It’s high season for new phones, and a fresh crop of new devices — including Pixels and iPhones — has a lot of people wondering whether it’s time to upgrade. Whether you’re in the market for a new Apple or Android phone, there’s no shortage of great choices right now. Generally speaking, it’s been a year of modest mobile tech updates, but they’ve been important ones.
Foldable phones are getting more useful with bigger cover screens as on the Galaxy Z Flip 5, smartphone camera zoom has reached new heights on Samsung’s top-tier flagship, and the iPhone finally made the jump from Lightning to USB-C. And if you’re coming from a phone that’s three or four years old, you’ll find that the incremental advances over the past few years will add up for a significantly upgraded experience.
If you’re looking to spend a little less and still get the best smartphone on a budget, you can find something really good for under $500. For those recommendations, check out our guide to budget smartphones.
Best iPhone for most people
The base model of Apple’s iPhone 15 features an A16 chip, a 6.1-inch screen, a USB-C port, and a 48-megapixel main camera, with storage configurations starting at 128GB.
Screen: 6.1-inch 2556 x 1179 OLED, 60Hz refresh rate / Processor: A16 Bionic Cameras: 48-megapixel f/1.6 main with sensor-shift IS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: not advertised / Charging: 27W wired, 15W wireless MagSafe, 7.5W Qi / Weather-resistance rating: IP68
Last year, we recommended buying a new iPhone 13 rather than the 14 — the minor updates on the standard 14 just weren’t worth it with the 13 available for $100 less. This year is a different story. The iPhone 15 levels up in several important ways, starting with the adoption of the new Dynamic Island. That’s the free-floating, pill-shaped notch at the top of the screen that expands to show important status and time-sensitive information. There’s still much more it could do, but it’s a useful addition and one that app developers will consider as they design future updates.
There’s also that new port: Lightning is out, and USB-C is in. That might be a bit of a pain at first since you’ll need to swap out old Lightning cables and accessories you were using with your last iPhone, but in the long run, it’s going to be a positive change. You’ll be able to use the same cable that you use to charge your laptop, iPad, and many of your other gadgets, which is awfully handy when you’re packing for a trip. Plus, you can finally share charging cables with the Android phone owners in your life — and that’s sweet, sweet charging harmony.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
There are some useful camera upgrades, too, starting with a new high-resolution 48-megapixel main camera sensor. With more pixels available than the previous 12-megapixel chip, it can use the middle of the sensor to offer a lossless 2x crop. That’s especially handy on the standard iPhone 15, which lacks a dedicated telephoto lens.
And this generation of iPhones offers a handy new feature for fans of Portrait Mode — the ability to add the portrait effect after capture. When the phone detects a face in the scene, it will automatically save the depth information needed to create the soft-focus background effect when you’re editing your photo. It’s especially useful for those moments when taking a second to switch to portrait mode would mean missing a cute shot of your kid or pet.
Read our review of the Apple iPhone 15.
Best Android phone for most people
The Pixel 8 comes with just a couple of key upgrades over the Pixel 7, and it misses out on several higher-end features on the 8 Pro, like a telephoto lens. But its combination of price, features, and the promise of seven years of OS updates make it the best mainstream Android phone to buy right now.
Screen: 6.2-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Tensor G3 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F1.7 main with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 10.5-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,575mAh / Charging: 27W wired, 12W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
This is going to sound backwards, but hear me out: the $699 Google Pixel 8 is pricier than the Pixel 7, but it’s a better value. There’s also a good argument for stepping up to the $999 Pixel 8 Pro, which comes with a few more bells and whistles, but for most people just interested in a reliable Android phone that will get them through their day with as little friction as possible, the Pixel 8 is the one to pick.
Its upgrades are important ones. The screen finally comes with a 120Hz maximum refresh rate with all the smooth-scrolling action we expect from a flagship Android phone (Apple really needs to take a cue here), and like the 8 Pro, the Pixel 8 is promised seven years of OS upgrades. That’s one of the best software support policies you’ll find anywhere, and it means you’ll get way more out of your investment than you could with the Pixel 7 — it only included three OS upgrades.
There are lots of enhancements under the hood, of course, including upgraded Face Unlock that now works with password managers and mobile payments. The camera system is reliable, and you’ll find some useful new AI-fueled image and video editing tools in Google Photos. The phone itself is a little smaller than the Pixel 7, built around a 6.2-inch screen rather than a 6.3-inch display. This makes it a little easier to carry and operate with one hand while still large enough to pass as a “big” screen.
To be sure, the Pixel 8 Pro comes with some promising upgrades, especially when it comes to photography. There’s a 5x telephoto lens for more versatility, an improved ultrawide camera, and access to manual exposure modes. The 8 Pro is also capable of running more complex AI models right on the device, and Google says it will roll out some new features that take advantage of this in the near future. The screen is much bigger at 6.7 inches, too.
