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The best 5G phones in 2021

best 5g phones
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There's no better time to grab one of the best 5G phones, as Black Friday phone deals give you the chance to save on some of the best phones out there. And these days, it's more common for a phone to offer 5G support than to ship without it — even in relatively inexpensive handsets.

Does that mean this is now the time to make your next phone a 5G-ready device? While carriers are continuing to expand their 5G networks to boost speeds and increase coverage, buying any new phone likely means you're getting 5G compatibility — and potentially at a very attractive price.

The real question is what to expect from the best 5G phones once you've got one to call your own. You'll see faster speeds, certainly, if not as fast as what 5G proponents were touting back before 5G networks came online in 2019. Check out our 5G guide to see when 5G is coming to you.

Then again, our favorite 5G phones offer more than just speedier downloads. The best 5G phones feature outstanding cameras, big displays and super-sized batteries. 

Samsung and Google have expanded the pool of 5G phones, and the iPhone 13 lineup from Apple adds four more models to the mix. As a result, we've got some newcomers atop the rankings of the best 5G phones.

What are the best 5G phones?

The iPhone 13 Pro Max heads our list of the best 5G phones rankings, thanks to a big battery that helps fuel longer battery life than before. But the super-sized iPhone offers other benefits like even better 5G support than last year's iPhone 12 lineup and a fast-refreshing display.

Any of the new iPhones would be a good choice if you're looking for the best 5G phone, as all four models support a lot of different 5G networks. The iPhone 13 is particularly appealing, thanks to its $799 price.If you prefer Android to iOS devices, we'd recommend either the Galaxy S21 Ultra, as it works with every kind of 5G network and sports a big OLED displays. 

If you want one of the best performing cameras on a 5G phone, consider either the Google Pixel 5a or Pixel 6 — the latter has more features, though both are reasonably priced. And if budget is a concern, the Galaxy A32 5G from Samsung proves you don't need to pay up to get 5G connectivity on you phone.

The best 5G phones you can buy right now

best 5g phones: iPhone 13 Pro Max reviewtom's guide top pick

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1. iPhone 13 Pro Max

The best 5G phone you can buy

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.7 inches
Processor: A15 Bionic
Size / weight: 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches / 8.5 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 12:16
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Excellent battery life+Brighter display with fast refresh rate+Superior performance
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty bulk-Battery could charge faster

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best 5G phone available after replacing our previous pick, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. As good as that phone was, the iPhone 13 Pro Max improves upon it in every significant way, including ones that are important to 5G.

Like its predecessor, the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers extensive 5G support. But a bigger battery means the new Apple phone lasts longer on a charge — more than 12 hours in our testing, which is among the longest lasting phones currently on the market. The iPhone 13 Pro Max lasts that long even though Apple added a dynamically adjusting display, which has proven to be a power drain on other devices. Here, with the help of the efficient A15 Bionic chipset, the iPhone 13 Pro Max thrives.

The new phone weighs a little bit more than Apple’s older model. But with all the improvements and the extended 5G support, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a device 5G enthusiasts will love.

Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.

Best 5g phones: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

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2. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The best 5G phone from Samsung

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.8 inches
Processor: Snapdragon 888
Size / weight: 6.5 x 2.97 x 0.35 inches / 8.08 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:25
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Dynamic 6.8-inch AMOLED display+Good battery life+S Pen support
Reasons to avoid
-No charger in box-Lacks microSD card slot

The Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup is the first to feature Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip in the U.S., which means that any of the three new phones — the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra — support every 5G network available in this country. We favor the Galaxy S21 Ultra, not just because it costs $200 less than last year’s comparable S20 model, but because it also lasts a long time on a charge.

