smartphone with good camera

If you’re wondering what the best camera phone in the world or the best Smartphone With Good Camera is, there probably isn’t a cut and dry answer. Is money no object? Do you need the best zoom, or GoPro-style ultrawide camera? Or do you just want a smartphone that can take stellar shots whether it’s the middle of the day or the dead of night?

Smartphone camera tech is developing quickly, and with more options available than ever, choice paralysis fast sets in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time photographer who wants a powerful, portable camera to supplement their bulky DSLR; a creative who wants to be ready to capture anything that inspires them; or just someone looking to up your Instagram game, we’ve tested hundreds of smartphones, and whittled our list of best camera phones you can buy down to just ten.

Obviously, for those making a full-time living from photography, grabbing one of the best cameras out there is still crucial. But your smartphone can act as an excellent backup too, and could even pack some tricks up its sleeve missing from higher end dedicated snappers.

Not looking to spend a lot of money? Don’t worry. This roundup isn’t all flagships and $1000 price tags. Let us review the best budget camera phone models that are good for you.

smartphone with good camera

1. Huawei P40 Pro

The P40 Pro has superb cameras, but it’s not the best phone

Release date: April 2020 | Main camera: 50MP (f/1.9) | Telephoto: 12MP (f/3.4) | Ultra-wide: 40MP (f/1.8) | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 32MP | Weight: 209g | Dimensions: 158.2 x 72.6 x 9mm | Battery size: 4,200mAh | Max video quality: 4K 60fps | Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB | Memory card slot: YesPhenomenal battery lifeBrilliant camerasFrustratingly limited softwareBig camera bump

The Huawei P40 Pro is the best camera phone you can buy for under $1,000 / £900 it’s that simple. In fact, for a certain type of photographer – one who values a telephoto camera – it’s just the best camera phone around, period. 

Recommending it comes with its own set of caveats given the Huawei/Google situation though. That’s why despite its extensive list of stellar features, you definitely need to read our P40 Pro review before picking one up. Irrespective of its software limitations though, its camera will knock your socks off.

The P40 Pro’s Leica-branded imaging system is spearheaded by a brand new 50MP sensor, which uses RYYB (red yellow yellow blue) sub-pixel formation, like the 40MP P30 Pro before it. Huawei claims this makes its cameras better able to handle dark scenes like a champion, and we can attest to the fact the P40 Pro absolutely can. 

The main camera’s lens is a pretty standard f/1.9 aperture on paper, but with a huge sensor size (for a smartphone) and OIS, combined with Huawei’s mighty electronic image stabilisation, it’s still a low light star. This phone can pretty much see in the dark, even in automatic mode – something no other non-Huawei phones can do.

There’s also a 40MP f/1.8 ultra-wide camera, a 12MP telephoto camera that’s capable of 5x optical zoom or 50x digital zoom, and a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for creating bokeh effects.

Photos taken on the P40 Pro are high on detail and low on noise. Unlike Samsung, Huawei’s photos don’t look overly sharpened, and while they aren’t as natural and neutral as those taken on the Oppo Find X2 Pro, many will prefer Huawei’s comparatively punchy style.

As far as zoom goes, while the P40 Pro may not get quite as close as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the phone costs a lot less, and more importantly, delivers more consistent image quality across its cameras. 

The rest of the phone’s hardware is top-tier, it looks a treat and has plenty of power, so if (and only if) you’re comfortable with the Google-free software experience, the P40 Pro packs plenty to love.

iPhone 11 Pro
(Image credit: Apple)
Best camera phone 2020: our top smartphone picks | TechRadar

2. iPhone 11 Pro

Previously the best point and shoot camera phone

Release date: September 2019 | Main camera: 12MP (f/1.8) | Telephoto: 12MP (f/2.0) | Ultra-wide: 12MP (f/2.4) | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 12MP | Weight: 188g | Dimensions: 144 x 71.4 x 8.1mm | Battery size: 3,046mAh | Max video quality: 4K 60fps | Storage: 64GB / 256GB / 512GB | Memory card slot: NoExcellent night modeVersatile triple cameraConsistent colors across camerasExpensiveLower on detail than the competitionNo manual mode

The iPhone 11 Pro doesn’t just feature the best smartphone camera Apple’s ever made, it’s also the best camera phone money can buy for a certain type of user. It’s reliable – you take a shot and it’s likely going to be a good one, even in middling light. Dynamic range is strong, and with three cameras, it’s versatile too.

