Our best phones in the UK list includes a diverse range of devices. There are some familiar names on this list, especially if you’ve looked at our choices for the best phones overall, but also handsets that are unique to the UK.
These are the phones which offer everything you need — top cameras, beautiful displays, long-lasting batteries and the best performance you can get. Some of the best phones in the UK are premium flagships or provide good specs for a low price, so you can find the perfect phone for your needs and budget.
Whatever kind of phone you might be looking for, our best phones are listed below for you to consider before you buy.
What are the best phones in the UK?
The best phone in the U.K. that we've tested is the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The whole iPhone 13 line is excellent (two more models can be found on this list), but the Pro Max model stands out with its larger display, enhanced cameras and the longest battery life in the lineup.
If you're after the best of Android, we recommend the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra instead. The Xiaomi Mi 11 and Oppo Find X3 Pro are also excellent choices, but the S21 Ultra goes the extra mile when it comes to overall camera performance and software support, plus it can be used with Samsung’s S Pen.
For budget options, your best choices are the OnePlus Nord 2, Google Pixel 4a and Redmi Note 10 Pro, depending on exactly how much money you want to spend. All of these offer some premium features despite their price, so they'll still feel special to use.
Looking forward to the rest of the year, there are a couple of phones that will likely shake this list up. As mentioned, there should be a new iPhone 13 revealed around September, plus the Google Pixel 6 looks like it could finally be a Google phone capable of toppling Samsung.
The best phones in the UK you can buy today
Apple once again leads the phone world with its top-tier iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Building on last year's Pro Max, this model features improved cameras, a larger battery and a long-await 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate. Apple still equips it with a might chipset too, and the latest version of iOS so you can enjoy all of the App Store's many apps to their fullest.
We're a little annoyed that one of the phone's new signature features — ProRes high-quality video — only works if you buy the iPhone 13 Pro Max with 256GB storage or more. The other only issue to mention is charging, as once again Apple isn't including a charger in the box, and the phone maxes out at a disappointingly slow 20W wired and 15W wireless over MagSafe.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.
Samsung's top flagship phone is as good as you're going to get in terms of hardware on a phone. Whether it's the variable 120Hz QHD OLED display, its 108MP main camera, its dual telephoto cameras or its stylus support, the S21 Ultra is a yardstick for how powerful and versatile flagship phones should be.
Unfortunately all that tech means this is a big phone, which won't suit all users. Like Apple, Samsung made the unpopular decision to remove the bundled charger from the S21 series' box, which makes charging the phone at full speed more difficult. Also the European version of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is powered by the Exynos 1200. It’s comparable to the Snapdragon 888-based version, but that U.S. edition offers better performance.
We still really like the S21 Ultra, though. It won Best Phone Design and achieved a "highly recommended" award in the Best Phone Overall and Best Camera Phone categories at the Tom's Guide Awards 2021, and it offers the ultimate features available in a Samsung phone.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.
Due to the size difference in the display and battery capacity, the iPhone 13 Pro doesn't quite reach the same heights as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. Don't be fooled though, this iPhone still crushes most of the Android competitors beneath its heel, thanks to the combination of power and ease of use that Apple works hard to perfect.
The 6.1-inch 13 Pro still offers an excellent display, fantastic cameras and an identical A15 Bionic chipset to the one inside the iPhone 13 Pro Max. That latter feature helps the iPhone 13 Pro beat any Android phone on benchmarks or real life tests.
Just watch out for the lack of charging brick in the box though, since you may need a new charger depending on your last phone. Plus Apple's new ProRes video mode only works if you buy an iPhone 13 Pro with 256GB storage or above, which seems pretty unfair to those who otherwise don't need the extra room.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 offers specs in line with far more expensive Android flagships, making it one of the best phones in the U.K. The highlight is its display, which is as large and as detailed as that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and offers a decent variable refresh rate system on top. Although the battery is small for a phone of its size, it charges at 55W wired and 50W wireless, which beats almost all other competitors for speed right now.
While you hope you'd never have to test it, the Mi 11 doesn't feature an official IP rating for water/dust resistance, unlike the premium phones it otherwise matches or beats for features. The Mi 11’s cameras are also a bit week, although its 108MP main sensor still performs adequately, and its telemacro camera is one of the best ways of taking close-up shots on any phone.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 review.
