Want the fastest data possible? Check out our picks for the best 5G phones out there.
Updated Nov. 22, 2023 5:00 a.m. PT
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
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Andrew LanxonEditor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Nearly every phone from Apple, Samsung and Google, including the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro, Galaxy S23 and Pixel 7 lineup, is 5G-ready. That means these smartphones come equipped to deliver the fastest possible data speeds across your wireless network. And while they tend to be pricey, there are plenty of affordable 5G options like the Google Pixel 6A and Apple's cheapest, the 2022 iPhone SE. Rest assured, you should be able to find a good 5G-ready phone at a price you're comfortable with.
Though it won't replace 4G in its entirety, 5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. 5G works fast, and many industries and products can benefit from the upgraded network, including drones, self-driving cars and internet-of-things devices. Its growth across the US, the UK and the wider world has been fast, but it's still not everywhere quite yet, so make sure 5G coverage is available -- or at least coming soon -- in your area before you spend your cash on a 5G-enabled handset. With 5G handsets being offered by every major phone manufacturer now, it can be difficult to work out which is best for you. We've done some of the hard work and put together a list of our top 5G-enabled phones that you can go and buy right now.
What is the best 5G phone right now?
In 2023, there isn't one specific phone that stands conspicuously head and shoulders above the others. If you're an iOS user the best phone you can buy is the iPhone 14 Pro. It has an A16 Bionic processor, a new main camera with a larger and higher megapixel sensor, and the Dynamic Island, a display cutout that shows system alerts and background activities.
If you're on Android, our favorite phone is the Google Pixel 7 Pro. We like it better than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra mainly because, at $899, the Pixel 7 Pro costs $300 less than the S23 Ultra. The Pixel has an upgraded camera, runs on Google's Tensor G2 chip and comes with exclusive goodies like Photo Unblur.
Apple's iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max bring a variety of changes, including a new customizable Action button, powerful camera upgrades, thinner bezels, a lightweight titanium design and the new A17 Pro processor. All these upgrades come together to make for an experience that feels fresh and fast compared with older generations.
It's the most expensive iPhone you can buy, especially if you opt for the larger Max version, but if you want the high performance and stellar camera quality of Apple's top phone, then the iPhone 15 Pro is for you. Read our iPhone 15 Pro review.
The Action button is fantastic
Main camera takes excellent photos
A17 Pro chip is blazing fast
Telephoto camera still not the best in low light
Wish there was an easier way to simplify the always-on display
Google's Pixel 7 range has seriously impressed us with the combination of a slick refreshed design, superb cameras and a smooth overall experience which makes both these phones a joy to use. At $599 the base Pixel 7 is an affordable option for those of you looking for a solid Android phone for all of your everyday needs.
The Pixel 7 Pro has a larger $899 price tag, for which you get a larger display and a more fully-featured camera system that includes a superb telephoto zoom lens. Otherwise its processor and interface is the same as the cheaper model, so it's worth considering how important the extra camera features are. Read our Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro reviews.
The Galaxy S23 is a lot, but in a good way. It's more than most people need in a phone, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. Samsung made improvements to the camera's resolution (200 megapixels compared to 108 megapixels), color tones and dynamic range, while retaining the same edgy design and massive 6.8-inch screen as its predecessor. There's also a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that's been optimized specifically for Samsung's phones, which brings faster performance compared to the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
With a starting price of $1,100, it may be an understatement to call this phone expensive. But those willing to pay more for a giant screen and a high-quality, versatile camera won't be disappointed. Read our full review of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Excellent main camera, especially in low light
Double the storage in the base model
Four years of Android OS updates
Photos don't always look natural, especially selfies
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the biggest leap forward Samsung's flip phone has seen in years. Samsung has significantly expanded the size of the cover screen located on the outside of the device, meaning you can look up directions, take photos and send messages without opening the phone. It's this combined with the Z Flip's solid battery life and sturdy design that makes it a top pick.
