The 9 Best Sprint Phones of 2021

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The Rundown
Best Overall (Apple):
Apple iPhone 12 at Apple
This popular iPhone model gets even better with a whole new design and Apple's stunning Super Retina XDR display.
Best Overall (Samsung):
Samsung Galaxy S21 at Amazon
This premium smartphone cuts a few corners to make it more affordable but still offers powerful features and a great experience.
Gets the job done for those who want to spend as little as possible on a smartphone.
Offers powerful photography capabilities that are unrivalled by any other smartphone currently on the market.
The refined and classy design features gradient refraction effects cause a gradual colour shift from the centre to the edges.
Delivers astonishing value for its price, with a classic design that packs in a modern A13 Bionic processor.
If you prefer a powerful phone that fits more readily into your pocket, then Apple's iPhone 12 mini is a breath of fresh air.
Adopts a clamshell design that can easily fit in your pocket when folded while opening up to a gorgeous 6.7-inch glass display.
Best Battery Life:
Motorola Moto G Power at Amazon
The 5,000mAh battery can give you more than three days of use on a single charge.

Even though Sprint has now merged with T-Mobile to form a single unified carrier, existing Sprint customers are still on the Sprint network while T-Mobile goes through the process of absorbing it into the new T-Mobile network. While you can’t sign up for Sprint as a new customer, if you’re an existing subscriber looking to upgrade to a newer smartphone, you’ll need to get one that’s compatible both with your existing Sprint network and also ready to move on to T-Mobile when the time comes.

The best Sprint phones meet these requirements by supporting all the cellular technologies of both networks, from 3G CDMA and GSM to the combined 4G/LTE frequencies. Faster 5G models are also compatible with T-Mobile’s expansive nationwide 5G network that Sprint customers now have access to as part of the merger, following the shutdown of the mid-band Sprint 5G network. We’ve rounded up the top smartphones that are ready to go on both networks so that Sprint customers will be able to enjoy all that Sprint has to offer today without needing to worry about buying a new phone when they’re eventually folded into the new T-Mobile network. 

Best Overall (Apple): Apple iPhone 12

iPhone 12
What We Like
  • Great design

  • Beautiful screen

  • Excellent cameras

What We Don't Like
  • Only 60Hz screen

  • Charger not included

Apple's iPhone 12 is the latest in a lineup of more affordable and feature-rich iPhones that began with the 2018 iPhone XR and continued with the iPhone 11. Like its predecessors, it's still the best iPhone for most folks by far, but that's even more compelling this time around with an entirely new design, plus Apple's stunning Super Retina XDR display—the first time an OLED display has come to a non-Pro iPhone model.

The iPhone 12 also packs in all the same performance specs as the pricier flagship models, including the powerful A14 Bionic chip, fast 5G wireless technology, with ultrafast mmWave support in the U.S. models, and Apple's Ceramic Shield glass screen that boasts significantly better drop performance than previous models. The Super Retina XDR screen now gets as close to the edges as it possibly can, accentuated by the sharper new angle, and offers the kind of deep rich blacks and wide colour gamut you can only get from a true OLED screen, while also packing in Apple's True Tone colour matching technology, plus full support for Dolby Vision and HDR10

What's even more amazing is that you can get these same kind of Dolby Vision HDR capabilities when recording video using the iPhone 12 camera system for up to 4K videos at 30 fps—a first among smartphone cameras—plus computational photography features like Portrait Mode, Night Mode, and Deep Fusion. At 6.1 inches, the iPhone 12 actually sports the same great screen as its more expensive Pro sibling, so all you're really missing is the third telephoto lens and LiDAR scanner, but unless you're a serious mobile photographer, we really don't think these are worth the extra cost.

Screen Size: 6.1 inches | Resolution: 2532x1170 | Processor: A14 Bionic | Camera: 12MP/12MP rear and 12MP front | Battery: 2,815mAh

"The iPhone 12 is Apple’s best sub-$1,000 smartphone in years, delivering a premium, polished handset that is packed with power and style alike." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Overall (Samsung): Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21
What We Like
  • Gorgeous 120Hz screen

  • Excellent cameras

  • Distinctive design

What We Don't Like
  • Average battery life

  • No microSD slot

  • Plastic back

With the Galaxy S21, Samsung has taken a page out of Apple's book by producing a higher-end smartphone at a more affordable price. While the S21 scales back a bit from its predecessor, it's clear that Samsung has realized that it needs to create a model that's aimed at the more typical smartphone user rather than only those in the market for an Android superphone.

