Prices for flagship phones are higher than they’ve ever been, and they’re unlikely to ever fall again. Exceptionally high-end phones, such as the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G, now cost well over $1,000, or roughly the same as a nice laptop. However, as the price ceiling rises, gadgets in the $600 to $800 range have become even more competent. In reality, the $829 Apple iPhone 13 is our vote for finest overall phone, while two of Google’s Pixel phones mentioned here are more midrange than full-fledged flagships.
If you’re on a tight budget, you may obtain a great smartphone for under $500 or even less. Check out our budget smartphone buying guide for more suggestions.
It’s also feasible to keep your phone for longer than ever before, thanks to device manufacturers’ increased software support and slower upgrade cycles. In general, all of the gadgets on our list have excellent cameras, attractive screens, long battery life, and are fast enough to keep up with your daily routine. Choosing the best phone comes down to personal preference. Find the one that best meets your needs, and you’ll have many years of use before it’s time to buy for a new phone.
Apple iPhone 13
Apple iPhone 13
The $829 iPhone 13 (unlocked) is the sweet spot between pricing, pocketability, and capabilities among Apple’s four iPhone 13 versions released in 2021.
It boasts a new processor, a larger battery, 128GB of internal storage, and the same huge camera sensor as the celebrated iPhone 12 Pro Max, but you’d never guess because of its small size.
In truth, the 13 resembles the 12 in appearance but is slightly thicker and heavier, with significantly larger camera bumps and lenses that have been swapped. (No, you won’t be able to use the case from your iPhone 12 on the 13.) Aside from that, it features the same general design, a brighter 6.1-inch OLED display, the same 12-megapixel selfie camera, MagSafe wireless charging, IP68 water and dust resistance, and support for both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G networks. Furthermore, it is available in five colors (including pink), which is one more than the Pro models.
The new A15 Bionic chip in the iPhone 13 is distinct in that it should feel fast for years to come, but it’s difficult to measure major speed increases with iPhones. The new technology allows the iPhone 13 to run more efficiently, allowing it to go late into the evening without needing to be recharged.
The iPhone 13‘s main wide-angle camera has been greatly upgraded, using the same camera technology that made the iPhone 12 Pro Max the finest smartphone camera for images and films in 2020. Photo details are clear and accurate, colors are vibrant without being oversaturated, focusing is quick and consistent, portrait mode is suitable for everyday usage, and low light and night vision are also excellent. The ultrawide camera, on the other hand, has only received minor improvements to improve low-light performance.
The video quality is likewise excellent. Sensor stabilization is available on the main camera, which is useful when wandering about. It can handle all of the 4K and slow-mo settings that are important, and it does it flawlessly. It even allows you to shoot videos in Cinematic mode, which allows you to switch focus between subjects fluidly by modifying the depth of field.
The iPhone 13 comes with 128GB of storage as standard. Because the phone’s storage isn’t expandable, you may want to bite the bullet and upgrade to the next tier, depending on how you’ll be using it.
For most users, the iPhone 13 is a no-brainer: it has comparable performance, design, camera functionality, and (in some cases) longer battery life than other iPhone 13 versions while costing less.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus (128GB)
Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus (128GB)
In the United States, we have a wide range of affordable phones to select from, but high-end Android phones are becoming increasingly scarce. Thankfully, the options we do have are excellent, making the Google Pixel 6 a tight call for our pick. Nonetheless, we believe that the Galaxy S22 Plus is the finest device for the majority of users.
The S22 Plus has a large, bright 6.6-inch screen with 120Hz refresh rate, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 as the Android flagship chipset of choice for 2022, and three high-quality rear cameras. You won’t receive the Ultra’s 10x telephoto or built-in S Pen, but you will get a larger screen than the 6.1-inch ordinary S22. It’s a nice compromise with the ideal combination of functionality and size for most users.
SAMSUNG’S POLICY OF PROVIDING OS UPGRADES FOR UP TO FOUR GENERATIONS IS ONE OF THE BEST.
While the screen and general performance are superb, the battery life of the S22 Plus is a tad short. The 4,500mAh battery will last a whole day for light users, but moderate and heavy users that stream a lot of video will likely run the battery down to single digits by the end of the day. On a $999 phone, having to keep an eye on your battery usage is a little annoying. If battery life is crucial to you, the Google Pixel 6 outperforms the competition.
Samsung’s software, which is more cluttered and contains more duplicate apps than we’d like, is still our least favorite feature of a Samsung phone. The OnePlus 10 Pro is a good choice if you want something a little more stylish. Just keep in mind that it isn’t compatible with AT&T’s 5G network (just LTE), and its cameras aren’t as good as Samsung’s. Otherwise, it’s a lovely device that has a more sophisticated feel to it.
