Modern flagship smartphones are little engineering marvels. And they should be since they start around $800 and can cost well over $1,000. They tend to last upwards of four or five years, so the high cost is a little easier to swallow, but it’s still a major purchase for most of us.
To make sure you get the most for your investment, we’ve picked out the best of the best. The phones highlighted below may be pricey, but they deliver excellent daily performance and great cameras and will keep on running well into the foreseeable future.
If you’re looking to spend a little less and still get the best smartphone on a budget, you can find something really good for under $500. For those recommendations, check out our guide to budget smartphones.
Best iPhone for most people
Screen: 6.1-inch 1170p resolution OLED, 60Hz refresh rate / Processor: A15 Bionic Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.6 main with sensor-shift IS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: not advertised / Charging: wired, 15W wireless MagSafe, 7.5W Qi / Weather-resistance rating: IP68
The iPhone 14 seems like the obvious choice for anyone who needs a new iPhone but doesn’t want to step up to the 14 Pro. But hear me out: the iPhone 13 does almost everything that the 14 does, and it’s $100 cheaper. Sure, if your carrier is offering you a good trade-in offer or dirt-cheap financing for the 14 or you want the (slight) year-over-year upgrades, then go ahead and get that one. It’s great! But if trade-in deal season is over or you’re paying out of pocket, we think the standard iPhone 13 is the better buy; the $799 14’s improvements are so minor that they’re not worth the extra money.
By opting for the 13, you don’t miss out on anything as far as the screen or processor is concerned. The iPhone 13 features a 6.1-inch screen with a standard refresh rate — no smooth-scrolling ProMotion here — as does the 14. There’s an A15 Bionic chipset in both phones, and although the 14’s is a slight upgrade with an extra GPU core, they both deliver excellent performance. They’re both MagSafe compatible for wireless charging and IP68-rated for robust water and dust resistance.
Upgrading to the 14 does get you a slightly better camera system, but the improvements are subtle. The ultrawide and front-facing cameras do better in low light compared to the 13, and the main camera features a bigger sensor that’s able to hold on to detail in dim conditions a little better. But for the most part, you have to go looking for these differences in fine details — most people viewing their images at web- and social-media-friendly sizes won’t see what’s changed.
You’ll miss out on a couple of emergency features, too. The 14 includes a new Crash Detection feature that uses specialized sensors to recognize when a car crash has happened and automatically call emergency services. There’s a satellite-based emergency messaging service, too, for when you’re out of cell range. For a small group of people, these services might be worth upgrading for, but they’re likely things that most of us can do without.
By opting for the 13, you don’t miss out on anything as far as the screen or processor is concerned
From the outside, the iPhone 14 and 13 look almost identical. There are some physical differences to note, though. The first is that you can’t just use an iPhone 13 case on the 14 because the camera bump is a bit bigger. And below the glass and aluminum surface of the iPhone 14, Apple made some changes that enable much easier repairs to the back panel. That means out-of-pocket repairs will likely cost less, and if you’re a DIYer, it’s a much less daunting task to take on yourself.
There are a handful of other interesting new iPhone features this time around, but they’re reserved for the Pro models. If you consider yourself an early adopter or you just want the very best iPhone you can buy right now, it’s worth stepping up to the Pro. But if you’re just looking for a reliable device to get you through your day, take great photos and video, and keep the blue-bubble chat a-flowin’, then the iPhone 13 will serve you just as well as the 14 — for a little less money.
Read our review of the Apple iPhone 13.
Best Android phone for most people
Screen: 6.6-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.8 main with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,700mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
The S23 Plus is a minor update to its predecessor, but the upgrades are good ones. It still has a large 6.6-inch display with a smooth-scrolling 120Hz top refresh rate, and it’s a lovely screen to use — not as high-res as the Google Pixel 7 Pro’s 1440p display, but it’s top-notch. Some tweaks to the display tech and a bigger 4,700mAh battery give the S23 Plus stronger battery performance than its predecessor, so you can get through a full day of heavy use with a little more wiggle room than the outgoing model afforded.
There’s also a new chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. It’s included in all models sold across the globe, and that’s a good thing — it is whip-fast. It handles daily tasks without a problem and heavier tasks like gaming with remarkable ease. Otherwise, there’s a lot that’s familiar about the S23 Plus. It still starts at $999, though the base model now comes with 256GB of built-in storage.