The Galaxy S21 is no slouch, however. The corners that it cuts are mostly in the look and feel department, and there's still an incredible amount of power packed in here even if it doesn't quite look the part. For example, the rear casing is now matte plastic, although it doesn't really detract from its premium style nor durable feel as much as you might think. The 6.2-inch dynamic AMOLED 2X screen now tops out at FHD+ (2400x1080), rather than QHD+ resolutions, but at a pixel density of 421ppi it still looks great, with a maximum 120Hz refresh rate, vibrant colours, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. It also packs in a slightly redesigned camera module, with more of a stylish flourish, although the setup remains the same as on the prior S20, with a pair of 12MP wide- and ultra-wide angle sensors, plus a 64-megapixel telephoto zoom lens—an addition that edges out the dual-lens iPhone 12 when it comes to camera capabilities. 

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 also offers top of the line performance by Android standards, making the entire user experience feel zippy and responsive no matter what you're doing. It also features the whole gamut of 5G connectivity, so you'll not only be able to take it over to T-Mobile's 5G network, but also any other U.S. carrier. Sadly, Samsung has made another compromise in pulling out the microSD slot, perhaps assuming that the average Android user doesn't care as much about expandable storage anymore—especially with a more affordable 256GB model on offer. 

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 2400x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 12MP/64MP/12MP | Battery: 4,000mAh

"Samsung has made another sharp and highly capable flagship with the Galaxy S21, but in the process of scaling back on the premium allure of its base model, the tech giant has fumbled perceptions here." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Budget: Motorola Moto E

Moto E
What We Like
  • Very affordable

  • Good battery life

  • Impressive portrait photography

What We Don't Like
  • Weak performance

  • Not likely upgradeable beyond Android 10

Motorola's Moto E is a smartphone designed for users for whom money very much is an object. It's a budget smartphone that comes in at an incredibly low price while still providing the advanced capabilities of the Android 10 operating system. It offers a straightforward design that's typical of many entry-level smartphones, front and rear cameras, and a 6.2-inch HD LCD. 

We're not going to mince words here, Motorola has cut a lot of corners to get the Moto E's price tag down to what it is, but it will get the job done for those who want to spend as little as possible on a smartphone. It won't even come close to winning any performance awards, but it's a capable smartphone that delivers a solid feature set for those who just need the basics. 

The rear 13-megapixel camera is aided by a 2MP depth sensor, so it actually takes surprisingly good portrait shots for a smartphone camera in its price class, with good colour reproduction, although it can struggle a bit when the lighting is inconsistent. On the front side, the otherwise unremarkable 5MP shooter also produces decent selfies. The Snapdragon 632 CPU offers enough performance to power all the standard Android 10 features, and while it's fine for casual gaming, don't expect this to offer up the performance needed to play games like PUBG or Fortnite, although it does help the Moto E to get slightly over 10 hours of runtime on a single charge. 

Screen Size: 6.2 inches | Resolution: 1520x720 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 | Camera: 13MP/2MP (depth) rear and 5MP front | Battery: 3,550mAh

Best Camera: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max Pacific Blue
What We Like
  • Huge, dazzling screen

  • Excellent, versatile cameras

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Only 60Hz screen

  • Charger not included

There's a common saying that the best camera is the one you always have with you, and if you're someone who wants to take seriously great photos on the go, the iPhone 12 Pro Max offers powerful photography capabilities that are unrivalled by any other smartphone currently on the market, thanks to its triple-lens camera system and powerful computational photography features. 

While there are a number of other up and coming smartphones like the OnePlus 9 Pro that offer better glass, or others like the Google Pixel 5 that delivers arguably stronger software photography features, Apple has managed to come in strong on both fronts. In fact, with three 12MP sensors powered by AI Deep Fusion technology, the iPhone 12 Pro Max proves that more megapixels aren't needed to capture stunning photos. For the first time in years, the larger 6.7-inch "Max" sized iPhone also gains camera improvements over its smaller sibling, with an image sensor that's 47 percent larger, meaning you'll get incredible low-light photos that are only enhanced further with the iPhone 12's advanced Night Mode features. The larger sensor also means the optical zoom range gets a boost as well, with the telephoto lens coming in at 2.5X rather than the 2X found in all the other Pro iPhone models—including the smaller 6.1-inch iPhone 12.

With the iPhone 12, Apple has also taken its photographic capabilities up another notch with a new ProRAW photo format that allows you to take fully detailed RAW photos without losing the benefits of computational photography features like Smart HDR and Deep Fusion. Plus, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the first camera in the world that's capable of native recording of 4K/60fps Dolby Vision HDR video, and with ultrafast 5G technology, you can even upload those large 4K videos from the road without missing a beat. 

