Update March 18: We've updated this guide with our review of the Moto G7, our new pick for best phone under $300.
The new Galaxy S10 phones add another chapter to the long-running battle between Samsung and Apple for best smartphone. 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.
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 phone to get if you want the very best Android handset. 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. You get dual rear lenses instead of the three camera setup on the other S10s, but the S10e runs on the same top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 processor as its siblings. 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 should turn to the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL. Based on our testing, the Pixel 3 is the best camera phone on the market. Other highlights include AI features like screening robocalls and Android 9 Pie.
Even with the arrival of the 6.4-inch S10 Plus, Samsung's just-a-large Galaxy Note 9 remains the big-screen phone to beat, thanks to the capabilities of its S Pen and a camera boosted by AI-powered enhancements.
If you want to avoid paying top dollar for a phone while still enjoying premium features, the OnePlus 6T is a fantastic value. It offers a speedy in-screen fingerprint reader, an immersive 6.4-inch OLED screen and flagship specs for just $549. If you’re on a tighter budget, check out the Moto G7, which gives you a phone with a colorful display and strong performance from a Snapdragon 632 for $299. (If battery life is important to you, though, hold off until we've had a chance to test the Moto G7 Power to see if it lasts longer on a charge.)
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 our top smartphone choices in multiple categories, along with new and notable phones we're planning on reviewing shortly and the latest rumors about upcoming handsets.
News and Updates (March 2019)
- Recently posted smartphone reviews include the Galaxy S10, the Moto G7 and the Nokia 9 PureView with its five rear camera setup.
- Pixel 3 Lite: Google may be working on a phone called the Pixel 3 Lite, which will presumably be more affordable than the Pixel 3. Rumored specs include a 5.5-inch display and Snapdragon 670 processor. The Lite version of the Pixel would come out prior to this fall's expected release of the Pixel 4.
- OnePlus 7: The OnePlus 7 promises a full-screen design with a pop-up selfie camera and Snapdragon 855 power for hundreds less than the Galaxy S10. Get up to date on all of the latest OnePlus 7 rumors.
- 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.
- 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.
- 5G Phones: Phones that take advantage of the soon-to-launch 5G networking standard are expected in the first half of 2019. See our roundup of all the 5G phones to expect (though you won't need to wait much longer for the 5G Galaxy S10).
Buying options for the best phones of 2019:
The iPhone XS Max is the best smartphone 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 easily 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.
The Pixel 3 is the best camera phone and best pure Android phone we have ever tested, and it’s not because of the hardware. Google has found amazing ways to leverage AI on this 5.5-inch handset, including a Top Shot feature for the camera that automatically picks the best photo and a screen calling feature that uses Google Assistant to transcribe calls as they come in on the fly. The photo quality here is just stunning; you can even get optical zoom results without a second lens. Add in the equally smart and helpful Android Pie OS and an improved OLED screen and you have one heck of a phone.
The OnePlus 6T delivers a couple of key firsts at a great price. It’s the first phone sold in the U.S. with an in-screen fingerprint reader--and it works almost instantly. The 6T is also the first phone from OnePlus sold through a U.S. carrier in T-Mobile. Whether you go that route or buy it unlocked, you’ll be happy with the OnePlus 6T’s strong performance, stunning 6.4-inch OLED display and improved dual cameras. You get great specs for the money: a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for just $549 (£499, €549) or you can upgrade that to 8GB of RAM for just $20 more at $579 (£529, €579).
MORE: OnePlus 6T Full Review
The iPhone XR costs $250 less than the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9, and yet this phone 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-screen 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 latest entry to Motorola's G Series of budget phones delivers a much-improved 6.2-inch LCD screen and better performance than you might expect from a less expensive handset. The Moto G7 also runs Android 9 Pie out of the box, with Motorola making few changes to the stock Android interface. The few tweaks that are there, like custom gesture controls, are welcome additions. Budget phones often require some trade-offs for a lower price, and the G7's battery life is nothing to write home about. But if you don't want to spend more than $300 on a phone, this is the model to get.
MORE: Moto G7 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 a superior phone. 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
For those serious about gaming, the Asus ROG Phone is tailor-made for you. This beast packs a gorgeous 6-inch OLED display, a Snapdragon 845 processor with four cores that run at overclocked speeds and 8GB or RAM. In addition to impressive performance, the ROG Phone sports a head-turning design with a logo that can glow 16.8 million colors. Other highlights include a vapor cooling system and even an included active cooling attachment with its own fans. Add in a bunch of accessory options and you have the best gaming phone yet.
With the iPhone SE gone from Apple's iPhone lineup, the iPhone 7 takes its place as the best smartphone 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 $250.
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.