The Z Flip 5 may be our favorite flip phone, but there are still some drawbacks to be aware of. At $1,000, it's still expensive for a phone without a telephoto camera. And not all apps work natively on the front screen as they do on the Motorola Razr Plus. Read our review of the Galaxy Z Flip 5.
Big cover screen is fun to use
New hinge eliminates the gap when closed
Solid battery life
More storage in base model
Not all apps work on the cover screen natively
Apps don't transition from main screen to cover screen
Though it's one of the cheapest phones you can buy from Samsung, the Galaxy A54 still packs great features, like 5G connectivity, a decent multiple rear camera setup, solid battery life and power enough for your everyday essentials. It looks pretty, too, and it's one of the few remaining phones that lets you expand the built-in storage using microSD cards.
It's a great all-round budget phone, although generally we found that the Pixel 6A offers better camera and processor performance, and it costs less than the Samsung. Read our review of the Galaxy A54 5G.
Big, vibrant screen
Processor and camera performance lags behind cheaper Pixel 6A
The Lenovo ThinkPhone by Motorola has a lot going for it, from its palatable regular $700 price to its unique aesthetic, easy compatibility with PCs and smooth 6.6-inch screen. But it's the ThinkPhone's incredibly fast charging that truly makes it stand out. It supports 68-watt fast charging and notably comes with a compatible power adapter in the box, making it one of the fastest-charging phones you can buy in the US. In CNET's testing, the ThinkPhone's battery went from empty to 92% in 30 minutes.
Still, every phone has its drawbacks. The cameras on the ThinkPhone struggle in low light, which means it may not take the best photos in dim restaurants and bars. And even though it's a great value at $700, there are some cheaper alternatives that are also compelling, such as Google's Pixel 7A. Read our Lenovo ThinkPhone review.
The OnePlus Nord N30 5G includes a lot of features for the money, but its 50W charging speed is a standout for this price range. The phone can charge from 0% to 100% in 45 minutes, and most other phones that cost $300 or less need 90 minutes to two hours to do the same thing. Its large 6.72-inch 1,080p display that runs at a 120Hz refresh rate also makes apps, games, websites and streaming video animate smoothly.
However it's worth calling out that the 108-megapixel main camera -- despite being an astounding megapixel number on a phone -- takes photos that are only marginally better than what I usually see from phones in this price range. While the OnePlus does face stiff competition from Google's Pixel 6A -- especially when the Pixel is discounted to $270 -- it does include a lot of functionality for its price. Read our OnePlus Nord N30 5G review.
The Pixel 6A may be more than a year old, but its often discounted price still makes it a tempting choice for Pixel fans on a budget. CNET's Lisa Eadicicco called it the "best Android phone under $500" in her initial Pixel 6A review in 2022, calling out how it keeps the same Tensor chip seen in the higher-end Pixel 6 and many of its features.
The phone is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6, featuring an 6.1-inch OLED display and a refresh rate of 60Hz. And it has a similar camera to the Pixel 5A, including a 12.2-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. But by including the Tensor chip, photos can benefit from its Real Tone skin tone feature, Face Unblur, Night Sight for darker photography and the Magic Eraser for removing unwanted elements from a photo. Read our Pixel 6A review.
Premium design for a middle-tier phone
Among the first to get new Android updates
Somewhat dim display
Not as many years of guaranteed Android updates as Samsung
The iPhone SE may be the cheapest phone Apple produces, but it still comes with superfast 5G. While it lacks the camera prowess of the much more expensive iPhone 13 Pro, it runs the latest iOS 15 software and uses the same processor found in the higher-end models, making it a great phone for everyday use and light gaming. Read our iPhone SE (2022) review.
The $700 OnePlus 11 is a powerful phone that's well equipped to handle gaming, video streaming and other common tasks. In typical OnePlus fashion, this phone is also cheaper than the Galaxy S23 and Pixel 7 Pro. The cameras aren't the best, but they're fine for casual photographers that just want to capture their next vacation or a night out.
