What's the best phone you can buy in the UK?
|Samsung Galaxy S7 edge||£639||Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Exynos 8890, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 5.5in Quad-HD, 3600mAh|
|Samsung Galaxy S7||£569||Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Exynos 8890, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 5.1in Quad-HD, 3000mAh|
|LG G5||£529||Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Snapdragon 820, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, 5.3in Quad-HD, 2800mAh|
Before you buy any phone you should note that this is probably the wrong time of year to do so: the recently announced LG G6 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium are not yet on sale, the Samsung Galaxy S8 won't be announced until the end of March, and we'll be waiting a little longer for the annual update to the HTC and OnePlus flagships. (We won't be adding any of these phones to this chart until we have completed our full reviews.)
Also see: Best Phone Deals
When we review smartphones we take into account their build quality and design, ease of use, features, performance and value, although the latter isn’t always such a big deal when it comes to a phone you are most likely to buy on a contract.
Generally speaking a flagship phone will cost between £500- and £600, or between £40- and £50 per month on a contract. If you are buying SIM-free then you should also check out our best SIM-only deals.
Value becomes more important when you consider older-generation phones. For example, we still think the Samsung Galaxy S6 is better than many of the phones in this chart, especially when you consider that it’s now available under £400 SIM-free. However, we move all older-generation smartphones to our best mid-range phones chart, and you’ll now find the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge sitting at the top of this best phones chart.
Should you buy a phone running Android, iOS or Windows?
There are multiple mobile phone operating systems, but really only two worth talking about: Android and iOS. Windows phones account for around 1 percent of all phones sold, so it makes more sense to go with Android or an iPhone.
The vast majority of phones available run the Android operating system, with Nougat the latest version. While Apple’s iOS platform has a much lower market share, developers always release their apps on iOS so it has one of the best app stores you'll find. For more, see Android vs iPhone.
If you have an Android phone or and iPhone and want to move to the other type of phone, it's fair easy move your contacts and other data from one to the other. See How to move from Android to iPhone and How to move from iPhone to Android. What you can't move is paid-for apps, so keep this in mind if you're considering a change of platform.
Why you should buy an unlocked phone
An unlocked phone is one which is not tied to any particular mobile operator, such as Vodafone or EE. Buying unlocked usually means buying the phone outright without a SIM.
The most important point is that an unlocked phone is almost always a better deal than buying a phone on contract.
The only real exception to this are Apple's iPhones - because of their traditional popularity, operators do often subsidise the cost of buying an iPhone in order to lock you into a lucrative long-term deal.
Generally speaking, however, 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 in. If you want a new handset at any time, you can buy one without having to up-purchase your way out of a contract, or commit to another two years.
SIM-free vs unlocked
One thing to be sure of when purchasing an unlocked or 'SIM-free' phone is that not all SIM-free handsets are unlocked.
The excellent Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is a classic example of this. It is SIM-free, but if you want to use it for any network other than Vodafone you have to first use it for a month with a Vodafone SIM, and then pay £20 to get it unlocked.
EE's own branded phones are similar. In both cases it may well still be better to buy network branded phones and go through the pain of getting them unlocked, than to buy on contract.
But you should do your research before you take the plunge. We can help with that with our feature: 'How to unlock any phone'.
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.
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.
You can buy adaptors that let you fit a Nano-SIM or Micro-SIM in a Micro-SIM or full-size SIM slot for a very small charge.
More important is to make sure that if you want 4G you get a 4G-enabled phone and SIM.
- Reviewed on: 12 January 17
- RRP: £639, US$780
The Galaxy S7 edge is no longer the semi-gimmick it was before. Although some of the main features are things from the Galaxy S5 – Micro-SD and waterproofing – Samsung has given fans what they want. It's now a refined, sophisticated and highly desirable piece of technology. The battery isn't removable but the phone lasts longer than before and has seriously powerful specs under the hood. It has almost everything you could want from a phone even though the IR blaster is gone. We're also very impressed with the new camera and unless the screen is too big for you (despite some software features to help out) we think it's worth getting the S7 edge for the extra £70 with its gorgeous looks and extra functionality. Right now, this is the best smartphone money can buy.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review.
- Reviewed on: 12 January 17
- RRP: £569, US$670
The Samsung Galaxy S6 was the best phone of 2015 and, although it’s still early days, the Galaxy S7 is a serious contender for best phone of 2016. Samsung has taken into account what its fans want, addressing the three main areas of concern: removable storage, waterproofing and battery life. It’s also upgraded the core hardware and photography gear, added an always-on display and some useful software. Right now the Galaxy S7 is simply unbeatable.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S7 review.