The primary camera features a 26mm focal length, perfect for grabbing everyday snaps. The ultra-wide camera takes a step back so you don’t have to, getting more in the frame with its 13mm focal length. As for the telephoto camera, as with the iPhone XS, it zooms into your subject with a 52mm focal length – perfect for portraits. 

While there’s no manual mode and the 12MP resolution is meagre on paper compared to some of the competition, results still impress, and Apple has introduced a new night mode which can hold the shutter open for incredible low light photography.

This can’t beat the Astrophotography feature on the Pixels when steadied on a surface or a tripod, but handheld, it’s up there with the best of them. 

Add to the mix a beautifully consistent color and tonal profile across all three cameras, and if you’re an Apple fan looking for a camera champ, this is as good as it gets.

Google Pixel 4
(Image credit: Google)

3. Google Pixel 4

The best for stargazers

Release date: October 2019 | Main camera: 12.2MP (f/1.7) | Telephoto: 16MP (f/2.4) | Ultra-wide: None | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 8MP | Weight: 162g | Dimensions: 147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm | Battery size: 2,800mAh | Max video quality: 4K 30fps | Storage: 64GB / 128GB | Memory card slot: No

Class-leading night photographyRich quality to photosSmart exposure controlExpensiveNo ultra-wide cameraPoor battery life/storage options

The Pixel 4 is probably the most mixed bag in our list; on the one hand, it’s a fantastic camera phone with capabilities even DSLR users can only dream of, made possible by the almost 5-minute long-exposure Astrophotography mode. On the other hand, however, it’s a pricey flagship with poor battery life and no ultra-wide camera.

If you’re thinking about picking one up, therefore, we’d urge you to go for the Pixel 4 XL if you hope to make it through a full day as this bigger Pixel 4 lasts that bit longer. 

Both phones have the same excellent dual-camera, and it’s a corker. Despite its main sensor being just 12.2MP, similar to the iPhone 11 Pro, it grabs beautifully balanced pictures almost every time.

The Pixel 4s also introduce a handy exposure control when taking a shot, so you can boost shadows separately to overall brightness, ensuring detail pops even in darker spots and can stay tapered in highlights. 

When the light drops, get the phone on a steady surface, point it at the sky, and it will engage its acclaimed Astrophotography mode, capturing night skies, stars and even galaxies on a clear night.

Despite this win though, one notable omission on the new Pixels is an ultra-wide camera, so if you know you’ll want to capture GoPro-style super-wide shots, you might want to look at any other phone in our best camera phone list.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The ultimate flagship – at an ultimate price

Release date: March 2020 | Main camera: 108MP (f/1.8) | Telephoto: 48MP (f/3.5) | Ultra wide: 12MP (f/2.2) | TOF: 0.3MP (f/1.0) | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 40MP + 40MP | Weight: 222g | Dimensions: 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm | Battery size: 5,000mAh | Max video quality: 4K 60fps | Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB | Memory card slot: Yes

Best specs of 2020, period5x optical, 100x digital ‘Space Zoom’Enormous 6.9-inch displayVery expensiveExtras not worth price bumpSpace Zoom dubious worth

There’s a huge amount going on with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra’s camera setup. For starters, you’ve got over 200 megapixels across the front and rear cameras, then there are those smart new shooting modes to talk about; and finally – there’s that huge zoom – 100x ‘Space Zoom’. Marketing jargon? Absolutely, but irrespective, the S20 Ultra’s camera is a telephoto champion. 

It all starts with a 108MP primary camera sensor – the same as the one on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. This time around, it’s combined with a 48MP optical zoom camera, a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a time-of-flight sensor around the back, which gathers depth information for the blurry background, sharp foreground Live Focus stills and video.

