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Best phone 2022: the 10 top phones you should consider buying

Best smartphones
The best smartphones we've tested and reviewed (Image credit: TechRadar / Samsung)
Editor's note: September, 2022

With the launch of the iPhone 14 series, this buying guide has seen a few big updates to change the order of gadgets  –  mainly with the addition of Apple's newest. Samsung's newest folding phones have also snuck their way onto the list, though lower down.

There's a lot to bear in mind when choosing the best smartphone for you. Mobiles are one of the most important gadgets you can buy in this day and age, and you need to make sure that what you're getting is the most ideal one for you.

Since we test nearly every new smartphone that's launched, from both massive brands like Apple and Samsung and small up-and-comers like Vivo and Realme, we're here to help. We wrote this list of the best smartphones up based on this testing, and it's our definitive rank of the handsets you should consider buying. 

The top three options here cover a range of prices. So, whether you've got all the money in the world or are on a budget, there's something for you in this guide – though our list of the best cheap phones might help if you're in that latter camp.

Included are the specs of each phone, and what we liked and didn't like about it - this is to help you if you have a certain spec or feature you're looking for, like top cameras or a great-looking display. It's worth thinking about your wants and needs before you start shopping around.

If you've got more specific tastes, we've got some other guides too: maybe you want one of the best iPhones on the market, or instead think one of the best Android phones might be more your cup of joe.

Obviously, we can't cover every single good smartphone in this list - it's just the top of the top, or the SparkNotes version of the best smartphones you should consider buying.

Keep checking back though, because every time we give a smartphone a positive review, we make it a contender for this list - that means the ranking can change often - as it has done recently, with members of the iPhone 14 line now included.

Best smartphone 2022: which phone is for you?

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra being held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
The best smartphone money can buy

Specifications

Release date: February 2022
Weight: 228g
Dimensions: 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm
OS: Android 12
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3088
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 / Exynos 2200
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP
Front camera: 40MP

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible cameras and zoom
+
Excellent little S Pen

Reasons to avoid

-
No microSD slot
-
Battery life could be better

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a strong phone in almost all aspects - its camera are fantastic, its screen looks incredible, it's got loads of processing power, our list could go on. There are one or two reasons that you might want to read further into this list: the Galaxy charges slowly, is very large and costs a lot, so depending on what you're looking for it might get a red 'X' mark for that. But for most people, the handset's strength across the board makes it the best smartphone to consider.

Why it's the best phone overall: While many phones have one strong element, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is an all-rounder, and that's why it's listed as our best phone. No matter if you're a passionate photographer or frequent gamer, you'll find the device great. The phone also has an S Pen stylus, which is a useful extra for note-takers and doodlers. Plus, in our benchmark tests the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra scored incredibly highly, sitting in the top few products in our lists, and so it's great for gaming or video editing, or any other intensive process like that.

Screen: The S22 Ultra's 6.8-inch screen has a 1440 x 3088 resolution (for 500 pixels per inch), a 120Hz refresh rate, and a very high peak brightness of 1,750 nits, which makes it nicely visible even in bright sunlight. We found that everything looked fantastic on this display, and a variable refresh rate means it can drop to 1Hz to conserve battery when a high refresh rate isn't needed.

Battery life: The battery lasts for about a day - as long as you're using it normally, and not for non-stop video recording or something equally draining - which is surprising given how some top-end phones have bad battery lives.

Camera: The camera is great for its versatility. If you want you can take great-looking ultrawide shots, or zoom all the way in with 10x optical and 100x digital limits to get close to your subject. There are also loads of useful modes, like a Portrait mode that takes wonderful pictures of people or Single Take which uses AI to pick the best picture from a selection of them.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

The Realme GT 2 being held in a hand

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best budget option

Specifications

Release date: February 2022
Weight: 195g
Dimensions: 162.9 x 75.8 x 8.6mm
OS: Android 12
Screen size: 6.6-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8/12GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 50MP + 8MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Powerful processor

Reasons to avoid

-
Software is buggy
-
HDR camera weak

If your budget doesn't stretch to some of the other, more premium phones on this list, then you should consider the Realme GT 2. It costs half of the amount that most of the other devices on this list do, and even less than half in some cases, yet its specs are impressive. This being a budget phone, there are some rough edges - we found the software rather buggy, and there's no telephoto lens for zoom photography. But given how much you're spending, this is a bargain.

