Best Smartphone 2023 – IGN

Best Smartphone 2023 – IGN

Smartphones aren’t exactly the most exciting gadgets to splash out on. Glass rectangles that most people will use to message their friends, watch TikTok, read web pages, and snap photos. They might be essential for day-to-day living, but cost a pretty penny if you want the latest and greatest. That’s why we’ve picked out the best smartphones to buy by seriously weighing up value for money. Jump to a detailed look at the best smartphones, or check the list below:

TL;DR – These are the Best Smartphones:

The iPhone 15 or the latest Samsung Galaxy S series model may look flashy, but consider whether a mid-range or budget option would be a better fit. Of course, there’s a lot else to consider: processor speed, camera quality, their construction, and for how long they’ll be supported with future software updates. All the phones on this list have been chosen because their hardware is decent enough to last for years and they warrant their sticker price.

The Best Smart Phones

The best smartphone, the Google Pixel 8
The best smartphone, the Google Pixel 8

Best Smartphone

Google Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8

Running on a G3 Tensor chip, you’ll enjoy solid cameras, smart AI functions, and a bright, beautiful OLED display for an affordable price.

Pros:

  • Wonderfully responsive screen
  • Seven years of updates and OS support
  • Impressive camera

Cons:

  • RAM upgrade reserved for Pro model

A flagship smartphone packed with bells and whistles, the Google Pixel 8 is everything an Android fan could want. The 6.2-inch OLED screen is bright and clear, making video streams look vivid and gleaming even in direct sunlight. It’s made all the better thanks to its maximum 120Hz refresh rate, meaning every humble scroll or swipe looks gloriously smooth.

The camera’s 2x optical zoom is effective, and the ultrawide lens lets you take crisp close-up shots with a macro mode that was previously reserved only for the Pixel Pro models. It’s a high-quality camera, certainly, although the big (slightly sinister) draw is its range of effortless AI adjustment features: Magic Editor lets you resize and remove objects from photos while algorithmically filling in the blank spaces they leave behind, while Best Take lets you change the expression of people’s faces, swapping a frown to grin, for example.

Less snazzy, but just as important is Google’s commitment to provide seven years of software support for the Pixel 8, including the latest Android operating systems. It’s rare for manufacturers to offer that kind of longevity, and should keep the Pixel 8 running smoothly, saving you from having to shell out on a replacement in only a couple of years as so many phone manufacturers expect.

Yes, you could splash out an extra $300 for the flashier Pixel 8 Pro, but most people won’t need to. Despite the Pro’s slightly brighter screen, increased RAM, and smidgen more battery life, the chances those extra features will warrant the price bump for you are slim.

Best iPhone

iPhone 15

iPhone 15

With a USB-C port, Dynamic Island feature, a 48-megapixel main camera, and running on an A16 Bionic chip, the iPhone 15 is a solid phone choice for most.

Pros

  • Plenty of software improvements
  • Solid and stylish build

Cons

  • Underwhelming battery life
  • No true optical zoom

Powerful, elegant, and certainly worth the extra cost over its predecessors (which isn’t always a certainty when it comes to Apple products), the iPhone 15 is the natural smartphone to buy for iOS fans. Apple has integrated plenty of welcome new user features into the standard iPhone this year. The adaptive Dynamic Island turns the black notch at the top of the screen into a usefully customizable area for shortcuts and notifications, a faster chip makes for speedy performance, and USB-C has finally replaced the Lightning port.

The excellent camera sports a 48-megapixel sensor, although is set to shoot 24-megapixel images by default to save on file size without making a big compromise on detail. And while there’s no telephoto lens, meaning you miss out on true optical zoom, a bit of megapixel trickery gives you 2x lossless zoom. As you’d expect from Apple, it’s built brilliantly too. A combination of aluminum and glass with more rounded edges and a brighter 6.1-inch screen than past models, the iPhone 15 is stylish without feeling fragile.

As ever, the improved iPhone 15 Pro model offers greater performance, largely due to its A17 chip and a more robust camera that supports up to 10x optical zoom. But for an extra $200, you’re not getting much you’re likely to use day to day. Stick to the standard model of iPhone and save your cents.

