The best phones in 2023: our 15 favorite smartphones right now

The best phones in 2023: our 15 favorite smartphones right now

Choosing the best phone in 2023 can be quite challenging, as there are so many excellent options available. Whether you are an iPhone fan, an Android user, or open to any smartphone, finding the perfect one for you may seem like a daunting task. But don’t worry, we’re here to help!

Below, we have compiled a list of our top picks for the best phones you can currently buy. We believe that there’s something for everyone on this list, and we’re confident that you’ll find a phone that suits your preferences perfectly.

If you have stronger preferences you want to stick with, see our picks for the best Android phones and the best iPhones. Otherwise, keep reading to see what we think are the best phones in 2023.

apple iphone 15 pro max review outside leaves

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

The best iPhone

Pros

  • Titanium design is a huge upgrade
  • The Action button is excellent
  • Outstanding camera system
  • Virtually perfect display
  • Blazing-fast performance
  • iOS 17 is great (especially StandBy)
  • USB-C port is convenient

Cons

  • Slow USB-C charging speeds
  • Only one way to use the Action button
  • Disappointing battery life

Why you should buy this:The iPhone 15 Pro Max has every feature imaginable — the most on any iPhone today.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the best iPhone currently on the market.

Why we picked the iPhone 15 Pro Max:

Until recently, the regular iPhone models and the “Pro” variations were not significantly different. However, the new iPhone 15 Pro series — particularly the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Pro Max — has fantastic features that can only be found on these most expensive models. The new titanium body is just the beginning, and the camera features vary even between the Pro and Pro Max models.

Our favorite iOS phone this year, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, is available in Natural Titanium, Blue Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium. Each offers a matte glass back and smaller bezels around what continues to be an always-on Super Retina XDR display with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The iPhone 15 Pro series has undergone significant hardware changes compared to previous models, including a switch from stainless steel to titanium and ghe additions of a USB-C port, an Action button, an A17 Pro chip, and improved cameras. With the new USB-C port, you no longer need to use Lightning cables, making it more convenient if you have a recent iPad or any other electronic device that uses USB-C. This switch also means quicker file transfer speeds, although it doesn’t necessarily result in improvements on the charging side. Apple promises the same 50% charge in 35 minutes using a 20-watt adapter.

At first glance, it may seem like nothing has changed with the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s camera system. The device still has a 48-megapixel (MP) main camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 12MP telephoto camera featuring apertures of f/1.78, f/2.2, and f/2.8, respectively, which is identical to the specs of its predecessor, the iPhone 14 Pro Max. However, some notable differences have a significant impact on the user experience.

For starters, the main camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max now takes 24MP shots by default instead of 12MP, resulting in more detailed images. Additionally, Apple’s latest Smart HDR 5 image processing technology enhances the colors of the photos. Finally, the telephoto camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max now supports up to 5x optical zoom, which is an improvement over the previous maximum of 3x.

It’s big and expensive, but if you want the very best smartphone running Apple’s iOS operating system, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the one to get.

iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

The best iPhone

iphone 15 first impressions 4 things i love green hand

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Apple iPhone 15

The best iPhone runner-up

Pros

  • Big camera upgrade
  • USB-C
  • Matte glass feels incredible
  • Dynamic Island
  • Curved edges are more comfortable
  • Reverse wired charging

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate display
  • Most color options are too light
  • Can get warm when running intensive apps

Why you should buy this: It’s Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone.

Who it’s for: Anyone would needs an iPhone upgrade, but doesn’t want to go the Pro route.

Why we picked the iPhone 15:

For those who don’t require all the advanced features of the more expensive iPhone 15 Pro series, the all-new iPhone 15 is a great option. This flagship device by Apple comes in five colors: pink, yellow, green, blue, and black. It has a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display like its predecessor, as well as several new features that make it worth considering, starting with the Dynamic Island.

The Dynamic Island, first introduced on the iPhone 14 Pro series, is a fun new way to view notifications, Live Activities, and more. If the Dynamic Island isn’t enough to persuade you to consider the iPhone 15, take a look at its new camera system.

The iPhone 15 has significantly upgraded its camera game this year with a 48MP primary camera and a 12MP ultrawide lens with a wide 120-degree field of view (FoV) that can capture your memories in breathtaking detail. However, the ultrawide lens has remained unchanged from last year and still lacks an autofocus feature. The selfie camera still delivers stunning results, but it is also unchanged at 12MP.

Unlike the iPhone 14 Pro models from last year that only allowed shooting in 48MP full resolution with ProRAW and defaulted to 12MP for regular photos, the iPhone 15 now defaults to 24MP photos. You can switch it back to 12MP to save storage space, but the 24MP photos are worth the extra space as they look remarkable overall and the minor size difference is negligible. The new camera features will help you capture every moment in stunning detail and relive them for years to come.

USB-C has replaced Lightning in the iPhone 15, bringing quicker transfer speeds between devices, but no charging speed improvements. Connecting the iPhone 15 with at least a 20W adapter gets you about 50% charge in 30 minutes, which is the same as before.

