- What’s the best smartphone? This list focuses primarily on high-end flagship devices, but the best flagship smartphones don’t have to be the most expensive.
- Value plays a huge role in this list, and there’s a couple mid-range device here that are well worth considering for more budget-minded buyers – one of them is ranked at No. 2!
- In fact, the top three phones in this list aren’t the top flagship models everyone expects from Apple or Samsung.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It would be easiest to rank smartphones based purely on specs and the number of features each offers, but that would mean the most expensive smartphones would always rank in the top three – and they’re not the first phones I’d usually recommend.
One of the biggest factors for me when ranking and recommending a phone is its value in relation to its specs and features. That typically leads me to recommend phones that may have fewer features or a less sleek design than the ultra-premium models that command four-figure price tags.
Indeed, just because a phone has everything and the kitchen sink doesn’t mean you have to buy it – it’s just an option for those who might have a larger budget. The same logic applies to pretty much anything you can buy: Do you pick the most expensive model of everything you buy? If you don’t, the top three will suit you well. If you always go with the top-of-the-line, then you probably already know the phone you want.
But if you haven’t made up your mind, check out our list of the top 20 smartphones you can buy:
20. LG G8
Unfortunately for LG, the new LG G8 at its $US820 price places it pretty low on this list. It’s comparable to the $US750 Galaxy S10e, but without the sleek design and with little to show for the extra $US70 you’d spend.
Still, it’s a solid device that checks all the right boxes, but doesn’t excel in any particular thing.
You can find the LG G8 for $US700 at Best Buy and B&H Photo, which is what the LG G8 should have been priced at to begin with. I wouldn’t recommend buying it for its full price tag from carriers, however.
Price: Above $US800 from most carriers.
19. Moto G7
Motorola’s Moto G series of smartphones has been our favourite mid-range option ever since they were first released back in 2013, and they have only been getting better every generation. Last year’s Moto G6 was a fantastic device that made me forget I was using a $US250 phone, and not one that cost more $US800.
The new $US300 Moto G7 comes with updated specs, design, and even a few rare, out-of-style features that many smartphone users still value.
18. Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are now more than 2 years old, but for $US450 and $US570, respectively, they’re still worthy of your attention.
Apple phones generally offer better apps and a better user experience than their Android counterparts, and the iPhone 7 is no different. The support you get from Apple if something goes wrong is superior to what you get from Android device makers. And unlike on most Android phones, with iPhones you can always get the latest software updates straight from Apple as soon as it releases them.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus offer some compelling features, including water-resistance, great cameras that perform well in low light, and powerful processors. The phones also work well with other Apple products, including the company’s wireless headphones, AirPods.
The iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens camera system takes pictures with a professional-looking “bokeh” effect, which blurs the background behind your subject. Additionally, the system allows you to zoom in on your subjects; its second camera offers a 2x optical zoom.
Unlike the digital zoom feature found in other cameras, an optical zoom allows you to enlarge an image of your subject without sacrificing picture quality.
iPhone 7 price: $US450
iPhone 7 Plus price: $US570
17. LG V40
The LG V50 was recently announced, but there’s no official release date in the US. If you’re interested in the V40, you might want to wait a little to check out what the V50 has to offer.
The LG V40 was higher up on the list, but since its high price tag hasn’t changed and there are great phones available for significantly less, it’s dropped a few spots.
The LG V40 is a great smartphone with all the usual high-end Android phone features, and it comes with a triple-lens rear camera system that offers users the best versatility in taking photos.
You get a regular wide angle lens, LG’s signature ultra-wide angle lens, and a dedicated optical zoom lens. Meanwhile, phones with dual-lens systems, even LG’s G7, offer you either a zoom lens or an ultra-wide angle lens on top of the regular wide-angle lens that almost all smartphones come with.
The LG V40 is also a top choice for audio enthusiasts that appreciate good sound, as it comes with a higher-quality amplifier inside that makes music sound better through wired headphones.
16. Razer Phone 2
The Razer Phone 2 is marketed as a “gaming” phone, mostly because of its unique display. The Phone can refresh its screen 120 times a second; most phones, by comparison, only refresh their screens 60 times a second. The Phone’s faster refresh rate allows it to offer super smooth gameplay.
The Razer Phone 2’s 120Hz refresh rate doesn’t just make games look good, it affects the entire interface. It works beautifully; everything you do on the phone is ultra smooth in a way never seen before on a smartphone. In fact, Razer may have set the standard for how all phone displays should work – not just those on gaming devices.
But there’s more to the phone than just its screen. It’s also got an eye-catching industrial design that stands out when compared with the sleek and svelte designs of most other Android phones. And Razer added wireless charging, water resistance, and even fancy lighting for its logo on the back for its latest model, too.
The large borders above and below the phone’s screen may look out of step with the borderless designs of other recent phones. But hiding beneath those borders are the loudest and best speakers we’ve heard on any smartphone.
