Best phones 2022: the very best smartphones to buy now

Discover the best smartphone for you in T3's guide to the best phones on the market in 2022

Best smartphone 2022: Hero image showing Android phone on laptop
(Image credit: Kenny Leys Unsplash.com)

There are stacks of phone options to choose from in 2022, so where do you even begin? Let our best smartphones guide show you the way to your ideal device.

In this guide, we dissect the top handsets from both Apple (opens in new tab) and Android (opens in new tab) camps, many of them high-end flagships, but some selected for their balance of price to features (if you want budget options, check out our best cheap phones (opens in new tab) guide). 

Given that our phones act as our do-everything devices - camera, navigation, comms, entertainment, gaming - it’s important to really consider the priority features that matter to you when picking an ideal phone. And now that we're into the back to school season, those heading off to school, college or university are going to need one of the best phones to keep in contact with their friends and family back home, and to keep them on time and on track with their studing.

Below, we've rounded up the best smartphones for 2022, including models from Apple, Samsung, OnePlus and many more.

What are the best phones 2022?

Here's our pick of the top 3, followed by the best of the rest.

The best premium Apple phone is the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The biggest and best iPhone lasts longer than its predecessor, delivers super cameras, and is undoubtedly the top-tier Apple device for 2022.

The best premium Android phone is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. A gorgeous design, superb cameras, even an integrated S Pen stylus for added versatility, Android phones don't get any more sophisticated than this.

The best phone for most people is the OnePlus 10 Pro. Great features but at a cut of the price, that's the real appeal of OnePlus. Here you get power and decent cameras without the massive price tag.

The best phones you can buy in 2022

Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra packs in everything - and then some

(Image credit: Future)
The best flagship Android phone right now

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm / 229g
OS: Android 12
Screen: 6.8 inches, 3200 x 1440 pixels
CPU: Exynos 2100, 12GB/16GB RAM
Storage: 256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh, 45W fast charging
Rear camera: Quad: 108MP, 10MP, 10MP, 12MP
Front camera: 40MP

Reasons to buy

+
Seriously powerful hardware
+
Versatile camera with AI features
+
S Pen stylus comes in a handy slot 

Reasons to avoid

-
It's pricey 
-
No microSD card slot
-
S Pen stylus won't be for all

Samsung rules the roost when it comes to premium Android phones, the Galaxy S22 Ultra being the pinnacle of its range, featuring a gorgeous design, subtly curved display, even a built-in S Pen stylus to add greater versatility to the software experience. 

Around the back are a quartet of cameras, arranged in exposed lenses as part of this design, that really deliver quality through wide-angle to various zoom steps. It's super easy to use and the results speak volumes. 

All this does cost a fair chunk of change, of course, but we think it's worth every penny - even if you're unlikely to use the built-in S Pen.

Want to know more? Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review for the full breakdown about this top-end Android phone

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

The biggest and best iPhone is the Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)
The best flagship Apple phone right now

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: : 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.7mm / 240g
OS: Apple iOS 15
Screen: 6.7 inches, 1284 x 2778 pixels
CPU: Apple A15 Bionic
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 4352mAh, 27W charging
Rear cameras: Triple: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Pro Motion fast refresh screen is large and luscious
+
Outstanding for photo and video
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
It's bulky and heavy
-
No distinctive special features over the iPhone 13 Pro

Described in T3's review as "the ultimate iPhone", it's easy to see why the Pro Max version of the iPhone 13 is the best of the best in Apple's range. It's got an incredible screen and improved battery life compared to its predecessor, so it'll go the extra mile. 

It's a fairly big and heavy phone given the huge range of quality components here - such as the triple rear cameras, which deliver superb results (despite being lower resolution than much of the competition) - but carrying around the extra grams is worth it in our view. 

Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review to see if Apple's top handset is the right match for you

OnePlus 10 Pro review: phone face down on leafy backgroundT3 Award

The best phone for most people costs a cut less cash than the priciest flagships

(Image credit: Future)
The best phone for most people

Specifications

Dimensions: 163 × 73.9 × 8.55mm / 201g
OS: OxygenOS / Android 12
Screen size: 6.7 inches, 3216 x 1440p pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 8GB/12GB RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery: 5,000mAh, 80W fast-charging
Rear camera: Triple: 48MP + 8MP + 50MP
Front camera: 32MP

Reasons to buy

+
6.7-inch QHD+, 120Hz display
+
Powerful efficient performance
+
Seriously fast charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Other phones have a better battery life
-
Camera can be a bit inconsistent

OnePlus has risen through the ranks year on year, offering serious spec for a not-so-serious price point. It's that balance of features to price that make the OnePlus 10 Pro so appealing and, for many, it'll be an ideal and more affordable phone choice. 

