The 9 Best Smartphones of 2021

Android or iOS, we've got the best of both

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Finding the best smartphone often comes down to one decision- do you want Apple's iPhone, or a smartphone running Google's Android software. The iPhone is easier to use, while Android phones are often cheaper, and come in a huge range of sizes and styles.

If you want an iPhone, our experts think most people should just buy the iPhone 13. For Android fans, just buy the Samsung Galaxy S21.

Budget is a huge consideration as well, and both iOS and Android have offerings that can fit your budget. Maybe you want the cream of the crop in a flagship. Maybe you're looking for something more moderately priced. Most, but not all phones can connect to 5G. Most, but not all phones in this list have multiple camera sensors. Our experts have examined offerings up and down the list of specifications and we've come up with our favorites. Read on for our recommendations!

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Apple iPhone 13 at Apple
The iPhone 13 is simply the best smartphone out there
The flagship for the Samsung Galaxy series of phones, and indeed for most of Android itself, is the Samsung Galaxy S21.
If you're someone who values the ability to zoom in from far away - this is simply the best camera setup you can get on a phone.
Basically if you want a powerful Apple phone and a fingerprint sensor in a very small package, this is best phone that meets all those criteria.
Best Value (Android):
Google Pixel 4a at Amazon
If you love pure Android and you're working with a budget, snap this up fast.
OnePlus has graduated from flagship killer to actually being a flagship.
The "fan edition" of the phone cut back on some of the flash of the Galaxy S20, while still retaining the fundamentals.
Best small smartphone:
Apple iPhone 13 mini at Apple
If you want a reliable camera that you can whip out of your pocket and grab a good snap every time, this is your phone.

Best Overall: Apple iPhone 13

Apple iPhone 13
What We Like
  • Up to 30 hour battery life

  • Fast charging

  • Amazing cameras

What We Don't Like
  • No included power brick

  • Poor sound quality at high volume

  • No expandable storage

The iPhone 13 is Apple's latest, and most definitely greatest, iPhone. There are four models to choose from, the smaller iPhone 13 mini, the 'base' iPhone 13 we review here, and the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, which feature a larger screen and better cameras.

Our tester Victoria spent a month using the iPhone 13, racking up 520 hours of use. She concluded the iPhone 13 is "the best way to get Apple’s most advanced hardware and software improvements without having to sacrifice too much on price, size or design."

The iPhone 13 feels sturdy and luxurious, Victoria said, and its 6.1inch display is is coated in a type of glass known as Ceramic Shield, which Apple claims offers four times the protection of rival smartphone glass. The display is sharp and bright from all angles, although for the ultimate in streaming performance, the iPhone 13 Pro does boast a bigger and better screen. However, for most people the iPhone 13 will be more than enough, and is also far lighter than its big brother, weighing in at 6.1 ounces.

In our real-world tests, the iPhone 13 lasted an impressive 29 hours on a single charge. During this test, we used the iPhone 13 as we would do normally for a month; we used it to send WhatsApp messages, play Sim City, make video calls with our parents, send emails, record videos on days out with our toddler, watch TikTok, stream Netflix shows and more. We then recorded how long it lasted between charges each day and took the average.

On paper, the camera setup on the iPhone 13 looks nearly identical to the iPhone 12 but Apple has made a number of software and sensor upgrades that make this camera among the best our tester has used.

Overall, the iPhone 13 is the sweet spot of the iPhone range, and is not only the best phone Apple has ever made, but the best smartphone from any manufacturer.

Screen Size: 6.1 inches | Resolution: 2532x1170 | Processor: A15 Bionic | Camera: 12MP/12MP rear and 12MP front | Battery: 3,227mAh

"Colors on the iPhone 13’s display look vibrant and realistic, particularly when the phone is on the highest brightness setting, and this makes it great for playing games and watching HD video." — Victoria Woollaston, Product Tester

Best overall: Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21
What We Like
  • Screen is gorgeous

  • Powerful

  • Cameras are great

What We Don't Like
  • Just OK battery life

  • No MicroSD

  • Plastic backplate

The flagship for the Samsung Galaxy series of phones, and indeed for most of Android itself, is the Samsung Galaxy S21. The Galaxy S21 comes in three different versions - the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21 Plus, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. We'll discuss the Galaxy Ultra later, which leaves us with the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus. They're both very similar with the Plus version carrying a larger screen, larger battery, and larger price tag. Most of what we'll say about the Galaxy S21 rings true for the S21 Plus, so if you like what you see here but want something a bit bigger, the S21 Plus (View on Amazon) is your pick.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 comes with a 6.2-inch FHD+ screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. It has great viewing angles and is what our reviewer Andrew calls "utterly gorgeous". It's bright and vibrant, everything you'd expect from a Samsung display. The processor is top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, boasting a 9% speed improvement over the last generation of Samsung phones. The S21 also has 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage which is not expandable via a microSD card.

