The 14 Best Smartphones of 2019

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best 2018 Release: Samsung Galaxy S9

4.4

Equipped with a 5.8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display, the screen of the Galaxy S9 pops with bright and vibrant colors. With support for HDR content, watching content is better than ever, thanks in part to the dual stereo speakers that are 40 percent louder than the previous Galaxy S model. Powered by a brand-new Snapdragon 845 processor that’s paired with 4GB of RAM, the S9 zips through opening applications or running multiple tasks in the background. A 3,000mAh battery allows all-day battery life, while an IP68 rating adds water-resistance in up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The rear 12-megapixel camera produces outstanding shots, and with Super Slo-Mo built into the camera, you can slow down video capture to 960fps for incredible results. ​

Best Large Screen: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

4.8

As one of the first “phablets,” the Galaxy Note line has lasted long enough to get past a time when we even use the term “phablet” anymore. It’s an important thing to remember because as “Plus” phones take over the market, Samsung’s Note line has had years to optimize their functionality for the larger screen. The Note 9 is no exception, offering a huge 6.4-inch display while remaining only 0.35 inches thick. That display is a Quad HD+ Super AMOLED with a 2960 x 1440 resolution (516 ppi), so the massive real estate won’t lead to pixelation. The cameras are pretty solid too, with an 8MP AF sensor on the front (f/1.7 aperture) and a dual-lens setup on the back: one wide-angle lens with a super-speed Dual Pixel 12MP sensor (variable apertures of f/1.5 or f/2.4) and a telephoto lens with a 12MP AF sensor (f/2.4 aperture). In other words, this phone is a visual masterpiece.

Samsung has also updated the S Pen for this run, keeping the 4096 levels of sketchable sensitivity but adding in new Bluetooth connectivity (with 30 minutes of charge time from the phone) that allows you to use the pen as an external expression device rather than just a stylus. The Note 9 also has a 4,000 mAh battery to run all its taxing components. Roll that up with amazing video functionality, a host of expected Samsung features, up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, and a 64-bit Octa-Core Processor, and you have a high-quality large screen phone (if your pocket can accommodate it).

Best Android: Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3

Courtesy of Best Buy 

4.8

We understand that there is a serious divide between the iPhone and Android users of the world, but the Google Pixel 3 may be able to sway die-hard fans to the opposing side. The phone features a 5.5-inch screen with the same crisp 2160 x 1080 resolution as the previous model. It also comes pre-installed with Google Assistant. Just say, “Hey Google,” then give a command. You can play music, screen phone calls, or even take a group selfie without touching the device.

And we would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to discuss the picture quality. The Pixel 3 delivers professional-grade photos with an eight-megapixel front-facing camera and two rear-facing cameras: one wide-angle 12.2-megapixel rear lens with f/2.2 aperture, and a second with f/1.8 aperture. Additionally, the Pixel captures videos in brilliant 4K resolution and offers unlimited Cloud storage with Google Photos.

Overall, the Pixel 3 promises reliable performance and durability, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor along with either 64GB or 128GB of storage space. The device itself also boasts an IP68 water-proof rating and contains a custom-designed Titan M security chip to ensure that your phone—and the data stored inside it—are equally protected.

Best Camera: LG V40 ThinQ

LG V40 ThinQ

 Courtesy of Best Buy

3.5

LG has been fighting for the title of best smartphone camera for years. With the V40 ThinQ, it may finally win the throne. The camera is easily the most significant aspect of this device — it doesn’t just have a camera: it has five of them.  

On the rear of the V40 ThinQ is a 12-megapixel camera for standard shots typical of what we see on today’s smartphones. It also has a 16-megapixel wide-angle camera to capture a wide field of view and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera for close-up shots. The front on the V40 ThinQ adds an eight-megapixel standard camera and a five-megapixel wide-angle lens perfect for selfies with multiple friends. Altogether, these cameras add a whole new level of smartphone camera versatility.

Photos and video are best viewed on the beautiful 6.4-inch, 3120 x 1440 display. The Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM keeps everything moving, plus there’s 64GB of storage for photos, videos, and apps. The 3300mAh battery is enough to keep you going all day, but you will probably need to recharge every night.

See more reviews of our favorite LG phones available for purchase.

