What is the best smartphone you can buy?
While we're not long into 2022, phone makers have already served up an impressive array of devices offering top-tier innovation and delivering on key aspects like functionality, quality, longevity and value.
With no one perfect phone for everybody, this rundown addresses different needs and use cases, with the hopes that you'll find the best phone for you.
Expect to find usual suspects from the likes of Samsung and Apple but don't be afraid to read our full reviews and other content on devices from brands you might not be as familiar with. Trust us, these phones all deliver.
iPhone 13 Pro - Best iPhone
- Pros: 120Hz display | Superb cameras | Top-tier performance | Improved battery life
- Cons: Cinematography Mode and HDR algorithm need work | Pricey
Unlike 2020 – where the standard iPhone 12 won out against its Pro-branded sibling – 2021's iPhone 13 Pro is undoubtedly the one to beat.
At first glance, the 13 Pro uses a familiar 6.1in Super Retina XDR display but Apple has finally decided to bring ProMotion to the iPhone; with the panel now topping out at a super-smooth 120Hz. The notch is also 20% smaller too.
As for the cameras, you can expect bigger sensors and faster apertures that mean improved low light performance, far more comparable quality when switching to the phone's ultrawide (which also now offers macro shooting capabilities) and a 3x telephoto snapper, letting you shoot further than before.
What's more, the iPhone still leads when it comes to video capture, gaining some smart new features like Cinematography Mode, granting greater control over how your footage looks in the moment.
Pair that ProMotion tech with the phone's powerful A15 Bionic chip and a bigger battery, and you can expect some sizeable longevity gains; rendering this a two-day iPhone on a single charge.
Read our full Apple iPhone 13 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra - Best Android phone
- Pros: Excellent camera | Phenomenal display | Stylus support
- Cons: Bulky | Expensive | Slower charging
While the S21 Ultra dabbled with Note-like features, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is unquestionably a full-blown successor to 2020's Note 20 Ultra in everything but name.
The design is distinctly different from the other entries in the Galaxy S22 range (which is to say very 'Note-like') and features an integrated S Pen stylus that expands functionality beyond most rivals, especially in terms of productivity.
Despite familiar-looking camera hardware, the upgrades made by Samsung render it one of the best systems in any phone right now; with a 108Mp main shooter backed up by an ultrawide and two telephoto lenses at different zoom levels – with the zoom performance particularly improved on previous models.
The expansive 6.8in LTPO AMOLED display delivers both high WQHD+ resolution and an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz, while long-term software support that surpasses even Google's Pixels rounds out an impressive list of pros.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
iPhone 13 - Superb all-rounder
- Pros: Brilliant performance | Capable cameras | Long battery life | Great value
- Cons: Still a 60Hz display | No telephoto camera | Slow charging
While it loses out on the 13 Pro's high refresh rate display, the iPhone 13 still boasts cutting-edge features like Apple's newest 5nm A15 Bionic chip and the latest camera features, like Cinematic Mode.
The rear camera system now sits at a diagonal, primarily to accommodate the impressive sensor-shift OIS (optical image stabilisation) that was exclusive to 2020's iPhone 12 Pro Max (although there's still no telephoto sensor), while on the front – despite the same 60Hz refresh rate as the previous model – you still get a stunning 6.1in OLED display, complete with a smaller notch.
iOS 15 is an excellent improvement on Apple's already well-respected mobile operating system out of the box; adding wellbeing features like notification summary, that ensure you're not constantly distracted by your device.
Like the Pro, some of the best battery life on an iPhone comes as part of the iPhone 13 experience but fast charging speeds are still well behind the curve.
Read our full Apple iPhone 13 review
Google Pixel 6 Pro - Best user experience
- Pros: 120Hz display | Superb cameras | Slick OS | Greatly improved battery life
- Cons: Biggest, thickest, heaviest Pixel yet | Awkward fast charging
Google shook things up for 2021, with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro debuting the company's own Tensor silicon and a refreshed Android 12 experience out the box, along with a completely new design and some significantly enhanced cameras.
Despite dropping the 'Pixel XL' naming convention, the 6 Pro is an undeniably sizeable phone, with a stunning QHD+ curved-edge OLED display that – for the first time in the series – makes the move to a higher, smoother 120Hz refresh rate (just like the iPhone 13 Pro range).
The camera system also relies on a new 50Mp main sensor, which delivers astounding dynamic range and showcases smart new features, like Magic Eraser and rock-solid Face Unblur. It's also backed up by both a 12Mp ultrawide and a periscopic 48Mp telephoto camera, with a 4x optical zoom; a far cry from the Pixel range's old single-sensor approach to photography.