The rear triple-camera system is also recycled from last year’s model, and for the most part, that’s fine. The 50-megapixel main sensor produces punchy, vibrant 12-megapixel photos by default. Portrait mode photos from either the main sensor or 3x telephoto camera are fantastic, with excellent subject isolation. Outside of portrait mode, the 3x camera looks a lot more average. It’s a shorter focal length than the 5x telephoto on the Pixel 7 Pro, so it’s a bit less useful for distant subjects.
Our least favorite part of a Samsung phone is the out-of-box software experience, as it comes with a lot of duplicate apps to replace or accompany Google’s stock apps like Messages, Google Calendar, and Google Assistant. Unless you’re a Bixby fan, you’ll need to take a little time to de-Samsung the S23 Plus. The Pixel 7 Pro offers a much more streamlined experience right out of the gate. But there’s good news: the phone ships with One UI 5.1 and is slated to receive four more OS platform upgrades and five years of security updates. That means you can keep using the phone safely well into the future and get the most out of your investment.
Read my full review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Best high-end iPhone
Screen: 6.1-inch (Pro) or 6.7-inch (Pro Max) OLED, 120Hz refresh rate / Processor: A16 Bionic Cameras: 48-megapixel f/1.8 with sensor-shift IS, 12-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: not advertised / Charging: wired, 15W MagSafe wireless, 7.5W Qi / Weather-resistance rating: IP68
For a lot of iPhone owners, this isn’t an upgrade year, especially if you’re coming from a 12 or a 13. But if you do need a new iPhone right now and you want the very best device, then Pro is the way to go. The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max usher in some new ideas from Apple that the standard 14 doesn’t get, like the “Dynamic Island,” a playful mash-up of hardware and software that turns the notch into a shape-shifting status indicator. It’s handy for system-level info, like whether your AirDrop went through, and it’s getting more useful as third party app-makers start to use it. There’s also a new high-resolution camera and an always-on display.
The iPhone 14 Pro, which starts at $999, is the very best iPhone you can buy right now. But it’s a bit of an early adopter special. There’s plenty that’s good but a lot of room for Apple to fine-tune and improve these features over the coming years. If you’re not ready to spend a thousand dollars on the first iteration of a new design, then look at the previous-gen iPhone 13. The standard iPhone 14 is an incremental upgrade over the 13 and doesn’t get you that much more; the 13 is still available and starts at $699. That’s our choice for most people, but the 14 Pro does have a lot to offer.
The 14 Pro comes with a 6.1-inch screen, and the Pro Max has a 6.7-inch screen. They’re both ProMotion displays like the 13 models, with adaptive refresh rates that go up to 120Hz for smooth scrolling and animations. New to this generation is an always-on display: when you lock your phone, the screen dims and drops into a low-power mode, with frame rates as low as 1Hz, but the clock, widgets, and wallpaper all remain visible. This means you can check the time or see if you have notifications without having to wake the display.
The display’s other new trick is, of course, Dynamic Island. Apple took the notch — the area of the screen that houses the front-facing camera and Face ID sensors — and turned it into a pill-shaped cutout that appears to expand dynamically (get it?) to show system indicators and notifications. It’s a handy place to quickly see what your phone is doing, whether it’s playing back music, sending files via AirDrop, or using navigation. It’s nice, but it’s something Apple and third-party developers will keep making more useful over the next few years — definitely not something to upgrade for right now.
The 14 Pro also has a new 48-megapixel main camera, which uses pixel binning to maximize light sensitivity and produce 12-megapixel images. The real-world improvements are subtle, with more fine detail in shadows and in low light, but the differences compared to a standard 12-megapixel sensor in the iPhone 14 are hard to see unless you’re looking really closely. The higher-resolution sensor also enables a 2x telephoto mode that’s essentially a 12-megapixel crop from the middle of the sensor. It’s the new default view for portrait mode, and it’s one that feels like a happy medium between the wide and 3x telephoto that have been the only options on iPhones past.
Outside of the new stuff, there’s a lot that’s familiar. The phone’s battery gets through a moderate day of use, though it seems to run down a little faster than the 13 Pro. The camera may not be the leap forward in photography that Apple claims it is, but it’s still one of the best in the game and records stunning video clips. And the new A16 Bionic chipset handles intensive tasks like gaming without a problem.
Read our full Apple iPhone 14 Pro review.
Best high-end Android phone
Screen: 6.8-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy / Cameras: 200-megapixel main with OIS, 10-megapixel 10x telephoto with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
The S23 Ultra is Samsung’s kitchen sink flagship phone. It’s a maximalist experience with a built-in stylus, four rear cameras (including two telephotos), a massive 6.8-inch screen, and the top-shelf Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. It’s hard to imagine what you could cram into this device without turning it into a foldable (please turn it into a foldable, Samsung).