3. LG G5
- Reviewed on: 5 May 16
- RRP: £529
The LG G5 is one of the most radical phones to come along in a while and we’re glad the firm has shaken things up with the modular design. The G5 is innovative and interesting with unique features but it’s a shame the design and build feels unfinished in areas. It’s a top-notch device which can hold its own with the best phones in performance and cameras, but it’s LG’s modular design which is the real selling point here. There is bags of potential but the future of this is unclear so it’s hard to be definite right now. The G5 is one of the best phones around but for completely different reasons to the Galaxy S7.
Read our LG G5 review.
- Reviewed on: 21 March 17
- RRP: £599 (32GB), £699 (128GB), £799 (256GB)
The iPhone 7 is an evolution of the 6S, so if you were expecting a revolution you’ll probably be slightly disappointed. However, aside from the underwhelming battery life, it is an excellent phone. It’s waterproof, has fantastic cameras and performance, and the new stereo speakers sound great. There’s now 32GB of storage as a minimum, which helps to mitigate the higher prices.
If you have an iPhone 6s, it’s hard to justify upgrading (even for some people with a 6) but if you’re out of contract and want a small phone, it’s the best Apple has made yet.
Read our Apple iPhone 7 review.
5. OnePlus 3T
- Reviewed on: 22 March 17
- RRP: From £399, From US$439
The OnePlus 3T will be unfairly compared, for now at least, to the phone that came before it. So let’s ignore it. On its own, the OnePlus 3T is everything a modern smartphone should be; slim, fast, and responsive, with above average battery life and cameras that produce stunning images. And then there’s the price. OnePlus may not like being known for it, but £399 remains an absolutely amazing price point for the phone on offer.
As long as you don’t want an iPhone, this Android handset stands side by side with the Samsung Galaxy S7 as the best example of a smartphone on the market today – once we’ve all got over that it came a little sooner than we had expected.
Read our OnePlus 3T review.
6. Xiaomi Mi5s
- Reviewed on: 29 November 16
- RRP: £282.75, US$352.69
We cannot recommend the Xiaomi Mi5s enough. This is the smartphone every 2016 flagship wanted to be, and it comes with a price tag half that of theirs. Fantastic build quality, fantastic performance, fantastic storage, battery and connectivity options - the Xiaomi Mi5s gets a big thumbs-up from us.
Read our Xiaomi Mi5s review.
7. Google Pixel
- Reviewed on: 17 February 17
- RRP: £599, US$649
The Pixel has plenty going for it: it’s small, well built, speedy and has excellent cameras. It also supports Google’s Daydream VR headset and runs the plain version of Android 7 – complete with Google Assistant - and will get timely updates. But it isn’t waterproof, doesn’t have a microSD slot or stereo speakers and we’d have preferred a quad-HD screen for VR use at this price. If those downsides don’t bother you, and the OnePlus 3T is too large, then the Pixel is a fine choice and a great Android phone.
Read our Google Pixel review.
- Reviewed on: 21 March 17
- RRP: £719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB), US$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)
The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent phone. It’s Apple’s best yet, but it is also Apple’s most expensive yet, with a huge starting price. In some respects, the upgrades seem to justify this, but at the same time some features are arguably only catching up with what the competition has been offering for a while now – water-resistance for one.
Taken as a whole, the performance, battery life, camera quality and stereo speakers are all compelling reasons to upgrade. But our advice remains much the same as for the iPhone 7: if you already own the previous generation, there’s not enough here to justify ditching a 6S Plus, especially if you’re halfway through a two-year contract. Those just coming out of contract on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus would do well to grab a 7 Plus.
Read our Apple iPhone 7 Plus review.
- Reviewed on: 12 January 17
- RRP: £599.99, US$599.99
Huawei’s Mate 9 is, in our opinion, the best in the Huawei line-up, boasting an impressively large battery alongside powerful internals, an improved dual-camera setup and a sleek, gorgeous design. The benchmark results were some of the best we've seen, bringing excellent value for money. EMUI 5 makes a huge difference to the overall experience too, and we can’t wait to see whether Huawei’s new technology will actually improve the performance of the smartphone over time.
Read our Huawei Mate 9 review.
10. HTC 10
- Reviewed on: 24 January 17
- RRP: £569
There's a lot to like with the new HTC 10 including a number of hardware upgrades across screen, camera and audio, plus a Nexus-like stock Android experience. However, we're not totally sold on the design and it's tough at the top these days. While the HTC 10 is a solidly good phone and a respectible upgrade for M9 owners, it doesn't blow the competition out of the water. The features which appeal the most are more niche than mass market.
Read our HTC 10 review.