The iPhone 15 still only supports a 60Hz refresh rate, which is unfortunate for a smartphone in 2023. This limitation negatively affects gaming and web-browsing experiences for users with quick fingers. It should also be noted that the iPhone 15 comes with last year’s A16 Pro chip. This isn’t bad, but you aren’t getting the latest and great chip Apple has to offer on a smartphone.

iPhone 15

Apple iPhone 15

The best iPhone runner-up

samsung galaxy s23 ultra vs s22 green back 6

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The best Android phone

Pros

  • Incredibly powerful processor
  • Versatile telephoto zoom camera
  • S Pen adds value
  • Water-resistant and durable
  • Long software update commitment
  • Many interesting features to explore
  • Large, bright, detailed screen

Cons

  • Wired charging is complicated, and only 45W
  • Big and heavy

Why you should buy this: Samsung has somehow topped last year’s S22 Ultra to create a truly sublime smartphone.

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for the best Android has to offer.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra:

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra could be a bit of a boring update. After all, Samsung wasn’t changing the design, or doing anything drastic with the S22 Ultra’s basic formula — but it turned out all the S22 Ultra needed to become truly incredible was a few tweaks. The S23 Ultra may not be a paradigm shift, but it is an excellent phone, and our pick for best Android smartphone.

It’s safe to say it’s a gorgeous phone, with soft curves around the edges and a flat top and bottom. The S Pen has a dock at the bottom, and the massive 6.8-inch Super Dynamic AMOLED 2X display is broken only by a simple punch-hole for the selfie camera. Unlike most of the competition, the rear camera module isn’t separated from the rest of the back, and it gives the device a clean design language of its own. The color choices are as subtle or stylish as you want them to be, and it’s all backed up with Gorilla Glass Victus 2, Samsung’s Armor Aluminum, and an IP68-rating for dust and water resistance.

We’ve seen the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in other phones, like the OnePlus 11 below, but the processor goes up to a new level in the S23 Ultra. It’s the “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy” now, which basically means it’s been overclocked and optimized for Samsung’s devices. Does that make a difference? As it turns out, yes. We couldn’t do much to faze this processor, and it handled everything we threw at it. Add in the generous amounts of RAM and storage, and you have a performance powerhouse that should last for years.

The camera is another incremental upgrade, and the hardware improvements are largely confined to upgrading the main lens to 200MP. This makes a difference to image quality (and the S23 Ultra produces exceptional pictures), but the biggest wow factor comes from the improved zoom. Like the S22 Ultra, the S23 Ultra has a 3x telephoto lens and a 10x periscope telephoto lens, and both have been improved. The 30x digital zoom has really been upgraded though, and it’s moving from being a “fun, but underwhelming” feature to something that actually creates good images. It’s quite astounding, and there’s no other smartphone that offers this level of zoom photography.

Everything else is just as good. The S Pen continues to be an excellent stylus, and Samsung’s One UI skin has grown into a strong version of Android. The desktop-emulating DeX mode is still here, and so is a swathe of other extra features you can explore at your leisure.

The battery is solid and can last two days with moderate use. Even more intensive use will see it last a full day with some change at the end. It’s impressive endurance. Charging tops out at 45W, which should refill your battery in about an hour, though there’s no charger in the box, so you’ll need to buy your own. There’s also support for wireless charging and reverse wireless charging too.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,200, with 256GB of storage, so it’ll cost you quite a lot of money. However, with some exceptional cameras, stupendous processing power, and two days of battery life, it’s fair to say this is a phone that can easily last you for many years before needing to be replaced.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The best Android phone

google pixel 8 pro review colorful background close

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Google Pixel 8 Pro

The best Android phone runner-up

Pros

  • Google’s best phone design yet
  • Lovely, vibrant display
  • Phenomenal cameras
  • Unbelievable photo-editing tools
  • Face Unlock is magical
  • Tensor G3 is a big improvement
  • Seven years of updates!

Cons

  • The temperature sensor
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Slow charging speeds

Why you should buy this: The Pixel 8 Pro has a lovely design, excellent cameras, and amazing AI features.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a top-tier Android phone that isn’t made by Samsung.

Why we picked the Google Pixel 8 Pro:

The Google Pixel 8 Pro is a smartphone that has set a new standard for the Pixel line. With its stunning design, improved camera system, and Google’s latest Tensor chip, it’s no wonder that it’s being hailed as the best Pixel yet.

While the Pixel 8 Pro bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor, the Google Pixel 7 Pro, it’s the subtle changes that make all the difference. The rear glass boasts an impressive, smooth matte finish that feels great in your hand, while the rounded corners make it even more comfortable to hold. The dual camera cutouts found on the previous model have been replaced with a single cutout that spans the length of the camera bar, adding to the phone’s sleek aesthetic.

The display on the Pixel 8 Pro has also seen some major improvements. With a 120Hz refresh rate that can scale down to 1Hz as needed, it’s more energy-efficient than ever. The display is also much brighter, rising to 1,600 nits for HDR content and 2,400 for peak brightness, making it perfect for enjoying your favorite movies and shows.

Now, let’s talk about the cameras. The primary camera on the Pixel 8 Pro is a work of art, with a resolution of 50 megapixels and an aperture of f/1.68 that makes it incredibly light-sensitive. It also has a 2x optical zoom, giving you even more control over your shots. The new ultrawide camera has a resolution of 48MP and an f/1.95 aperture, significantly improving its light sensitivity and macro mode. The telephoto camera has a resolution of 48MP, an f/2.8 aperture, and a 5x optical zoom, making it perfect for capturing even the most distant subjects. The front-facing camera has an f/2.2 aperture and autofocus support, ensuring that your selfies always look their best.