Aside from the battery and software issues, the S22 Plus has a lot to offer. Samsung’s policy of delivering up to four generations of OS upgrades is one of the finest among Android phones. Its simple, modest design appeals to a wider audience than the Pixel 6, which isn’t significantly larger but appears and feels thicker. It may be one of the only truly high-end Android phones available in the United States right now, but don’t let that deceive you into believing it’s a winner solely because it’s a good device.
APPLE IPHONE 13 PRO AND IPHONE 13 PRO MAX
APPLE IPHONE 13 PRO AND IPHONE 13 PRO MAX
This year, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max both have the same top-of-the-line camera technology, making them our top option for images and movies. This time, you don’t need to get the most expensive and largest model to receive the greatest camera system; either of the Pro models provides the same experience.
Apple’s picture processing combines the three back cameras — regular wide, ultrawide, and telephoto — to generate breathtaking images, especially in low light. If photo and video quality are the most important factors to you when purchasing a phone, the 13 Pro is the phone for you.
In comparison to previous models, the 13 Pro has a physically larger camera sensor, which allows the main 12-megapixel camera to capture more light and create higher-quality photographs, especially in low-light situations. Thanks to its enhanced tight focus feature, its ultrawide camera can capture outstanding macro images. Furthermore, the 3x optical zoom
THIS TIME, YOU DON’T NEED TO BUY THE MOST EXPENSIVE AND LARGE MODEL TO GET THE BEST CAMERA SYSTEM.
The telephoto lens’ zoom makes for excellent portrait photography. Because of the bigger sensor and sensor-based stabilization, the videos are stable and stunning even in low light. On the iPhone 13 Pro, you can also capture and edit videos in ProRes (as long as you have a 256GB or higher storage model).
We recommend the $899 Google Pixel 6 Pro to anyone looking for the greatest Android camera system available, especially if a telephoto lens is required. In a video comparison, we compared the cameras of the Pixel 6 Pro with the iPhone 13 Pro, and the results are quite evenly split. While the Pixel 6 Pro’s video skills lag behind the iPhone, it excels in still photography, and its telephoto camera outperforms the iPhone 13 Pro’s.
Apple iPhone 13 Pro
Google Pixel 6 Pro
APPLE IPHONE 13 MINI
APPLE IPHONE 13 MINI
There’s only one reason to buy an iPhone 13 Mini, but it’s a good one: if you want a phone that’s simpler to hold in one hand or slip into a small pocket. The iPhone 13 Mini is one of the few compact phones on the market with top-tier features and specifications; you won’t have to sacrifice performance, build quality, or cameras with this one.
Despite being much smaller than the other iPhones released this year, the Mini’s 5.4-inch screen is still large enough for text messaging, email, web surfing, applications, video, and gaming, and it will feel very expansive if you’re coming from an iPhone 6 / 7 / 8. However, it’s small enough that most adults, including those with little hands, will be able to reach the entire screen with their thumb. This one won’t require a PopSocket.
A SMALLER PHONE COMES WITH ONE IMPORTANT CONTRARY: THE IPHONE 13 MINI HAS A SMALLER BATTERY.
One significant disadvantage of a smaller phone is that the iPhone 13 Mini has a lesser battery, which will likely not last a power user all day. It’s basically intended for someone who isn’t always on their phone. The Mini, on the other hand, is identical to the iPhone 13 in terms of design, processor, cameras, 5G compatibility, and build quality. It’s simply smaller and less expensive, at around $100 less.
The Asus Zenfone 8 is a wonderful option if you prefer Android. It has a 5.9-inch screen and isn’t compatible with Verizon, but it’s otherwise a pretty similar proposition: amazing build quality, top-notch processing, and high-end features like a 120Hz screen all bundled into a pocket-friendly smartphone.
Asus Zenfone 8
SAMSUNG GALAXY S22 ULTRA
SAMSUNG GALAXY S22 ULTRA
In Samsung’s Galaxy series, the “Ultra” name no longer just means you’re getting the biggest phone; it now means you’re getting the biggest phone plus everything but the kitchen sink. The S22 Ultra features five cameras, a large, bright 6.8-inch OLED with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, and a built-in stylus. It’s essentially the successor to the Note series’ stylus-centric design, but it also feels like the pinnacle of slab-style smartphone development. It’s also expensive at $1200.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU is at the heart of the S22 Ultra, which is combined with 8 or 12GB of RAM. Performance is good, as expected; even when playing graphics-intensive games, the phone rarely stutters or hesitates. Samsung also promises up to four generations of OS updates, ensuring that the Ultra remains a great phone for years to come.
