The best 5G phones are hoping to deliver on the hype we've been hearing about 5G long before the new networking standard even launched. With every major carrier having launched 5G in some form, the focus is now on 5G-capable handsets and whether it's worth making sure your next smartphone can connect to the new networking standard.
The answer so far? You can get blazing speeds, provided that you’re in an area with 5G coverage. But 5G phones have more to offer than just speedier downloads.
- What is 5G? The definitive guide to the new networking standard
- Best Android phones: Our top picks
- The best phone battery life: Which handsets last longest?
Initially, the best 5G phones offered outstanding cameras, big displays and super-sized batteries. That's no surprise really, since many of these phones are really just the best phones overall, only with 5G modems included.
Price is becoming more of a consideration, though, as phone makers start to offer 5G phones that cost less than $600. These devices don't have the premium features found in flagship phones, but they also won't put a $1,000 dent in your wallet.
If you're in the market for a smartphone this year, the time is right to start looking at a 5G phone, especially as lower-cost 5G phones are starting to appear and more 5G flagship phones arrive. 5G networks are only going to get more extensive and speeds are going to improve, so you'll want a device that's still going to deliver top performance a few years from now.
We've started testing 5G phones in earnest. These are the best 5G phones that we think are up to the task
What are the best 5G phones?
Based on our testing, the Galaxy S20 Plus is the 5G phone to get if you want a handset that works with every kind of 5G network. In addition to its 5G connectivity, Samsung's plus-sized flagship phone also sports a big OLED panel, vastly improved cameras and above-average battery life. In fact, all of Samsung's Galaxy S20 phones are worth considering for smartphone shoppers with an eye on 5G, especially now that Verizon is selling a version of the Galaxy S20 that works with its mmWave-based network.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is also a top-ranked 5G smartphone, but it lacks support for mmWave-based 5G networks. As good as the phone is, if 5G is your primary concern, you should only get the OnePlus 8 Pro if you're planning to use the phone with a network carrier whose network primarily relies on low-band spectrum to deliver broad 5G coverage. (The less expensive OnePlus 8 does come in a model that works with the Verizon 5G network, though the cameras on that phone aren't as impressive as what's on the Pro model.)
While Samsung and OnePlus are dominating the selection of 5G phones thus far, don't overlook LG, which offers a model of its own — the LG V60 ThinQ. What makes this phone unique is a second-screen accessory that essentially lets you double the amount of screen real estate when you want to get work done. Motorola also has returned to the flagship conversation with its Verizon-exclusive Edge Plus, a device that is built to fly on Big Red's millimeter-wave network.
The 5G landscape is changing, though. Cheaper 5G phones are emerging, thanks to Qualcomm's lower-cost Snapdragon 765 chipset, and Samsung just took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, both of which are 5G-capable and leading a parade of 5G flagships coming this fall. Keep watching this space for more reviews of 5G phones.
The best 5G phones you can buy right now
Samsung's Galaxy S20 Plus is the best 5G phone you can buy right now because it works on every type of 5G network. The Snapdragon 865 processor that makes 5G connectivity possible also delivers performance that can match any Android phone.
The biggest knock on the Galaxy S20 Plus is its price. At $1,199, this is not a device for those on a budget. But you get a lot of phone for that hefty price. The QHD AMOLED screen lets you opt for a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and more immersive gaming. (Just be aware that the faster refresh rate can drain the phone's battery at a faster clip.) Samsung has also made significant improvements to the four rear cameras, with the 64MP megapixel telephoto lens standing out in particular for its super-crisp zoom shots.
You'll be able to find cheaper 5G phones, especially later this year, but only the Galaxy S20 Plus offers a great balance between features and price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the best Android phones you can get, and it's $300 cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Plus. But for the purposes of 5G, the OnePlus 8 Pro is more limited than some of its rival phones. The phone is only available unlocked, so you can't buy it through a specific wireless carrier.
More significantly, the OnePlus 8 only works on sub-6Hz-based 5G networks. That means it can't benefit from the higher speeds of mmWave-based 5G. Verizon customers will want to look for another phone, as that carrier's 5G network relies heavily on mmWave.
That's less of a concern on T-Mobile, which built its nationwide network on sub-6Ghz 5G. (AT&T customers report that the OnePlus 8 Pro doesn't support AT&T's 5G bands, even though that carrier primarily uses low-band 5G as well.) If the OnePlus 8 Pro is compatible with your carrier, you'll get a phone with a vibrant and smooth 120Hz screen, very good quad cameras and a ridiculously fast charging speed even when you juice up your phone wirelessly.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review.
Up until now, the best 5G phones have been pretty bulky to accommodate the larger batteries and 5G modems required for the faster networks. But the Samsung Galaxy S20 is relatively compact. You're not going to mistake this device for an iPhone SE, but the Galaxy S20 is less than 6 inches tall and weighs less than 6 ounces. You still get a 6.2-inch AMOLED screen capable of a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling.
