Best smartphones in 2022 | Laptop Mag

The best smartphones aren’t quite as predictable as they once were with a number of new options emerging, including many in the $500-$750 range. Now you aren’t going to get a folding screen or a 50x zoom at that price unless you bump up to the full $1,000 and up flagships, but those features don’t matter to everyone. 

True flagships still have their place, they push the boundaries of what’s possible in a smartphone form factor, but some of the best smartphones can do everything most need them to do for far less. Whether you want the latest and greatest or just the best smartphone for your specific needs, it’s a great time to be in the market for a new phone. 

We’ve spent hundreds of hours reviewing and researching all of the best smartphones available today and whether you value productivity, photography, gaming, social media, videography, or battery life, these phones are the best of the best.

What is the best smartphone? 

Currently, the iPhone 13 Pro is the best smartphone on the market for most people. Starting at $999 it’s not cheap, but the dramatically improved cameras, stellar battery life and unmatched software support make it a smartphone investment worth making.

Apple’s A15 Bionic processor in the iPhone 13 Pro once again tops the charts as the most powerful mobile processor on the planet and coupled with the aforementioned software support guarantees years of smooth operation. The triple-cameras on the back of the iPhone 13 Pro produce excellent photos and the best video of any phone on the market and it finally matches the camera specs of the iPhone 13 Pro Max identically.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

For Android fans, depending on your budget there are a number of other fantastic options as well. The Samsung Galaxy S22+ is the best Android phone for most people with its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and a triple-camera array that allows you to get fantastic photos near or far with up to a 30x digital zoom. 

On the other end of the price spectrum is Google’s Pixel 6, which at $599, is arguably the best Android value ever. The specs won’t blow you away, but Google’s software support is unmatched on Android and the company’s new SoC is surprisingly powerful. Google’s photography remains unmatched in this price category. If you’re interested in other affordable smartphones you may want to check out our best budget phones, which sticks to sub-$500 phones including Google’s Pixel 5a.

That’s a quick look at some of our top picks, but here’s a rundown of all the best smartphones available today.

The best smartphones you can buy today 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Best smartphone for most people

Specifications

Display: 6.1-inch Super Retina 120Hz ProMotion XDR OLED (2532 x 1170)

CPU: A15 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128/256/512GB or 1TB

Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.5); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto (f/2.8)

Front camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/2.2)

Reasons to buy+

Bright 120Hz display

+

Excellent camera performance

+

Unmatched software support

+

Outstanding battery life

+

Untouchable performance

Reasons to avoid-

Slow charging

Telephoto needs more reach

Notch needs to go

The iPhone 13 Pro claims the spot as the best overall smartphone for most users away from the iPhone 12. While the iPhone 13 certainly still has strong appeal at its more affordable $799 price point, there are far more compromises by going with the non-Pro models this year including weaker cameras, lack of 120Hz displays and a considerable drop in battery life.

The iPhone 13 Pro fixes all of our concerns with last year’s model and with the exception of screen size it puts the iPhone 13 Pro on equal footing with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. This includes the incredible new triple camera system with unbelievable low-light performance when using either the wide-angle or ultra-wide lens thanks to new sensors and sensor-shift image stabilization.

While the A15 Bionic may be needlessly fast today, you’ll appreciate it in a few years when your phone is still running circles around most of the competition and is getting day and date updates to the latest version of iOS likely through 2027. The $999 starting price may be daunting, but the iPhone 13 Pro is worth it.

See our full iPhone 13 Pro review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Best phone value available today

Specifications

Display: 6.4-inch FHD+ (2400×1080) OLED at up to 90Hz

CPU: Google Tensor

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128, 256, 512GB

Rear camera: 50MP wide-angle f/1.85; 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2

Front camera: 8MP f/2.0

Reasons to buy+

Excellent software support

+

Unique AI software features

+

Bright 90Hz display

+

Affordable price

+

30W fast charging

Reasons to avoid-

No telephoto lens

No charger in the box

At $599 the Pixel 6 creates a clear upgrade path for Pixel fans coming from the Pixel 3a or Pixel 4a, who were underwhelmed by the Pixel 5a and want more without spending $1,000. The budget realm has been Google’s bread and butter over the last few years and the Pixel 6 may perfectly fit into an underdeveloped price range in the market.

While it may lack premium features found on the Pixel 6 Pro and some and other flagship phones from Samsung or Apple, the large 90Hz display, incredible primary camera and strong software support from Google may be enough to finally push a Pixel device into the mainstream.

Google has made it clear in recent years that it wants to be known as a great “value proposition” in the market and while it is trending out of the realm of what we consider budget phones, there is no better smartphone value today than the the Pixel 6.

