The 10 best smartphones you can buy right now (sorry, Huawei)

It’s been three months since the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus was released, but honestly it is still like the best overall phone for enterprise users who do not need the S Pen features of the Note 9. With the current Huawei woes, it’s tough to recommend people purchase a Huawei smartphone until some kind of resolution is reached. Thus, I’m going to go ahead and pull Huawei and Honor phones from the 10 best smartphones list for the time being.

It’s easy to find a great phone today and to be honest today’s phones are so good you really don’t need to be replacing them on an annual basis, but carrier and manufacturer upgrade programs make this fairly painless. Then again, you can also find great phones at nearly half the price of the flagships as you will see in this current 10 best list.

Must read: Best Android phone for business: One month with Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

1. Samsung Galaxy S10 5G


Since the last 10 best list, Samsung released the newest variation of the Galaxy S10 as the Galaxy S10 5G. While 5G is still in its infancy and just started to roll out in select cities in the US, the S10 5G still offers a couple of improvements over the S10 Plus that makes it arguably the best smartphone available today.

Improvements include a larger 6.7-inch display, larger capacity 4,500mAh battery, four cameras on the back (an additional 3D depth camera), a 3D depth camera as a second lens on the front, and support for 5G wireless networks

CNET: Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G is now available on Verizon for $1,300

While 5G networks are just starting to light up, the Galaxy S10 5G is the most future-proof phone in this current list, and if you purchase one, you can count on it being compatible with the newest wireless network technology for the next couple of years. With all other phones purchased in 2019, there is a risk you may have a new phone that is limited to 4G LTE.

In typical Samsung fashion, we see the S10 5G has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, 6.7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O display, 8GB RAM, 256GB and 512GB storage options with a microSD for even more capacity, six cameras, IP68 rating, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, ANT+, and a 4,500mAh battery.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G continues to have all of the excellent Galaxy Foundation aspects such as a high level of water resistance, fast wireless charging, a stunning Super AMOLED screen, expandable microSD storage, a 3.5mm headset jack, and much more. In addition, extending it to an external monitor with Samsung DeX is quick and easy, while also providing a full functioning desktop experience. The additional capability to charge up other devices and gear, such as the new Galaxy Buds, via wireless technology on the back of the S10 Plus is convenient for road warriors.

The Galaxy S10 5G is now available exclusively from Verizon Wireless for $1,299.99 for the 256GB model and $1,399.99 for the 512GB model. 5G is just started to roll out in the US, but Sprint has also revealed it will be offering this phone in the coming months.

2. Apple iPhone XS Max/XS

Apple pushed the entry-level price of a flagship up to $1,000 last year with the iPhone X and raised the bar again this year with the most expensive flagship available in the iPhone XS Max. ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani awarded the iPhone XS Max an impressive near-perfect score of 9.6/10 so I’m pretty sure Jason would give the top spot to this phone.

I ordered my own iPhone XS Max to replace my iPhone X, using the T-Mobile Jump On Demand program, but after two weeks I sent it back as I found the small size of the iPhone X was one of the primary reasons it still earned a place in my pocket. I then tried the iPhone XR and finally went full circle and am back to the iPhone X form factor with the iPhone XS.

The Apple iPhone XS Max has been shown to best all other phones in benchmarking testing and the Apple A12 Bionic chipset certainly blazes new trails. It has a fabulous OLED screen, good sized battery, and new camera software to make it a very compelling flagship. It continues to get regular updates and iOS apps are still better than comparable Android apps, despite the improvements in Android phones.

The iPhone XS Max starts at $1,099 for a minimal storage 64GB model and runs up to $1,449 for the 512GB model.

CNET: iPhone XS Max review (8.9/10)

Check out our iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS reviews.

Also: Goodbye iPhone XR: Signal strength and size bring me back to the iPhone XS

3. Samsung Galaxy S10/S10 Plus

While the Galaxy Note 9 is a stunning device, Samsung pulled out all the stops on the S10 Plus with a newer processor, more RAM, larger capacity battery, and two extra cameras when compared to the Galaxy Note 9. Samsung’s current mass market flagship is a winner in almost every respect.