The Galaxy S21 held out for nearly 11.5 hours on our battery test, though that was with its screen set to a 60Hz refresh rate. Turning on the setting that lets the phone dynamically adjust its refresh rate does draw some power, but even with that mode turned on, the S21 Ultra still outlasted the average smartphone. That’s a good quality to have in a 5G phone, as is the S21 Ultra’s expansive screen and S Pen support.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.

best 5G phones iphone 13

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3. iPhone 13

A more affordable 5G iPhone

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.1 inches
Processor: A15 Bionic
Size / weight: 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches / 6.4 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:33
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Much improved battery+Extensive 5G support+Brighter display
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks 120Hz display-Slower charging than rivals

Apple’s iPhone Pro models get the fancier features, but the standard iPhone 13 is a way to enjoy a great 5G phone for less. Improvements throughout the iPhone 13 lineup — a bigger battery, a smaller notch, and wider 5G support than before — are on display here, but for a low $799 price.

Unlike past models, you don’t have to sacrifice storage. The iPhoine 13 features 128GB in its base model, double what Apple used to provide. That an a vast improvement in battery life over the iPhone 12 makes this an ideal 5G phone.

Read our full iPhone 13 review.

best 5g phones Google Pixel 5a

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4. Google Pixel 5a

The top budget 5G camera phone

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.43 inches
Processor: Snapdragon 765G
Size / weight: 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches / 6.5 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:45
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Stunning display for price+Excellent wide/ultrawide cameras+IP67 water resistance
Reasons to avoid
-Older chipset-No U.K. availability

5G phones have fallen in price, so you'll find cheaper options than the $449 Pixel 5a. But you won't find many that handle mobile photography as well as Google's latest midrange phone.

Unlike the Pixel 4a and Pixel 3a, the Pixel 5a sports two rear cameras — a 16MP ultrawide lens and a 12.2MP main shooter. That gives the new phone added flexibility, and, when combined with Google's computational photography strengths, you can be assured of getting some excellent photos from this sub-$500 phone.

The U.S. version of the Pixel 5a works with both sub-6GHz and mmWave-based 5G, so you should be able to use the phone on any network. And Google has included a beefy battery so you'll go longer between charges than you did with previous Pixel models.

Read our full Google Pixel 5a review.

best 5G phones: iphone 13 mini

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5. iPhone 13 mini

Best compact 5G phone

Specifications
Screen Size: 5.4 inches
Processor: A15 Bionic
Size / weight: 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches / 4.97 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:41
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Low price+Excellent A15 Bionic chipset+Outstanding cameras
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life still below average for a phone-No fast refresh rate on display

Most of the best 5G phones tend be on the oversized side, but not so the iPhone 13 mini. Like its predecessor from a year ago, the iPhone 13 mini comes in a handheld size that weighs less than 5 ounces. Yet, it packs enough support for 5G to work with bands on all the major carriers.

Apple increased the battery size from the iPhone 12 mini, so the iPhone 13 mini lasts longer on a charge. Battery life is still below average relative to other phones, but few other phones run on a chip as powerful as Apple’s A15 Bionic chipset.

Read our full iPhone 13 mini review.

best 5g phones: iphone 13 pro

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6. iPhone 13 Pro

Apple's Pro features for less in a 5G phone

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.1 inches
Processor: A15 Bionic
Size / weight: 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches / 7.14 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:42
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Excellent battery life+Brighter display with fast refresh rate+Extensive 5G support
Reasons to avoid
-Fast charging limited to 20W

Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro is a great choice for people who want the best features of Apple’s phone lineup but either don’t want to pay up for the iPhone 13 Pro Max or don’t like its large size. This year, there’s little difference between the iPhone 13 Pro models, so you can get Apple’s top features in a phone with a 6.1-inch screen that’s $100 less than the $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro Max.

That means iPhone 13 Pro owners will enjoy extensive 5G support and longer battery life, thanks to a bigger battery and the power efficiency of Apple’s At15 Bionic chipset. You also get a dynamically refreshing display that can scale up to 120Hz when needed for smoother screening. All that comes in a relatively slender 7-ounce design that’s easy to tote around.

Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review.

best 5g phones: OnePlus 9 Pro

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7. OnePlus 9 Pro

Fastest-charging 5G phone

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.7 inches
Processor: Snapdragon 888
Size and weight: 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches / 6.9 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:40
5G networks supported: T-Mobile, Verizon (low-band)
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful 120Hz display+Excellent performance+Crazy fast wired and wireless charging
Reasons to avoid
-Won't work with AT&T 5G

The OnePlus 9 Pro has two features that typically hamper a phone’s battery life — 5G connectivity and a display that can offer a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and more immersive games. Both can consume a lot of battery power, but that wasn’t the case when we tested the OnePlus 9 Pro and its 4,500 mAh battery. The phone lasted more than 10.5 hours, even with its higher screen refresh rate turned on.

That’s because the OnePlus 9 Pro features a dynamically refreshing display that adjusts its speed all the way down to 1Hz for static activities, only hitting 120Hz when you benefit from a faster refreshing screen. And when it’s time to charge, the OnePlus 9 Pro sets the standard for speedy recharging, both wirelessly and with a wired connection.

A Snapdragon 888 chipset and plenty of RAM means the OnePlus 9 Pro can match any Android phone for performance. The phone is coming to T-Mobile, where it will work with the Uncarrier’s 5G network. Verizon also certified the OnePlus 9 Pro for its 5G network, too, with the phone able to use Verizon's nationwide and Ultra Wideband networks; the cheaper OnePlus 9 only works with nationwide 5G and not faster Ultra Wideband connections.

The OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $969, but currently the only version available in the U.S. is the $1,069 edition that packs in more RAM and storage (12GB/256GB) than the 8GB/128GB base model.

Read our full OnePlus 9 Pro review.

Best 5G phones: Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

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8. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

A great Samsung 5G phone for under $1,000

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.7 inches
Processor: Snapdragon 888
Size / weight: 6.36 x 2.98 x 0.31 inches / 7.05 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:41 (adaptive) / 9:53 (60Hz)
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Screen features 120Hz refresh rate+Impressive zoom feature+Supports all 5G network types+Beautiful design
Reasons to avoid
-So-so battery life

Released earlier this year, the Galaxy S21 Plus came along and surprised everyone. For $200 less than its predecessor, the S21 Plus checks a lot of the boxes. It's a big, beautiful phone with a gorgeous 120Hz display and the best Qualcomm processor yet, the Snapdragon 888.

Starting at $999 for the 128GB model, the Galaxy S21 Plus is a force to be reckoned with, even if it lacks some of the Galaxy S21 Ultra's big features. As a 5G phone, however, you have the latest Qualcomm X60 5G modem and you can access whatever 5G bands you need. Any of the three carriers will work, including Verizon's mmWave network.

If you want a smaller phone, the regular Galaxy S21 is also a great pick. It's basically the Galaxy S21 Plus in a more compact frame for $799. 

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review.

galaxy a32 5G review

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9. Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

A great budget option for 5G coverage

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.5 inches
Processor: Dimensity 720
Size / weight: 6.46 x 3.00 x 0.36 inches / 7.23 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:39 (adaptive), 12:22 (60hz)
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Very low price+Four years of security patches+Great battery life+90Hz refresh rate
Reasons to avoid
-Subpar HD+ display

5G is available even below $300. One such device is the Galaxy A32 5G, a chunky phone that you can take to any carrier and get sub-6Ghz support. You can buy the Galaxy A32 through AT&T or T-Mobile, or bring an unlocked model to Verizon. And at $280, you might be tempted to do so.

If we had to lodge one major complaint against the Galaxy A32, we'd knock it for the subpar 720p LCD. At 6.5 inches, that's a low pixel density and you can visibly see it if you look close enough. But the two main cameras work great for something at this price point, much better than the A32's direct competitor, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G.

Grab the Galaxy A32 if you need the best cheap 5G phone around. It won't wow you at all, but it gets the job done.

Read our full Galaxy A32 5G review.

