It’s spring and while new phones aren’t coming out in droves like they typically do this time of year, there is still an ever-increasing number of sleek and powerful handsets to choose from.
For the first time in almost a decade, lifestyle phones have made a comeback thanks to phones like the Moto Razr and Galaxy Z Flip which combine an old-school flip phone design with new-school flexible display technology. However, with both starting at between $1,400 and $1,500, you’re paying a huge premium for a fancy design, as both phones lack some of the performance and features you’d find on a normal flagship device.
Alternatively, Samsung’s new S20 family has something for everyone, including 5G support, 3x zooms (or a 10x lossless zoom on the S20 Ultra) and spectacular 120Hz displays. And in the new few months, we’re expecting a number of enticing phones to go on sale including a number of high-end flagship phones and a bunch of budget and mid-range options as well.
Buying forecast for spring and summer 2020: Samsung got out to an early start when the Galaxy S20 went on sale in early March. Yet over the next few months we’re expecting to see even more competitors hit the scene including the OnePlus 8, Huawei P40, Moto G Power (and Moto G Stylus), Pixel 4a, and maybe even a new mid-range iPhone. So if you’re not interested in a Galaxy S20 right now, sit back and wait for more alternatives to go on sale in the next few months.
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Our Pick: Samsung Galaxy S20+ ($1,200+)
If you’re looking for a high-end phone with class-leading performance and specs, the Galaxy S20+ has to be your top candidate right now. Not only does the S20+ have one of the best-looking displays in the industry, its screen features a 120Hz refresh rate which makes everything from games to simply scrolling through Instagram look smooth and fluid. And as a bonus for people who hate curved screens, the S20 family’s displays are flatter than the S10's so there’s less distortion around the edges of the display.
The S20+ also comes with a massive 12GB of RAM which makes it easier to keep multiple apps running in the background, while also sporting a 3x zoom camera in back. But critically, unlike the standard S20, the S20+ has slightly better battery life and supports all three flavors of 5G used today, which makes it more future proof than the regular S20. The only thing the more expensive S20 Ultra really has over the S20+ is its 10x zoom camera, which is nice to have, but it’ll cost you considering the S20+ starts at $1,200, while the S20 Ultra starts a $1,400.
Also consider: Google Pixel 4 ($800+)
There’s a lot to like about the new Pixel 4 including a fully revamped design, the addition of a 2x telephoto lens, 3D facial recognition tech, and a nifty new gesture recognition system. And thanks to software tweaks and a new 90Hz screen, stock Android feels smoother and faster than ever before.
The main things holding the Pixel 4 back from earning our top spot is its lack of an ultra-wide angle camera (which you get on every other flagship phone from 2019) and just average battery life. However, if you don’t mind big screens, the Pixel 4 XL offers an extra two hours of battery life compared to the standard model, which should help alleviate anxiety about running out of juice.
Our pick: Pixel 3a and 3a XL ($400+)
Even though it starts at just $400, the Pixel 3a might be the best phone Google has ever made. It has all the great features we loved on the standard Pixel 3, including a colorful OLED screen, rear-mounted fingerprint reader, and, most importantly, the same excellent camera experience, but for half the money. The only big thing it’s missing is wireless charging. But in return, the Pixel 3a comes with a built-in headphone jack. If all you want from a phone is a nice screen, excellent performance, excellent battery life, and a top-notch camera, then the Pixel 3a is exactly what you need, and one of the best smartphone values available today.
Also consider: OnePlus 7T ($600)
While its price sits on the high side of the mid-range bracket, for anyone looking for a phone with better specs and performance than the Pixel 3a, the OnePlus 7T is it. Like the OnePlus 7 Pro, the OP7T has a gorgeous 90Hz display that makes even simple things like scrolling through your app drawer a treat for your eyes.
Meanwhile, on the inside, the OP7T features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ chip, which offers almost double the performance of the Pixel 3a, two extra rear cameras (a 2x telephoto and 117-degree ultra wide), and a big 3,800 mAh battery that delivers more than 14 hours of continuous use. And unlike a lot of other big-name Android phone makers, OnePlus consistently delivers some of the most timely OS updates. Just know that while the OP7T is only available in stores from T-Mobile, unlocked versions also work on both AT&T and Verizon.
Our pick: Samsung Galaxy A50 ($350)
By streamlining and revamping its affordable phones, Samsung has managed to dethrone Moto’s G-Series line with the Galaxy A50 as the best new budget phone. Not only does the A50 come with a bigger and better looking 6.4-inch OLED display, but it also has slightly faster performance and three extra hours of battery life (12 hours 18 minutes) compared to the Moto G7 (9:29). And while both have dual rear cameras, the Galaxy A50's pics routinely come out sharper with more pleasing colors. So while the Galaxy A50 costs a bit more than the Moto G7, if you can swing it, that extra $50 is totally worth it.
