Whether you want the latest iPhone 15 or a shiny Android phone, these are the best smartphones on AT&T right now.
Updated Oct. 27, 2023 4:37 p.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.
No matter what you want or use the phone for, there's a device for you. To simplify the decision, we've rounded up our top picks. Each phone on this list meets the requirements for what CNET considers to be a best T-Mobile smartphone. Every phone on this list has been thoroughly reviewed and tested, and you'll find options across iPhone and Android that fit different needs and different budgets. Below we've picked the best T-Mobile phones you can get this year. Read on to learn more about the best AT&T phone for meeting your particular smartphone needs, and check out our tips for how to buy a new phone.
What is the best AT&T phone for most people?
The best phone for iPhone fans is the $799 iPhone 15. It has one of Apple's most recent processors, the A16 Bionic chip found in last year's iPhone 14 Pro, meaning it should support new software features for years to come. The iPhone 15 has the best balance of camera performance and features (like the Dynamic Island) that will feel new to those coming from older iPhones to satisfy most people.
With the Dynamic Island, a USB-C port for more convenient charging and an upgraded camera with a higher resolution and a crisper zoom, the iPhone 15 is a significant upgrade for those with older iPhones. It feels like a scaled back version of the iPhone 14 Pro, making Apple's entry-level iPhone 15 feel like a bigger leap forward than last year's.
The iPhone 15 is available in two size options: the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 and the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus. They run on the same chip as iPhone 14 Pro, the A16 Bionic, which should bring notable performance upgrades to those with an iPhone that's several years old. These phones also have Apple's second-generation ultra wideband chip, enabling a new feature that makes it easier to find friends or family members in a crowd.
Last year's iPhone 14 Pro may be a better choice if you can still find it through third-party retailers at a discount, particularly because it has a dedicated telephoto lens. But the iPhone 15 is the most exciting upgrade Apple's standard iPhone has seen in years. Read our iPhone 15 and 15 Plus review.
USB-C port for more convenient charging.
Colorful matte design.
Improved camera that can automatically take people and pet portraits.
Dynamic Island brings better multitasking.
No always-on display.
Find My Friends feature only works with other iPhone 15 phones.
Apple gave its Pro models a glow-up with a refreshed lighter build, a new shortcut button and the world's smallest processor. And it did all this while managing to keep that tried-and-true iPhone aesthetic front and center. They also made more of a differentiation between the Pro and Pro Max model. The 15 Pro also still has the same familiar 3x telephoto camera found on previous models, while the Pro Max takes that zoom further with a 5x lens.
The brain behind the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is the A17 Pro chip, which has the performance chops to handle console tier video games like Resident Evil Village. If the A17 Pro chip is the brains, then iOS 17 is the 15 Pro and Pro Max's soul. The new OS is filled with lots of quality of life improvements throughout like StandBy mode, Check-In, Stickers in Messages and better autocorrect for the keyboard. The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are some of the best phones released by Apple or any phone maker this year. Read our Apple iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max review.
Lighter and more comfortable to hold
A17 Pro for console video games
Being able to change the focus in Portrait photos is welcome
Google's Pixel 7 Pro packs great cameras and slick software into a refreshed design that makes it one of the best phones launched in the last couple of years. We liked it so much we awarded it a CNET Editors' Choice award for its combination of excellent all-round performance and slightly more affordable price.
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 with 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 with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Starting at $1,200, 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
Google's budget phone took a leap forward in 2023 with the Pixel 7A, which offers many of the same benefits as the Pixel 7 but at a cheaper price. Like the Pixel 7, the Pixel 7A runs on Google's Tensor G2 processor, meaning it has many of the same photo editing and language translation features as its pricier sibling. The Pixel 7A's 64-megapixel camera also takes excellent photos that rival the Pixel 7's in quality.
While we still like the Pixel 7, the Pixel 7A's lower price makes it a better deal for most people. Only opt for the Pixel 7 if you really want a slightly larger screen and are willing to pay the extra $100 for it. Otherwise, the main differences between the Pixel 7 and 7A come down to the former's more durable build, slightly faster charging and its ability to wirelessly charge compatible accessories. The Pixel 7 also has a larger camera sensor that's more sensitive to light, according to Google, but CNET's Lisa Eadicicco didn't notice much of a difference.
Many of the same features as the Pixel 7 at a cheaper price
Gains wireless charging, face unlock and high refresh rate
Screen still looks dim outdoors
Higher price compared with Pixel 6A at launch
Only three generations of Android OS updates compared with Samsung's four
Though it's one of the cheapest phones you can buy from Samsung, the Galaxy A54 stills 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.
Big, vibrant screen
Processor and camera performance lags behind cheaper Pixel 6A
CNET's Lisa Eadicicco called the Google Pixel 6A the "best Android phone under $500" in her review, calling out its solid performance, its 5G connectivity and its excellent camera for its price.
It's since been replaced by the Pixel 7A which offers better processor and camera performance, but you can still pick the 6A up for an even lower price.