Read our full Pixel 6 review.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Best premium Android phone for most people

Specifications

Display: 6.6-inch Super AMOLED (2340×1080; 120Hz)

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128 or 256GB

Rear cameras: 50P wide (ƒ/1.8), 12MP ultra wide (ƒ/2.2), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, ƒ/2.4), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, ƒ/2.4)

Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2)

Reasons to buy+

Unmatched optical zoom

+

Gorgeous adaptive QHD+ AMOLED screen

+

Excellent battery life

+

S Pen support

Samsung’s Galaxy S22 and S22+ didn’t get the major overhaul that the Galaxy S22 Ultra did this year, but the relatively subtle changes to the already excellent Galaxy S21 add up to a phenomenal phone premium smartphone buyers that aren’t swayed by the S Pen or 108MP camera of the S22 Ultra.

You would be forgiven for not realizing much had changed, Samsung’s only design tweaks include new colors and the Contour Cut Camera housing now matches the back of the phone rather than using a contrasting color. However, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the new 50MP primary wide-angle camera sensor and Samsung’s now Android leading four years of major OS and security updates are all significant upgrades over last year’s model.

If you are in the market for a premium Android phone the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ belong near the top of your list. 

See our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review

(Image credit: Apple)

4. iPhone SE (2020)

Best budget iOS smartphone

Specifications

Display: 4.7-inch LCD (1334×750)

CPU: A13 Bionic

RAM: 3GB

Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

Rear camera: 12MP (ƒ/1.8)

Front camera: 7MP (ƒ/2.2)

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Reasons to buy+

Flagship A13 Bionic CPU

+

Excellent value

+

Supports wireless charging

+

Stellar software support

Reasons to avoid-

Dated design

Weaker camera performance

Update: Our review of the iPhone SE (2022) is coming soon, the only notable changes are a jump to the A15 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 13, 5G support and a $30 price bump to $429. 

When the iPhone SE (2020) was released in 2020, it amazed reviewers as it offered the same A13 Bionic processor found in the iPhone 11 lineup but for just $399. While there are obviously hardware tradeoffs that we’ll address, this means the phone offers nearly identical performance to Apple’s previous flagships and will see updates right alongside them for the next five years. 

The single rear camera is fine, but not up to the standards of the iPhone 11 or Google’s cheaper Pixel 4a for that matter. Apple did give it some other traditionally premium specs though with support for wireless charging and water resistance ( only the flagship Pixel options enjoy waterproofing). From a value standpoint, it would be hard to argue that any of the other best smartphones hold a candle to the iPhone SE considering the projected longevity of this phone.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Best affordable Android smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.34-inch OLED (2340×1080)

CPU: Snapdragon 765G

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB

Rear camera: 12.2MP wide-angle (ƒ/1.7); 16MP ultra-wide (f/2.2)

Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0)

Reasons to buy+

Strong battery life

+

Bundled fast charger

+

Excellent camera performance

+

3.5mm headphone jack

+

Water-resistant

Reasons to avoid-

Disappointing performance

Outdated design

60Hz display

The Pixel 5a isn’t the extreme budget option that the Pixel 4a was and is, but considering it delivers almost all of the features of last year’s “flagship” Pixels for $449, it is still the best affordable Android phone.

Performance is the biggest critique of the phone, but that’s common in this price range and with Google’s three years of software support you are at least guaranteed to see improvements as time goes on, which is rare in the sub-$500 smartphone realm. The camera performance remains outstanding and completely unmatched by anything in the budget market, while the Pixel 6 should up Google’s photo game, the Pixel 5a stands as the equal of anything Google has put out so far.

The remarkable battery life also helps alleviate some of the frustration regarding the Snapdragon performance, and the addition of water resistance is much appreciated. Both are quality-of-life upgrades and peace of mind for an affordable mid-range device costing $449.

See our full Pixel 5a review.

(Image credit: Future)

Best big screen iOS smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch Super Retina 120Hz ProMotion XDR OLED with

CPU: A15 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

Rear camera: 12MP wide (f/1.5), 12MP ultra-wide (f/1.8), 12MP telephoto (f/2.8)

Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth (ƒ/2.2)

Reasons to buy+

Beautiful, premium chassis

+

Excellent performance

+

Great battery life

+

Gorgeous display with 120Hz refresh rate

+

Stellar cameras

Reasons to avoid-

Really expensive no matter the config

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is overpowered, gorgeous and expensive. You don’t want to go with the 128GB base model, but you can probably get away with 256 or 512GB of storage, which still means you are looking at a starting price of $1,199. If that’s too rich for your blood then take a hard look at the iPhone 13 Pro or even the iPhone 13.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is a multitasking/gaming/photography machine without question. And it lasted over 12 hours on our battery test. But like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the iPhone Pro Max 13 is really for heavy-duty users, not those of us who are just watching videos, trawling social media, reading books and texting, 

So who do I recommend the iPhone 13 Pro Max to? Content creators, with a focus on photographers and videographers who maybe can’t afford something like the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema 6K camera. It’s also for people who love opulence, power and endurance and the iPhone Pro Max 13 has that in spades.

