Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.The RundownBest Camera:LG V40 ThinQ at Best Buy"An insanely substantial multi-camera system — not two, not three, but five cameras are loaded onboard."Best Design:Samsung Galaxy S10 at Amazon"The 'hole-punch' design includes a front-facing camera while maintaining a largely bezel-free display."Runner-Up, Best Samsung:Samsung Galaxy S10e at Amazon"Features an immersive display and a pro-grade camera."Best Apple:Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max at Best Buy"Night Mode provides the most naturally-lit looking pictures we've ever seen taken in near-darkness."Runner-Up, Best Apple:Apple iPhone 11 at Best Buy"Machine learning"neural engine"functionality powers advanced photographic features like Night Mode and Deep Fusion."Best Unlocked:Google Pixel 3 at Amazon"If you want to bring an unlocked phone to AT&T, then this is one of the best all-around Android phones on the market."Best Samsung:Samsung Galaxy Note 9 at Amazon"The cameras are top-notch too, with an 8MP AF sensor on the front for selfies and video calls."Runner-Up, Best Camera:OnePlus 7 Pro at Amazon"Includes several smart filters that automatically and effortlessly create professional-level photos."Most Unique Features:Nokia 9 PureView at Amazon"Includes five separate sensors on the back (three RGB and two monochromes), plus a depth sensor and a flash."Best Value:Apple iPhone SE at Att.com"If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, look straight at the iPhone SE."
Best Camera:LG V40 ThinQ3.5 Buy on Best BuyBuy on Verizonwireless.comLG V40 ThinQ Review
The LG V40 ThinQ can compete with just about any other big-brand smartphone on the market today. It has a lot going for it: a 6.4-inch QHD display with a resolution of 1440 x 3120 pixels, 6GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 845 processor, and a perfectly reasonable 3300 mAh battery. But what LG is touting as the focal point of the phone is that it has an insanely substantial multi-camera system — not two, not three, but five cameras are loaded on board.
If high-quality pictures and video are a priority for you, then the V40 ThinQ is definitely worth checking out. The main cameras on the back are made up of three lenses and sensors: a 12MP standard, a 12MP telephoto, and a 16MP ultrawide. These amount to a super versatile trio that let you capture whatever subject you need. You can even turn on the aptly named Triple Photo mode to snap three pictures from all three focal lengths at once and choose from them later. The selfie camera is made up of an 8MP standard lens and a 5MP wide-angle lens.
What's cool here is that the standard lens will look every bit as crisp as what you'd expect, but the wide-angle lens means you can get group photos (or wider background selfies) with no problem. It all comes in a sleek, light package that holds up well within the flagship class.LG V40 ThinQ Review
Best Design:Samsung Galaxy S104.8 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on B&H Photo Video
The first thing you notice about the S10 is the amazing display, a 6.1-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display with a super-crisp resolution of 3040 x 1440. Another distinguishing factor is the"hole punch"that allows Samsung to include a front-facing camera while maintaining a largely bezel-free display. It's a really beautiful design and might be enough to convince many buyers, before even looking under the hood.
Powering the device is the latest Snapdragon—a 2.73GHz octa-core processor plus 8GB of RAM for amazing speeds. There are three separate cameras on the back, the most interesting of which is the 12MP wide-angle lens that has a mechanical variable aperture. This gives you amazing control, akin to what you'd get with a full DSLR camera. There are also some really interesting software features on-board, including the long-overdue ability to map the Bixby button to whatever function you want, and Google Assistant. You can choose from storage capacity up to 1TB and a host of amazing colors ranging from Flamingo Pink to the eye-catching Prism White.Samsung Galaxy S10 Review
Runner-Up, Best Samsung:Samsung Galaxy S10e4.7 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on B&H Photo VideoSamsung Galaxy S10e Review
You have to look for a very specific feature set and price point to get good value in the modern smartphone landscape. Either you're paying flagship prices north of $1,000 or you're seriously sacrificing on features for a lower price. There are a few phones that attempt to give you a happy medium, and that's where Samsung's Galaxy S10e comes in.
It's a good few hundred cheaper than the largest S10, and it offers a lot of similar features. There's a beautiful 5.8-inch Infinity O Display that gives you a super-crisp resolution of 2280 x 1080 and amazing OLED performance. That"O"part refers to the tiny cutout to accommodate the front-facing 10MP selfie camera. This is the most standout feature on the whole S10 line because it offers a really clever way for Samsung to give you a virtually bezel-less screen.