The S21 has three cameras including a 12-megapixel main sensor, 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor, and 64 megapixel 3x lossless zoom lens. Andrew writes, "All three of the cameras pump out sharp, stellar shots. They are very adept at capturing excellent detail in ample lighting, but still capable of producing very good low-light results in most scenarios. Samsung has a tendency to punch up its photos, and that’s definitely true here: the vibrant results sometimes make photos look more appealing, but can occasionally look a bit unnatural or over-brightened." Put all that together and this isn't just the best Android phone you can buy today, but it's arguably the best smartphone overall.

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 64MP/12MP/12MP rear and 10MP front | Battery: 4,000mAh

“It’s a speedy handset that feels super responsive with all demands, from apps and games to media and multitasking, and the smooth 120Hz display only aids in that swift sensation." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Camera: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
What We Like
  • Unparalleled camera

  • Huge, 120Hz screen

  • Blazing performance

  • Excellent battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • No charger in the box

  • No microSD

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra really earns its name by being the absolute top of the class in every way, but especially in photography. In addition to the 108MP main camera, and 12 MP ultrawide, this phone carries dual optical zoom sensors at 3X and 10X. The photos you can get with this phone are simply incredible. If you're someone who values the ability to zoom in from far away - parents, travel bloggers, astrophotographers, this is simply the best camera setup you can get on a phone.

As for the rest of the phone, you get the top of the line in every respect. You'll get the Snapdragon 888, 12GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage. Add to that you get a 5,000 mAh battery, 6.8-inch screen with a WQHD resolution, and 120Hz variable refresh rate. Of course, all that means is the phone is huge and fills up every inch of your pants pocket.

The phone is also very pricey with a $1,199 MSRP. Adding insult to injury, this phone ships without a charging brick. That's upsetting when you're buying a $799 iPhone, but it's borderline criminal at $1,199. But if you want the very best camera on the very best phone, that comes at a premium to be sure. This phone earns the name Ultra in every possible way.

Screen Size: 6.8 inches | Resolution: 3200x1440 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 108MP/10MP/10MP/12MP rear and 40MP front | Battery: 5,000mAh

“It might make the camera module look absurdly large, but the added 10x zoom option is incredibly cool.”Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Value: Apple iPhone SE (2020)

THe iPhone SE is our pick for best value iOS.
What We Like
  • Great performance

  • Inexpensive

  • Good camera

  • Small, compact

What We Don't Like
  • Battery life is weak

  • Design is dated

  • No 5G

In early 2020, Apple wanted to offer most of what made the iPhone 11 great, but at a substantially lower price. The iPhone SE (2020) was the result. This little phone comes in a compact package but still carries the A13 bionic processor. From a benchmark perspective, the A13 beats out even 2021 flagship phones like the Galaxy S21. The iPhone SE also has the same RAM and storage options, but it's all behind a diminutive 4.7-inch screen and Touch-ID enabled home button. The phone has a single 12MP camera which is about as good as a single camera can be on a phone.

The phone mimic's the iPhone 6 in terms of design, so some consider it dated. But the iPhone SE is more for people who want a powerful phone, but don't want to carry a phone which is big enough to land small planes. Apple did leave out 5G connectivity and indeed wouldn't debut a 5G iPhone for another 6 months after the iPhone SE came out. The battery life is also not great on this phone. The battery compromise that had to be made to get the phone this small also means the phone has trouble getting through a day. Bu the phone does offer wireless charging which is another nice bonus. 

Basically, if you want a powerful Apple phone and a fingerprint in a very small package, this is the best phone that meets all those criteria.

