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Best Phone Brands for 2019

January 2, 2019

6:00 am

Mobile phones have become the hub we live our lives around, and the thought of going without one would leave many feeling helpless.

We need phones that can do it all: Take great photos, communicate with our friends over loads of different apps, play games, manage our money, help us get home, and never run out of battery.

Picking the right phone brand can help you find your dream phone. So which brand is best?

Which are the Best Phone Brands?

You’ll be familiar with a lot of the names on this list already, but a couple of the brands might surprise you.

  1. Samsung – There’s a Samsung for everyone, from the bargain-basement J series and the excellent mid-range A series to the flagship S and Note series
  2. Apple – The iPhones are almost unmatched when it comes to hardware quality, and the company continues to set the benchmark for design
  3. Google – Despite being newcomers to the manufacturing market, Google’s recent phones are true flagship devices with market-leading features
  4. OnePlus – Continues to offer flagship features at mid-range prices, with high-end features and performance and impressive hardware
  5. Huawei – Security concerns aside, it’s impossible to deny the Chinese company makes some of the most impressive phones on the market
  6. Motorola – It’s had a hard few years, but still knows how to knock out a top quality mid-range phone
  7. Nokia – Once consigned to the smartphone graveyard, Nokia is back with a vengeance with a killer low- to mid-range lineup
  8. LG – Formerly a smartphone giant, LG’s handsets have struggled to find an identity in a crowded marketplace
  9. Sony – Another brand that’s fallen on hard times, Sony has lost the initiative on design and offers a truly baffling range of phones

We also look at the best phone brand by budget. So whether you're looking to spend less than $300 or three times that, we'll help you find the perfect phone.

Phone Brands Compared

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:

Samsung Phones

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 S10, or scrimp on a Galaxy A10, there’s something for everyone.

Key models:

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus – The S10 Plus is arguably the best phone on sale at the moment, and certainly our favorite. Its screen is brilliant, the cameras are top-drawer, and its performance is staggering. It is expensive at $999, but it's way better value for money that some similarly-priced phones (we're looking at you, Apple). Read our full S10 Plus review for more.
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G – The S10 5G takes everything that's great about the rest of the S10 range and adds to it. So, you get a larger screen, improved front cameras, and an extra rear camera. Oh, and you get to use 5G data when you find it. 5G speeds are breathtaking, but coverage still isn't perfect. We'd probably wait until the infrastructure is up-and-running in a few months and try and pick up the S10 5G for cheap. Read our full S10 5G review for more.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 9 – The Note 9 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. Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review for more.

Verdict – Quality across the board means that Samsung has something for everyone

Learn more about Samsung's latest and greatest phones in our full guide

samsung galaxy s10 plus screen

Apple Phones

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.

Not sure which iPhone to get? See our simple guide, Which iPhone Should I Buy?

Key models:

  • 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. The XR is still an impressive phone, but its lack of an OLED screen really lets it down — especially next to the similarly-priced Samsung Galaxy S10e. Read our full iPhone XR review.
  • 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. Find out more in our full XS Max review.

Verdict – Apple iPhones may be expensive, but they’re excellent across the board

iphone xs best phones

Google Phones

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. Key models

  • 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 3a XL – The Pixel 3a XL is a new cheap version of a Google phone. You still get the same excellent camera quality, but it costs $420 less. The Pixel 3a XL isn't the fastest phone on sale, and it loses the glass rear case found on the more expensive Pixel phones. But the Pixel 3a XL is still a remarkably good phone for just $479. Read our full Pixel 3a XL review to find out more.
  • Google Pixel 3a – Like the above, but smaller and even cheaper. Starting at just $399, the Pixel 3a is one of the best value phones on sale. The screen is smaller at 5.6-inches but it's still a 1080p, OLED unit. Plus, you get the best phone camera on the market for a remarkably low price. Read our full Pixel 3a review here.

Verdict – Camera lovers and Android purists can rejoice, as Google Pixel delivers

google pixel 3a xl

OnePlus Phones

Probably the first surprise entrant on the list, OnePlus has been quietly cranking out good phones for a while. It's most recent 7 and 7 Pro models are its most expensive ever, but they're still pretty good value compared to a lot of flagship phones. Key models:

  • OnePlus 7 Pro – The OnePlus 7 Pro is a genuinely headturning phone. Its front-facing camera isn't hidden under a notch or punch hole — instead it pokes out the top of the phone on an automtic slider. Its screen, a 6.67-inch 3120×1440 AMOLED, has a 90Hz refresh rate, giving you silky smooth moving images on screen. Plus it has a Snapdragon 855 processor for blistering speed. And it costs $699 — seriously putting some flagships to shame.
  • OnePlus 7 – The 7 does feel slightly left behind by the 7 Pro. However, it's still a top quality phone with an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855, and dual rear cameras including a 48Mp lens. It costs $640, and is still a seriously impressive piece of kit. Read our full OnePlus 7 review for more.
  • OnePlus 6T – For $549, the 6T has an impressive 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.

Verdict – Compelling flagship-killer phones at lower prices

Huawei Phones

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.

Key models

  • 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 P30 Pro – The P30 Pro is a true powerhouse. It has a 6.47-inch OLED display, four rear cameras, the speedy Kirin 980 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a huge 4,200 mAh battery. If you need a phone to power through games and multitasking, while also lasting all day — the P30 Pro might be for you (if you can get one).

