The best phones deliver great cameras, the performance you need to multitask and the endurance to last the whole day. But in this category it's definitely not one size fits all.
That's why we consider all types of shoppers and their needs when recommending the best phones. Some may prefer to have the biggest display possible along with the most advanced specs. And others are content with a solid mid-range phone that delivers all the basics without feeling cheap.
Some of the biggest trends right now in phones are foldable phones and 5G. We’re not yet sold on foldable phones, as there are still durability concerns around these types of devices and they tend to be very expensive. We’re higher on 5G phones, as the networks are finally starting to fill out and deliver impressive speeds.
Another trend is that phone prices are creeping up for flagship phones, as the latest Samsung Galaxy S20 line starts at $999 and goes up to $1,399. But there are also plenty of value-priced handsets, especially unlocked phones that will work on any carrier. Our list of the best phones has something for everyone.
What are the best phones?
Based on our testing, the iPhone 11 is the best phone for most people, as it captures great photos, boasts a bright display and offers long battery life. Those who are willing to splurge should check out the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which offers a telephoto lens, a more colorful OLED display and even longer endurance.
When it comes to Android phones, our top pick is the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S20. They both offer smooth 120Hz displays, 5G capability and improved cameras that take better pictures in all lighting conditions. We also like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, which adds a 10x lossless zoom, but at $1,399 that premium phone is for power users only.
The best cheaper Android phones including the OnePlus 7T, which starts under $600, and the Google Pixel 3a (under $400). Here are the best phones on the market right now.
The best phones you can buy today
1. iPhone 11
The best phone for most people
Display Size (Pixels): 6.1-inch LCD (1,792 x 828 pixels) | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: Unknown | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 2 12MP / 12MP | Weight: 6.84 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:20
The best phone for people who don't want to spend a bundle, the iPhone 11 has killer dual cameras and a cheaper price than the iPhone 11 Pro. For a very reasonable $699, the iPhone 11 offers amazingly good low-light photos via its Night Mode, and there’s a new ultra-wide lens that lets you fit in more subjects or scene with its 120-degree field of view. Selfies get a serious upgrade, too, with a 12-MP camera that automatically switches to a wider view when you turn the phone to landscape mode.
The 6.1-inch LCD on the iPhone 11 isn’t OLED-great, but it’s colorful and bright. A blazing A13 Bionic processor, long battery life and your choice of six colors solidify the iPhone 11 as a winner.
Read our full iPhone 11 Review.
2. iPhone 11 Pro Max
The most versatile iPhone for photographers
Display Size (Pixels): 6.5-inch OLED (2,688 x 1,242 pixels) | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: Unknown | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): / Triple 12MP / 12 MP | Weight: 7.97 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:44
The ultimate iPhone is also the best phone you can buy period. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has vaulted past the Android competition to become the top camera phone, thanks to a new Night mode for much better photos in low light and a versatile ultra-wide lens. Plus, improved Smart HDR gives you superior portraits. Apple has upped the ante on video quality, too, with extended dynamic range and smooth cinematic stabilization.
The iPhone 11 Pro Max also offers the fastest processor yet with its A13 Bionic chip, a more durable design and a 6.5-inch OLED display so bright that it makes other phones look dingy. I wish Apple offered more than 64GB of storage, but once you add in nearly 12 hours of battery life, fast charging and more immersive audio you have the nearly perfect smartphone.
Read our full iPhone 11 Pro Max review.
3. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
The best Android phone
Display Size (Pixels): 6.7-inch OLED (3,200 x 1,440 pixels) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 12GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 512GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): / 12MP primary (ƒ/1.8); 64MP telephoto (ƒ/2.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); VGA time of flight / 10 MP | Weight: 6.56 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 10:31
Samsung has three strong phones in its Galaxy S20 lineup, but the Galaxy S20 Plus is the one that places highest on our best phone list, because it offers the best overall mix of features for the money. You get a gorgeous 6.7-inch display with a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate, 5G connectivity and fast Snapdragon 865 processor, plus relatively long battery life (at least in 60Hz mode). The only features missing compared to the higher-end Galaxy S20 Ultra are a 108MP camera and more powerful Space Zoom — trade-offs most people will be willing to make to save $200 by opting for the $1,199 Galaxy S20 Plus.
That's especially true since the Galaxy S20 Plus boasts some pretty impressive cameras in its own right. The new sensors capture bright and colorful photos, and the 3x lossless zoom is more powerful than what the iPhone 11 Pro Max delivers. The regular Galaxy S20 plus is a good choice at $999, too, if you prefer a smaller display. But if you want a big screen and future-proof 5G for years to come, you’re going to love the Galaxy S20 Plus.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review.