All that hardware comes at a high starting price of $1,200, so it’s not our top pick for just anyone looking for a great Android phone. But if you’re looking for the best of the best — particularly if you live in the US where choice is limited — it’s at the very top of our list. The camera system is impressive; portrait mode photos are excellent, and it’s capable of very good images all the way to 30x zoom. There’s a new 200-megapixel main camera sensor at the heart of the rear camera array, and it does a good job of bringing out fine details in both good lighting and low light conditions.
The integrated S Pen isn’t new or updated for 2023, but it’s still a nice tool to have at the ready when you need to jot down a quick note. That massive screen is detailed and scrolling is smooth, with a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz all the way down to 1Hz. The sizeable 5,000mAh battery powers it through a day of heavy use, but don’t count on getting a lot more than one day out of it.
Our usual gripes with Samsung software apply here, too, and if anything they’re a little more glaring on such a pricey phone. The phone will happily download a bunch of extra apps you probably don’t want during setup, although you can opt out of a fair chunk of them and hide most of the ones you can’t uninstall. But Samsung’s healthy software support policy is fitting of a $1,200 phone: you’ll get four OS platform upgrades and five years of security updates. Not quite as good as Apple, but among the best on Android.
Read my full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review.
Best small smartphone
Screen: 5.4-inch 1080p OLED, 60Hz refresh rate / Processor: A15 Bionic Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.6 main with sensor-shift IS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: not advertised / Charging: wired, 15W MagSafe wireless, 7.5W Qi / Weather-resistance rating: IP68
The iPhone 13 Mini is one of very few small phones on the market with top-tier features and specs; you don’t have to compromise on performance, build quality, or cameras. Apple didn’t announce a new Mini with the 14 series, instead opting for a big-and-bigger approach with the 6.1-inch 14 and 6.7-inch 14 Plus. The 13 Mini is likely your last shot at a small, highly functional iPhone, so get it while you can.
Though it’s much smaller in size than pretty much every other modern smartphone, the Mini’s 5.4-inch screen is still big enough for text messaging, email, web browsing, apps, video, and games, and if you’re coming from an iPhone 6, 7, or 8, it will feel quite spacious. But it’s also small enough that most adults, even those with small hands, will be able to comfortably reach all of the screen with their thumb. You won’t need a PopSocket on this one.
One important downside to a smaller phone: the iPhone 13 Mini has a smaller battery that probably won’t last a power user through a whole day without a charge. It’s really designed for someone who isn’t glued to their phone all day. Otherwise, the Mini is the same phone as the iPhone 13: it has the same design, processor, cameras, 5G support, and build quality as the larger model. It’s just smaller and has a smaller price tag — about $100 less.
If you prefer Android, the Asus Zenfone 9 is a good alternative. It’s a little bigger than the 13 Mini, with a 5.9-inch screen, and it doesn’t work on Verizon, but it’s otherwise a very similar proposition: great build quality, top-notch processor, and high-end features like a 120Hz screen are all tucked into a pocket-friendly device.
Read our full Apple iPhone 13 Mini review.
The best phone under $500
Screen: 6.4-inch, 1080p OLED, 120Hz / Processor: Exynos 1380 Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.8 main with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 5-megapixel macro, 32-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 25W wired / Weather-resistance rating: IP67
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G midrange phone borrows heavily from the flagship phone playbook. It includes IP67 weather resistance, an excellent 6.4-inch 1080p OLED with 120Hz refresh rate, and a stabilized main camera. It even comes with a top-shelf software support policy including up to four years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches — all for $450. It’s the best choice for a midrange device right now, even if it’s not quite a flagship killer.
Build quality is above average for a midrange phone, for starters. That IP67 rating means it’s fully sealed against dust and can survive full immersion in shallow water — not a common feature in phones under $500. The device also features durable Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back. The frame is plastic, but hey, you can’t have everything on a phone at this price.
The camera system is capable but struggles in dim lighting with moving subjects. The Google Pixel 6A does much better under the same conditions and, despite being almost a year old, is still the better option if camera quality is your top priority. Otherwise, it does everything a modern smartphone camera does well: takes good images and decent video clips in good lighting.
Outside of its camera system, the A54 shines. Its screen is best-in-class — you can almost forget you’re not using a flagship phone. Its big 5,000mAh battery powers it through a full day of heavy use, and its Samsung-made Exynos 1380 chipset does an admirable job of keeping up with heavy workloads. Coupled with that strong support policy, it should keep up for many years to come.
Read my full review of the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G.