Screen Size: 4.7 inches | Resolution: 1334x750 | Processor: A13 Bionic | Camera: 12MP rear and 7MP front | Battery: 1,821mAh

Best Value (Android): Google Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a is our pick for best value Android.
What We Like
  • Solid camera

  • Great performance

  • Good battery

What We Don't Like
  • 5G missing

  • Boring design

Pixel phones are phones that are made by Google, which also makes Android. One area where Google Pixel phones have consistently stood out is in photography. Google uses the Pixel as a showcase for what Android can be. Add to that, Google typically treats its own phones to perks like feature drops and updates earlier than just about any other Android phone. The A-series of Pixels tend to have a little less power and be a little less pretty, but otherwise, give you an amazing Android experience.

The Google Pixel 4a delivers a quality Android experience, powered by the Snapdragon 730G mid-range processor along with 6GB of RAM. Those specifications aren't awesome on their own, but Android runs very smoothly on them and delivers a great experience, along with all-day battery life. The phone has a single camera that our reviewer Andrew describes as "so consistent that I’d take it over the multi-camera modules of much more expensive phones with underwhelming cameras."

If you're looking for a beautiful phone, look elsewhere. This phone is very plain looking. Plus, the Pixel 4a leaves off 5G. Google has another phone, the Pixel 4a 5G (View on Amazon) which can access 5G networks, as its name implies, but that's not the one we're recommending here. For now, the Pixel 4a sits under $350 and it's one of the best phones you can buy at that price point. If you love pure Android and you're working with a budget, snap this up fast.

Screen Size: 5.8 inches | Resolution: 1080 x 23400 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G | Camera: 12.2MP/12.2 rear and 8MP front | Battery: 3,140mAH

"The Pixel 4a is the best phone you can buy for less than $400, delivering enough power and capabilities for just about anyone." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Design: OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro
What We Like
  • Very good camera

  • 5G

  • Charges crazy fast

  • QHD display with 120Hz refresh rate

What We Don't Like
  • Slippery

  • 5G not supported on all networks

OnePlus began its journey into the smartphone space as the "flagship killer" by promoting phones with really great specifications for a very low price. These days, OnePlus has graduated from flagship killer to actually being a flagship. OnePlus's latest offering, the OnePlus 9 Pro, is the best phone OnePlus has ever made and it shows in many ways. OnePlus's latest flagship brings high specifications, very good cameras, and 5G on two of America's three 5G networks. AT&T doesn't support the OnePlus 9Pro on its 5G network, but Verizon and T-Mobile do.

OnePlus has had a reputation up until now of delivering great specs, but with consistently substandard cameras. That's no longer the case as the OnePlus 9 Pro delivers a very good camera experience as well. The phone has a triple camera setup including a 3.3x optical zoom. All of the cameras are tuned by Hasselblad which gives you good performance in most lighting conditions.

One area where the OnePlus 9 particularly excels is in the area of charging. OnePlus not only ships a charging brick in the box but that charging brick delivers an astonishing 65W of charging, bringing your phone from zero to full in just 33 minutes. A wireless charger sold separately can charge your phone from 1% to 70% in just 30 minutes. These amazing charge times can save your day if you need to top off quickly before heading out for the evening, or if you forget to plug in your phone overnight and need some juice before heading to work.

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Resolution: 3216x1440 | Processor: Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 48MP/8MP/50MP/2MP rear and 16MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

"The OnePlus 9 Pro (and the OnePlus 9) benefit from the new flagship camera system in partnership with Hasselblad, a big step up over the OnePlus 8 series." Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best 5G: Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
What We Like
  • 120Hz screen

  • Great cameras

  • Speedy performance

  • Great battery

  • 5G

What We Don't Like
  • No mmWave 5G

  • Plastic build

  • Only 1080p

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is something of a compromise and course correction all in one. The "fan edition" of the Galaxy S20 cuts back on a lot of the extras of its flagship siblings while still providing an excellent core of functionality. You get a 1080p screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. The phone has a plastic back, but it still has wireless charging. In short, if you're willing to accept a little compromise, you're otherwise getting a whole lot of phone.

You still get the Snapdragon 865 processor, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and 128 or 256GB of storage. You get 5G, but not mmWave 5G. Overall, this is a speedy phone with a really good battery life. Andrew, our reviewer, wrote, "On a standard day, I’d typically wind up within spitting distance of a 50 percent charge by the time I hit the pillow."

As for the camera setup, you get the same cameras found on the Samsung Galaxy S20 except instead of a cropped 64GB cropped sensor, you get a 3x optical zoom. According to Andrew, "Everyday snaps are pretty excellent across the board, with strong detail and vivid coloring, although Samsung’s aggressive processing can give photos an unrealistic sheen at times."