The Pixel 8 Pro also comes packed with some exciting new camera software tools. Best Take is one of the most prominent features. It automatically stitches together multiple photographs so everyone in the shot looks their best. Magic Editor is another great feature, allowing you to erase and move objects from existing photos, even those not taken with the Pixel 8 Pro.

The Pixel 8 Pro’s new Tensor G3 chip is a game-changer, with the ability to handle various tasks such as gaming, live video streaming over a 5G connection, and capturing photos without overheating like its predecessors.

In short, the Google Pixel 8 Pro is a remarkable Android phone that’s worth considering for anyone looking for a beautiful design, exceptional camera system, and lightning-fast processor. It’s a true workhorse that can keep up with even the most demanding users, whether you’re a professional photographer or simply someone who wants a reliable and powerful smartphone.

Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro

The best Android phone runner-up

samsung galaxy a14 5g review back exterior in bush

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G

The best cheap phone

Pros

  • Only $200
  • Large display with a 90Hz refresh rate
  • 5,000mAh battery
  • 50MP rear camera, 13MP selfie camera
  • Respectable performance
  • Unique, textured back

Cons

  • Secondary cameras aren’t impressive
  • No water or dust resistance
  • Fast charging up to 15W only

Why you should buy this: The Samsung Galaxy A14 5G looks good and packs a punch for a budget price.

Who it’s for: Buyers on a budget looking for a safe, sensible choice that won’t disappoint.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G:

Are you on a budget but want great value? Then you can’t go wrong with Samsung’s A-Series phones, which are excellent for the price. The Galaxy A14 5G is one of the latest entries in the family, and it’s well worth your attention.

With the Galaxy A14 5G, you get a large, 6.6-inch LCD display that has a 1080p resolution with a 90Hz adaptive refresh rate. Though you do get some bezels around the display, the screen itself looks nice, has vibrant colors, and you get relatively smooth scrolling with the 90Hz refresh rate. The design of the phone itself is simple and minimalistic, and the plastic back has a unique texture that helps give you more grip than the glass on most phones.

The A14 5G has 4GB RAM and a MediaTek MT6833 Dimensity 700 chip. So while it’s not packing the newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it has decent performance for the price. You may notice a tiny bit of stutter when navigating the phone’s interface or opening up apps, but considering that the phone is just $200, it’s expected. It only comes with 64GB of storage, but that can expand to 1TB through a microSD card. Samsung ships the A14 5G with Android 13 and OneUI 5, and you will get two major Android upgrades and four years of security updates. For $200, you’re getting a good amount of longevity, especially considering that this phone is 5G-capable.

The camera is also quite impressive, as you get a 50MP main shooter, with a 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensors. Thanks to the MediaTek chip, taking photos is fast and the results are quite good for a $200 phone. When I used the phone to capture some in-motion shots of my daughter, the results came out quite well. Colors are also bright and punchy, like most of Samsung’s other higher-end phones.

And lastly, though the Galaxy A14 5G doesn’t have wireless charging, it does have a massive 5,000mAh battery that will last at least two days with regular use. But wired charging caps out at 15W, so it’s a little slow. However, considering how much use you’ll get from a single charge, you may not be having to plug it in every night.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G

The best cheap phone

google pixel 7a review in hand at disneyland castle

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Google Pixel 7a

The best cheap phone runner-up

Pros

  • Most compact Pixel 7 device
  • Water-resistant
  • 64MP main camera
  • 90Hz refresh rate
  • Wireless charging
  • Four fun colors

Cons

  • Not great with low light photos
  • Battery life is disappointing
  • No reverse wireless charging
  • Price puts it in an odd place

Why you should buy this: It offers Google’s Pixel smartphone experience at a great price.

Who it’s for: Those who want solid camera and fun software features for under $500.

Why we picked the Google Pixel 7a:

It has become a tradition for Google to launch a new budget smartphone during the springtime, and the latest addition to that lineup is the Google Pixel 7a. With a design and features that are almost identical to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, this phone is an excellent option for those looking for a budget-friendly device. Unfortunately, it might be a tough sell for many.

The Pixel 7a is similar to the Google Pixel 6a, with a high-gloss plastic back and an aluminum frame surrounding the edges. However, this year’s model features an aluminum frame that matches the device’s color, which is a nice touch. Additionally, the camera bar on the back of the phone is now metallic rather than made of plastic, bringing it more in line with the design of the Pixel 7. The Pixel 7a is also slightly taller and wider than its predecessor.

The display has also been improved on the Pixel 7a. Still measuring 6.1 inches diagonally, the screen is a Full HD OLED display with a 1080 x 2400 resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio. There’s also Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for durability. Perhaps best of all, Google has bumped up the display’s refresh rate from 60Hz to 90Hz, which should offer a smoother experience. Again, this is the same as what’s on the Google Pixel 7.

The Pixel 7a has a Tensor G2 chip, 8GB of RAM, and a fixed storage option of 128 GB. We tested the Tensor G2 chip during our Pixel 7a review and encountered no issues. However, some users have reported overheating problems with this chip on other phones, depending on their usage. Since the Pixel 7a is a budget phone, it is expected that users won’t engage in intensive gaming or have several apps running simultaneously, which means the overheating issue may be less of a concern.

