The best 5G phones are ready to take advantage of the 5G networks that have been expanding across the country since 2019. With Apple’s first 5G phones now widely available and Samsung adding new Galaxy phones to the mix, 5G seems more real than ever.
That may change over the next two years, though. The biggest improvement for owners of existing 5G phones will come from T-Mobile; as it straightens out its Sprint merger, owners of existing 5G phones will see big speed boosts. Verizon will continue to extend its 5G coverage bit by bit, using new repeater and indoor cell panel technologies.
If you’re in the market for a new phone, this might be a good time to consider 5G. After years of buzz, we’re getting our first real glimpse at what the new wireless technology can do.
What Is 5G?
5G is the next generation of cellular internet connectivity, replacing 4G LTE. Under the right circumstances 5G-enabled phones can get faster speeds than most home internet connections, allowing you to download a season of Netflix show in a minute or two. Large, densely populated areas (think sports stadiums), are installing 5G antennas, which will allow tens of thousands of people to use the internet without massive slowdowns.
What I just described is only possible in select locations, though. 5G is a new technology, and while the three major U.S. carriers — Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — support it, it’ll still take a year or two for 5G to go mainstream. Another factor to consider is that you’ll need an unlimited data plan to access your carrier’s 5G network because it’s possible to burn through data incredibly quickly.
10 Best 5G Phones in 2021:
The iPhone 12 Pro Max doesn’t just have the most 5G bands of any phone. You’ll be able to enjoy those speeds for a long time, thanks to this phone’s large battery. In fact, the iPhone 12 Pro Max lasted nearly 11 hours on our web surfing battery test over 5G. Apple’s Smart Data mode can also help you save some juice, as it can automatically toggle between 5G and 4G when you’re performing less intensive tasks (like streaming music with the screen off.) This is the best 5G phone you can buy period.
This big-screen phone impresses in other ways, including its brilliant and immersive 6.7-inch OLED display that’s ideal for video streaming and showing off the photos you take with the Pro Max’s stellar cameras. The main camera boasts large 1.7μm pixels for up to an 87% increase in low-light performance, and you get a 2.5x telephoto zoom for getting closer to your subject. Add in a tough Ceramic Shield display that can shrug off drops, a seamless MagSafe wireless charging system and a superfast A14 Bionic chip, and you have a truly excellent and future-proof 5G phone.
- Immersive 6.7-inch display
- Superior performance
- Solid battery life
- Charger sold separately
- A bit heavy and bulky
You used to have to buy a specific Galaxy S model that had 5G, but now with the S20 series every phone has 5G, so our top 5G recommendation is the same as our overall recommendation: the Galaxy S20+. The S20+ is a great all-around phone, with a display that has a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate, a large 4500mAh battery, tons of RAM, and a new Snapdragon 865 processor.
Samsung made big moves this year with its cameras, which were a weak spot in the last generation. The new sensors are all larger, letting in more light and taking dramatically better low-light photos. It’s not quite on the level of the Pixel 4 XL, but this is a big step up for Samsung and is no longer a shortcoming. You also get capable zooming up to 5X, while keeping an ultra-wide camera for more shooting variety.
The Galaxy S20+ supports 5G on all U.S. carriers, both Sub-6 and mmWave, even when you buy the unlocked model, and that makes it incredibly well-suited to stick with you for a long time.
- Best-in-class display
- Good battery life
- Exceptional performance
- Great all-around cameras
- 5G for all carriers, even unlocked
- Expensive for 128GB of storage
- Slow fingerprint sensor
- No headphone jack
The Nubia Red Magic 5G has all you’d want from a gaming phone – a FHD+ AMOLED screen with a 144Hz refresh rate, a top processor paired with plenty of RAM, and a long-lasting battery with fast charging capabilities.
You won’t be able to pick up the Red Magic 5G in all regions, but if you can get it, and you’re looking for a 5G gaming phone, it should definitely be your first pick.
We found some software issues with the phone, but if you’re a mobile gamer it’ll handle anything you throw at it with ease, especially if you want to play games online while out and about (thanks to the 5G connectivity).
- Great 144Hz display
- Handy shoulder triggers
- Software bugs
- OS lacks customization options
When you look at the sheer number of phones that Samsung releases, it’s easy to get confused quickly. That is, with the exception of a few of the best Samsung phones, such as the Galaxy A71 5G. This device is the successor to the Galaxy A71, and provides support for both Sub 6 and mmWave 5G connectivity.
