A smartphone is always a great gift for someone during the holiday season. Imagine unwrapping your presents, to find a new smartphone with your name on it. That's pretty cool. But if you're the one gifting a smartphone, which one do you buy? Is is the most expensive one, or the cheapest one? There's a lot of different smartphones out there, and we have listed the best smartphones available. Those that are "budget" smartphones, "mid-range" smartphones and of course, the best of the best, "flagship smartphones".
Table of contents
Premium smartphones are the best of the best. These are the ones that you're going to be paying top dollar for, and that's because they have the best specs and the best features. These all run Android, as you might expect, and come from a variety of manufacturers.
For the "Premium smartphones" list, we're including anything from $599 and up. Anything lower than that is considered mid-range or budget.
|Samsung Galaxy Note 10+||$1099||Amazon|
|Google Pixel 4||$799||Amazon|
|ASUS ZenFone 6||$599||Amazon|
|ASUS ROG Phone II||$899||Amazon|
|LG V50 ThinQ 5G||$999||Verizon|
Best smartphone period – Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
As long as money is no object, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is the best smartphone you can buy.
It comes with a large and beautiful Quad HD+ OLED display, and it has plenty of storage. We're talking 256GB of storage, plus a micro SD card slot. So there's plenty of room to store all of those selfies. As well as storing your music library offline.
The Galaxy Note 10+ wouldn't be a Galaxy Note without the S Pen. And it's improved on the Galaxy Note 10+. It has Bluetooth capabilities, so you can use it as a remote. Which will get you some pretty incredible selfies. It'll also work for gestures in front of the display. Making it easier to flip the camera and such.
Of course, we can't forget that incredible battery in the Galaxy Note 10+, we're looking at a 4200mAh capacity cell. And it's enough to get you through the day, and possibly into a second day. Samsung has also included a 25W fast charger in the box (it does also support 45W) giving you some pretty fast charging speeds. Making it super quick and easy to top off the Galaxy Note 10+.
Now it makes sense why the Galaxy Note 10+ is one of the best smartphones and why it's at the top of our holiday gift guide.
Best value flagship smartphone – OnePlus 7T
While it might be kind of weird to see a "best value flagship" smartphone on this list, it's definitely needed this year. With most smartphones hitting that $999 or more price tag. The OnePlus 7T is much cheaper, but still just as capable as these other smartphones.
The OnePlus 7T comes in at $599, which barely keeps it in the "flagship" category. But it sports the latest specs that you can get, as well as an incredible, large OLED display. Much like the Galaxy Note 10+.
Where OnePlus cuts corners, to hit that low price, though is with the display resolution, it's only 1080p. But also with some of the features. Samsung phones have a ton of features, too many actually. OnePlus has opted for a much cleaner software experience, that provides some useful features, and very few of them at that. Which helps OnePlus keep the cost down.
Otherwise, you're getting a pretty impressive triple camera setup with a super macro option that performs really well. As well as a pretty decent battery capacity that will definitely get you through the day.
The OnePlus 7T is one of those smartphones that would be a really great gift this holiday season, and anyone would be ecstatic to unwrap one on Christmas morning.
Best smartphone camera – Google Pixel 4
When it comes to the best camera on a smartphone, you can't go wrong with the Pixel 4. Even if you are a terrible photographer, the Pixel 4 will make you look like a professional one.
The Pixel 4 comes in two sizes, with a 5.7-inch model and a larger 6.3-inch Pixel 4 XL. The Pixel 4 XL is the one to get, if we're being honest. It has a much larger display and a larger battery. And that battery does make a huge difference compared to the smaller one.
Inside, both flavors of the Pixel 4 sport the latest silicon, with 64GB of storage. There is also a 128GB model available. But where the Pixel 4 really shines is in that camera. The Pixel has always been really good when it comes to the camera, but this year, it's even better. Adding features like Dual-Exposure and Live HDR+, so you can get that perfect shot, really makes a difference. There's also Astrophotography, so you can take photos of the stars, with your freaking smartphone.
If you're looking for a holiday gift for someone that is a photographer, this is the best smartphone to get.
Best Battery Life Smartphone – ASUS ZenFone 6
The flagship smartphone with the best battery life, is indeed the ASUS ZenFone 6.