The integrated S Pen stylus emerges from a dedicated silo on the phone’s bottom, and Samsung claims it has lower latency than prior years’ S Pens. It’s difficult to assess a few milliseconds of improvement, but it’s undoubtedly responsive and intuitive. Handwriting-to-text recognition options and rather gimmicky “Air Actions” that turn the stylus into a magic wand / remote control combo are among the stylus’ capabilities. You can also scribble notes as much as you want. You have an option.
FOR YEARS TO COME, THE ULTRA SHOULD BE A GREAT PHONE.
The cameras are virtually the same as those on the S21 Ultra, with a few software enhancements. Photos taken in portrait mode have a more realistic subject isolation, and you can now use night mode with either high-resolution or portrait mode. But the main line is that the S21 Ultra’s strong camera system, which includes a 10x telephoto lens that’s about the greatest you’ll find on any smartphone, is still just as good here.
The S22 Ultra‘s battery life is a little lacking with so many power-hungry features. With a bit in the tank, it should last a day of moderate use, but power users should keep an eye on the battery % and top off the 5,000mAh cell at the end of the day. However, the fast 45W wired charging makes this a quick task.
Look no farther than the S22 Ultra if you know the stylus life is for you and you’d utilize a 10x zoom on a regular basis rather than just once or twice as a curiosity. Its unique features are niche, albeit powerful, which is why it isn’t our top pick for the best general Android phone. However, if you want a phone that can do almost anything, this is the phone for you.
GOOGLE PIXEL 6
GOOGLE PIXEL 6
For $599, the Pixel 6 is a lot of phone. The Pixel 6 is Google’s first true flagship phone since 2019, and it matches the camera quality, general performance, and battery life of the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Thanks to a new, proprietary CPU, you’ll also receive some unique Google functions. When you consider that the Pixel 6 costs $200 less than its competitors, it’s the most value-packed flagship phone in recent memory for Android aficionados. OnePlus, I apologize.
The Pixel 6 differs from the Pixel 6 Pro in that it has a little smaller 6.4-inch 1080p OLED flat display and stronger color options, such as two-tone red or green (black is also an option). The Pixel 6 is not overly thick for such a large phone, but it still feels hefty. However, because its shiny exterior is quite slippery, you’ll need to pay for a third-party case (don’t bother with the Google ones; they’re not worth the money).
Tensor, Google’s first own mobile processor, lies at the heart of the Pixel 6, matching the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 microprocessor seen in other Android flagships. Tensor enables the new Pixel to learn new tricks using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
Take IT’S SIMPLY THE MOST VALUE PACKED FLAGSHIP PHONE FOR ANDROID FANS THIS YEAR,
using the Magic Eraser to eliminate photo-bombers from your images. Use Google Assistant to handle automated calls for you, as well as images that better depict genuine skin tones. The Pixel 6 comes with 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of internal storage, and Android 12 with Google’s new Material You theming.
Dual cameras, 50-megapixel wide and 12-megapixel ultrawide cameras, as well as a laser detection autofocus sensor for low-light and depth, are housed within its large rear camera bar. The Pixel 6 does not have a telephoto camera, unlike the Pixel 6 Pro. Nonetheless, its photographs are excellent in both normal and low light, and it is competitive with Apple’s best.
The Pixel 6 boasts a 4,614mAh battery (which should last two days for light users), Qi wireless charging, and some weather protection (IP68). The phone’s primary flaw is a slow under-screen fingerprint scanner, and it lacks a face unlock feature. The Pixel 6 is an all-around superb phone for $599, despite its flaws.
SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FLIP 3
SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FLIP 3
Are you tired of smartphones that keep getting bigger and heavier when all you want is fresh ways to utilize them? Samsung’s third attempt at a flip phone appears to strike the proper blend of whimsy, technical prowess, and pricing to appeal to mainstream users.
This 4.2-inch pocketable device can be transformed into a 6.7-inch 1080p OLED display with a fast 120Hz refresh rate for $999. The screen can also be split into two parts for multitasking. When the phone is closed, the 1.9-inch outer second screen displays useful widgets such as app notifications and music player controls without requiring you to open the phone.
FLIP 3 HITS AT THE PERFECT PRICE AND STYLE POINT TO MAINSTREAM THE FLIP PHONE IDEA.
The Snapdragon 888 chipset and 8GB of RAM in the Galaxy Flip 3 are identical to those in any other flagship phone introduced in 2021. The battery life is likewise good, with four to five hours of screen time between charges.
