Editor’s note: September, 2022
We’re now into September, and the smartphone market is getting ready for big additions: the iPhone 14. As a result, some phones in our best phones guide have been getting cheaper, and we’ve moved the iPhone SE 2022 into second place as TechRadar seeks to promote options for the more budget-conscious among us – if that’s not for you, then the Galaxy A53, 8th on this list, is a brilliant budget Android buy.
Gareth Beavis, Global Editor in Chief
The best phone is different for everyone. Our top pick on this list, for example, is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. However, depending on your needs and budget, it might not be the best one for you.
That’s where we come in. We’ve spent the last 15 years pushing hundreds of smartphones to their limit to find which truly live up to the manufacturers’ claims. We’ve subjected them to a multi-day test, with battery run-downs, extreme camera analysis, and – most importantly – being carried as a main device in both cellular and Wi-Fi environments.
So, whether you’re looking for the best iPhone, the best Android phone, or the best budget phone, we’re just the phone experts to find you the right match. Our phones guide below should help narrow down your choices as well.
It’s dominated by models from Samsung, Apple and OnePlus. These are the brands we’ve got the most confidence in giving great options for price, performance, and dependability in use. We predict it’ll include highly-anticipated iPhone 14 as well when it comes out. Though, naturally, your particular cell phone plan may sway your preference, especially since certain carriers often provide great cell phone deals while others don’t.
Still, we reconsider which models represent the best value for money as prices shift and update this list accordingly. If you’re looking to upgrade your current smartphone or purchase a new one to add to your existing plan, you’ll have all the options you need in our best phones guide below.
The best phone 2022 – chosen by our experts
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is perhaps the best-performing and most powerful smartphone in the world right now. However, its value ratio goes down because of the price. Also, most people won’t be able to take advantage of all its pro features.
Why it’s the best phone overall: The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra builds on everything great about the Galaxy S21 Ultra – such as its superb cameras and power – while adding an S Pen stylus as standard (and a slot to house it). This is the ultimate smartphone if you’ve got the money and ideal for fans of either the Galaxy S or Galaxy Note range.
Screen: The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has a 6.8-inch 1440 x 3088 AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and a super-high peak brightness of 1750 nits. In every sense this is one of the best screens you’ll find on a smartphone.
Battery life: The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has a large 5,000mAh battery, and we found that in general it would last for a full day no matter how you used the phone. It also supports speedy 45W charging – though note that there’s no charger in the box.
Camera: The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has a similar camera setup to the impressive Galaxy S21 Ultra, but key improvements have been made, making this the best zoom snapper around. It’s capable of 10x optical or 100x digital zoom, and it has three other lenses too, including a great 108MP main one.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
Price comparison: The best Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra deals
The iPhone SE 2022 is yet another successful upgrade to Apple’s cheapest iPhone, boasting better performance and connectivity. It also champions the thin and light form factor. iPhones tend to be expensive, but this gives fans of the smartphone a cheaper entry into the family.
Why it’s ranked 2nd: This isn’t Apple’s most powerful iPhone, but it’s the best value for people who want to stick with iOS 15 without paying through the nose. Its screen technology won’t wow you like an iPhone 13 Pro, and there’s just one camera on the back, but the relatively low price means this is hard to beat if you’re on a budget and don’t want to switch to Android.
Screen: This new iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch screen borrowed from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, so it’s bigger than the original iPhone SE, but remains one-hand-friendly. That’s become important for people who have been demanding a smaller phone. This is the one to get, even if the resolution and bezel won’t wow anyone.
Battery life: As long as you aren’t a power user (who would likely opt for the iPhone 11 series anyway), then you’ll be OK with what Apple offers in terms of battery life. It’s not going to last you any longer than a day, but even with 5G running all day and non-stop use, you’ll be able to squeeze up to 12 hours of battery life.
Camera: For the money, the iPhone SE 2022 takes perfectly fine photos in good light. You won’t notice much of a difference outside of it occasionally failing to nail perfect exposure levels and depth of field outdoors during the daytime. Dim the lights, however, and you’ll notice one glaring omission: the night mode that’s on the more powerful iPhones. That requires an upgrade to at least the iPhone 11.
