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

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Best phone
(Image credit: Samsung, Apple)

Our best phones 2019 list has changed dramatically thanks to new smartphones that keep being released: the Galaxy Note 10 in August, iPhone 11 in September, and soon, the Google Pixel 4 in October. It's smartphone buying season, for sure.

It's an expensive investment, whether it comes from Samsung, Apple or Google. A lot of these phone prices start at $1,000, so you'll want to take your decision seriously. But don't worry: we're here to help guide you.

You might be thinking already about saving money with the the forthcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals - so just bookmark those hyperlinked pages to make sure you're getting access to the top curated deals from across the web by our in-house experts. Yes, these will include phones too - including ones from this list, though the discounts will mostly hit Android handsets.

Today's best phone has a big screen, yet is easy to handle; packs a camera suite capable of replacing a point-and-shoot; and has enough processor power and battery to get work done while you're on the go. You won't find smartphones with slowdown and anything less than all-day battery life on this list.

Tomorrow's top smartphone? That'll probably be a 5G phone, like the Galaxy S10 5G, and then, eventually, a foldable phone with 5G, starting with the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold. But foldable phones are unproven, and 5G in the US isn't in enough cities around the country to recommend. Our list will remain practical.

Why we have more than a No. 1 pick: We have a top pick, but not everyone looks for the same smartphone features. Some will demand iOS 13 and cling to Apple's iMessage, while others will want customizations and Google Assistant tools available in Android 10. Our phone reviews and best phone list reflect that diversity. 

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. While we've seen more unlocked phones in the US in 2019, not all are available for every carrier. We have to take that into account when recommending phones, and we favor those that are completely unlocked or available on the four major carriers.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only a couple of months away, and we'd expect to see a lot of discounts on the products listed here over that period so you may want to hold off buying just yet.

Our pick for best phone isn't just crowning the newest iPhone and calling it a day, though our list does have a lot of familiar names: Apple, Samsung, Google and LG, all in the top 15. Newer companies in the US like Huawei and OnePlus make the list, too, though their limited availability is noted.

Best phone at a glance:

  1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
  2. iPhone 11
  3. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
  4. iPhone 11 Pro Max
  5. Google Pixel 3
  6. Samsung Galaxy S10e
  7. OnePlus 7 Pro
  8. Huawei P30 Pro
  9. Samsung Galaxy S10
  10. iPhone XR
  11. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
  12. iPhone XS
  13. Google Pixel 3 XL
  14. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
  15. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

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1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

A big phone with a few new features

Release date: March 2019 | Weight: 175g / 198g (ceramic) | Dimensions: 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm | OS: Android Pie | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 3040×1440 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 8/12GB | Storage: 128/512GB/1TB (up to 1.5TB with card) | Battery: 4,100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP | Front camera: 10MP + 8MP

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.

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: After some time with the standard Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10e, we can say for sure that the S10 Plus beats them out. 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