While the G7 might not sit at the top of our budget phone rankings anymore, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth some serious consideration. For 2019, Motorola doubled the phone’s base storage to 64GB, while still providing a microSD card slot in case you need even more room. Meanwhile, the G7 features a large 6.2-inch screen, headphone jack, and two rear cameras with support for fancy camera tricks like portrait mode, selective color, an even a special cinemagraph tool. And with support for all the major U.S. cell networks, there’s no need to worry about the Moto G7's carrier compatibility. Oh, and it’s $50 cheaper than the Galaxy A50 too.
Our Pick: Galaxy Note 10+ ($1,100+)
Boasting three cameras in back, a built-in stylus, improvements to DeX mode, better battery life, and an even bigger 6.8-inch display, the Note 10+ is still the closest thing to a true everything phone on the market. Samsung also shrunk the size of the Note 10's punch-hole selfie cam and moved it to the middle, so that’s it less distracting, while also adding the ability to convert handwritten notes to text, which can then be exported to Word docs or PDF files.
Samsung upgraded the speed of the Note 10+’s wired and wireless charging (though you will need new accessories to take full advantage of those capabilities.) And for anyone who thinks a 6.8-inch phone sounds a bit unwieldy, there’s now an even smaller Note 10 with a 6.3-inch display. We just wish Samsung hadn’t axed the Note 10's headphone jack.
With a starting price of $700, the iPhone 11 actually costs $50 less than the iPhone XR when it launched last year. However, despite its lower starting price, the iPhone 11 comes with a second ultra-wide camera in the back, an all-new night mode for capturing low-light photos, a new A13 processor, and even slightly better battery life. Apple has also improved some of the best things about its previous-gen phones, like making Face ID unlock faster and adding better water-resistance (up to two meters for 30 minutes). Unless you’re a smartphone photography fanatic, the iPhone 11 is the best iPhone for pretty much everyone.
Also consider: iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max ($1,000+)
Aside from a new OLED display with an excellent peak brightness of 1,200 nits, the iPhone 11 Pro’s upgrades are all about photography. For 2019, Apple has given the iPhone 11 Pro a new triple rear camera module featuring 12-MP wide, ultra-wide, and 2x telephoto lenses, along with support for things like 4K/60 FPS video capture, an audio zoom feature, two new studio lighting modes, and more. And as a small nod to the phone’s “Pro” moniker, Apple is even including an 18-watt power adapter in the box, so unlike the standard iPhone 11, you don’t need to buy any extra accessories to take advantage of Apple’s fast wired charging.
It’s been almost exactly a year since the first 5G network went live in the U.S. back in March 2019, and since then coverage has expanded greatly to include a large number of cities, metro areas, and suburban locations. However, picking a single 5G phone for most people is still quite challenging, as you have to consider a lot of different variables such as where someone lives or works (5G speeds and availability varies greatly depending on carrier), how often someone typically upgrades their phone (every year, every other year, or more), and how much you’re willing to spend (currently, the least expensive 5G phone available in the U.S. starts at $840).
If you’re the type of person that upgrades their phone every year, you can safely buy a 4G-only phone now, because while the extra speed you get from 5G is nice, you won’t be missing out on any special features or capabilities. It’s a similar situation if you upgrade every other, as app makers and service providers are still figuring out ways to really take advantage of what 5G can do.
But if you’re planning on buying a new phone now and holding onto it for three years or more, you’ll probably want to grab a 5G now phone, or even hold off on upgrading until closer to the end of 2020 or early 2021. And if you do get a 5G phone, you’ll want to make sure you get one that can handle the three main types of 5G used today (sub-6Ghz, 2.5Ghz, and mmWave). The Samsung Galaxy S20+ (but not the regular S20) and LG V60 are both good choices.
3/31/20: Removed the LG G8X and Galaxy S10, added the Galaxy S20 as the best phone overall and updated the section regarding 5G phones.
11/18/19: Added the Pixel 4 to our best overall phone recommendations and the G8X Dual Screen to the best super premium list.
10/8/19: Updated the list for fall 2019 with new picks for the Best Mid-Range, Budget, and iPhone sections. Also updated and renamed the Hyper Phone category to Super Premium Phone, and added a section discussing 5G phones.
5/17/19: Revamped the list to reflect all the big Spring 2019 phone releases. Replaced the Pixel 3 with the OnePlus 7 Pro as the second-best phone overall. Awarded Pixel 3a “Best Mid-Range Phone” and moved the OnePlus 6T to second choice. Replaced the Moto G6 with the Moto G7 as “Best Budget Phone” and also updated the Best Hyper Phone with the Huawei P30 Pro.
3/11/19: Added the Samsung Galaxy S10 as the best phone overall. Moved the Pixel 3 to “Also Consider.”