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Home / Features / Best phone 2024: the top Apple and Android smartphones we’ve tested

Best phone 2024: the top Apple and Android smartphones we’ve tested

The best phones you can buy right now - all reviewed and rated

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Lead image for best smartphones round-up, featuring the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Google Pixel 7 Pro and Apple iPhone 14 Pro

If you’re in the market for a mobile upgrade, this is the list you’re looking for. From big-screen Androids to the latest iPhone flagship, we’ve reviewed the best smartphone options you can buy. And to help you pick which is the right fit for your pocket, we’ve ranked our favourites below.

To test the best smartphone options, our team takes every model out into the real world. That means binge-watching on the bus to measure battery life, snapping all day to bag an album of camera samples, and maxing out the graphics on Genshin Impact to assess processing power. After putting each contender through its paces, we highlight the winning handsets in this guide.

If you’re shopping specifically for the best Android smartphone, we’ve got a separate feature covering exactly that. We’ve also rounded up the best budget phones, the best mid-range mobiles, and our guide to the best small phones.


What’s the best smartphone?

We think the best smartphone you can buy is the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max (buy now). It’s an evolutionary iteration, but is excellent across the board. You get the pull-shaped Dynamic Island cutout, a trio of very capable cameras, unflappable A17 Pro silicon, and USB-C (finally). If you’re willing to pay, this is the best smartphone you can buy right now.

Other best smartphone recommendations

Is the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max not right for you? Here are four of the other best smartphones we’d recommend:

Best Android phone

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (buy now) is superlative in almost every respect. Design, display, performance… add on the S-Pen stylus and some clever AI additions, and this is a fantastic all-rounder.

Best affordable smartphone

The Google Pixel 8a (buy now) confirms that Google is a master of affordable phones and is a lesson in vanilla Android excellence. A neat design and top-spec camera smarts make it a wallet-friendly winner.

Best folding phone

The OnePlus Open (buy now), with streamlined styling, fantastic cameras and slick software, is now the premium foldable to beat. It features a useful 6.3in cover display and a massive 7.82in display when unfolded.

Best phone for photography

The Google Pixel 8 Pro (buy now) is the ultimate camera phone. It comes with a 50MP main camera, and 48MP wide and telephoto cameras, but it’s not the hard that makes it special – it’s the software. It’s almost impossible to take a bag photo with the Pixel 8 Pro thanks to Google’s clever AI smarts and editing.

The best smartphones you can buy today:

iPhone 15 Pro Max face-on

1. Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

Stuff Verdict

Apple refines its flagship with a better snapper, a slightly svelter form factor and USB-C (finally)

Pros

  • Great camera improvements
  • USB-C connectivity
  • Lighter and nicer to hold

Cons

  • USB 3 rather than Thunderbolt
  • No desktop mode
Apple iPhone 15 Pro specs
Screen6.7in 2796×1290 OLED HDR, 460ppi
ProcessorA17 Pro
RAM8GB
Storage256GB/512GB/1TB56GB/512GB/1TB
SoftwareiOS 17
Cameras48+12+12MP (rear), 12MP (front)
Battery4,441 mAh (est.)
Dimensions76.7×159.9×8.25mm, 221g

This is the best iPhone Apple’s ever made. The camera revisions are great. USB-C was long overdue but is fantastic now it’s here. The Action button is useful. And all this builds on already top-notch components like the display, speakers and app ecosystem.

Of course, you might argue that too much change in the iPhone is iterative rather than revolutionary, although this complaint usually comes from tech journos jaded by dozens of phones flying past their noses every week rather than most normal people who upgrade their phones every other year.

So should you buy one? Not if you already own last year’s Pro Max. The differences aren’t big enough, unless you are a very keen photographer, desperate for USB-C, or have a fetish for chamfered edges. Everyone else? If you can afford it, and if you want the best Apple has to offer, the iPhone 15 Pro Max really is the best.


Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review homescreen

2. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Stuff Verdict

Another epic Samsung flagship. New materials and screen upgrades go a long way, while the AI additions are perfect for productivity. It’s no longer the best phone for photography, though.