The Ultra’s zoom really is best-in-class when compared to other camera phones on the market. It uses a roughly 5x optical zoom with a high-resolution sensor to create virtually lossless 10x zoom images. Packing a fun Single take mode, the whole S20-range is social media-ready, capturing a range of photos and videos simultaneously so you can snap once, then decide later. They’re also all 8K-ready, shooting the highest resolution footage on the block.

Why isn’t the S20 Ultra higher in our list? It’s night mode can’t topple the best out there, and Samsung’s processing is aggressive; so photos can look a touch too punchy. That said, this is still a stellar camera phone with an excellent zoom.

OnePlus 8 Pro
(Image credit: OnePlus)

5. OnePlus 8 Pro

The most accomplished OnePlus ever, but also the priciest

Release date: April 2020 | Main camera: 48MP (f/1.8) | Telephoto: 8MP (f/2.4) | Ultra wide: 48MP (f/2.2) | Depth: 5MP (f/2.4) | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 16MP (f/2.5 | Weight: 199g | Dimensions: 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5 mm | Battery size: 4,510mAh | Max video quality: 4K 60fps | Storage: 128GB / 256GB | Memory card slot: No

One of the best displays around5G and plenty of powerThe best camera from OnePlusMost expensive OnePlus yetSizable rear camera bump

 OnePlus has stepped up its game when it comes to smartphone cameras, bringing the new OnePlus 8 Pro closer than ever to the best of the rest thanks to the fact it’s powered by Sony’s new 12-bit IMX689 sensor. With a large 1/1.4” size and 1.12-micron pixels, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s main camera can capture stunning bokeh and clear as day photos, even in middling light. 

It isn’t just the sensor that’s specced out on the new OnePlus’s main snapper – thanks to phase detection autofocus and laser autofocus, not to mention OIS, it locks on quickly and keeps things steady across photography and video. 

Unlike periscope zoom cameras, the OnePlus 8 Pro can’t compete when it comes to getting up close and personal to subjects from a distance. That said, its 8MP, f/2.4, telephoto camera packs a 3x optical zoom and OIS, so betters the iPhone 11 Pro’s max focal length. 

The real boon when it comes to improvements on the OnePlus 8 Pro has got to be that 48 MP, GoPro-esque ultra-wide camera though. With a huge pixel count for an ultra-wide, an open f/2.2 aperture to let in plenty of light and a, 14mm (116°) angle of view, it gets plenty in frame and grabs more resolution than virtually any other ultra-wide camera around.

Finally, OnePlus’s 12MP color filter camera. This bizarre addition captures a twisted take on reality, giving standard colors a neon, almost metalic screen-printed finish. 

Just like the OnePlus 7 Pro before it, video can be captured with a Super Stable video mode at up to Full HD, or in standard mode at up to 4K resolution. Is it the best camera phone you can buy? It’s definitely up there – but it can’t stack up to some other flagships. That said, as a package, it could be the best value across-the-board flagship around. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is just right

Release date: March 2020 | Main camera: 12MP (f/1.8) | Telephoto: 64MP (f/2.0) | Ultra wide: 12MP (f/2.2) | TOF: 0.3MP | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 10MP + 10MP (f/2.2) | Weight: 186g | Dimensions: 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm | Battery size: 4,500mAh | Max video quality: 8K 24fps | Storage: 128GB | Memory card slot: Yes

Powerful yet sleekMuch-improved zoomEver-higher priceImprovements are mostly iterative

On many levels, we’re bigger fans of the S20 Plus than the Ultra. It costs cost less, and pack a much more manageable footprint. Even though they don’t have a “100x Space Zoom” or a 108MP main camera, they still take better snaps than last year’s S10 family.

The main camera across both the S20 and S20 Plus sports a traditional 12MP resolution, combined with a wide open f/1.8 and a 26mm focal length – pretty standard for a flagship. With 1.8µm sized pixels, the S20s won’t be winning any big-pixel awards, but thanks to Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS, they still nail it nine times out of 10, even in dimly lit scenes. 