Apple's basic iPhone 13 offers many of the features that make the iPhone 13 Pro Max our top pick, but for £300 less. That includes the mighty A15 Bionic chipset with its 5G capabilities and a bright OLED display, while a small battery size increase has done wonders for the phone's battery life.
Unfortunately what the iPhone 13 doesn't receive is a 120Hz refresh rate like its Pro siblings, making it one of the only phones of 2021 without a refresh rate above 60Hz. Apple's also been stingy with the cameras again, only giving users main and ultrawide rear sensors. Fortunately they still take great shots.
Also missing is the in-box charger, part of Apple's eco-friendly initiative, which is a little inconvenient for users. This is still the right iPhone for the majority of people though, thanks to an ideal combination of size, power and price.
Read our full iPhone 13 review.
Oppo's current top-tier flagship does a lot differently compared to the rest of the pack. The Oppo Find X3 Pro display offers the same LTPO technology as the OnePlus 9 Pro or Galaxy S21 Ultra, but uses an even lower minimum refresh rate to save your battery. The phone’s display also supports10-bit color for even more vivid video and photo appreciation.
Oppo’s phone features a unique unibody design that looks amazing (until you get fingerprints all over it) and the same 65W wired charging as the OnePlus 9 Pro, making it one of the fastest charging phones around.
The camera array on the Find X3 contains a special microscope camera for incredible close-up photography, which while less versatile than the typical telephoto sensor is one of the things that helps set this phone apart. If the homogenous feature set of other flagship Android phones doesn't appeal, the more unusual features of the Find X3 Pro may be enough to convince you to make a purchase.
The Find X3 Pro is also a Tom's Guide Awards 2021 honoree. It was given a "highly recommended" in the Best Phone Design and Fastest Charging Phones categories.
Read our full Oppo Find X3 Pro review.
OnePlus really upped its game with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The inclusion of Hasselblad-tuned cameras have improved a historically weak part of the OnePlus phone's arsenal. Alongside some of the fastest wired and wireless charging available and a gorgeous QHD display with a variable 120Hz refresh rate, OnePlus is now a true contender for one of the best phones in the U.K. Its low price — at least for a phone with these specs — is a real deal-sweetener too.
The low-light photos from those boosted cameras still don't quite match up to the other shots. In addition, the inclusion of a monochrome camera doesn't offer the same kind of value as a second telephoto camera. However, don't let you put off what is otherwise a finely honed and well-rounded phone.
We awarded the OnePlus 9 Pro with a win in the Fastest Charging Phone category and a "Highly recommended" for the Best Phone Overall and the World's Fastest Phone categories in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021
Read our full OnePlus 9 Pro review.
Xiaomi's outdone everyone this year with the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra in terms of the amount of stuff packed into the phone. Chief among these is the Mi 11 Ultra’s 1.1-inch rear display, which you can use to check the time and notifications or as a mini-viewfinder for taking photos with one of three 48MP cameras. With the same wonderful display as the basic Mi 11 and even faster 67W wired and wireless charging speeds, the Mi 11 Ultra is a specs monster.
The Mi 11 Ultra’s price is as high as you'd expect for this much hardware, and the battery life suffers since it's an average-sized cell that has a lot more stuff to power than the usual phone. Plus, it's not an easy phone to wield, given its large size and lack of balance because of that enormous rear camera/display bump. Despite this, you can't beat the look on someone's face when you show off the Mi 11 Ultra's features.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review.
Last year’s Galaxy Note model keeps the phablet’s best features and makes them even better. The included S Pen, the phone's defining feature, is more responsive than ever. But Samsung's also improved the display, cameras and battery life considerably.
This is a big phone though, with a 6.9-inch display and a large camera bump. Plus it's expensive even for a Samsung flagship, particularly if you want the larger capacity storage. However, given this phone packs so much into its frame, you won't mind the size when you find out just how much work and play you can do from just your phone.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.
Samsung made a smart move with the Galaxy S21 by reducing the quality of its parts compared to 2020’s Galaxy S20. That gives you a quality entry-level product, with a good-looking screen but for a competitive price, even if it does mean you end up with a dreaded plastic backed design.