As for what the Galaxy A71 5G provides, you’ll get a quad camera system on the rear, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. Samsung already makes some of the best displays in the business, and the company made sure to include a darn good one thanks to the 6.7-inch AMOLED screen. You also won’t have to worry about those accidental palm touches, as this is one of the few great Samsung devices that actually sports a flat display instead of a curved one.
Battery life will also be of no concern with the Galaxy A71 5G with the included 4,500mAh cell and fast charging available. You’ll only begin running into issues when it comes to the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. As is the case with many of Samsung’s devices, the fingerprint scanner is inconsistent and not as reliable as the competition.
- Four rear cameras
- 5G and excellent specs for the money
- Excellent battery life
- Sleek and solid hardware
- Macro camera is not great
- Fingerprint sensor can be slow
It runs Android 11, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, and has a 6-inch display with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 (better than HD). Google has committed to supporting the Pixel 5 with major software updates for three years, which means you won’t have to worry about missing out on new features, or critical security updates.
The Google Pixel 5 is only available with 128GB of internal storage, which is enough to hold thousands of photos, hundreds of songs, and dozens of hours of HD video. This storage tier hits a nice sweet spot, but think twice if you don’t rely heavily on cloud storage for your data.
Google outfitted the Pixel 5 is a a 12MP telephoto lens and a 16.6MP wide angle lens, which can both record 4K video at 60fps. Its front-facing camera features an 8MP lens that can record 1080P video at 30fps. The Pixel 5 doesn’t support facial recognition, but does have a fingerprint reader its back, which allows you to unlock the phone without typing a password.
The Pixel 5 offers a lot of compelling features at a far lower price point than most 5G phones. If you want an Android phone that’ll receive regular software updates, and are OK with the 128GB storage ceiling, it should be your top choice.
- Great camera software
- Clean Android interface
- No telephoto camera
- Middling night photography
The OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the best Android phones you can get, and it’s $300 cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Plus. But for the purposes of 5G, the OnePlus 8 Pro is more limited than some of its rival phones. The phone is only available unlocked, so you can’t buy it through a specific wireless carrier.
More significantly, the OnePlus 8 only works on sub-6Hz-based 5G networks. That means it can’t benefit from the higher speeds of mmWave-based 5G. Verizon customers will want to look for another phone, as that carrier’s 5G network relies heavily on mmWave.
That’s less of a concern on T-Mobile, which built its nationwide network on sub-6Ghz 5G. (AT&T customers report that the OnePlus 8 Pro doesn’t support AT&T’s 5G bands, even though that carrier primarily uses low-band 5G as well.) If the OnePlus 8 Pro is compatible with your carrier, you’ll get a phone with a vibrant and smooth 120Hz screen, very good quad cameras and a ridiculously fast charging speed even when you juice up your phone wirelessly.
- Bright and beautiful 120Hz display
- Very good quad cameras
- Super fast wired and wireless charging
- No mmWave 5G support
Motorola has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years when it comes to providing one of the best Android phones. With the Motorola Edge+, the company was hoping to get back on the map with a complete re-design thanks to the waterfall display acccompanied by a 90Hz refresh rate.
This redesign provides a more narrow body, making it easier to use with one hand. One-handed usage is something that many smartphone makers have seemingly come to ignore as phones continue to get more wide. Nonetheless, Motorola paired the new design with flagship specs courtesy of the Snapdragon 865 chipset, along with 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and an enormous 5,000mAh battery.
Surprisingly, Motorola made the conscious decision to omit any official dust or water resistance IP rating. You’ll likely be just fine for a splash in the rain, but that’s about it. The camera system is also just OK, and not what you would likely expect to see from a flagship-level device in 2020. Instead, it matches up more with some of the mid-tier smartphones that we’ve seen released over the last year or so.
Finally, there was one more puzzling “issue” with the Moto Edge+ that has some scratching their heads. While this handset supports both Sub-6 and mmWave, the only official carrier support comes from Verizon. Even if your tried to purchase the phone directly from Motorola, you are only limited to selecting Verizon as there are no “unlocked” variants available.
- Beautiful display with 90Hz refresh rate
- Narrow body for easy one-hand use
- Excellent battery life
- Lack of water resistance
- Camera is just okay
- Only available through Verizon
The Sony Xperia 1 II is the only phone on this list with a 4K screen, so if you need the highest resolution possible for viewing content, this is the device for you. Plus, it has a 21:9 aspect ratio which means there are no black bars above and below movies you watch.