The 64MP telephoto camera may sound tantalizing – all that resolution combined with all that zoom. But, the ‘3x zoom’ these phones pack isn’t the whole picture. The S20’s 64MP sensor combines with a 29mm focal length – just 3mm greater than that of the 26mm main camera. The way it achieve a 3x zoom, however, is by cropping into the sensor, to achieve a 3x Hybrid Zoom. In turn, the phones can’t stack up to the periscope cameras on-test.

As for the ultra-wide cameras on both phones, they clock in at 12 MP, with an f/2.2 aperture and a 13mm focal length. If you’ve opted for the S20 Plus, you’ll also get a time of flight sensor around the back to grab depth information. This helps blur out the background in Live Focus mode, though both phones offer respectable portrait-style shots.

As with the S20 Ultra, the S20 and S20 Plus shoot 8K video at 24fps, and 4K video at up to 60fps. They also capture HDR video too, a relatively unique feature among smartphones today. 

iPhone 11
(Image credit: Apple)

7. iPhone 11

The most affordable iPhone gets excellent low light photography

Release date: September 2019 | Main camera: 12MP (f/1.8) | Telephoto: No | Ultra-wide: 12MP (f/2.4) | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 12MP | Weight: 194g | Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm | Battery size: 3,110mAh | Max video quality: 4K 60fps | Storage: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB | Memory card slot: No

Most affordable iPhone 11-seriesGreat night modeConsistent colors across camerasNo telephoto cameraLower on detail than the competitionNo manual mode

Unlike the iPhone 11 Pro, the vanilla iPhone 11 misses out on a telephoto camera, instead packing an Asus ROG Phone 2-style wide + ultra-wide dual snapper around the back. 

Still, we’re delighted to see the new long exposure night mode fires up when shooting in low light on this lower-cost model.

This means the iPhone 11 can see in the dark, even when you’re hand-holding the phone, and the photo quality across its primary and ultra-wide cameras is fantastic. Another area all the iPhones in our list excel is video capture; they all shoot 4K resolution video at up to 60fps, and do so across all their lenses. 

With smooth transitions between lenses and iMovie on board for basic edits, if we were going to pick up a smartphone for some easy-to-use, high-quality filmmaking, it would be any of the iPhones on our list.

Huawei P30 Pro
(Image credit: Huawei)

8. Huawei P30 Pro

The best superzoom smartphone

Release date: March 2019 | Main camera: 40MP (f/1.6) | Telephoto: 8MP (f/3.4) | Ultra-wide: 20MP (f/2.2) | Other: ToF camera | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 32MP | Weight: 192g | Dimensions: 158 x 73.4 x 8.4mm | Battery size: 4,200mAh | Max video quality: 4K 30fps | Storage: 128GB / 512GB | Memory card slot: Yes

Excellent auto mode in all lighting conditionsVersatile quad-cameraFantastic zoomNo US availabilityImages can look over-saturatedInconsistency across three cameras

The Huawei P30 Pro has got to be pretty special, given the fact it still clings onto a spot in this list despite launching at the beginning of 2019.

Its excellence comes down to its ‘periscope’ telephoto lens which takes astounding optically zoomed-in shots at a distance, and its fantastic low light performance, that actually bests the iPhone 11 Pro and Google Pixel 4s in automatic mode, though not always in night mode.

There were a lot of cameras to test on this phone, including four on the back: a 40MP main lens, an 8MP telephoto lens, a 20MP ultra-wide lens, and then a ToF (time-of-flight) camera to sense depth for portrait photos.

The Huawei P30 Pro camera also uses an RYYB (red yellow yellow blue) sensor instead of the industry-standard RGB (red green blue) sensor to capture more light, and it shows. The snaps we took for our review had more detail and less shadow than most of the competition, yet they didn’t look completely overexposed. 

It’s all amazing for a smartphone, but not entirely perfect. We did notice some purple fringing in areas, and the camera software controls aren’t always responsive when switching between ultra-wide, 5x zoom, 10x zoom and digital 50x zoom. But the fact that you can get insanely close to objects with a 50x zoom and also shoot at night as if all of the lights were on really sets a new bar for camera phones.

