How To: The Best Smartphones to Buy in 2024

The Best Smartphones to Buy in 2024

If you're in the market for a new smartphone and want nothing but the best of the best, now's the time to act. Some of the greatest phones money can buy are being released as we speak, while others are still in their prime and will continue to be for most of 2024. Whether you want an iPhone or Android, we've rounded up the best picks you have to choose from for top-of-the-line specs and advanced features.

For this list, we only looked at smartphones available for the U.S. market. That means some of the devices below may have slightly different specs and features in other countries, so keep that in mind.

Jump to a Phone

  1. iPhone 15 Pro Max (Best Overall)Buy on Amazon
  2. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (Best Performance)Preorder on Amazon
  3. Google Pixel 8 Pro (Best Android Overall)Buy on Amazon
  4. OnePlus 12 (Best Value)Preorder on Amazon

1. iPhone 15 Pro Max (Best Overall)

In late September, Apple released its iPhone 15 Pro Max, technically making it the oldest smartphone on this list — but it's still the best phone you can get in 2024. This rings even more true if you're already in the Apple ecosystem.

It has the most intuitive interface, a battery that will last all day, a powerful chip, and smooth performance overall. The iPhone 15 Pro Max excels in portrait photography and cinematic-quality video, and it even appeals to professional photographers and filmmakers with new pro-level camera features. It supports the latest wireless charging technology, so you shouldn't have any problem if you end up getting a new wireless charger down the road.

However, the iPhone 15 Pro Max may not be the best phone for global travelers since you won't get a physical SIM card slot, but it's more than good enough for pretty much everyone else.

Image via Apple

Best Exclusive Features

  • Face ID biometric security
  • Lidar scanner to capture more depth in images and augmented reality
  • Action button with programmable shortcuts

Pros

  • Most intuitive to use
  • Powerful A17 Pro chip with smooth performance
  • USB-C port that supports USB 3 data transfer speeds
  • Reverse wired charging
  • Braided USB-C cable included
  • Excellent camera system
  • Best depth of field in portrait photos
  • 10x optical zoom range
  • Lidar scanner to capture more depth in images and augmented reality
  • Face ID biometric security
  • Action button with programmable shortcuts
  • Best IP68 rating for water submersion
  • MagSafe and Qi2 support
  • Seamless integration with iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS
  • Up to 7 years of OS updates and up to 9 years of security updates

Cons

  • Price (between $1,199 and $1,599)
  • No physical SIM card slot in the U.S.
  • The included cable only supports USB 2 data transfer speeds
  • Fast charging peaks at 27W
  • No reverse wireless charging
  • No generative AI tools
  • No 128 GB model
  • No expandable storage (beyond external drives and cloud storage)
  • No Apple Pencil support

Why You'll Want It

The iPhone 15 Pro series models have quite a few firsts for Apple: a new programmable Action button for quick access to your most-used tool or shortcut, a USB-C port for faster charging and data transfers, Qi2 wireless charging support, reverse charging capabilities to help charge your AirPods and other accessories, Wi-Fi 6E support, 8 GB RAM, spatial video recording, support for Thread mesh networking in your smart home, and log video encoding for color grading and special effects in post-production.

But there are a few things that make the iPhone 15 Pro Max the winner over the smaller iPhone 15 Pro: The camera has up to 5x optical and 25x digital zoom-in (video maxes out at 15x), more advanced optical image stabilization for the telephoto lens, and a bigger battery. If you regularly perform tasks that eat away at your battery life or use your smartphone as your primary camera, these upgrades will help. The camera system includes a 48-megapixel primary lens, 12-megapixel ultrawide, and 12-megapixel telephoto.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max has the best CPU performance compared to other flagship phones, and its GPU is the best yet in an iPhone. Apple's Portrait mode photography keeps getting better and better, with refocusing available in the Photos editor, and you can even record video straight to an external storage device. And while two other phones on this list come with IP68 dust/water ratings, it's the only one that can survive submerged in up to 6 meters of water (instead of up to 1.5 meters) for up to 30 minutes.