See our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Best foldable phone you should actually consider buying

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch FHD+ (2,640 x 1080) 120Hz Super AMOLED

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128GB or 256GB

Rear cameras: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2)

Front camera: 10MP (f/2.4)

Reasons to buy+

Unique and stunning design

+

Bright, vivid 120Hz display

+

Excellent camera performance

+

IPX8 water resistance

+

Affordably priced

Reasons to avoid-

Terrible battery life

Lacks telephoto

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 should be the phone that takes foldables mainstream. While the battery life will undoubtedly present problems for some users, it isn’t an insurmountable issue and is worth the trade-off if you want a full flagship experience that can fit in any pocket.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 delivers what most people seemed to want from the iPhone 12 mini, an ultra-compact phone that doesn’t compromise on the flagship experience. The 6.7-inch, 120Hz display on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is second to none; the cameras produce fantastic photos and videos; and the Snapdragon 888 chip should be fast enough to comfortably last you through the four years of security updates you get with the phone.

We haven’t reached the point where there are no sacrifices when opting for the foldable form factor, but the Galaxy Z Flip 3 gets very close. If you are willing to work around the short battery life, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 delivers a flagship phone experience unlike any other.

See our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Best affordable flagship phone

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch QHD+ (3120×1440) OLED at up to 120Hz

CPU: Google Tensor

RAM: 12GB

Storage: 128, 256, 512GB

Rear cameras: 50MP wide-angle f/1.85; 48MP 4x telephoto f/3.5; 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2

Front camera: 11.1MP f/2.2

Reasons to buy+

Excellent software support

+

Fantastic and versatile camera system

+

Unique software features

+

Affordably priced

+

Bright 120Hz display

Reasons to avoid-

Unproven processor

No charger in the box

At $899 the Pixel 6 Pro is affordable compared to its flagship competitors, but it isn’t the immediately obvious value that the Pixel 6 represents. With the OnePlus 9 Pro hardware eclipsing it in some areas for around the same price and Samsung’s now nearly one-year-old Galaxy S21 phones having dropped in price.

The unproven Tensor chip may be tough for users that only upgrade every few years to depend on its first-gen, particularly with a proven commodity like the A15 Bionic in the iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max. Google is back in the conversation for best pure phone camera on the market with the Pixel 6 Pro, but others beat it in some areas with Samsung’s superior telephoto and Apple’s video superiority. 

While its raw numbers may not hold up to its competitors, Google’s entire pitch for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro essentially boils down to it being a phone that adapts to you. After having spent over a month with the phone now I love what I’ve seen so far and while it may not be envisioned when I asked for a flagship Pixel phone, it’s exactly what I wanted.

See our full Pixel 6 Pro review

(Image credit: Motorola)

9. Moto G Power

Best budget battery life smartphone

Specifications

Display: 6.4-inch LCD (2300×1080)

CPU: Snapdragon 665

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64GB

Rear camera: 16MP (f/1.7) main, 2MP (f/2.2) macro, 8MP (f/2.2) ultra wide angle

Front camera: 16MP (ƒ/2.0)

Reasons to buy+

Unmatched battery life

+

Awesome sub $250 price

+

Better than average camera 

+

Large and bright display

At $249 or less when it is on sale, the Moto G Power is firmly in the budget smartphone category. And while it won’t hold up to any of the other smartphones here in most specs, the battery life is incredible. 

Pairing a 5,000 mAh battery with a less powerful Snapdragon 665 processor and a 1080p display, the Moto G Power should last through even the longest days of work or play. Our sister site, Tom’s Guide, saw it achieve over 16 hours in its battery rundown test, 4 hours more than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Nothing else on the Moto G Power is going to wow you, but it does offer a very competent camera experience with a wide, ultra-wide and macro lens available on the back and its 6.4-inch display is large and bright. If budget and battery life are the two top factors on your smartphone buying list then  the Moto G Power is an easy recommendation.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Best flagship smartphone under $750

Specifications

Display: 6.55-inch, 2400 x 1080 AMOLED (120Hz)

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

RAM: 8GB, 12GB

Storage: 128GB, 256GB

Rear camera: 48MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 50MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2); 2MP monochrome

Front camera: 16MP (f/2.4)

Reasons to buy+

Fantastic performance

+

Long battery life

+

Insane charging speeds

+

Vivid and bright 120Hz display

+

Decent photo and video quality

Reasons to avoid-

Plastic frame

No OIS (blurry night shots)

Lacks expandable storage

5G not supported on all carriers

The OnePlus 9 is a compelling option for Android users looking for a sub-$1,000 phone that doesn’t sacrifice too many features available in pricier flagships. It even punches above its weight class in certain areas, outperforming every Android phone on the market besides its “Pro” relative and enduring for about 11 hours on a charge. It’s also worth spotlighting the fast charging feature, which gets you from dead to 100% in about 30 minutes.  