4. OnePlus 7T
A fantastic Android phone for a good price
Display Size (Pixels): 6.55-inch AMOLED (2400x1800) | CPU: Snapdragon 855+ | RAM: 8GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 48-MP (f/1.6), 16-MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12MP telephoto (f/2.2) | Weight: 6.7 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 8:47
The OnePlus 7T is easily one of the best Android phones of the year, especially in terms of sheer value. A very reasonable price of $599 gets you a fast Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen with an ultra-smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and a triple-camera system that can hang with the iPhone 11 and top Android camera phones. We do wish the 7T’s battery life lasted longer, but it charges pretty quickly. Overall, the OnePlus 7T is a steal. There is also a new OnePlus 7T Pro 5G model for those who want to take advantage of T-Mobile's new 5G network.
Read our full OnePlus 7T review.
5. Google Pixel 3a
A budget-friendly camera phone that's shockingly good
Display Size (Pixels): 5.6-inch OLED (2280 x 1080) | CPU: Snapdragon 670 | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12-MP (f/1.8) / 8-MP (f/2.0) | Weight: 5.2 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:59
The best Android phone for those on a budget is the $399 Google Pixel 3a. You'll enjoy great shots in low light and very impressive portrait effects driven by computational photography. Yes, you get a less powerful processor and less polished materials than pricier flagship phones. But Google's cheaper phone lasts longer on a charge, too, holding out for nearly 12 hours on our battery test. That makes the Pixel 3a a real bargain. The best part? You can often find the Pixel 3 on sale for under $350, so it pays to comparison shop.
Read our full Google Pixel 3a review.
6. Samsung Galaxy S20
A powerful and compact flagship phone
Display Size (Pixels): 6.2-inch OLED (3,200 x 1,440 pixels) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 12GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 512GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): / 12MP primary (ƒ/1.8); 64MP telephoto (ƒ/2.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2) / 10 MP | Weight: 5.7 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:31
Not everyone wants or needs a ginormous phone. The Samsung Galaxy S20 answers the call for a one-hand-friendly handset with a 6.2-inch display that's immersive but just the right size for a lot of people. It's also a silky smooth OLED panel, thanks to a 120Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling and gaming feel more responsive.
Speaking of speed, the Galaxy S20 has plenty of it, starting with a Snapdragon 865 processor that delivers the best performance we've seen from an Android phone. And you get even more speed if you live in an area with 5G coverage. Just keep in mind that a Verizon version of this phone will be coming later.
The Galaxy S20's triple camera system delivered very good results, even in low light, and it's 3x lossless zoom lets you get closer to the action than most other phones. The only strike against this handset is below-average battery life, but overall it's one of the best phones around.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
7. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
A crazy powerful zoom meets a huge display
Display Size (Pixels): 6.9-inch OLED (3200 x 1400) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 12GB, 16GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 512GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 48MP telephoto (ƒ/3.5); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); time-of-flight VGA / 40MP | Weight: 7.7 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:58 (at 60Hz refresh rate)
Samsung spared no expense with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which manages to pack in an impressive array of premium features — from a vast 6.9-inch display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate to 5G compatibility and a massive 5,000 mAh battery.
Still, it’s the cameras that impress with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung really pushed out the boat here, too, turning to a quadruple camera array highlighted by a 108MP wide angle lens and 48MP telephoto shooter. That latter feature can produce a 10x lossless zoom that really captures detail at a distance. The end result is a camera phone that produces shots that top what the iPhone 11 Pro can do, though some autofocus issues have emerged with the Galaxy S20 Ultra that would be irritating in any phone, let alone one that costs as much as Samsung's latest. (Samsung is promising a fix to the Galaxy S20 Ultra's camera problems.)
That brings up another big issue with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: By not sparing any expense, Samsung passes those expenses on to you. The phone starts at $1,399 and that assumes you’re satisfied with the 12GB of RAM and 128GB of storage in the base model. The S20 Ultra is certainly worth every one of the countless pennies Samsung charges, but with 5G-ready, Snapdragon 865-powered S20 models available for $200 to $400 less, the S20 Ultra is out of the reach of most smartphone shoppers. Still, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is a testament to just how much power companies like Samsung can pack into a smartphone these days.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review.
8. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
The big-screen phone with a powerful stylus
Display Size (Pixels): 6.8-inch OLED (3040 x 1440) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 12GB | Storage / Expandable: 256GB, 512GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): 16-MP ultra wide (f/2.2), 12-MP wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.1), time-of-flight VGA / 10 MP | Weight: 7.1 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:46
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the best phone if you want the biggest display possible. This flagship sports a ginormous 6.8-inch OLED display that’s truly immersive, and you can now do more with the S Pen, including Air gestures and convert your handwriting to text. The phablet lasted nearly 12 hours on our battery test, and it charges fast, reaching 65% in 30 minutes. The Note 10 Plus’ four rear cameras take crisp photos and Samsung added Live Focus effects for video, so you can now get bokeh with your clips. But the still photo quality isn’t quite best in class based on our comparisons; the Pixel 4 has an edge among Android phones.
You'll soon have a cheaper alternative to the Note 10 in the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, which has a massive 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display, a headphone jack, a triple-camera array and a huge 4,500 mAh battery. But if you need some of the best performance and battery in a phablet, the Note 10 Plus is still well worth the premium.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review.
