It can be hard to choose the best smartphone for your needs. With so many names selling devices with similar features and prices, it can be hard to figure out which one has the things you want. If you already know that you only want an iPhone, making a choice is a little bit easier. Even so, Apple’s range has more choices than ever before.
Those who are also thinking about Android will have even more choices and probably more questions. Do you want a camera that can zoom in on things that are very far away, or do you want AI that is smart enough to screen your calls for you? We test smartphones all year long at Engadget, so we can help you figure out what’s out there and what to watch out for. We’ve also included our top choices to help you narrow down your list.
Which is better?
When looking for the best smartphone, it’s clear that each operating system has its pros and cons. Apple’s close-knit environment makes it easy to share data between iPhones, iPads, and Macs and pass phone calls or music from one device to another without any problems. At the same time, you’re locked in because services like Apple Messages aren’t available on other devices.
When it comes to Android, there is a much bigger range of phones from Google, Samsung, Sony, and other companies. Android phones, on the other hand, don’t have the same amount of software support, and they often have less value when they’re traded in. In short, no answer is wrong. But you should think about how your phone will work with the rest of your tech. So, unless you’re really sick of one OS and ready to learn another, it probably doesn’t make much sense to switch from an iPhone to an Android phone (or vice versa), especially if everyone else in your household uses the same platform.
Since your cell phone is often your main camera, it’s important to know what kind of picture tools you want. Almost every cell phone today can take a good picture in bright light. But if you want a long optical zoom, you may need to buy a more expensive camera.
Mid-range phones usually only have two back cameras, one with a wide-angle lens and the other with an ultra-wide lens. This can be hard to use in low light. Each phone maker also has different features that might fit your style better. For example, Apple’s latest iPhones have four different color presets, while Google’s Pixel 6 has cool tools like special long exposure and action pan modes.
Will you get Wi-Fi 6 or 5G?
The good news is that most phones will handle at least 802.11ac Wi-Fi and one or more types of 5G connections by 2022. But if you want the fastest wifi speeds, you’ll have to pay a little more. For instance, on some networks, mmWave 5G gives download speeds of up to a gigabit, less latency, and better bandwidth. But mmWave 5G also needs more advanced (and more expensive) modems. This means that cheap and mid-range phones like the iPhone SE often don’t have support for it.
On the plus side, mmWave 5G isn’t as common as other types of 5G, so based on where you live and what network you’re on, you may not be missing out on much if you buy a phone that doesn’t support it. It’s the same with Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, which can be found on some high-end devices but are harder to find on cheaper ones. Wi-Fi 6 also needs a suitable router, so unless you know you need it or have a specific use case in mind, the lack of mmWave 5G or Wi-Fi 6E support shouldn’t stop you from buying a new phone.
Other things to think about
Because not everyone agrees on what makes the best phone, you should think about any other features that might be more important to you. Smartphones with 120Hz refresh rates, like the Samsung Galaxy S23 or the Apple iPhone 14 Pro, are likely to be liked by mobile players. If you want a phone with a long battery life, you might want to get a bigger iPhone or an Android phone with a battery that’s between 4,000 and 5,000 mAh. Also, if you have a lot of devices, it can be helpful to have a phone that allows reverse wireless charging. Samsung phones can even be used to charge the Galaxy Watches made by the company.
Best iOS smartphone: iPhone 14 Pro
Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhones haven’t changed as much as the iPhone 14 Pro does in years. With the new Dynamic Island, the company is finally (sort of) getting rid of the notch. In its place is a pill-shaped hole that holds the front cameras for Face ID. The island is smaller than it used to be, and the software has been changed to make notifications, media playing, and other activities look more like they belong together.
But the iPhone 14 Pro feels like a big step up in more ways than just the Dynamic Island. With the new Always On Display, you can stay on top of your messages without using too much battery, and the upcoming Emergency SOS via Satellite will give you peace of mind so you can go further into the world. People who aren’t ready to give up physical SIM cards might not want to buy phones from this year, since they don’t have places for physical SIM cards and are all eSIM. But moving over is easy thanks to Apple’s setup and conversion process. The iPhone 14 Pro is the best Apple phone you can buy because it works well, has good photos, an OLED screen, and a decent battery life.
Best Android smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
The Galaxy S23 Ultra has almost everything you could want or need in a high-end top phone. It has a beautiful 6.8-inch AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of 120Hz, a fast Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, a longer battery life, and a S Pen that you can use to draw and take notes. In 2023, the main camera on the phone will have a huge 200MP sensor, which will come with better OIS, 8K/30fps video recording, and some new shooting tools in the Expert RAW app.
The S23 Ultra is still as expensive as ever, beginning at $1,200, and its advanced photo and video features have a lot of potential, but you have to put in more time and effort to get the most out of them. Because the phone’s design, screen, and most of its cameras are so close to those of earlier models, anyone who bought an S22 last year can skip upgrading this year. But the S23 Ultra stands out as the best Android phone for people who want a phone that can really do everything.