Pros

  • Sets new Android toughness standards
  • Stellar performance and day-long battery
  • Genuinely useful on-device AI

Cons

  • Cameras haven’t progressed much in twelve months
  • Missed the boat for Qi2 charging
  • As expensive as non-folding flagships get
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra specs
Screen6.8in, 3088×1440 AMOLED, 120Hz
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM12GB
Storage256GB/512GB/1TB
SoftwareAndroid 14 with OneUI
Cameras200+12+10+50MP (rear), 12MP (front)
Battery5000mAh
Dimensions162x79x8.6mm, 232g

If you’re shopping for the ultimate smartphone experience, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is top of the Android tree. Clad in Gorilla Glass Armor glass set in a titanium frame, it feels equal parts premium and rugged in the hand. Its sizeable 6.8in AMOLED display is sublime on the eyes, and finally swaps curved edges for a flat panel. That makes it a perfect pairing to the bundled S Pen stylus.

Productivity is also boosted by genuinely helpful on-device AI abilities. Performance elsewhere is peerless, courtesy of a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 CPU running at higher speeds than any rival. The Ultra simply whizzes through almost every app, task and game. The top-spec S24 gets an overhauled zoom camera, with a higher pixel count sensor and 5x optical zoom doing a better job in low light than last year’s model, although the 200MP main snapper, 12MP ultra-wide and 10MP 3x zoom stay the same. That means rivals have caught up, and in some cases exceeded, the Samsung for picture quality. There’s very little in it, though.

You’ll pay handsomely for the privilege of squeezing an S24 Ultra into your pocket. But if you’re willing to do so, your reward will be the best Android smartphone you can buy right now.


Google Pixel 8 Pro review in hand rear

3. Google Pixel 8 Pro

Stuff Verdict

Pixel 8 Pro continues Google’s run of phenomenal phone photography and is more AI-assisted than ever, but it isn’t a value champ like previous Pixels.

Pros

  • Fantastic photos in all lighting
  • Sharper styling goes far in justifying premium price

Cons

  • Higher price makes rivals more tempting
  • Battery life and charging speeds still merely OK for a flagship
Google Pixel 8 Pro specs
Screen6.7in, 2992×1344 OLED w/ 1-120Hz, HDR10+
ProcessorGoogle Tensor G3
RAM12GB
Storage128/256/512GB, 1TB (US only)
SoftwareAndroid 14
Cameras50+48+48MP (rear), 10.5MP (front)
Battery5050mAh
Dimensions163x77x8.8mm, 213g

With a design that has matured like a fine wine, a simply stunning screen, and some of the most capable cameras you’ll find on a phone, the Pixel 8 Pro finally feels deserving of that ‘Pro’ label. Even if it comes at the expense of the smaller, cheaper Pixel 8.

Extensive software support means it could earn a place in your pocket for years to come – but that’s not to say there aren’t areas where rivals do things better.

Performance, battery life and charging speeds are good rather than great, and the growing reliance on generative AI is sure to divide opinions. The temperature sensor also feels like a flash in the pan right now.

Previous Pro Pixels had their sore spots, of course. And they also had value on their side. The Pixel 8 Pro still compares favourably on price with the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Ultra, but not by a lot. That means you have to be more of a Google die-hard to pick this over the very capable alternatives. You’ll be very happy with your purchase if you do.


OnePlus 12 review

4. OnePlus 12

Stuff Verdict

A seriously compelling package thanks to the upgraded camera, powerful core specs and beautiful display.

Pros

  • Sony LYT-808 sensor superb
  • ProXDR display is epic
  • Premium performance

Cons

  • Price increase
  • Few colour options
  • Needs a 50W wireless charger
OnePlus 12 specs
Screen6.8in, 3168×1440 AMOLED, 120Hz
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM12/16GB
Storage128/256/512GB
SoftwareAndroid 14 with OxygenOS
Cameras50+64+48MP rear, 32MP front
Battery5000mAh w/ 100W wired, 50W wireless charging
Dimensions164x76x9mm, 220g

Delivering killer specs at a competitive price point, the OnePlus 12 hits another home run – albeit maybe not quite so far out of the park this time around, on account of a price hike over last year’s effort. Its all-screen frontage still fits the modern mould, complemented by a tactile matte back. The display itself is simply brilliant, with dynamic refresh rates ranging from 1 to 120Hz.