The camera system on the Pixel 7a may not be as advanced as the ones found on pricier Pixel models, but it still has a lot to offer. The device boasts a 64MP main camera and a 13MP ultrawide sensor that produce vivid and punchy photos without the oversaturation often seen in Samsung phones. The Pixel 7a’s 13MP selfie camera is also a significant improvement, capturing detailed and beautifully blurred portraits in the background, thanks to its Portrait mode.

The Google Pixel 7a is a pretty sweet device, costing only $499. It may be the smallest in the Pixel lineup, but its 6.1-inch display is still pretty impressive, with vibrant colors and rich blacks. Plus, the 90Hz refresh rate makes scrolling and gaming super smooth. And, despite claims to the contrary, the Tensor G2 chip runs smoothly, especially with the 8GB of RAM found on this phone.

Google Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 7a

The best cheap phone runner-up

google pixel 8 review taking photo 2

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Google Pixel 8

The best phone value

Pros

  • Great main camera
  • Amazing AI photo editing tools
  • Two-day battery life
  • Slick, fast Android 14
  • Tensor G3 is cool and efficient
  • Seven years software support

Cons

  • Wide-angle camera disappoints
  • Average charge speed

Why you should buy this: What’s not to like? This is a terrific Pixel that might even be better than the Pixel 8 Pro.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a cutting edge Pixel for less money.

Why we picked the Google Pixel 8:

The Google Pixel 8 has turned many heads since it was released, and there’s no surprise as to why. Its sleek and improved design is the first thing that catches your eye. It’s more compact, lighter, and more stylish than its predecessors. The phone is easy to hold and to use one-handed, making it an ideal choice for people on the go.

But that’s not all. The Pixel 8 boasts an incredible battery life that can last up to two days, even when connected to a smartwatch. Never again will you have to worry about running out of battery during your busy day.

The phone’s camera is another impressive feature. Its exceptional photo quality and unparalleled AI editing features make it stand out from its competitors. You don’t need to be a photography expert to capture and edit stunning shots. With the Pixel 8, you can create beautiful photos with just a few taps on the screen.

What’s more, the Pixel 8’s software will receive updates until 2030, so you won’t have to upgrade your phone anytime soon. You’ll have the latest software and security patches for years to come.

At a reasonable price of $699, the Pixel 8 is a great value given all its features. If you’re looking for something even more advanced, the Pixel 8 Pro is also an option, but it comes at a higher price of $999. However, the Pixel 8’s longer battery life is a compelling reason to consider it over the Pro.

Google Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8

The best phone value

samsung galaxy a54 review back lime

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy A54

The best phone value runner-up

Pros

  • Eye-catching colors
  • It looks like the Galaxy S23
  • Colorful screen
  • Speakers sound good
  • Long software commitment

Cons

  • Battery doesn’t last two days
  • No wireless charging
  • Camera lacks realism

Why you should buy this: The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G has the flagship looks and features without the flagship price.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a phone that looks like Samsung’s flagship S23 and has good performance — but for half the price.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G:

The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G offers a lot of flagship features for less. It looks like the company’s newest S23, and though the internals aren’t quite the same, it still has fast and snappy performance — just like the S23. But there are some differences, so let’s talk about them.

The Galaxy A54 is slightly bigger than the S23 with a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display, and it even has a 120Hz refresh rate on the screen. This means scrolling through the system, and apps, and playing games is smooth and easy on the eyes, and the colors are vibrant and rich with deep blacks.

Though the chassis is made of plastic, the screen and back consist of Gorilla Glass 5. The phone feels quite nice in the hand with this combination, and the increased brightness to 1000 nits from the A53’s 800 nit max makes it easier to see when outdoors.

You get a 50MP main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), as well as a 12MP wide-angle camera and 5MP macro lens. The front-facing selfie camera is 32MP. However, the photos that result from these lenses may be a love-hate relationship, as Samsung has fully embraced its reputation for overly saturated colors in photos with this phone. Photos may appear too vibrant and punchy, with amplified reds, blues, and greens to the point where they may just be too intense. For some, this kind of vibrance is preferred, but it may take away from the realism of photos. And while the selfie camera is 32MP, it may struggle with capturing minute details and skin tone in more difficult lighting.

Samsung put its Exynos 1380 processor inside, with either 6GB or 8GB RAM and 128GB or 256GB storage, plus you have a microSD card slot. While the Exynos 1380 may not be as fast as the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that is in the S23 series, it’s still reasonably fast and performs well for the price point. It comes with Android 13 and One UI 5.1, which is the same as the S23. Samsung promises software upgrades for the next four years, with five years of security updates.

Though the Galaxy A54 has a 5,000mAh battery inside, it won’t get you through two consecutive days without a charge overnight. But it should last most of the day if that’s all you need. It charges at a maximum speed of 25W, and unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging.

There are also four total color options for the Galaxy A54, making it a fun phone for the price. It has the standard black and white options, as well as Awesome Violet and Awesome Lime Green. But the availability of the colors depends on where you live. If you’re in the U.S., you can only purchase the black version from all major carriers, and Samsung’s site has the black and Awesome Violet colors for U.S. customers. If you’re in the U.K., you can pick up a Galaxy A54 in all four colorways.

Samsung Galaxy A54

Samsung Galaxy A54

The best phone value runner-up

apple iphone 15 plus review logo

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Apple iPhone 15 Plus

The best big iPhone

Pros

  • Ergonomic design
  • Big, bright, colorful screen
  • Inspiring camera
  • Two-day battery life
  • USB C and MagSafe for charging

Cons

  • 60Hz refresh rate screen
  • No always-on display
  • Not the latest processor

Why you should buy this: It packs a huge, stunning screen, it feels substantial, and the design won’t fail to impress.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the best big-screen iPhone around for less.

