Best smartphone 2020: The finest Android and Apple phones you
We all covet those little rectangles in our pockets. Smartphones play a massive part in our day-to-day lives, but buying the perfect smartphone can be an arduous task. However, don’t fret – we’re here to help you buy the best smartphone for you.
We’ve painstakingly put every smartphone to the test, with the best coverage in the UK, so we can help you make a buying decision. Our best smartphone 2020 roundup is always kept up to date, so be sure to check back often.
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How to buy the best smartphone for you
Finding the right smartphone for your budget can be tricky, especially when there are so many expensive contracts to sift through. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about buying your perfect smartphone, as well as what you need to know about picking out a contract.
Should I buy a smartphone on contract or SIM-free?
Generally speaking, buying a phone unlocked and SIM-free is the best option, as you can use any SIM you like and sell the phone when you want to upgrade, but you do have to have the money upfront. If you can’t stomach the upfront cost, go with a contract, but work out the total cost of it over the period to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off: if you can afford a bit more upfront, you’ll most likely save over the contract’s length.
Which smartphone operating system do I need?
There are two smartphone operating systems to decide from in 2020: iOS and Android.
You’ll only find iOS on Apple’s own smartphones. Typically, iOS gets apps first and is a wonderfully slick OS. It isn’t as customisable as Android, but there’s no doubt that it’s incredibly easy to use.
Android has a much wider reach than its Apple counterpart and is found on the majority of smartphones on the market. There are many different versions of Google’s operating system available, though. Generally speaking, you’ll want a phone running Android 9 or higher, as older versions will now be outdated. Manufacturers often customise their own versions of Android, which means that the experience can differ between handsets.
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What should I look for in a smartphone display?
As most smartphones are controlled entirely with their touchscreens, the size and quality of a handset’s display is very important. A larger screen will make everything easier to read and is particularly useful for web browsing, but a big display makes for a big phone that you may find harder to carry around.
A screen’s pixel density, measured in pixels per inch (ppi), will give you an idea of how clear and sharp text will appear on a screen – a smaller number of pixels stretched across a huge screen, for example, will lead to jagged edges. Screen technology can also be very important, with AMOLED screens and IPS being the two main technologies, each with their own pros and cons.
What about performance and battery life?
Most smartphones are powered by octa-core processors these days. As a general rule, the clock speed of a processor (measured in GHz) shows how fast the phone is and will give you a rough indication of how fluid the operating system feels, as well as how the phone copes with running apps and games.
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Alternatively, lengthy battery life is one of the biggest things you need to look for when picking up a new phone. Our battery tests help you make the right decision about the handset that’s right for you, but generally speaking the bigger the phone’s battery capacity (measured in mAh), the longer it will last on a single charge.
How much smartphone storage do I need?
Generally speaking, a minimum of 16GB of onboard storage is fine if there’s a microSD slot, but you’ll soon find the internal storage filling up quickly. With more of an emphasis on smartphone cameras in recent years, it’s likely that your Instagram snaps will be the main culprit in using up your storage so we recommend at least 32GB to get you started.
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1. Samsung Galaxy S20/S20 Plus: The best smartphone of 2020 (so far)
Price: From £799 | Buy now from Amazon
Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus are phones of rare distinction. The most complete smartphone duo the company has produced to date, it might cost you a lot more than other handsets on this list but the S20 and S20 Plus are the very best Android smartphones currently on the market.
Okay, Samsung’s latest big-screened beauty might not look like anything different, with its silver-tinted edges and borderless screen, but internal upgrades to Samsung’s homebrew mobile chipset makes this one of the fastest smartphones we’ve ever tested (surpassed only by the iPhone 11 Pro). Not only that, but the new camera features such as the 30x zoom and 8K video recording are a real treat. We’re also particularly fond of the new 120Hz screen, which is a first for Samsung.
Make no mistake, Android phones don’t get much better than this.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.73GHz Samsung Exynos 990; Screen: 6.2in, 3,200 x 1,440; Camera: 12MP, 64MP (zoom) and 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9: The best budget buy
Price: £189 | Buy now from Amazon
Smartphone flagships are getting better and better, but with these top-notch innovations comes an increased cost. Paying almost four figures for the latest top-end smartphone simply isn’t doable for most consumers, but thankfully Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 9 provides a flagship experience at a vastly reduced cost.
Xiaomi’s cheapo handset has seriously reset the benchmark of what to expect from a smartphone in 2020. Equipped with a speedy MediaTek Helio G85 processor, the Redmi Note 9 is a flagship in almost every area, but is a fraction of the price of the usual smartphone big-hitters.
