Best phone in the US for 2019: the top 15 smartphones we've tested
The best phone of 2019 in the US is an expensive investment, whether it comes from Samsung, Apple or Google. A lot of these smartphone prices start at $1,000, so you'll want to take your decision seriously. That's why we're here to help guide you.
Today's best phone has a big screen, yet is easy to handle, a camera capable enough to replace a point-and-shoot, and enough horsepower and battery to get work done while you're mobile. You won't find smartphones with slowdown and anything less than all-day battery life on this list.
Tomorrow's top smartphone? That'll probably be a 5G phone, like the Galaxy S10 5G, and then, eventually, a foldable phone with 5G, starting with the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold. But foldable phones are unproven and 5G in the US isn't in enough cities around the country to recommend. Our list will remain practical.
Why we have more than a No. 1 pick: We have a top pick, but not everyone looks for the same smartphone features. Some will demand iOS 13 and cling to Apple's iMessage, while others will want customizations and Google Assistant tools available in Android Q beta. Our phone reviews and best phone list reflect that diversity.
Likewise, your contract with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile is a preference. The best phone for AT&T may not be available on-contract on Verizon, and vice-versa. While we've seen more unlocked phones in the US in 2019, not all are available for every carrier. We have to take that into account when recommending phones, and we favor those that are completely unlocked or available on the four major carriers.
Our pick for best phone isn't just crowning the newest iPhone and calling it a day, though our list does have a lot of familiar names: Apple, Samsung, Google and LG, all in the top 15. Newer companies in the US like Huawei and OnePlus make the list, too, though their limited availability is noted.
The best phone on our list on sale right now
Before we get to our official best phone list below, we mentioned that phones are expensive, so we're updating our list of the best prices for each of the top phones mentioned among the 15 – when they're lower than usual. The iPhone sits at a constant price, typically. Here's how you can save on your purchase.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is the best phone you can get for Android right now, if you're just going by specs. Naturally, as the first flagship of 2019, its new Snapdragon 855 processor is the big standout here with even better performance than the phones that closed out 2018. Add in a few cool new (but not essential) features, Samsung's stunning-as-ever display and design as well as top specs and you have a true flagship – for a true flagship price, of course, starting at $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 / AED 3,599.
Screen: The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display is gorgeous, but that's not surprising. it's the same size as the Galaxy Note 9's screen, and far larger than the Galaxy S9 Plus' 6.2-inch display. The 'Infinity O' display ditches the notch for a punch-hole in the top right corner. Yes, it's twice as wide as the hole in the S10 and S10e, but how else will you fit in the extra selfie camera? This choice (and thin bezels) enable a stunning 93.1% screen-to-body ratio, which keeps the phone as slim as possible.
Battery Life: The S10 Plus' 4,100mAh battery is Samsung's largest yet, just nudging past the Note 9's 4,000mAh and far beyond the 3,500mAh one in the Galaxy S9 Plus. While that didn't lead the new phone's battery life to outpace its predecessors, it still kept it going through the full day with 10%-30% to spare in our casual testing. This is, of course, with standard settings: bump up the resolution from Full HD+ to QHD+, brighten the display or keep it on longer, and the battery will drain faster.
Camera: The S10 Plus has three cameras on the back: a 12MP regular lens, a 12MP optically zoomed telephoto lens, and a new 16MP ultra-wide lens. We found the photo quality to be a bit variable – perhaps due to the dual-aperture main lens – with good but not consistent low-light performance. It's not quite up to par with the Google Pixel 3's Night Vision mode, but it still outpaces most other phone cameras on the market. The two front-facing cameras allow depth for Portrait mode-style photos, which is worth the wider punch-hole gap in the display.
Mini verdict: After some time with the standard Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10e, we can say for sure that the S10 Plus beats them out. It has the best specs, cameras and battery life of the whole set, and it's not too much more expensive than the other models. If you want a phone that will blow every other device out of the water in early 2019 – as well as its in-screen fingerprint sensor and reverse charging – this is your only real option.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review
The iPhone XS Max is Apple's new big iPhone with an expansive 6.5-inch display that can't be missed if you're looking for the best phone running iOS 12. It's fast, has a brilliant all-screen display, and gives you great photos out of its noticeably upgraded 12MP dual-lens rear camera.