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Resolution: 2778x1284 | Processor: A14 Bionic | Camera: 12MP/12MP/12MP rear and 12MP front | Battery: 3,687mAh

"But the iPhone 12 Pro Max goes a step further. The wide-angle sensor is 47 percent larger than that of both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, allowing more light to flood in, plus it uses a unique sensor-shift image stabilization mechanism similar to that of DSLR cameras." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Design: OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro
What We Like
  • Excellent camera

  • Ultra-fast charging

  • 120Hz QHD display

What We Don't Like
  • Slippery without a case

Among Android smartphones, the OnePlus 9 Pro continues to lead the way in refined and classy designs, rivalled only by the obsessive attention to detail that Apple puts into its iPhone lineup. However, OnePlus has some even more clever ideas up its sleeve, with gradient refraction effects that cause a gradual colour shift from the centre to the edges. While the OnePlus 9 Pro is still a larger smartphone than most, at 6.4 inches tall, it's attractive enough that the size is compelling rather than off-putting. Plus, the slim design also means it's not nearly as unwieldy as its surface area would suggest. 

The 6.7-inch Fluid AMOLED QHD+ (3216x1440) display features a 120Hz refresh rate that makes it great for gaming and other fast-paced activities, but you can also shift down to FHD+ mode (2412x1080) to save battery life when you don't need top-notch quality. It also includes a variety of other neat tricks like vibrant colour effect modes, reading mode, and night mode to help colours pop during the day and reduce eye strain at night. OnePlus' Warp Charge technology is also still here, letting you juice up from zero to 100 percent in around 30 minutes. The Warp Charge wireless charger is also shockingly fast, delivering almost a 70 percent charge in the same timeframe. 

The biggest leap in the OnePlus 9 Pro, however, is the company's new partnership with legendary camera maker Hasselblad to produce the lenses for its camera system. This allows it to offer some of the best optics on the market today, putting it in the same class as the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. The specs also come in higher on paper, with a 50MP ultra-wide camera and 8K video capture capabilities, although limitations on the software side cause it to fall short of being the best smartphone camera. Still, it's clear that OnePlus is a new contender that will give the more established players a run for their money. 

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Resolution: 3216x1440 | Processor: Snapdragon 888 | Camera: 48MP/8MP/50MP/2MP rear and 16MP front | Battery: 4,500mAh

"The OnePlus 9 Pro (and the OnePlus 9) benefit from the new flagship camera system in partnership with Hasselblad, a big step up over the OnePlus 8 series." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Value: Apple iPhone SE (2nd generation)

iPhone SE
What We Like
  • Affordable price

  • Very good camera

  • Compact size

What We Don't Like
  • Weak battery life

  • Dated design

As one of the most affordable iPhones that Apple has ever made, the iPhone SE delivers astonishing value for its price, taking the classic design of the 2017 iPhone 8 and packing in the same A13 Bionic processor found in Apple's 2019 iPhone 11 lineup. This means you're getting an iPhone that performs almost as well as Apple's very latest models, and more importantly will remain supported by iOS updates well into the future. 

Naturally, there are going to be a few compromises at this price, but we think Apple has struck a good balance here in cutting the right corners. For instance, instead of Face ID powered by a more expensive TrueDepth camera system, the iPhone SE falls back on the more traditional Touch ID fingerprint authentication. Likewise, the display and camera hardware remain the same as the ones found on the iPhone 8, although the more powerful A13 chip still gives you advanced photography features like Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting. In fact, you can even shoot 4K videos at a full 60fps using the rear camera, although the front camera remains limited to 7MP selfies and 1080p video.

That said, you're still getting a lot of power and performance here for the price, plus it's a great option if you're a fan of the older design—and Touch ID in particular—and it also includes support for Qi wireless charging, USB-C fast charging, and up to 13 hours of video playback or 40 hours of audio playback on a single charge. 

Screen Size: 4.7 inches | Resolution: 1334x750 | Processor: A13 Bionic | Camera: 12MP rear and 7MP front | Battery: 1,821mAh

"In terms of raw benchmark scores, it’s faster than any Android phone released in 2020, even those that cost two to three times as much." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Compact: Apple iPhone 12 mini

iPhone 12 Mini
What We Like
  • Compact, attractive design

  • Immensely powerful

  • Great cameras

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly weaker battery life

  • 60Hz screen

  • Limited 64GB base storage

Over the past few years, smartphones have been growing larger as users demand more room for their favourite apps and games, but if you still prefer a powerful phone that fits more readily into your pocket, then Apple's iPhone 12 mini is a breath of fresh air. It's a diminutive 5.4-inch iPhone that comes in at a size that's not much larger than Apple's classic iPhone 5s, yet it still packs in all the same features and power as its larger 6.1-inch counterpart. 