Why we picked the iPhone 15 Plus:

The iPhone 15 Plus is almost identical to its smaller counterpart, the iPhone 15, except for its larger display. The 6.7-inch smartphone is beautifully designed and is available in pink, blue, black, yellow, and green. USB-C, which is faster for file transfers, is included in the iPhone 15 series, replacing the Lightning port. However, there have been no improvements in terms of charging. The battery life still lasts for two days, which is quite impressive.

Another feature the new phone boasts is the Dynamic Island, which was initially introduced in last year’s iPhone Pro models. This feature provides a fun way to view notifications, Live Activities, and more.

In terms of camera capabilities, the iPhone 15 Plus is highly impressive. Thanks to the depth-of-field feature, the phone can capture well-balanced, dynamic, colorful, and enjoyable photos. The new cameras and features are a significant upgrade from previous standard iPhones, and it’s great to see that the iPhone 15 Plus is not just limited to taking casual pictures, but also has the potential to enhance your creativity.

Unlike the iPhone 14 Plus, which felt out of place in the iPhone lineup, the new Plus model is a perfect fit. Ergonomic improvements have made a significant difference, the performance has been dramatically improved, and the cameras inspire one to take more photos.

On the downside, the iPhone 15 Plus still offers a low refresh rate of 60Hz, and it features last year’s A16 Pro chip. Nonetheless, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a large iPhone at a lower price point.

iPhone 15 Plus

Apple iPhone 15 Plus

The best big iPhone

iphone se 2022 review starlight back in hand

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The best small iPhone

Pros

  • Compact and light
  • Very powerful
  • Touch ID works really well
  • Wireless charging
  • IP67 water resistance

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • 60Hz screen
  • 64GB won’t be enough

Why you should buy this: Apple’s latest iPhone SE (2022) is a pint-sized wonder that’s powerful, affordable, and future-proof.

Who it’s for: Those looking for a future-proof phone that fits in their pocket (and their hand).

Why we picked the Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Finding a truly small phone today feels like hunting for a needle in a haystack, but the iPhone SE (2022) is really, truly small, with its tiny 4.7-inch Liquid Retina display with 60Hz refresh rate. Sadly, the design feels a bit dated, cribbing the iPhone 8’s design, with chunky bezels and a Home button with integrated Touch ID.

Looking beyond its size, there’s a lot going for the iPhone SE. Under the hood, you’re getting Apple’s A15 Bionic chip with the same performance spec as the iPhone 13 Pro. There’s also 4GB of RAM, 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage, and a decent battery, though heavy use may see you struggle to make it through the day with much left in the tank. You’ll be up and running fairly quickly with 18W fast charging and Qi wireless charging.

You also get a single 12MP rear sensor and 7MP selfie camera, identical to the previous iPhone SE. But it’s Apple’s software that makes a difference here, with Deep Fusion technology, Smart HDR 4, and Photographic Styles, as well as improved Portrait Mode. There’s no Night Mode though, so shooting in low-light environments can be a challenge.

Add 5G connectivity, iOS 15 out of the box, and five or six years of OS updates, and it’s easy to see why the iPhone SE (2022) is our best small smartphone. Yes, the design feels a bit old-fashioned, those bezels are pretty clunky, and there’s no charger in the box — but now we’re nitpicking. The iPhone SE (2022) comes priced at an incredible $429, so you won’t need to break the bank to afford it.

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

The best small iPhone

oneplus 11 review green in hand 2

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

OnePlus 11

The best big Android phone

Pros

  • Eye-catching design
  • Two-day battery life
  • 25 minute battery charging
  • Characterful camera
  • Long software update commitment

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • Portrait camera disappoints

Why you should buy this: This is OnePlus’s best smartphone in years, delivering a flagship experience and outstanding bang for your buck.

Who it’s for: Someone who wants an outstanding Android smartphone that doesn’t cost a fortune and has a huge display.

Why we picked the OnePlus 11:

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is an incredible phone in so many ways, but not far behind it is the OnePlus 11. This is a successor to the OnePlus 10T, a phone that left us feeling worried and uncertain about OnePlus’ future. But OnePlus clearly listened to feedback on the 10T, because the OnePlus 11 is so excellent in so many ways.

Hardware-wise, the OnePlus 11 looks and feels great. The camera design is polarizing, but it’s also unique and unlike anything else on the market. The phone feels incredible to hold, too, thanks to a stainless steel frame and glass backside. And, yes, the alert slider is back on the OnePlus 11, allowing you to easily adjust notification sounds with a physical switch.

But it’s what’s beneath the OnePlus 11’s design that makes it so special. Powering the phone is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. Simply put, it’s a beast. Apps open instantly, it powers through graphically intense games without heating up, and it’s battery is wonderfully efficient — easily getting through two days of use on a single charge. And when your battery does run out, 80W charging gets you from 0% to 100% in about 30 minutes.

Just as impressive is the OnePlus 11’s camera system. The 50MP main camera delivers lovely results, producing images that are eye-catching and full of character. And thanks to the 6.7-inch AMOLED display, you have an excellent canvas for looking at your images, favorite websites, movies, or anything else.