It's the stunning 6.7-inch screen here that we found to be the best feature - especially thanks to its 120Hz fast refresh rate and high-res 10-bit colour depth quality - for great quality gaming and entertainment experiences.

Another feature we really love about this phone is just how fast you can charge it up - it only took us about 30 minutes to take it from empty to full. That’s game-changing - and it's a good job given that the battery life is otherwise just okay. 

Check out our full OnePlus 10 Pro review to read why we think it's the best Android phone for most people

Top phones 2022: The best of the rest

Oppo Find X5 Pro review: hand with yellow nails holding a phoneT3 Approved badge

Superb design and great cameras from this Oppo handset

(Image credit: Future)
The best Android phone design

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 163.7 x 73.9 x 8.5mm / 218g
OS: ColorOS 12.1 based on Android 12
Screen size: 6.7 inches, 3216 x 1440 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 12GB RAM
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 5,000mAh, 80W fast-charging
Rear camera: Triple: 50MP + 50MP + 13MP
Front camera: 32MP

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning QHD+ screen with 120Hz refresh
+
Long-lasting battery and fast-charging
+
Impressive camera system

Reasons to avoid

-
No microSD card slot or headphone jack
-
Expensive

The Find X5 Pro is an ideal alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S22 series, delivering a gorgeous design finished in ceramic and a really impressive camera system. And just like the OnePlus further up this page, there's ultra-fast charging too.

If you’re big on photography then the Find X5 Pro is a real stunner, its dual 50MP main/wide cameras and 13MP telephoto camera are able to take super pictures - helped along by Oppo's own processing hardware that helps it stand apart from the crowd. It's the cameras that are a real big win here.

Read our full Oppo Find X5 Pro review to get a better look at this stylish handset and its super cameras

Google Pixel 6 ProT3 Award

The best pure Android phone experience goes to Google's hardware

(Image credit: Future)
The best phone for a pure Android OS experience

Specifications

Dimensions: 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm / 210g
OS: Android 12
Screen size: 6.71inches,1440 x 3120 pixels
CPU: Google Tensor, 12GB RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery: 5000mAh, 30W charging
Rear camera: Triple: 50MP + 48MP + 12MP
Front camera: 8MP

Reasons to buy

+
QHD+ display with 120Hz refresh rate
+
Staggeringly good AI photography features

Reasons to avoid

-
Still no optical zoom camera
-
No charger in the box

Google is the godfather of Android, so it almost goes without question that it makes the best pure Android phone. That's exactly what the Google Pixel 6 Pro delivers.

The software is always one step ahead of anything else on the market, bringing the latest and greatest features before any other, which is one of the key reasons to buy into Google's hardware. 

But that's not all. The Pixel 6 Pro's camera setup is astounding when it comes to low-light and wide-angle shots - it even adds a zoom lens that lacks in the standard Pixel 6. There's also Google's own processor, called Tensor, that's super fast and easily crunches through images and pretty much any task you'd care to throw its way.

Feeling a pure Android handset is best for you? Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review to learn more

Xiaomi 12 ProT3 Approved badge

Super for entertainment: Xiaomi's 12 Pro has a brilliant screen

(Image credit: Future)
One of the best screens in an Android phone

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 163.6 x 74.6 x 8.2mm / 180g
OS: MIUI 13 based on Android 12
Screen size: 6.73 inches, 1440 x 3200 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 12GB RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery: 4,600mAh
Rear camera: Triple: 50MP + 50MP + 50MP
Front camera: 32MP

Reasons to buy

+
Superb screen for entertainment
+
Strong triple rear cameras

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life fairly weak
-
Some software quirks

If you're power hungry then the Xiaomi 12 Pro is ideal. It packs the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, just like a number of the 2022 flagships on this list - but in our tests it actually performed better than most of those! Smooth, fast and reliable: it's well suited to everything from gaming to photo editing. 

More than the high-end performance, though, we've been massively impressed by the screen, which offers heaps of resolution and brightness (including HDR10+ support), making it an ideal match for gaming and streaming. Everything looks exceptional.

There are some downsides though: the battery life only scrapes through a day - but at least you can recharge it in only 20 minutes thanks to 120W charging - while the cameras have limits, as there's no jaw-dropping zoom like you'll find in, say, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.  

