The best phones you can buy in 2023

It's time to highlight the best phones of the year, now that every device maker has had a chance to launch their latest handsets. And coming up with a top pick is especially important now that we're in the heart of holiday shopping season, and people might be looking to end the old year with a brand new phone.

We're well-positioned to help you find the right phone for your needs. 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 evaluate a few other things like built-in software, display quality and phone design, too. After all, those things can separate a great phone from the rest of the pack.

With strong options available at all price levels, you can either pick from among the top flagships or opt for a solid midrange phone with all the features you need at a fraction of the price. Our picks for the best phones offer something for everybody, with rankings that reflect both our testing and real-world use.

Written by
Philip Michaels
Written by
Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is the managing editor for mobile at Tom's Guide. He's been covering technology for more than 20 years and writing about smartphones since Steve Jobs showed off the original iPhone back in 2007. He's worked at Tom's Guide since 2015, and visitors to his Northern California home are wowed by the stacks of phones he keeps handy for head-to-head testing.

The quick list

The best phone overall

The best phone overall


Display: 6.7-inch OLED (2796x1290; 1-120Hz)
CPU: A17 Pro
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 all of Apple's latest and greatest technology, including a mighty 3nm chipset and a 5x telephoto camera that the iPhone 15 Pro doesn't receive.

✅ You value good design: Quite a lot has changed from previous Pro iPhones. The side rails are now made of a titanium alloy, the display bezels have been thinned, and a customizable 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. Save $200 by getting the iPhone 15 Pro instead.

❌ 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. Android phones charge much more quickly.

The bottom line

📱 The iPhone 15 Pro Max is ahead of the pack when it comes to its design, photography and performance. There are small areas where it could be further refined, like its charging speed or digital zoom photography. And it's still very expensive of course. But it's still a remarkable device worthy of upgrading to. ★★★★

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. The design has been made lighter and more premium with titanium sides, the chipset's more powerful than ever, and so's the camera array. Apple has roared back to capture the spor 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 thanks to its 5x zoom capabilities. Its low-light performance is pretty spectacular too. That said, it’s still no match for the Galaxy S23 Ultra when it comes to getting close to a subject.

Performance: Though Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip helped some Android phones narrow the performance gap with the iPhone 14 Pro, the A17 Pro chipset powering the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the fastest mobile chip we've tested. You'll notice the extra oomph when you're performing everyday tasks and switching between apps.

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.

Read the full review: iPhone 15 Pro Max

Swipe to scroll horizontally
iPhone 15 Pro Max test results
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 ★★★★★