iPhone XS Max
While pricey, the iPhone Xs Max delivers an immersive 6.5-inch display, blazing performance and excellent cameras in an elegant design.
Galaxy S10 Plus
The Galaxy S10 Plus is one of the best phones money can buy, with fast performance, an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, improved cameras and extra-long battery life.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus
With a huge 6.8-inch display, long battery life and new S Pen tricks, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the phablet to get if you like big screens and top-notch performance.
Update Sept 10: Apple has unveiled three new iPhones. See our iPhone 11 hands-on review and our iPhone 11 Pro hands-on review, which also covers the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus now unveiled, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro on their way to stores later this month, and the Google Pixel 4 following in October, it’s not an easy time to buy a smartphone. But if you’re looking for something great right now, the iPhone XS Max is our top pick — at least for now. And the Galaxy S10 Plus is a close second.
With a gorgeous 6.5-inch OLED screen crammed into a phone that’s not much larger than the iPhone 8 Plus, the Phone XS Max commands an ultra-premium $1,099, but in return you get improved cameras and a processor that blows away many its rivals. The iPhone XR had been the best affordable iPhone, and now Apple is cutting its price with the iPhone 11’s arrival. The XR offers the same processor and even longer battery life than the iPhone XS Max, though its LCD screen is not the best. (See our iPhone XR vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max to help you decide… though waiting until we’ve had a chance to evaluate Apple’s newer iPhone 11 models would be best.)
As for Samsung’s phones, the Galaxy S10 Plus benefits from a powerful processor, much-improved camera and the best battery life you’ll find in a current flagship phone. It’s the best Android phone right now. If you’d like a smaller phone, the Galaxy S10e offers a more compact 5.8-inch screen and a lower starting price than the other S10 models, while phablet fans will want to grab the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, which despite its massive 6.8-inch screen is still thinner and lighter than last year’s model.
For those looking for a big screen and flagship performance at a discount, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a great choice at $669. Want to spend even less? The Pixel 3a gives you Google’s great camera and the most up-to-date version of Android in a phone that costs $399. If you’re on an even tighter budget, check out the Moto G7 Power, which is our best cheap phone. It gives you more than 15 hours of battery for $250.
Tom’s Guide reviews dozens of new smartphones, and we evaluate them in our lab and in the real world based on design, features, performance, camera quality and battery life. Check out the best phones in multiple categories, along with news on new phones coming later in 2019.
News and Rumors (September 2019)
Best Phone Overall
The iPhone XS Max is the best phone money can buy. Granted, $1,099 is a lot of money, but for that price you’re getting a ginormous and gorgeous 6.5-inch OLED display, much improved cameras (especially in low light) and the fastest processor ever in a phone. The regular iPhone XS has all of the same upgrades, but we prefer the Max for its larger canvas for watching video, split-screen view within certain apps and longer battery life. If you’re going to splurge on a phone to own for the next 2 to 3 years, this is it, though be aware that it’s been replaced by the identically priced iPhone 11 Pro Max this month.
MORE: iPhone XS Max Full Review
Best Android Phone
Samsung marks the tenth anniversary of its Galaxy S lineup with some noteworthy innovations. An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor lives under Galaxy S10 Plus’ 6.4-inch display, letting you quickly unlock the device, and the phone’s Wireless PowerShare feature lets you charge other devices wirelessly. But the S10 Plus also does a superlative job with more standard features, such as its 12.5-hour battery life. The Snapdragon 855 chipset powering Samsung’s phone delivers the best performance we’ve seen yet on an Android device and even approaches the iPhone’s pace-setting A12 Bionic processor. The three rear cameras on the S10 Plus also produce some stellar photos that give the Pixel 3’s camera a run for its money. Get the Galaxy S10 Plus if you want the best total Android experience.
MORE: Galaxy S10 Plus Full Review
Best Big-Screen Phone
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the new big-screen phone to beat. It sports a ginormous 6.8-inch OLED display that’s truly immersive, and you can now do more with the S Pen, including Air gestures and convert your handwriting to text. The phablet lasted nearly 12 hours on our battery test, and it charges fast, reaching 65% in 30 minutes. The Note 10 Plus’ four rear cameras take crisp photos and Samsung added Live Focus effects for video, so you can now get bokeh with your clips. But the still photo quality isn’t quite best in class based on our comparisons.
MORE: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Full Review
Best Flagship Value
If you want premium features without the corresponding $1,000 price tags that many flagship phones now command, OnePlus has been the brand to turn to. That continues with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Even though this new model has the highest starting price OnePlus has ever charged, it offers great features in return, starting with an expansive 6.67-inch display with a 90 Hz refresh rate and a Snapdragon 855 processor supplemented by up to 12GB RAM. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s three rear cameras take the best photos we’ve ever seen from a OnePlus phone, and the selfie cam only pops up when you need it, freeing up more screen space. Even at $669, the OnePlus 7 Pro still costs much less than comparable rivals from Samsung, Apple and Google.