Screen: The 6.5-inch OLED screen is the reason to choose the iPhone XS Max over its smaller 5.8-inch iPhone XS counterpart. The phone is still about the size of an iPhone Plus, but thanks to the all-screen display (minus the notch cut out at the top), you get a lot more real-estate. It looks more color-rich vs the old iPhone LCD displays, too.
Battery life: You'll get the best battery life out of the iPhone XS Max simply because it has room for a bigger battery. The 3,174mAh capacity is by no means the biggest (Samsung's Note 9 is 4,000mAh), but Apple's ownership of both software and hardware means it's smartly optimized. You'll get all-day battery life even with heavy use.
Camera: This is the best iPhone camera ever made, even if the 12MP dual-lens rear camera number hasn't changed in several years. It's all about the software inside and how the A12 chipset interprets scenes with Smart HDR. It's up there with the Google Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9, even if Apple's photos tend to be less vivid in our tests and more true-to-life.
Mini verdict: This is the iPhone for anyone who wants what's new and doesn't care what it costs. The iPhone XS Max is expensive, but it's the best upgrade if you're into big screens and Apple's ecosystem, like the App Store and iMessages. The iPhone XS is a good choice if you have smaller hands, and the iPhone XR may be better if you have a smaller wallet.
Read more: iPhone XS Max review
The Google Pixel 3 came out in October, offering some internal upgrades, improved camera performance, a second front-facing camera, and a better screen than its predecessor. And, as with past Pixels, when it comes to smartphone cameras, this is a top contender.
Screen: The Pixel 3 stretches the previous model’s screen to 5.5-inches for an 18:9 aspect ratio. There are no notches taking up any of the screen space either. Colors are rich on the OLED display, and thanks to the dual front-facing speakers, it makes for a handy streaming device.
Battery life: A 2,915mAh battery is nothing to get excited about in a modern smartphone. That said, with conservative us, it’s not hard to get all-day battery life. If you’re not taking a lot of photos, it may be easier to get a full day of battery, but with such a good camera, it may be tough to avoid.
Camera: The Pixel 2’s cameras are its best selling point. On back, the 12.2MP sensor paired with Google’s brilliant software optimization make for stunning photos in most situations. Optical Image Stabilization certainly helps, too. Selfie lovers get a bonus with dual front-facing cameras that can snap photos with different viewing angles.
Mini verdict: The Pixel 3 is powerful on the inside, and even though its design isn’t the most exciting from 2018, nor is its battery, it’s all about the camera in the end. And, with Google’s knack for photo optimization, this phone can almost sell itself with the camera alone.
Read more: Google Pixel 3 review
The Samsung S10e is the littlest (and least pricey) sibling of the S10 line in both size and features. While it loses out on a few of the cutting-edge features like in-screen fingerprint scanner and a telephoto lens, its remaining arsenal of flagship specs, ultrawide camera and good interface make the S10e a standout at a discount. Plus, it's small enough to use one-handed.
Screen: The 5.8-inch AMOLED screen is crisp and sharp, with enough bright colors and customization options to tweak to your liking. While it's nice that the budget flagship of the S10 line has an OLED screen (unlike the iPhone XR with its LCD display), it's not as high resolution as its bigger siblings, capping out at 1080 x 2280 pixels to the S10 and S10 Plus' 1440 x 3040 pixel maximum.
Battery life: A 3,100mAh capacity isn't the biggest battery on the market, but it will see you through the day, and may last longer than you think thanks to the phone's smaller screen. You'll need to stretch it out if you plan to use Wireless PowerShare, the S10 line's new feature that lets you donate battery charge to another Qi-charging device. Don't worry, it won't drain yours to oblivion: the feature shuts down when your phone hits 30% battery.