This is thanks to that massive 5000mAh capacity battery, which we are seeing more on mid-range smartphones than on flagship ones for some reason. But that massive battery is able to keep the ZenFone 6 running all day, and in most cases, for two full days.
It's also a very capable smartphone, again with the latest and great specs, as well as plenty of storage at 256GB. This is a smartphone that you can buy for the battery life and actually enjoy because it can handle anything you throw at it. And that includes some gaming.
The ZenFone 6 does have a few interesting features, like the flip up camera. So instead of having a notch or a pop up camera, the rear camera will flip up for selfies. Which is actually a pretty cool feature.
It's definitely a great smartphone that would make a great holiday gift, especially for those that are always on their smartphones.
Best gaming smartphone – ASUS ROG Phone II
Gaming smartphones have started to become a pretty popular trend in the last few years, and ASUS is one that has taken that trend and owned it.
The ASUS ROG Phone II took what the original did well, and really made it better. It sports the latest specs, which includes a Snapdragon 855+ chipset, 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. There is also a 48-megapixel camera on the back and a 13-megapixel front-facing camera. Which means that you could buy this phone and use it as a regular phone, instead of as a gaming phone only.
All of this is powered by a 6000mAh capacity battery, that should keep you away from power outlets for the majority of the day.
This makes the ASUS ROG Phone II the perfect smartphone gifts for those gamers on your holiday shopping list.
Best 5G smartphone – LG V50 ThinQ 5G
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G is the best 5G smartphone on the market right now. There aren't many to choose from, so there's not much competition for LG.
With the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, you are essentially getting a slightly upgraded V40 ThinQ, but with 5G capabilities. And it's one of the cheaper 5G phones on the market.
Inside is the Snapdragon 855 chipset, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The triple-camera setup from the V40 ThinQ is still there, with an ultra-wide, main and a telephoto camera. But now there's no camera bump. It is completely flush with the back of the device.
The LG V50 ThinQ 5G isn't available everywhere, as you might imagine, but you can get it from Verizon and it will work on their 5G Ultra Wideband network.
When it comes to mid-range phones, these are phones that range from $249 to $599. The majority of these can do everything that a premium phone can do, but do have a few things missing. Like a larger number behind that dollar sign.
In recent years, this mid-tier of smartphones have gotten really good. So good that most people are buying these mid-range smartphones instead of a premium smartphone, because it can do everything that a premium one can do, at a much cheaper price. These smartphones all have pretty good cameras, build qualities and great battery life.
But the one area where they do fall behind, is usually software updates. Many of them will get one major Android OS update, and that's about it. Though that has been improving, thanks to Nokia and Google's own mid-range smartphones getting fast updates. So that will be a thing of the past soon.
|Motorola Moto Z4||$498||Amazon|
|Google Pixel 3a||$399||Amazon|
|Motorola Moto G7 Power||$249||Amazon|
Best mid-range smartphone – Nokia 7.2
Since being brought back from the dead by HMD Global, Nokia has done a really great job at owning the mid-range and budget line of smartphones. And the Nokia 7.2 is no different.
This is the second-generation Nokia 7.2, and it comes in at $349. For that price, you're getting a lot of smartphone, surprisingly. With a big, beautiful display and a very capable battery. There's also a very battery efficient chipset inside that is going to keep the Nokia 7.2 running all day long.
Like all other Nokia Android smartphones, the Nokia 7.2 is an Android One device. What that means is that it is running stock Android. That also means that you're going to get quick updates, and likely get them far longer than with any other manufacturer. With Android One, you are also getting very few pre-installed apps, really just the few Google apps that are required for Google to certify it. And that's it.
At $349, it's not the most expensive "mid-range" smartphone, but it is the best all-around smartphone, making a great gift for anyone on your holiday list this year.
Best mid-range 5G smartphone – Motorola Moto Z4
The Motorola Moto Z4 is actually the only mid-range 5G smartphone out there. And to be honest, it's 5G upgradeable, meaning that you need the 5G Moto Mod to get 5G on it. It's a bit confusing. It also only works with Verizon.
Motorola Moto Z4 is a Moto Mods smartphone, so you can slap a mod onto the back of the phone and extend the capability, which is a really cool thing. That includes 5G. Making it a 5G smartphone, when it was a 4G LTE smartphone when you bought it.