Xiaomi Mi Note 10
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

9. Xiaomi Mi Note 10

The highest resolution camera phone in the world

Release date: December 2019 | Main camera: 108MP (f/1.7) | Telephoto: 12MP (f/2.0) + 5MP (f/2.0) | Ultra-wide: 20MP (f/2.2) | Other: 2MP macro (f/2.4) | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 32MP | Weight: 208g | Dimensions: 157.8 x 74.2 x 9.7mm | Battery size: 5,260mAh | Max video quality: 4K 30fps | Storage: 128GB | Memory card slot: No

Fantastic levels of detail from main cameraFun modes like Vlog help differentiatePlenty of focal lengths to choose fromMidrange powerOnly the main camera is truly flagship qualityNo expandable storage

Xiaomi has broken the mould with its penta-camera Mi Note 10. The phone’s 108MP sensor, made by Samsung is a world-first, toppling resolution records and packing more pixels than virtually any DSLR or mirrorless cameras – let alone any smartphone. 

As with all the 48MP cameras introduced in 2019, the Mi Note 10 uses quad-pixel technology, or ‘pixel binning’ to grab standard shots. This technique combines four pixels into one, so a 48MP sensor would create a 12MP image, and the 108MP sensor on the Mi Note 10 produces a 27MP image. The reason for this combining is to capture broader dynamic range and better low light performance by using information from multiple pixels to create a super pixel. If the light is right, however, you can ramp up the resolution and capture full 108MP images for jaw droppingly detailed shots – nothing else comes close to the Mi Note 10 in this respect

The main camera absolutely nails it, and in good light, beats out the competition in many respects, but the reason this megapixel-monster isn’t higher on our list is because the additional cameras can be inconsistent. While we love the fact it packs an optical 2x zoom, 5x zoom and an ultra-wide angle, as well as a dedicated macro camera, if quality if your focus, shoot with the main 108MP module most of the time.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
(Image credit: Samsung)

10. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

A great all-rounder with a remote shutter S Pen

Release date: August 2019 | Main camera: 12MP (f/1.5-2.4) | Telephoto: 12MP (f/2.1) | Ultra-wide: 16MP (f/2.2) | Other: ToF | OIS: Yes | Front camera: 10MP | Weight: 196g | Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm | Battery size: 4,300mAh | Max video quality: 4K 60fps | Storage: 256GB / 512GB | Memory card slot: Yes

Very wide ultra-wide angleVersatile triple cameraGreat video performanceExpensiveNight mode isn’t class-leadingAuto mode exposes aggressively

Samsung’s smart dual-aperture main camera introduced on the Samsung Galaxy S9 is back, flipping between f/1.5 and f/2.4 without breaking a sweat. This time, on the Note 10 Plus, it’s combined with a 12mm ultra-wide camera that lets you grab wider shots than virtually any other camera phone around.

That isn’t the only addition to the Note 10 Plus – this time, there’s a time-of-flight sensor, as found on the Huawei P30 Pro, and this captures depth information for improved background defocus and bokeh when shooting in Live Focus (portrait) mode.

Samsung’s camera UI is also incredibly comprehensive, with a pro mode that can keep the shutter open for in excess of 30 seconds, as well as an improved night mode, which tries to take down the likes of Huawei and Google.

Unfortunately, this is where it drops the ball by comparison, but despite good, not sensational night shots, the Note 10 is still a seriously good camera phone, and its clever S Pen can even act as a remote shutter for the times you prop your Note on a surface and snap stepped-back group shots.

To make this advice as universal as possible, we’ve stopped short of recommending particular phones, but you should be able to use the guidelines below to make an informed choice about whatever handsets are currently on the market.

iOS vs. Android

For some, the software platform their new phone runs on is the be-all and end-all of their phone choice. For others, it barely matters. There may have been significant differences years ago, but today, iOS and Android are more similar than ever. After all, they’ve been borrowing features from each other for years.