Best flip phone
Screen: 6.7-inch 1080p OLED, 120Hz (main), 1.9-inch OLED (cover) / Processor: Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 Cameras: 12-megapixel f/1.8 main with OIS, 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide, 10-megapixel selfie / Battery: 3,7000mAh / Charging: 25W wired, 15W wireless / Weather-resistance rating: IPX8
When the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is flipped open, you get a big 6.7-inch screen that handles just like the slab-style smartphone you’re used to. But fold it in half, like the flip phones of yore, and you can use its small outer screen to see basic widgets and read notifications. It’s unconventional, but it’s also fun and kinda stylish. It’s a great choice if you’re feeling a little bit adventurous — it’s still the early days for this form factor — and you’d appreciate a way to quickly check info on your phone without having to fully engage with it.
The Flip 4 is the definition of an incremental upgrade, but when you’re talking about a phone that folds in half, that’s still a pretty impressive achievement. It’s the same basic size and shape as the Flip 3, with a slightly slimmer hinge and some squared-off corners. It’s still IPX8 water resistant (no dust resistance, so please don’t take it to the beach), and the cover screen is still a tiny 1.9 inches — big enough to read an email subject line or check the current weather but not big enough to do much more than that.
The inner screen is protected by stronger ultrathin glass than the Flip 3. There’s a non-user-replaceable screen protector in place, as there was on the previous model, but the adhesive that attaches it is stronger this time around. That will hopefully avoid the bubbling problem seen by some owners of previous-gen foldables.
The Flip 4’s cameras are mostly the same as the Flip 3’s, and they’re still a bit behind what you’d expect from your garden-variety flagship phone. There’s a 12-megapixel main camera with slightly bigger pixels than the last one, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, and a 10-megapixel selfie camera. Most other phones priced at $999 will throw in a telephoto lens of some kind, but not the Z Flip 4. Still, it’s a lot of fun taking pictures and recording videos in the phone’s L-shaped Flex mode. (Just try and name another phone that comes with its own built-in kickstand.)
If you’re a Flip 3 owner, there’s nothing about the Flip 4 worth upgrading for. In fact, many of the new software-based features introduced with the 4 are already making their way to the 3. And there are still plenty of ways Samsung could improve on its design: making it slimmer, more durable, and increasing the size of the cover screen, for a start. The Flip 4 offers some valuable refinements over the 3 that make it feel like a more mature product and less of a concept. There are likely significant improvements coming down the line for the Flip series, but right now, it’s undeniably fun and different.
Read my full review of the Galaxy Z Flip 4.
Best folding phone
Screen: 7.6-inch 2176p 120Hz OLED inner screen, 6.2-inch 2316p 120Hz OLED cover screen / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.8 main with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 10-megapixel selfie (cover screen), four-megapixel under-display selfie (inner screen) / Battery: 4,400mAh / Charging: 25W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IPX8
The Fold 4 is Samsung’s latest folding phone, and it is a pricey multitasking powerhouse — a phone and a tablet wrapped up in one device. Like the Fold 3 before it, it’s sized like a skinny smartphone that fits in your pocket, but it unfolds to reveal a tablet-sized 7.6-inch display on the inside.
That inside screen makes everything from reading books and browsing the web to watching videos and playing games more enjoyable and immersive. When you’re done using it, just fold it back up and stick it in your pocket just like any other phone. You can use the 6.2-inch outer screen for simpler tasks like you would on a slab-style smartphone, but the big screen is there when you need it. The Fold 4 is undeniably a gadget person’s gadget, best suited for someone who wants to get the absolute most out of their mobile device, cost be damned.
The Fold 4’s outer screen looks and handles like any other slab-style smartphone screen; unfold the device and you’re looking at something quite different. For starters, there’s a non-user-replaceable screen protector glued to the inner display to protect against scratches — the ultrathin glass that allows it to fold is easily damaged without it. The whole device is IPX8-rated, meaning it offers robust water resistance but no dust resistance. Folding phones: not recommended for the beach.
On the software side, the Fold 4 provides a lot of ways to get the most out of that big screen. There are new multitasking interface options that make it easy to open apps in multiple windows or use it in an L-shape like a laptop. These features are already becoming available to the Fold 3, so nobody should run out and upgrade from the previous-gen folding phone just for the software improvements.
The Galaxy Fold 4 is just brimming with cameras, including a 3x telephoto zoom lens, upgraded from a 2x zoom on the outgoing model. There are also 12-megapixel standard wide and ultrawide cameras on the rear panel, plus a 10-megapixel selfie camera on the outside and a 4-megapixel under-display camera on the inside. Image quality is on par with the S23 and S23 Plus, including a great portrait mode. You’d get a more powerful set of cameras on the significantly less expensive S23 Ultra, but the Ultra doesn’t fold in half.
