The 9 Best Smartphones of 2020

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Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Editors' Choice
Best Overall (Android)
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Best Overall (Apple)
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Apple’s new Night Mode lets you take great and natural-looking pictures in very low light.
Best Features
Google Pixel 4
Best Design
OnePlus 7 Pro
Best Compact
Apple iPhone SE (2nd generation)
The Apple iPhone SE is the best, affordable iPhone on the market.
Best Value (Apple)
Apple iPhone 11
You’ll get up to 17 hours of video watching, or up to 65 hours listening to audio, and fast charging
Best Battery
Motorola Moto G7
Best Value (Android)
Google Pixel 3a
Presents the best collection of features you can find on a smartphone in this price range.
Best Camera
Huawei P30 Pro
Wired fast charging takes it from 70 percent in under 45 minutes.

The best smartphones simplify and add value to your life, keeping you connected to the people you care about and the broader world. The best models deliver high performance that means you're never staring at your phone in irritation waiting for an app or webpage to load. They also pack excellent cameras that rival full, dedicated digital models from just a few years ago, and gorgeous displays with remarkable resolution and color accuracy for such (relatively) small devices.

Of course, even in the age of texting and messaging on social, call quality is still vital, a large part of which is the audio quality a phone's built-in speakers are capable of delivering. In the same vein, there's also the matter of connectivity to the best Bluetooth headsets or best wireless earbuds, so you can not only hear conversations but listen to music and podcasts without having to deal with lagging or interruptions.

See our full list of the best smartphones below.

Best Overall (Android): Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

What We Like
  • Secondary depth sensor for selfies

  • Immersive AMOLED display

  • Great battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Spotty in-screen fingerprint sensor

  • No more iris sensor

If Apple’s iOS isn’t your cup of tea, Samsung still leads the pack for the most popular and best smartphones in the Android world. The company's latest flagship, the Galaxy S10 Plus, is an outstanding Android phone that checks all the right boxes.

First, Samsung has packed in Qualcomm’s ultra-fast eight-core Snapdragon 855 processor, plus 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage. You not only get wireless charging but Samsung’s new "PowerShare" feature as well, delivering wireless power to other Qi-compatible devices. The gorgeous 6.4-inch AMOLED screen boasts a QHD+ resolution of 3040 x 1440, with a pixel density of 526 ppi and a new “hole-punch” design for the front camera that allows for an edge-to-edge display.

A triple-lens camera system, with the standard lenses offering a 12 MP sensor and an f/1.5 aperture, plus a third 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens, can capture an impressive 123-degree field of view and the front selfie camera is accompanied by a second depth-sensing camera for capturing impressive “bokeh” shots. The S10 Plus also boasts Samsung’s first in-display acoustic fingerprint sensor, meaning you can unlock your phone simply by placing your finger on the front screen.

Best Overall (Apple): Apple iPhone 11 Pro

What We Like
  • Robust build

  • Speedy performance

  • Awesome camera

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Must use Apple ecosystem

The iPhone is one of the most popular cell phones and some might argue the best smartphone. The new iPhone 11 Pro gains a triple-lens camera system, and while that’s not a new idea, Apple has combined the three cameras — a 26mm wide-angle f/1.8, a 13mm ultra-wide-angle f/2.4, and a telephoto f/2.0, all of which are 12 megapixel shooters — with its A13 Bionic chip’s “Neural Engine” to provide computational photography features that make these cameras much greater than the sum of their parts.

As borne out in our testing, Apple’s new Night Mode lets you take great and natural-looking pictures in very low light. Deep Fusion, on the other hand, blends multiple photos together, pixel-by-pixel, choosing the best parts of each. On top of that, you now get 4K/60fps video recording with extended dynamic range and a smooth optical zoom that seamlessly transitions between all three lenses without missing a beat. The front-facing TrueDepth camera can now take 12-megapixel selfies as well, with 4K/60fps and slow-motion video capture available to power users.

Apple has also seriously upped its OLED game, with the new "Super Retina XDR" display boasting a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 1200 nits of brightness, plus Dolby Vision and HDR10 video. Spatial audio and Dolby Atmos support also make this one of the best pocket movie players you can get. Moreover, Apple has managed to deliver four hours of additional battery life over last year’s iPhone XS, and for the first time ever, an 18-watt USB-PD fast charging adapter is included in the box.