What are the downsides? The OnePlus 11 only has an IP64 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning it isn’t as safeguarded against water as the S23 Ultra. It also lacks wireless charging, and the 32MP telephoto camera has a paltry 2x optical zoom — resulting in pretty disappointing zoom performance. The upside to all of this is that the OnePlus 11 starts at just $699. If you want an amazing Android phone, but can’t stomach the price of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the OnePlus 11 is the way to go.

OnePlus 11

OnePlus 11

The best big Android phone

samsung galaxy s23 still worth it 10 months later held in hand against green floral background

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy S23

The best small Android phone

Pros

  • Sleek and compact design
  • Comfortable for one-handed use
  • Very fast performance
  • Reliable cameras take great photos
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Five years of guaranteed updates

Cons

  • Base storage is still 128GB
  • Fast charging up to only 25W
  • Limited zoom quality past 10x

Why you should buy this: It has fast performance, reliable cameras, and a lightweight and compact design that is comfortable for one-handed use.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a powerful Android but prefers a smaller phone.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy S23:

Though a lot of Android phones are on the bigger side these days, those who want a non-folding Android phone that’s still small and compact should check out the Samsung Galaxy S23. It’s the latest for Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S series of phones, and the base model is perfect for small phone fans. Thanks to the materials used, the S23 is not only small, but it is super lightweight and comfortable enough to use with just one hand.

You’ll find a gorgeous 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X FHD+ display on the S23, which looks sharp and crisp with a density of 425ppi. Colors look rich and vibrant, and blacks are deep and pure. The 120Hz refresh rate makes scrolling and animations incredibly smooth, and the 1,750-nit outdoor peak brightness means you can use your phone without an issue while out in direct sunlight.

The Galaxy S23 is packed with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, which is the result of a partnership between Samsung and Qualcomm. So not only is this the latest Snapdragon processor but it’s specially made for Galaxy devices by having faster clock speeds and better optimization. Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy means the S23 has blazing-fast performance with Android 13, whether you’re being productive, unleashing your creativity, or playing games to kill some time.

While Samsung gave the best camera to the S23 Ultra with the 200MP sensor, the Galaxy S23 still has very reliable cameras that make it hard to take a bad photo or video. You’ll get a 50MP main camera, 12MP ultra-wide, and 10MP telephoto, with optical image stabilization on the main and telephoto cameras. The telephoto gives you 3x optical zoom, but you also get up to 30x digital zoom as well, which is decent enough if you want to really zoom in on something (the quality past 10x depends on what you’re taking a photo of). With Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, capturing photos and video is quick and easy, and everything renders fast.

As mentioned, the Galaxy S23 comes equipped with Android 13 with Samsung’s custom One UI 5.1 interface layered on top. You’ll get four major Android upgrades and five years of security updates through 2028. The S23 starts out with 128GB, but you can go up to 256GB storage if more is needed. Both versions cap out at 8GB RAM.

The Galaxy S23 has a 3,900mAh battery and supports USB-C fast charging, but only up to 25W. Still, that’s pretty fast, as you can get 50% charge in just 30 minutes with the appropriate charger (sold separately). It takes a little over an hour to go from zero to 100%, which is really not that bad. A single full charge should get you through an entire day, if not more, depending on your use. Wireless charging caps out at 15W and you also get 4.5W reverse wireless charging, in case you need to charge up your wireless earbuds in a pinch.

Overall, the Galaxy S23 packs in a lot of power in a convenient, compact package.

Samsung Galaxy S23

Samsung Galaxy S23

The best small Android phone

samsung galaxy z fold 5 review opening top

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

The best foldable phone

Pros

  • Thinner and lighter than ever
  • Silent, high-quality hinge
  • Strong multitasking tools
  • Fun, social media-friendly camera
  • Inner screen is perfect for games and video
  • IPX8 and durable chassis

Cons

  • Battery life hasn’t dramatically improved
  • Slow charging

Why you should buy this: Folding phones are the future, and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the most powerful foldable around.

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for a powerful phone in a foldable form factor.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5:

If you want a phone and a tablet in one, then you can’t go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5. Now in its fifth generation, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 boasts some great improvements over its predecessor, making it not just a great folding phone, but an excellent smartphone in its own right.

While the Galaxy Z Fold 5 does not look much different than the Galaxy Z Fold 4 before it, Samsung has made some nice improvements that affect the overall usability of the foldable. The new Flex Hinge allows the phone to not have a gap when closed, unlike the wedge-shaped gap that was found on the Z Fold 4. This means less debris can get into the inner screens, and it feels better and more ergonomic to hold and use the cover display.

Though Samsung did not change the tall and narrow form factor when the Z Fold 5 is closed, the Flex Hinge and the gapless design make it a bit more comfortable to use the cover display. Speaking of displays, the Z Fold 5 did not change the screen sizes, so you still have the 6.2-inch, 2316 x 904 pixel resolution cover display and 7.6-inch inner screen with 2176 x 1812 resolution. Both have 120Hz refresh rates as well, so everything looks fantastic. The Flex Mode when watching videos even shows controls on the lower half of the screen, which is convenient.

Despite having pretty much the same camera system as the Z Fold 4 with 50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto sensors, the Z Fold 5 does make some improvements over its predecessor. You’ll still have super-saturated photos in bright sunlight, but if you don’t take photos in harsh sunlight, the photo results appear much more natural and realistic than before, even with the ultrawide lens. The optical zoom is also improved, with more details, better color balance, and accurate exposure.