Camera: Considering the standard Galaxy S9 had a single lens, the S10e is a major upgrade with its two useful cameras. The first is the standard 12 MP, f/1.5-2.4 Dual Aperture lens found in the phone's predecessor (switching between the two in day/night shots), while the second is a 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens that manages 123-degree field of view. While the phone misses the 2x telephoto of the other S10 phones, its ultrawide is far more useful.
Mini verdict: The S10e is a fantastic little phone, perfect for anyone who wants to use their flagship phone one-handed – or just wants all the best specs at a lower price. While it's still more expensive than midrange phones or the current value champion, the OnePlus 6T, the S10e has more features and cutting-edge specs to push it beyond the competition.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10e review
This is the best in phone value if you want an all-screen display and don't want to pay for the Samsung or Apple name. it's a bit cheaper than the Galaxy S10e, though not as affordable as last year's OnePlus 6T. It has almost everything except wireless charging, a microSD card slot and a perfect camera.
Screen: This is the main draw. Thanks to a mechanical pop-up selfie camera, the OnePlus 7 Pro has the best screen we've tested. No notch and punch-hole camera in sight, and it stretches from edge to edge. Even better, its 90Hz screen refresh rate gives it more fluid movement. Samsung's screen has been dethroned.
Battery life: The OnePlus 6T has fairly good, but not great battery life thanks to its 4,000mAh battery. It'll get you through a whole day, but not much more than that. The real news is its Warp Charge 30 adapter that allows this phone to go from 0% to 100% in a little over an hour. It's very fast.
Camera: The camera has always been the weakest part of the OnePlus lineup, but we've experienced better phones from the OnePlus 7 Pro. It's not going to top our best camera phones list, but the triple lens (regular, ultra-wide and telephoto) did a fine job in proper light. Nightscape mode has been improved, but begs for a tripod in mixed light (any lights in dark scene tend to smear).
Mini verdict: The OnePlus 7 Pro has the wow factor missing from smartphones in 2019 thanks to what's on the screen (90Hz fluidity) and what's not (a camera notch). It looks the part of a flagship phone and acts more expensive than it really in part because of its top-shelf specs. As long as you don't want the best camera phone, this a solid option.
Read more: OnePlus 7 Pro review
Here in the US, Huawei phones are not as familiar to shoppers as Apple and Samsung's best phones. But, that doesn't mean they don't have as much to offer. From Hauwei's Mate line to it's P series, it is making some of the very best phones, and the P30 Pro is is a true champion from the Chinese manufacturer.
Screen: The P30 Pro has a large, 6.47-inch display with only a thin chin bezel at the bottom of the screen and a teardrop notch at the top. It's a sharp OLED display, and though it doesn't have as high a resolution as some others, we'd be hard pressed to see the difference.
Battery life: The Huawei P30 Pro turns up in the battery department with a 4,200mAh cell. That's easily enough for a whole day, and can pull through a day in a half comfortably or even two days with light use. There's enough power there that Huawei enabled reverse wireless charging to let the P30 Pro power other phones.
Camera: While plenty about the P30 Pro is of flagship quality, the cameras are where it really stands out. Its suite of cameras make it among the very best camera phones in the world. It combines a high-resolution main camera, a camera with powerful zoom, an ultra-wide angle camera, and a time-of-flight sensor to handle depth. This makes it incredibly versatile, capable of taking better long-distance and low-light photos than most other phones.
Mini verdict: If you're after a phone with great looks and a camera that's ready for just about anything, then the Huawei P30 Pro is an excellent option. It also offers a price that stays below a lot of its competition. However, availability concerns in the US hold it back a bit.
Read more: Huawei P30 Pro review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has shown some staying power, even as the Galaxy S10 line launched. It's intro price of $999 was staggering to see, but Samsung's best phones have a way of coming down in price within a few months of launch, and that helps make the Note 9 a bit of a steal.