15. iPhone 8
The iPhone 8 comes with the now-antiquated iPhone 6-generation design. But it does have a refined glass-and-metal case, a superb camera, and strong performance. With it, Apple supports both wireless and fast charging – features that Android phones have long offered but had been missing from previous iPhones.
14. Samsung Galaxy S9
The Galaxy S9 is a superb smartphone with almost every feature under the sun. It sports the latest specs, best display, one of the best cameras you can get on a smartphone, a gorgeous design, wireless charging, water resistance, and several other features that make the Galaxy S9 a fool-proof buy.
So why doesn’t it get the top spot on the list? Other smartphones, including its bigger sibling the Galaxy S9 Plus, come with dual-camera systems. On top of that, Samsung’s own version of Android isn’t for everyone.
Price: $US500 (Unlocked)
13. iPhone 8 Plus
The iPhone 8 Plus is well-worth considering if you want the core of the iPhone experience. It might come with an antiquated design, but it comes with the same chip as the iPhone X, and a great dual-lens camera, where one of the lenses is a dedicated optical zoom lens.
iPhone 8 Plus Price: $US700
12. iPhone X
Apple doesn’t sell the iPhone X anymore, but it’s still widely available at carrier stores for $US900.
The iPhone X may run on last year’s A11 chip, but many iPhone X users aren’t noticing much of a difference in performance compared to the iPhone XS with the newer A12 chip. That’s perhaps thanks to iOS 12 and the extra optimization it comes with.
In some respects, it’s actually a better deal than the new iPhone XS, which costs $US100 more for few significant upgrades. But if you’re going to pay $US900 for a smartphone, those who can afford to might as well spend the extra $US100 to get the newer model.
Price: $US900 at most carriers
11. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
The Galaxy S9 Plus is mainly just a bigger version of the regular Galaxy S9, but it has a dual-lens camera system where the secondary lens serves as a 2x optical zoom lens. The Plus model also comes with more RAM than the regular S9, which helps with overall performance speed.
The Galaxy S9 Plus is among my top smartphone picks because it’s a clear example that you don’t need to spend $US1,000 – the price of an iPhone XS – to get a top, premium, full-fat smartphone experience. The Galaxy S9 Plus checks off all the boxes and I’d easily recommend it to anyone looking for a new smartphone.
10. iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
The $US1,000 iPhone XS and $US1,100 iPhone XS Max deliver the best of Apple design, performance, and features. They’re technically the best iPhones you can buy, but their position on this list is decided by their high price tags.
If you’re willing and able to spend a minimum of $US1,000 on a smartphone, then go for it. Otherwise, I think four figures for a smartphone is too much, especially when it doesn’t come with things like a fast charger, or even a USB-C adaptor dongle for your wired headphones.
Both phones have exactly the same features. The main difference is the screen and body size, and that’s up to you whether you prefer smaller or larger phones.
iPhone XS Price: $US1,000
iPhone XS Max Price: $US1,100
9. Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Galaxy Note 9 is among best Android smartphone that Samsung has released. It has a large 6.4 inch display that looks fantastic with Samsung’s technology. And combined with its high-powered specs, it’s a veritable productivity and multitasking machine. I’ve also recently come to appreciate the S Pen stylus for taking notes at the spur of a thought and for keeping me organised, and it gives me more precision for tasks that I’d usually reserve for a computer.
At $US1,000, it’s priced for enthusiasts and power users rather than the casual smartphone user. But if you’re comparing the Galaxy Note 9 to another $US1,000 smartphone – the iPhone XS – it’s a better phone.
8. Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL
The $US800 Pixel 3 and $US900 Pixel 3 XL have the best smartphone cameras in the business, hands down.
They also run Google’s vision of Android, which is clean, well-designed, and receives Android updates the moment Google releases them. That’s something few Android phones can boast.
The new Pixel 3 phones also come with dual-lens selfie cameras – one of the lenses takes regular selfies, and the other takes ultra-wide angle selfies. It’s one of the areas where Google’s Pixel 3 phones outdo Apple’s iPhone XS.
The new Google phones are a little more expensive than I’d like them to be, especially now that new phones from Samsung come with newer specs and cost “only” $US100 more while sporting an ultrawide camera lens, as well as significantly better designs.
The only differences between the two phones is the screen size and front design – the Pixel 3 has a more traditional smartphone design, while the Pixel 3 XL has a notched design. The Pixel 3 XL’s notch is unfortunately the worst on this list, but as with every other notch, you get used to it and forget about it pretty quickly. It would be a shame if you ruled out the Pixel 3 XL just because of the notch.
Pixel 3 Price: $US800
Pixel 3 XL Price: $US900
7. Galaxy S10
The Galaxy S10 is an overhaul in design, performance, and features, all while maintaining the Samsung smartphone formula that makes its phones great.