"The Apple iPhone 11 Pro and larger iPhone 11 Pro Max are still the best iPhones ever." — Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief

Best Features: Google Pixel 4

What We Like
  • Nice pocketable size

  • Excellent cameras

  • Night Sight

  • Gesture control

What We Don't Like
  • Screen feels cramped

  • Design is a bit bland

  • Headphone not included

Google’s Pixel 4 has some of the tightest integration that you’ll find in any Android smartphone, since of course Google makes both the hardware and the software, giving it the advantage of ensuring that everything works seamlessly. This also means that you get a “pure Android” experience free clutter and always ready for the latest updates. 

With Android 10 naturally built in right out of the box, the Pixel 4 also includes extremely advanced support for Google Assistant, letting you easily call it up to not only do things like sending messages and checking the weather forecast, but also control phone features and even take selfies. Cool new gesture controls also let you interact with the Pixel 4 in a way that feels almost magical, and the new secure face unlock feature gives Apple’s Face ID a serious run for its money.

When it comes to photography, it’s also a worthy successor to the Pixel 3, which was already widely recognized as taking some of the best photos of any smartphone, and don’t be fooled by the dual-lens camera system; as our testing shows you’ll still get amazing results thanks to Google’s artificial intelligence features that analyze every shot for improved colour, clarity, and detail, and even let you take stunning shows in extremely low light thanks to the revolutionary Night Sight mode.

"I like the Google Pixel 4, mainly because it combines an excellent Android 10 experience with a handful of truly cutting-edge innovations, and possibly some of the best mobile photography I’ve seen on a smartphone.”Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief

Best Design: OnePlus 7 Pro

What We Like
  • 90Hz QHD+ screen

  • Immersive design with no notch or cutout

  • Super speedy experience throughout

What We Don't Like
  • No wireless charging

  • No 3.5mm headphone port or adapter

  • No water resistance certification

A couple of years ago, OnePlus arrived on the scene seemingly out of nowhere with a determination to challenge the established players in the smartphone market, and now the scrappy little underdog is back to challenge the big boys again with the OnePlus 7 Pro, which offers some seriously great specs and one of the best designs we’ve seen in an Android phone, with a glass-and-metal-infused frame and an edge-to-edge screen that is devoid of any notches.

The OnePlus 7 Pro boasts solid battery life and an amazing 6.5-inch QHD+ 3120 x 1440 pixel OLED screen with a 516 ppi density and a 90Hz refresh rate. The triple-lens camera system on the rear includes a 48 MP sensor on the main shooter plus an 8MP telephoto lens and a 16MP wide-angle. Despite the lack of notches on the front, there’s also a 16MP selfie camera; the trick is that it actually pops up when you need it, but stays hidden the rest of the time. 

It also sports a 4,000 mAh battery that our testing shows will easily get through a full day of even heavy use, although sadly, there’s no wireless charging here, and OnePlus seems to insist on sticking with its proprietary “Warp Charge” fast charging tech, which works, but requires that you use its own chargers to get top speeds, rather than the more commonly-available USB-PD or QC 3.0 accessories. 

”No other phone packs this kind of top-end design, stunning screen, and impressive speed at this kind of price.”.Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Compact: Apple iPhone SE (2nd generation)

What We Like
  • Hand-friendly size

  • Flagship CPU

  • Portrait mode everywhere

  • Affordable price

What We Don't Like
  • Tiny screen

  • No Portrait Mode for animals or objects

Launched in 2020, the iPhone SE (2nd Generation) comes perfectly positioned for the moment. It's more than just a relaunch of the affordable first-generation model, putting fresh guts into an iPhone 8 shell. With the new SE you're looking at a dated but classic design featuring big black bezels on the top and bottom, a touch ID button, and a largely aluminum unibody.

That means unlike the classic SE, you won't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but you do get to take advantage of a slightly larger 4.7-inch screen. It's an HD Retina display, so it's not as big or sharp as the panels you get on either the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro, On the plus side, you get tons of power with the new A13 Bionic CPU. it's easily one of the most powerful chips on a phone for this price and size. It also has 1GB more RAM than the old iPhone 8, allowing you handle just about any task when it comes to browsing, streaming, and gaming.