This includes the same Super Retina XDR immersive OLED display, and while a smaller iPhone naturally means a smaller display, it still reaches to the very edges of the device, so it still comes in larger than the pocket-sized iPhones of days gone by. Inside you'll also still find the same A14 Bionic chip as the rest of Apple's iPhone 12 lineup, plus an identical dual-lens camera system to the standard iPhone 12. This means that both models offer the same photographic capabilities, including advanced features like Night Mode, Deep Fusion, Smart HDR, and even Dolby Vision HDR recording in 4K at 30fps. It even supports the same 5G speeds and technologies as all other iPhone 12 models, including ultrafast mmWave 5G in the U.S.

In fact, the iPhone 12 mini is very close to being a no-compromises device, with only one exception. Since Apple can't change the laws of physics, a smaller phone means a smaller power cell, so battery life does suffer a bit compared to larger smartphones. This means that you may struggle to get through a long day of heavy use, although Apple's 15W MagSafe charging technology and fast USB-C wired charging means that you'll be able to juice up again pretty quickly as long as there's a charger nearby. 

Screen Size: 5.4 inches | Resolution: 2340x1080 | Processor: A14 Bionic | Camera: 12MP/12MP rear and 12MP front | Battery: 2,227mAh

"This is the smallest phone I’ve handled in several years, and it’s even smaller in form than Apple’s 2nd-gen iPhone SE (a refreshed iPhone 8), although larger than 2016’s original iPhone SE (an updated iPhone 5s)." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Flip: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
What We Like
  • Unique clamshell folding design

  • Glass screen coating

  • Lays flat when unfolded

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Mirrored finish attracts fingerprints

  • Weak camera performance for its price

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is actually the well-known smartphone maker’s second folding smartphone, but it’s evidence that it’s learned a few good lessons from its first failed attempt that ended up being more of a proof-of-concept device than a viable product. Rather than the book-like Galaxy Fold, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip adopts a clamshell design that means it can more easily fit in your pocket when folded, while opening up to a gorgeous 6.7-inch glass display that rivals the iPhone 12 Pro Max in size and quality.

While the four-figure price tag may seem a bit steep, in the world of folding smartphones, the Galaxy Z Flip is actually on the lower end of the scale, and you’re getting a bit more for your money than just the hinge. The FHD+ (2636x1080) AMOLED display is coated with ultra-thin glass which gives it both extra durability and style compared to the plastic screens used in most other phones in this class. It lays fully flat when opened, yet still manages to fold into a nice compact square when closed. The exterior metal case has an attractive sheen, especially in eye-catching colours like Mirror Purple, although like any shiny metal surface, it’s also easily marred by fingerprints from normal everyday use. 

The dual-camera system may also seem like a step back from Samsung’s S20 and S21 series phones, but they manage to produce impressive results thanks to Samsung upping its computational photography game. While it pales in comparison to the more photo-centric iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Flip does a respectable enough job that it’s worth the tradeoff if you really want a folding smartphone—and of course you’re willing to pay the premium price for this relatively new technology.

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Resolution: 2636x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ | Camera: 12MP/12MP rear, 10MP front | Battery: 3,300mAh

Best Battery Life: Motorola Moto G Power

Moto G Power
What We Like
  • Huge battery capacity

  • Great sound quality

  • Good display

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy and bulky

  • Camera app is slow

  • Lacks NFC

While most modern smartphone batteries can get you through a day of typical use, Motorola's Moto G Power goes a big leap beyond that for those who don't want to make any compromises, with a 5,000mAh battery that can give you more than three days of use on a single charge.

It's one of the biggest batteries in a smartphone, but make no mistake here: the outstanding runtime of the Moto G Power also comes from its more efficient features. Since high-resolution displays, fast processors, advanced cameras, and 5G radios consume a ton of power, you're not going to find any of these here. Instead, you get a 6.4-inch IPS display with an FHD+ (2300x1080) resolution, a Snapdragon 665 CPU, and a pair of fairly basic 16MP cameras on the back. 

Despite all of this, however, the Moto G Power still punches above its weight class. It's considered a budget smartphone, but in addition to its staggering battery life, it still offers fast performance for everything but the most demanding 3D games, excellent LTE and Wi-Fi performance, and great stereo Dolby sound quality. The major weak points here are the camera, which does a decent job under ideal conditions, but falls short when things get a bit more complicated, plus the lack of wireless charging or even fast wired charging. This means that big 5,000mAh cell takes almost two hours to reach a full charge, but since you'll have multiple opportunities to charge it up overnight, that's not nearly as big of a problem as it sounds. 