While the OnePlus 9 Pro might grab all the headlines, you aren’t trading much stepping down to the OnePlus 9. Yes, the telephoto lens is missing, but you can get comparable shots using the primary camera. The other notable downgrade is an FHD screen instead of QHD, but the panel on the OnePlus 9 is so sharp, you won’t be disappointed. Two factors that may sway you toward the pricier model are the plastic frame around the OnePlus 9 and the lack of OIS on any of the cameras — those are tougher pills to swallow and corners cut that prevent the OnePlus 9 from being a 5-star product. 

If those two shortcomings don’t bother you, the OnePlus 9 is an excellent phone and a strong alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S21.

See our full OnePlus 9 review.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Best alternative Android phone

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch WQHD+ LTPO OLED (3,200×1,440)

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

RAM: 8 or 12GB

Storage: 128 or 256GB

Rear camera: 0MP wide (ƒ/1.9); 50MP ultra-wide (f/2.2); 50MP 2x telephoto (f/1.9)

Front camera: 32MP (f/2.45)

Reasons to buy+

Unmatched charging and battery life

+

Impressive triple 50MP camera array

+

Solid software support

+

Bright adaptive 120Hz display

+

Powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor

Reasons to avoid-

Occasional stutters in OS

Weak telephoto versus competitors

Generic design

The Xiaomi 12 Pro, starting at $999, is taking on the other flagship Android manufacturers on even ground and while that may be a slight misstep on the retail pricing front, the fact that it should typically be available for less means consumers will ultimately see it as the value brand.

To be fair, the hardware matches up well with anyone else on the market — from its beautiful LTPO 120hz display to its trio of 50MP cameras capable of up to 8K or 4K HDR 10+ video recording and powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. That’s before we get to its mind-bending 120W charging with the bundled charger and outstanding battery life.

Xiaomi has even addressed software support with its three years of major OS updates and four years of security updates commitment. However, we still need to see how fast it manages to deliver those updates. MIUI is a more significant overlay than most, but it’s good to see that level of support. While the camera performance and those occasional UI lags keep the Xiaomi 12 Pro from the top podium spots on the best smartphone list, it remains an excellent option that, with a few software updates, could be even more formidable. 

See our full Xiaomi 12 Pro review.

How to find the best smartphone 

There are dozens of smartphones released every year and it can be difficult to decide which is going to be the most suited to your needs. Here’s a good set of questions to ask yourself as you consider which of the best smartphones is right for you.

What’s your budget?

As you would probably expect, this is going to be a major deciding factor in your smartphone buying experience. There are three fairly distinct tiers in the smartphone market at the moment. Budget smartphones in the $250-$400 range can deliver a solid enough experience for many users, but will typically give up some camera quality, feature a weaker processor and offer reduced software support. Mid-tier smartphones in the $600-$750 range are enjoying a real resurgence at the moment with features that are just behind the flagships for hundreds less. True flagships start at around $999 and can go up to $1,400 and beyond, and as expected at this price, you should be getting a top-of-the-line processor, the ability to capture near DSLR quality photos and a fantastic display.

Android or iOS?

This could certainly be the first question you ask and will narrow your choices down considerably if you are set on one or the other. The truth is that the two operating systems are closer than ever in terms of overall functionality. Apple still delivers faster software updates, superior privacy and generally a better app experience. Android offers more customizability, a superior voice assistant, a wider variety of hardware and more user control.

(Image credit: Future)

How much battery life do you need?

All the rest of its features won’t matter much if your smartphone is constantly dying before the end of the day for you. We conduct our own battery tests to see how long they will last on a single charge. And while your mileage will of course vary depending on your tasks, it will give you a general idea of how they stack up to one another.

Do you prefer a larger screen?

While the big-screen trend has largely eliminated the truly small smartphones from the market, there is still a spectrum of more compact options. Smaller phones at this point come in at or below 5.8-inches and the largest options are between 6.5-6.8 inches. For productivity and content consumption, a larger screen is definitely better, but there is certainly a portability trade-off so consider what you can carry comfortably.

How much do you value the camera?

The camera is one of the biggest differentiators as you move up the smartphone tiers. There are budget options that can capture excellent photos. However, they’ll lack some of the advanced telephoto and often high-end video capture capabilities that you will find in pricier smartphones. If, like most people, your smartphone is your only camera, then it’s worth considering whether the added reach or resolution of a high-end smartphone will allow you to capture photos and moments you otherwise might have missed.

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