Screen Size: 6.5 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 | Camera: 12MP/8MP/12MP rear and 32MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

"With the same nearly-top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor found in the other Galaxy S20 models, you’ll have no shortage of power on hand in the S20 FE 5G." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best small smartphone: Apple iPhone 13 mini

Apple iPhone 13 mini
What We Like
  • Compact

  • Very powerful

  • Great display

  • Great cameras

What We Don't Like
  • No power brick

The iPhone 13 mini has everything the iPhone 13 has but comes in a smaller package with a smaller battery.

On the plus side, this makes this one of the most powerful compact phones you can buy. You get the powerful A15 bionic processor and great cameras, plus 5G connectivity. But the trade-off is that the battery is tiny by most modern standards and it can struggle to make it through a full day on a single charge. iOS usually runs well on a smaller battery, but in the case of the iPhone 12 Mini, the battery might be a little too small.

Of course, if you don't mind charging up a bit during the day, or while you're at work, that's not a problem at all. The iPhone 13 Mini has flagship power in a tiny package that slips easily into your pocket or your bag.

Screen Size: 5.4 inches | Resolution: 2340x1080 | Processor: A15 Bionic | Camera: 12MP/12MP rear and12MP front | Battery: 2,227mAh

"This is the fastest chip available in any smartphone today by clear margins, expanding the lead that Apple has gradually grown with each new edition of its mobile system-on-a-chip in recent years."Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Google: Google Pixel 5a 5G

What We Like
  • Amazing cameras

  • 5G

  • Great battery life

What We Don't Like
  • 60Hz refresh rate

  • Cheap plastic build

Google built its Pixel phones to showcase the best of Android, at least according to Google. The Google Pixel 5a is a sort of combination of last year's Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. Put those phones together and you get the Pixel 5a, which is the best Google experience you can buy at the moment, at least until the Pixel 6 comes out this fall. After that, the Pixel 5a will still be a great budget option, with 5G which places it more of a premium than the Pixel 4a above. 

In his review of the Pixel 5, our reviewer Andrew wrote, "The Pixel 5 feels plenty responsive across the board...It’s not surprising, since even the less-powerful Pixel 3a models were pretty swift; Google has done a great job of optimizing its Android OS for the hardware." The Pixel 5a runs the same version of Android on the same processor and it's just as smooth. What's more, the Pixel 5a comes in at $250 less than the Pixel 5, with only some small compromises. Gone is the 90Hz refresh rate, in favor of an increasingly less common 60Hz. Plus, the polycarbonate body of the Pixel 5a won't win any awards, and like the Pixel 4a, it only comes in black.

The Pixel 5a uses the exact same camera setup as the Pixel 5, about which Andrew wrote, "between a 12-megapixel wide-angle and 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera on the back, you’ll consistently take great shots with minimal effort. The results typically are more natural-looking than you’ll see from Samsung’s flagship cameras, for example, which tend to provide an overly vibrant look that not everyone will be fond of. From nature to faces, pets, and places, the Pixel 5 is well-equipped to take sharp, detailed snaps in nearly any scenario." The camera on this phone is really good, though a bit dated. But if you want a reliable camera that you can whip out of your pocket and grab a good snap every time, this is your phone.

Screen Size: 6.34 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G | Camera: 12.2MP/16MP rear and 8MP front | Battery: 4,680mAh

“I recorded a maximum download speed of 1.6Gbps on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. That’s the fastest speed I’ve seen anywhere on anything.” Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Overall the pick for best overall comes down to a preference. If you like Android, then the Samsung Galaxy S21 is our choice, otherwise, it's the iPhone 13. We give the overall nod to the iPhone because Apple's iOs is simpler to use for most people. It's fast, smooth, and has a great camera. However, you really can't go wrong with either of these choices.

FAQ
  • Which smartphone has the best camera?

    Top-tier smartphones all come with excellent cameras and usually feature multiple rear sensors. You typically get a primary sensor for regular shots, an ultrawide sensor for wide-angle shots, a depth sensor for bokeh, and a telephoto sensor for zoomed shots. This is true of top phones from Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, Google, and others. The Google Pixel lineup is particularly well known for its great software augmentation, allowing for improved low-light shots and post-processing. Both the latest iPhone and Samsung flagships have a great hardware array and AI-enhanced shooting. Take a look at our list of the best smartphone cameras for more details.

  • What is the best Android smartphone for overseas?

