Reviews: These Are the Absolute Best Smartphones To Buy in 2022

Best Smartphones Review Roundup Featured
John Velasco | SPY

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In 2022, there are more smartphones than ever, making it even more challenging to determine which ones are the absolute best of the best. Investing in a smartphone still costs a lot of money, so it’s important to figure out which will be the best for you and your needs.

They also cover the gamut, ranging from affordable models that are easy on the pockets to drool-worthy flagships showing off the incredible range of today’s technology. There are even innovations, such as foldable smartphones, that are transforming the phone’s utility. Luckily for you, SPY has rigorously tested the best smartphones of 2022 to make the selection process a little easier.

  

The Best Smartphones At a Glance

1. Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra$1,072.50 at Amazon
2. Runner Up: Apple iPhone 14 Pro — $999.99 at Best Buy
3. Best Camera Phone: Google Pixel 6 Pro$899.00 at Amazon
4. Best Value: Apple iPhone SE (2022)$429.00 at Amazon
5. Best Folding Phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 — $925.82 at Amazon
6. Best Mid-Range Phone: Google Pixel 6a — $398.95 at Amazon
7. Best Battery Phone: OnePlus 10 Pro$799.99 at Amazon
6. Best Gaming Phone: Redmagic 7 Pro$849.99 at Amazon
8. Best Rugged Phone: AGM Glory G1S$599.99 at Amazon
9. Fastest Phone: OnePlus 10T$649.00 at OnePlus
10. Best Under $300: TCL Stylus 5G$79.99 at Metro
11. Best Thin Design: Motorola Edge+$672.28 at Amazon
12. Also Consider: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 — $1,599.99 at Amazon
13. Contender: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max$1,099.00 at Amazon

Best Smartphones Review Roundup

  

SPY Smartphones Reviews: Comparing the Best Smartphones of 2022

You’re probably familiar with many of the phones on our list. Companies like Apple, Samsung, and Motorola are well established in the mobile space, but we checked out and tested devices from other manufacturers. We also specifically looked at models that were released in the last year.

  

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

BEST OVERALL

Best For: Power users who want it for productivity, gaming and capturing memories.

Why We Chose It: Nothing else matches its utility, features and performance.

Full Review: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Man using Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for phone call, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is without question the best smartphone of 2022. It narrowly edged out its main rival, the iPhone 13 Pro Max, mainly because of its class-leading 10x optical zoom lenses. When it comes to capturing photos and videos, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has every angle covered with its quadruple camera system, complete with a 100x hybrid zoom that gets you closer to your subjects than ever before. We even had a professional photographer capture some stunning images with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

It’s also one of the few smartphones accompanied by a stylus, the S Pen, which is handy for jotting down notes and drawing. What we’re most astounded by is that you can connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse to the Galaxy S22 Ultra and have access to a true desktop experience courtesy of Samsung DeX. Seriously, it’s incredible you get this kind of power in something that fits in your pocket. We were also impressed by the screen’s peak brightness output, measuring over 1,000 lux in our testing.

Pros:

  • Beautiful design
  • Excellent cameras
  • Added utility with S Pen
  • Desktop experience with DeX

Cons:

  • It’s pricey
  

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

RUNNER UP

Best For: Just about anyone who wants a reliable phone.

Why We Chose It: Not only is there attention to detail with its gorgeous design, but Apple invested a lot into enhancing the intuitiveness of the iOS experience as well.

First Look: Goodbye to the Notch, Hello to Dynamic Island Experience

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Always On Displays Courtesy of Apple

On the surface, it’s distinctively an iPhone because of the resemblance it shares with its predecessor, but the iPhone 14 Pro makes a compelling case as one of the best smartphones of the year. Yes, it’s much faster and packed with even better cameras to conquer low light situations with ease. However, we found that Apple focused heavily on the experience more so this time around than the last few iterations.

Most notably, there’s the ‘Dynamic’ Island that covers the area of the earpiece. It’s far more discreet looking than the notches on the last few iPhones, but Apple sprinkles in some utility. That’s because the Dynamic Island will animate and change depending on the actions and notifications happening with the iPhone 14 Pro. Paired with an Always-On Retina Display, the experience is one of the most intuitive yet that Apple has deliverd.

It’s also the phone with the most accessories, including a slew of cool MagSafe accessories such as battery packs, cases and even wallets. You’d be surprised by what the best iPhone accessories have to offer.

Pros:

  • Intuitive Dynamic Island
  • Record-breaking brightness
  • Incredible cameras perform well under low light
  • Emergency satellite SOS

Cons:

  • eSIM could frustrate some users
  

Google Pixel 6 Pro

BEST CAMERA PHONE

Best For: Serial photography snappers who want excellent results with cool editing features.