The Fold 4 has evolved beyond the early hardware hiccups of the first Fold phones in the series, and it’s a device you could actually use as your daily driver — not just as a cool gadget that stays at home. The refinements over the Fold 3 are minor, like slightly wider aspect ratios on the screens and better adhesive on the non-user-replaceable inner screen protector, but they push the Fold a little closer to the mainstream. With apologies to the also-ran Microsoft Surface Duo 2, there’s just nothing else like it on the market — if you’re willing to pay the very high $1,800 premium.
Read my full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review.
Flagship performance for a little less money
Screen: 6.7-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.8 main with OIS, 48-megapixel ultrawide, 32-megapixel 2x telephoto, 16-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 80W wired (100W outside of US) / Weather resistance: IP64
After a little journey of self-discovery, OnePlus has finally come back around to its strength: making not-quite flagship phones that cost less than the high-end devices from Samsung and Google. The OnePlus 11 costs $699, includes a fantastic Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, has an excellent 6.7-inch screen, and comes with a great software support policy with four OS upgrades and five years of security updates. That alone makes it a very competitive option.
However, OnePlus cut a couple of corners to get to that relatively low price. It comes with an IP64 rating for splash resistance, which is less robust than the IP68 rating most devices in this price bracket carry — they can withstand full immersion in water. There’s also no wireless charging, another feature that virtually every other phone over $500 includes. Instead, you get super-fast wired charging: 80W if you’re in the US and 100W elsewhere. That’s enough to fully charge the phone in less than 30 minutes. You have to use the included charger and cable, and they don’t deliver the same speeds as other devices — bummer. But hey! There’s a charger in the box.
That’s the bad news. Back to the good news: the OnePlus 11 works on all three major 5G networks in the US right out of the gate — previous devices came with patchy 5G support at launch. The fan-favorite three-stage alert slider is back after taking a hiatus on the OnePlus 10T. And the 1440p OLED offers excellent detail along with smooth scrolling thanks to a 120Hz top refresh rate. It’s a great screen for the price.
The OnePlus 11’s bottom line is that it delivers excellent performance for less than you’d typically pay for a phone with the flagship chipset du jour. If you can live without wireless charging and you’re not concerned about the lack of waterproofing, then you’ll find it’s a great deal.
Read my full OnePlus 11 5G review.
Other good phones
There are a few other devices that didn’t quite make the cut for any of the above categories but are still worth mentioning. The Samsung S23 Plus just edged out the Google Pixel 7 Pro as our pick for the best Android phone for most people. It’s still a great device, and the $899 price tag is attractive (and often marked down). We like its software out-of-the-box better than Samsung’s, and its camera system sometimes outdoes the S23 Plus’ — especially with its longer 5x telephoto lens. But while its custom Tensor G2 chipset is capable, it’s unclear how it will hold up in the long run.
Pixel 6 and 7 owners have also reported their fair share of software bugs and unusual hardware problems. Google seems to be doing the right thing and repairing phones under warranty, and the Pixel series’ frequent updates mean that bugs are usually fixed in a timely manner. Samsung, on the other hand, is pretty much on cruise control with the S23 Plus.
The iPhone 14 Plus is worth considering if you prefer iOS and you like a bigger phone. If the 14 Pro feels like overkill but you want a big screen and a big battery, then the 14 Plus is a good alternative. It costs less than the $1,099 Pro Max, though its $899 price isn’t exactly cheap. But like the iPhone 14, the 14 Plus offers very few appreciable updates over the iPhone 13 and doesn’t quite lend itself to a broad recommendation.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 stands tall — er, small — in a field dominated by huge screens. Its 6.1-inch display makes it a little bigger than the Asus Zenfone 9 and its 5.9-inch screen, but compared to the 6.6-inch-plus screens that are much more common in this category, the Galaxy S23 is your best (maybe only?) option for flagship specs in a reasonably sized phone.
The Google Pixel 6A was formerly our pick for the best phone under $500, and it remains a very good device almost a year after its announcement. It’ll likely be replaced by the 7A soon, so it’s worth holding off on this one to see what its successor offers.
Update April 18th, 4:30PM ET: Moved the Google Pixel 6A to the “Other good phones” section and replaced it with the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G.
A multi-lingual talent head, Allen is fluent in languages such as Spanish, Russian, Italian, and many more. He has a special curiosity for the events and stories revolving in and around US and caters an uncompromising form of journalistic standard for the audiences.