The best phones 2024 tested and rated

We test and review dozens of phones each year with one mission in mind: to help you buy the best phone for your needs. And with great options from Apple, Samsung, Google and other brands, there are plenty of handsets worthy of your attention.

We're well-positioned to pick the best phone based on a variety of criteria. We spend a lot time in our lab and in the real world testing the top handsets so that we can compare the leading contenders side by side. And we have some expert recommendations on which models rise to the top.

The very best phones offer great cameras, enough performance to easily multitask or play intensive games and the kind of battery life to last the whole day. We test each one of those things for every smartphone we review — and we also evaluate software, display quality and phone design. All of these criteria can separate a great phone from the rest of the pack.

Our rankings have the iPhone 15 Pro Max edging out the Galaxy S24 Ultra for the title of best phone —see our Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max showdown for an analysis of how the phones compare. Of course, with the iPhone 16 set to launch in the fall, we could see a shakeup to the rankings very soon.

Looking for something beyond Apple and Samsung? We're impressed by other phones, too, including the Pixel 8a, which we rate as the best phone below $500.

Recent updates

Samsung has unveiled new foldables — the Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Galaxy Z Flip 6 — which ship July 24. Stay tuned for our full review to see if they rank among the best phones, but you can read our Galaxy Z Fold 6 hands-on and Galaxy Z Flip 6 hands-on for initial impressions.

The quick list

Written by
Philip Michaels
Written by
Philip Michaels

I'm the managing editor for mobile at Tom's Guide, where I've been working since 2015. In total, I've covered technology for more than 20 years, and I was there when Steve Jobs showed off the original iPhone back in 2007. I've been looking at and testing phones since that day, and if you visit my Northern California home, you can marvel at the stacks of hones I keep handy for head-to-head testing.

The best phone overall

The best phone overall

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch OLED (2796x1290; 1-120Hz)
CPU: A17 Pro
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB / No
Rear camera: 48MP wide (f/1.78), 12MP ultra wide (ƒ/2.2), 12MP telephoto (5x zoom; f/2.8)
Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/1.9)
Weight: 7.8 oz
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 14:02

Reasons to buy

+
Light and strong titanium frame
+
5x zoom power
+
Action button customization
+
Amazing performance
+
Lengthy battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Price increase over iPhone 14 Pro Max
-
Slow charging speeds
-
Action button could be more 
Buy it if

✅ You want Apple's best iPhone: The iPhone 15 Pro Max offers the best of Apple's phones, including a mighty 3nm chipset and an exclusive 5x telephoto camera.

✅ You value good design: The iPhone's side rails are now made of a titanium alloy, the display bezels are thinner, and an Action button has replaced the simple mute switch

✅ You value a long-lasting phone: This is one efficient phone, holding out for more than 14 hours on our battery test.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: It may be Apple's best phone, but at $1,199, the iPhone 15 Pro Max also costs the most.

❌ You prefer compact devices: That 6.7-inch display requires a 6.29 x 3.02 x 0.32 frame to house it. The iPhone 15 Pro Max does not fit easily into a pocket.

❌ You want a phone that charges quickly: Apple's moved to USB-C charging, but the speed still caps out at a mere 27W.

The bottom line

📱 The iPhone 15 Pro Max is tops for design, photography and performance. Charging speed and digital zoom features could be further refined, and it's very expensive. But it's still a remarkable device worthy of an upgrade. ★★★★

What you need to know
The iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone we’ve tested, and that’s because it has everything you could want in a flagship, offering features you won't even find on the iPhone 15 Pro. The design has been made lighter and more premium with titanium sides, the A17 chipset inside the device is more powerful than any Apple silicon before it, and the camera array gets some improvements, too. Apple has roared back to capture the spot for best phone with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, a mobile device that delivers on all fronts.

Cameras: iPhones live and die by their cameras, and the telephoto lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a big improvement over previous Pro Max models, thanks to its 5x zoom capabilities. Its low-light performance is pretty spectacular too. That said, the Galaxy S24 Ultra still has the better zoom feature even if we think the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best camera phone overall.

Performance: Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip now beats the iPhone on some tests, but the A17 Pro chipset powering the iPhone 15 Pro Max remains a very fast chip. You'll notice the extra oomph when you're performing everyday tasks and switching between apps. For all the Snapdragon's gains in graphics, the iPhone 15 Pro Max still outperforms the latest Galaxy device when it comes to real-world tasks like video transcoding. A17 Pro-powered phones like the iPhone 15 Pro Max will be able to support the Apple Intelligence features Apple is rolling out later this year.