In fact, the Redmi Note 9 doesn’t falter in any area when you consider how little it costs. If you’re craving the latest flagship phones, but seemingly put off by the sky-high price tags, the Redmi Note 9 is where your wallet should be headed.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core2GHzMediaTek Helio G85; Screen: 6.53in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro) and 2MP (depth); Storage: 64GB, 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
3. Samsung Galaxy M31: The best battery life by far
Price: £245 l Buy now from Amazon
Typically speaking, most high-powered modern smartphones will struggle to last more than a single day on just one charge, but the Galaxy M31 surpasses absolutely everything else we’ve tested. Equipped with a gigantic 6,000mAh battery, the Galaxy M31 lasted over 30 hours in a video playback test, surpassing our previous champion, the Lenovo p2, by well over 90 minutes. That’s an astonishing result, and there’s no reason why you can’t expect more than a day’s worth of charge without having to carry a portable battery pack around.
Elsewhere, the Galaxy M31 remains a hugely competent smartphone. Not only does it have an industry-leading battery life, but it also offers one of the best quadruple-camera arrays on the market, and its screen is exceptional for the price too. Rest assured, the Galaxy M31 is one of the most fully-formed smartphones we’ve reviewed to date, and its super low price is simply the cherry on top.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy M31 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.3GHz Samsung Exynos 9611; Screen: 6.4in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (wide), 5MP (macro), 5MP (depth); Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 10
Price: £299 | Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
Google’s Pixel phones are finally moving back to the mid-range. Cheaper variants than their pricier flagship stablemates, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are both excellent in their own right, but it’s the camera that really sets these Android smartphones apart from the competition. The 12.2-megapixel sensor on its rear is superior to the camera on the iPhone X and it’s capable of taking some truly stunning pictures in low-light, thanks to the new Night Sight shooting mode. It doesn’t have any extra lenses like the S10 or OnePlus phones, but if you’re an avid photography fan, the Pixel 3a certainly won’t disappoint – especially considering how little it costs.
Read our full Google Pixel 3a review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2GHz Snapdragon 670; Screen: 5.6in, 2,220 x 1,080; Camera: 12.2MP; Storage: 64GB; Operating system: Android 10
5. Xiaomi Mi Note 10: Making flagships cheaper (again)
Price: £485 | Buy now from Amazon
Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi is just about becoming a household name in the UK, with its affordable flagship smartphones quietly attracting a lot of praise. Its latest offering, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, is its best yet.
Indeed, it’s arguably the most astonishingly priced smartphone we’ve ever tested. For less than £500, the Mi Note 10 is filled with flagship features, including Qualcomm’s beefy Snapdragon 730G processor and a superb colour-accurate screen. The Mi Note 10’s 108-megapixel camera is equally sublime and its 23-hour battery life blew us away. Considering it costs almost half the price as most other flagships on this list, the Mi Note 10 is a solid choice.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon 730G; Screen: 6.47in, 2,340 x 1,080; Camera: 108MP, 12MP (zoom), 5MP (zoom), 20MP (wide) and 2MP (macro); Storage: 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
6. Nokia 1.3: The best smartphone under £100
Price: £80 |Buy now from Amazon
The Nokia 1.3 is a perfect example of not judging a phone based solely on how much (or in this case, how little) it costs. For a good chunk less than £100, the Nokia 1.3 does everything any other smartphone is capable of doing, and you can buy 10 of these for the price of just one Samsung Galaxy S20. Naturally, there are a handful of drawbacks; performance is rather slow and it only has 16GB of internal storage, but for the most part, the Nokia 1.3 is a solid budget pick for those that don’t fancy spending triple figures.
You might be able to find better low-priced handsets if you’re willing to spend just a little bit more, but if your budget is limited, you can’t do much better than the Nokia 1.3 when it comes down to sheer affordability.
Read our full Nokia 1.3 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 215; Screen: 5.7in, 1,520 x 720; Camera: 8MP; Storage: 16GB; Operating system: Android 10 Go
Nokia 1.3 5.71 Inch Android UK Sim-Free Smartphone with 1 GB RAM and 16 GB Storage (Dual Sim) – Charcoal
7. Apple iPhone 11 Pro: Excessive excellence
Price: £1,049 | Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
What’s so special about Apple’s latest flagship? Well, aside from its wallet-scaring configuration options, the iPhone 11 Pro represents a bucketload of improvements for Apple. Its battery life is much, much better – it’s the longest-lasting iPhone ever, in fact – and the cameras are beyond compare in all conditions, especially if you’re planning on shooting video.