What sets the OnePlus 11 apart from many of its rivals is its blazing fast 100-watt fast charging, which can replenish the battery in just 25 minutes. (The US version only supports 80-watt charging, but that's still an improvement over the Galaxy S23 Ultra's 45-watt charging). Overall, the OnePlus 11 is ideal for those who want a powerful phone that charges quickly and won't break the bank. Read our full review of the OnePlus 11.
Incredible performance for gaming
Slick, refreshed design
Five years of security support
Cameras are good but not great
Better waterproofing on rivals
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Other phones we tested
The $450 Samsung Galaxy A54 5G proves, you can get a phone with solid performance for a very reasonable price. It packs a 6.4-inch display, an octa-core processor that offers enough power for daily essentials (including light gaming) and a camera that does a decent job of handling your out-and-about snaps. Its 128GB of storage will be enough for most people, and those who need more space can expand it with microSD cards up to 1TB in size.
The $1,400 Sony Xperia 1 V retains all the best features of previous Xperia 1 phones, like a 4K high refresh rate display, expandable storage, cutting-edge cameras with eye-tracking autofocus, a 5,000-mAh battery, a dedicated hardware shutter button and a headphone jack, all wrapped in Sony's lovely, mundane utilitarian design. The phone brims with numerous quality of life improvements for its target audience of creative types like photographers, filmmakers, musicians and gamers who want nuanced control over the content they make. But its $1,400 price tag keeps this phone squarely aimed beyond most consumers.
The $1,000 Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is a gaming phone that takes nearly every feature to the extreme. It has a 6,000-mAh battery, a 6.7-inch AMOLED with high refresh rate and touch sampling rate, 65W wired charging and even a door on the back for a detachable fan to keep the phone's Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip as cool as possible. The software is optimized and easily customized for gaming including touch sensitive areas on the sides of the phone that double as shoulder buttons for games.
How we test phones
Every phone on this list has been thoroughly tested by CNET's expert reviews team. We actually use the phone, test the features, play games and take photos. We assess any marketing promises that a company makes about its phones. And if we find something we don't like, be it battery life or build quality, we tell you all about it.
We examine every aspect of a phone during testing:
Design and feel
We test all of a phone's cameras (both front and back) in a variety of conditions: from outdoors under sunlight to dimmer indoor locales and night time scenes (for any available night modes). We also compare our findings against similarly priced models. We have a series of real world battery tests to see how long a phone lasts under everyday use.
We take into account additional phone features like 5G, fingerprint and face readers, styluses, fast charging, foldable displays and other useful extras. And we, of course, weigh all of our experiences and testing against the price so you know whether a phone represents good value or not.
Consider last year's models: They can often be a great deal, too. Many companies keep previous generation models of their phones around at a lower price.
Try it out before you buy it: The best way to know if you like a phone is to actually go to a store and try it out.
Prioritize which features are the most important: Do you want a large screen? Are cameras the most important feature for you? What about battery life? Narrow down your choices. This will save you time and money.
Don't discount affordable phones: You can get a great phone that does almost everything that a flagship can do for a fraction of the price.
Save with sales: Companies and retailers usually roll out deep discounts around major holidays, especially Amazon's Prime Day and Black Friday.
5G phone FAQs
Are 5G phones more expensive?
Yes. As more and more phones are released that support 5G connectivity, the prices of those phones have typically gone higher. Part of the increase in price is for the 5G modem. And while the majority of phones now include 5G connectivity, not every phone's price has risen. The iPhone 14 Pro still has the same $999 price that the 13 Pro, 12 Pro, 11 Pro, XS and iPhone X had when each was released.
Is a 5G phone better than a 4G phone?
Technically, no. A smartphone's cellular connectivity doesn't really determine whether a phone is better than another. Having 5G support on a phone does help future-proof it as carriers continue to roll out and upgrade their towers to 5G. Since the majority of phones now come with 5G support, there really isn't a way to compare them to 4G ones. For example, the iPhone 14 Pro supports 4G and 5G. There isn't a 4G-only version in the US.