The new Galaxy S10 phones add another chapter to the long-running battle between Samsung and Apple for best phone. And though we're very impressed with what we've seen from the S10 so far, Apple retains its edge over the competition with the iPhone XS Max.
With a 6.5-inch OLED screen crammed into a phone that's not much larger than the iPhone 8 Plus, the XS Max commands a staggering $1,099, but in return you get improved cameras and a processor that blows away many its rivals.
However, if you want a big screen and don't want to pay a premium, the $749 iPhone XR is a great option for most people. You get a big 6.1-inch display, the same great camera and processor and lots of fun color options. And it lasts longer on a charge than the iPhone XS Max, but you don't get an OLED display or 2x optical zoom. Learn more at our iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XR face-off, about how these phones differ in key ways, such as battery life.
As for Samsung's latest phones, the Galaxy S10 Plus benefits from a powerful processor, much-improved camera and the best battery life you'll find in a current flagship phone. It's the best Android phone right now. If you'd like a smaller phone, the Galaxy S10e offers a more compact 5.8-inch screen and a lower starting price than the other S10 models. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S10 is nearly as good as the S10 Plus and $100 less expensive; the phone doesn't last as long on a charge, though, and its front camera isn't as good as the dual lens setup on the S10 Plus.
Android purists have a new option for a phone that doesn't mess with Google's mobile OS, and it's a lot cheaper than it was before. The Pixel 3a gives you Google's great camera and the most up-to-date version of Android in a phone that costs $400 less than the Pixel 3. That makes Google's new phone one of the best available for under $400.
If you’re on an even tighter budget, check out the Moto G7 Power, which is our best cheap phone. It gives you more than 15 hours of battery for $250. As for flagship phones, the best value comes from the $669 OnePlus 7 Pro, which boasts triple cameras, a terrific display and the best performance among Android devices.
The Pixel 3 had been our choice for best camera phone, and while it still takes great shots, the Huawei P30 Pro bested Google's phone when we pitted them against one another in a photo face-off. Huawei's phone is tough to find in the U.S., but it's the best option if you want the very best camera available.
Tom's Guide reviews dozens of new smartphones, and we evaluate them in our lab and in the real world based on design, features, performance, camera quality and battery life. Check out the best phones in multiple categories, along with news on new phones coming later in 2019 that we're looking forward to.
News and Updates (May 2019)
- Samsung's new Galaxy A70S is the world's first phone with a 64-MP camera. See how it works.
- The Galaxy S10 5G is now available for Verizon Wireless, and we have seen speeds exceed 1 Gbps.
- Check out our review of the OnePlus 7 Pro.
- iPhone 2019: iPhone rumors have already started circulating about what Apple has planned for its next models. One secret weapon could be advanced 3D cameras. Apple is also expected to offer bigger batteries in the iPhone 11 as well as reverse wireless charging and fast charging.
- Motorola Razr 2019: The next Motorola Razr is expected to sport a foldable clamshell design that's more compact than the Galaxy Fold with mid-range specs.
- Galaxy Note 10: Samsung's big-screen phone will likely appear in two versions this fall — the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Pro — with the latter model offering a larger screen. Samsung could also release 5G versions of the Note in late summer/early fall.
Buying options for the best phones of 2019:
The iPhone XS Max is the best phone money can buy. Granted, $1,099 is a lot of money, but for that price you’re getting a ginormous and gorgeous 6.5-inch OLED display, much improved cameras (especially in low light) and the fastest processor ever in a phone. The regular iPhone XS has all of the same upgrades, but we prefer the Max for its larger canvas for watching video, split-screen view within certain apps and longer battery life. If you’re going to splurge on a phone to own for the next 2 to 3 years, this is it.
Samsung marks the tenth anniversary of its Galaxy S lineup with some noteworthy innovations. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor lives under Galaxy S10 Plus' 6.4-inch display, letting you quickly unlock the device, and the phone's Wireless PowerShare feature lets you charge other devices wirelessly. But the S10 Plus also does a superlative job with more standard features, such as its 12.5-hour battery life. The Snapdragon 855 chipset powering Samsung's phone delivers the best performance we've seen yet on an Android device and even approaches the iPhone's pace-setting A12 Bionic processor. The three rear cameras on the S10 Plus also produce some stellar photos that give the Pixel 3's camera a run for its money. Get the Galaxy S10 Plus if you want the best total Android experience.
