No phone brand is perfect, and each comes with a set of pros and cons. Samsung phones have great hardware, but sometimes have issues when it comes to Android and its own UI. Apple, by contrast, has fantastic integration between hardware and its own operating system, but its phones are notoriously expensive.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each phone brand:
The Korean brand manages to produce brilliant phones across a range of prices – something few other companies can achieve. Whether you want to splurge on a wallet-busting Galaxy Note 9 or Galaxy S9, or scrimp on a Galaxy J7, there’s something for everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S9 – It’s nearly a year old, but the S9 is still one of the best phones on sale. It packs a beautiful edge-to-edge screen with great detail and fantastic colors. It has a powerful processor and impressive battery life, and it’s all wrapped up in a high quality glass and metal design. Plus, you can normally find a discount on it somewhere. See our full Samsung Galaxy S9 review for more.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – The S9’s bigger brother has a large 6.4-inch display and a built-in stylus for note taking. Again, it has superb performance, with 6GB or 8GB Ram and a powerful Snapdragon 845 processor. It also packages all these top quality components in an equally impressive body.
Samsung Galaxy A6 – A mid-range phone from Samsung, the A6 comes with the relatively modest price tag of just $360. However, you won’t lose out on hardware with a 5.6-inch Super AMOLED display and 16Mp cameras front-and-rear. It also comes with a welcome memory card slot and 3.5mm headphone jack.
Verdict – Quality across the board means that Samsung has something for everyone
The one you love to hate, or indeed, love to love. Apple stands out from the crowd, being the only manufacturer on this list not to use Android. Its phones are unashamedly expensive, although that doesn’t seem to put anyone off buying one.
Apple iPhone XS – The XS (pronounced “Ten Ess” in case you were wondering) is Apple’s bread-and-butter iPhone: Pin-sharp screen, quality materials, blistering performance. It also costs $1,000 and doesn’t come with either a headphone jack or expandable memory. Check out our full Apple iPhone XS review for more detail.
Apple iPhone XR – This is the new ‘cheap’ iPhone, costing just shy of $750. Fortunately, you get what you pay for. The XR comes in a range of beautiful colors, and while it doesn’t have the OLED screen of the XS, its LCD display is still a sight to behold.
Apple iPhone XS Max – Like the XS, but bigger. In fact, the XS is huge – its 6.5-inch screen means it dwarves even the Samsung Note 9. Sadly, though, it doesn’t make the most of its admittedly fabulous-looking real estate, making it feel like a missed opportunity.
Verdict – Apple iPhones may be expensive, but they’re excellent across the board
It sounds surprising, but the current crop of Google phones is only the company’s third attempt at making a phone itself. However, the search engine giant excels in software, and it shows in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, with the powerful Google Assistant and excellent cameras making for awesome Android phones.
Google Pixel 3 XL – The Pixel 3 XL is the consummate flagship phone, with a pin-sharp screen and good-looking, unique design characteristics. It also runs stock Android, which is a joy to use and has fantastic Google Assistant integration. Oh, and it has the best camera on any smartphone you can buy today. See our full Google Pixel 3 XL review for more.
Google Pixel 3 – Like the above, but smaller. And without the notch. The Pixel 3 eschews the massive notch of the XL for a less controversial design, but it retains the excellent rear camera and excellent software from its bigger brother.
Verdict – Camera lovers and Android purists can rejoice, as Google Pixel delivers
Probably the first surprise entrant on the list, OnePlus has been quietly cranking out good phones for a while. Until now, the 6 and 6T models have blown people’s socks off with fabulous designs, excellent hardware and powerful performance – all at a cut-back price.
OnePlus 6T – For $549, the 6T has a mind-boggling spec sheet: There’s a top-drawer Snapdragon 845 processor, large 3,700mAh battery, an in-display fingerprint sensor, a 6.40-inch AMOLED display, and 16Mp front-and-rear cameras. Flagship quality for a knockdown price.
OnePlus 6 – It’s been replaced by the 6T, but it still packs in impressive features. And it’s now even cheaper, costing just $429. You’ll get quality cameras, the same Snapdragon processor, and even a headphone jack.
Verdict – Compelling flagship-killer phones at lower prices
You might have heard some bad things about Huawei in the news. In fact, such is the scale of its bad news year, you can’t buy Huawei phones in the US. We’ve discussed the security concerns around the Huawei brand in detail and, while no clear security threat has been found, we can understand the concerns. However, we still think American consumers are missing out on some great phones.
Huawei Mate 20 – Another fabulous cut-price Android phone. The Mate 20 comes with an unusual square arrangement for its three rear cameras, a tiny notch and a pin-sharp OLED screen. It also comes in a range of delightful colors and packs the super-speedy Kirin 980 processor.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro – The Mate 20 Pro is a real flagship rival with a Google and Samsung-rivalling price tag. It has a big 6.4-inch OLED display, runs the latest version of Android, and is available with either 6GB or 8GB Ram. You get the same triple-camera set-up at the rear, with one 40Mp, 20Mp and 8Mp lenses. It’s well worth considering if you’re in the market for an Android flagship.
Huawei P20 Pro – It’s older than its stablemates (pun intended), but is still an excellent phone. A large 4,000mAh battery, three rear and two front-facing cameras, and a 6.1-inch display make the P20 Pro a multimedia powerhouse.
Verdict – Excellent phones, subjected to unusual geopolitical pressures
Remember the RAZR? Motorola’s fallen a long way since those heady days. It can no longer sit at the smartphone market’s top table, and has been relegated to a respectable mid-tier brand. However, its mid-range phones are still well worth considering.