9. Google Pixel 4 XL
The smartest camera phone you can buy
Display Size (Pixels): 6.3-inch AMOLED (3040 x 1440) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 4GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12.2-MP main (f/1.7); 16-MP telephoto (f/2.4) / 8-MP (f/2.0) | Weight: 6.8 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:42
The Pixel 4 XL is an excellent choice if you want the best Android camera phone. It offers a telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom. Combine that with Google's Super Res Zoom and you can get detailed, clear photos even with an 8x hybrid zoom. There's also dual exposure controls to tweak brightness and shadows, AI-powered white balance for more accurate colors and an improved Night Sight low-light mode that can capture clear images of the night sky. The $899 Pixel 4 XL is the model to get, as its bigger battery lasts longer than the $799 Pixel 4. We just wish that the 6.4-inch display was brighter.
Read our full Google Pixel 4 XL review.
10. iPhone XR
Affordable big screen
Display Size (Pixels): 6.1-inch LCD (1792 x 828) | CPU: A12 Bionic | RAM: N/A | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12-MP / 7-MP | Weight: 6.8 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 11:26
The iPhone XR is a real bargain now that the price has dropped to $599, and it delivers pretty much everything you’d want from one of the best phones. That includes a bright and colorful 6.1-inch LCD display, a fast processor in the A12 Bionic and great camera quality.
No, you don’t get dual rear shooters that are available in the $699 iPhone 11, but otherwise this phone is top-notch in every way. The best part is the battery life, as the iPhone XR lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes on our web surfing battery test.
Some may want to see what Apple does with the rumored iPhone 9 before picking up this phone, as that device is rumored to cost as low as $399. But for now the iPhone XR continues to be a very good value.
Read our full iPhone XR review.
11. Samsung Galaxy S10e
Our favorite small phone
Display Size (Pixels): 5.8-inch AMOLED (2160 x 1080 pixels) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 6GB, 8GB | Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / Yes | Cameras (Back / Front): 16-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (ƒ/1.5, ƒ/2.4) / 10-MP (ƒ/1.9) | Weight: 5.29 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:41
The Galaxy S10e proves that you don't need a big screen (or a big price tag) to get one of the best phones. This 5.8-inch addition to Samsung's Galaxy S lineup gives up the in-display fingerprint sensor and third rear camera lens found on the other Galaxy S10 models. But it's got the same powerful Snapdragon 855 processor, so you're not having to sacrifice performance if you want a more compact phone.
Now that the Galaxy S20 is Samsung's new phone on the block, prices have fallen on the older S10 models, including the S10e. You'll now pay $599 for the S10e, meaning you don't have to pony up for the privilege of carrying around the smaller-sized phone you prefer.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10e review.
12. iPhone 8
A good, cheap iPhone and a smart buy for kids
Display Size (Pixels): 4.7-inch LCD (1334 x 750 pixels) | CPU: A11 Bionic | RAM: 2GB | Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB / No | Cameras (Back / Front): 12MP / 7MP | Weight: 5.2 ounces | Battery Life (Hrs:Mins): 9:54
Whether you’re getting an iPhone for your child, you hate big phones or you just want access to the App Store and iOS 13 on the cheap, the iPhone 8 is a very good value. This 4.7-inch phone costs just $449 and delivers everything you need, including a zippy A11 Bionic processor and a solid 12-MP camera with portrait mode and strong battery life. Wireless charging is a nice plus in this price range. The iPhone 8 Plus gives you a bigger 5.5-inch screen and telephoto zoom for $120 more, but overall the iPhone 8 is quite the bargain.
Before you buy the iPhone 8, be aware that Apple is likely coming out with an iPhone 8 successor that's the same size as this model but with better cameras and a faster processor. The iPhone 9 (or iPhone SE 2, as some people think it will be called) could also cost around the same as the iPhone 8.
Read our full iPhone 8 review.
How to choose the best smartphone for you
- Android or iPhone? Android phones give you more choice in terms of price, size and innovative designs. However, iPhones offer speedier software updates, better games and apps and better security and privacy. See our iPhone vs Android face-off.
- Unlocked or carrier? Most shoppers in the U.S. buy new phones through their wireless carrier. But an unlocked phone gives you the freedom to buy the device without any sort of contract and then bring it to the provider you want to use.
- Screen size: If you're looking for a big phone, 6 inches and up is a good place to start. The biggest phones are 6.5 to 6.8 inches. If you want something you can easily use with one hand, go with a small phone with a screen under 6 inches.
- Cameras: Don't pay attention to the megapixel count. Instead, look at camera face-offs between phones to see the photo quality and look for special features like Night Mode to get better quality in low light. Also see our best camera phone roundup.
- Battery life: Generally, phones with larger batteries (measured in mAh) offer the longest battery life, but that's not always the case. That's why we run our own battery test.
How we test smartphones
In order for a smartphone to make our best phone list, it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.
When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and GFXBench to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result.
To measure the quality of a phone's display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
One of the most important tests we run is the Tom's Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G or 4G at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.