Best mid-range smartphone

Samsung Galaxy A54 5G

Pros

  • Bright, vivid screen
  • Generous battery life
  • Streamlined Samsung UI

Cons

  • Plastic casing
  • Photos can look washed out

You don’t need to splash out on the latest flagship phone to get flagship-level features. The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G packs all the performance and durability you want, all for a little under half the price of a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Its 5,000mAh battery is bigger than some of Samsung’s premium devices, and will see you through two days of casual use. The 6.4-inch AMOLED full HD display suffers from a reasonably wide bezel and mediocre brightness, but is fabulously responsive for scrolling through apps or gaming. It’s topped off by Samsung’s One UI, a wonderfully polished skin that feels more premium than Google’s own.

Of course, there’s no getting around the compromises that Samsung has had to make to reach this more affordable sticker price. The Samsung Galaxy A54 is made from plastic rather than premium aluminum, although feels solidly constructed. And its main camera may feature a 50-megapixel camera, but struggles to do justice to vividly contrasting colors. With Samsung promising to support the phone with four years of OS upgrades and five years of security updates, the Galaxy A54 has a steady lifespan ahead of it. Mid-range, but not mid-quality.

Best budget smartphone

Motorola Moto G84 5G

Pros

  • Superb value for money
  • Generous battery life

Cons

  • Slightly sluggish at times
  • No future OS upgrades

Motorola has a talent for making economical budget smartphones for anyone who wants a long-lasting device but isn’t fussed about the latest features. The Moto G84 continues that trend. With a chunky 6.5-inch OLED display running at a 120Hz maximum refresh rate and full HD, it has a bright and vivid screen that far outpaces its budget competitors.

The Snapdragon 695 inside is starting to show its age, although the generous 12GB of RAM has apps running fluidly despite the odd long load time. It helps that Motorola’s custom Android UI isn’t a big change on Google’s vanilla package, keeping things simple and streamlined for easy navigation. And while there certainly is bloatware – something you won’t be able to escape at this price range – the apps are easily uninstalled. It even includes a 3.5mm audio jack for those people yet to make the jump to bluetooth earbuds.

The camera is largely mediocre, snapping Instagram-worthy photos in bright light but struggling in low light, and the very respectable 5,000mAh battery will likely last you a couple of days, depending on what sorts of apps you’re running. Less appealing is that the Moto G84 won’t receive any OS updates past Android 14 (which is already here), limiting its lifespan. Unless you expect to download every game on the Play Store, though, you could push about five years of use from the updates alone.

Best gaming smartphone

Asus ROG Phone 7

Asus ROG Phone 7

The Asus ROG Phone 7 is one of the best smartphones on the market, especially if you’re after something for gaming.

Pros

  • Incredibly responsive
  • Tailor-made for gaming

Cons

There is one reigning champion among gaming smartphones. The Asus ROG Phone 7 is tailor-made for high-performance mobile gaming, driven in large part by its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. There are no compromises on speed here, with even the most AAA-like mobile port running smoothly without any hiccups. The 6.7-inch 165Hz AMOLED display means those games look crisp, and combined with a 23ms touch latency, everything is fabulously responsive.

All of that makes it brilliant for gaming, and Asus’s included Armoury Crate only makes it even smoother on the software side. The app handily compiles all of your games and optional performance settings into one place, so you can quickly hop between them on the fly. Add in the advanced haptics that make for more vigorous vibrations, a bumper 6,000mAh battery (that can be juiced up in about an hour), and gesture side controls that mimic a controller’s shoulder buttons, this really is the ultimate gaming phone.

Of course, it costs an arm and a leg. You could buy a PlayStation 5 and an Xbox Series X together for its retail price and have a bit of pocket change leftover. If you’re only interested in playing mobile games casually, you don’t need this – any mid-range phone will likely do. But if mobile gaming is the only way you like to game, and you want the best of the best, the Asus ROG Phone 7 is for you.