Battery life: The battery on the iPhone 15 Pro Max lasts more than 14 hours on our battery test, an outstanding improvement over the already long-lasting iPhone 14 Pro Max. If only the phone could charge quickly, as Apple continues to offer only 27W wired charging and 15W wireless charging.

Value for money: While this model costs $100 more than the starting price of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Apple has increased the amount of base storage to 256GB. The iPhone 15 Pro offers almost all the same features, but in a smaller body and for a lower starting price. And if it's a big screen you're after, there's the iPhone 15 Plus to consider, too. As for Samsung's comparable device, the Galaxy s24 Ultra saw a price hike, too, so Apple's top device remains the less expensive option.

Read the full review: iPhone 15 Pro Max

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iPhone 15 Pro Max test results
AttributesNotesRating
PriceThis iPhone costs a pretty penny★★★☆☆
CamerasA great main camera but so-so zooms★★★★☆
PerformanceYou won't find a better performing phone★★★★★
Battery lifeDon't worry about running out power ★★★★★

The best Samsung phone

The best phone from Samsung

Specifications

Display: 6.8-inch OLED (3120 x 1440; 1-120Hz)
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM: 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB / No
Rear camera: 200MP main (f/1.7), 12MP ultra wide (ƒ/2.2), 50MP telephoto (5x zoom; f/3.4), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom) **Front camera:** 12MP (ƒ/2.2)
Weight: 8.2 oz
Battery life: (Hrs:Mins): 16:45

Reasons to buy

+
Practical AI features
+
7 years of software updates
+
Incredible processing power

Reasons to avoid

-
5x zoom lens isn't as powerful as S23 Ultra's 10x lens
-
More expensive than before
Buy it if

✅ You want the best Android phone available: The Galaxy S24 Ultra offers the peak Android experience, thanks to the fast and power efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset.

✅ You take a lot of photos: Few camera phones can match the Galaxy S24 Ultra for photo quality, particularly in low light.

✅ You want polished AI features: New capabilities like Circle to Search and a tool that auto-formats your notes are helpful, practical additions you'll use every day. 

Don't buy it if:

❌ You can't swing the steep starting price: As good as the Galaxy S24 Ultra is, $1,299 is a lot to pay for a phone, especially when other S24 models offer Galaxy AI. 

❌ You want a 10x optical zoom: The S23 Ultra's 10x zoom lens is replaced by a 5x camera (though it has sharper resolution). It feels like a step back. 

❌ You prefer compact phones: The Galaxy S24 Ultra may use a titanium frame to lighten the load, but a 6.8-inch device is still a chore to lug around.

The bottom line

📱 The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra gives the iPhone all it can handle, lasting longer than Apple's phone on a charge and outperforming it on several benchmark tests. Throw in seven years of software updates and smart AI features, and this is a phone that delivers on value. ★★★★

What you need to know
The Galaxy S24 Ultra has the improvements you'd expect from Samsung's annual flagship upgrade, such as a better processor, a brighter display and camera fine-tuning. But this year's model stands out with the arrival of Galaxy AI features, which tap into artificial intelligence to handle tasks like translation, transcription and summaries. This may be Samsung's first attempt at putting AI front and center, but tools like Circle to Search and notes auto-formatting already feel very polished. And more importantly, they're part of your everyday phone usage.

Cameras: Swapping out a 10MP telephoto lens with a 10x zoom for a 50MP shooter with a 5x zoom feel like a step back, even with the higher-resolution photos. (At least you can still enjoy 10x zooms by cropping down those 50MP shots. And the 100x Space Zoom feature is as impressive as before.) Nevertheless, the Galaxy S24 Ultra remains a top camera phone, with a better handle on color than previous Samsung flagships.

Performance: The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 inside the Galaxy S24 Ultra delivers stellar performance — enough to beat the iPhone 15 Pro models in some tests, particularly when it comes to graphics. Unlike other S24 models, which use different chipsets depending on their region, every Galaxy S24 Ultra uses a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, so you're guaranteed the best Android performance no matter where you live in the world.

Battery life: Besides its stellar performance, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 also manages power well, helping the S24 Ultra last for 16 hours and 45 minutes on our battery test. Wired charging speeds remain at 45W, which is good but slower than the OnePlus 12 and its 80W charging speeds.