However, the camera isn’t perfect. It struggles with focusing up close in 1x or 3x mode, and lowlight scenes may provide some trouble. If you want the absolute best camera on a Samsung phone, then you should go for the Galaxy S23 Ultra instead.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 uses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip and has 12GB RAM, along with your choice of 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB internal storage. It ships with Android 13 and Samsung’s One UI 5.1.1 installed, and there’s plenty of power to handle pretty much anything you need with ease. The taskbar is great for multitasking, and it now can show up to four recent apps instead of two. You can have three apps plus a floating window at the same time, so this is a great device for power users.

Though the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has about the same battery capacity as its predecessor, it gets a little more life out of a single full charge, thanks to its more efficient processor. In our tests, we still ended up with between 35% and 50% battery by the end of the day. It’s not a two-day phone, but it definitely has more than enough endurance to get through a day with heavy use. The Fold 5 also supports up to 25W fast charging, so with the right power adapter, it takes about 80 minutes to fully charge. With a slower charger, it could take up to two hours.

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 also supports the S Pen, and Samsung created a brand new S Pen specifically for the phone, called the S Pen Fold Edition. It’s been upgraded to have a thinner tip, 4,096 pressure levels, and IP68 water and dust resistance. Unfortunately, you don’t have a slot on the Z Fold 5 to store it — you’ll need to buy a case that supports holding the S Pen.

Folding phones are more popular than they’ve ever been, but Samsung is still the ruler of the niche — and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the best foldable you can buy. Hands down.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

The best foldable phone

samsung galaxy z flip 5 review 14

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

The best flip phone

Pros

  • No more gap when folded shut
  • Extremely well-built
  • Hinge feels outstanding
  • Much more useful cover screen
  • Fantastic performance
  • Good and dependable cameras
  • 5 years of updates

Cons

  • The crease is still there
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Cover screen requires lots of tweaking

Why you should buy this: It looks great, boasts fast performance, and has a fun and foldable form factor and bespoke colors.

Who it’s for: Anyone looking for their first foldable who prefers a more compact flip design.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5:

If you want a foldable, but prefer something smaller like a flip phone versus a foldable tablet, then the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the better choice for you. And this year, Samsung has made the Galaxy Z Flip 5 much better than its predecessor in one very important way.

WIth the Z Flip 5, the biggest improvement is the cover display. Instead of a tiny little window on the front cover like last year, the Z Flip 5 now has a 3.4-inch cover display instead of a 1.9-inch window like the Z Flip 4. This makes the cover display much more useful, as you can view larger clocks and widgets, and even run apps on the cover display. The cover display on the Z Flip 5 is shaped like a folder so that the external camera system won’t interfere with the display, unlike the Motorola Razr Plus. The cover screen also only has a 60Hz refresh rate, though it still runs fairly fast and isn’t too noticeable.

The main screen of the Z Flip 5 is a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with 2640 x 1080 resolution and a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Like most Samsung phones, the inner display is beautiful, with vibrant colors, sharp text, and smooth scrolling and animations. But the crease is very pronounced, especially when compared to other flip phones like the Razr Plus, where it’s barely noticeable.

Cameras on the Z Flip 5 are pretty similar to the Flip 4, with just a 12MP main camera with f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization, plus a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 123-degree field of view. However, there are some improvements overall, like better color reproduction. Samsung also added a clear lens coating that will help prevent lens flares in images, and the selfie camera has a slightly larger sensor.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 has the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip inside, along with 8GB RAM and 256GB or 512GB storage. This means that the Z Flip 5 is fast, and should be able to handle pretty much anything you throw at it. It comes equipped with Android 13 and Samsung’s One UI 5.1.1 out of the box.

As far as battery life goes, it’s pretty average. It has a 3,700mAh battery like last year’s Z Flip 4, which means about a day of battery life with heavy use. The phone supports 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

The best flip phone

motorola razr 40 2023 review pocket

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Motorola Razr (2023)

The best cheap folding phone

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Camera is great for social media
  • Fast battery charging
  • Cute Moo character brightens up the cover screen
  • Dust and water resistance

Cons

  • No always-on screen
  • Slow wireless charging
  • Can get warm when pushed hard

Why you should buy this: Not everyone desires all features on a foldable phone. If that’s you, this is the one you want.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a no-hassle smartphone experience.

Why we picked the Motorola Razr (2023):

The new Motorola Razr is all the rage with its compact flip design and no-frills features. It’s easy on the wallet, perfect for everyday use, and you won’t have to worry about learning many features you may never use.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. The cover screen doesn’t have an always-on mode, which may be a bummer for some users. And while the wireless charging feature is there, it’s not the greatest. Plus, the phone’s processor can struggle when it gets overloaded.

The Motorola Razr is still a fantastic option for anyone looking for a budget folding phone. It’s one of the cheapest ways to get into foldable smartphones, making it a smart choice for anyone who wants to experience the latest technology without breaking the bank. And let’s not forget about its unique and sleek design that sets it apart from the standard smartphones out there.

The Motorola Razr is an excellent phone that will turn heads, as well as a practical phone that’s easy to use. With its flip design, you can answer calls and send texts with one hand without a hassle. It’s also ideal for anyone who wants a simple and reliable phone without a ton of features.

So, if you’re looking for a smartphone that’s affordable, unique, and easy to use, the Motorola Razr (2023) is the one for you. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to experience the latest technology without spending a fortune.