On the back, there's a 16MP ultra-wide camera and a 12MP standard lens that, paired with Samsung's image-processing software, gives you amazing video performance. It's all powered by a top-notch Snapdragon 855 process, but you'll sacrifice a bit with 6GB of RAM at the entry level. You can select between 128GB or 256GB of storage, and that can be bolstered with up to 512GB of additional storage on a MicroSD. Plus, if you opt for the S10e instead of the standard S10, you'll get to choose the flashier Canary Yellow color.Samsung Galaxy S10e Review
Best Apple:Apple iPhone 11 Pro MaxBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartBuy on Att.com
The name may sound like a mouthful, but Apple's new iPhone 11 Pro Max has earned both its monikers, with professional-grade performance and camera features and a size that shows off all of the stunning features of its new"Super Retina XDR"screen.
At 6.5 inches, the OLED display comes in at the same size as that of its predecessor. But this time, Apple has pushed the boundaries of contrast and color accuracy, offering a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio on the 2688 x 1242-pixel display, which still boasts a Retina density of 458 PPI. And with a P3 color gamut, True Tone, Dolby Vision, and HDR10, your photos, videos, and movies will shine vividly on the bigger screen.
The new A13 Bionic chip provides more performance than you're ever likely to need, but the real magic comes in the photography features you'll find under the hood. Night Mode provides the most naturally-lit looking pictures we've ever seen taken in near-darkness. Better yet, the triple-lens camera system includes an ultra-wide-angle lens for a"0.5x"optical zoom, and all three lenses are kept in perfect sync.
Despite all this extra power, Apple has somehow managed to pack in five more hours of battery life over the iPhone XS Max, and for the first time ever, a fast charger is packed inside the box.The 9 Best Smartphones of 2021
Runner-Up, Best Apple:Apple iPhone 114.5 Buy on Best BuyBuy on AppleBuy on Boost Mobile
Because every current-generation iPhone model now uses the company's A13 Bionic CPU, the base iPhone 11 runs just as fast as the premium models. Not only can you run all the same apps and games, but all of the machine learning"neural engine"functionality powers advanced photographic features like Night Mode and Deep Fusion. The latter allows you to take multiple rapid snapshots and mix them together to produce stunning imagery, even in low-light conditions.
The camera hardware itself is nothing to complain about either. A dual-lens camera system, previously the exclusive to more expensive iPhones, now sports a pair of wide- and ultra-wide-angle lenses. As a result, you can more easily capture picturesque vistas and large group shots without compromise. The front TrueDepth camera also commands a wider field of view for group selfies in addition to recording slo-mo video. While Apple's flagship iPhone models have a fourth camera on the back, the three cameras common to all of the 2019 iPhones are identical.
The 6.1-inch LCD screen is also a step down from the OLED displays found on the more premium iPhones, but Apple has built an impressive"Liquid Retina"LCD panel that can go almost edge-to-edge and still provides HD resolution. Last year's iPhone XR, the direct predecessor to the iPhone 11, also managed the best battery life of any iPhone, and this year's model gets an extra hour on top of that.The 9 Best Smartphones of 2021
Best Unlocked:Google Pixel 34.8 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on Walmart
AT&T has an extensive selection of phones to choose from on its nationwide service, whether it's iPhone or Android. But if you want to bring an unlocked phone to AT&T, then the Google Pixel 3 is a great choice and one of the best all-around Android phones on the market.
This phone runs the latest Android Pie software and comes in white, black, and pink color options. It measures 5.7 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches and has a stunning-looking 5.5-inch OLED screen. Under the hood, you'll find a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB of RAM, which means you'll never get slowed down by multitasking. While all of these features are great, what really stands out on the Pixel 3 is its top-of-the-line 12.2-megapixel back camera and 8-megapixel front camera.
One other fun feature is that the Pixel 3 is built for VR and is compatible with the Google Daydream View headset.Google Pixel 3 Review
Best Samsung:Samsung Galaxy Note 94.8 Buy on AmazonBuy on Samsung
Whether you're in the market for a huge, beautiful screen, a killer camera, or you're just a Samsung fan, the just-released Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a powerhouse with no shortage of modern features. First, there's that display: At 6.4 inches and a 2960 x 1440 resolution, supported by Super AMOLED technology, this is the centerpiece of the phone. Combine that with the brand-new Bluetooth functionality of the S Pen, and you have an amazing machine. The cameras are top-notch too, with an 8MP AF sensor on the front for selfies and video calls, and a wide-angle/telephoto pair on the back sporting 12MP sensors. It even has dual aperture on the wide-angle.