Read more: iPhone SE 2022 review
Price comparison: The best iPhone SE 2022 deals
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The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are the best iPhones available at the time of writing, offering better performance than ever before, improved cameras, 120Hz refresh rates and surprisingly good battery life. However, not all iPhone fans need all the features and power that come with it.
Why they’re ranked 3rd: While the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are the best iPhones and excellent for creative pros, they’re slightly topped by the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which has a better design and a more versatile camera, but these phones come very close and are the obvious choice for iPhone fans – though the SE offers better value, which is why that takes 2nd place. With a higher refresh rate than the iPhone 12 range, a new macro mode and a smaller notch, they aren’t the biggest upgrades but they’re undeniably great.
Screen: Whether you choose the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro or 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max you’re getting a sharp OLED screen with a 120Hz variable refresh rate. The continued presence of the notch is annoying, but it’s slightly smaller this time and easy to ignore, especially once you see the overall quality of the display.
Battery life: Apple has outdone itself with the battery life on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which is genuinely great, rather than just being great for an iPhone. The iPhone 13 Pro’s isn’t quite as good, but it’s still decent and an upgrade on the iPhone 12 Pro’s life.
Camera: The iPhone 13 Pro range includes the same lens types as last year, but with larger pixels and new modes, including an impressive macro mode, and a slightly less significant Cinematic mode. Between all this and their improved low light performance, these cameras are ace.
Read more: iPhone 13 Pro review | iPhone 13 Pro Max review
Price comparison: The best iPhone 13 Pro deals
The best iPhone 13 Pro Max deals
The Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro came out in October 2021 to much fanfare over its new Google-designed Tensor chipset, which the company alleged would enable incredible AI software performance. While we were too quick to expect Apple A-series Bionic levels of performance from Tensor – both Pixel 6 and 6 Pro benchmarks are well below iPhone 13 and Samsung S21 levels – the cameras take the most color- and light-balanced photos we’ve ever seen from a smartphone.
Why they’re ranked 4th: The Pixel 6 phones are a real step up from the Pixel 5, but there are still some things that keep it from the top, like middling battery life and a divisive physical redesign. Both phones have their audience, though: the Pixel 6 at its lowest price (which varies between carriers) is cheaper than the iPhone 13 mini and Samsung S21, while the Pixel 6 Pro has premium perks like a periscope telephoto lens, a QHD screen, and an ultrawide selfie camera, all cheaper than the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. But both phones’ 50MP main camera and Google’s photo software (with even more neat tricks) can’t be beat.
Screen: The Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch OLED screen with Full HD Plus (2400 x 1080) resolution, with a 90Hz refresh rate for smoother app browsing and gaming. The Pixel 6 Pro bumps that up to 6.7 inches with QHD (3120 x 1440) and 120Hz refresh rate for a sharper picture, but you’d only notice if comparing side by side. Colors are rich on the OLED display, and thanks to the dual front-facing speakers, it makes for a handy streaming device.
Battery life: The Pixel 4’s battery woes are gone, but don’t expect more than a day’s battery life out of either phone. The Pixel 6 packs a 4,614mAh battery, while the Pixel 6 Pro has a 5,000mAh battery, but don’t expect too much difference thanks to the larger display. Yes, there are battery-saving settings to eke out more life, and the 30W charger is an improvement over its predecessors, but it’s lower than the 65W chargers that work with the OnePlus 9, for instance. Wireless charging maxes out at a respectable 21W, but only with Google’s first-party charger.
Camera: The Pixel 6’s cameras are its best selling point. The main camera has finally been improved with a 50MP shooter which, combined with Google’s photo software, results in incredibly true-to-life photos. The 12MP ultra-wide feels better aligned with the photo capabilities of the main camera (they take similar photos), and if you opt for the Pixel 6 Pro, you’ll get a periscope telephoto capable of 4x optical zoom for some truly great distance photos. The Pro also swaps the 8MP selfie camera (with 84-degree field of view) for an 11MP front-facing camera (94-degree field of view) for an ultra-wide effect. The Tensor chipset and AI software have new tricks, like erasing unwanted objects and capturing motion blur around a still subject, along with the best Night Mode we’ve seen.
