Which 5G phone is best?

Technology marches ever onward, with the latest and greatest phones of today rocking 5G connectivity. It offers less latency and interference — meaning it’s more efficient — and it’s faster. There’s been a noticeable increase in the amount of 5G phones available since its launch in 2019, which has thankfully driven prices down. Now there’s a 5G phone for everyone on anyone’s budget.

That said, if you want the best, take a look at the Apple iPhone 13 Pro. It has an excellent camera and comes in a mix of colors and data storage options.

What to know before you buy a 5G phone

What is 5G?

5G is, to use appropriate jargon, the fifth generation of a technology standard for broadband cellular networks. Think of it like the upgrade from high definition to 4K TVs — it’s essentially the same but incrementally better. 5G phones have to be built with a special chipset and modem to access it.

Operating system

5G phones use either an Android OS or iOS.

  • Android OSs are developed by Google and used by most phone manufacturers outside of Apple. Google and Samsung are the biggest names in 5G Android phones, but plenty of other brands have been making 5G phones since it became available.
  • iOS is Apple’s proprietary operating system and is only found on Apple’s line of iPhones. Current Apple phones that are 5G capable are the 12 and 13 product lines and the latest version of their budget SE line.

What to look for in a quality 5G phone

Camera

Many 5G phones are similar in most ways that count, except for one area that manufacturers still try to one-up the others in: the camera. Today, the best 5G phone cameras use three lenses on the back and one on the front, with better camera lenses having higher megapixel counts.

Screen

Screen quality is broken down by size and resolution.

  • Size: 5G phones have screen sizes roughly 4 1/2-7 inches long, measured diagonally. What’s quality comes down to intended usage and personal preference. For example, if you plan on streaming movies and TV shows, you should consider a larger screen. However, others may think a half-foot-long phone is too big to be comfortable. 
  • Resolution: 5G phone resolutions are a little more complex than your TV, as the pixel counts aren’t as standardized and many use confusing brand-specific resolution names. The simplest way to gauge resolution is what quality video can it record, which does use standardized resolution names: high definition (720p), full HD (1080p) and 4K (1440p).

Data storage

Most phones have a set amount of data they can store and don’t have the ability to add more later using secure digital cards. Cloud storage can mitigate how much storage you need, but it’s still a good idea to have more than you expect you need. Most 5G phones offer at least 100 gigabytes of storage, with 250GB and 500GB being equally common. A handful offer 1 terabyte, which is 1000GB, or 2TB.

Battery

5G taxes a phone’s battery more than previous generations of connection, so despite most 5G phones having better batteries the average battery life has stayed relatively constant — roughly 8-12 hours on a full charge. 

How much you can expect to spend on a 5G phone

5G phones typically cost $400-$1,200. Budget phones can be found for $400-$600, but they won’t have much in the way of features. Better phones cost $600-$800 while the most advanced models start around $800.

5G phone FAQ

Do I need to upgrade to a 5G phone right away?

A. No. The previous generation — 4G LTE — is more than enough for many users. In fact, as more users migrate over to 5G networks, the 4G LTE network will slightly improve due to the reduced traffic. However, you won’t see improvements as great as upgrading to 5G.

Do I need a special phone plan to take advantage of a 5G network?

A. That depends on your carrier. For example, most carriers include a standard 5G connection with your data plan. But, Verizon offers a special ultra-wideband tier of service only accessible with costlier data plans.

Are 5G phones safe?

A. Yes, 5G phones and 5G connections are just as safe as previous generations of both phones and services. It does not spread anything but improved performance.

What’s the best 5G phone to buy?

Top 5G phone

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

What you need to know: If you’re a fan of Apple, this is their latest feature-packed iPhone. 

What you’ll love: The front notch is smaller than previous models. It has a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display and 12-megapixel telephoto, wide and ultra-wide camera lenses. Its battery can last for up to 22 hours, and the body uses a durable ceramic shield.

What you should consider: Apple phones are among the most expensive. You can’t upgrade your data storage after the fact. Apple products require specially made accessories.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top 5G phone for the money

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G

What you need to know: While it’s a quality phone overall, its camera is where it really shines.

What you’ll love: It has an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lens and a 32-megapixel front-facing lens. It has a 30x zoom that doesn’t lose resolution and an EngageZoom Lock to reduce camera shake while zoomed. It can recharge up to half its battery in only 30 minutes.

What you should consider: It doesn’t offer upgradable storage after purchase. Some customers had issues with the speakerphone function being too quiet. It doesn’t include a wall adapter for charging.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6

What you need to know: The popular Pixel 6 is a complete redesign over its predecessors.

What you’ll love: It has a 50-megapixel wide lens that can capture more than double the amount of light of similar phones, plus a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens and an 8-megapixel front lens. It also has a suite of editing tools preinstalled and comes in three colors and two data storage sizes.

What you should consider: It updates frequently, which can be a hassle for active users. Some purchasers felt it was more fragile than similar phones — a case is recommended. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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