    The Android phone market is extensive, with options ranging from the premium end to ultra-budget devices. In terms of pure hardware, the latest flagship from Samsung is typically the best Android phone on the market, though it does have plenty of rivals especially overseas where you'll see great options from Xiaomi, Realme, and even Huawei.

  • What is the best budget smartphone?

    Just because you're on a tight budget doesn't mean you have to settle for less. There are plenty of mid-range and budget options available. While they won't have the latest and greatest processor, you can get plenty of new features like the edge-to-edge design, a sleek build, multiple rear cameras, and even 5G support. Samsung offers phones at many price points, while Nokia has a variety of mid-range options packaged in a stylish design. Motorola and LG both have great workhorses that come with a stylus or offer bigger batteries.

What to look for in a smartphone

The humble telephone has come a long way over the years. Gone are the days when the phone was simply a way to call people. These days, smartphones are the hub of our digital lives, serving as a way to communicate with people, surf the Web, play games, pay bills, stay organized, and more.

When shopping for a smartphone, there are many factors to consider. First, you'll have to figure out which operating system you want that smartphone to run. And you’ll also want to consider other factors, including the amount of storage, screen size, battery life, and camera quality, to name a few. And so, because a smartphone is one of our most important possessions, it can sometimes be tough to pick out the right one. That, however, is why we’ve put together this guide—to help you find the perfect smartphone for your needs.

So if you decided you want a smartphone, you'll have to then consider which operating system you want to use. The operating system on a smartphone plays the same role as an operating system on a computer. It’s basically the software that you interact with on a daily basis. On an iPhone, the operating system is iOS, while on an Android phone, it’s Android. There are a few advantages and disadvantages to each operating system, which we’ll go over below.

Android

Interested in an Android operating system? Android is the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, and for a number of reasons. For starters, unlike Apple, which only allows for iOS to be used on its iPhones, Google licenses out Android to other companies. That’s why the likes of Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and Google itself all use the Android operating system.

Smartphone
 Lifewire / Claire Cohen

If you’re a tried-and-true Google user, then Android is usually better at working with those apps and services. We’re not just talking about the Google search engine here—other operating systems make good use of that, too. Instead, we’re talking about the Google Play Music streaming service, Google Drive cloud storage, other Google devices like the Google Home smart speaker, and more. Now more than ever, choosing a smartphone operating system is about choosing an ecosystem, and if you go for an Android phone, it might be helpful to either already use Google’s services, or be willing to switch.

In the end, there are a few main reasons to go for an Android phone. They can be a little cheaper, they work better with Google’s apps and services, and they’re a little smarter.

iOS

Apple’s iOS may not be used by as many people around the world, but in the U.S. it’s actually the dominant smartphone operating system. There are plenty of reasons to go for an iPhone—the phone that runs iOS—over an Android device. The main ones, however, are that it’s built by Apple, and as such it’s both super easy to use, ultra-stylish, and plays nice with other Apple devices.

If you want a simple user interface, better Apple integration, and a phone that performs better for longer, then a phone with iOS is probably the way to go.

Other Features to look for

The operating system isn’t the only thing to consider when buying a smartphone, though if you’ve figured out which operating system you want, then you’ve done a lot of the work. You’ll also want to think about the hardware (processor, RAM, etc.) under the hood, the camera, screen size, battery capacity, and more. Only a few of these things are an issue when buying an iPhone (there are only a few iPhone models each year to choose from). But if you’re buying an Android phone, these things might all be something to consider.

Processor

The processor is essentially the brain of a computer, or in this case, a phone. More powerful processors basically mean that your phone can “think” faster, meaning tasks are completed quicker, multitasking is zippier, and your phone will perform well for longer. Longevity is important here: A phone with a sub-par processor might be perfectly fine at handling the apps of today, but that may not be true of the apps being released in two years.

There are a few companies developing processors for smartphones. Apple develops its own processors in-house, but the likes of Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, and more, all develop processors for Android phones. In the U.S., Qualcomm chips are most common, and in 2018, the flagship Qualcomm chip is the Snapdragon 845. The higher the number here, the better.

If you want more powerful processors, you’ll want processors with multiple “cores.” Traditional processors can only perform one task at a time, but a dual-core processor can process two, and a quad-core processor can process four.