 Massive display on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
Massive display on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Best Foldable Phone

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Fold this phone open to reveal a large 7.6-inch display that also has excellent cameras and a powerful processor to chew through all your tasks.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is a slight twist on the traditional flip phone, so rather than flipping it up, you open it like a book to reveal a beautiful 7.6-inch display, meaning you get a little tablet that’ll fold neatly in your pocket. When closed, you still get a 6.2-inch screen to play around with, and sleek design changes from the Galaxy Z Fold 4 bring a thinner, lighter phone alongside a new hinge allowing it to fold flat with no gap to help with longevity.

If you’re worried about the quality of that large internal display, the stunning QHD+ AMOLED panel gets plenty bright, hitting up to 1,750 nits, and you’ll enjoy silky, smooth frames thanks to a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. But, there’s still a crease where the phone folds. Similar to other Samsung flagships, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 packs stunning cameras that capture insane detail and offer incredible zoom. Powering it all is a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and 12GB of RAM, so this device shouldn’t have a problem chewing through all your tasks and games.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, a modern take on the flip phone
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, a modern take on the flip phone

Best Flip Phone

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

This modern twist on a flip phone delivers a very pocketable device with a 3.4-inch front touch display that you can flip open to reveal a larger 6.7-inch touchscreen.

Looking to take it back to the aughts when flip phones reigned supreme? The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 brings back the familiar foldable, albeit with a much more modern take. When the device is folded, you can play around with a 3.4-inch touchscreen that’ll display notifications and widgets for easy access, but once you flip it open, you’ll be greeted by a good-sized 6.7-inch HD AMOLED touchscreen. Samsung has done away with the gap, so the phone folds flat, and at only 0.59 inches thick when closed, it’s perfectly pocketable.

Just because it’s compact doesn’t mean the phone is underpowered, as it’s running on the latest silicon from Qualcomm, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 paired with 8GB of RAM. That should be enough oomph to run almost any app and handle some mobile gaming, especially considering the screen’s silky 120Hz refresh rate. Add in a long-lasting 3,700mAh battery and decent cameras—though they’re not on the level of Galaxy Z Fold 5—and you’ve got a solid device that blows the flip phones of yesteryear out of the water.

How we picked the best smartphones

The mobile phone industry relies on upselling. It tells consumers time and again their phone needs replacing with the flashiest new release, or that their standard model pales in comparison to the Pro, Max or whatever other upgraded version has just hit shelves. To an extent, this is true. Those pricier versions always bring a clutch of useful new features. But for many people, those features will go unused.

I picked out the smartphones at a variety of budgets that offer the best value for money. Unless you’re a wannabe influencer, hobbyist photographer, or enthusiastic gamer, you probably don’t need all the snazziest features that are being sold your way, and can find a more suitable pick from the selection here. Additionally, I also opted for phones that are durable and hard-wearing, and guaranteed to receive ongoing software support from their manufacturers, extending their lifespan.

FAQ

Is Samsung better than Apple?

Not necessarily. Both Samsung and Apple have earned a reputation for producing high-quality, feature-rich premium phones that leave more than a dent in your wallet. Both the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro are fast, sleek, sport excellent cameras that are capable of capturing crisp images in both high and low light, and are guaranteed software updates for years to come. More important is how familiar you are with their different operating systems: Android versus iOS.

Are iPhones better than Android phones?

For all the effort that Apple has put into cultivating a popular perception of itself as an unrivaled premium brand, modern iPhones are strikingly similar to premium Android alternatives. Any obvious lead that Apple once possessed has now all but diminished. Android and iOS operate similarly, are designed to fulfill almost identical functions, and are updated to new versions yearly. More important than which one you should pick is which you’re currently familiar with. iPhones sync with other Apple products more easily, while Android phones pair better with Windows devices.

Which Android phone is the best value for money?

The Motorola Moto G84 5G is a superb phone for its price. Scrolling apps and navigating web pages is fast, the display is bright and responsive, and the battery can see you through a couple of days at the office without a charge. For $400, you can’t go wrong, nor can you do much better.

Callum Bains is a freelance tech contributor and writer for IGN, with work seen on MSN, Yahoo and more.

Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.