Motorola Razr (2023)

Motorola Razr (2023)

The best cheap folding phone

Frequently Asked Questions

Which operating system is best for you?

There are two major players in smartphone operating systems: Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android. Picking between them is going to form a big part of your smartphone choice, right? Sort of.

Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are completely separate systems, so any apps or games you buy on one will not transfer over to the other. If you’re heavily invested into one or the other already, that should play a part in whether you want to buy a phone running the other OS. But don’t let it put you off entirely: Most of the apps you’ll find on one, you’ll also find on the other, and even if your purchases won’t transfer over, you’ll still be able to to find the same general experience from the free apps you use.

Apple’s iOS is definitely the more unified experience. Since only Apple makes devices that use iOS, it decides how it looks, feels, and functions — down to the very last transition. Android is a lot more fluid and dynamic. While Google has its own design choices, other manufacturers are free to change the look and feel as they prefer by creating what’s commonly referred to as a “skin.” Samsung’s One UI is probably the best known of these. While this has its advantages, sometimes these changes can make a phone feel drastically different. Sometimes this is better, sometimes it’s worse. While you always know what you’re going to get with iOS, Android can be a bit more of a mixed bag.

Software updates are hit by this same dynamic. Apple’s control means it can push out updates on day one or two of a new patch or iOS version being available. Google can do that for its own Pixel devices, but updates to phones made by Samsung, Nokia, OnePlus, or other manufacturers will take longer — largely because each company will have to make sure the update works with its own skin or software. As a result, it can be anywhere between weeks and months before some Android phones get updated to the latest version of Android. This can be important when updates contain bug fixes or security patches, and even if those are pushed through as a priority, they’ll still be landing later than they would on iPhone.

Ultimately, while there are differences between the two operating systems, there are far more similarities when it comes to Android and iOS. Both have largely the same selection of apps and games, and the day-to-day experience is much the same. While there definitely are differences, swapping to Android from iPhone (or vice versa) won’t leave you confused.

Can smartphones get viruses?

While it is possible to get viruses on iPhones or Android phones, what most people mean when they say “virus” is malware. Technically, the term virus means software that infects a host, inserts itself into an existing program, and then spreads that infection by self-replicating. They are a very small percentage of malware and extremely rare on smartphones, but malware isn’t. You should definitely think about how to protect your smartphone from hackers because a little common sense can save you from having to work out how to remove malware from your phone.

What is an unlocked smartphone?

A locked smartphone is tied to a specific carrier’s network, so if your phone is locked to Verizon, for example, you can only use it with a Verizon SIM and service plan. An unlocked smartphone can be used on any network. If you’ve paid in full for your phone, then it should be free to unlock. We have a guide that will show you how to unlock a phone on every carrier. You can also buy some great unlocked phones that will work with any carrier straight out of the box.

How long should a smartphone last?

Realistically, you should expect to get two to three years out of your smartphone. You can extend the life of any smartphone by taking proper care of it and it’s always worth shopping for good protective cases. There are also loads of good waterproof phones to choose from nowadays. The problem with many Android phones is that manufacturers and carriers are slow to push out software updates, so the software can become dated and even insecure over time. With that said, Samsung recently set new standards for updates, promising four OS updates and five years of security updates on select Galaxy devices including the Galaxy S23 series, Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5, and predecessors the Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4. Apple is also known for its lengthy updates promise, while Google now offers seven years of Android OS updates and security updates for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

How do prepaid phones work?

Prepaid cell phones work just like any other phone, but they come without a monthly contract or long-term commitment. You usually pay for service in advance. When you buy a prepaid phone they tend to come with a fixed number of minutes, text messages, and possibly a fixed amount of mobile data. This removes the chance of any overage charges. When you run out, you simply top up by buying more minutes, texts, and data in chunks.

What should I do with my old smartphone?

The most obvious thing to do with your old smartphone is to pass it on to someone else. If you want to gift it, then make sure to wipe it first; we have guides on how to wipe your Android phone and how to factory reset an iPhone. You may also want to turn that old phone into cash, in which case you’ll want to read up on how to sell your smartphone. You may decide to keep it as a spare in case your new smartphone breaks, but you could also repurpose it with the right apps. It’s better to pass it on to someone who can use it or find another use for it than let it languish in a drawer. If you can’t think of a good way to reuse your smartphone then consider donating it or recycling it.

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, then we also have ideas about the best rugged phones, best phones for kids, and the best gaming phones.

How we test

A phone is so much more than its spec sheet. Your entire life is stored on it, from your photos and contacts to your music and your favorite apps. For that reason, we take great care when we review phones to recommend only the absolute best out there.

We use each phone we review as our daily driver for an extended period to test out all the features. We do benchmarks, play games, take photos, plunge them in water, and use them until their batteries expire. Then we charge ’em up and do it all over again. We test devices like real people use devices. We’re not in some stuffy lab performing obscure tests. We’re running around the cities we live in using these phones just like you use your phones. Then we think about each phone in comparison with its competitors to come to a decision: Should you buy this phone or something else? If the answer is “something else,” we tell you what to buy instead.

Smartphone innovation has peaked, and the number of radical new features that come out each year is shrinking. As such, when you’re buying a phone, you’re buying a device that will be with you 24/7 for several years. It’s a big choice, and things like apps, a product ecosystem, customer support, and security should be important factors in your buying decision.

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