What’s more, the iPhone 11 Pro is also the fastest iPhone we’ve ever tested, even surpassing the mighty performances of the long list of Snapdragon 855 handsets. If you’re an Apple devotee, it simply doesn’t get any better this – the only thing to decide is whether to stick with the pocket-friendly iPhone 11 Pro or splurge on the larger iPhone 11 Pro Max. Whatever you decide, for the sake of your bank balance please make sure to protect it in a case.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 1.65GHz Apple A13 Bionic; Screen: 5.8in, 1,125 x 2,436; Camera: 12MP, 12MP (zoom) and 12MP (wide); Storage: 64GB, 256GB, 512GB; Operating system: Apple iOS 13
8. Moto G 5G Plus: The cheapest 5G phone
Price: £300 l Buy now from John Lewis
Even if you’re fortunate enough to live in a 5G catchment area, it’s no surprise that you might not be able to afford the sky-high prices for access to the faster mobile network. Thankfully, the price of 5G handsets has plummeted since the network was first switched on in 2019, and the Moto G 5G Plus is the cheapest 5G smartphone yet, by a particularly wide margin.
Costing less than £300, the Moto G 5G Plus is roughly half the price than the next cheapest 5G phone on the list, the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G. As far as network connectivity goes, it does all the same things as those high-priced flagships, so if 5G access is on your radar, there’s simply nothing better. Even if you aren’t bothered about 5G, the Moto G 5G Plus is still an astonishing smartphone in its own right, with a lavish screen, great quadruple-camera array and solid performance.
Read our full Moto G 5G Plus review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 2.3GHz; Screen: 6.7in, 2,520 x 1,080; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (wide), 5MP (macro), 2MP (depth); Storage: 64GB, 128GB; Operating system: Android 10
9. iPhone SE (2020): The best-value iPhone
Price: £419 | Buy now from Amazon
With the new iPhone SE (2020), you’re getting a heck of a lot of smartphone for not too much money. It might look like a bit of a relic – it shares the same design as the 2017 iPhone 8 – but the iPhone SE is Apple’s best-value handset yet. Why? Well, it’s all about what’s inside: the iPhone SE (2020) uses the A13 Bionic chipset, which is the same processor shared by the pricier iPhone 11.
That means you get the same levels of performance achieved by those four-figured flagships, at just a fraction of the cost. Likewise, the single 12-megapixel camera might seem unassuming at first but actually manages to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone 11 in terms of sheer detail capture, especially when it comes to low-light photography.
The only fly in the ointment is that the iPhone SE’s battery life is quite poor by modern standards. However, if you only have £419 to spend and you’d rather not use a big-screened handset, then the iPhone SE (2020) is a worthy choice. It may be the cheapest iPhone, but it’s still mightily impressive.
Read our full iPhone SE (2020) review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 2.65GHz Apple A13 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in, 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP; Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: iOS 13
10. OnePlus 8 Pro: A simply superb flagship
Price: £899 l Buy now from Amazon
Making the shift from its “flagship-killing” roots in recent releases, the OnePlus 8 Pro is another step along the road to the mainstream for a firm that started out in life as an upstart. It’s certainly a smart move for the company – moving away from the rough around the edges bargain bin handsets to the more rarified air of premium, polished flagship phones. The OnePlus 8 Pro represents the very pinnacle of OnePlus achievements so far, and it’s good enough to rub shoulders with the very best in the industry.
Befitting a modern premium handset, the OnePlus 8 Pro is rammed with the latest mobile technology. It has a large 6.78in AMOLED screen with a silky-smooth refresh rate of 120Hz, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor inside, supports 5G and finally has dust- and water-protection rated to the IP68 standard. It also adds an intriguing colour filter camera – taking an infrared image – and a telephoto camera that offers a 30x digital hybrid zoom.
Strong stuff from what used to be an invite-only affair with OnePlus’ releases. It does everything so spectacularly – from performance to battery life to screen quality – that little else comes close at this price. If you can’t stretch your bank balance to an iPhone 11 Pro or Galaxy S20 Plus, then the OnePlus 8 Pro is a very good value alternative.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.84GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 865; Screen: 6.78in, 3,168 x 1,440; Camera: 48MP, 8MP (telephoto), 48MP (wide) and ToF sensor; Storage: 128GB. 256GB; Operating system: Android 10