Tensor doesn't benchmark well against the competition but in real-world use offers more than enough grunt to handle the most demanding mobile apps and games, while also boasting a specialised skill set for machine learning and AI tasks that rival silicon lags behind in.
A huge 5003mAh battery also ensures some of the best battery life on a Pixel ever, even if fast charging is a bit of a mess.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Oppo Find X5 Pro - Superb cameras
- Pros: Best-in-class display | Versatile cameras | Unique design
- Cons: No periscopic zoom | Expensive
The Oppo Find X5 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in 10-bit 120Hz QHD+ panel is one of the best displays in any phone right now and Oppo backs it up with 80W wired and 50W wireless charging, a 5000mAh battery, and a top-tier camera that boasts 50Mp sensors on both the main and ultrawide lenses.
You’ll have to live without a periscopic zoom lens – the telephoto here is a measly 2x zoom – but results across all three rear lenses are exceptional. The design is unique too, thanks to a seamlessly sloped camera module built right into the ceramic of the phone's body.
In terms of pure performance, the Find X5 Pro is also hard to beat, with all of the above, plus a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, 256GB storage and 12GB RAM. You just have to be willing to pay the price, as it doesn't come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X5 Pro review
OnePlus 10 Pro - Outstanding battery life
- Pros: Super-fast 80W wired charging | Great longevity | Top specs
- Cons: Inconsistent cameras | No IP rating
The latest flagship phone from OnePlus is a good alternative to the likes of the S22 or Pixel 6 series, especially if you live in the US and have few other high-end Android options.
With a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and speedy 80W wired charging the 10 Pro has core specs to match anything its rivals offer, and we're broadly fans of the slick design too – though not everyone is.
Despite support from Hasselblad, the camera system is still the phone's primary weakness here and the main thing that sets it apart from the pricier but similarly-specced Oppo Find X5 Pro.
The rear triple sensor setup is impressive, don't get us wrong, but inconsistencies – especially in exposure – only serve to remind us that it's not up there with the best of the best, and that makes it a touch harder to recommend; even if the OxygenOS user experience is superb and battery life is among the best of any flagship currently out there.
Read our full OnePlus 10 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 - Best foldable
- Pros: Elegant folding design | Water resistance | More affordable than ever
- Cons: No telephoto camera | Middling battery life | Still needs to be tougher
Samsung took its already-groundbreaking Galaxy Z Flip foldable, improved every aspect – from design to performance – and then made it cheaper too!
The Z Flip 3 is a beautiful expression of the evolution of foldable smartphone tech and somehow manages to incorporate water resistance into its design as well.
Battery life and the dual cameras could be better but despite flagship-class performance in a groundbreaking design, the Flip 3's pricing also proves that foldables can tango in the same space as conventional smartphones, without any major sacrifices.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review
Red Magic 7 - Best for gaming
- Pros: Outstanding performance |165Hz refresh rate display | Greatly improved cameras
- Cons: Clunky user experience | Bulky design | Disappointing battery life
While only a minor update to the Red Magic 6S Pro from 2021, the Red Magic 7 pushes the envelope by being one of the first gaming phones to feature Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset.
The stunning 165Hz display endures from the last few Red Magic flagships, while also continuing to outpace mainstream rivals – making it ideal for gaming – and Nubia's finally addressed camera performance too, which is better than it's ever been.
The Red Magic 7's Android launcher won't be to everyone's tastes, the move to a smaller battery has proven to be a detrimental change (especially for gaming phone) and this is still a big bulky device, but the price/performance balance it strikes and the gaming prowess it facilitates are unrivalled.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 7 review
OnePlus Nord 2 - Best mid-ranger
- Pros: Flagship-class processor | Great main camera | Clean software
- Cons: Thick | Middling value
Despite its mid-range positioning, the OnePlus Nord 2 takes the torch from its predecessor and now sits as one of the best mid-rangers currently out there.
What the Nord 2 really demonstrates is the company's ability to prioritise the features that users are looking for right now, wrapping them up in an attractive package at a compelling price point.
The Nord 2 misses out on flagship niceties – like wireless charging and waterproofing – but those are really the only compromises made here.
There's also the OnePlus Nord 2 CE available, which delivers a stripped-back version of the Nord 2 for a slightly lower price.