With iOS 17, you also get to make your own stickers, turn emoji into stickers, use Safari Profiles, and get easy access to journaling. You can also utilize other beneficial Apple features such as StandBy, Siri, iMessage, Face ID, FaceTime, Apple ProRAW, MagSafe, Emergency SOS via Satellite, Back Tap, Shortcuts, and an always-on display.

2. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (Best Performance)

Apple won't release any new iPhone 16 series models until September at the earliest, but Samsung has already announced its latest Samsung Galaxy S24 series models. The Galaxy S24 Ultra, which will be released on Jan. 31, is definitely one of the smartphones that will be at the top of everyone's Best Phones list for the rest of 2024.

It comes with One UI 6.1, Samsung's Android 14 skin, which includes new artificial intelligence features such as Generative Edit, Live Translate, Generative Wallpapers, and Instant Slow-mo. But that's only just the start.

Image via Samsung

Best Exclusive Features

  • The best slow-motion video recording possible
  • Built-in S Pen
  • Least reflective display glass

Pros

  • Powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip with smooth performance
  • USB-C port that supports USB 3 data transfer speeds
  • Up to 45W fast charging
  • PowerShare (reverse wired and wireless charging)
  • Up to 5x optical zoom
  • The best slow-motion video recording possible
  • Built-in S Pen
  • 12 GB RAM
  • Physical SIM card slot in addition to eSIM
  • High-resolution display
  • Least reflective display glass
  • Generative AI tools
  • Wi-Fi 7 support
  • 7 years of OS and security updates

Cons

  • Price (between $1,299 and $1,659)
  • Not as intuitive as the iPhone's UI
  • The included cable only supports USB 2 data transfer speeds
  • Less optical zoom than its predecessor
  • Slightly heavier than the iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • No 128 GB model
  • No expandable storage (beyond external drives and cloud storage)
  • No Qi2 support
  • No big S Pen improvements

Why You'll Want It

According to Samsung, the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip improves its NPU performance by 41%, GPU performance by 30%, and CPU performance by 20% compared to the Galaxy S23 Ultra. While the Galaxy S23 Ultra's benchmarks couldn't touch the iPhone 15 Pro Max's, the Galaxy S24 Ultra tightens the race and dominates in graphically intensive use cases such as with graphics-intensive games. It's also less likely to get really hot, lag, and crash when overstressed.

The phone's display can reach up to 2,600 nits, topping all but one of the smartphones on this list, so you should have no problem seeing the screen outdoors. The screen is less reflective and more scratch-resistant than both its predecessor and the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Samsung has greatly improved its camera system for the Galaxy S24 Ultra. There's still a 200-megapixel primary shooter, 12-megapixel ultrawide, and 10-megapixel telephoto that goes up to 3x zoom. However, the Galaxy S24 Ultra's second 50-megapixel telephoto (up to 5x zoom) goes above and beyond the Galaxy S23 Ultra's second 10-megapixel telephoto (up to 10x zoom). You can record 4K videos at up to 120 fps and 8K videos at up to 5x zoom.

Plus, the Galaxy S24 Ultra's camera system has a ProVisual engine for AI enhancement, improving the color tone and detail of your photos. There's AI Zoom, which improves zoomed-in pictures, and Generative Edit, which can fill in backgrounds as well as move, resize, and erase objects in the frame.

With Android 14 and One UI 6.1, you also get Circle to Search, Super HDR, Samsung Find, and Photo Ambient Wallpapers. And you can utilize other beneficial Samsung features such as a fingerprint sensor, blazing-fast charging speeds, multi-window view (split screen), system font customization, and an always-on display. The Galaxy S24 Ultra also has wireless reverse charging, giving it a leg up on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

3. Google Pixel 8 Pro (Best Android Overall)

Released shortly after the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the Google Pixel 8 Pro won't have a successor until this fall, so there's no reason to wait if you're looking to upgrade from your current phone. It comes with Pixel UI, Google's exclusive Android skin, which features artificial intelligence tools such as Magic Eraser, Best Take, Zoom Enhance, Video Boost, Magic Audio Eraser, Recorder's Summarize, Smart Reply, and Generative Wallpapers. But the Pixel 8 Pro isn't all gen-AI features.