Most of your favorite apps, from Facebook to Spotify, will run just fine on both. And they each offer the same fundamental features that let you do everything you would want on a modern-day smartphone.ADVERTISEMENT

That said, Android remains the more customizable mobile operating system. If you want to, you can change small things like the default texting app or browser, or go all-out by revamping every icon and widget to create a truly personalized interface. Apps can also hook into deeper parts of the phone and take more control over it.

One example of this is screen recorder apps, of which there are several for Android. Apart from Apple’s own built-in tool, you won’t find any such apps on iOS—they just don’t have the necessary access to capture what’s on screen. Every app is built on a series of permissions—to see your location, to use your phone’s microphone, and so on—and being able to record what’s on screen while other apps are running is something Apple doesn’t allow iOS apps to request.

iOS phones
Apple’s iOS is more polished but more restrictive than Android.Apple

For better or worse, Apple’s iOS is more limiting in what it lets apps and users do on iPhones. Its fans would say that makes for a smoother experience, while its detractors would say it’s too restrictive. For instance, you can install Outlook and Gmail on an iPhone, but when you tap on a contact to send an email, the app that actually opens will always be Apple Mail.ADVERTISEMENThttps://a9e3640caca8fedc22e8f823d0b65505.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

iPhones are also designed to work primarily with other Apple gear, such as MacBooks and the Apple Watch. But, you can still easily sync your phone with iTunes on Windows or use it without a computer at all. To choose between Android and iPhone, you must also think about the other apps and platforms you use.

Despite some of the debates you might read online, Android and iOS are pretty much neck-and-neck in terms of performance and features. Each has its own feel and way of working, though. So if you’re already on one platform or the other, try grabbing a friend’s phone for 10 minutes to see what the other side looks like.

Decide whether to stay with what you have, or change it up

Unless you’re only just old enough to be getting your first phone, picking between Android and iOS is less about comparing the two and more about considering whether it’s worth the effort to switch. It’s no wonder Apple and Google want to lock users into their apps and services as tightly as possible.ADVERTISEMENThttps://a9e3640caca8fedc22e8f823d0b65505.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

If you’re heavily invested in the Google ecosystem (Gmail, Google Drive, Google Photos, and so on), switching between Android and iOS is pretty straightforward, whichever direction you’re going, because all Google’s apps are available on both platforms. Just install the Google apps on your new phone, and away you go.

If you’ve already spent a long time on Apple’s side of the fence, however, moving over to Android can be a real headache. You’ll need to extract yourself from iMessage, for instance, and none of the movies or shows you’ve bought on iTunes will work on Android—to watch them, you’ll need to use iTunes on a computer, an iPad, or an Apple TV.

Three Google Pixel phones in black, gray, and white
Google develops both flagship and mid-range Pixel phones. They’re not priced by color, though.Google

To be clear, it’s not impossible to switch from an iPhone to an Android phone, but it can be difficult if you aren’t already using a lot of Google services on your Apple device. It largely depends how tightly you are tied into Apple’s various services, such as iCloud and Apple Mail, as you don’t get these apps on Android. The one major Apple app you do get on Google’s platform, however, is Apple Music.ADVERTISEMENT

If you’re upgrading from an existing phone, the easiest decision is often to just stick to what you know. The process will be quicker, and both iOS and Android let you set up a new phone from an old one, which means you can painlessly transfer a lot of your stuff over to your new handset.

That said, we’d also recommend checking out what the other side can offer, in case some new feature or function catches your eye, or you just prefer the interface. It might be worth your while to switch to an iPhone if you’ve just bought a MacBook and an Apple TV, or to move to Android if you notice you’re mostly using Google apps on your iPhone.

Both Apple and Google want to encourage you to come to their side of the fence, of course. Apple has a Move to iOS app for Android, while Google hosts a Switch to Android site that shows you how to move a lot of your stuff over with the help of Google Drive. Both cover photos, contacts, and calendar entries.

Check the specs

Smartphone specifications are broadly similar to computer specs: The processor controls how fast the phone can “think,” the RAM (random access memory) determines how much the phone can think about at once, and the storage space is how much room it provides for your apps, music, games, and other files. With the rise of cloud-based streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, though, storage space isn’t as important as it once was.