Best Apple: iPhone XS

iPhone XS
 Courtesy of Best Buy
4.7

A proper successor to the iPhone X, the iPhone XS is more of an incremental update than an outright new smartphone. But when you consider how amazing the iPhone X actually was, an incremental update gives you lots to look forward to. We’ve chosen the XS as opposed to the XS Max because for the value, you really can’t beat it in the premium smartphone range. Available in silver, space gray, or the new eye-catching gold color, and with a configuration of 64GB, 256GB or 512GB, this is a phone you can still customize to meet your needs. Apple has taken the time to step up the visuals with a 2436 x 1125 resolution (458 ppi) screen around that signature notch. That’s pretty impressive considering its compact footprint. Another major update here is the processor: Apple has updated their chipset to a Bionic A12 with an amazing new neural engine. That gives you faster raw speeds and steps up the AI functionality of the phone, which is great for features like FaceID and the camera software.

The dual 12MP camera setup on the back gives you a wide-angle and telephoto lens — it isn’t exactly breaking any MP records, but it gives you some great resolution to play with. The front-facing 7MP camera is really only a step up in software. But with image stabilization on both sides of the phone, cool new software features like HDR composite layering and the ability to adjust the portrait mode’s bokeh blur (after the photo is taken, no less), the iPhone is now in direct competition with the award-winning photo software in the Google Pixel 2.

The XS battery seems to have shrunk a bit here, but they’ve optimized the software to compensate. All of this, working in tandem with the updated iOS 12, makes the XS a clear winner for our top spot.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best iPhones

 

Best Splurge: iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS Max
Courtesy of Best Buy 
4.7

The XS Max, while occupying the same-sized footprint as the iPhone 8, manages to seriously amp up the screen size thanks to the edge-to-edge design. So, as long as you don’t mind a little notch cutting in, you’ll get a whopping 6.5-inch display (technically 0.1 inches bigger than the Galaxy Note). It’s a bright, beautiful OLED display with 2688 x 1242 resolution, a ppi of 458. Plus, Apple's True Tone tech adjusts your screen color spectrum and brightness depending on the ambient lighting of the room you’re in. The new chipset is pretty impressive, too: the A12 Bionic chip gives you requisite speed increases but also millions of additional connections in the Neural engine to noticeably boost AI performance.

The camera system has also been stepped up, giving you two 12MP sensors on the back for a wide-angle and telephoto lens. The front-facing system is a 7MP single lens setup, and both systems have image stabilization. The software is the real hero here though, as they’ve taken that raw power and harnessed it for an amazing layered HDR experience (excellent for low-light photographs without blown out highs) and an updated portrait mode that both effectively introduces background blur, but also lets you adjust it after the fact. The phones come in silver, space gray, or a new gold color with 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage, and the new iOS 12 means you’ll get all the latest multitasking features and a new optimization for the A12 chip and battery. If you’ve got the space in your pocket (and your budget), this could be the best phone you’ve ever had.

Best Value: Samsung Galaxy S10

4.8

Samsung’s new flagship phone has made quite the splash since its release. The S10’s specs have made great improvements to past Galaxy models (which were already reliable phones to begin with). The starting model holds a hyper-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, which reaches record-breaking speeds among Android phones. It holds 8GB of RAM, which is double the amount from its predecessor and offers 128GB or 512GB of internal storage. The 3,400 mAH battery also comes equipped with an intelligent cooling system that protects your phone from overheating while running energy-draining apps and games. Additionally, the S10 is compatible with wireless charging and even offers a new PowerShare feature, which lets you recharge other Galaxy devices from your phone.

The Galaxy S10 comes with a 10MP selfie cam, along with a set of three wide-angle lenses. The ultra-wide lens utilizes a 123-degree panoramic scope, creating stunning landscape shots with 16MP of resolution. Additional features, like the Galaxy’s dual-aperture setting and 2x optical zoom, guarantee sharp, professional-looking photos with every click.

You can see more top picks in our list of the best Samsung phones.

Runner-Up, Best Large Screen: Google Pixel 3 XL

Google Pixel 3 XL

 Courtesy of Best Buy

4.8

With a 6.3-inch screen, operating the Pixel 3 XL might actually require both hands. But the design is sleek and weighs only 6.5 ounces, and the OLED display boasts rich, true-to-life colors with 2960 x 1440 pixels. The XL has also increased its aspect ratio to 18:9, which makes for an even better video viewing experience.

The XL is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, upgrading from the 2 XL’s 835 model. It also offers 4GB of RAM and the option for 64 or 128GB of storage. The battery features 18 watts of power and is compatible with Qi wireless chargers. The XL also sports most of the same special features as the Pixel 3 including Google Assistant, Playground, and Google Lens. Additionally, the phone’s camera boasts the same HD lenses on the Pixel 3, promising 4K videos and professional-grade photos.

