there is a chance you could upgrade your contract early.)
Pro tip: As these new phones edge closer, the outgoing flagships will fall in price and you’ll be able to scoop up some great deals. If you’re not bothered about having the very latest tech, check out our take on the best phones you can buy today.
Best new phones coming out in 2020/2021
Google Pixel 5 – 30 September
Following the August launch of the Pixel 4A, Google’s flagship line will see an update on 30 September.
These phones are interesting largely for being among the first to offer the latest Android 11 operating system, but also for offering the purest software experience.
In other respects, gone are the days when Google’s own phones offer the best value or the best specs. They still fare pretty well on the cameras, however, if that floats your boat.
Chief among our wishlist for Pixel 5 is a higher-capacity battery and a more modern design. It’s also worth noting that the Pixel 4a 5G is slated to launch alongside the 5 too.
Apple iPhone 12 – 13 October
The annual refresh to the Apple iPhone is imminent, widely expected to happen on 13 October.
In 2019 the new iPhone arrived in standard (6.1in), Pro (5.8in) and Pro Max (6.5in) versions, but we’re hoping 2020 is going to be a year of significant design change – that large screen notch now looking more than a little dated. Moving more in line with the latest Android phones, iPhone 12 may also come with 5G connectivity, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and potentially a quad-lens rear camera.
This could also be the year Apple finally ditches the Lightning port in favour of USB-C, which could temporarily upset some Apple fans but would be worthwhile in the long run.
We expect to see an Apple A14 Bionic processor, along with 4GB of RAM and storage options of 64-, 256- and 512GB. At least the most expensive models will have OLED displays, and we hope that Apple will standardise this across the line.
OnePlus 8T – 14 October
OnePlus typically announces two flagship phones per year, so despite the fact the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro have only recently gone on sale we will see a OnePlus 8T launch on 14 October. There will not be a Pro version.
The cameras will likely see an upgrade (although it may be in software-only), as will the charging tech with support for fast wireless charging – something the OnePlus 8 currently lacks.
Perhaps the most surprising move will be the continued use of Qualcomm’s existing flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset, in place of an upgraded ‘Plus’ model – as was the case last year.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 FE – Q4 2020
The recent announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (on sale 2 October) has led many to believe a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 FE may also be on the way, perhaps in place of a Galaxy Note 20 Lite. If true, it could arrive any time in Q4 2020.
We would expect it to feature a 6.7in AMOLED display and an Exynos 8250 (Europe) or Snapdragon 865 (North America) processor, but some slightly slimmed down core memory and storage specs over the standard Note 20. It is also likely to feature a plastic case to help bring down the price further, and you should expect some camera downgrades, too.
Xiaomi Mi 11 – Q1 2021
MWC might have been pushed back to June, but that doesn’t mean Mi 11 (or maybe Mi 20) will see the same fate, traditionally launching in China ahead of its European launch in Q1 2021.
Most of the Mi 11 talk is currently speculation, almost entirely based on some dubious concept renders. However, one feature that’s almost a given is inclusion of the Snapdragon 875, a chip that’s said to be built on the 5nm manufacturing process.
Other rumours include a move (at last) to Quad-HD displays, here a 6.9in Samsung Super AMOLED panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, HDR 10 and a 32Mp under-display selfie camera… Apparently. Mi 11 is also said to get a battery boost to 5500mAh, with up to 100W wired charging, and a camera upgrade to 192Mp!
Samsung Galaxy S30 – Q1 2020
In recent years Samsung has preferred to hold its own Unpacked announcements for its new flagships rather than sticking to MWC and IFA, so we are still expecting to see a Galaxy S30 series in February 2020.
It’s likely the new line-up will move to the new Snapdragon 875 processor, which will be announced in December, and we’d be surprised if 5G didn’t come as standard across the range.
The S30 is likely to feature a design evolution rather than revolution, with the same 120Hz (possibly even 144Hz) displays and tweaked 108Mp cameras we saw introduced in 2020, potentially dropping the ToF camera.
A bigger change will come to wired charging, with the S30 tipped to hit as much as 65W.
New BlackBerry Phone – H1 2021
You read that correctly, BlackBerry is back from the dead again. In August, that US company Onward Mobility licensed the BlackBerry name and has announced that it will work to release a new BlackBerry device in the first half of 2021.
According to Onward Mobility, the new BlackBerry will have 5G network capabilities and a physical keyboard. These really are the only two indications of specs that we have aside from the phone running Android, as currently the announcement is only of the partnership’s existence and nothing more.
Apple iPhone SE Plus – H2 2021
Apple’s new iPhone SE went on sale back in April, but it was always expected to arrive alongside a Plus model. If you’re thinking that might be imminent, though, don’t hold your breath; we could be waiting until the second half of 2021.
This is not simply a larger version of the iPhone SE, mind you. Prolific Apple leakster Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that the iPhone SE Plus will feature either a 5.5 or 6.1in display and, crucially, it’ll sport a “full-screen design” like that of the iPhone 11 range. It may also have Touch ID built into the power button.
Huawei Mate 40 & Mate 40 Pro – TBC
The message has probably got across to you by now, but it is incredibly unlikely that Huawei’s Mate 40 will feature Google apps and services. If this doesn’t bother you, read on.
Originally anticipated to launch in October, the fact there has been no recent news doesn’t bode well – and Huawei has had a particularly tough year. Unlikely to make such a splash in the UK market, it wouldn’t be a surprise for Huawei to completely rethink its launch strategy.
It’s pretty much a given that the Mate 40 will run the next-gen Kirin chip. This is the one that comes after the Kirin 990 and is reportedly already in production, apparently using a 5nm manufacturing process.
We’d really like to see a return of physical volume buttons on the Pro model, plus an enhanced camera that is more in line with the P-series than older Mate models.
Microsoft Surface Duo – UK release TBC
Microsoft announced the Duo back in 2019, and it finally went on sale in the US on 10 September. Here in the UK we’re still waiting for a release date.
The long-awaited Surface Phone, Duo is a dual-screen folding smartphone that has a pair of 5.6in displays separated by a 360-degree hinge and it can be bent into various forms a bit like a 2-in-1 laptop.
It runs Android rather than Windows and works with a stylus.
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Learn more.