Our Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff was particularly impressed by the camera capabilities, praising the 12MP rear camera and 7MP face time camera for their ability to take beautiful Portrait Mode pictures. He noted that this feature was made possible by the aforementioned A13 Bionic chip, which takes advantage of the integrated image processors, onboard AI, and machine learning to snap great portrait shots with both sensors.

Other nice touches come from the fact that the new SE boasts IP68 waterproofing, supports wireless charging, and can fast charge with an 18W charger. It's also capable of supporting dual SIMs (one physical SIM and an eSIM), gigabit LTE, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5. These are feature's you'll be hard-pressed to find on an Android phone for just $399, making the iPhone SE (2nd Generation) one of the best compact phones you can buy.

"The Apple iPhone SE is the best, affordable iPhone on the market. It’s a canny piece of rebranding for an aging design that reinvigorates it through silicon and ultra-smart programming." — Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief

Best Value (Apple): Apple iPhone 11

What We Like
  • Excellent value

  • Great color accuracy

  • Best battery life of Apple phones

What We Don't Like
  • LCD screen instead of OLED

The successor to last year’s iPhone XR, Apple’s iPhone 11 is the iPhone to buy for the majority of users, offering the same blazing-fast A13 Bionic CPU, 12 megapixel TrueDepth front camera, and f/1.8 wide-angle and f/2.4 ultra-wide-angle cameras on the rear that you’ll also find in the more expensive "Pro" models. Apple’s A13 "Neural Engine" also adds impressive new computational photography features such as improved Smart HDR, an automatic Night Mode, and "Deep Fusion" for crafting highly detailed photos using pixel-by-pixel analyses of multiple shots. There’s also now Extended Dynamic Range video capture at 4K/60fps. 

Although you’re still only getting an LCD screen, rather than an OLED, it’s the same "Liquid Retina" design that Apple pulled off for last year’s iPhone XR, which gets as close to the edges as any LCD can while providing a 1792 x 828 resolution with a 326 PPI pixel density and a 1400:1 contrast ratio and 625-nit brightness that impress for an LCD display. Also onboard are full P3 wide color gamut and Apple’s True Tone tech, the latter of which matches your display’s colors to the surrounding light for unsurpassed color accuracy.

Last year’s iPhone XR also harbored the best battery life of any iPhone ever made, and this year Apple has managed to boost that by an extra hour with the iPhone 11 — so you’ll get up to 17 hours of video watching, or up to 65 hours listening to audio, and fast charging will get you back up to 50 percent in under 30 minutes, although Apple still isn’t including a fast charger in the box. Of course, wireless charging is also supported too. After thorough testing, Lance called the 11 an affordable phone that doesn't skimp on power or battery life.

"The iPhone 11 keeps all that’s good and upgrades it in a handful of useful ways." — Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief

Best Battery: Motorola Moto G7

What We Like
  • Excellent battery life

  • Very affordable

  • Solid Android 9.0 performance

What We Don't Like
  • Low-resolution screen

  • Camera delivers spotty results

  • Poor gaming performance

If you need a smartphone that can get you through a couple of days between charges, the Moto G7 Power is a solid performer that may be well worth a few compromises to get you there. With a massive 5,000 mAh battery cell, it’s not the lightest phone, but it does provide the longest run times of any smartphone we’ve seen—our tests showed that it can easily get you through more than two days of normal use without getting anywhere near a charger.

There’s more to this than just a big battery however, as Motorola has cut a few corners to not only ensure that it sips power, but also to keep the price remarkably affordable. For one, the battery charges more slowly than most other phones we’ve seen, even with the included “TurboPower” fast charger, so it’s probably a good thing that you won’t need to charge it that often. The CPU is also under-clocked a bit, which means it’s not a smartphone for serious mobile gamers, and the single rear 12 MP camera is average at best. However, if you’re a busy traveller it’s hard to argue with having a phone that offers the kind of battery life that lets you leave your charger behind. 