Runner-Up, Best Apple: iPhone XR

iPhone XR

 Apple.com

Striking a perfect balance between value and features, the iPhone XR is Apple’s best upgrade for the average consumer. Available in a variety of colors, the iPhone XR stands out against the muted palette of its more expensive counterparts. However, inside the device is where the magic really happens. Running Apple’s A12 Bionic processor, the XR is an incredibly fast smartphone. Apps open and close instantaneously with 3GB of RAM that ensures there’s plenty of memory for multitasking.

Featuring “Liquid Retina” technology, the display on the XR now takes up the entire face of the phone. Gone is the vaunted home button. Now you can unlock your phone with Face ID, tech that made its debut with the iPhone X. It too runs flawlessly thanks to the combination of hardware and software. The same can be said for the 12-megapixel single lens camera on the rear. Smart HDR takes fantastic photos and portraits show a stunning depth of field. If you aren’t already sold, the 25 hours of talk time and 15 hours of internet use should seal the deal.

Best Compact: Google Pixel 3a

Whereas the Pixel 3 was a compelling alternative to the iPhone XS, the Pixel 3a is Google’s iPhone XR. A friendlier option for those on a strict budget, this little 6-by-2.8-by-0.3-inch handset is small enough to squeeze into even the tightest skinny jeans. For the money, it’s one of the better values you’ll find, too.

The camera, for instance, is the best in its class and costs less than half that of a premium flagship from one of its competitors. Accompanied by an 8-megapixel front selfie camera, it’s the same one found on the more expensive Pixel 3. On the back are a 12.2-megapixel sensor and an f/1.8 lens. But don’t think it skimps on features. Night Sight and Top Shot are still intact, the latter of which claims to take a better photo than you can. 

On the inside, the Google Pixel 3a is powered by Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 670 2.0 GHz CPU, 4GB of RAM, and Adreno 615 Graphics projecting to a spacious 5.6-inch, 2160x1080 OLED screen. The body is made out of plastic, but it still feels hardy. The only knocks against it are the lack of water resistance and wireless charging, even if the 12-hour battery life more than makes up for it. 

Best Budget: Moto G7

Motorola may have taken a backseat to some other phone manufacturers, but the debut of the affordable G7 has earned them the best budget spot on our list, And while the company has focused on necessities rather than frills with this latest model, the G7 still checks a lot of boxes, from physical design to internal specs.

In terms of design, it has a premium feel, with an all-glass back (slightly curved at the edges), and an edge-to-edge 6.2-inch display on the front. The front camera is housed inside a tiny teardrop notch, so it doesn’t take up much space at all. Performance is stellar, too, thanks to the Snapdragon 632 octa-core CPU and 4GB RAM found inside. And you don’t have to worry about all that hardware getting damaged if you accidentally spill a few drops of liquid since it’s water repellent.

On the back, you’ll find a fingerprint sensor and a set of 12- and 5-megapixel cameras capable of 4K video, portrait mode photos, and even slow-motion video, along with HDR. While the higher-end flagship phones offer a wider range of photography features, the G7 nails all of the basics, and then some. 

Battery life is surprisingly good, as in it lasts all day, though it does lack wireless charging. So you’ll have to use Moto’s included “Turbopower” charger out of the box, which will get you back up to around 50 percent in half an hour.

Best Design: One Plus 7 Pro

In addition to its competitive battery life and amazing 3120x1440 resolution, 90Hz OLED screen, the OnePlus 7 Pro has an undeniably primo build quality. Its glass- and metal-infused frame is available two colors, Nebula Blue and Mirror Gray. On the back, its main camera boasts a 48-megapixel sensor and an f/1.6 lens. Meanwhile, the front 16-megapixel selfie camera has a unique trick up its sleeve: It pops out, thus negating the need for a notch.

The processor is the same one found in the Galaxy S10, a Snapdragon 855. However, this time you’re given a choice of 6GB, 8GB, or 12GB RAM configurations. There’s also a 4,000 mAh battery, among the highest capacities we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. As a result, getting through a full day of even the heaviest use should be an effortless undertaking for the OnePlus 7 Pro. 

Sadly, it’s devoid of wireless charging. Worse yet, OnePlus seems to be committed to its proprietary “Warp Charge” fast charging tech, which works, but requires that purchase one of its own chargers to get top speeds, rather than one of the more commonly available USB-PD accessories. 