Best 5G phones: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

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10. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Samsung's best midrange 5G phone

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.5 inches
Processor: Snapdragon 750G
Size / weight: 6.3 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches / 6.7 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 12:19
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile
Reasons to buy
+120Hz display+Long battery life+Good main camera
Reasons to avoid
-Other cameras underperform-Display scratches easily

Samsung has updated its midrange Galaxy A lineup, highlighted by several 5G-ready devices that lower the cost of owning a 5G phone. Of these, the best option for most users is the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, which features a display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate. (You will have to manually set that feature.) The phone is a solid performer, and its main camera captures some compelling shots.

The 5G connectivity doesn't put too much of a hit on battery life, as the Galaxy A52 5G lasted more than 12 hours on our batter test. While that result came with the screen's refresh rate at 60Hz, even turning on the faster refreshing display gave us 10-hour-plus battery life — a more than acceptable result.

Verizon customers will want to turn to the Galaxy A42 5G, which can work with that carrier's mmWave-base towers. But if you're on AT&T and T-Mobile, the Galaxy A52 5G offers a way to join the 5G crowd without spending too much on your phone.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review.

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro side by side

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11. Google Pixel 6

A good 5G option, with some caveats

Specifications
Screen Size: 6.4 inches
Processor: Google Tensor
Size / weight: 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches / 7.3 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:13
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Unique design+Great price+Tensor chip powers excellent new experiences
Reasons to avoid
-5G modem can drain battery faster than anticipated-The Pixel 6 Pro has a faster refreshing display and telephoto lens

The Google Pixel 6 is an attractive 5G option because it offers a relatively low price — it starts at $599 — while still retaining premium features. Google's new Tensor chip powers the phone, fueling a lot of machine learning-driven capabilities, and this is your first opportunity to grab Android 12 on a new device.

That said, there are some caveats, particularly related to 5G coverage. If you want a phone that works on the higher-speed networks of AT&T and Verizon, you'll need to buy the Pixel 6 directly from those carriers — and it costs more than the $599 Google and T-Mobile are charging. There's also an older modem in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and we suspect that's hampering battery life.

Nevertheless, the Pixel 6 gives you the opportunity to connect with 5G in an affordable phone that offers cutting-edge features. That's enough to make up for some of the 5G shortcomings.

Read our full Google Pixel 6 review.

best 5g phones: iPhone 12 mini

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12. iPhone 12 mini

Apple 5G for less than $600

Specifications
Screen Size: 5.4 inches
Processor: A14 Bionic
Size / weight: 5.18 x 2.53 x 0.29 inches / 4.76 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 7:28
5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile Verizon
Reasons to buy
+Price has dropped by $100+Capable dual cameras
Reasons to avoid
-Shortest battery life of any iPhone 12 model-Only 64GB storage to start-Older hardware

Like the iPhone 13 mini, the older iPhone 12 mini proves that a 5G phone doesn’t have to be humongous to house all the antennas needed to connect you to the next-generation network. The iPhone 12 mini features a compact 5.4-inch OLED panel, and even though the phone itself is actually smaller than Apple’s own iPhone SE, it can still connect to every type of 5G network — even Verizon’s mmWave-based 5G towers.

You’ll get Apple’s still powerful A14 Bionic processor with the iPhone 12 mini, as well as the same camera setup found in the iPhone 12. That means you can expect great pictures from Apple’s smallest iPhone. The battery inside the iPhone 12 mini is pretty taxed by 5G connectivity, but a relatively low starting price means you can experience 5G without having to pay up for the privilege. And that price has dropped to $599 now that the iPhone 13 models are here, making this a better value than before.

Read our full iPhone 12 mini review.

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. 

OpenSignal currently ranks T-Mobile as the best 5G network, though not every third-part testing firm agrees. Global Wireless Solutions ranks AT&T as the best 5G network, while RootMetrics praises AT&T's speed and T-Mobile's 5G availability.

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 $700 to $1,200 for a flagship 5G phone. Even with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 costing $1,700 — a price that has more to do with its foldable design than its 5G support — the price range for 5G phones has begun to fall with more 5G models available for $500 or less.

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.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter.

  • ashleydent
    I like the Samsung Galaxy S20 plus, but I am also thinking that 4 G phones could not work properly. There is network issue almost all the time. What good 5G will do?
    Reply