“We pulled the Moto G7 Power off of the charger one morning and went two full days without plugging it back in. At the start of day three, following 48 hours of uptime, it still had a 30 percent charge.”Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Value (Android): Google Pixel 3a

What We Like
  • Same camera system as Pixel 3

  • Feels durable

  • No bloatware

What We Don't Like
  • Plastic body

  • No water-resistance

  • No wireless charging

The Pixel 3 is one of the most compelling Android phones available, but the much more reasonably priced Pixel 3a presents the best collection of features you can find on a smartphone in this price range. 

While Google has cut a few obvious corners to keep the costs down — the body is made out of plastic and it lacks water resistance and wireless charging — it hasn’t compromised on the camera, which is the same system used in its more expensive sibling. Its 12.2MP sensor and f/1.8 lens on the back are accompanied by an 8MP front selfie camera and features like Night Sight and Top Shot. While it lacks the Pixel Visual Core processor of the flagship Pixel 3, all of its processing is done in the main CPU/GPU, and the photos it takes are still indistinguishable from the Pixel 3.

Despite the plastic body, the Pixel 3a also still features a hardened glass screen and feels like a solid and well-built phone. It’s also powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 670 2.0 GHz CPU with 4 MB of RAM. An Adreno 615 Graphics chip drives a great 5.6-inch 2160 x 1080 OLED screen. Lastly, since it’s a Google phone, there’s no bloatware in sight—just the clean Android OS that you know and love. In his review, Andrew praised the affordable price point and that excellent camera.

"The Pixel 3a is one of the best mid-range phones you can buy thanks to its excellent camera and appealing Android experience." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Camera: Huawei P30 Pro

What We Like
  • Best-in-class camera system

  • Fast wireless charging

  • Great battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Slippery to hold

For many people, their smartphones have replaced their point-and-shoot cameras. While Google’s Pixel 3 wowed everyone in 2018, Huawei’s P30 Pro has leapfrogged it this year. The P30 Pro’s camera is a three-lens system with a staggering 40MP resolution at f/1.8 on the main wide-angle lens, while the other lenses come in at 20MP for the ultra-wide and 8MP for the telephoto. Plus, the front shooter can snap selfies at 32MP. A time-of-flight sensor handles depth mapping, while the telephoto camera takes things a step further with a 5X optical zoom.

Where the P30 Pro really shines, however, is its use of Sony's new IMX650 sensor, which uses an RYYB color filter to collect 40 percent more light. Combined with a long exposure mode and other complex algorithms, the P30 Pro can extract every last bit of light without switching to a dedicated "dark mode."

The P30 Pro also has some seriously pocketable power, with Huawei’s own octa-core Kirin 980 CPU and 8 GB of RAM. The 6.5-inch OLED display keeps to Huawei’s typical FHD 2340 x 1080 resolution, with a 398 PPI density, P3 color space, and HDR10. A substantial 4200 mAh battery will get you through two days of normal usage. Wired fast charging takes it from 70 percent in under 45 minutes. It also has 15-watt fast wireless charging and the ability to charge other Qi-compatible devices. 

Final Verdict

If you're shopping for a smartphone and want the very best of the best (and prefer Android handsets), the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus with it's killer display and amazing performance is the market leader. On the Apple side, the iPhone 11 Pro is the elite choice, delivering a spectacular camera, great specs, and that trademark Apple build quality.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate smartphones based on design, performance, display quality, functionality, and features. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases; phones are now such an integral part of our lives that it's critical to test them in a variety of real-world scenarios. Our testers also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the smartphones we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington has been testing and reviewing smartphones and smartphone accessories for over a decade, and has used every smartphone and mobile platform from the early Palm, Symbian, and Windows CE days to the modern era of Apple iPhones and the entire gamut of Android-based phones from the Google Nexus One to the latest Samsung devices.

Lance Ulanoff is a 30-plus year industry veteran and award-winning journalist who has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” Previously, Lance served as a columnist for Medium, Editor-in-Chief of Mashable, and Editor-in-Chief of

Andrew Hayward has been covering the latest tech since back in 2006 for a number of major media publications. His top specialty is smartphone and mobile accessories, meaning he was the perfect choice to review a number of the Samsung handsets on our list.