Storage

Storage is perhaps the most important thing for most people to consider. The more storage you have on your phone, the more files, apps, photos, video, etc., that you can keep on there at a time. These days, it’s a little easier to get by with less storage if you use cloud storage like Apple Photos or Google Drive, but some things simply can’t work without being stored on your phone. We recommend getting a phone with at least 16GB of storage (for light users), though 32GB is going to be much better, and 64GB or more should be enough for heavy users.

Some phones also allow for external storage, usually through a MicroSD card slot. With this slot, you can buy a small card about the size of a SIM card, which can be used to store files on. MicroSD cards start at a low price for low-capacity ones and range up from there.

Camera

There are a few things that make a great camera, but the most important is the software behind it. Two phones with identical camera specs can yield vastly different results, so, unfortunately, it’s near impossible to shop for a phone with a great camera by only looking at specs on paper.

RAM

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is another form of storage, but instead of using it to save files, its used by your system to save things that it might want to pull up quickly. Most commonly, open apps are saved in RAM so that when you close them and open them again, they can show up on the screen without having to completely load again.

Generally speaking, more RAM is better when buying a smartphone, but phones with more RAM also often cost more. For a mid-range phone, you’ll probably find phones in the 2GB of RAM range, but for most users, a device with 3GB or more is recommended.

Display Type

When it comes to phones, a screen isn’t just a screen. There are a few different types of displays, and they’re not all created equal.

The most common type of display type in mid-range and low-end phones is the LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display. LCDs are inexpensive to produce, which is why they’re used so often, but the trade-off is that they’re not the best at conserving battery life and they generally don’t produce the deepest blacks or brightest colors. There are two types of LCD’s though: TFT-LCDs, which are cheaper and the worst at color reproduction, and IPS-LCDs, which are a little better at color reproduction and wider viewing angles.

These days, high-end phones are doing away with LCDs in favor of OLED displays. Because OLED displays light up individual pixels rather than the display as a whole, it saves on battery life. On top of that, when black shows up on the screen, OLED displays simply don’t light it, meaning that blacks look deeper, and contrast ratios are higher. You might see “Super AMOLED” displays out there, which is basically Samsung branding for its OLED displays.

You’ll probably only notice the difference between LCD and OLED displays if you have a truly sharp eye, although you might find the battery improvements that come with OLED displays to be worth the extra cash.

Screen Size

Phone display sizes have gotten a whole lot bigger over the years, and that might be important to you. Smaller displays come in at four inches, while larger displays can range up to seven inches.

Biometric Authentication

Gone are the days when you had to enter a PIN code to access your phone. These days, most smartphones have a fingerprint sensor built into them, ensuring you can get into your device quickly and easily, and at the touch of a sensor. Some higher-end phones also have other forms of biometric authentication, like iris scanning or facial recognition.

Many consider fingerprint sensing to be the easiest way to authenticate, especially depending on its placement. While some phones mount a fingerprint sensor on the front of the device, others have a sensor on the back, making it easy to quickly scan your fingerprint as you take your device out of your pocket.

These days, some phones also have facial recognition, which is both safer, and sometimes easier to use. All you have to do to authenticate yourself with facial recognition is look at your phone, which does present some difficulty if your phone is on your desk, for example.

We recommend a phone with at least a fingerprint scanner, though any other methods of authentication can be useful, too.

Battery Capacity

Not all batteries are the same size, and a smaller battery can have a serious impact on how long your phone lasts on a single charge. Battery capacity is measured in milliampere-hours, or mAh—where a higher number represents a larger capacity. Of course, it’s not always as simple as “larger batteries make your phone last longer.” A phone with a larger battery but an equally high-resolution display and power-hungry processor may not last as long as a phone with a smaller battery, lower-resolution display, and less intense processor.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington has been testing and reviewing smartphones and smartphone accessories for over a decade, and has used every smartphone and mobile platform from the early Palm, Symbian, and Windows CE days to the modern era of Apple iPhones and the entire gamut of Android-based phones from the Google Nexus One to the latest Samsung devices.

Andrew Hayward has been covering the latest tech since back in 2006 for a number of major media publications. His top specialty is smartphone and mobile accessories, meaning he was the perfect choice to review a big chunk of the phones on this roundup.

Ajay Kumar is a tech editor at Lifewire who's been covering mobile phones and consumer electronics for nearly a decade. He's been published in PCMag where he's reviewed hundreds of phones, tablets, and other devices. He's personally used several of the phones on this list.

Yoona Wagener has been writing for Lifewire since 2019, covering a wide range of consumer tech including phones, laptops, smart home devices, and more.

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

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