The most anticipated smartphones of 2018

UPDATED: The OnePlus 6, HTC U12+, Nokia X and Lenovo Z5 will all be breaking cover soon
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Last year was a fantastic one for phones. We got skinnier screen bezels than ever, cameras that took better pictures than dedicated compacts, and better-than-all-day battery life.

But we want more, and that's exactly what we're getting in 2018. We're only a few months into the year, but we've already seen some knockout options, with the Huawei P20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S9 leading the pack.

And there's only more to come, as Apple, Google, OnePlus and others ready their next respective big things. Curious what's coming before 2019 rolls around? Here's what we know about 2018's hugest phones, from what's already been announced to what's pouring out the rumour mill.

Additional words by Tom Morgan

Apple: iPhone XI and SE 2?

The iPhone X is Apple's most beautiful handset to date, and a nicely daring twist after a few years of diminishing returns on the same design – but it's also incredibly expensive, putting it out of reach of a lot of prospective iPhone buyers.

What will happen in 2018? If one analyst is to be believed, Apple may extend the full-face screen approach – complete with that divisive notch – to the entire line. Ming Chi-Kuo of KGI Securities believes that Apple will launch an updated 5.8in OLED model, an "iPhone XI" or whatever you want to call it, along with two other models.

One would be a larger model with a towering 6.5in OLED display, and the other would fall right in the middle of the two, purportedly carrying a 6.1in display. The difference is that it would be a lower-resolution LCD screen, with that version acting as the entry-level, slightly cheaper model under the iPhone XI. That might be the new iPhone 9, essentially.

Confusing? Yeah, just a bit – but it does seem likely that the notch-centric, Face ID-packing design is the way of the future for Apple, and it'll only be a matter of time before all of its phones scrap the old 16:9/Touch ID approach.

Whether that will all happen this year remains to be seen, but we certainly expect some big developments from Apple this autumn. September is usually when we see these things, although the iPhone X didn't actually release until November last year.

Meanwhile, rumours are starting to emerge about an iPhone SE 2 - an updated version of Apple's super-small, entry-level handset. We're not expecting any massive changes, but updated specs and a rumoured glass backing would make it a much better option in 2018. If it's coming, we should see it pretty soon - maybe around WWDC in early June.

OnePlus: OnePlus 6

The OnePlus 6 is officially on the horizon. Also official? An iPhone X-like notch at the top of the display. You're looking at it!

OnePlus boss Carl Pei shared that partial image of the new handset to The Verge, along with an explanation about how they're approaching the design. Love it or hate it, notches are becoming commonplace now, and our favourite phone in the world (the Huawei P20 Pro) has one.

Quite likely, they'll stick to a 1080p panel to keep the phone more affordable than most flagships, although given the £449 price of the OnePlus 5T, they're inching closer and closer. Otherwise, we'll see a Snapdragon 845 chip inside with configurations up to 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage, plus there will be a special Avengers: Infinity War edition.

OnePlus will debut the phone on 16 May, and we have to believe a release will follow very soon thereafter.

LG: G7 ThinQ

LG opted not to debut its next big smartphone at MWC this spring, instead showcasing the tweaked V30S ThinQ – but now the G7 is really coming. And it's called the LG G7 ThinQ this time around.

Revealed in early May, the G7 ThinQ adopts the same kind of screen notch seen on a lot of other big phones these days, with a 6.1in LCD offering a "Super Bright" mode for increased visibility. It packs in a Snapdragon 845 chip with 4GB or 6GB RAM, based on model, and doubles up on cameras in the back – both at 16 megapixels.

And the G7 ThinQ has a couple other big perks: a seriously loud "Boombox" speaker and a dedicated button for the Google Assistant, along with far-field mics that can pick up your voice commands from afar.

We had a solid hands-on with the G7 ThinQ, but we're not sure yet whether it'll be able to beat the likes of the Huawei P20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S9. We'll find out very soon, and LG's latest should ship in late May.

Samsung: Galaxy Note 9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 (seen here) has arrived, and it briefly held the top spot on our list of the greatest smartphones in the world today. It has since been dethroned by Huawei's latest belter, but second place isn't a bad place to be.

What about the Galaxy Note 9, then? Given Samsung's approach of late, we'd expect it to bear more than a passing resemblance to the Galaxy S9, which means it shouldn't be too far off from the Galaxy Note 8 in design - but rumours suggest potential tweaks.

For example, one of the larger rumours pegs an in-screen fingerprint sensor instead of a back-mounted one, which could free up a bit more room inside for a larger battery. That battery could be as large as 4,000mAh, which is the same size as the Huawei P20 Pro, plus a recent rumour suggests a slightly larger 6.4in display this time around.

It's relatively early still in the rumour rounds, so plenty more info could emerge in the coming months. We'd expect to see the phone launch around August again, as the Note 8 did last year.

BlackBerry: The Key2

What will be the key to BlackBerry's next big success? The BlackBerry Key2, apparently.

Officially teased following building leaks and rumours, the Key2 handset will be properly revealed on 7 June. That said, those leaks have already painted a pretty clear picture of what to expect from the successor to last year's sharp KeyOne.

In short, it should be a nicely refined, slightly upgraded take on the previous edition. Renders show flatter sides and a tweaked keyboard with larger, matte-finished keys.

Specs suggest another mid-range model with a slightly newer chip inside, and we should see two cameras on the back of the Key2. Hopefully they're better than the one so-so back shooter from the KeyOne.