The Ultimate Smartphone Buying Guide

The humble telephone has come a long way over the years. Gone are the days when the phone was simply a way to call people. These days, smartphones are the hub of our digital lives, serving as a way to communicate with people, surf the Web, play games, pay bills, stay organized, and more.

When shopping for a smartphone, there are many factors to consider. First, you'll have to figure out which operating system you want that smartphone to run. And you’ll also want to consider other factors, including the amount of storage, screen size, battery life, and camera quality, to name a few. And so, because a smartphone is one of our most important possessions, it can sometimes be tough to pick out the right one. That, however, is why we’ve put together this guide—to help you find the perfect smartphone for your needs.

Smartphone Operating Systems

So if you decided you want a smartphone, you'll have to then consider which operating system you want to use. The operating system on a smartphone plays the same role as an operating system on a computer. It’s basically the software that you interact with on a daily basis. On an iPhone, the operating system is iOS, while on an Android phone, it’s Android. There are a few advantages and disadvantages to each operating system, which we’ll go over below.


Interested in an Android operating system? Android is the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, and for a number of reasons. For starters, unlike Apple, which only allows for iOS to be used on its iPhones, Google licenses out Android to other companies. That’s why the likes of Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and Google itself all use the Android operating system.

 Lifewire / Claire Cohen

If you’re a tried-and-true Google user, then Android is usually better at working with those apps and services. We’re not just talking about the Google search engine here—other operating systems make good use of that, too. Instead, we’re talking about the Google Play Music streaming service, Google Drive cloud storage, other Google devices like the Google Home smart speaker, and more. Now more than ever, choosing a smartphone operating system is about choosing an ecosystem, and if you go for an Android phone, it might be helpful to either already use Google’s services, or be willing to switch.

Android is also generally considered to be the operating system “that can do more" and has more features. That’s because of the nature of Android—the code for Android is available for developers who want it, and Google is far less closed off than Apple about that. If you’re a tinkerer, or you want to install apps from third-party sources, Android may be the way to go—through we recommend only downloading apps from the Google Play Store to ensure that your phones stay malware-free. The trade-off of being able to do more is that it’s slightly less easy to use than phones with iOS.

Last but not least is the fact that Android phones make use of Google’s work in machine learning and artificial intelligence. The result of that is that Google Assistant is more capable than some other digital assistants, and Android is better at predicting what you might want to do and when you might want to do it.

In the end, there are a few main reasons to go for an Android phone. They can be a little cheaper, they work better with Google’s apps and services, and they’re a little smarter.


Apple’s iOS may not be used by as many people around the world, but in the U.S. it’s actually the dominant smartphone operating system. There are plenty of reasons to go for an iPhone—the phone that runs iOS—over an Android device. The main ones, however, are that it’s built by Apple, and as such it’s both super easy to use, ultra-stylish, and plays nice with other Apple devices.

From the start, iOS guides you through getting used to your phone, and pretty much everything is where you would expect it to be. Settings are all in the settings app, apps are all lined up together, and so on.

Because of the fact that Apple controls every aspect of the development of an iPhone, they can generally last longer and feel faster in how they handle things like multitasking. That doesn’t necessarily mean that iOS phones perform truly better than Android phones—though they often do—it just means that iOS is better at working with the hardware to create a great user experience.

There’s also the fact that iPhones work better with other Apple devices. Safe to say, if you have a Mac computer or iPad, then an iPhone may be the way to go, as it makes it easy to sync things like photos, messages, e-mails, and more, all with Apple’s iCloud.

If you want a simple user interface, better Apple integration, and a phone that performs better for longer, then a phone with iOS is probably the way to go.

Other Features and Considerations

The operating system isn’t the only thing to consider when buying a smartphone—though if you’ve figured out which operating system you want, then you’ve done a lot of the work. You’ll also want to think about the hardware (processor, RAM, etc.) under the hood, the camera, screen size, battery capacity, and more. Only a few of these things are an issue when buying an iPhone (there are only a few iPhone models each year to choose from). But if you’re buying an Android phone, these things might all be something to consider.