Fancy taking the underdog a walk? Read our full Xiaomi 12 Pro review to learn more about this impressive Android flagship

Apple iPhone 13T3 Approved badge

The baby of the iPhone range is still a super buy if you don't want a bulky iPhone

(Image credit: Future)
The best phone for most people

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm / 174g
OS: Apple iOS 15
Screen: 6.1 inches, 1170 x 2532 pixels
CPU: Apple A15 Bionic, 4GB RAM
Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
Battery: 3240mAh
Rear camera: Dual: 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Great screen
+
Sensible size
+
Top performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks Pro Motion fast refresh
-
Limited zoom range

The smaller iPhone option is still a super phone - indeed we think many will prefer the 6.1-inch screen here over the Pro or Pro Max models - and easily pocketable. We called it "the iPhone for everyone" in our review. 

Smaller size does mean smaller battery life, though, but it's an improvement over its predecessor so will last you through the day. All while delivering stacks of power for a truly flagship Apple experience - just one without the physical bulk and scale of some others. 

Is the baby iPhone the flagship Apple phone for you? Read our full Apple iPhone 13 review to learn more

Samsung Galaxy S22T3 Approved badge

A great smaller-scale Android flagship

(Image credit: Future)
The best small-scale Android flagship phone

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 70.6 x 146 x 7.6mm / 168g
OS: Android 12
Screen: 6.1-inches, 2400 x 1080 pixels
CPU: Exynos 2200, 8GB RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Rear cameras: Triple: 12MP + 50MP + 10MP
Front camera: 10MP
Battery: 3,700mAh, 25W charging

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning Dynamic AMOLED 2X display
+
Loads of new AI-based camera features
+
Powerful hardware

Reasons to avoid

-
Not that different to the S21
-
S22 Plus and S22 Ultra exist

If the physical scale of the Ultra - not to mention the built-in stylus, curved screen, and additional expense - isn't appealing, but you're fixed on buying a pocketable yet near-perfect Android flagship, then the Galaxy S22 is a great choice. 

It's not wildly different to the earlier Samsung Galaxy S21 model, but that's no matter, as it still delivers a great dollop of style, a super 6.1-inch display, plus a versatile cameras arrangement. 

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review to see if this modest sized Android flagship is the right choice for you
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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra reviewT3 Awards 2021 winner badge

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packs in everything and then some - and it's a great buy for less than the latest

(Image credit: Future)
The best last-gen Android flagship on the market

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm / 229g
OS: Android 11 (at launch)
Screen size: 6.8 inches, 3200 x 1440 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, 12GB/16GB RAM
Storage: 256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh, 25W charging
Rear camera: Quad: 108MP, 10MP, 10MP, 12MP
Front camera: 40MP

Reasons to buy

+
Superb WQHD+ screen with 120Hz refresh
+
Hyper premium internal hardware
+
Versatile, feature-packed camera
+
S Pen digital stylus support (not included)

Reasons to avoid

-
Still pretty pricey
-
S22 Ultra adds integrated S Pen stylus

A generation older than the Galaxy S22 models found in this guide, but that's exactly why the S21 Ultra remains on our best phones list - because you can pick it up for less cash. 

That may be a great option for many, too, as this top-end handset has cameras almost identical to the top-tier S22 Ultra, a design that's still a delight to look at and handle, and great battery life. 

Unlike the S22 there's no built-in S Pen stylus here, but if you obtain one then it is compatible. And if you'd never use one then, well, nothing to worry about - you'll be free to just focus on what a stellar handset the S21 Ultra is.

Check out our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review to see why this super handset won a T3 Award in 2021 and could be the phone for you

Realme GT 2 ProT3 Approved badge

This rising brand delivers stacks of spec for a smaller price, making it the best for lower budgets

(Image credit: Future)
The best affordable yet powerful Android phone

Specifications

Dimensions & Weight: 163.2 x 74.7 x 8.2mm / 186g
OS: Realme UI 3.0 over Android 12
Screen: 6.7 inches, 1440 x 3216 resolution
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 8GB/12GB RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
Battery: 5,000mAh, 65W fast-charging
Rear cameras: Triple: 50MP + 50MP + 3MP
Front cameras: 32MP

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible performance for the price
+
Unique eco-conscious design

Reasons to avoid

-
Camera could be improved
-
Not all will love the design and logos

All about performance without the typical price, the Realme GT 2 Pro delivers flagship-level specs, including really fast charging, the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 platform, and a great screen.

Another unique feature of the Realme GT 2 Pro is the design: its back is designed to look and feel like paper. While it won't be for everyone, we think it's great to see something different to the norm - especially in the green finish of our review sample, as pictured - and there's eco-conscious materials sourcing in the production process too.