Read our Google Pixel 6 review / Google Pixel 6 Pro review
The Samsung Galaxy S22 is the best phone for Samsung users who don’t need all the pro-level features and frills. It’s just the right size for most, delivers fast performance, and offers a smooth Android experience. A nice upgrade from its predecessor, it also boasts a better camera.
Why it’s ranked 5th: This is the best Android phone for most people who aren’t invested in the iOS ecosystem. And, it does have a slight edge over the iPhone 13 in terms of display and cameras. However, its Apple rival edges ahead in terms of performance and slightly when it comes to longevity.
Screen: With Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED display, it’s hard to beat the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S22, despite the fact that it has a slightly lower resolution than the iPhone 13’s. It’s better-looking, bright with an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz and no intrusive notch. It also comes with an ultrasonic fingerprint reader.
Battery life: With a 3,700mAh capacity, the S22 delivers up to 12 hours of battery life, results varying depending on usage. It comes with wireless charging capabilities for convenience.
Camera: Upgrading from its predecessor, it now comes with a new 50MP f/1.8 main camera and a 10MP f/2.3 telephoto alongside the unchanged 12MP ultrawide f/2.2 camera. The zoom is better than on the iPhone 13, with up to 30x digital zoom. For selfies, the front camera has kept it at 10MP.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S22 review
Price comparison: The best Samsung Galaxy S22 deals
The OnePlus 10 Pro is the top choice for OnePlus fans. This fairly new release has a fantastic display, plenty of power under the hood, and fast charging capabilities. The best part is that it’s more affordable than rival Pro phones.
Why it’s ranked 6th: One of the very best Android phones right now, the OnePlus 10 Pro is also the most affordable way to get into the pro-level smartphone market. That’s while having specs that easily go toe-to-toe with some of those rivals – like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, for example.
Screen: The phone’s 6.7-inch 2K Fluid AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate makes streaming TV shows, playing games, or devouring social media content such a pleasure. That’s especially thanks to its high max brightness of 1,300 nits and the OnePlus’ LTPO 2.0 tech for automatic refresh rate changing. The phone also supports a billion colors and HDR10+.
Battery life: There’s a big 5,000mAh battery here, but that bright and fast screen – not to mention a powerful processor – keeps the battery life middle-of-the-road. It should give you a whole day of use, however, and fast-charging is on hand when you do run out of battery. That 65W charging (US only) should let it go from zero to full in no time.
Camera: Taking photos and videos is among the OnePlus 10 Pro’s greatest strengths, thanks to the 48MP f/1.8 main, 50MP f/2.2 ultrawide and 8MP f/2.4 telephoto (for 3.3x optical zoom) camera trio that delivers great performance. Your photos will come out well-lit, vibrant, and detailed – even the wide-angle ones.
Read more: OnePlus 10 Pro review
The iPhone 13 isn’t as big an upgrade as the iPhone 13 Pro, as it lacks a 120Hz refresh rate, but with oodles of power and good battery life, it’s the best proposition for most people, even those that have a flexible budget.
Why it’s ranked 7th: The iPhone 13 Pro / Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra range have the edge over the iPhone 13 in terms of specs and features. However, most people do not need a kitted-out phone that costs a lot of money. This standard iPhone model comes close to matching them, especially when it comes to battery life. And, it’s more than enough for most users who do not need the pro-level features. Plus, it probably has slightly more power than its Android rivals.
Screen: With its 6.1-inch 1170 x 2532 OLED display, the iPhone 13 has a bright and clear screen. It doesn’t have a 120Hz refresh rate, but it does at least have a slightly smaller notch than the iPhone 12.
Battery life: In our tests the iPhone 13 reliably lasted through a day of use, but not much more. That puts it in fairly average territory, yet it’s still an improvement on many previous iPhones here.
Camera: The iPhone 13 lacks a telephoto camera, but its main and ultra-wide perform well, with the former having larger pixels than the iPhone 12’s. With improved image stabilization too, plus some new shooting modes and features, there’s a lot to play with here, and a lot to like.
Read more: iPhone 13 review
Price comparison: The best iPhone 13 deals
The Samsung Galaxy A53, to us, is the ‘lite’ version of the Samsung Galaxy S22, giving Samsung fans a terrific proposition with a much more affordable price tag – albeit also a slightly slower performance.