 Lifewire / Jordan Provost


The processor is essentially the brain of a computer, or in this case, a phone. More powerful processors basically mean that your phone can “think” faster, meaning tasks are completed quicker, multitasking is zippier, and your phone will perform well for longer. Longevity is important here: A phone with a sub-par processor might be perfectly fine at handling the apps of today, but that may not be true of the apps being released in two years.

There are a few companies developing processors for smartphones. Apple develops its own processors in-house, but the likes of Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, and more, all develop processors for Android phones. In the U.S., Qualcomm chips are most common, and in 2018, the flagship Qualcomm chip is the Snapdragon 845. The higher the number here, the better.

If you want more powerful processors, you’ll want processors with multiple “cores.” Traditional processors can only perform one task at a time, but a dual-core processor can process two, and a quad-core processor can process four.


Storage is perhaps the most important thing for most people to consider. The more storage you have on your phone, the more files, apps, photos, video, etc., that you can keep on there at a time. These days, it’s a little easier to get by with less storage if you use cloud storage like Apple Photos or Google Drive, but some things simply can’t work without being stored on your phone. We recommend getting a phone with at least 16GB of storage (for light users), though 32GB is going to be much better, and 64GB or more should be enough for heavy users.

Some phones also allow for external storage, usually through a MicroSD card slot. With this slot, you can buy a small card about the size of a SIM card, which can be used to store files on. MicroSD cards start at around $10 for low-capacity ones and range up from there.


The camera has become one of the most important aspects of a phone. After all, when a phone has a great camera it means you can quickly capture a moment without having to carry around another camera.

There are a few things that make a great camera, but the most important is the software behind it. Two phones with identical camera specs can yield vastly different results, so, unfortunately, it’s near impossible to shop for a phone with a great camera by only looking at specs on paper.

Still, there are a few specs to consider. For starters, the resolution of the camera is important to many people. Resolution determines the number of pixels that make up a photo or video—and a higher number of pixels means the photo will look good on higher resolution displays. As displays continue to go up in resolution, that can be very important.

 Lifewire / Claire Cohen

You’ll also want to think about aperture, which is basically the size of the hole that light goes into before it reaches the camera sensor. The larger the hole, the more light that’s let in—which can be helpful for low-light situations. Aperture is expressed as an f-number—like, for example, f/2.0. Larger apertures, however, are represented by smaller numbers—which is confusing, but unfortunately the way it is.

We recommend looking at reviews for a phone to determine whether the camera is good or not. As mentioned, simple specs don’t mean a whole lot when it comes to camera quality, here are a few phone cameras we highly recommend.


RAM, or Random Access Memory, is another form of storage, but instead of using it to save files, its used by your system to save things that it might want to pull up quickly. Most commonly, open apps are saved in RAM so that when you close them and open them again, they can show up on the screen without having to completely load again.

Generally speaking, more RAM is better when buying a smartphone, but phones with more RAM also often cost more. For a mid-range phone, you’ll probably find phones in the 2GB of RAM range, but for most users, a device with 3GB or more is recommended.

Display Type

When it comes to phones, a screen isn’t just a screen. There are a few different types of displays, and they’re not all created equal.

The most common type of display type in mid-range and low-end phones is the LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display. LCDs are inexpensive to produce, which is why they’re used so often, but the trade-off is that they’re not the best at conserving battery life and they generally don’t produce the deepest blacks or brightest colors. There are two types of LCD’s though: TFT-LCDs, which are cheaper and the worst at color reproduction, and IPS-LCDs, which are a little better at color reproduction and wider viewing angles.

These days, high-end phones are doing away with LCDs in favor of OLED displays. Because OLED displays light up individual pixels rather than the display as a whole, it saves on battery life. On top of that, when black shows up on the screen, OLED displays simply don’t light it, meaning that blacks look deeper, and contrast ratios are higher. You might see “Super AMOLED” displays out there, which is basically Samsung branding for its OLED displays.

You’ll probably only notice the difference between LCD and OLED displays if you have a truly sharp eye, although you might find the battery improvements that come with OLED displays to be worth the extra cash.

