Today most new phones are shipped with 5G modems and that means the pool of potential best 5G phones is getting bigger very, very quickly.
What's even more remarkable, though, is just how quickly 5G technology has decreased in price point over the past few years, with now even budget-market handsets shipping with 5G connectivity capabilities. Just a couple of years ago 5G was the preserve of flagships alone.
The best 5G phone for one person is likely different to that of another, though, and with so much choice at so many price points, T3 has stepped forth to create a curated list of what we consider the finest 5G handsets on the market today.
This guide focuses exclusively on 5G phone models, so there's a lot of overlap with the mobiles in our best phones and best Android phones guides, but we'd recommend checking those out too: the market really is very competitive right now.
For phones that we've picked due to their 5G connectivity first and foremost, though, consult this bunch of handsets.
The best 5G phones you can buy today in 2022
The Samsung Galaxy S22 is not just the best 5G phone for most people, but it is the best Samsung phone for most people, too, as well as a great shout as the best Android phone as well. It's a brilliant jack of all trades, basically.
It's stylish and powerful, too. You can bag it in four colours, including Phantom Black, Phantom White, Pink Gold or Green, while it's 6.1-inch screen looks bigger than it is thanks to tiny bezels and an equally small pin hole selfie camera.
In terms of core tech you're treated, too, with the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor being backed up by 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage space. In our Samsung Galaxy S22 review we found that the handset performed incredibly quickly in both benchmarks and real world usage tests.
We also found during testing that the Galaxy S22's screen is a real doozy. It's a 120Hz capable Dynamic AMOLED 2X number that can automatically adjust refresh rate depending on what you're doing (all the way does to 10Hz!), which is useful as it helps conserve battery life.
And that energy conservation is good as if there was one area where the S22 isn't the bomb then it is battery life. You get a 3,700mAh battery stack and it's fine, but this is more to do with Android 12 optimisations and clever tech (like the dynamic refresh rate screen), rather than it sizing.
That aside, though, if you want a great all-round phone with rapid 5G network connectivity, then the top choice on the market is the Samsung Galaxy S22.
The OnePlus 9 Pro offers next-gen 5G connectivity as well as a suite of advanced phone technology, which is why it is our top recommendation for the best premium 5G phone.
Super fast 5G connection aside, the phone delivers a truly top-tier suite of hardware, including a 120Hz, QHD+, HDR10+ display, which manages to outpunch even the best panels from Samsung, Sony and Huawei right now.
Internal hardware consists of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 CPU, Adreno 660 GPU, up to 12GB RAM and 256GB of UFS3.0 storage, which combines to deliver buttery smooth performance in games and apps, while unlike past OnePlus flagships the phone also delivers IP68 water and dust proofing.
Unlike previous OnePlus flagship phones, the OnePlus 9 Pro also comes with a proper flagship-grade and performing camera system, too, with the whole system co-designed by camera experts Hasselblad. Quite simply it is the best camera system on a OnePlus phone to date.
It's not perfect, as the battery life is good but not great, and there's a strong argument that the OnePlus 9 offers better value for money, but if you want a premium 5G phone then the OnePlus 9 Pro will not disappoint.
Anyone who tells you that getting 5G on a phone is going to cost you a lot of money hasn't come across the TCL 10 5G: not only does it offer 5G, you also get a very decent screen, processor and camera as well, and all for a very affordable price point.
Some corners are cut to get the phone to this price – no waterproofing, no wireless charging – but you can't have many complaints considering the amount you're paying. TCL is relatively new to the smartphone scene, even though it's a veteran in the electronics industry, and we're impressed with what it's pulled off here.
Apart from the 5G that's on board, it's perhaps the display that has the most appeal here. It's bright and vivid, and you get a host of software tweaks that you can apply to really make the colours pop if you need to (when watching Netflix, for example).