This has a pretty large full HD+ display, with a teardrop notch. So you're getting a whole lot of screen with the Moto Z4. It also has pretty decent battery life, but again, if you do need a bit more juice, there's the Moto Power Pack that you can purchase and get more juice too. Which is another reason why these Moto Mods are so great.
If you're looking for a future-proof smartphone for a holiday gift this year, this is probably the best option.
Best mid-range smartphone camera – Google Pixel 3a
The Google Pixel 3a does have the best camera on a mid-range smartphone, and that's by a mile or two. It can best some of the premium smartphones that are about twice its price, even.
Pixel 3a is a mid-range Pixel from Google that sports a very efficient processor, allowing for better battery life. It also got rid of the notch that the Pixel 3 XL had, so you don't need to see that eye-sore any longer. And it keeps its very impressive camera. The Pixel Visual Core is still running inside the Pixel 3a, providing you with some stunning images.
Night Sight, Top Shot and other camera features are also available. It is essentially the same camera that is found on the Pixel 3 series, but at a little less than half the price.
On top of that, there's a headphone jack. No other Pixel smartphone has had that. So if you were looking for a smartphone for a holiday gift that has a great camera and has a headphone jack, this is it.
Best battery life mid-range smartphone – Motorola Moto G7 Power
The Motorola Moto G7 Power can last longer on a single charge than just about any premium smartphone. And it costs about a fifth of the price.
Sporting a large 5000mAh capacity battery will do that for you though. That cell is powering a 6.2-inch HD+ display, with a slower processor inside. Which is going to use less power and make that battery last for a very long time. When we reviewed the Moto G7 Power earlier this year, we found that we were getting two to three days of heavy usage on a single charge. If you're a light user, you can probably get a good week out of this one.
It's definitely a mid-range smartphone, but it is still pretty capable. You'll be able to do some light gaming on this one, and of course surf Twitter and Facebook all-day. It's a really good choice for a teenager or even a parent or grandparent that needs a smartphone and you won't have to spend a ton on their holiday gift.
Now these are the cheap, but still good smartphones. These will definitely not break the bank. Just don't expect these smartphones to have incredible cameras, or even a high-end display. But these will still get the job done, and keep you connected with your friends and family.
These smartphones are mostly under $200, though there is an outlier that's a bit more expensive.
|Motorola Moto G7 Play||$169||Amazon|
|LG Stylo 5||$249||Amazon|
Best budget smartphone – Moto G7 Play
If you don't have a lot of money to spend on a smartphone, spend it on the Moto G7 Play.
Coming in at under $200, the Moto G7 Play might look like a pretty cheap smartphone, but it is anything but that. It has a large HD+ display, with a notch so it does look like those smartphones that are over a grand. And it comes with a near stock version of Android. Just a few apps pre-installed, like the Moto app.
There's a 3000mAh capacity battery running the Moto G7 Play, keeping it going all day long. Finally, it has a fingerprint sensor, to keep all of your data secure. Something that a lot of phones in this price range do not have.
This makes the Moto G7 Play a really great smartphone to gift to someone this holiday season.
Best budget smartphone with a stylus – LG Stylo 5
You don't have to spend a grand to get a smartphone that has a stylus. The LG Stylo 5 drives that point home, coming in at just $299, it's less than a third of the price of the phone that made the stylus popular – the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
LG Stylo 5 is definitely a budget smartphone, and the stylus has nowhere near the amount of features that the S Pen has. But for those that want a stylus, this is the one to get. It does also have a slot for the stylus. While other phones are compatible with a stylus, most others do not have a slot for it, to keep it from getting lost.
This smartphone will work on all four major US carriers too. Making it a really great choice for your mom or dad, who want a new smartphone with a stylus. It'll make you the favorite again, by getting them a gift that they wanted this holiday season, a smartphone.
Best software experience on a budget smartphone – Nokia 4.2
The Nokia 4.2, like the 7.2 is an Android One smartphone. Which means that it is going to provide you with the best software experience at this price point. And in fact, it is the cheapest smartphone in this budget section.
This one is running stock Android with zero pre-installed apps. The only apps that are pre-installed here, are ones that Google requires, for Nokia to get its licensing. So even though there is only 32GB of storage on the Nokia 4.2, the majority of that is going to be usable storage.
It's also a more compact smartphone, coming in at 5.71-inches, the entire body is actually one of the smallest smartphones on this list. Those that want something smaller, that can fit into one hand, this is going to be the one to get.