Best for Gaming: Razer Phone 2

As technology has evolved, smartphones have become the ideal choice for mobile gaming. After all, it’s already in your pocket, and by now probably has a crisp display and cutting-edge CPU. One of the few phone makers capitalizing on this is Razer, who was one of the first to develop a smartphone intended specifically for gaming, namely the Razer Phone.

Its sequel, the Razer Phone 2 sports a unique monolith design. The almost-unheard-of 120Hz refresh rate is joined by the loudest speakers we’ve ever heard on a device this small, and a powerful 2.8 GHz Snapdragon 845 CPU with 8 GB of RAM drives performance to its full potential. The LCD screen delivers an impressive 514 PPI pixel density, and the rear camera is an eight-megapixel shooter (an improvement over the original).

The Razer Phone 2 The battery packs a 4,000 mAh cell and will get you through a full day of use even if you’re glued to the screen playing your favorite beat-‘em-up. For everyday tasks, it does perform better with Android 9 Pie installed, so you’ll want to update it from the Android 8.1 Oreo with which it ships. Additional features include wireless charging and, despite its high-quality THX speakers, IP67 water resistance.

Best Battery Life: Moto G7 Power

If the middling battery life on your current phone is driving you up the wall, consider the G7 Power, a specialized version of the Moto G7 that emphasizes battery life above all else. To pull this off, the G7 Power packs in a staggering 5,000 mAh cell, making it the longest-running smartphone on the market, by a pretty sizeable margin. 

Off the charger, you can use it almost nonstop to watch videos, listen to music, and aimlessly refresh Twitter from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Of course, with that kind of battery life comes additional heft. It tips the scale at almost half a pound, but will easily get most users through a full two days of moderate use between charges, and possibly, even more, depending on how you’re using it.

But Motorola had to cut a few corners in the process. First off, the battery recharges more slowly than that of the standard G7, even with the included “TurboPower” fast charger. It’s also worth mentioning that the CPU is clocked down a bit in favor of battery life. And the phone only comes in a 32 GB capacity. As for the camera, there’s just a single rear 12-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 lens (sorry selfie lovers), which is a notch down from that of the standard G7. 

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought 10 top-rated smartphones and our reviewers tested them daily for weeks on end. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these smartphones, from their operating system to their size. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Smartphone

iOS versus Android - One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make when choosing a new smartphone is whether you want an iOS device (an iPhone) or one that runs Android. Each operating system has its own advantages; high-end Android phones are often more advanced, but iPhones are more popular domestically, so apps often arrive on iOS first.

Brand - If you have opted for an Android phone, you’re going to have quite a few options when it comes to the handset maker. Companies like Google, Samsung, HTC and more all make Android-based phones. Many of the top phones from these brands have similar features, but you may have a strong preference for or against certain companies.

Size - Phones are getting bigger and bigger these days. Most iPhones and many Android devices come in two sizes: standard and XL/Max. If you have large hands and/or want to get a lot of work done on your phone, you may want to consider getting a larger option.

Test Results: Samsung Galaxy S9 (Best 2018 Release)

4.4

What We Like

  • Incredible display

  • Great camera

  • Ideal for one-hand usage

What We Don't Like

  • Design feels slightly dated

Samsung Galaxy S9
Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Samsung Galaxy S9
Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Samsung Galaxy S9
Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Samsung Galaxy S9
Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

This phone came highly recommended by our testers for its overall quality at a reasonable price. One of our reviewers said, “The Galaxy S9 has a sleek and impressively refined design and build that's ideal for one-handed usage.” Our testers also raved about the Quad HD Super AMOLED display as well as the camera. On the other hand, one of our reviewers noted, “Although the design is attractive, it does feel a little dated compared to the rapidly-evolving competition.” One of our testers also mentioned the battery wasn’t quite as impressive as competing phones. Still, one of our reviewers concluded, “It's a great option for someone who might consider a newer mid-range phone, but can get a cheaper year-old flagship instead.”

Test Results: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (Best Large Screen)

4.8

What We Like

  • Easy setup

  • Great camera

  • Useful features

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like

  • Fragile

“It has all of the features of a classic Android, with a lot of added functionality (incredible camera, S pen, beautifully vibrant display),” one of our testers said about the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Our reviewers were big fans of the camera, particularly the Flaw Detection feature, and the S pen. “I think the functionality of the S pen really adds to the phone’s overall appeal,” explained one of our testers. In fact, the only negative mentioned by our reviewers was that the phone didn’t seem very durable. One of our testers said, “While I appreciate the large screen and immaculate display, I think that it might end up being more of a liability for accident-prone people.”