A trademark alert slider marks it out as a OnePlus handset, while Hasselblad branding on the distinctive circular camera bump hints at enhanced shooting modes. Results are great in most conditions, with Pro and 12-bit RAW+ options offering useful flexibility for serious snappers and low-light seeing another improvement from last year.

Performance is predictably superb, while battery life proved impressively frugal throughout our testing. When the 5000mAh cell did run empty, 100W SuperVooc refuelling had it back to full in just over half an hour. If you’re after a flagship bargain, the OnePlus 12 comfortably undercuts every major big-screen rival.


Nothing Phone 2 rear glyphs on

5. Nothing Phone 2

Stuff Verdict

This beautiful big-screen blower has unique style and plenty of substance. Rivals have it beat in one or two areas, but none have Phone 2’s charm.

Pros

  • Refines everything that Made Phone 1 so fun
  • Dependable performance and battery life

Cons

  • Rivals still hold the crown for photography
  • Not such great value in certain territories
Nothing Phone 2 specs
Screen6.7in, 2410×1080 OLED, 120Hz
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
RAM8/12GB
Storage128GB/256GB/512GB
SoftwareAndroid 13
Cameras50MP+50MP (rear), 32MP (front)
Battery4700mAh
Dimensions162x76x8.6mm, 201g

Nothing has taken everything we loved about its debut smartphone effort and turned things up a notch. The glyph interface? It’s smarter now, with more LEDs that better represent countdown timers, incoming notifications and even how long until your Uber driver will turn up. The transparent design? It’s slicker, with slightly curved rear glass that better sits in your hand and a larger 6.7in screen.

Performance is very respectable for a mid-range phone, using last year’s flagship chip, and while the camera hardware hasn’t changed significantly, there are still image quality gains in both daylight and nighttime settings. It’s the NothingOS 2.0 that stands out the most, though: it’s a fantastic spin on Android with consistent styling that puts widgets front and centre. For the money, it’s a very tempting alternative to a Pixel 8 Pro or OnePlus 11.


Google Pixel 8a review image showing phone in hand

6. Google Pixel 8a

Stuff Verdict

With similar hardware to its more expensive siblings, the Pixel 8a is the cheapest way to access Google’s AI smarts. With amazing photography skills, the Pixel 8a is the mid-range smartphone to beat.

Pros

  • Fantastic still images for a mid-range phone
  • Performance punches above its price bracket

Cons

  • Gemini AI chatbot not available in UK and Europe
  • Charging speeds remain behind rivals
Google Pixel 8a specs
Screen6.1in 1080 x 2400 OLED up to 120 Hz
ProcessorGoogle Tensor G3
RAM8GB
Storage128GB/256GB
SoftwareAndroid 14
Cameras64+13MP (rear), 13MP (front)
Battery4,492 mAh w/ 18W wired, 7.5W wireless charging
Dimensions152.1 x 72.7 x 8.9mm, 188 g

We’ve long been fans of Google’s affordable phones, and the Pixel 8a only continues that record. While not quite as wallet-friendly as previous generations, this is still as well-rounded a phone and as streamlined an Android experience as you’ll get for the cash. There’s none of the Nothing Phone 2’s snazzy lighting, but the composite shell does a stellar impression of the glass used by its premium cousins. You’re also getting pure Android 14, which the 8a’s Tensor G3 CPU (same as the Pixel 8 Pro) runs without a stutter.

Where the Pixel 8a really excels is in the photography stakes. With powerful algorithms in its arsenal, almost every image it captures is balanced, noise-free and packed with detail. There’s no telephoto, but autofocus is rapid, while the combination of high pixel count main camera and Night Sight smarts pull true-to-life stills from tricky late-night scenes.

The addition of luxuries like wireless charging and a 120Hz refresh rate, missing on the outgoing Pixel 7a, mean you’ll struggle to find a better all-round Android experience for less.