MORE: OnePlus 7 Pro Full Review
Best Phone Under $400
Imagine all the great things about Google’s Pixel flagship phones — the AI-powered camera and the pure Android experience — but in a device that costs $400 less. That’s what you get with the Pixel 3a, a $399 phone that makes a few compromises in the form of a less powerful processor and less polished materials. But the camera on the 3a is exactly the same as the one on the $799 Pixel 3, so you’ll see the same great shots in low light and very impressive portrait effects driven by computational photography. Google’s cheaper phone lasts longer on a charge, too, holding out for nearly 12 hours on our battery test. That makes the Pixel 3a a real bargain.
MORE: Pixel 3a Full Review
Best Camera Phone
Huawei’s P30 Pro stands out from other camera phones by offering four rear lenses — a 40-megapixel wide-angle camera that’s backed up by ultra wide and telephoto lenses plus a time-of-flight sensor. We’re particularly impressed by the telephoto lens, which, thanks to the periscope design employed by Huawei, offers a 5x optical zoom for capturing detailed images from far away. The P30 Pro beat out another leading camera phone, Google’s Pixel 3, in our camera face-off, thanks to the adept way it handles low-light imaging. The Pixel 3 is easier to get a hold of in the U.S., but if you can find the P30 Pro, it’s the best at capturing photos.
MORE: Huawei P30 Pro Full Review
Best iPhone Value
The iPhone XR costs $250 less than the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9 — and that’s before its price drops to $599 with the arrival of the iPhone 11. And yet this best phone pick delivers pretty much everything you’d want from a big-screen flagship. That includes a bright and colorful 6.1-inch LCD display, a fastest processor in the A12 Bionic than anything you can get from an Android device and great camera quality. No, you don’t get dual rear shooters for 2X optical zoom — that’s available in the $699 iPhone 11 — but otherwise this phone is top-notch in every way. The best part is the battery life, as the iPhone XR lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes on our web surfing battery test. That beats most flagship phones.
MORE: iPhone XR Full Review
Best Budget Phone
The $249 Moto G7 Power might technically be the middle child of Motorola’s midrange offerings for 2019, but its actually the one we’d choose for one very good reason. Armed with a 5,000-mAh battery, the G7 Power lasted an astonishing 15 hours and 35 minutes in Tom’s Guide’s battery test, where we have phones cycle through webpages endlessly over LTE. That’s nearly twice as long as what the $299 Moto G7 managed. And even though you do give up some RAM, storage and a second rear camera with the less-expensive G7 Power, you still get a pure Android software experience, a vibrant (if slightly low-res) 6.2-inch display and support for all U.S. networks. There’s simply no better deal for a smartphone under $250 today.
MORE: Moto G7 Power Review
Best Small Phone
Smartphone screen sizes have been creeping upward. But the Galaxy S10e proves that you don’t need a big screen (or a big price tag) to get one of the best phones. This 5.8-inch addition to Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup gives up the in-display fingerprint sensor and third rear camera lens found on the other Galaxy S10 models. But it’s got the same powerful Snapdragon 855 processor, so you’re not having to sacrifice performance if you want a more compact phone. And with a starting price of $749, you don’t have to pay up for the privilege of carrying around the smaller-sized phone you prefer.
MORE: Galaxy S10e Review
Best Phone for Kids
With the iPhone SE gone from Apple’s iPhone lineup, the iPhone 7 takes its place as the best phone you can hand over to your kids. At $449, it was the cheapest iPhone Apple had to offer, though Apple is dropping this phone from its lineup and cutting the price on the iPhone 8 to $449. And while you’re getting 2016’s A10 Fusion chip, only 32GB of storage and a 4.7-inch LCD screen, you’re not making too many other trade-offs. The iPhone 7 has IP67 dust- and water-resistance, meaning a splash of water won’t wreck your kid’s phone. Access to Apple’s App Store means your kids can download a great array of games and social networking apps, while the phone’s support for iOS 12 puts you in control of just when they can use those apps. The iPhone 7 will also be able to run iOS 13, when that software update arrives later this fall.
MORE: iPhone 7 Full Review
What Smartphones Cost
The best premium phones like the Galaxy S10, Pixel 3 and iPhone X cost anywhere from $700 to as much as $1,000. However, there are great values with flagship-level specs under $500. On a budget? You can get a very good Android phone for less than $300.
How We Rate Phones
We rate smartphones using a combination of subjective criteria (including design and ease of use); our own benchmarks (e.g., our battery, audio and display tests; and synthetic benchmarks (Geekbench 4 for speed, 3DMark for graphics). We also do real-world speed tests (such as video editing) and take photos in different lighting conditions to compare the results.
After we’ve conducted all of our testing, we rate each device based on its features, performance and overall value. Only the top-performing devices make our Best list.