But my take is that for most people, there’s nothing on the 8 Pro’s spec sheet that’s worth an extra $300 over the standard model. The Pixel 8 is also a little less expensive than the $799 Samsung Galaxy S23 — which is nearing a year old — and comes with more years of updates, more polished software, and a more reliable camera system overall. It’s just hard to argue with that kind of value.
Read our full Google Pixel 8 review.
Best high-end iPhone
Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro has a lighter titanium build, a USB-C port with faster 3.0 speeds, improved cameras, a customizable Action Button in place of the old ring / mute switch, and thinner bezels around its 6.1-inch display.
Screen: 6.1-inch OLED, 120Hz refresh rate / Processor: A17 Pro Cameras: 48-megapixel f/1.8 with sensor-shift IS, 12-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: not advertised / Charging: 27W wired, 15W MagSafe wireless, 7.5W Qi / Weather-resistance rating: IP68
The iPhone 15 Pro manages to do something rare in the premium class: it actually got a little smaller year over year. It’s just a millimeter less on the width and height, but it makes the phone a little more comfortable to hold. The new titanium build that you’ve surely heard so much about by now in Apple’s ads makes a significant difference, too: the 15 Pro is 19 grams lighter than the 14 Pro. That’s a welcome change because the 14 Pro was awfully heavy.
There’s the new Action Button on the side of the phone replacing the mute switch, and it’s incredibly useful if you have the patience to program a shortcut for it. Otherwise, you can map it to one of a few preprogrammed functions like jumping straight into the camera app in video mode or turning on the flashlight. It’s also easier to reach on the 15 Pro than the bigger Pro Max, where it’s more of a reach on the taller frame.
The regular 15 Pro misses out on the longer 5x lens on the Pro Max; you get the familiar 3x zoom lens instead. That’s something to consider if you’re a photographer who’s fond of longer telephoto shots. But you do get access to two new digital “lenses”: a 28mm and a 35mm equivalent. They’re available by tapping the 1x icon in the camera app, and they’re not the result of simple up-rezzing or cropping, so the quality is a bit better than you’d get just cropping your shot after the fact. If the phone’s native 24mm equiv. lens feels too wide to you, then you have a couple of great alternatives now.
The 15 Pro comes with Apple’s newest mobile chipset, the A17 Pro, enabling console-quality gaming. That’s not a feature everyone will use, but it’s there if you want it, and the A17 Pro is a powerful processor on the whole. The phone inherits the always-on display introduced in last year’s Pro models, and we’re really liking it with iOS 17’s new StandBy mode feature — just set the phone to charge in landscape orientation, and you’ll get a handy bedside clock.
None of this comes cheap at $999, but if you can splurge, then the Pro model really does get you some worthwhile upgrades over the standard 15.
Read our full Apple iPhone 15 Pro review.
Best high-end Android phone
The Galaxy S23 Ultra offers a huge 6.8-inch screen, built-in S Pen stylus, two telephoto cameras, and a top-notch Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. It’s pricey, but there’s nothing else quite like it on the market.
Screen: 6.8-inch 1440p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy / Cameras: 200-megapixel main with OIS, 10-megapixel 10x telephoto with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel selfie / Battery: 5,000mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP68
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung’s kitchen sink flagship phone. It’s presumably nearing replacement in early 2024, but even with a successor on the horizon and the introduction of the Pixel 8 Pro, the S23 Ultra remains an absolute unit. It offers a maximalist experience with a built-in stylus, four rear cameras (including two telephotos), a massive 6.8-inch screen, and the top-shelf Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. It’s hard to imagine what you could cram into this device without turning it into a foldable (please turn it into a foldable, Samsung).
All that hardware comes at a high starting price of $1,200, so it’s not our top pick for just anyone looking for a great Android phone. But if you’re looking for the best of the best — particularly if you live in the US where choice is limited — it’s at the very top of our list. The camera system is impressive; portrait mode photos are excellent, and it’s capable of very good images all the way to 30x zoom. There’s a new 200-megapixel main camera sensor at the heart of the rear camera array, and it does a good job of bringing out fine details in both good lighting and low light conditions.
The integrated S Pen isn’t new or updated for 2023, but it’s still a nice tool to have at the ready when you need to jot down a quick note. That massive screen is detailed, and scrolling is smooth, with a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz all the way down to 1Hz. The sizeable 5,000mAh battery powers it through a day of heavy use, but don’t count on getting a lot more than one day out of it.
Our usual gripes with Samsung software apply here, too, and if anything, they’re a little more glaring on such a pricey phone. The phone will happily download a bunch of extra apps you probably don’t want during setup, although you can opt out of a fair chunk of them and hide most of the ones you can’t uninstall. But Samsung’s healthy software support policy is fitting of a $1,200 phone: you’ll get four OS platform upgrades and five years of security updates. Not quite as good as Apple, but among the best on Android.