Motorola Moto G6 – Would you believe us if we told you a phone with a 5.7-inch 1080p display, fingerprint reader and face unlock, running Android 8 and packing a headphone jack sound costs just $250? Well you should. And you should buy the Moto G6 – it’s a bargain for the ages.
Motorola Moto X4 – Another bargain Motorola, the X4 costs $399. While it doesn’t have the looks of a top-end smartphone with big bezels and a large camera bump, the X4 has enough under the hood to cope with all the demands placed on a modern smartphone. It also has its own party trick, using Amazon’s Alexa rather than Google Assistant.
Motorola One – Want an iPhone XS without paying $1,000? Then take a look at the Motorola One with its long, thin notch, tiny bezels, and over-and-under dual rear cameras. It costs $399 and runs Android One, meaning no annoying third-party skin and all the latest system and security updates.
Verdict – Cheap and cheerful, but hardly a leading brand these days
Recently resurrected, Nokia has come back to life with a flurry of activity, launching some seriously impressive mid-range Android phones. They’re certainly not flagship killers – leave that to OnePlus – but they provide a compelling alternative to Samsung’s cheaper options.
Nokia 6.1 – The 6.1 costs $229 and has some impressive specs, including a full-HD 5.5-inch display and a 16Mp rear camera. It also features a full aluminum chassis and runs the latest version of Android. All told, it’s a fantastic cheap phone.
Nokia 7.1 – A mid-range offering from Nokia, the 7.1 costs $349 and ups the ante on the 6.1. It has a sharper edge-to-edge, HDR-enabled screen, as well as dual rear cameras and a larger battery. It also uses Android One, meaning you’ll never miss out on a software update. For $349, it’s a bargain to be had.
Verdict – Buyers on a budget should definitely take a look at Nokia
LG’s mobile division has fallen on hard times, and has failed to grab the imagination at the top end of the market. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some phones worthy of consideration, though.
LG V40 ThinQ – Strange name aside, the V40 ThinQ is a spec-heavy flagship phone. It has a 6.4-inch QHD+ OLED display, runs a Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB Ram, and packs five cameras. It’s expensive, mind, costing nearly $979, but you’ll certainly stand out from the Samsung and Apple crowd.
LG G7 ThinQ – A more conventional top-end phone from LG, the G7 ThinQ costs a more reasonable $750. The specs aren’t quite as impressive, but it’s a more well-judged phone with a taller, skinnier design. It’s a decent Android choice.
LG Q7+ – A budget phone from LG, costing just $275. It has a 5.5-inch 1080p display with a tall 18:9 aspect ratio, meaning it should remain easy to hold and use. It also has a 16Mp rear camera and an 8Mp front camera, so it should take decent pictures, as well.
Verdict – LG is a bit of a leftfield choice, but not necessarily a bad one
Another big brand struggling to keep up with Samsung, Apple and Google, Sony has a slightly baffling lineup. It’s also doggedly stuck to its dated smartphone design language, with boxy frames and larger-than-usual bezels. Persevere, though, and you can find some decent mid-range phones.
Sony Xperia XZ3 – The current flagship phone from Sony, the Xperia XZ3 costs $849 and packs a Snapdragon 845 processor, a 19Mp rear camera, and the latest version of Android. It’s not for the small-of-hand, though, standing at 6.2 inches tall with a 6-inch screen.
Sony Xperia XA2 – A $250 budget phone from Sony. It’s nearly a year old now, but for such a low price, you get a decent set of features including a 5.2-inch, 1080p display, a 23Mp rear camera, and – get this – a headphone jack!
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact – If you want a phone with top-end performance but a small screen, there’s not much choice out there beyond the XZ2 Compact. It has a Full HD+ 5-inch screen, but stands at just 5.3-inches tall (slightly smaller than an iPhone 8). It also features a Snapdragon 845, runs Android 8, and has a 19Mp rear camera. The price? About $450.
Verdict – Sony produces decent phones at a range of prices
These are the best phones you can buy, whether you have $300, $500 or over $1,000 to spend!
Best Phones Under $300 (Or $20 per month)
It’s safe to say that if you only have $300 to spend on a phone, you’re not going to be getting an iPhone. However, some brands offer great phones for budget-conscious buyers.
You should consider a phone from Motorola (particularly the G6) or Nokia. Rather than looking to cut costs on the features and components, these companies produce phones that you could happily use every day. Some of the materials might not match those at the top of the market, but they have to save money somewhere.
Best Phones under $500 (Or $30 per month)
While flagship phones now cost twice as much, there are some great phones to be had for under $500.
For this budget, we’d struggle to look past OnePlus. The recently-replaced 6 is a fantastic phone and offers genuine flagship features and performance. If you want a more established name, however, go for a Samsung A series phone.
Best Phones under $750 (Or $40 per month)
The $500-750 phone market doesn’t have the choice that you’d perhaps expect nowadays, with the market becoming polarized towards increasingly expensive or cheap phones – but that’s not to say you won’t find some good phones.
Again, in this price range, you’ll struggle to find a better phone than the OnePlus 6T. However, if you’ve currently got an iPhone, we’d probably opt for the new XR.
Best Phones around $1,000 (or $50+ per month)
If you’re lucky enough to be able to drop a grand on a phone, you’ve got plenty of options. Not all of them are as good as others, though.
Of course, we’re now really entering iPhone territory. The XS is a great phone, though we’re not sold on the XS Max. If you don’t fancy something from Apple, we’d go Google: the new Pixel 3 phones have the best cameras, unique designs, and offer the cleanest Android experience.