There are a lot of great smartphone options available at any given moment, so it can be a challenge to sort through them all if you¡¯re trying to choose the absolute best one. The stakes here can¡¯t be understated: your smartphone is the most important gadget in your life, and you¡¯ll probably be living with the one you buy for at least a year, if not two or three.
Most of the time, there¡¯s a phone that stands out from the pack in all the areas that matter: performance, value, camera, and support. And most of the time, that¡¯s usually the most expensive phone on the market. But as it turns out, you don¡¯t have to buy the priciest phone to get the best experience.
This guide focuses on the best phones on the market, also known as the premium tier. If you¡¯re looking for something even lower cost than these picks, please check out our guide to budget smartphones.
This article was updated on November 21st, 2019.
The best phone for most people: Apple iPhone 11
Apple has three current phones to choose from, each with different characteristics and prices. The one that most people should buy is actually the least expensive of the three: the iPhone 11.
The 11 has the same overall design, the same processor, the same wireless charging, the same Face ID system, the same front camera, and the same main and wide-angle rear cameras as the pricier 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, but for hundreds of dollars less. On top of all that, it comes in six different colors, two more than you can choose from in the Pro models.
The most controversial thing about the 11 is its display. At 6.1 inches, it sits in between the smaller 11 Pro and the larger 11 Pro Max, but the main difference is that it¡¯s an LCD instead of an OLED. That means the borders around the screen are slightly larger, the blacks aren¡¯t as deep, and the colors aren¡¯t as vibrant as the pricier displays. But unless you put the 11 next to an 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max, you¡¯re not likely to ever notice those things. The other thing you¡¯ll never notice is the fact that the 11 screen has a lower resolution than the others, because it¡¯s still sharp enough that you can¡¯t see individual pixels with your naked eye. I¡¯ve been using an iPhone XR for the past year, which has the exact same screen and same compromises as the 11, and I haven¡¯t found it to be an issue at all in daily use.
The 11 also gives up the telephoto camera that¡¯s available on the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, but that¡¯s something most people won¡¯t miss. The telephoto camera on those phones is inferior to the main camera anyway, and since the 11 still has the more useful wide-angle camera in addition to the standard lens, most people won¡¯t miss the telephoto. The 11¡¯s camera system is the best you can get on any smartphone, aside from the 11 Pro.
Since the 11 has Apple¡¯s latest smartphone processor, the A13 Bionic, it has extremely fast performance and fluid animations. Its large screen lets you see a lot of content at once and the faster Face ID system is better and more reliable than the face unlocking systems on other phones. But the thing that really sells the 11, aside from its price and camera, is its stellar battery life. That lower-resolution display helps the 11 power through a whole day with ease. The two things that most people want from a new phone are better battery life and a bigger screen, and if you¡¯re upgrading from an iPhone 6 / 7 / 8 device, the 11 delivers on both fronts.
The biggest knock you can make against the 11 is that, well, aside from its pastel color options, it¡¯s not a very exciting phone. If you¡¯re the type of person who gets excited about phones and wants the absolute best thing Apple has to offer, then you should probably pony up for an 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max. But the rest of us who just want a reliable, fast, long-lasting phone with an excellent camera will be very happy with the 11.
The base iPhone 11 comes with 64GB of storage, but as usual with an iPhone, it¡¯s not expandable, so we recommend buying the 128GB model. This is another advantage the 11 has over the 11 Pro models ¡ª if you want to get more storage with those phones, you have to jump up to a 256GB model that costs more than the 128GB upgrade on the 11.
In all, the iPhone 11 is an easy choice for most people: it offers top-level performance, design, and camera features, while providing stellar battery life for less money than other options on the market.
The best Android phone to buy: OnePlus 7T
If you¡¯re more into Android than iOS, then the best phone to buy right now is the OnePlus 7T. The 7T combines eye-catching design with blistering performance, a unique, super-smooth display, and a versatile camera system. And like OnePlus phones before it, the 7T offers all of this for hundreds of dollars less than the competition.
The 7T¡¯s ace in its sleeve is its 90Hz display. It¡¯s a big, bright, pixel-dense OLED panel with a high refresh rate that makes scrolling through apps or text buttery smooth. Fast-refresh screens are becoming more popular in phones this year, after making their debut in gaming-focused phones, and the 7T is the least expensive 2019 model with this type of screen available.
The 7T¡¯s highlights don¡¯t end there, either. It¡¯s perhaps the fastest Android phone on the market, thanks in part to that high-refresh screen, but also because it has a high-end processor and tons of RAM to work with. OnePlus¡¯ software is also very fast and easy to use, and the company is one of the best Android makers outside of Google when it comes to delivering software updates in a timely manner.
Where the 7T falls short is in unsurprising areas: its three-lens camera system provides a variety of different perspectives and focal lengths to use, but it ultimately its pictures aren¡¯t as good as the ones from an iPhone, Google Pixel, or Samsung Galaxy S10. The 7T also lacks any official water resistance rating and wireless charging, both of which are standard things on high-end phones at this point.
Overall, unless you¡¯re extremely particular about your camera or a wireless charging devotee, the 7T¡¯s speed, software, display, and price make it an easy winner.
Okay cool, but I can¡¯t do a giant phone: Samsung Galaxy S10E
It¡¯s the phones¡¯ sizes that might be actual deal-breakers for some with either the iPhone 11 or the OnePlus 7T: both are big phones that can be hard to handle, especially if you¡¯re the type of person to use your phone in one hand. You could get an iPhone 11 Pro if you want to stick with Apple¡¯s ecosystem and get a smaller device, but it will cost considerably more to do so. OnePlus apparently only makes big phones now and doesn¡¯t offer smaller versions of anything.
So if you¡¯re looking for a smaller phone without breaking the bank, we recommend the Samsung Galaxy S10E.
The S10E has great performance, a reliably good camera system, and a size that¡¯s easy to manage, even if you have smaller hands. It has many of the same features as the more expensive (and larger) S10 and S10 Plus, such as wireless charging, IP68 water resistance, and even a headphone jack. The S10E has been on the market for over six months at this point, which means it¡¯s not hard to find a great price on it.
The smartphone market is littered with many other good devices, and depending on your particular wants or budget, there might be better options out there. We don¡¯t consider any of them to be the best phone for most people, but they could be a better choice for you. Many of these phones have dropped in price since their launch, so depending on the deal, they may be more compelling than some of our main picks. But make sure you¡¯re getting a good deal before pulling the trigger.
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