11. Xiaomi Mi Note 2
- Reviewed on: 13 March 17
- RRP: £497.04, US$619.99
The Mi Note 2 was wrongly overshadowed at its launch. This is a gorgeous big-screen Android phone with very decent performance, a great camera and plenty of storage. We'd like to see a Quad-HD screen on Xiaomi's flagship phone, but this one should prove plenty sharp and clear. Google apps are not preinstalled, but there is a workaround if you are happy to do some tweaking.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review.
12. Huawei P9
- Reviewed on: 27 April 16
- RRP: £449, US$680
When comparing the P9 to other flagships, it’s important to remember the £449 price which makes it considerably cheaper than many of its rivals (but not the identically priced Nexus 6P that's also made by Huawei). Overall, we're impressed with the phone: it's well built, feels good and looks good. The cameras aren't the absolute best out there, it doesn't top the charts in game tests and the screen isn't Quad HD, but these minor quibbles are outweighed not only by the price but also because, unlike the Nexus, the P9 lets you stick in a microSD card to expand the storage. If you can afford it, the Galaxy S7 is a better phone overall, but this is a great choice if you can't.
Read our Huawei P9 review.
13. iPhone 6s Plus
- Reviewed on: 9 September 16
- RRP: From £499, From US$549
The iPhone 6S Plus is a remarkable phone, and it's still a fantastic phone 12 months on. The 16GB model has finally been banished and the new minimum storage of 32GB should be workable for a lot of people.
3D Touch can sound gimmicky, but it’s absolutely not. It requires effort to force yourself to use it to begin with, but it quickly becomes second nature and app developers have put it to use in apps and games.
Read our iPhone 6s Plus review.
- Reviewed on: 15 October 15
- RRP: £484.99, US$585
So, what do we think of the Galaxy Note 5? We’re very fond of just about every aspect of the Galaxy Note 5, from its curved and sleek design to its vibrant display and high-resolution camera. It can handle almost anything you can throw at it thanks to its CPU, GPU and 4GB of RAM and we experienced no lag during our testing. The only bad point is that the Note 5 would sometimes falsely detect the S Pen detaching – and to point out such a minor fault says a lot about the quality of the handset. With this being said, we’re both surprised and sad that the Galaxy Note 5 won’t be heading to UK shores any time soon.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review.
15. Honor 8
- Reviewed on: 5 September 16
- RRP: £369.99, US$399
The Honor 8 is a fantastic smartphone, but the price has gone up from the Honor 7. In return for the additional expense you get a fantastic dual-camera, a sleek and stylish design, a faster fingerprint sensor and a beautiful display, which combined make the Honor 8 a worthy competitor to the OnePlus 3.
Read our Honor 8 review.
16. Google Pixel XL
- Reviewed on: 17 February 17
- RRP: £719 (32GB) £819 (128GB), US$769 (32GB) $869 (128GB)
While the Pixel XL is an attractive phone (if you can get used to the glass section) with decent combination of hardware and software, we can't help but feel a bit disappointed. It's very similar to the much cheaper Nexus 6P and OnePlus 3. You can get plenty of other Android phones for less which have extra features like waterproofing and expandable storage. Sorry Google, but things have gone a bit wrong here.
Read our Google Pixel XL review.
17. Sony Xperia XZ
- Reviewed on: 31 October 16
- RRP: £539, US$599
The Xperia XZ is an attractive phone in design if you can get on with the angular style and while it's cheaper than rivals such as the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel, you can get better value with some older phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7. While the hardware is decent, we can't help but mention the very similar Xperia Z5 will save you a lot of money.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ review.
18. iPhone SE
- Reviewed on: 21 March 17
- RRP: £379 (16GB); £429 (64GB), US$399 (16GB); $449 (64GB)
The SE is what many iPhone fans have been asking for, and it's a great upgrade if you're still using an iPhone 5. For 5S owners, things aren't quite as clear cut. If you're not happy with the 5S's performance, the SE should solve that problem. However, unless you really want to shoot 4K videos, you're not going to notice a massive improvement in photo quality. There's a much bigger jump in quality if you're coming from an iPhone 5 (or earlier), however. In 2017 the SE might be more expensive but Apple has doubled the storage making it a more attractive buy.
Read our iPhone SE review.
19. Motorola Moto G4
- Reviewed on: 18 November 16
- RRP: £169, US$245 (TBC)
Although the new Moto G4 is more expensive than the third-generation, Motorola is offering a Full HD screen, better processor, more storage and memory. Not everyone will enjoy the jump to 5.5in or the lack of full waterproofing but this is still a brilliant phone for under £200. Just bear in mind that the 3rd-gen Moto G is now a great buy at £149 and the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 offers similar specs for just £125 (albeit SIM-locked).
Read our Motorola Moto G4 review.