At $999, this had been the most affordable 5G phone you could get from Samsung. The phone maker has since released the Galaxy A71 5G, which costs $599. (A version that works with Verizon's high-speed 5G network costs $649.) A 5G version of the Galaxy A51 is also on the way. While the Galaxy S20 may be less expensive than the Plus and Ultra versions, you're not getting short-changed with this model, as Samsung's phone features camera improvements to its three rear lenses, including a telephoto lens with a 3x lossless zoom.
The Galaxy S20 debuted first with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, with Verizon waiting to offer a model designed specifically to work with its high-speed mmWave-based 5G network. That version of the S20 is now on sale at Verizon, so you can get Samsung's $999 5G phone regardless of which carrier you prefer.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review.
The era of cheaper 5G phones is coming, with future devices promising price tags of around $500. For now, though, the OnePlus 8 is one of the cheapest ways to get a 5G device, and you don't have to make too many sacrifices in the name of a less expensive handset. (Verizon does charge an extra $100 for its version of the OnePlus 8; that model is specifically built to work with Verizon's mmWave-based 5G network.)
The OnePlus 8 runs on a Snapdragon 865 processor, just like the other top Android phones with 5G connectivity. For an extra $100, you can even max out the RAM to 12GB, which peps up performance. You get a screen with a fast 90Hz refresh rate, and you can charge the phone quickly with OnePlus' Warp Charge 30T technology. (You will give up the ability to charge your phone wirelessly like you can with the Pro model of the OnePlus 8.)
The biggest sacrifice you'll have to make is with the OnePlus 8's cameras. There's no telephoto lens and many of the other pictures produced by the three-camera array don't measure up to what you can get from other phones. If what you're looking for is a powerful phone that can connect to 5G without breaking the bank, though, the OnePlus 8 is a great option.
Read our full OnePlus 8 review.
When money's no object, turn to the Galaxy S20 Ultra for your 5G phone needs. It may have a price tag as expansive as its 6.9-inch OLED display, but the S20 Ultra also boasts plenty of features for its $1,399 asking price.
That display has a 120Hz refresh rate for a much smoother, immersive experience when you're scrolling or gaming. ( The quad-lens rear cameras take excellent pictures, and the powerful Space Zoom works really well up to 10x. A huge 5,000 mAh battery means you'll get through the day on a single-charge.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra works with every kind of 5G network so you needn't have to worry about which model to get for which carrier. The phone's price means it won't be for everyone, but people who do splurge on the Galaxy S20 Ultra will be satisfied with the result.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review.
The Motorola Edge Plus is the ultimate 5G phone for Verizon customers because it's built specifically to fly on the carrier's millimeter-wave network, and will support Big Red's sub-6GHz deployment when that launches later in 2020.
On the flip side, it's exclusively available on Verizon, which means it's not a 5G phone everyone will be able to use. Overall, while we were impressed by the Edge Plus' performance, powerful speakers and headphone jack and display, its cameras don't quite measure up to the competition's, and its battery life and charging capabilities are slightly underwhelming for a device with a 5,000-mAh power pack.
Still, if you want the best 5G experience on Verizon, the Edge Plus is a solid value at $999. That's $200 cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Plus, and $400 cheaper than the S20 Ultra. If the $999 price tag is too much, you can hold out for the $699 Motorola Edge, which is coming later this year. That phone also offers 5G connectivity with a less powerful Snapdragon 765 chipset; you'll also get a 64MP main camera on the Edge versus a 108MP sensor on the Edge Plus.
Read our full Motorola Edge Plus review.
Here's a different take on a 5G phone. LG has given the V60 ThinQ a 6.8-inch OLED screen in a form factor that's even larger and thicker than the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Not enough screen? The phone comes with a second screen attachment that gives you another 6.8 inches of display real estate. (You can save $100 on the phone at T-Mobile by buying it without the second screen add-on.) We spotted some quirks when testing the second display, but it's still a unique approach to phones that will be welcome by people who think the more screen, the better.
LG also went big on battery life, as the V60 lasted nearly 13 hours on our web surfing battery test over 5G. We wish the company would have paid as much attention to the three rear cameras, which lack a telephoto lens, and produce disappointing photos. But overall the LG 60 ThinQ is worth considering if you want a versatile 5G phone.
Read our full LG V60 ThinQ 5G review.
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G is essentially the Galaxy Note 10 Plus — same screen size, same processor, and just a tad more weight — with a 5G modem included. It arrived just as 5G networks were getting off the ground in 2019, and while it may have been a good choice for early adopters back then, it's hard to recommend the Note 10 Plus 5G now even as it remains on sale at several carriers.