On top of that, you have the screen size and resolution. These affect the sharpness of images and text on screen, as well as how easy the phone is to hold in one hand. Options for the small-handed are dwindling, as the trend seems to be for bigger and bigger screens, pushing phones closer to tablet territory. Still, there are ways to use these larger phones with one hand if you really need to.

But unless you’re going to the very low-budget end of the market, or the ultra-premium high-end, smartphone specs don’t matter too much—much less than they do on your laptop. Any modern phone can run Facebook and Instagram, and you don’t need to break the bank for the latest hardware unless you want top-end games and intensive apps like video editors to run at top speed.

a person holding a Samsung Galaxy phone
Samsung’s Galaxy phones run the gamut from mid-range to premium pricing.Samsung

Other details to look out for are waterproofing and dust protection, and whether the phone accepts a memory card for expanding its on-board storage (some Android handsets do, but iPhones don’t). Another perk is wireless charging, which a lot of phones now offer for extra convenience.

One of the most important specs for any smartphone buyer is camera quality, which is usually listed in terms of megapixels (the size of the pictures) and aperture size or f-number (how much light the sensor lets in). More megapixels and a lower f-number usually means better pictures, but many factors combine to determine the quality of a smartphone camera.

Most phones now come with multiple camera lenses you can use to create single shots. Look out for the level of optical zoom (for getting closer to subjects), any mention of a wide-angle lens (for fitting more in the frame), and special camera modes for certain situations (like low light). When weighing your camera decision, you should also check out professional reviews, user reviews, and sample photos online.

Finally, battery life is another important consideration. Phone battery size is measured in milliampere hours (mAh), with a higher number meaning more juice. But many other factors, like the screen size and resolution, will affect how quickly that runs out. Again, check out online reviews and take the manufacturer’s quoted battery life with a pinch of salt.

Pick the right price

Perhaps the most important consideration for many of us is price. One quick way of narrowing down your choices for a new phone is to just set your budget and see what’s available in your price range.

Android phones have a lot more price points than iPhones do. In addition to their expensive flagship phones, most of the major Android manufacturers also offer decent mid-range versions for those on a tighter budget or with less demanding needs. That said, Apple has now settled into a routine of launching three iPhones per year, with older ones staying on sale at lower prices.

For the most part, phones that cost a few hundred dollars will serve you just as well as those that approach four figures, but you might have to sacrifice some screen resolution, camera quality, or app loading speed. For the phones on your shortlist, check out a few professional online reviews to gauge whether or not you’re getting the right value for your money.

four OnePlus phones
Chinese firm OnePlus has made a name for itself by offering flagship phones at more affordable prices.OnePlus

Don’t forget the refurbished or second-hand options, either. Sure, you’re getting a handset that might be a little bit worn, but these devices will usually work just as well as brand-new ones, and the savings can be substantial. Make sure you buy from a reputable source and look for extras, like warranties, for your revamped gear.

Older phones are an option here, too—when new handsets arrive, the previous generation drops in price, even though they’re still quite capable. Shop around for flagship phones from the last 12-18 months, and you might be surprised to see what you can pick up on a budget.

If you are going for phones that haven’t just been launched, it’s a good idea to check what version of Android or iOS the handset is capable of running—the newer the better in terms of device stability, compatibility, and security.

Make your move at the right time

Last, but not least, you should consider the time of year when you plan to buy. Otherwise, your shiny new phone could be replaced within a few weeks. Apple usually launches new iPhones in September, and Google’s Pixels follow soon after. Most other manufacturers refresh their phones around February or March, though this can vary.

So if you’ve got your eye on a particular phone, check when it launched. If it’s coming up on its one-year anniversary, you might be better off waiting for the next version. You don’t have to do too much digging on the web to work out which phones are rumored to be launching within the next few months.

Buying around the time a new phone launches is a good strategy—you can spend big to get the latest and greatest, or you can take advantage of the sudden price drops that will inevitably be applied to the phones that just got replaced.

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