The S21 doesn't come with a charger, and the European model you can buy in the U.K. doesn't use the better Snapdragon 888 chipset. Instead, the Exynos 2100 powers the phone, which means it lags the U.S. model ever so slightly.
Don't let any of that put you off from buying the Galaxy S21, as it offers flagship features for a lower price than what you’d pay for other S21 models.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.
The latest Nord handset is a mid-range champion, offering all the basics plus several premium features on top for a very reasonable price. The option of 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, along with the surprisingly powerful Dimensity 1200-AI chipset means you get performance that's close to flagship quality.
While the Nord 2 offers a 90Hz maximum refresh rate, it needs to be manually set, which essentially means a choice between extra smoothness or extra battery life, unlike more expensive phones that let you have the best of both.
The cameras on the OnePlus Nord 2 easily match up to other camera phones in its class though. However the best part is the Nord 2’s 65W wired charging, which outpaces almost every other phone on sale today.
Read our full OnePlus Nord 2 review.
With this budget handset from Redmi, you won't find yourself wanting for much. The Redmi Note 10 Pro uses a large AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, just like phones four times as expensive. It even beats some of those more expensive phones on charging speed with an included 33W charger.
The basic price of the phone only gets you 64GB of storage however, which isn't too much these days. The more long-term problem is the lack of power in the Snapdragon 732G chipset, which feels slow to use. As long as you don't use too many high-intensity apps, you'll be fine though.
The Note 10 Pro also uses the same telemacro camera found on the Xiaomi Mi 11, and it's just as good despite this being a far cheaper phone. The other cameras do a surprisingly good job too.
Read our full Redmi Note 10 Pro review.
Since the Pixel 5a is only shipping in Japan and the U.S. at the moment, U.K. shoppers are left with the Pixel 4a. That’s all right, since this older phone still does some things better than others in its class.
As a Google phone, the Pixel 4a gets the latest and greatest Android experiences first and for longer than many comparable devices. There’s only a single rear camera, but the Pixel 4a takes better photos than almost any other phone you compare it to.
Where you find limitations are with the Pixel 4a’s low-powered chipset, and its small battery. These could pose a problem if you're a smartphone power user who is regularly using their phone during a given day. However if you're a lighter user who wants an otherwise excellent cheap phone, you should go for the Pixel 4a, which won the Best Phone Value award in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021.
Read our full Google Pixel 4a review
You don't have to pay quite as much for a flagship-level Samsung as you might think. The Galaxy S20 FE cuts down on a few features but keeps some of the best parts, like its Snapdragon 888 chip, 6.5-inch 120Hz display and triple rear cameras, intact.
The Galaxy S20 FE’s battery doesn't do such a good job of keeping all these parts powered for long periods of time. And while it isn't a dealbreaker, the charger you get in the box is only 15W when the phone can support up to 25W. So either you accept a slower fill-up time or you spend money on a charger you don't really need.
The S20 FE was rated "highly recommended" in the Best Phone Value category at the Tom's Guide Awards 2021. Be aware that a successor, the Galaxy S21 FE, could make its debut this fall.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review.
How to choose the best U.K. phone for you
Your first question when picking which phones to shortlist should be: Apple or Android? iPhones are excellent, but deciding against any kind of Android phone means limiting your choice significantly. Generally, if you want the latest and greatest hardware, you're better off with a recent Android phone, whereas iPhones prioritise well-optimised features that work seamlessly with user-friendly software.
It's also important to keep the size of the phones you're looking at in mind. Many phones are above 6 inches in size these days, which suits most people but if you want something more compact, you'll need to search more thoroughly for the best small phones.
As for key features, the two you'll want to focus on are cameras and battery. With phones having all but replaced the compact digital camera, it's important to have a versatile array of cameras. High megapixel (MP) counts aren't everything though, so take a look through our comparison photo sliders in our reviews to see how all the cameras on a phone perform against a rival phone.
The importance of battery and charging should be obvious: you want your phone to last as long as possible, and ideally power up again quickly. As a general rule, the more milliamp hours (mAh) in a phone's battery, the better. However it's not always accurate — iPhones have some of the smallest batteries of any modern phone, but some still place highly on our best battery life phones list. Again, it's a good idea to check our reviews where we detail how long these phones last doing everyday tasks.
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 a 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.