That's largely because the phone's astronomical $1,299 price has stayed the same, even as more 5G phones have arrived on the market. Those phones feature more advanced chipsets and — in many cases — lower prices. About the only thing the Note 10 Plus 5G has going for it is that it comes with an S Pen, the multifaceted stylus that ships with all Galaxy Note phones. Even the Note 10 Plus 5G's massive screen size is matched by several other 5G phones, including Samsung's only Galaxy S20 Ultra.
At this point, if you're a fan of the Galaxy Note brand, you'd be better served holding out for later this month when the Galaxy Note 20 will ship. Both the $999 Note 20 and the $1,299 Note 20 Ultra are 5G compatible and they'll work on all 5G networks.
Read our Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G test results.
How to choose the best 5G phone for you
When looking for a 5G phone, you'll want to consider which wireless carrier will be providing your cell phone service. Different service providers are taking different approaches to their 5G rollouts.
Verizon, for example, has placed an emphasis on mmWave-based technology at the beginning, so if you plan on getting your phone service from Big Red, you had best make sure that your 5G phone is capable of connecting to mmWave towers. Likewise, while T-Mobile and AT&T have a few mmWave deployments, the vast majority of their network relies on sub-6GHz technology for initial coverage. That's not as fast as mmWave, but it covers a wider area. An OpenSignal report on 5G network performance found that Verizon had the fastest 5G speeds, but the lowest 5G availability. T-Mobile's 5G reach is the most extensive, though its speeds are only slightly faster than LTE.
Apart from what 5G networks a phone supports, the criteria for picking a 5G phone is about the same as it would be for any handset. Consider the processor, screen size, cameras and other features. Battery is especially important — 5G can draw some serious power, and you'll want a phone that's able to handle the added demands on its battery.
Price remains an important distinguishing factor, and it's going to get more so as lower-cost 5G phones roll out later this year. In 2019, you had to pay anywhere from $850 to $1,299 for a 5G phone. That range has begun to creep down a little, led by the $699 OnePlus 8. We're expecting to see more 5G phones for around $500 as devices make use of Qualcomm's lower-cost Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 768G chipsets, both of which include 5G modems.
How we test 5G phones
To test phones with 5G connectivity, we take them out into the field to measure download speeds with the Speedtest.net app. When possible, we compare that speed to a comparable phone on the same wireless network to try and gauge the improvement that 5G has to offer. We also take note of how the phone performs when 5G coverage isn't available.
Because so much of that 5G performance hinges on the wireless network and not the phone itself, though, we give greater weight to the criteria by which we judge all phones. We run an array of benchmarks on every phone — both synthetic benchmarks as well as real-world tests like transcoding a 4K video to 1080p and timing how long it takes. Our lab also measures the brightness and color accuracy of each phone's display. Our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by endlessly streaming web pages over an LTE network; we then recharge the tested phones to see how quickly they charge in 15-minute intervals.
To measure camera performance, we shoot images under a variety of conditions, comparing the results to photos produced by cameras in the same price range.
For 5G phones, we also consider the price of the device compared to comparable LTE handsets.
What 5G phones are coming soon?
The most anticipated 5G launch won't happen until the fall. That's when Apple is expected to release the iPhone 12, and most people expect multiple models of this year's Apple flagship phone to feature 5G connectivity. Those will be the first Apple phones to work on 5G, and Apple is betting that the head start Samsung, LG and OnePlus have enjoyed will be offset by the fact that 5G connectivity will only be getting more widespread by the time the iPhone 12 arrives.
But Apple isn't the only game in town. Expect plenty of 5G phones to hit the market between now and the iPhone 12 launch. The Sony Xperia 1 II is now shipping; you can buy it for the princely sum of $1,199. The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra will arrive later this month, while Google is working on a 5G version of its Pixel 5 flagship for the fall.
Fortunately, 5G is now finding its way into less expensive phones, thanks to the Snapdragon 765 chipset, which isn't as costly as the Snapdragon 865. (Qualcomm has since taken the wraps off the Snapdragon 768G, which features improved graphic performance on top of 5G connectivity.)
The LG Velvet debuted in South Korea in May, and a Snapdragon 765G-powered version of the phone just landed in the U.S. AT&T is offering it for $599, and it's coming to Verizon and T-Mobile later this year. The LG Velvet costs the same as the Galaxy A71 5G.
The Nokia 8.3 will run on the Snapdragon 765G, a gaming-centric variant of Qualcomm's chipset; it's coming to the US in the fall after launching elsewhere earlier in the year for €599. Phones from TCL and Coolpad are slated to be even cheaper. The TCL 10 5G is set to cost less than $500, while the Coolpad Legacy will be less than $400. We've also gotten our first look at the sub-$500 OnePlus Nord, which is powered by a 5G-ready Snapdragon 765G chipset; unfortunately, that phone's not launching in the US at this time.