Image via Google

Best Exclusive Features

  • Most secure Face Unlock on an Android phone
  • Free, built-in VPN
  • Contactless temperature sensor to measure everyday objects

Pros

  • Price (between $999 to $1,399)
  • USB-C port that supports USB 3 data transfer speeds
  • Large battery (5,050 mAh)
  • Battery Share (reverse wired and wireless charging)
  • Large 48 MP ultrawide camera
  • Most secure Face Unlock on an Android phone
  • Lighter than its competitors here
  • 12 GB RAM
  • Physical SIM card slot in addition to eSIM
  • Exclusive Android 14 customizations
  • Free, built-in VPN
  • Contactless temperature sensor to measure everyday objects
  • Generative AI tools
  • 128 GB model for those who don't need tons of storage
  • Wi-Fi 7 support
  • 7 years of OS and security updates

Cons

  • Not as intuitive as the iPhone's UI
  • Slower Tensor G3 chip by Google
  • The included cable only supports USB 2 data transfer speeds
  • No expandable storage (beyond external drives and cloud storage)
  • No Qi2 support
  • No Pixelbook Pen support

Why You'll Want It

Like the other phones on this list, the Google Pixel 8 Pro has a rear multi-camera system and includes a 50-megapixel wide camera, 48-megapixel ultrawide camera, and 48-megapixel telephoto.

You'll also get various Google Photos generative AI features. For photos, there's Magic Editor to help with subject framing, content fill, and lighting improvements, Best Take to help create the perfect group photo from all your less-than-perfect group photo shots, Magic Eraser to help you remove photobombers and other unwanted objects, and Photo Unblur to sharpen images. For videos, there's Video Boost to enhance colors and bring out more details and Audio Magic Eraser to adjust the levels of certain sound elements.

In most comparison tests, Google's generative AI features actually perform better than Samsung's Galaxy AI suite, so that's something to consider if you like experimenting with new artificial intelligence tools.

With Android 14 and Pixel UI, you also get the same Circle to Search tool the Galaxy S24 Ultra has, and you can utilize other beneficial Google features such as a fingerprint sensor, the best Face Unlock security for an Android device, up to 2,400 nits screen brightness, and an always-on display. Google has also promised 7 years of OS and security updates, which is 2 years more than its previous devices.

4. OnePlus 12 (Best Value)

Like the Galaxy S24 Ultra, the OnePlus 12 just came out in the U.S., and it's currently available for preorder with a Feb. 6 release date and a price between $799 and $899, the cheapest on this list.

While it's the least expensive, it does come with a lot of bold features, such as a display that can reach up to 4,500 nits brightness (though typical use will be much closer to the other phones above), the highest display resolution, the fastest wired and wireless charging speeds by a wide margin, the most megapixels for a selfie camera, and an impressive 2,160 Hz rate for pulse width modulation (PWM), which reduces eye strain in dim lighting.

Image via OnePlus

Best Exclusive Features

  • Infrared sensor to control devices in your home without Wi-Fi
  • Adaptive brightness up to 4,500 nits
  • PWM up to 2,160 Hz for less eye strain

Pros

  • Price (between $799 to $899)
  • Powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip with smooth performance
  • Largest battery (5,400 mAh)
  • Fastest wired charging at up to 80W
  • Fastest wireless charging at up to 50W
  • Reverse wired and wireless charging
  • Fast charging power adapter included
  • 32 MP front-facing camera
  • Up to 16 GB RAM
  • Dual nano-SIM card slot in addition to eSIM
  • Infrared sensor to control devices in your home without Wi-Fi
  • Adaptive brightness up to 4,500 nits
  • PWM up to 2,160 Hz for less eye strain
  • Wi-Fi 7 support

Cons

  • Not as intuitive as the iPhone's UI
  • Comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable
  • Least impressive rear camera system
  • Weak IP65 dust/water resistance rating
  • No generative AI tools
  • No 128 GB or 1 TB model in the U.S.
  • No expandable storage (beyond external drives and cloud storage)
  • No Qi2 support
  • No OnePlus Stylo or OPPO Pen support
  • Only 4 years of OS updates and 5 years of security updates

Why You'll Want It

The OnePlus 12 is most similar to the Pixel 8 Pro when it comes to the rear multi-camera system. It has a 50-megapixel wide camera and a 48-megapixel ultrawide camera like the Pixel 8 Pro, but it jumps to a 64-megapixel telephoto. The OnePlus 12 also sports the highest resolution front-facing camera at 32 megapixels, which is over 2.5 times higher than the next best front camera on this page.