Screen Size: 6.4 inches | Resolution: 2300x1080 | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 | Camera: 16MP/8MP/2MP rear and 16MP front | Battery: 5,000mAh

"I was actually able to get 3+ days of use out of this phone with my regular level of phone calls, texting, web browsing, and app usage." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Final Verdict

With a great balance of price, performance, and advanced features, Apple's iPhone 12 and Samsung's Galaxy S21 are the best choices for Apple and Android fans, respectively, but if you don't want to spend a lot to get the best bang for your buck, Apple's iPhone SE offers performance that's really hard to beat.

About our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington is a tech journalist with over 10 years of experience writing about technology, with an especially strong expertise in all things iPhone and Apple. Jesse previously served as Editor-in-Chief for iLounge, authored books on the iPod and iTunes, and has published product reviews, editorials, and how-to articles on Forbes, Yahoo, The Independent, and iDropNews.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. 

Yoona Wagener has a background in content and technical writing. She has written for BigTime Software, Idealist Careers, and other small tech companies. Yoona enjoys helping people simplify processes. She has experience providing technical support and help documentation to end users, building websites for small business owners, and offering career advice to social-impact job seekers.

Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.


Isn’t Sprint going away now that it’s owned by T-Mobile?

Eventually, yes, but not quite yet. While T-Mobile and Sprint merged in April 2020, at this point the T-Mobile and Sprint networks are still operating independently, so if you’re an existing Sprint customer, you’re still on the Sprint network. At some point, the two networks will merge completely, and Sprint customers will automatically be transitioned to T-Mobile. Until then, however, existing Sprint customers will want to make sure they have a smartphone that works on the Sprint CDMA network to ensure maximum coverage. 

Can I still use a 5G smartphone on Sprint?

The short answer is that it depends. T-Mobile has already shut down Sprint’s mid-band 5G network, meaning older 5G smartphones that were made specifically for Sprint won’t be able to take advantage of 5G—they’ll fall back to 4G/LTE or CDMA speeds instead, depending on what’s available. Newer 5G smartphones, however, such as Samsung’s latest Galaxy S20/S21 and Apple’s iPhone 12 models will be able to connect to T-Mobile’s 5G network, and best of all that also means they’ll be ready to go when Sprint customers are absorbed into T-Mobile.

Can I take my Sprint phone to another carrier?

If your Sprint phone is unlocked, you will be able to use it on any carrier as long it supports the same technologies. Sprint and Verizon use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM, which aren’t compatible with each other. This may limit your coverage in rural areas where faster technologies like LTE and 5G aren’t available, however all U.S. carriers also use similar 4G/LTE and 5G technologies, so compatibility is usually less of a problem, and in fact these older incompatible “3G’ networks are slated to be shut down entirely in the next year or so. Further, to avoid the need to create multiple versions of each of their models, most higher-end smartphones like the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy support all U.S. carrier technologies and frequencies in a single device, so you can use them on any carrier—as long as they’re unlocked, of course. 

What to Look for in a Sprint Phone

Network Compatibility: Now that Sprint is owned by T-Mobile, the two networks are eventually going to be merged. This means if you plan on spending a lot of money on a new smartphone right now you’ll want to make sure that it not only works on Sprint’s network today, but is also compatible with T-Mobile’s network in the future. All the smartphones on our list support the CDMA, GSM, and LTE technologies used by both carriers, while those that offer 5G support will also work on T-Mobile’s network right away, as Sprint’s 5G network has already been shut down as part of the merger. 

Camera: Don’t underestimate the value of having a great camera on your smartphone, as it’s the camera you’re always going to have with you, so you’re guaranteed to want to capture at least a few precious moments on the go. The cameras on Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy models definitely won’t disappoint, but keep in mind that if you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly smartphone, you’re likely going to trade off some of the more advanced camera capabilities, so be sure that’s a trade you’re willing to make.

Price: While flagship smartphones by Apple and Samsung are gorgeous powerhouses with amazing cameras, they’re usually more than most people need. You don’t need to drop four figures to get a great smartphone, especially since the big players have begun releasing more affordable versions of their premium models in recent years, such as the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21, which offer all the most important features of their more expensive siblings. If you’re hoping to spend even less, however, you can still get some great value smartphones for under $500 that will meet the needs of all but the most demanding users. 

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