Read my full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review.
The best phone around $500
The Pixel 7A includes several features that are hard to find for around $500, including wireless charging and an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. It’s not the cheapest phone in the class, but it’s the one that’s best suited to go the distance.
Screen: 6.1-inch, 1080p OLED, 90Hz / Processor: Tensor G2 Cameras: 64-megapixel f/1.89 with OIS, 13-megapixel ultrawide, 13-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,385mAh / Charging: 18W wired, 7.5W wireless / Weather-resistance rating: IP67
At $499, the Pixel 7A is one of the pricier midrange phones you can buy, but the extra features it provides are well worth the money. It offers a nice 6.1-inch OLED with a 90Hz top refresh rate for smooth scrolling — not quite as nice as the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G’s 120Hz screen but a step up from the 6A’s 60Hz display.
Other new features this year include the Tensor G2 chipset from Google — the same on 2022’s flagship 7 and 7 Pro — with a healthy 8GB of RAM, an updated 64-megapixel main camera, and wireless charging. Factor in the 7A’s hearty IP67 dust and water resistance, its sturdy aluminum frame, and the fact that it continues to offer the best photo quality in the class and that $499 price tag starts to look like a pretty sweet deal.
Battery life on the Pixel 7A is just average. It will get through a day of moderate use with a bit left in the tank, but if you add in a battery-draining activity like gaming or an extended video streaming session, you’ll probably need to top it off before the end of the day. Otherwise, the 7A is an easy pick if your budget is modest. It’s scheduled to get three OS upgrades and five years of security patches, so it’s well positioned to go the distance, too.
There are other phones under $500 worth considering, and they’re all covered in our guide to the best inexpensive phones. But if you’re looking for the absolute most you can get from a $500 phone, then look no further than the 7A.
Read my full review of the Google Pixel 7A.
Best flip phone
Samsung’s Z Flip 5 is its latest 6.7-inch flip phone that folds in half, now sporting a larger front cover display and a new hinge design that allows it to close flat. Inside, it packs a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a dual-camera setup.
Screen: 6.7-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED inner screen, 3.4-inch 720p OLED cover screen / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 / Cameras: 12-megapixel F/1.8 main with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 10-megapixel selfie (inner screen) / Battery: 3,700mAh / Charging: 25W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IPX8
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 has two things that the Flip 4 didn’t: a large cover screen and a legitimate competitor. The Motorola Razr Plus is another worthy flip-style foldable, and there are good reasons to consider it, but for the same $999 price, the Flip 5 simply offers more for your money.
The Flip 5’s 3.4-inch cover screen provides a lot of useful ways to interact with your phone without having to open it up. There are widgets for checking your calendar and the weather, and a full QWERTY keyboard allows you to send quick messages and emails right from the cover screen. You can run any app you like if you’re adventurous, but Samsung makes you jump through quite a few hoops to do this. If you want to run apps more easily, then the Razr Plus is the better option.
On the inside, the Flip 5 continues to offer a good 6.7-inch display that’s ready to handle all of the usual stuff you do with your phone. There’s a capable camera system, too, and using the rear-facing cameras with the phone folded partway or with the cover screen is a lot of fun. Long-term durability is a bit uncertain as it is with all current foldable phones, but the Flip 5 is at least fully water-resistant with an IPX8 rating. That’s better than most foldables, including the merely splash-resistant Razr Plus.
Samsung promises four years of OS upgrades and five years of security updates for the Flip 5 — a year longer than Motorola plans to support the Razr Plus and one of the best software support policies on Android. That’s one of several good reasons to pick the Flip 5 over the Razr Plus, and it’s enough to keep Samsung’s flip phone ahead of the competition for now.
Read my full review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Best folding phone
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 looks a lot like its predecessor, but it now folds flat thanks to a new hinge with fewer moving parts. It maintains the 7.6-inch inner display and narrow 6.2-inch cover screen, but it now utilizes the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor found in Samsung’s Galaxy S23 phones.
Screen: 7.6-inch 2176p 120Hz OLED inner screen, 6.2-inch 2316p 120Hz OLED cover screen / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.8 main with OIS, 10-megapixel 3x telephoto with OIS, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 10-megapixel selfie (cover screen), four-megapixel under-display selfie (inner screen) / Battery: 4,400mAh / Charging: 25W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IPX8
We’ve recommended Samsung’s Galaxy Fold as the best folding phone for several years now — partly because it’s really good, but partly because competition was practically non-existent. The latest edition in the series, the Fold 5, now has a worthy challenger: the Google Pixel Fold. We think that the Fold 5 is still the best folding phone for the money (and at $1,800, it’s a lot of money), even though Samsung still has some room for improvement.