Why it's ranked 2nd: From a pure specs perspective there are many better phones than the Realme GT 2, but when you factor in price and value, this strikes a superb balance, offering decent specs at a remarkably low cost.

Screen: The Realme GT 2 has a vibrant 6.6-inch OLED display with a FHD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. In our review we found that it would sometimes misrepresent photos, but that it otherwise displayed good colour - with a few different display settings to choose between.

Battery life: There's a big 5,000mAh battery and the charging is wonderfully quick. In fact, it'll run rings around the Samsung or Apple devices elsewhere on this list. In our tests, we found it powered from empty to full in less than 43 minutes.

Camera: The phone has a 50MP main camera that's great for taking colorful pictures, and it's also great in low-light conditions. In fact, the Sony sensor at play here trounces some of the other 50MP cameras in the above phones when you're taking night pictures, and we loved taking shots in the dark with it.

Read more: Realme GT 2 review

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max full home screen

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

3. iPhone 14 Pro / iPhone 14 Pro Max

Apple's newest iPhones for 2022

Specifications

Release date: September 2022
Weight: 206g / 240g
Dimensions: 147.5 x 71.5 x 7.9mm / 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.9mm
OS: iOS 16
Screen size: 6.1-inch / 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532 / 1284 x 2778
CPU: A16 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: 3,200mAh / 4,323mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Exquisite design and excellent build
+
Clever and impressive Dynamic Island

Reasons to avoid

-
Still just 3x optical zoom
-
Limited zoom photography

Why they're ranked 3rd: The iPhone 14 Pro line is a significant upgrade, sporting a new 48MP camera, a Dynamic Island in place of a notch, and the expected power boost, along with various new modes and features which make these seriously accomplished phones.

Screen: The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max both have a 120Hz refresh rate and can get very bright, with the main difference between them simply being the size. Specs wise they're similar to the previous models, but the notch is gone, with a new 'Dynamic Island' used instead.

Battery life: These phones offer slightly better battery life than their predecessors according to Apple, and in our reviews we found they both lasted long enough to see you through a busy day and night, with the Pro Max potentially lasting longer still.

Camera: The new 48MP main camera is a big upgrade for these phones and the highest megapixel count we've yet seen in an iPhone. These handsets also perform well in low light, but the optical zoom tops out at a disappointing 3x.

Read more: iPhone 14 Pro review | iPhone 14 Pro Max review

The iPhone 13 Pro being held in a hand

(Image credit: TechRadar)
Great smartphones for iOS fans

Specifications

Release date: September 2021
Weight: 204g / 240g
Dimensions: 146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.7mm / 160.8mm x 78.1mm x 7.7mm
OS: iOS 15
Screen size: 6.1-inch / 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1170 x 2532 / 1284 x 2778
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: 3,095mAh / 4,352mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Great performance
+
Strong battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited design changes
-
Notch still too large

If you're an Apple fan, then the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are among the best smartphones you should consider - we've combined these two handsets into one entry, as the only big difference between them is the screen size. These iPhones arguably don't quite compare to the top Android phones - or to the newer iPhone 14 Pro line, but they come close.

Why they're ranked 4th: The iPhone 13 Pro phones used to be the best and most powerful iPhones on the planet, but the iPhone 14 Pro mobiles beat them by a bit. They're more powerful than the iPhone 12 Pro handsets thanks to their newer A15 Bionic chipset, and we found them to be super fast to use, whether you're just swiping between menus or playing loads of games.

Screen: The iPhone 13 Pro has a 6.1-inch 1170 x 2532 display and the iPhone 13 Pro Max ups that to a 6.7-inch 1284 x 2778 one, but both have a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate and both look great, if not quite as sharp as some phones.

Battery life: We found the phones to both last about a day between charges - that's about the limit of what you can expect from a powerful flagship phone. While the Pro has a smaller 6.1-inch screen and the Pro Max has a larger 6.7-inch one, the battery is also bigger on the Max, which is why battery life is comparable.

Camera: These Pro phones tout three rear lenses - they each have a main, ultrawide and telephoto (or zoom) camera. You're getting the classic iPhone camera experience here with great night mode, video modes and selfie tricks.

Read more: iPhone 13 Pro review | iPhone 13 Pro Max review