1. The list in brief
2. Best phone overall
3. Best Samsung
4. Best Android value phone
5. Smartest camera phone
6. Best iPhone value
7. Best value flagship
8. Best compact flagship
9. Best compact Android phone
10. Best Samsung for most people
12. Best cheap big iPhone
12. Best Samsung value
13. Best foldable phone
14. Battery life test results
15. How to choose
16. How we test
Just a glance at our picks for the best phones reveals what a strong year it was for new handsets. From the new Samsung flagships that came out at the beginning of the year to the iPhones and Pixel devices that arrived in the latter months, we saw a bunch of devices with great cameras, long-lasting batteries and bright screens. But only one of those phones can be No. 1.
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 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.
If you're looking for a phone, any of the following devices should meet your needs. And since our top picks include phones at different prices, they should fit within your budget, too.
While 2024 also figures to be a strong year for phones, with the Galaxy S24 set to kick off the new year, let's take a moment to look back on the best phones that we've seen in the last 12 months.
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 iPhone 15 Pro Max vaults past other devices on this list thanks to its superior A17 Pro silicon and a revamped camera setup that includes a much better telephoto lens than before. We also like the 14-hour battery life and extra storage that Apple's top phone offers.
Best Samsung phone
With a powerful processor, a remarkably flexible 200MP main camera and the best zoom lens around, the Galaxy S23 Ultra can take on all comers and emerge as the best, despite its high starting price (even if Apple's top phone costs just as much now).
Best Android value
The best Android phone value
For less than $500, the Pixel 7a not only gives you the same Tensor G2 chipset as the Pixel 7 flagships, but premium features like a fast-refreshing display and wireless charging support. The phone's cameras have been upgraded, too.
Mobile photography fans should turn to the Google Pixel 8 Pro, which features some exciting new AI photo-processing features powered by the Tensor G3 chipset. In addition, you get a brighter display and a guaranteed seven years of software and security updates from Google.
Best iPhone value
The best iPhone value
At $799. Apple’s iPhone 15 offers the kind of value you don’t normally expect from phones at this prince,whether it’s the impressive A16 Bionic processor, the Dynamic Island feature or 48MP main camera. Whatever feature draws you to this phone, the low price helps seal the deal.
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The best compact flagship phone
Although it doesn't quite match up to its larger sibling, both in terms of battery life and camera tech, the iPhone 15 Pro still fits in everything you could want from a premium phone into a relatively small frame.
Compact Android phone
Compact Android phone
The screen size of the Google Pixel 8 is smaller than its predecessor. But that makes for a slender phone that's easier to hold. Even better, the Tensor G3 silicon in the Pixel 8 powers a lot of AI experiences.
The best Samsung phone for most people
It doesn't have all of the premium features of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but the Galaxy S23 has most of them — including a telephoto lens. And its $799 starting price makes it an affordable flagship for most.
Big iPhone for less
The best big iPhone value
There's not a huge difference between the iPhone 15 Plus and the smaller iPhone 15. But its battery life blows the other recent iPhones away, plus it's a much cheaper way of getting a big-screen iPhone than going for a Pro Max model.
Best Samsung value
Best Samsung value
The Galaxy A54 is $50 cheaper than the Pixel 7a and offers even more premium features in some areas — it has a 120Hz display and lasts longer on a charge. You also get the same main camera Samsung uses on the Galaxy S23.
The best foldable phone
The OnePlus Open is the foldable phone to get, thanks to its thin and light design, powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, Hasselblad camera system, long battery life, and the fastest charging foldable around. It al handles multitasking the best with its Open Canvas feature
The best phone overall
✅ 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.
❌ 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 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
|Price||This iPhone costs a pretty penny||★★★☆☆|
|Cameras||A great main camera but so-so zooms||★★★★☆|
|Performance||You won't find a better performing phone||★★★★★|
|Battery life||Don't worry about running out power||★★★★★|