For Apple fans there is one top choice for the best 5G phone for them, and that's the Apple iPhone 12. Released alongside the iPhone 12 Mini (great for small hands) and iPhone 12 Pro (great for those with deep pockets), the iPhone 12 delivers everything an Apple phone fan needs.
Naturally, 5G connectivity is excellent, with all 5G bands covered (great for future proofing and travelling abroad), while the phone also boasts a best-in-class 5nm A14 Bionic CPU, which smokes the best Android has to offer in benchmarks.
The screen, despite not delivering a 120Hz refresh rate, is a stunner, too, with it delivering a pin-sharp HDR10 Super Retina XDR panel that has a remarkable 1200 nits peak brightness.
As you would expect, the iPhone 12 also delivers Apple's typically high build quality and it runs the latest version of iOS, too, in iOS 14.2. There's also plenty of colors to choose from, as well as storage capacity variants, ranging from 64GB up to 256GB.
Overall, as we note in our iPhone 12 review, "the iPhone 12 is the ideal iPhone for most people, thanks to class-leading screen quality, high-quality cameras and great future-proofing (including 5G)." Enough said.
To see if this phone can match a quality 5G phone rival from the Android stable, be sure to check out T3's Apple iPhone 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE comparison feature.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, which was released early on in 2022, offers all the great core functionality of the Samsung Galaxy S21, including its 5G connectivity, but does so for a more palatable price.
On top of that rapid 5G connectivity is an incredible 120Hz FHD+ screen, a suite of premium hardware that includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 CPU and a choice between 6 and 8GB RAM, as well as a long-lasting battery.
Naturally, as it is a Samsung device, you get full access to the shiny new Android 12 software and the Google Play store. You also get the choice of four cool new colourways: Lavender, Graphite, White and Olive.
In our official Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review we concluded that it's 'well-rounded and easily matches up to the competition from OnePlus and Google. You’ll get a good amount of power, a fantastic screen, decent battery life and a high-quality camera system'.
There's a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, and if you can manage the cost, it's undoubtedly one of the best Samsung experiences you're going to get this year. It features a brilliant design, a more than capable camera, and internal specs that mean it will outpace almost every phone on the market.
The biggest reason for buying the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, though, is of course that S Pen – scribble on the lock screen, control the camera remotely, unleash your creative side, and more. If you need a phone with a stylus for serious work on the go, this phone has you covered.
5G is on board, as the name of the phone suggests, which means you're covered for years when it comes to next-gen connectivity – and considering you've got the Exynos 990 or Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset (depending on region) running everything, this isn't a phone that'll be slowing down anytime soon.
As we've said, the price is a little on the eye-watering side, but for something you're going to use every day for years to come, you might consider it worthwhile. The triple-lens rear camera with 5x optical zoom deserves a mention too, as it's capable of capturing some fantastic snaps in any kind of lighting.
Depending on your region this phone could be called the Motorola One 5G or Moto G 5G Plus, so don't get confused when looking around. Despite the multiple names, though, what is important is that it remains a great cheap 5G phone to buy.
You get 5G connectivity as well as loads of other good stuff, including a very large 6.7-inch screen and long lasting 5,000mAh battery. Yes, things like the Snapdragon 765 CPU are mid-range, but performance on the device is snappy and at this low price understandable.
The Motorola One 5G also comes with an astonishing six camera lens, with a quad-array on the back and a double array on the front. It also runs Android 10 out of the box and delivers full access to all Google apps and games.
Overall, this is a great 5G phone pick for those shopping on a budget.
The Sony Xperia 1 II is unique in our best 5G phones guide for two reasons: firstly it has a 4K resolution screen, and secondly that screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio. These two factors make it a true powerhouse when it comes round to watching movies and TV shows.
Obviously, to make this list it also delivers rapid 5G connectivity, and as you would also expect it is no slouch in terms of hardware and performance. The Xperia 1 II delivers a Snapdragon 865 CPU, Adreno 650 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB storage drive, which is on par with all the other premium handsets on the market today.
