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This year's two best phones feature one big surprise

Sony Xperia 1 II
(Image credit: Sony)

This year's What Hi-Fi? Awards feature two winners in the smartphones category. But while one is fairly predictable, the other will likely come as a surprise – it certainly surprised us.

We split our winners by price and, by chance, one is iOS while the other is Android winner. So if you're ensconced in one or other of the ecosystems, there's something for you here.

As always, it's all about the best-value performance when it comes to our winners, and with phones we're paying extra attention when it comes to audio and video performance. So if you use your mobile for music and video, as you surely do, take note.

iPhone SE

(Image credit: Apple)

First up, it's the Apple iPhone SE. We have to go back to 2016 to find the last time we didn't have an iPhone as an award winner, and that's the same year that the original iPhone SE was first introduced. Back for 2020, the all-new iPhone SE is our pick as the best smartphone under £500 (AU$1000). Yes, Apple can do (relatively) affordable too.

The iPhone SE once again delivers on its promise of offering an affordable iPhone experience without sacrificing overall performance. The A13 chip is here, as found in the iPhone 11, alongside the great picture and sound we've come to expect from Apple.

Sure, you have to sacrifice on the battery life and camera compared to the flagship phone – but that's why it's half the price. If you don't want to spend a fortune on a new smartphone but do want to enjoy everything Apple and iOS do so well, it's a cracking value handset.

Sony Xperia 1 II

(Image credit: Sony)

Now here comes our surprise. It had been a while since we'd reviewed a Sony phone, but the company is back with a bang thanks to the excellent Xperia 1 II, which seems made for What Hi-Fi?.

While it isn't cheap, the Xperia 1 II aims to deliver class-leading performance, particularly when it comes to audio and video. And it delivers. A true 4K OLED screen and Sony's sonic expertise combine to make this a mobile that's perfect for anyone who cares about AV performance. 

It doesn't scrimp elsewhere, either: the camera quality and battery life are both as good as you'll find anywhere else, and the overall design and usability more than holds its own. We think it's the best phone around right now for anyone with an interest in using their mobile for music and video.

Don't forget we'll be revealing our Product of the Year winners next week on Thursday 5th November – our overall winner in each of our 26 product categories. 

We'll also announce five new winners in five special categories: Readers' Award, Temptation, Innovation of the Year, Outstanding Contribution and a new entry into the What Hi-Fi? Hall of Fame. And you can watch the event live...