Best phone in the US for 2019: the top 15 smartphones we've tested

null

The new year has just begun, and with CES 2019 on the horizon, we've assembled our list of picks vying for the top spot as best phone in the US. Apple released the iPhone XS, XS Max and the more affordable iPhone XR. The new OnePlus 6T hit the market with a price well below its competition while its specs and design are highly competitive. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 continue to stand out. And, Google’s new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have been contenders for the best camera phone.

It can be hard to keep track of all the great phones on the market, but we’ve thoroughly tested all of the best and determined which stand above the rest. We’ve got all the specs and details for you to compare and detailed accounts of how each phone performs. Whenever a new phone comes out, we’ll see how it stacks up against the current roster of top smartphones. So, whether you’re excited about a new iPhone or Android coming out or heard that a new phone has the best specs around, you can see where it ranks among the best smartphones right here.

With all the phones ready to compare, we’ll make one thing clear. The best phone isn't simply the new iPhone, although our list is made up of familiar names: Apple, Samsung, Google and LG, all in the top 10. 

The good news is that our team of smartphone experts has tested the best phones released in the United States, and advocating the right one to buy is more than just a hunch for us. We'll tell you which phone is best and explain why on this page.

We test out the latest and (sometimes) greatest phones in comprehensive mobile phone reviews. That's our job. We're here to separate the best from the mediocre. To drill down to a list of our favorites in the US for January 2019, we based our newly updated rankings system on a lot of geeked-out factors: design, performance, battery life, camera quality, and consistency software updates. The truth is they're all so close, but you want to walk away with the greatest phone for you.

Why we have more than just a No. 1 pick: Your personal preference among iOS 12 and Android Pie could sway you to another device besides our top-ranked phone. No one in the US wants to get rid of iMessages, and we understand that. Likewise, Android is better for a lot of people who like to tinker with their settings – that's Google's speciality with its mobile OS.

Likewise, your contract with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile is a preference. The best phone for AT&T may not be available on-contract on Verizon, and vice-versa. We have to take that into account when recommending phones.

If you didn't catch it the first time, spoiler alert, our top pick isn't just Apple's iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. We're not that predictable. Before you lock into a binding contract or spring for an expensive unlocked phone, consult our best phone guide, updated regularly.

Image 1 of 10

Image 2 of 10

Image 3 of 10

Image 4 of 10

Image 5 of 10

Image 6 of 10

Image 7 of 10

Image 8 of 10

Image 9 of 10

Image 10 of 10

1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

A big phone with a few new features

Latest and greatest specs
Good cameras and software
New features are fun, but not must-have
Pricey, as expected

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is the best phone you can get for Android right now, if you're just going by specs. Naturally, as the first flagship of 2019, its new Snapdragon 855 processor is the big standout here with even better performance than the phones that closed out 2018. Add in a few cool new (but not essential) features, Samsung's stunning-as-ever display and design as well as top specs and you have a true flagship - for a true flagship price, of course, starting at  $999 / £899 / AU$1,499 / AED 3,599.

Screen: The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display is gorgeous, but that's not surprising. it's the same size as the Galaxy Note 9's screen, and far larger than the Galaxy S9 Plus' 6.2-inch display. The 'Infinity O' display ditches the notch for a punch-hole in the top right corner. Yes, it's twice as wide as the hole in the S10 and S10e, but how else will you fit in the extra selfie camera? This choice (and thin bezels) enable a stunning 93.1% screen-to-body ratio, which keeps the phone as slim as possible.

Battery Life: The S10 Plus' 4,100mAh battery is Samsung's largest yet, just nudging past the Note 9's 4,000mAh and far beyond the 3,500mAh one in the Galaxy S9 Plus. While that didn't lead the new phone's battery life to outpace its predecessors, it still kept it going through the full day with 10%-30% to spare in our casual testing. This is, of course, with standard settings: bump up the resolution from Full HD+ to QHD+, brighten the display or keep it on longer, and the battery will drain faster.

Camera: The S10 Plus has three cameras on the back: a 12MP regular lens, a 12MP optically zoomed telephoto lens, and a new 16MP ultra-wide lens. We found the photo quality to be a bit variable - perhaps due to the dual-aperture main lens - with good but not consistent low-light performance. It's not quite up to par with the Google Pixel 3's Night Vision mode, but it still outpaces most other phone cameras on the market. The two front-facing cameras allow depth for Portrait mode-style photos, which is worth the wider punch-hole gap in the display.

Mini verdict: We haven't gotten a close look at the S10 and S10e just yet, so we can't say for sure that the S10 Plus beats them out - but we're pretty confident. It has the best specs, cameras and battery life of the whole set, and it's not too much more expensive than the other models. If you want a phone that will blow every other device out of the water in early 2019 - as well as its in-screen fingerprint sensor and reverse charging - this is your only real option. 

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review