It’s a fantastic smartphone that comes with more features that those higher up on this list, and I’m especially fond of its ultra-wide camera.
As good as the Galaxy S10 is, it doesn’t pose the best value compared to the Galaxy S10e and other smartphones that come higher on the list.
Galaxy S10 Price: $US900
6. Galaxy S10 Plus
The Galaxy S10 Plus is a larger version of the Galaxy S10, and it all comes down to your preference over bigger or smaller phones.
Galaxy S10 Plus Price: $US1,000
5. iPhone XR
The $US750 iPhone XR is more appealing than its more expensive counterparts, the $US1,000 iPhone XS and $US1,100 iPhone XS Max.
In almost every respect, you’re getting the same experience as the iPhone XS series, save for slightly larger bezels, and a lower-resolution LCD display compared to a superior OLED display, and a dual-lens camera. But, in my mind, all that extra stuff from the iPhone XS series isn’t worth an extra $US250.
At $US750, the iPhone XR is a great value for an iPhone with such a large screen and latest specs. It’s just a shame that there’s no iPhone X-style phone under $US700 for those who like smaller displays.
4. Galaxy S10e
The Galaxy S10e poses the best value in the latest Android or Apple smartphones above the $US700 mark, period.
It runs on the same processor as the Galaxy S10 that starts at $US900, has a brilliant screen, a great camera, an ultrawide camera, a fingerprint sensor that works better than the in-display sensor on the Galaxy S10, and it’s $US150 cheaper than the Galaxy S10.
Anyone who wants a small-screen Android phone, or simply one of the best values in smartphones, should put the Galaxy S10e high up at the top of their list.
3. OnePlus 6T
A new OnePlus device is expected to be announced soon. It might be worth waiting a little while to see what OnePlus comes out with before buying the OnePlus 6T.
The OnePlus 6T doesn’t come with a lot of the features that other phones in this list have, like wireless charging, official water resistance ratings, dedicated zoom or ultra-wide angle lenses, or an ultra-sharp 1440p display. And yet, it earns the top spot on this list.
That’s because it does the things it does so well, like looking good, taking photos, running Android and apps, charging quickly, and lasting a long time on a single battery charge. And it does all those things for a base price tag of $US550 compared to the $US750+ price tags of smartphones above.
I never missed any of the extra features from other, more expensive top smartphones while using the OnePlus 6T. If I were to buy a new smartphone, this would be the one for its excellent design, performance, and value.
The OnePlus 6T is also the first OnePlus phone to be sold by a US carrier – T-Mobile – and it’s also the first OnePlus phone to be compatible with Verizon’s network.
Price at T-Mobile: $US550 for 8 GB RAM 128 GB model
2. Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
What is a phone with a mid-range processor and an antiquated, bezeled design doing at the No. 2 spot?
It turns out the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 spinning the wheels in the Pixel 3a phones is no slouch, and it’s more than enough for the regular smartphone user.
Yes, fine, the Pixel 3a doesn’t have the sleekest design out there, but what you get in the Pixel 3a more than makes up for it.
You get the pure Google Android experience that gets you the latest updates the minute they’re released; you also get the same outrageously good camera from the Google Pixel 3; you get an OLED display, like top flagships have.
You get a headphone jack.
For $US400, it’s hard to beat. If everyone made totally smart, reasonable buying decisions when it comes to smartphones, it’s the phone that everyone should buy. But I know we all like to treat ourselves with something a little more premium when it comes to smartphones. Which brings me to our number one choice…
Pixel 3a price: $US400
Pixel 3a XL price: $US470
1. OnePlus 7 Pro
There’s simply no doubt about it: If you’re not going to get the Pixel 3a because you want a premium design and specs, the $US700 OnePlus 7 Pro is the top phone to get so far.
The OnePlus 7 Pro gets the basics right: It’s gorgeous, it doesn’t have a notch or a cutout, it barely has any bezels, it has the fastest charger on the planet, it has a triple-lens camera system, it’s absurdly fast, and it runs a clean version of Android.
But OnePlus went one step further than almost every other phone maker on this list. It has a super-smooth 90Hz display, and Android and apps run like butter on it.
It does everything I mentioned above for $US700 – that’s $US200 less than the Galaxy S10 and $US300 cheaper than the iPhone XS. It’s even $US50 cheaper than the “cheaper” versions of those premium flagships, the Galaxy S10e and iPhone XR. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s value is simply untouchable.
I should note that the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t have an official water-resistance rating. To that end, OnePlus is confident that the OnePlus 7 Pro can still hold its own against water, it just didn’t get the official “IP” rating.
And if you like wireless charging, the OnePlus 7 Pro might not be the phone for you. But you’d have to ask yourself if wireless charging is worth the extra $US50, $US200, or $US300 you’d be paying for other phones.
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