Last year’s S9 Plus was a solid Android smartphone, but the S10 Plus improves upon that device with an ultra-wide camera, much longer battery life, greatly improved software with One UI (update is coming to the S9 Plus), and the ability to wirelessly charge up other devices.

Must read: Galaxy S10 Plus: 4 reasons I’m smitten with Samsung’s latest phone

Samsung’s S10 and S10 Plus have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Super AMOLED Infinity-O display, 8GB RAM (with 12GB option), 128GB to 1TB storage options with a microSD for even more capacity, five cameras, IP68 rating, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, ANT+, and a stunning design with gorgeous Prism color options.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus continues to have all of the excellent Galaxy Foundation aspects such as a high level of water resistance, fast wireless charging, a stunning Super AMOLED screen, expandable microSD storage, a 3.5mm headset jack, and much more. In addition, extending it to an external monitor with Samsung DeX is quick and easy, while also providing a full functioning desktop experience. The additional capability to charge up other devices and gear, such as the new Galaxy Buds, via wireless technology on the back of the S10 Plus is convenient for road warriors.

The Galaxy S10 Plus has now been available for three months, which means you can often find special offers from your preferred carrier. The Galaxy S10 started at $899.99 for 128GB and goes up to $1,149.99 for the 512GB model. The S10 Plus starts at $999.99 for the 8GB/128GB model and goes up to $1,599.99 for the 1TB ceramic model. You can also get the ceramic one with 512GB of internal storage for $1,249.99, which is still $200 less than the iPhone XS Max with the potential for much more storage thanks to the microSD card slot.

CNET: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review (9/10)

Check out our Galaxy S10 Plus review (9.5/10).

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Galaxy Note 9 is arguably the best phone for business and continues to be the phone I keep going back to once I get bored of testing out a new phone. I’ve been using one now for several months and despite trying out some great new phones like the iPhone XS Max and Google Pixel 3 XL, none of these can replace the Note 9 and everything Samsung includes in this stunning device. This is especially true for use in the enterprise space.

The Galaxy Note 9 improves upon the Note 8 with a Bluetooth S Pen, more internal capacity and RAM, a massive 4,000mAh battery, better dual rear cameras with some software intelligence, enhanced audio capability, and new placement of the rear fingerprint scanner.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Everything you need to know

The One UI software that came with the Android 9 Pie update greatly improves the Note 9 with a less obtrusive and more user-friendly experience. While it took several months for users to receive the update, it’s been well worth the wait. Note fans are looking ahead to the next several months when the Note 10 is likely to be revealed in all its glory.

Since it has been out now for a few months, you can find great deals on the Note 9. T-Mobile sells it for $900 ($100 less than launch price) while models directly from Samsung range from $799.99 to $1149.99, depending on your selected storage configuation.

CNET: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review (9/10)

Check out our Galaxy Note 9 review.

5. OnePlus 7 Pro

OnePlus launched the new OnePlus 7 Pro just a couple of weeks ago and it is already being universally lauded for its lovely design, fast performance, and sheer power at a price comparable to the lowest level Apple and Samsung flagship phones. OnePlus continues to challenge flagship phones with high end internal specs at prices hundreds less than competing premium phones.

OnePlus earns a top five spot on my list because of the high end specifications, reasonable price that is hundreds less than other flagships, extremely responsive performance, and use of new technology such as the UFS 3.0 internal storage and 90Hz screen refresh rate.

Prices range from $669 to $749. The lowest cost one still has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage while the $749 model has 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. You will not find another phone with these great specs for these prices.

CNET: OnePlus 7 Pro review: The best Android phone value of 2019 (8.8/10)

The OnePlus 7 Pro is composed of two pieces of 3D Gorilla Glass with a metal frame. The design is elegant and the build quality is superb. It has a lovely AMOLED 6.67-inch display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, triple rear cameras, ample RAM and internal storage options, a large 4,000mAh battery and Warp Charge 30 capability, with excellent radio support for GSM networks. There is no certification for dust and water resistance and a 3.5mm headphone jack is nowhere to be found.