Other things to note is that this phone still comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, so those with wired headphones won't need an adapter to use them, and that it runs Android 10 out of the box.
Yes, the price is rather high with the Xperia I II, but that screen and 5G connectivity mean to us that is to be expected – if you want the best you have to pay for it.
Having 5G support is no longer restricted to the high-end flagship devices, if you're on a tight budget then there are still options out there for you. The Realme 8 5G is one of them, offering decent specs and fast speeds for a seriously low price.
Not only does it deliver speedy internet when you're out and about, but it will also cope with most tasks you could throw at it. In fact, the Realme 8 5G performs just as well as some of the more mid-range devices on this list. Admittedly it is far from a gaming phone but considering just how cheap it is you'll get a lot out of it.
You'll also get a lot when it comes to the display - boasting a 6.5inch screen with a 90Hz refresh rate and 600 nits peak brightness. It's large and bright enough for most uses like watching videos or catching up on emails.
Okay, so there are a few downsides like the fact that this phone isn't waterproof or even water-resistant and it lacks wireless charging. But if you can look past those points then this will be a good choice.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G has been on the market for a few years now and, after being teased at MWC 2019 and going on sale in May 2019, it's been a true star in showing that top 5G phones can be sold for low price points. Even now in 2021 it remains a great 5G phone.
5G aside, the Mi Mix 3 is a strong device, with a magnetically sliding 6.39-inch OLED display embedded in a sleek bezel-less design (93.4% screen-to-body ratio), and a suite of hardware that includes a maximum of 10GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space, as well as a dual rear camera system (24MP + 2MP). We were certainly impressed with the non-5G version of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3.
Most exciting for users looking to upgrade to a 5G phone this year is the smartphone's price, which is significantly lower than many other best 5G phones. Indeed, the Mi Mix 3 5G proves that you don't have to break the bank to get a rapid 5G phone.
Our next Samsung pick in this list is the one to go for if you want a quality 5G Samsung phone for as little cash as possible: the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G. It comes with all the usual Samsung qualities (speedy, well designed, great screen) but won't make you part with your life savings.
And you're getting a whole lot in return for your money too, including a triple-lens rear camera (with one camera a 48MP monster), a generous 6.7-inch screen and a big 4,500mAh battery. Some corners are cut – no IP68 waterproofing and no wireless charging, for example – but overall it's a fantastic deal.
It's fantastic to see 5G phones coming down in price, and the Samsung Galaxy A90 5G should be the start of an ongoing trend where 5G becomes more affordable. We'll add more great 5G phones to this list as we come across them.
5G explained: what is 5G?
5G is the successor to 4G (or LTE), which succeeded 3G (spot the pattern...). As phones and the network infrastructure become 5G-capable, we can all start enjoying faster upload and download speeds, among many other 5G phone benefits.
How much faster is a 5G phone connection? It depends on your device, location, and network, but improvements of around 15-50 percent should be possible day-to-day in the real world. Hypothetically, in lab conditions, 5G can improve on 4G many more times than that, so there's room to grow: imagine full 4K movies downloading in a minute or two, and you're in the right area.
5G isn't just about speed though, about simply being able to watch 4K Netflix on the train home. It's also about capacity, and being able to get a stronger signal in crowded areas. In other words, you shouldn't lose connection anywhere near as easily at a crowded sports stadium or a music festival, for example.
Be sure to check out T3's dedicated 5G explained feature if you want even more information about 5G technology and what it can do for you.
Why is 5G important?
In terms of the impact of 5G, think augmented reality (computer graphics merging with the real world), virtual reality, improved streaming resolutions, holographic displays, enhanced power and next-gen cloud computing... 5G is a significant jump forward for phones.
With so much bandwidth available, we're seeing plenty more gadgets and devices getting online too (self-driving cars and so on).
Partner these exciting developments with the other phone advancements charging over the horizon, such as totally notch-less and bezel-less displays, and its easy to see why many commentators are pegging 2021 as another big year of change for smartphones.