For starters, the Fold 5’s tall and narrow aspect ratio isn’t our favorite. Using the phone’s 6.2-inch cover screen with the device closed still kind of feels like using a remote control. But the real action is on the massive 7.6-inch inner screen, where Samsung’s robust multitasking software sings. You can run up to four apps at once with a floating window on top — Google only allows you to run two apps in split-screen on the Pixel Fold. That kind of flexibility opens up a ton of possibilities for what you can do with the Fold 5.
On the downside, the Fold 5’s camera system isn’t quite as good as the Pixel Fold’s. In fact, Samsung’s own Galaxy S23 Ultra offers a much better camera system overall and is $600 cheaper than the Fold 5. As it stands, the Fold 5 is capable of good photos, but its processing is somewhat inconsistent, and its 3x telephoto lens feels a bit limited.
The Fold 5 is rated IPX8 — as is the Pixel Fold. That means it’s fully water resistant, but there’s no guarantee against dust intrusion. Dust is the enemy of a foldable phone, so that’s something to take into account if you’re a first-time foldable buyer. But Samsung has steadily improved the overall durability of its folding phones over the years, whereas the Pixel Fold is very much a first-gen product without a proven track record.
There are a lot of points in favor of the Fold 5, but there are plenty of people who would be happier with the Pixel Fold. If the Fold 5’s narrow aspect ratio will drive you bananas, you’re a fan of Pixel image processing, and turbo-charged multitasking isn’t a priority, then the Pixel Fold is a better choice. For everyone else, the Galaxy Fold still can’t be beat.
Read my full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review.
Best phone for something completely different
The Nothing Phone 2 embraces a certain retro-infused aesthetic that’s unlike anything else you’ll find on the market. It’s not certified to work on Verizon, and its rear-panel LED light strips are more stylish than functional, but it’s a good alternative to the big Android brands.
Screen: 6.7-inch 1080p 120Hz OLED / Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 / Cameras: 50-megapixel F/1.9 main with OIS, 50-megapixel ultrawide, 32-megapixel selfie / Battery: 4,700mAh / Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless / Weather resistance: IP54
The Nothing Phone 2 isn’t for everyone, but for the right kind of person, it’s a very good alternative to the Galaxies and Pixels of the world. It’s a style-driven device, from the dot-matrix-inspired UI to the flashing light strips on the back panel. Will its unique hardware and software features help you take back your attention span as Nothing claims? Eh, probably not. Mostly, it’s just a cool-looking gadget and a thoughtfully designed device.
The Phone 2 is equipped with a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, which is a slightly older but still very capable processor. Its 6.7-inch 1080p screen supports a fast 120Hz top refresh rate, and its lowest 1Hz refresh rate allows it to offer an information-rich always-on display. The camera system is good, though not quite as consistent as the Pixel 7’s. There’s wireless charging, fast 45W wired charging, and an all-day battery.
That’s all of the good news. The bad news is that it’s only rated IP54, meaning it’s not fully dustproof, and it’s only resistant to splashes rather than full immersion in water. Most other phones at this price offer a full IP68 rating, and a couple of cheaper midrange phones, like the Pixel 7A, even include a more robust IP67 water resistance. The Phone 2 also lacks official support for Verizon’s network, which rules it out for a lot of people in the US.
There’s the glyph interface, too — those lights on the back of the phone. It’s a neat idea with some interesting applications if you invest a little time in tweaking it. You can flip it over to silence notifications when you need some time to focus and hand-pick certain “essential” alerts to light up the glyph. Personally, I find it less helpful than a traditional focus mode or even the Phone 2’s always-on display. But others might find it useful, and if nothing else, it looks neat.
The Phone 2 isn’t the best choice for sheer value — the Pixel 7A is a much better value proposition. It’s not the best choice for someone who just wants a phone to get them through their day with minimal hassle. But it’s undeniably different, and if you’re looking for something outside of the ordinary with a certain visual appeal, then it’s a worthy candidate.
Read my full Nothing Phone 2 review.
Other good phones
The iPhone 15 Plus is worth considering if you prefer iOS and you like a bigger phone. Its $899 price isn’t exactly cheap, but the entry price of Apple’s other big phone — the 15 Pro Max — went up to $1,199 this year. The 15 Plus also offers outstanding battery performance; even a heavy user can manage to squeeze two full days out of a single charge.
The Asus Zenfone 10 is a delightful little phone that’s engineered with one-handed use in mind. It comes with a 5.9-inch screen, a highly capable Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, and a capable camera system with robust gimbal-like stabilization. It will only be sold unlocked in the US and won’t fully work on the Verizon network, but for a few dedicated small phone fans, it’s a winner.
Update October 16th, 6:05PM ET: Replaced the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus with the Google Pixel 8 as the best Android phone for most people and removed the Pixel 7 Pro as an also-consider.