Screen Size

Phone display sizes have gotten a whole lot bigger over the years, and that might be important to you. Smaller displays come in at four inches, while larger displays can range up to seven inches. Phone displays are likely to continue to get bigger, too. That’s because of the trend of edge-to-edge displays, which minimize the amount of space between the screen and the edge of the phone and make for phones with larger displays, but the same overall size.

If you like to watch videos, look at photos, or play a lot of games on your phone, you might want to consider buying one with a larger display size.

 Lifewire / Claire Cohen

Biometric Authentication

Gone are the days when you had to enter a PIN code to access your phone. These days, most smartphones have a fingerprint sensor built into them, ensuring you can get into your device quickly and easily, and at the touch of a sensor. Some higher-end phones also have other forms of biometric authentication, like iris scanning or facial recognition.

Many consider fingerprint sensing to be the easiest way to authenticate, especially depending on its placement. While some phones mount a fingerprint sensor on the front of the device, others have a sensor on the back, making it easy to quickly scan your fingerprint as you take your device out of your pocket.

These days, some phones also have facial recognition, which is both safer, and sometimes easier to use. All you have to do to authenticate yourself with facial recognition is look at your phone, which does present some difficulty if your phone is on your desk, for example.

Some other high-end phones also offer iris scanning, which presents its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that iris scanning is highly secure and relatively easy to use, but the disadvantage is that iris scanners are expensive to make and implement.

We recommend a phone with at least a fingerprint scanner, though any other methods of authentication can be useful, too.

Battery Capacity

Not all batteries are the same size, and a smaller battery can have a serious impact on how long your phone lasts on a single charge. Battery capacity is measured in milliampere-hours, or mAh—where a higher number represents a larger capacity. Of course, it’s not always as simple as “larger batteries make your phone last longer.” A phone with a larger battery but an equally high-resolution display and power-hungry processor may not last as long as a phone with a smaller battery, lower-resolution display, and less intense processor.

Most phones that you come across should last at least a day of normal use on a single charge, but the fact remains that bigger batteries are helpful, and battery capacity is definitely something you should consider. We recommend getting a phone with at least a 2,500mAh capacity—though again, how long that lasts will depend on a lot of different factors.


While battery capacity is important enough, for many, how you charge up that battery is equally as important. Many devices simply charge through their charging port, and most low-end and mid-range phones don’t have any fancy fast-charging tech. Some phones, however, have ways to accelerate how fast their battery is charged, at least when coupled with the right charger. This fast-charging tech varies from company to company, but whenever present, it can be very helpful to have.

There’s another charging tech that can be helpful, and that’s wireless charging. Wireless charging has been around for some time now, and some Android manufacturers have been making use of it for years. Just recently, Apple introduced wireless charging on its phones, so the tech has quickly become a whole lot more popular. Wireless charging essentially allows you to charge your phone by popping it onto a charging mat or dock, without having to plug it in. It’s very convenient, but something largely reserved for high-end devices. If you are buying a high-end device, wireless charging is definitely something to consider.

 Lifewire / Claire Cohen


You’ll likely want your phone to be durable, and there are a few ways to make sure it is. The most common rating for durability is an “Ingress Protection” rating, which covers water-resistance and dust-proofing. Most phones that have an IP-rating have at least IP67, which means that a phone is dust-tight and can withstand being immersed in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. A rating with numbers higher than that is always battery.

Some phones also have military drop-test ratings, which means they’re testing to be able to withstand drops and bumps. Phones that have this aren’t common, but they should be able to withstand a whole lot more abuse than the standard phone. Most commonly, you’ll see the MIL-STD-810G standard, which means the phone has been tested to withstand a total of 26 drops on each face, edge, and corner. The standard is a little misleading because manufacturers can test with up to five samples, meaning each sample is only dropped five or six times, but it still means that the phone should withstand the odd drop perfectly fine.


As you can tell, there are quite a few things to consider when buying a new smartphone. You’ll then want to decide between Android or iOS. And of course, you still need to figure out a budget, and decide on the specifications that are most important to you (whether they be power-related, display-related, or otherwise). Find the best phone with those specs in your price range, and voila, you have yourself a new phone.

No matter what’s important to you, there’s almost certainly a smartphone that will be perfect for your needs. There are dozens of phones out there, after all, and more are being released every single week.