Test Results: Google Pixel 3 (Best Android)

Google Pixel 3
4.8

What We Like

  • Easy setup

  • Great camera

  • Durable

  • Clear sound

What We Don't Like

  • Some glitches

Our reviewers loved this phone for its simplicity. “Easy setup, easy to use, and no major issues thus far,” one of our testers reported. Other pluses, according to our reviewers, include its ability to take “stunning” photos, a “super loud and crisp” sound quality, and its perfectly holdable size. In terms of downsides, one of our testers experienced a few glitches, like the screen flashing white when a text was received.

Test Results: LG V40 ThinQ (Best Camera)

LG V40
3.5

What We Like

  • Amazing camera

  • Lightweight

  • High-quality display

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive

  • Small battery

In addition to its exceptional camera, our tester also loved this phone for its big display. "The V40 ThinQ is a huge phone, but it’s still manageable to use with one hand," she said. Our reviewer particularly liked the camera’s triple-shot feature, portrait mode, and the ability to take photos while taking video.

Test Results: Google Pixel 3 XL (Runner-Up, Best Large Screen)

Google Pixel 3 XL
4.8

What We Like

  • Advanced features

  • Incredible photo/video capabilities

  • Easy setup

  • Quality build

What We Don't Like

  • Back of phone scratches easily

  • Screen doesn’t get very bright

“This device is beautifully crafted, easy to use, and loaded with features that are only available on Google’s Pixel line of products,” one of our testers revealed. In particular, our reviewers loved the display quality and camera. “The Pixel 3 XL takes phenomenal photos with true-to-life color, and the video capability is equally as impressive,” reported one of our testers. In terms of negatives, one of our reviewers thought the screen should be brighter and also mentioned the back of the phone is easily prone to scratches. Overall? One of our testers remarked, “It is a beautiful, well-built device packed with AI features that can assist you throughout your busy day.”

Test Results: iPhone XS (Best Apple)

iPhone XS
4.7

What We Like

  • Gorgeous display

  • Substantial build

  • Incredible speed

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive

  • Can easily shatter

“If you're looking for a flagship device, this is the one to buy, especially if you're an Apple fan,” raved one of our testers about the iPhone XS. Standout features, according to our reviewers, include an “absolutely gorgeous display” and incredible speed. “The iPhone XS is absolutely one of the fastest smartphones on the market right now,” reported one of our testers. The one major negative for our reviewers is the high price tag. One of our testers also noted the glass back makes it easily susceptible to shattering. Overall, though, our reviewers were sold on this phone: “Gaming, professional apps, photo editing—it all runs extremely smoothly, not to mention the fantastic camera,” said one of our testers.

Test Results: iPhone XS Max (Best Splurge)

iPhone XS Max
4.7

What We Like

  • Impressive dual camera

  • Great for running high-end games

  • Beautiful, minimal design

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive

  • Battery life is only decent

Our testers loved this phone for its beautiful design and powerful capabilities, with one of our reviewers calling it “one of the best around” in terms of smartphones. One of our testers explained, “It's the most powerful smartphone on the market today and can run high-end games and graphics-rich apps with ease.” Our reviewers also loved the dual camera. In terms of negatives, our testers mentioned the high price and the fact that its battery doesn’t last as long as some Android competitors. One of our reviewers concluded, “It's an extravagant purchase, but that investment is rewarded with a very sleek, very premium, and very powerful smartphone.”

Test Results: Samsung Galaxy S10 (Best Value)

4.8

What We Like

  • Beautiful AMOLED display

  • Triple-camera setup

  • Great speed

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like

  • Spotty in-screen fingerprint sensor

  • No more iris sensor

  • A big price jump from the Galaxy S9

This smartphone won over our tester with its “gorgeous” 6.1-inch Dynamic OLED display, “serious” speed, and good battery life. “The triple-camera setup is very versatile,” he added, “offering three different views from one position.” In terms of negatives, he felt that its in-display fingerprint sensor was less reliable than standard sensors in past models: “Samsung scrapped the iris sensor, too,” he noted, “which makes it easier to fool the camera’s security.” He also noted that it is significantly more expensive than the Galaxy S9. Overall, though, our tester felt that it was a worthwhile purchase: “This is one of the best all-around flagship phones on the market right now,” he raved, “with dazzling looks and impressive tech all around.”

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