Read our full OnePlus Nord 2 review
Xiaomi 12 Pro - Great for multimedia
- Pros: Nice design | Excellent display | Strong cameras | Fast 120W charging
- Cons: Disappointing battery life | No IP rating
The Xiaomi 12 Pro has an awful lot going for it, but that’s coupled with a pair of major flaws.
It sports a sleek, understated design, there's a beautiful display paired with a quad-speaker setup and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip delivers impressive performance. For the most part, the camera system is great too, not quite best-in-class but good.
Unfortunately, the battery life is a clear failing – which might be fixed with updates, but for the moment frustrates.
Read our full Xiaomi 12 Pro review
Xiaomi Poco F3 - Best value mid-ranger
- Pros: Superb performance | Great 120Hz display | Solid cameras
- Cons: Average battery life | Middling user experience
Xiaomi sub-brand Poco played hardball in 2021, delivering some of the best value-for-money on the smartphone scene by quite some margin.
The Poco F3's main point of appeal has to be its flagship-class Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 chipset, paired with an astoundingly low asking price, considering the level of performance on offer.
The F3 also offers up speedy 33W fast charging and a large super-smooth 120Hz AMOLED Full HD+ display, meaning it's also great for media and gaming.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco F3 review
Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro - Most affordable
- Pros: Brilliant performance | 120Hz display | Great battery life | Value
- Cons: Average camera | Bulky design | No 5G
Building on the success of Tech Advisor's 2020 'Budget Phone of the Year', the Poco X3 Pro sports a top-tier chip, despite costing a fraction of other phones wielding this level of power.
A Snapdragon 860 SoC delivers outrageous performance, not to mention it boasts a beautiful 120Hz display and absolutely fantastic battery life.
The X3 Pro isn’t perfect, of course. The big battery makes it bulky, the cameras could be better and MIUI 12 leaves much to be desired, but they don't stop this phone from being an unmistakably great budget offering.
Read our full Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro review
Your buying guide for the best phones in 2022
When choosing a phone you should consider these things: build quality and design, ease of use, features, performance, and value.
Generally speaking, a flagship phone in 2022 will start at around £700 but can cost over £1,000 in some cases. On contract, you're looking at between £30 and £50-per-month on average but you can spend a lot more if you want an expensive phone and lots of mobile data.
It's worth noting that while this list highlights the best smartphones available right now, that doesn't explicitly mean flagships (even though they do feature heavily here). There are entries that cross over with our mid-range and budget phone charts too, but earnt their place here, based on the capabilities and quality on offer, relative to their price.
Buying a phone outright will usually give you the best value, but we appreciate finances in the real world don't always accommodate such big one-off purchases. If you can, you'll obviously need a SIM card and plan, as well as the phone. If you don't already have one, check out our best SIM-only deals.
Should you buy an iPhone or Android phone?
There's more than one mobile operating system, but really only two worth talking about: Android and iOS.
The vast majority of phones today run Android – 12 being the latest publicly-released version. Apple’s iOS platform, meanwhile, may have a lower market share but developers almost always release their apps on iOS first. As a result of this approach, it has one of the best app stores you can find.
If you have an Android phone or an iPhone and want to move to a phone running the other OS (operating system), it's fairly easy to transfer your contacts and other select data from one to the other. What you can't move are paid-for apps and certain app data (like WhatsApp backups), so keep this in mind if you're considering a change of platform - and research any specific concerns you may have about the process.
Why you should buy an unlocked phone
The most important point is that an unlocked phone is almost always a better deal than buying a phone on contract - if you can afford it.
The only real exception to this is Apple's iPhones - because of their traditional popularity, operators often subsidise the cost of buying an iPhone in order to lock you into a lucrative long-term deal.
Generally speaking, if you can afford the upfront cost of the handset, you will pay less over the life of your phone by buying unlocked.
More importantly, you are not locked into a lengthy contract. If you want a new handset at any time, you can buy one without having to up-purchase your way out of said contract or commit to another two years.
Just be sure to make certain the phone you're getting is not locked to a certain network.
The right SIM
One other thing to consider is the size and shape of the SIM required for your phone. Make sure you get a nano-SIM if a nano-SIM is what your phone requires.
For the record, every phone in this list takes a nano-SIM.
If you get that wrong it is easily solvable; every network will gladly send over a different-sized SIM. SIM cards tend to come in all three sizes, you simply pop out the one you need.
But that's assuming you are getting a new SIM, and if you're looking for a SIM-free phone or unlocked phone you probably already have one.
More important is to make sure that if you want 5G you get a 5G-enabled phone and SIM.
Related: How we test smartphones
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