Value for money: Though its price has gone up by $100 over the previous generation, you still get what you pay for with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. especially if you can find a lower price through the best Galaxy S24 Ultra deals. Seven years of software and security updates helps justify the cost.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra test results
AttributesNotesRating
PriceA price hike drives up the cost to $1,299★★☆☆☆
CamerasGreat hardware and AI-powere software produce excellent shots★★★★☆
PerformanceThe performance gap with the iPhone has finally been closed★★★★★
Battery lifeThe S24 Ultra lasts all day and more on a charge★★★★★

The best phone under $500

The best phone value

Specifications

Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2400 x 1080; 120Hz)
CPU: Tensor G3
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 64MP wide (f/1.89), 13MP ultrawide (f/2.2)
Front camera: 13MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 6.8 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:21

Reasons to buy

+
Brighter screen than before
+
Much improved battery life over recent Pixels
+
7 years of software and security updates

Reasons to avoid

-
Few camera changes from Pixel 7a
-
Slow charging
Buy it if

✅ You don't want to pay more then $500: Despite rumors to the contrary, Google held the U.S. price of the Pixel 8a to $499, the same as the Pixel 7a.

✅ You want excellent cameras for the money: The Pixel 8a has the same camera setup on the Pixel 7a, but that's not a bad thing. You still get great photos.

✅ You want the latest Tensor features: Because it uses the Tensor G3 found in the Pixel 8 phones, the Pixel 8a has the same AI-powered capabilities, including Magic Editor.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want the latest hardware: The Pixel 9 phones are coming out this fall, and they'll likely feature a Tensor G4 that introduces even more AI features.

❌ You want a fast-charging phone: While the Pixel 8a features better battery life than before, it still charges at a relatively pokey 18W.

❌ You want a phone with more performance muscle: The Tensor G3 may be smart, but it's not as speedy as top-performing silicon from Qualcomm found in other Android phones.

The bottom line

📱 The Pixel 8a is a worthy addition to the A series, with excellent cameras for a budget phone. With better battery life than before and extended software support, Google's midrange phone is a even better bargain than before. ★★★★

What you need to know
For years, Google's Pixel A phones have the midrange models to turn to if you want flagship features for hundreds of dollars less. The Pixel 8a continues that tradition with the AI features and top-performing cameras you've come to expect, but with battery life improvements and extra software support thrown in. Even the display has been improved, matching the Pixel 8 for brightness and refresh rate.

Cameras: You'll find the same cameras on the Pixel 8a as you did on the Pixel 7a, and photo processing capabilities work the same, too. While we wish there were more substantial improvements, you can't knock the camera performance of the Pixel 8a, especially compared to other camera phones in this price range. You may not want to upgrade from last year's phone, but people with older phones will still be impressed with the quality of images produced by the Pixel 8a.

Performance: As always, the story with Pixel phones is the AI feaatures supported by the Tensor core on Google's silicon. With a Tensor G3 running the show, the Pixel 8a matches the feature set found on Pixel 8 flagships, with Magic Editor and Best Take photo-editing features stealing the show. But don't sleep on the phone's call management features, either. That said, if you're looking for raw performance power, you won't find it on the Pixel 8a, as Tensor chips lag behind what the Snapdragon silicon in Android phones can provide.

Battery life: At last, Google has made a phone that lasts longer than the average handset on a charge. The Pixel 8a turned in a time of 11 hours and 21 minutes on our battery test, the best result we've seen in a while from a Pixel. We only wish charging speeds were faster, but at least you get wireless charging support.

Value for money: In addition to saving you $200 to $300 for flagship level features, the Pixel 8a also figures to be a phone you can hold on to for a long time. Google now offers seven years of software and security updates, matching the level of support the regular Pixel 8 phones get. With the Pixel 8a, Google is showing other phone makers how a midrange device should be.

Read the full review: Google Pixel 8a

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Google Pixel 8a test results
AttributesNotesRating
PriceThe Pixel 8a costs the same as the Pixel 7a.★★★★☆
CamerasThere aren't any changes to the best low-cost camera.★★★★☆
PerformanceA Tensor G3 chip puts the latest AI features on this phone.★★★★☆
Battery lifeThe Pixel 8a beats the average smartphone on our battery test.★★★★☆

The smartest camera phone