Why it’s ranked 8th: The Apple iPhone SE remains our favorite “budget” smartphone, but the Samsung Galaxy A53 is appealing to budget-minded Samsung fans. Because it is a Samsung phone, it comes with good cameras (for the price) and a great-looking screen.
Screen: The A53 comes with an attractive screen that has the same resolution and refresh rate as the S22. In fact, apart from the size, most people aren’t likely to see that big of a difference between this budget phone’s display and that of the S22. If you’re particular about the specs, you’re getting a 6.5-inch panel with an FHD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and 800 nits max brightness.
Battery life: The Samsung Galaxy A53 has a 5,000mAh battery that comes in handy, seeing as it has 5G connectivity and a bright screen. We found the phone to last roughly a day between charges, slightly less with more usage. The only downside here is it takes over two hours to get a full charge.
Camera: For the price, the A53 boasts some pretty impressive photo-taking prowess. It has a 64MP f/1.8 main camera, joined by a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens, a 5MP f/2.4 macro, and a 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor. In fact, it laps same-price competitors when it comes to cameras.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy A53 review
Price comparison: The best Samsung Galaxy A53 deals
The OnePlus 9 Pro is a top-tier flagship and one that improves on the main weakness of previous OnePlus phones – their cameras. This is a phone that can compete with the other top handsets, and some may even prefer its camera to the other phones on this list.
Why it’s ranked 9th: OnePlus may have focused its attention on the cameras for the OnePlus 9 Pro, but this is an overall incredible smartphone offering top-end power, a great display and most features you’d expect from any other phone you’ll find on this list. Battery life isn’t the absolute best, and it’s remarkably expensive considering OnePlus’ history in the smartphone market but it has earned its place this high on our best smartphone list because it’s the overall package.
Screen: This 6.7-inch screen has the ability to impress you more than an iPhone for one simple reason: the ‘Fluid Display’ that sets the refresh rate to 120Hz. Not only does it make game look better, but simply scrolling the web looks smoother. You’ll also find nice upscaling and HDR10+ here.
Battery life: If you need your phone battery to last all day long, the OnePlus 9 Pro achieves that, but it doesn’t offer the absolute best battery life we’ve seen on a smartphone. It features a 4,500mAh battery, and this is set to last you a full day from a single charge but it may not offer that if you’re using the phone an extraordinary amount. It also have great fast charging and wireless charging features.
Camera: Thanks to a new Hasselblad partnership and a ‘freeform’ ultra-wide lens, designed to reduce the distortion at the edge of images, the OnePlus 9 Pro is the best OnePlus camera phone. It isn’t the absolute best camera phone, but it’s a remarkable step up from the company with a great 48MP main camera alongside an 8MP telephoto and 50MP ultrawide.
Read more: OnePlus 9 Pro review
Price comparison: The best OnePlus 9 Pro deals
The iPhone 13 mini is the best small phone on the market right now, powerful with a top-tier camera and up to 13 hours of battery life at full charge. It isn’t the best iPhone for everyone, but for those looking for a smaller phone, there’s no better choice.
Why it’s ranked 10th: Not everyone’s into small displays, but those that are will find a lot of value in this small iPhone. It comes with several nice upgrades from its predecessor as well, which makes it a superior choice over the iPhone 12 mini.
Screen: The iPhone 13 mini boasts a 5.4-inch 1080 x 2340 Super Retina XDR display with 800-nit brightness that should come in handy in sunny situations. The screen’s size means that you’re getting less real estate so watching videos, reading content, and typing up those emails might be a little tricky. However, you’re getting the same tech as the iPhone 13.
Battery life: There’s only a 2,438mAh cell inside. However, we found the iPhone 13 mini battery life to have improved significantly compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 12. You’ll find this phone lasting you an entire day. Though not as powerful as other iPhone 13s, the fast-charging technology should let you get up to 50% in 30 minutes.
Camera: A 12MP f/1.6 wide camera and a 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree field of view, as well as a 12MP f/2.2 selfie camera, make up the iPhone 13 mini’s camera system. There are no massive upgrades here from the iPhone 12 mini, but the 12MP wide camera does boast 1.7µm pixels for better low-light performance.