Check out our full Realme GT 2 Pro review to see if this affordable yet high-spec handset is the Android phone for you

Samsung Galaxy S21 phones in various colors

There is plenty to consider when buying the best phone for you.

(Image credit: Samsung)

How to choose the best phone for you

Choosing the right phone is no easy task, as there are so many on the market and, truth be told, many of them are very similar. There are some core questions you should ask yourself before pulling the trigger on a smartphone upgrade, though.

Firstly, you need to establish if you're going to buy the phone SIM free (as in buy the phone outright upfront) or on contract. Both these options have their own strengths and weaknesses.

For example, buying a phone outright, and especially if it is a premium handset, can cost a lot of money, so you need to be able to swallow that. Once the phone is bought, though, then it is yours and you can go about getting one of the best SIM only deals, which offer better allowances for less money.

On contract purchases are great in the sense that they often put the phone in your hand for comparatively very little money or even for nothing, but then you need to pay for the phone over the period of your contract, which is tied to a network SIM plan that, most of the time, doesn't offer as good allowances or value as a SIM only one.

Next up you should ask yourself what you budget is, and what you're primarily going to be using the phone for. If you're a gamer then you're going to need to ensure you have a phone with good gaming functionality, while if you're a creative then you could benefit from a phone with digital stylus support. Equally, if you love taking photos then you need to prioritise a phone with a great camera system, while if you're a massive streamer then bagging a phone with a large screen is smart. If you're a busy working professional who travels a lot, then you'll want a phone with a large battery.

Once you've identified your needs and budget you can start to get more granular with your sorting. Next up we'd suggest identifying which OS and phone platform is right for you. The two main ones are Apple's iOS, which runs on all the maker's iPhones, as well as Android. iOS tends to be better for people who don't have too much technical knowledge and just want a streamlined, heavily guided usage experience, while Android is more open and complex.

Finally, once OS is decided start to add or take away features that you need or don't. For example, reverse wireless charging is really neat, but not every user will need it or use it, while phones that comes with huge amounts of RAM or storage may be useful for enthusiasts, but would go unused by many others. 5G connectivity is great and it is the future, but if you live in an area where there is no 5G coverage then do you really need a 5G phone?

These are just a few of the things we recommend people consider before buying a new phone, but we feel that providing each person does their research well (something this buying guide can help with), there's an ideal mobile for everyone.

Samsung Galaxy mobiles are some of the best phones on the market today

(Image credit: Samsung)

How we test the best phones

There's a lot to consider when reviewing one of today's best phones, and for T3 we have a detailed five-stage process that each new device goes through.

Firstly, we judge the phone from a build quality and fit and finish point of view, as well as how comprehensive its package is. This stage is very much ascertaining how a phone feels in the hand, how robust it looks and what extras it does or doesn't come with. If a phone has a cheap plastic backplate and a spongy screen then we'll find out and let you know.

Next up we review the phone from a setup and hardware point of view. This stage sees us set up the phone as we would if it were our own, as well as examine exactly what hardware it comes with, such as its processor, RAM, storage and GPU, among other things. The goal here is to see how accessible setup is and what, on paper, your money is buying you.

Thirdly, we then move onto the phone's software and highlight features. So, for example, on Android we test out how good the phone maker's user interface skin is, as each one if definitely not made equal. Or, for example, if testing a new Galaxy Note phone, we'll absolutely test out its digital stylus. We also test features like biometric security, fingerprint readers and reverse wireless charging.

Our forth stage of testing is dedicated purely to the phone's camera system, as truth be told they are one of the most important parts of a phone today and a primary reason why people choose one model over another. This stage involved taking photographs with the phone and testing out each of its main shooting modes, as well as analysing what video capabilities are on offer, too.

Lastly, we then consider each phone from a purely experiential point of view – as in, how is it like to use on a daily basis? This is a really important part of our testing as it strips away all the technical jargon and components and is just intended to reveal how good it is use. This procedure takes one to two weeks and often also encompasses battery testing.

Only then, when all five of these phone review procedures are complete, do we award a score to a phone, with 5 stars been the highest rank a product can get.

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Mike Lowe
Mike Lowe

Tech Editor at T3, Mike handles all things tech – from phones, tablets and laptops, to gaming and computing. He's been working as a consumer technology journalist for the best part of 15 years, previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, and has provided freelance work to publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more over the years. In addition to his tech expertise, Mike is also a bit of a travel fiend, having travelled the globe extensively for both personal and work-related pursuits. You'll always find him setting up a new mobile phone, or critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next get-away. 

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