Screen: Samsung's 6.4-inch Infinity Display is slightly bigger (taller, but actually more narrow than the Note 8) and wraps around the sides for a nice curved look and feel. Samsung is anti-bezel and anti-notch. What you may not see at first is the extreme brightness of this display and the color reproduction. It's impressive when you see it in person.
Battery life: The Note 9 has a 4,000mAh battery and is the key reason we like it over the S9 Plus. The capacity is 14.2% bigger than the S9 Plus and 33.3% bigger than the S9. It lasts all day with heavy use and deep into a day two with normal use. You can also charge over wireless easily, and fast charging boots in 17% battery in 15 mins.
Camera: The Note 9 camera is impressive, just like the S9 Plus six month before it, and it has the added benefit of remotely capturing photos from up to 30 ft away via the Bluetooth S Pen. Samsung also added AI smarts to the camera that automatically adjusts the white balance and color based on the scene it detects. The camera does as well as the Google Pixel 2 in low-light (sometimes better, sometimes worse, but not by much in either direction), and the default camera app is robust (more so than Google's), yet remains streamlined and initiative. It does lack HDR video recording, seen on other Android phones from Sony and LG.
Mini verdict: The Note 9 is bigger in all ways, including the price. It was one of the most expensive phones in the US when it launched, but that's not the case anymore. And, you're still getting a great camera and ample storage (and a microSD card slot) for your money. The battery is big, too. Samsung packs a lot into its all-day smartphone with a stylus.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
Apple’s iPhone XR was a little bit late to launch after the iPhone XS and XS Max that launched a bit earlier. But thanks to its lower price point, it makes for a more affordable option than the XS models. For some, the powerful internals paired with the large screen and lower price will make for a compelling buy, especially thanks to the surprisingly good battery.
Screen: The iPhone XR screen isn’t its strongest selling point, as it’s a notable downgrade. It’s resolution falls short of Full HD, and it’s not a battery-friendly OLED. Still, the Liquid Retina LCD display used still has good sharpness and brilliant colors.That said, the 6.1-inch display offers plenty of real estate.
Battery life: Though this is the more affordable iPhone to come out in Apple’s latest batch, its battery life stands out. Thanks to the A12 Bionic and chipset and lower resolution, the battery performance is great, making it the first iPhone that could comfortably get through a whole day of use in our testing without us worrying about.
Camera: While the other iPhones have dual rear cameras, the iPhone XR has just one sensor. For normal photo shooting, it does a great job though. The lack of a second camera also reduces the quality of Portrait Mode photos. But, the detractors came largely in comparison to other top cameras.
Mini verdict: The iPhone XR has all the performance of its more expensive siblings on the inside. It’s camera and screen may not be as impressive, but where it truly dazzles is in the battery life. If you want an iPhone with a battery you won’t always worry about, the iPhone XR is it.
Read more: iPhone XR review
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the most impressive phones from the Chinese firm to date, offering up a heady mix of design, power and performance with a few party pieces thrown in too.
It builds on the excellent P20 and P20 Pro, offering up even more screen, enhanced triple rear cameras and an in-display fingerprint scanner.
Screen: The Mate 20 Pro packs a huge 6.39-inch display giving you a huge amount of space for gaming and movies, and its QHD resolution and HDR10 support ensures everything looks great. There is a wide notch at the top of the display though.
Battery life: You'll get great battery life from the Mate 20 Pro, and we regularly achieved a day and a half of usage from a single charge during our review time with the handset.
Camera: The Mate 20 Pro comes with three cameras on the rear, nabbing the excellent 40MP wide-angle and 8MP telephoto lenses from the P20 Pro – but the third sensor is new. It's an ultra-wide 16MP snapper allowing you to cram even more of your surroundings into each shot.
Mini verdict: The Mate 20 Pro is a full-featured phone for a full-featured price – it even has a few tricks you won’t see elsewhere, and more powerful specs than most of its competitors.