Sony Xperia 1 VI review homescreen

7. Sony Xperia 1 VI

Stuff Verdict

Another ‘best of Sony’ phone that benefits from going slightly more mainstream in a few key areas. The Sony Xperia 1 VI is a fantastic flagship that majors on battery life and entertainment.

Pros

  • New screen better competes with rivals
  • Strong performance and long battery life
  • Wonderfully capable rear cameras

Cons

  • No pro video mode at launch
  • Rivals still better for point-and-shoot photography – but only just
  • Longer software support would be nice at this price
Sony Xperia 1 V specs
Screen2340×1080 OLED w/ 120Hz, 19.5:9 aspect ratio
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM12GB
Storage256GB
SoftwareAndroid 14
Cameras48+12+12MP (rear), 12MP (front)
Battery5000mAh
Dimensions162x74x8.2mm, 192g

The Xperia 1 VI is as close to a ‘mainstream’ flagship as Sony’s mobile division has spat out in years. It swaps the super-skinny 21:9 screen and overkill 4K resolution of its predecessor for a wider 19.5:9 panel with a Full HD+ pixel count – but it’s absolutely not a downgrade, on account of the higher brightness and 1-120Hz LTPO adaptive refresh rate, which does wonders for battery life.

All the other Sony hallmarks remain, including a 3.5mm headphone port, microSD card slot (which you can get to without having to keep a SIM tray tool with you at all times) and front-firing stereo speakers that really pack a punch. The overall styling is as sharp as ever, too. Underneath, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 does all the heavy lifting, and stays wonderfully cool in the process.

On the photography front, Sony has expanded the variable zoom telephoto lens’ range to 7x, helping it better compete with rivals that have 5x optical maximums. It can still handle rapid burst shooting in HDR, with plenty of manual options for serious snappers, but the auto mode has taken a welcome step up for people that prefer to just point-and-shoot. Video creators aren’t quite as well served at launch, though.

It’s a pricey handset, no doubt, but the Xperia 1 VI is easier to recommend to non-Sony fans than any previous iteration.


OnePlus Open

8. OnePlus Open

Stuff Verdict

A brilliant build, capable cameras and some of the best software for multitasking on a foldable phone. The OnePlus Open is the best book-style foldable around, and even costs less than big-name rivals

Pros

  • Fabulous build and a high hardware specification
  • Brand new camera tech

Cons

  • Digital zoom struggles in low light
  • Cost, obviously
OnePlus Open specs
Screen6.3in, 2484×1116 AMOLED w/ 120Hz (outer)
7.82in, 2440×2268 AMOLED w/ 120Hz (inner)
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
RAM16GB
Storage512GB
SoftwareAndroid 13 w/ OxygenOS
Cameras48MP + 64MP + 48MP (rear), 32MP (cover), 20MP (inner)
Battery4805mAh
Dimensions153x143x5.8mm (unfolded), 153x73x11.7mm (folded), 245g

It’ll leave a bend in your bank balance, but OnePlus’ first foldable sets a new benchmark for the category. It’s as sturdy and stylish as you’d expect for the price, while only being barely heftier and thicker than a normal handset while folded.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor is zippy in the extreme. Top-tier shooting skills come from a trio of clever cameras, with the lead sensor using an all-new stacked design developed by Sony for added low light chops. With colourful OLED tech and 120Hz adaptive refresh rates, the outer panel is as good as you’ll find on any flagship phone. Yet it’s the lesser of the two: the 7.82in screen inside is bright, smooth and vibrant, offering acres of space.

OnePlus has also pulled a blinder with its clever multitasking modes, which let you mix full-screen and split-screen apps with gesture swipes. It’s easily the best we’ve used on a foldable phone. The fact you can grab one for less than either Google Pixel Fold or Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 only cements its five-star status.

Want more folding phone suggestions? Check out Stuff’s guide to the best folding smartphones.


OnePlus Open

9. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Stuff Verdict

Productivity that’s unrivalled in the Android world, some very capable cameras and plenty of performance. Superceded by the S24 Ultra now, but only just.