The phone has a 6.1-inch OLED display with a refresh rate of 60Hz along with a 12.2-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. The Tensor chip allows for photo technology including the Real Tone skin tone feature, Face Unblur, Night Sight for darker photography and the Magic Eraser, which can remove unwanted elements from a photo.
Premium design for a midtier phone
Among the first to get new Android updates
Somewhat dim display
Not a great value alongside discounted Pixel 6
Not as many years of guaranteed Android updates as Samsung
The Galaxy Z Flip 5 is the biggest leap forward Samsug'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.
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
If you're looking for a good budget phone that comes with a basic stylus and support for 5G, then the Moto G Stylus 5 is a great pick. The cell phone features a stylus that you can store inside the phone along with a built-in Notes app to help with productivity. This phone also offers a triple-rear camera, 128GB of internal storage and a robust 4,000-mAh battery.
Large, useful cover screen
Crease is barely visible
Good battery life
Fun photography features like photo previews
Not as many Android updates as Samsung
Flex View feels limited
Front screen gathers fingerprint smudges easily
$1,000 is still expensive
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Other phones we tested
On the outside, the $699 iPhone 14 inherits the iPhone 13's tried and true flat-sided aluminum design. On the inside, Apple essentially repackaged the iPhone 13 Pro, sans the telephoto camera and high-refresh-rate screen. The result is lovely and the iPhone 14 is a good upgrade for most people. It has a number of safety tools including Crash Detection and satellite connectivity for sending emergency messages when you're out of range of a cell tower. The iPhone 14 also got an internal redesign that helps dissipate heat better and allows its glass back to be repaired more easily and for less money.
How to buy an AT&T phone
Shop the sales: Look for discounts and deals around holidays, especially Amazon's Prime Day and Black Friday.
Ponder what you want most: Do you want a phone with a long battery life? Is camera quality the most important feature? Do you need a big screen? This will help narrow down your choices. Phones like the iPhone 15 Pro or Galaxy S23 Ultra, for example, pack incredible cameras. If you're a photographer, then spending money here is a good idea. If not, you can save yourself a bundle.
Look at cheaper phones: You can get a great phone that does almost everything a more expensive phone can do for a fraction of the price.
Consider last year's phones: Carriers and phone makers often keep phones from the previous year around at a discount.
Buy a case and screen protector: You'll protect your phone from costly damage, and will increase the phone's resale or trade-in value for when you're ready to move on.
How we test phones
We test every phone in real-world scenarios, focusing on its features, design, performance, cameras, battery life and overall value. We document our findings in an initial review that is periodically updated when there are new software updates, or to compare it against new phones from competitors such as Apple, Samsung, Google and OnePlus.
Photography is a major focus for most phones these days, so we take pictures and videos of various subjects in a variety of settings and lighting scenarios. We try out any new camera modes, such as Action mode that debuted with the iPhone 14 line, or the Unblur photo tool that launched with the Google Pixel 7 series.
Battery testing is conducted in a variety of ways. We assess how long a phone lasts during a typical day of use and note how it performs during more focused sessions of video calls, media streaming and gaming. We also conduct a video playback test, as a simple, replicable measure of pure battery life, which isn't always included in the initial review but sometimes added later in an update.
We use benchmarking apps to measure each phone's performance, alongside our own anecdotal experiences using the phone for our review. Of note are how graphics and animations look. Are they smooth? Or do they lag or stutter? We also look at how quickly the phone switches between horizontal and vertical orientations, and how fast the camera app opens and is ready to take a photo.
We perform processor-heavy tasks like editing photos, exporting videos and playing games. We evaluate whether a newer version of a particular phone includes enough features to make it worth upgrading from older models.
All of today's phones pack some kind of camera setup on the back, with most packing multiple ones like ultrawides or telephoto zooms. More expensive phones, like the iPhone 15 Pro, use larger image sensors, better-quality lenses and image stabilization that let in more light, capturing detailed images with beautiful colors -- in daylight and at night. Typically, the more you pay, the better quality you'll get, with the most advanced features being reserved for the most expensive flagships.
What is the best phone case?
There's a vast array of case options for almost every phone on the market, so which one is best really comes down to what you need it for. Many cases are simply there for the style. And while these cases will certainly help keep light scratches and scuffs off your phone, you should look toward more specialized rugged cases if you want to take your smartphone on a rough-and-tumble adventure into the outdoors.
How long should a phone battery last?
Most smartphones -- even those at the top end -- should be able to deliver a full day of mixed use out of a single charge. That means you should have a bit of juice left at the end of your day, but you should expect to give it a full charge when you plug it in next to your bed at night.
How much storage should my phone have?
Most phones tend to come with a minimum of 128GB of storage, which is a good amount for apps, games and locally stored music. But it's important to think about what you'll be doing with your phone. If you want to download and play a lot of games, then consider opting for a higher-capacity version.
What makes a phone a smartphone?
Smartphones let you do more than just make calls; they connect to the internet for web browsing, you can download apps and games, and they typically have cameras capable of taking -- and displaying -- photos and videos. In short, they're just what we know of today as a "phone," and everything on this list qualifies as a smartphone.