See also: 11 reasons the OnePlus 7 Pro is good for business

Unlike the majority of phones today, there is no notch or hole-punch in the display for the camera. The front-facing camera extends and retracts out of the top only when in active use. The phone is quite large compared to most phones today, but with no notch you get a fabulous full screen experience with it.

Check out our full review of the OnePlus 7 Pro where Jason Cipriani awarded it an outstanding 9/10 rating. It is currently carrying my Google Fi SIM and I am enjoying the experience.

6. Google Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3

Image: James Martin/CNET

While the Galaxy Note 9 offers just about everything you want, software updates are not its specialty. If you want an Android phone that will always have the latest firmware and security updates, while also offering a fairly stock experience, then nothing beats the new Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL. These two phones are the exact same except for the overall size and battery capacity.

The Google Pixel 3 XL has a large 6.3-inch 18:9 display, Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB and 128GB integrated storage, single rear 12.2 megapixel camera, dual front-facing cameras, IP68 dust and water resistance, a 3,430mAh battery, and dual front stereo speakers. The smaller Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch display and smaller 2,915mAh battery while the rest of the specs are the same as the XL model. Thankfully, wireless charging is included this year, along with a set of wired Pixel Buds in the retail package.

The larger Pixel 3 XL has a display with a notch while the smaller model forgoes this design approach so often seen today. They both help you shoot stunning photos so if photography means more to you than other functions and features you may want to consider the Pixel 3 or 3 XL over other smartphones in this list. You can check out my weekend with the Pixel 3 XL where I captured some great shots while on vacation.

In addition to software being a focus for Google, the camera is another reason to buy the Pixel 3 or 3 XL over other better smartphone hardware. Google just released its Night Sight mode for the camera and it is truly magic.

CNET: Google Pixel 3 XL review (8.9/10)

The smaller Pixel 3 starts at $799 while the Pixel 3 XL starts at $899 for the 64GB model. They are both powered by Android 9.0 Pie and will receive OS upgrades for three years. Google’s newest Assistant features are present along with some other Google software advances.

ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani awarded the Pixel 3 XL a 9.2/10 rating.

7. Google Pixel 3A XL and Pixel 3a

Google recently launched a couple of mid-level phones that are much more affordable and still include Google’s industry-leading camera solution. The Pixel 3A and 3A XL are the exact same phone with just the screen size and battery capacity being different from each other. An $80 price difference differntiates between the two sizes with the same color options also being available.

The Pixel 3A and 3A XL are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor with 5.6 or 6-inch OLED displays, 12MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, stereo speakers, and 3,000/3,700mAh battery options. This is clearly targeted to the masses with limited internal storage and US carrier availability at Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, as well as unlocked directly from Google.

CNET: Google Pixel 3A review (8.2/10) and Pixel 3A XL review (8.2/10)

The smaller Pixel 3A is priced at just $399 while the Pixel 3A XL costs $479. The only option, other than size, is the color of the phone. Available colors include Just Black, Purple-ish, and Clearly White. They are both powered by Android 9.0 Pie and will receive OS upgrades for three years. Google’s newest Assistant features are present along with some other Google software advances.

ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani awarded the Pixel 3A XL an 8.5/10 rating.

8. Samsung Galaxy S10E

The Samsung Galaxy S10E is a lot like the Galaxy S10, but with some key differences. It has a dual camera on the rear rather than a triple camera, for instance, and the Galaxy S10E doesn’t have an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor below the display. Instead, there is a side-mounted captive fingerprint sensor on the right edge. It also comes in a hard-to-miss Canary Yellow.

(Image: Jason Hiner)

The Samsung Galaxy S10E is the most affordable of the new Galaxy S10 line with a price of $750. This takes the iPhone XR head on while offering nearly all of the same great technology found in the S10 and S10 Plus.