Pros

  • Fabulous build and a high hardware specification
  • Clever camera tech

Cons

  • Digital zoom struggles in low light
  • Cost, obviously
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Screen6.8in 3088×1440 OLED w/ 120Hz, HDR10+, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 octa-core
RAM8/12GB RAM
Storage256GB/512GB/1TB on-board
SoftwareAndroid 13 w/ OneUI 5.1
Cameras200MP, f/1.7 w/ PDAF, laser AF, OIS + 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide w/ PDAF +
10MP, f/2.4 telephoto w/ PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom + 10MP, f/2.2 telephoto w/ PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom rear.
12MP, f/2.2 front w/ PDAF
Battery5000mAh w/ 45W wired charging, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging
Dimensions163x78x8.9mm, 234g

Sure, it might have been usurped by the newer Galaxy S24 Ultra above, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra is still a cracking smartphone, especially when you take into account its current offers. If you can pick it up at a discounted price, you’re getting almost the same aesthetic and performance of the newer Galaxy S24, for less.

Admittedly, it’s not slathered in titanium. And its zoom game is slightly weaker. But apart from that, it’s still plenty powerful, and comes with a cavalcade of S Pen smarts for productivity fiends to lose themselves in. If you’re not fussed about Samsung’s new AI, and zoom smarts, then the Galaxy S23 absolutely will not disappoint — especially when you take its current deals into account.

How to choose the best smartphone for you

In order to buy the best smartphone for your needs, there are several important factors to consider. Luckily, Stuff’s smartphone experts are here to help you compare options and make a final decision.

The first big decision you’ll have to make is choosing between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems. Both have their own interface, features, and app ecosystem, so if you have a preference or existing devices with potential compatibility issues, then it’s best to stick with what you’re already familiar with.

One of the next things you’ll need to do is set a budget. Smartphones vary widely in price, from as little as $300/£200 to over $1200/£1000. Once you’ve decided on a budget you’ll be able to narrow down potential candidates from our best cheap phone guide, best mid-range smartphone guide, and the best premium phones (this guide).

Once you’ve decided on an operating system and budget, then it’s time to consider things like size, resolution, and quality of the display. If you prefer a more compact phone then you can read Stuff’s guide to the best small phones, or you might prefer a bigger screen which is better for watching videos and reading.

The performance of your smartphone will largely depend on much you spend, but you should look for a phone with a decent amount of processing power, RAM, and storage capacity (of course, we’ll help you avoid any underpowered phones). This ensures smooth multitasking, and fast app loading.

On a similar note, check the battery capacity and read about the battery life tests in our phone reviews to assess how long the phone typically lasts. You should also look for smartphones with fast charging and wireless charging options, as both of these are very useful.

While all smartphones are pretty good at taking pictures nowadays, if you’re really into taking pictures, then you’ll want one of the best smartphones for photography.

And, finally, if you’re a hardcore gamer, then you should consider one of the best smartphones for gaming. These push performance to the max to take your mobile gaming to the next level.

What is the difference between a mobile phone and a smartphone?

A mobile phone typically refers to any portable device used for telecommunications. It’s capable of making and receiving calls and text messages. It’s a broad term that encompasses, but in today’s language, generally refers to basic feature phones (or ‘dumb’ phones) with limited functionalities.

On the other hand, a smartphone offers advanced computing capabilities and connectivity alongside basic telephony. Smartphones typically have a touchscreen, advanced operating systems (like iOS or Android), and can run apps. They include features like internet access, email, social media, GPS, a cameras, and multimedia capabilities.

In essence, while all smartphones are mobile phones, not all mobile phones are smartphones.

How we test the best smartphones

We have used and reviewed every smartphone on this list, so you can trust us when it comes to recommending the best phone to buy.

We usually spend a week or longer reviewing phones, testing out all of the software features, build quality and performance. Our reviews are very comprehensive, testing every single aspect of a smartphone, including battery life, quality of the display, and camera.

For more information on Stuff’s rating and review process, read our page on how we test products.

Profile image of Chris Rowlands Chris Rowlands Freelance contributor

About

Formerly News Editor at this fine institution, Chris now writes about tech from his tropical office. Sidetracked by sustainable stuff, he’s also keen on coffee kit, classic cars and any gear that gets better with age.

Areas of expertise

Cameras, gear and travel tech

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