Read more: Huawei Mate 20 Pro review
The bigger S10 Plus is by far Samsung's best phone, but the standard S10 backs almost all the same top-end features into a more compact form factor and slightly lower price tag. And yet, the S10e loses a few of those for even lower cost, putting the standard S10 in an awkward place. This middle child is a great phone, but it's overshadowed by both its siblings, which occupy more desired niches in the smartphone market.
Screen: With a 6.1-inch display you're not exactly getting a small screen with the standard S10, but Samsung has reduced bezels even more over the S9, keeping the dimensions surprisingly compact. You also get a fingerprint scanner embedded in the display, meaning there isn't one on the back for a seamless rear cover.
Battery life: The battery in the S10 has grown versus the one in the S9, but with the increased screen size as well you're still looking at all-day battery life with a nightly charge. The S10 also has Samsung's new Wireless PowerShare, allowing you to wirelessly charge other devices on the rear of the handset.
Camera: Like the S10 Plus, the trio of cameras on the Galaxy S10 are among the best on the market, building on the excellent setup on the S9 series by offering more features, shooting modes and overall clarity.
Mini verdict: The Samsung Galaxy S10 gets proper under-the-hood upgrades, two more lenses and fun new perks. You’ll like all of these powerful features, while your friends will like the new Wireless PowerShare perk – it helps them out more than you.
Read our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S10 review
iPhone XS is a minor, but important upgrade over last year's completely redesign iPhone. It's noticeably faster and has an improved dual-lens camera to make it a better choice, if you're willing to pay the same launch price. No the look of the 5.8-inch new iPhone hasn't changed on the outside, but if you want a more one-hand-friendly size for a cutting-edge iPhone, this is the one to buy.
Screen: The 5.8-inch OLED on this iPhone is big, but not a turn off for some people who literally can't handle the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max (which we like a bit more in our big mitts). This phone size isn't too much bigger than your old 4.7-inch iPhone 7 or iPhone 6 thanks to its reduced bezel – though you'll miss the Touch ID home button. You'll forget about that when staring into the color-rich OLED that's dreamier than the old iPhone LCD.
Battery life: The iPhone XS has about the same battery life as the iPhone X, so you'll get all-day battery life with normal use. Power users may struggle a bit without one of the best power banks, and although Apple says it has 30 minutes more battery life than the iPhone X, the smaller capacity and our tests show it's shy of that claim.
Camera: This is where you'll see differences in the otherwise familiar-looking iPhone XS. Its dual-lens camera offers Smart HDR and optical image stabilization (OIS). It's not as vivid as the cameras on a Google Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S9, but you'll get true-to-life photos that make the 2018 iPhone's a worthy upgrade.
Mini verdict: Although still expensive, the iPhone XS is our best phone for someone who wants to use iOS 12 and doesn't want to spend even more money on the bigger iPhone XS Max. You have your limits, and that may be 5.8 inches and $1,000.
Read more: iPhone XS review
The Google Pixel 3 XL brings higher end internals and a notched screen to the latest iteration of Google’s larger phone. It’s got the same great cameras as its smaller sibling, but more screen and more battery. Unfortunately that also means a higher price.
Screen: The Pixel 3 XL has a sizable 6.3-inch OLED screen with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. There’s HDR support and a sharp 1440 x 2960 resolution. The viewing experience is good, though this screen does have a rather chunky notch that may not be to everyone’s liking.
Battery life: In our testing, we found the 3,430mAh battery to be plenty. Power users can get a full day, and average users are likely to find themselves getting a day and a half. Some of that battery performance is likely coming from good battery optimization within Android Pie. Fast charging and fast wireless charging just round out the offering.
Camera: The Pixel 3 XL has the cameras to beat. Google knows how to make a good camera that far exceeds what the specs sheet says. It uses a 12.2MP rear sensor, but software optimization helps it outperform other smartphone cameras in just about all cases. The dual front-facing cameras also give selfie-lovers some extra versatility.
Mini verdict: The Pixel 3 XL improves on the previous generations design, fitting more screen into roughly the same size. It also manages a battery life that should satisfy most. Best of all, the camera is better than anything else you’ll find (except the Pixel 3, which is just as good).