The S10E has a smaller 5.8-inch Super AMOLED that is flat instead of curved on the edges, which is something I prefer. I’ve been seeing way too many inadvertent screen presses on phones with curved edges so am ready for this design feature to be put to sleep.

CNET: Galaxy S10E review (8.9/10)

The S10E has two rear cameras instead of three with the telephoto lens removed. It does have the ultra-wide lens and if I had to make the decision to remove one camera then I would have done exactly what Samsung did. The ultra-wide lens is useful for landscape and indoor photography while the 2x optical has limited usefulness. You can also add a Moment external lens to add functionality that is missing from the cameras.

The same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor is used with RAM starting at 6GB instead of 8GB. That’s still 2GB more than what Google offers in the Pixel 3. The battery capacity is 3,100mAh, but with the smaller display you are still able to get through a day of use with it.

Check out our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S10E where I awarded it an outstanding 9.1/10 rating.

There is very little taken out of the S10E while the size is attractive, the price is one to two hundred less, the display is flat, and it is likely to be one of the best sellers for Samsung.

9. Apple iPhone XR

This year Apple announced three new phones with one releasing a month after the other two. I traded in the iPhone XS Max for an iPhone XR and overall I am quite happy with the device and saving $350 over the iPhone XS Max.

The Apple iPhone XR differs from the XS/XS Max with a LED screen instead of OLED, lower resolution, no 3D Touch support (does anyone even care about this?), a single rear camera, and a 6.1-inch display that fits in between these other two new phones. It has the same Apple A12 Bionic processor, same camera software and hardware as the 12MP prime camera, and other enhanced Apple features like face unlock. The iPhone XR has a larger capacity battery than the iPhone XS and a reported battery life greater than the XS and XS Max.

Also: Hidden iOS 12.1 iPhone shortcuts and tricks you need to know

You can purchase the iPhone XR in black, white, blue, yellow, coral, and Product Red. The iPhone XR starts at $749, which is $250 less than the 64GB iPhone XS. There is also a 128GB model for just $799, which is likely the best deal for the iPhone XR with the iPhone XS 256GB at a whopping $1,149.

The cellular reception of the iPhone XR is a bit worse in weak signal areas than the iPhone X models, but iPhones have never been able to match the cellular reception quality seen in Android phones. The battery life of the iPhone XR is awesome and the camera does a great job. For many people, it is likely one of the best iPhones you can buy today and is more reasonably priced than the new XS and XS Max.

Check out our full review of the iPhone XR with an 8.4/10 rating.

10. LG V40 ThinQ

LG continues to release great phones that appreciate over time and in a crowded flagship market, the LG V40 may have a tough time finding its place as well.

While Huawei was one of the first major brands to launch a phone with three rear cameras, LG bumped that up by announcing a phone with five total cameras. Three are found on the back and two are on the front.

LG has always stood apart from the others with its second rear camera having a true wide-angle lens for great landscape and large room photography. The new LG V40 keeps the wide-angle camera while also adding a telephoto lens to the standard lens option so you can do just about anything you want, including snapping once to take three photos, with this new flagship phone.

Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the LG V40 ThinQ has everything but the kitchen sink included. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack with Quad-DAC support, triple rear camera setup, dual front-facing camera, wireless charging, IP68 rating, MIL-STD 810G shock resistant rating, microSD expansion card for inexpensive unlimited storage expansion, a screen that extends nearly the full front with a notch, and incredible audio support with its Boombox speaker system. The 3,300mAh battery will not get you as far as the top five phones in this list and is one area that keeps me from using it daily over the long term.

Last year, the LG V30 impressed me and earned an 8.7/10 rating. I’ll be using the LG V40 this week with a full review to come in early November.

CNET: LG V40 ThinQ review (8.8/10)

Check out our full review of the LG V40 with an 8.5/10 rating. It is a jack-of-all trades, but a master of none.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page.


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