Huawei's P30 Pro stands out from other camera phones by offering four rear lenses — a 40-megapixel wide-angle camera that's backed up by ultra wide and telephoto lenses plus a time-of-flight sensor. We're particularly impressed by the telephoto lens, which, thanks to the periscope design employed by Huawei, offers a 5x optical zoom for capturing detailed images from far away. The P30 Pro beat out another leading camera phone, Google's Pixel 3, in our camera face-off, thanks to the adept way it handles low-light imaging. The Pixel 3 is easier to get a hold of in the U.S., but if you can find the P30 Pro, it's the best at capturing photos.
If you want premium features without the corresponding $1,000 price tags that many flagship phones now command, OnePlus has been the brand to turn to. That continues with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Even though this new model has the highest starting price OnePlus has ever charged, it offers great features in return, starting with an expansive 6.67-inch display with a 90 Hz refresh rate and a Snapdragon 855 processor supplemented by up to 12GB RAM. The OnePlus 7 Pro's three rear cameras take the best photos we've ever seen from a OnePlus phone, and the selfie cam only pops up when you need it, freeing up more screen space. Even at $669, the OnePlus 7 Pro still costs much less than comparable rivals from Samsung, Apple and Google.
Imagine all the great things about Google's Pixel flagship phones — the AI-powered camera and the pure Android experience — but in a device that costs $400 less. That's what you get with the Pixel 3a, a $399 phone that makes a few compromises in the form of a less powerful processor and less polished materials. But the camera on the 3a is exactly the same as the one on the $799 Pixel 3, so you'll see the same great shots in low light and very impressive portrait effects driven by computational photography. 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.
MORE: Pixel 3a Full Review
The iPhone XR costs $250 less than the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9, and yet this best phone pick delivers pretty much everything you’d want from a big-screen flagship. That includes a bright and colorful 6.1-inch LCD display, the fastest processor you can get in a phone (A12 Bionic) and great camera quality. No, you don’t get dual rear shooters for 2X optical zoom, 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. That beats most flagship phones.
MORE: iPhone XR Full Review
With the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung has joined the iPhone X in the pricey $1,000 phone club. But this handset is worth the premium if you want the best big phone around. The 6.4-inch display is gorgeous, and you get a new AI-assisted cameras for automatically recognizing various scenes to get the best photo. Other highlights include a Bluetooth-enabled S Pen, which makes it easy to remotely control the phone for shooting selfies, changing music tracks and more. Add in more than 11 hours of battery life, and the Note 9 is worth the splurge for power users.
The $249 Moto G7 Power might technically be the middle child of Motorola's midrange offerings for 2019, but its actually the one we'd choose for one very good reason. Armed with a 5,000-mAh battery, the G7 Power lasted an astonishing 15 hours and 35 minutes in Tom's Guide's battery test, where we have phones cycle through webpages endlessly over LTE. That's nearly twice as long as what the $299 Moto G7 managed. And even though you do give up some RAM, storage and a second rear camera with the less-expensive G7 Power, you still get a pure Android software experience, a vibrant (if slightly low-res) 6.2-inch display and support for all U.S. networks. There's simply no better deal for a smartphone under $250 today.
MORE: Moto G7 Power Review
Smartphone screen sizes have been creeping upward. But 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. And with a starting price of $749, you don't have to pay up for the privilege of carrying around the smaller-sized phone you prefer.
MORE: Galaxy S10e Review
With the iPhone SE gone from Apple's iPhone lineup, the iPhone 7 takes its place as the best phone you can hand over to your kids. At $449, it's now the cheapest iPhone Apple has to offer. And while you're getting 2016's A10 Fusion chip, only 32GB of storage and a 4.7-inch LCD screen, you're not making too many other trade-offs. The iPhone 7 has IP67 dust- and water-resistance, meaning a splash of water won't wreck your kid's phone. Access to Apple's App Store means your kids can download a great array of games and social networking apps, while the phone's support for iOS 12 puts you in control of just when they can use those apps.
MORE: iPhone 7 Full Review
What Smartphones Cost
The best premium phones like the Galaxy S10, Pixel 3 and iPhone X cost anywhere from $700 to as much as $1,000. However, there are great values with flagship-level specs under $500. On a budget? You can get a very good Android phone for less than $300.
How We Rate Phones
We rate smartphones using a combination of subjective criteria (including design and ease of use); our own benchmarks (e.g., our battery, audio and display tests; and synthetic benchmarks (Geekbench 4 for speed, 3DMark for graphics). We also do real-world speed tests (such as video editing) and take photos in different lighting conditions to compare the results.
After we've conducted all of our testing, we rate each device based on its features, performance and overall value. Only the top-performing devices make our Best list.