Read more: Google Pixel 3 XL review
LG's smartphone prowess feels like it slipped in the past year, as the LG G8's launch was a bit of a bust. What should have been a follow-up to the LG G7 turned out feeling like a minor upgrade that didn't keep up with the progress in smartphone design we've seen in 2019. Still, it has enough to offer to land a low place on this list.
Screen: The 6.1-inch OLED display is certainly a strong point of the LG G8, even if it does still have a hint of the notch. Much like Samsung, LG makes incredible displays, and they show up in its phones. The LG G8's is bright and colorful, and even boasts a higher resolution than much of its competition.
Battery life: The 3,500mAh battery in the LG G8 is nothing to get excited about. It's definitely enough to get through the day, but some newer phones are showing up with significant upticks in battery capacity.
Camera: LG may be using AI to improve the G8's picture taking capabilities, but it doesn't stand up to the competition here. It has a little versatility with both a standard and a wide-angle camera on the rear, but it's not enough to catch up with the Samsung, Google, or Huawei. It does have a neat, though hit-or-miss, feature in the ability to use Portrait Mode for video.
Mini verdict: The LG G8 is a strong phone, powered by the Snapdragon 855 chipset. And, if it's available at a discount, it's a good buy. But, at its retail price, it's priced too close to better phones to win a top ranking.
Read more: LG G8 ThinQ review
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is aging gracefully. It's cheaper and a bit less powerful than its Galaxy S10 Plus successor. But, it's still a big phone with an expansive screen, top-of-the-line camera and all-day battery life. This is still one of the best Samsung phones you can buy in the US if you have large enough hands for its massive size.
Screen: Its 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display that really sells this phone, and not because it has more pixels than before (it doesn't) than last year's S8. It’s the futuristic-looking curved edges, vibrant colors, and high contrast ratio that make the screen pop. It's hard to go back to any other size once you hold this large, beautiful light beam in your hand.
Battery life: Samsung's 3,500mAh battery is large enough to last all day and a little bit more. It's better than the normal-sized S9, though other phones out of China are maxing out at 5,000mAh these days. It's the one area this handsets seems adequate and not Plus-sized. Luckily, it support Samsung's very quick fast charging standard.
Camera: Low-light scenarios are no match the the Galaxy S9 Plus dual-lens, dual-aperture. It does a fine job at amping up dark environments without adding noise that you'll see from other camera phone. It does smooth out textures in the process, but it's on par with, and at times better, than the Google Pixel 2.
Mini verdict: The Galaxy S9 Plus is Samsung's answer to the iPhone X, but better in several ways. It too has stereo speakers, face unlock, AR Emoji and vertically stacked 12MP dual cameras. What's better? Its better low-light photos, 3.5mm headphone jack and larger 6.2-inch curved all-screen display – without a notch. No one else has this combination right now.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review
The iPhone X has been surpassed by the iPhone XS, but not too much has changed since the former launched in late 2017. The phone is still fast, has good cameras and looks great – and you'll be able to get it a bit cheaper than its successor from retailers and carriers (Apple discontinued it from its store).
Screen: The 5.8-inch OLED is Apple flagship, alright: sharp and bright, with a better display than its budget successor, the iPhone XR. The X abandoned a home button for flat screen and Face ID for login and authentication in its quest for ultimate screen-to-body real estate, so expect edge-to-edge glory…aside from the notch.
Battery life: At 2,716mAh, the X's battery is nothing to brag about. Careful use will get you a bit over a day before the phone keels over, but that's not flattering for modern phones.
Camera: The iPhone X's dual 12MP shutters were the top of their day, but have since been surpassed by plenty of flagships. It's still a venerable rear camera system, especially for Portrait mode, and its 4K video shooting is nothing to scoff at. Expect good selfie performance, too.
Mini verdict: The iPhone X is still a quality phone, especially since the iPhone XS added little to its predecessor. Don't expect it to outrace this year's best phones, but a year-old flagship is still only a year old.
Read more: iPhone X review