Read more: iPhone 13 mini review
Price comparison: The best iPhone 13 mini deals
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, the first foldable phone we’d happily recommend to people, offer Pen support, water-resistance, and starts at a slightly lower price than its predecessors. It’s the best foldable phone for folks who’ve been looking to buy into the form factor.
Why it’s ranked 11th: Not everyone’s interested in getting on the foldable phones bandwagon, but those that are will appreciate the improvements Samsung has made to its Z Fold series. The Z Fold 3 is more robust, waterproof, and comes with stylus support.
Screen: One of the Z Fold 3’s key selling points is its 7.6-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and a 24.5:9 aspect ratio. Combined with S Pen support, you should be able to get more from it than its predecessor. The Cover Display is still a little tight, its refresh ratio has been bumped up to 120Hz.
Battery life: The Galaxy Z Fold 3 battery is 4,400mAh, which should get you through most of the day even when using both screens. Enable 5G and increase your camera use, however, and you’ll find yourself needing to charge before the night is over. If you always have a charger or a power bank handy, that shouldn’t be an issue. Bear in mind, though, that there’s no charger in the box.
Camera: With a 12MP f/1.8 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera, and a 12MP f/2.4 telephoto camera that’s capable of 2x optical zoom, alongside optical image stabilization, you should be able to yield sharp and bright photos with punchy colors with your Z Fold 3. Its photo-taking prowess might not be groundbreaking, but it’s more than enough for most users.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review
Price comparison: The best Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 deals
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The iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini aren’t technically superior to the iPhone 12 Pro series, but both are priced so well (for iPhones) and each has most of the key features you’ll want from an Apple device – and since the iPhone 13 didn’t upgrade much, you can save some money opting for the 2020 iPhone flagship. The iPhone 12 takes the place of the iPhone 11 with the same 6.1-inch screen, but a few new features like MagSafe. Then there’s the new iPhone 12 mini, which is similar but comes in a smaller package.
Why they’re ranked 12th: It’s not as good of a value as Samsung’s top-ranked handset, but the iPhone 12 is a great iPhone for some people simply because it costs significantly less than much of the competition. And, unlike the iPhone SE 2020, which we also praise for being good value, you’re getting most of the features found on the Pro-level handsets like the camera’s stunning Night Mode.
Screen: The 6.1-inch screen is the same size as the display on the iPhone 12 Pro, fitting in between the iPhone 12 mini and 12 Pro Max sizes, making it an appealing choice if you want a large screen, but not the biggest. If you want the smaller version, it has a 5.4-inch screen. For the first year, the more ‘affordable’ flagship also gets an OLED screen, which is a big perk. It’s a brilliant-looking phone, if you don’t mind the notch.
Battery life: These iPhones can deliver all-day battery life, and it’s slightly better than the iPhone 11 battery, which we thought was stellar in 2019. What are you going to be missing? The pricier iPhone 12 Pro series does last a bit longer, but given no phones come with faster chargers this year, you’ll have to shell out for Apple’s fast charger unit just like the Pro owners.
Camera: This is close to the best iPhone camera, with both a 12MP main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide camera to cram more into the frame. It’s missing the triple-lens camera on the Pro models, which adds in a telephoto lens, but you’re getting the two essential cameras from that pairing, and it includes a long exposure night mode that will automatically brighten up dark photos.
Read more: iPhone 12 mini review | iPhone 12 review
Price comparison: The best iPhone 12 mini deals
The best iPhone 12 deals
How we test the best phones
Every phone we consider for inclusion on this list is subject to a full TechRadar test process and review. This is the way we can ensure that the products we recommend to our readers are truly worth their hard-earned money.
At the very core of that test process is by emulating how you’ll use the device if you buy it. We do so simply by using each phone as it if was our own for at least a week, slotting our SIM card in. We then use it for all our every day mobile needs, from making calls and using our social media account to media consumption and photography.
This helps us understand all its quirks, most of which we likely won’t notice if we just tested it in a lab – although, naturally, lab and benchmark tests are part of our process as well as it allows for direct comparison.
So, we’ll game to work out how powerful a phone is, time it when it’s charging, test how long it takes to run down, and see just well it handles the day-to-day over a period of time. Naturally, we focus more on the most important aspects such as its design, display, cameras, software, battery life, price, and overall performance.