Like the Galaxy S24 Ultra, the OnePlus 12 has a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip and can capture video up to 8K resolution. In performance tests, the OnePlus 12 comes very close to the Galaxy S24 Ultra, but it manages to still get beat in every benchmark. But most of those margins are small, so you can expect a smooth experience overall.

One of the most exciting features is the OnePlus 12's impressive 2,160 Hz pulse width modulation (PWM) rate, surpassing the competition's max 480 Hz rates. I won't get into the science of it all, but the slower the PWM, the more noticeable the flicker on the display is. And that flicker is a big contributing factor to eye strain in dim lighting, whether you notice it or not, which can cause headaches and even nausea in some people. So, with a faster PWM, the OnePlus 12 makes the flicker harder to see and feel.

Another prominent feature that knocks the competition down is the OnePlus 12's charging speeds. With the OnePlus SUPERVOOC power adapter (included in the box), you can get up to an 80-watt wired charging speed. There's even an 80-watt car charger you can get for on-the-move charging. With that speed, you can go from 1% to 100% battery power in just 30 minutes. Even more impressive is its 50-watt wireless charging speed using OnePlus' AIRVOOC wireless charger, which can take your battery from empty to full in as little as 55 minutes.

The OnePlus 12 is also the only phone on this list with an IR blaster, a feature that most phone manufacturers have phased out long ago. So, if you have other electronics in your home that are not connected to Wi-Fi, like an old TV or stereo, you can use the infrared sensor to control them.

The downside to the OnePlus 12 is that OnePlus has only promised 4 years of OS updates and 5 years of security updates, the lowest future support of any of the phones on this list by at least 2 years. So you'd find yourself updating more frequently. Given the cheaper price, that may not be such a bad thing.

The Verdict

While the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best overall smartphone that gives you impressive features in every category and is most enticing to people already using other Apple devices, you may want to choose one of the other phones if you're looking for specific traits.

For example, the Galaxy S24 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro will let you experiment with tons of gen-AI features. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the only phone that lets you use a stylus and has the least reflective display. And the Galaxy S24 Ultra is best for gaming, with the OnePlus 12 not far behind (though you may want to wait for the upcoming ASUS ROG Phone 8, which is specifically designed for gaming).

The OnePlus 12 will give you blazing-fast charging speeds, a brighter screen, fewer headaches from display flickering, and the highest-resolution front camera. The OnePlus 12 and Pixel 8 Pro offer top-of-the-line specs at a cheaper cost. The Pixel 8 Pro will receive new Google features faster than other devices, and it's the only phone with a gimmicky temperature sensor.

Any phone except the iPhone 15 Pro Max is good if you're a traveler and frequently pop in physical SIM cards for different locations or need to use your phone to charge your other devices wirelessly.

Yet, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is more versatile with wireless charging thanks to MagSafe, Qi, and Qi2 support, something none of the other devices have. It's also the only phone with a lidar scanner, which helps in augmented reality use cases, more depth information in portrait photos, and portraits in darkly lit environments.

If you're into photography and video recording, any of these phones will do well for you. The Galaxy S24 Ultra may be the most impressive overall, but the Pixel 8 Pro's cameras are more refined, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max excels in portraits and professional filmmaking. The OnePlus 12, with an equally fascinating camera system, will be more than enough for most casual users.

What About Foldable Phones?

We didn't include a foldable phone in our Best Phones list because it's still a gimmicky item. However, if you want to try your hands at a folding smartphone, the Google Pixel Fold (starts at $1,799), OnePlus Open (starts at $1,699), and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (starts at $1,799) are all great tablet-sized foldables. In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 (starts at $999), Motorola Razr ($699), and Motorola Razr+ ($999) will give you a smaller smart/flip phone hybrid.

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