It’s a shame its two cameras were not upgraded from the previous model. The 12-megapixel normal wide and ultrawide back cameras, as well as the 10-megapixel front-facing selfie camera, provide acceptable but not outstanding images. The Z Flip 3‘s physical factor allows it to double as a mobile tripod for the cameras, allowing for some unique photo opportunities.
Unlike the $1,400 Motorola Razr (2020), the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is priced and designed to bring the concept of a flip phone into the masses. It’s difficult to predict how long this folding screen will last, but you’ll be among the first to find out.
Not everyone requires a high-end flagship phone, and even a low-cost handset may be enjoyable to use these days. The $250 TCL 20S will defy your assumptions for what a budget should look and feel like if your budget is under $300 and you’re looking for the best bang for your buck.
The TCL brand is known for its affordable smart TVs, and the TCL 20S‘s vivid, 6.67-inch 1080p screen is no exception. The rear of the 20S is covered in a layer of fingerprint-resistant “micron-sized prismatic crystals,” which gives it a faint shine. It contains a rapid fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button, as well as face unlock as an added security feature.
THE VIBRANT, 6.67-INCH 1080P SCREEN ON THE TCL 20S IS A STANDOUT DUE TO ITS SCREEN EXPERTISE.
While the camera system on the 20S isn’t particularly impressive, its 64-megapixel main camera and 15-megapixel front camera are both capable to taking detailed photos in bright light — just don’t use them for night or macro photography.
The 20S offers no perceptible lag in speed for a cheap phone, thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor and 4GB of RAM. It comes with 128GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm audio input, and a 5,000mAh battery that lasts for about two days without needing to be recharged by default.
The TCL 20S demonstrates that a $250 budget can get you a nice phone with little compromises. It just hits all of the essentials that anyone looking for a phone should look for: decent performance, a good screen, and long battery life at a reasonable price.
GOOGLE PIXEL 5A
GOOGLE PIXEL 5A
The Google Pixel 5A is like the b-side of an album’s hidden track: people in the know enjoy it, but most casual Android users aren’t aware it exists. Because carriers don’t carry the Pixel 5A, it’s only available from Google’s web store, but it’s worth the effort to buy this $450 5G phone.
The Pixel 5A improves on the discontinued Pixel 5 in several ways: the screen is now 6.3 inches, the battery is significantly larger at 4,680mAh, and it has dust and water resistance (IP67). Aside from that, it has the same camera sensor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G engine, 6GB RAM, and 5G connection (sub-6GHz 5G).
THE GOOGLE PIXEL 5A IS LIKE THE B-SIDE OF AN ALBUM’S HIDDEN TRACK.
The Pixel 5A‘s biggest selling point, like its predecessors, is its camera, which can compete with flagships costing $1,000 or more. That’s because Google handles much of the picture processing in software, and the sensor hardware is a few years old. It means the Pixel 5A is capable of night photography, astrophotography, and a decent portrait mode. It can’t compete with the iPhone SE in video, but it always wins in photographs.
One of the advantages of owning a Pixel is that it will be the first to receive Android updates. The 5A will receive three years of OS and security updates from Google. It already has Android 12 installed, and it will be one of the first models to receive the next release.
SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FOLD 3
SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FOLD 3
If you’ve been waiting for the foldable phone market to grow before investing in one, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 could be the year you do it. (In this early two-device contest, Microsoft’s dual-screen Surface Duo 2 is a distant second to the Fold 3.)
Samsung’s Fold 3 is the company’s third folding phone. Its fundamental idea is that it is the size of a slim smartphone that fits in your pocket, but when you open it up, you’ll find a tablet-sized 7.6-inch display within. That inside screen makes everything from reading books to browsing the web to watching videos to playing games more pleasurable and engaging.
THAT FLEXIBILITY IS UNMATCHED BY ANY OTHER PHONE YOU CAN BUY RIGHT NOW
When you’re finished with it, simply fold it up and put it in your pocket like any other phone. It also contains a 6.2-inch screen on the cover with a resolution of 2268 x 832, which you may utilize for brief chores when you don’t have time or room to unfold the main screen.
That flexibility is unequaled by any other phone on the market right now, but it comes with a long list of trade-offs. When compared to typical phones, the Fold 3 is twice as thick when closed, all of its cameras are subpar, and its 4,400mAh battery is too little to power so many screens. The Fold 3 is water resistant (IPX8), however the durability of its foldable screen and hinge is unknown.
The Fold 3’s main flaw is its price: it’s about twice as pricey as other high-end phones. You’re still paying a premium for the ability to fold a tablet screen in half at $1,800. The Fold 3 delivers if you’re ready to make those sacrifices in exchange for an experience unlike any other.