Verdict – Excellent phones, subjected to unusual geopolitical pressures

Motorola Phones

You might think of Motorola as a brand relegated to the smartphone cemetry, but you’d be wrong. The brand that gave us the iconic RAZR is still knocking out some incredible mid-range phones, which are well worth taking a look at.

Key models

  • Moto g7 Plus – Motorola’s g-series phones have long been regarded as the best cheap phones on sale and, with the g7 Plus, the company has created another cut-price classic. It runs Android, a 6.2-inch 1080p display, dual rear cameras, and a tiny notch. It costs just $350 — yes, you read that correctly. Read our full review for more.
  • Motorola One Zoom – The One Zoom was launched at IFA in Berlin packing four (yes, four) rear cameras while costing just $449. That array of rear-facing lenses include a depth-sensor, a 117-degree ultra-wide angle lens, and a telephoto lens — meaning you should get great photos whatever the conditions. Find out more about the One Zoom here.
  • Motorola One Vision – The One Vision costs the same as the g7 Plus but is a very different phone. Firstly, it’s tall — the screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio, making it three times taller than it is wide. Secondly, it takes incredible photos with dual rear cameras (including a 48Mp lens). Thirdly, it uses Android One, a version of Android that gives you speedy updates and minimal bloatware. It’s an unusual but impressive phone.

Verdict – The cheap G-series are a solid option for those one a budget, while its Android One series keeps getting better

motorola one vision

Nokia Phones

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.

Key models

  • Nokia 9 PureView – The 9 PureView is one of the most interesting phones on sale, with five 12Mp rear cameras all working simultaneously to capture one great picture. It also has a 6-inch P-OLED 1440p display and a speedy Snapdragon 845 processor. It is expensive for a Nokia, mind, costing $699.
  • Nokia 2.2 – The 2.2 is at the other end of the spectrum, costing just $139. It uses Android One, for speedy software updates over the next two years and three years of monthly security updates. You also get a 5.7-inch HD+ display and a 13Mp rear camera — nothing mind-blowing, but for less than $200, it'd be wrong to expect much more.
  • Nokia 4.2 – The 4.2 is another budget phone from Nokia. But, like the 2.2, it borrows flagship looks so you won't feel embarassed in a room full of iPhones. You get dual rear cameras, an 8Mp selfie camera housed in the small notch, and Android One support. For just $189, that's not a bad deal at all.

Verdict – Buyers on a budget should definitely take a look at Nokia

Find out more about the latest Nokia phones in our full guide

LG Phones

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.

Key models

  • LG G8 ThinQ – The G8 ThinQ is LG's answer to the leading flagship phones on the market. It packs a sharp 1440×3120 6.1-inch P-OLED display, a Snapdragon 855 processor for top-notch performance, and dual rear cameras. Price? At $849, it isn't the cheapest, but it is certainly capable.
  • LG V50 ThinQ – The V50 ThinQ is a phone that doesn't know when to stop. It has three rear cameras, two front cameras, a Snapdragon 855 processor, a large 4,000 mAh battery, a 6.4-inch 1440×3120 display, a headphone jack AND it's 5G-compatible. You'll need to fork out $999 for all those features, though.

Verdict – LG is a bit of a leftfield choice, but not necessarily a bad one

Learn more about LG in our Best LG Phone for 2019 guide

Sony Phones

Sony has been stuck in a rut for a while now. However, with its new lineup of Xperia 10 phones, and the flagship Xperia 1, it's look to change that. The phones are certainly head-turning, with overly tall displays. But are they actually any good?

Key models

  • Sony Xperia 10 – The Xperia 10 seems like a pretty standard low- to mid-range phone. It has a Snapdragon 630 processor, dual rear cameras, and a 6-inch 1080p display. But that screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio and is, basically, just a bit too tall for one-handed use. Still, it's good for watching films and it'll set you back $299. Intrigued? Read our full review.
  • Sony Xperia 10 Plus – Like the above, but even bigger. It has a whopping 6.5-inch and it's frankly too tall and heavy to be used with a single hand. Still, like its smaller brother, performance isn't bad and that screen is great for watching TV shows and films, or playing games. There's a significant price bump for that extra screen, though, as the Xperia 10 Plus costs $429.
  • Sony Xperia 1 – The Xperia 1 is Sony's latest attempt at a flagship phone. It's main selling point is its 4K 21:9 OLED display — it's a world first, in fact. So, if you want a phone for watching films or TV shows, the Xperia 1 might be a great choice.

Verdict – Sony produces decent phones at a range of prices

For more, see our full guide to the best Sony phones

sony xperia 10 plus best cheap

Phone Brands by Budget

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 — anything from the g7 series would be perfect — 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 the Google Pixel 3a XL. It has strong performance, guaranteed software updates, and the best camera of any phone, at any price. If you're not keen on a Google phone, you could look at a Samsung Galaxy A50.

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 7. 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 or Samsung. If you need the best cameras, get the Google Pixel 3 XL. If you need incredible all-round capabilities, get the Samsung S10 Plus.

Read more phones content on Tech.co

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media and website builders when he's not reviewing the latest phones, gadgets, or occasionally even technology books.