It's practically impossible to make a wrong choice when shopping for a new smartphone these days. Pretty much every product you buy will deliver stellar performance and a full day of battery life between charges.
But of course, the best phones will differ depending on what features are most important to you — be it a vibrant display, a great camera, a waterproof body, a long-lasting battery, a built-in stylus, or top-notch audio hardware. That’s why we researched and tested today’s best smartphones worth buying.
Best iPhone: Apple iPhone 12
Best Android Phone: Samsung Galaxy S21 5G Android Smartphone
Best Budget Smartphone: OnePlus Nord N10 5G Android Smartphone
Best Big Android: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Android Smartphone
Best Small Phone: iPhone 12 mini
Best Android Experience: Google Pixel 5 Android Smartphone
Best Audio: Sony Xperia 1 II Android Smartphone
How We Picked
By using it for at least a week as a daily driver, we scrutinized every smartphone on the above list in-depth. We evaluated the products' design and ergonomics, as well as their performance and battery life, among other bits. For our top picks, we chose phones that, in addition to offering top-tier hardware features, have an agreeable price tag that's well below $1,000.
Save for one niche offering, all smartphones we selected have futureproof 5G network connectivity. The new technology brings significantly faster network speeds, as well as countless other benefits over the older 4G LTE standard.
Find one of your life’s favorite and most used objects below.
Note: Most phones on this list are carrier-unlocked variants, which allows you to take it with you if you ever switch carriers. Even more importantly, when it comes to Android phones, it also means that you don't have to deal with annoying and performance-reducing carrier bloatware.
Apple’s A14 Bionic chip is the most powerful out there
The Pro models have a more luxurious build and better camera setup
MagSafe brings an exciting new collection of convenient accessories
Apple’s iPhone 12 is the best for most buyers. Sleek design and tough build? It has them. The most powerful chip in the business and 5G? You bet they’re on board. An excellent dual camera, a captivating Super Retina OLED display flanked by stereo speakers, and stellar battery life? Check, check, and check.
Powered by iOS 14, the iPhone 12 has a platform that’s as futureproof as its hardware. The device’s dual camera is superb and intuitive to use, too. It can capture beautiful photos, as well as 4K video at 60 frames per second. Thanks to an available Night Mode, the iPhone 12 can also snap shareable photos in almost complete darkness.
If budget permits, consider the pricier iPhone 12 Pro instead. It has a similar design and specs, but an even more luxurious build, a beefier camera, and more storage (128GB) in an entry-level guise.
Best Android Phone
The Galaxy S21 has a powerful chip and a superb display
Its triple camera with 8K video recording is excellent
It is considerably more affordable than its predecessor
The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G is the best Android phone for most consumers. It has everything you’d want from a top-shelf phone: a sleek and durable design, a fantastic display, abundant power, dependable battery life, and a sophisticated camera setup, all at an agreeable price.
Samsung’s own Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, in addition to being sharp and vibrant, has a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. As a result, every interaction with the S21 is smooth and enjoyable.
The triple camera of the Galaxy S21 has a high-resolution telephoto sensor and impressive zoom capabilities. They allow the phone to snap photos with a 30X zoom range — enough to capture objects way down the block. The device’s 8K video-recording capabilities are also remarkable. The clips are detail-rich, thanks to four times as many pixels as 4K video.
If you are looking for an excellent Android phone with a bigger screen, consider the Samsung Galaxy S21+ instead. It has similar specs, but a larger 6.7-inch display and a larger battery. Both phones have Qualcomm’s range-topping chipset, more RAM than many laptop and desktop computers, high-quality stereo speakers, and a fully waterproof build.
Best Budget Smartphone
The Nord N10 5G offers top-shelf features for less
It has fast wired charging, but no wireless charging capabilities
The phone lacks an official rating for water resistance
You may not expect much from a smartphone priced below $300, but the OnePlus Nord N10 5G will amaze you. It has everything you’d want from a great Android phone: a modern design, a big screen with thin bezels and high refresh rate, robust performance, 5G, long battery life, expandable memory, a solid camera, as well as stereo speakers and a standard audio jack.
The device’s 6.5-inch display is sharp and perfect for gaming and watching video. We were also impressed by its midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset, which has enough oomph to make quick work of any task.