The phone is no slouch in other areas either, with snappy processing making it a great gaming phone, and a 3.5mm headphone jack being great for fans of wired audio.
It’s not the best phone for media consumption mainly because the iPhone 12 Pro Max beats it in a few ways, but also because its high price makes it hard to recommend, and because in the US there actually isn’t a 5G version of it.
- Stunning display
- Return of the 3.5mm jack
- Difficult to hold
- Very high price
Let’s immediately point at the elephant in the room and show it the door by saying that the Huawei P40 Pro doesn’t support Google Services and, unless you are extremely confident you can make do with the more limited app selection, Huawei’s flagship is quite pricey for what you get – even with 5G.
Nevertheless, the hardware is remarkable and worthy of acclaim. Huawei has long been a camera contender in the smartphone market and the P40 Pro is no different. The P40 offered a tremendous level of detail, impressive 5x optical zoom and a delightful ultra-wide sensor too and, now, the P40 Pro has been given all these camera chops with the added benefit of optical image stabilisation – a thrilling combo.
Alongside Samsung, Huawei makes some of the most premium (and expensive) looking devices on the market but the P40 Pro offers something that sets it apart. The tried-and-tested glass sandwich formula is wearing a little thin and Huawei combats that by offering a frosted glass back – it’s stylish, unique and collects fewer annoying fingerprints.
The P40 Pro has little to be disappointed about on the spec sheet, cramming in a stunning 1200 x 2640 90Hz OLED panel, a speedy Kirin 990 processor, 40W charging and a day’s worth of battery life – on top of all that goodness we’ve already touched upon.
- Class-leading camera
- Good battery life
- Elegant design
- Great if you don’t want Google
- Massive hole punch
- App Gallery needs serious improvements quickly
Realme X50 5G is a phone that is hard to comprehend. It has so many remarkable specs that it makes very little sense to be priced so low – but, Realme has managed it.
From being one of the lowest-priced 5G phones, to one of the lowest-priced 120Hz display phones to also sporting a glass back on the rear, the list of surprises is long and impressive.
The under £300 device has even more outstanding features under its belt. While the quad-camera might be a bit lens overkill, the day-to-day shots you can take with the X50 5G offer more detail and eye-catching colour than the majority of phones anywhere near this price point.
- Low price for a 5G phone
- Well-specced 120Hz screen
- Strong general and gaming performance
- Surprisingly capable main camera, even at night
- Two of the rear cameras are filler
- No headphone jack
What Are The Best 5G Phones?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best 5G Phone for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
- Operating System: We’ve selected Android phones, which run Android and an iPhone, which runs iOS. Both operating systems can run tens of thousands of apps, and gets updated regularly with new features and security updates.
- Display Size: The phones we’ve chosen have a display that’s six inches or larger, which is ideal whether you’re watching movies, taking pictures, or reading.
- Storage: All of the 5G phones in our guide are available in different storage tiers. If you take a lot of videos, or download a lot of music and movies, you should get a phone with more storage. If you mostly stream your media, you’ll be fine getting a base model.
- Display Resolution: The 5G phones in our guide have an HD (or better) screen, so text, images, and videos will look very clar.
Key Considerations for 5G Phones
Finding the right 5G phone is easier when you understand how 5G works. A 5G phone has hardware and software built into it that allow it to connect to a 5G network. All of the major cellular networking providers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile/Sprint, have 5G capability now in certain locations, and they continually expand the reach of their 5G networks.
When considering 5G phones, you first must determine whether you want an Android or Apple phone.
Android phones are those that run the Android operating system. They are available from a number of manufacturers, with Samsung, Google, and LG among the most popular.
- Samsung: Samsung began offering 5G phones in mid-2019, and it continues to build on its 5G family with several releases in 2020.
- LG: LG released its first 5G-enabled smartphone in mid-2019, and it has added several more since then to its lineup.
- Google: Google, which owns and develops the Android operating system, also manufactures some Android phones. Its first 5G-capable phones appeared in 2021.
- Sony: Sony introduced its first 5G phone in early 2021.
- Motorola: Motorola claimed to be offering a 5G phone late in 2018 through an add-on element to existing phones, but it didn’t quite offer the speeds expected. Motorola now has true 5G phones in the U.S. and Europe, having joined the market in late 2021.
Apple phones run the iOS operating system, which owns and develops. It does not license its iOS to other manufacturers, so only Apple has iOS phones.
Apple released the iPhone 12 family of phones late in 2020, which represented its first 5G-capable phones.