With a 64-bit Octa-Core Processor offering speeds up to 2.8 GHz, you won't be short on performance here. You can pick up the phone with 6 or 8GB of RAM, which comes with 128 or 512GB of storage, respectively. If that isn't enough space for you, you can bump it up to a whopping terabyte of storage with a microSD card. The battery has a capacity of 4,000 mAh, and AKG-tuned, Dolby Atmos-supported speakers give you a great music system, too. Pick this up in Ocean Blue or Lavender Purple colorways.Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Review
Runner-Up, Best Camera:OnePlus 7 Pro4.7 Buy on AmazonBuy on Oneplus.com
OnePlus has put itself in the game in a serious way with its latest flagship model for a couple of reasons. But it's pretty obvious that the camera setup is paramount to their design. The first thing you'll notice is its most unique feature—a motorized popup 16MP front-facing camera. This allows the phone to maintain a virtually bezel-less design with a massive, notch-less 6.67-inch display sporting a super-crisp resolution of 3120x1440. The rest of the cameras are huge focal points of the phone too, offering three separate systems on the back. There's a 16MP ultra-wide-angle camera, an 8MP telephoto camera, and the main camera gives you a truly remarkable 48MP to play with.
This whole thing is powered by a lightning-fast Snapdragon 855 processor, with 6GB or 12GB of RAM. The 4,000 mAh battery offers a ton of capacity, but the real notable battery feature here is OnePlus' impressive Warp Charge that lets you juice up your phone in under 30 minutes (the fastest charging time we've seen on a phone of this caliber). Choose between 128GB and 256GB of storage, and pick a unique color from Mirror Black, Almond, or a matte Nebula Blue.
Most Unique Features:Nokia 9 PureViewBuy on Amazon
The Nokia 9 PureView is one of the most interesting entries in the smartphone field in recent months. With brands like Huawei, LG, and now Samsung including three cameras on their phones, a brand has to do a lot to set itself apart. The Nokia 9 includes five separate sensors on the back (three RGB and two monochrome), plus a depth sensor and a flash. The phone has a “Pro Mode” software that compiles photos via focus and HDR stacking to give you amazing photos. You can also alter the bokeh and depth of field both during and after taking the shot.
Beyond this, the Nokia 9 keeps up with other flagships with a 5.9-inch QHD+ pOLED display with HDR10 support and a unique “sunlight reading” mode. It has a durable 6000-series aluminum chassis, there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, and they've included the ability to charge it up with Qi-enabled wireless charging accessories. It's definitely a proper flagship, from a design and a power perspective.
Best Value:Apple iPhone SE (2016)Buy on Att.comBuy on Virginmobileusa.com
If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, look straight at the iPhone SE. It has the same specifications and internal hardware as our Best Apple pick, the iPhone 6s. There's a 12-megapixel camera capable of recording video in 4K. If you were a fan of the iPhone 5 or 5s, you'll feel right at home as the phone is almost identical in size and shape. Apple's Touch ID, the fingerprint-based method to access your smartphone without a password, is present, as is Apple Pay. In fact, if you have any cases lying around for the iPhone 5/5s, you'll be able to slip it right in and feel nostalgic.
The 4-inch display might not please some of today's"bigger is better"smartphone crowd, but finding a device that rivals the performance of the best smartphones on the market in a pocket-friendly package hasn't been easy. In this area, Apple has succeeded and done so with spades. That the price is almost half of its larger sibling makes it an easy recommendation for the best value phone. The A9 processor, the very same as inside the iPhone 6s, is 3x more powerful than that of the iPhone 5s, which means console-class graphics and solid performance for Pokémon Go.
What to Look for in a Smartphone
iOS vs. Android - Do you want an iPhone or Android phone? It may seem like a simple question, but it can be a difficult decision. If you've stuck with one or the other for years and have been happy with your choice, then the answer is probably simple. But there are plenty of people who switch back and forth. Apple enjoys broader compatibility and better security, but Android allows for much more customization and the phones often have more advanced technology.
Battery life - Having a phone packed with features is a good thing, right? Well, it depends. It's always fun to be able to do more with your phone, but there's often a tradeoff when it comes to battery life. If you're a heavy phone user, then you'll want to take a close look at how long your phone battery will realistically last.
Durability - If you're hard on your phone, you may want to look into buying a device that has extra durability built-in. Some phones can't handle water at all, while others are water-resistant and some even promise to be waterproof. Additionally, it's important to look at the phone's case and how durable the glass is. Will it shatter at the smallest drop? Paying attention to how well a phone will withstand a little wear and tear — especially if you're a chronic phone dropper — will help protect your investment for years to come.