High-end flagships smartphones appear in advertisements and dominate review headlines, but these innovative smartphones are often priced at $1,000 or more. With smartphones being released with high-quality components, durable features, and the capability to receive software updates, phones that were flagships one or two years ago can save you hundreds while offering nearly the same experience as the latest and greatest.
It’s that time of year when all the newest Android smartphones are announced and released into the market. Let’s look at 10 phones to consider as you ignore the hype around the shiny new phones coming in the next month or two. They are not in any sort of ranked order, but they are all very capable phones that are definitely worth considering.
Disclosure: ZDNet may earn an affiliate commission from some of the products featured on this page. ZDNet and the author were not compensated for this independent review.
Since the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren is my current top pick for 10 best smartphones, let’s kick off this list with a couple of OnePlus phones. The OnePlus 6T is available for just $349 for T-Mobile customers
The OnePlus 6T is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Dual-rear cameras and a front-facing camera embedded into the large display offer a solid imaging experience. Super-fast charging of the 3,700mAh battery helps you get through a full day, too.
In our full review, we noted the strong cellular reception performance and fact that OnePlus provides updates for its phones for a couple of years so you can trust it to keep performing well.
The OnePlus 7T is a newer phone, but at $599 full price, it must be included on this list. It is an extremely capable phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of UFS 3.0 internal storage. The 90 Hz display offers one of the smoothest experiences seen on an Android phone.
Triple rear cameras let you capture standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto images. There is also a macro mode that lets you capture images from as close as 2.5cm. It’s rare to have this capability on a phone without an external macro lens.
The Warp Charge 30T adapter keeps the 3,800mAh battery topped off in minutes. In our full review, we stated that it was the best smartphone value of 2019 and that continues into 2020. It’s a phone that has secured high ratings and keeps on winning awards.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is an excellent device and perfect for the enterprise, but it starts at $1,100 and doesn’t offer much over what we saw in the Galaxy Note 9.
The Galaxy Note 9 improved on the Note 8 with a better fingerprint scanner, Bluetooth functionality in the S Pen, enhanced audio, and improved camera experience. It is one of the last Samsung phones with a heart rate sensor near the rear camera, which may be important for health tracking needs.
If you look at the specs of the Note 9, you might think it is a current flagship with ample RAM, internal storage with microSD card slot, IP68, Bluetooth 5.0, and a large 4,000mAh battery. It’s an extremely capable phone that can be found for just over $600 on Amazon.
We expect to see Samsung reveal the Samsung Galaxy S20 phones in a couple of weeks, but the S9 and S9 Plus are still available from carriers. These phones are desirable for the microSD expansion card, 3.5mm audio jack, rear fingerprint scanner, and solid imaging experiences.
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with 6GB of RAM, 64GB internal with microSD card, IP68 dust and water resistance, just about every sensor you could imagine, and a large 3,500mAh battery.
Samsung DeX is supported on the S9 and S9 Plus so with a cable you can turn your phone into the computer powering an external display with a desktop-like experience.
Apple’s first iPhone had a center round button below the display, and over time, this button changed to a capacitive one, but still kept that traditional design look and feel for a decade. If you prefer the center home button, then the last phones with that feature are the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, released in late 2017.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are still very capable devices, and unlike most of the older Android phones that no longer get updated, Apple continues to support the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, so you can get the latest version of iOS.
Wireless charging was one new feature added to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. To implement this, Apple switched the metal design to one with a glass back. It’s a convenient method for charging and brought a feature to the iPhone that Android users have been experiencing for years.
You won’t find minimal bezels, a vibrant OLED display, dual cameras, notches, or other modern design features on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, but these two phones have classic looks and elements.
Similar to Apple iPhones, Google’s own phones are also updated regularly and are usually the first to receive the latest Android software and security patches. Last year Google mixed things up by releasing the 3a and 3a XL priced at about half the cost of its flagship models with very little compromise in capability.
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL bring nearly the same amazing imaging experience to a phone with a mid-level processor and al ow starting price of $399. You get a classic, fast rear fingerprint sensor, 12.2-megapixel camera, front 8-megapixel camera, and the classic 3.5mm audio jack.
Apple released the iPhone XR in 2018 and it ended up being one of its most popular models with a lower price than the flagships, but with features that rivaled Android flagships. It was a well-liked iPhone and was succeeded in 2019 by the iPhone 11.
The Apple iPhone XR is offered in various colors, has a large 6.1-inch display, and very long battery life. It has loudspeakers and excellent camera performance while also supporting wireless charging.
The LG G8 ThinQ offers Quad DAC audio, MIL-STD 810G shock resistance, a Google Assistant key with LG specific functions, and capable video recording features. It has a fast rear fingerprint sensor, industry best haptic performance, and solid battery life.
The LG G8 is powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB internal storage with a microSD card slot, IP68 rating, 3500mAh battery, dual rear cameras, and more. It’s getting updated to Android 10 soon as well.
The LG G8 launched at a very affordable $620 and can now be found for $500.
The Apple iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max offer the best from Apple, but the previous generation still runs the same version of the operating system and can be found for a couple hundred less.
The iPhone XS and XS Max are no longer sold directly by Apple but are available on Amazon as new or renewed phones. These phones have dual rear cameras, stainless steel and glass design, snappy performance, and incredible camera performance.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 will be announced in February with multiple models ranging from a smaller sized one up to one packing 5G and taking on the best flagships available. While not priced too low yet, last year’s Samsung flagships were arguably the best smartphones available at the time.
The Galaxy S10 is offered in a small S10e form, S10, and S10 Plus. There is some difference in the cameras, as well as display and battery size. These devices have an interesting feature where you can charge up your Galaxy Buds, or even other wireless charging capable phones, by placing them on the back of the Galaxy S10.
The Galaxy S10 phones are now running Android 10 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processors, plenty of RAM and internal storage, IP68 dust and water resistance, and more. These phones are renowned for excellent cellular reception and fast performance.