The versatile quadruple camera of the OnePlus Nord N10 5G has a 64MP main sensor, an 8MP ultra wide snapper, a 2MP unit for capturing macro photos from an impossibly close distance, and a 2MP monochrome sensor. Its 16MP selfie camera is solid, too.
Even avid power users can expect more than a day of use before needing a power outlet or a battery pack. The phone is bundled with a rapid charger — you can expect a full charge in about an hour, or many hours’ worth of use in matter of 10-15 minutes.
Best Big Android
Samsung’s best big-screen smartphone yet
The most versatile camera in the business
The first Galaxy S phone with S Pen stylus support
Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is hands-down the best big-screen Android phone today. Compared to the Galaxy S21, it has a larger and sharper 6.8-inch AMOLED display, a mightier camera, a bigger 5,000 mAh battery, and a higher price tag. The Ultra also rocks a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus back panel that’s more luxurious than the Galaxy S21’s plastic cover.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra's quadruple camera has class-leading, glorious zoom capabilities. It has a duo of optical zoom lenses with 3X and 10X magnification, as well as the magical ability to snap photos with 100X Space Zoom. The phone’s 108MP main sensor, on the other hand, has the highest resolution in the business.
Support for the S Pen stylus — a signature Galaxy Note feature — arrived to the Galaxy S lineup alongside the S21 Ultra. The optional accessory makes the phone great for productivity and creativity tasks. However, you’ll need a dedicated case to store it.
Best Small Phone
Everything we love about the iPhone 12 in a more compact form factor
The most affordable member of the iPhone 12 product family
The iPhone 12 mini has slightly shorter battery life than its larger siblings
The iPhone 12 mini is unquestionably the best small phone available today. Unlike any top-shelf smartphone, the mini's compact body makes it easy to use with one hand — with or without a protective case on.
As its name suggests, the iPhone 12 mini is a smaller variant of the iPhone 12 with the same design and build. When it comes to specs, save for a 5.4-inch Super Retina display (the smallest iPhone OLED panel yet) and a battery with lower capacity, the phones are identical. That means you'll get the same outstanding iPhone performance, but in a smaller body.
Best of all, the mini’s $699 starting price tag makes it the most affordable iPhone 12 iteration. A model with 128GB of storage will cost you only $50 extra. You can order the product in black, white, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED.
Best Android Experience
The most up-to-date Android experience, free of any bloatware
The Pixel 5 has a capable dual camera, but it lacks a zoom lens
Its water-resistant housing is made using 100% recycled aluminum
Google’s own Pixel 5 delivers the best Android user experience in a smartphone today. The phone always runs the latest and most advanced iteration of the platform, free of any bloatware.
Also, the phone is always going to be among the first to get new Android features and critical security updates. Plus, Google will support its creations with updates for at least 3 years — longer than any competitor.
The Pixel 5 also has an elegant design, a waterproof metal build, a crisp OLED display with a high refresh rate, and a superb dual camera. Support for reverse wireless charging is another noteworthy feature that’s available on a Pixel phone for the first time. The product’s Snapdragon 765 chip, while not the most powerful, is still plenty capable.
We really like the good ol’ fingerprint sensor on the back of the Pixel 5. It’s more reliable than some of its rivals’ under-display sensor, and with face masks being part of our daily routine, the fingerprint sensor is more convenient than Apple’s Face ID.
The only high-end smartphone with an audio jack
The Xperia 1 II has the sharpest display in its class
Its camera interface has features that photography enthusiasts will love
If you're an audiophile, you need the Sony Xperia 1 II. The Android phone is packed with cool features, headlined by a standard audio jack — a notably missing feature in its rivals. It can play high-fidelity content without a loss in quality, as well as make compressed audio sound better via an AI-powered upscaling engine.
The 4K OLED display of the Xperia 1 II is a marvel to behold, and the sharpest in its class. The stereo speakers are also impressive, and you can sync the device’s vibrations with the sound to make gaming and watching video on the phone more immersive.
Created in tandem with the gurus that make Sony’s Alpha mirrorless cameras, the triple snapper of the Xperia 1 II has fast focus and great image quality. The phone also has a hardware shutter button.
From a performance perspective, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset allows the phone to conquer any task you throw at it. Its battery life is excellent, too. We only wish it had 5G connectivity.
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