Why We Chose It: No other phone offers free cloud storage for photos and video.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

One look at the Google Pixel 6 Pro, and you know it means business with its trio of cameras. In addition to covering the complete range, we love the Pixel 6 Pro for its post-processing magic that enhances the photos we capture. The dynamic range is outstanding on this smartphone because it balances out the shadows and highlights, all while boosting the colors and contrast to deliver stunning shots.

However, the biggest reason we love the Google Pixel 6 Pro is that you get free cloud storage courtesy of Google Photos. That way, your photos will stay preserved, and you can even relive some of those memories with the highlights feature of Google Photos. With other phones, you’re forced to pay for a subscription for cloud storage, but not with the Google Pixel 6 Pro. Just be sure to pick up a handy camera cover case.

Pros:

  • Google Photos free cloud storage
  • Fluid performance
  • Stock Android experience
  • Amazing dynamic range

Cons:

  • Glass strip over cameras is fragile
  

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

BEST VALUE

Best For: Budget spenders who want to get the most out of their phone while spending very little.

Why We Chose It: You wouldn’t believe what a phone under $430 could do, but the iPhone SE proves that a no-compromise phone can still be achieved at a budget cost.

Read more: Apple iPhone SE Reigns Supreme in the Budget Space

 

Apple iPhone SE, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

Not everyone needs a mid-range or flagship phone. They could be content with something simpler, which is why the Apple iPhone SE (2022) exists. First, can we talk about how it’s one of the smaller, more compact smartphones out there? Its 4.7-inch Retina HD Display is the only phone on our list that can be easily used one-handed.

Don’t let its single rear camera fool you, especially when just about every phone is packing two or three cameras. You’d be surprised by what it can produce, including those out-of-focus backgrounds when capturing portrait photos. And finally, we can’t neglect to mention how smoothly it runs. Sure, it’s not as buttery fluid as the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s performance, but it has the power to accomplish most daily tasks. We were impressed by how Apple improved it over its predecessor.

Pros:

  • Compact size
  • Affordable cost
  • Smooth performance

Cons:

  • Packs only a single rear camera
  

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

BEST FOLDING PHONE

Best For: Early adopters willing to try out the latest display innovation in phones. Fashionistas looking to make an impression. Content creators looking for a better way of recording videos of themselves.

Why We Chose It: Not only does it have the cool folding factor, but there’s serious utility when capturing photos and videos.

Review: The Flip 4 Is the Reason Why This Form Factor Should Be Standard

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 Review John Velasco | SPY

There’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 is the best foldable phone around. This clamshell-styled smartphone has the wow factor because of how it can flip open to reveal its standard-size display but can condense to half its size.

Beyond the innovation that it carries, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 offers content creators the utility to self-capture themselves on video, thanks to its external cover screen. Paired with the dual cameras on the phone, you’ll be able to see the framing of your shot. Why settle for the front-facing camera to record yourself when you can get better results with the rear ones?

Pros:

  • Folds into a compact size
  • Better self-captures using Cover Screen
  • Solid hinge design

Cons:

  • Crease is visible
  

Google Pixel 6a

BEST MID-RANGE PHONE

Best For: Android users on a budget who want a phone that can take high-quality shots like the Pixel 6 Pro. Anyone that prefers smaller-sized phones.

Why We Chose It: For the savings and because it’s a Google phone, which means it’ll get the latest Android software updates before most phones.

Read More: Everything Announced at Google I/O 2022

Google Pixel 6a Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

All the great camera phones are big. That’s why we love the Google Pixel 6a, so don’t let its smaller stature fool you because this Google phone is big on performance, especially when it comes to capturing photos with its cameras. Even better, it also has the same Photoshop-like tools that the Pixel 6 Pro offers — such as the Magic Eraser tool that allows us to remove unwanted objects or people from our photos.

Unlike most smartphones today, the Pixel 6a isn’t as wide to hold in hand, making it easy to use one-handed. Add to that, it doesn’t even cost a whole lot, which will save you money in the process.

Pros:

  • Perfect size
  • Outstanding photo capture and editing
  • Tons of value for its cost
  • Receives latest Android updates

Cons:

  • Small size may not be for everyone
  

OnePlus 10 Pro

BEST BATTERY

Best For: On-the-go users who can get a good charge without being tied down for long.

Why We Chose It: Thanks to its 65W charger, it can go from 1% to 100% in 60 minutes.

Full Review: OnePlus 10 Pro

OnePlus 10 Pro Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

While having a long battery life is useful, it’s equally handy to have a phone that can quickly recharge to an acceptable level. That’s precisely what you’ll get with the OnePlus 10 Pro, which amazed us with its speedy 65W wired charging ability. We found its 5,000 mAh battery delivered better than average results, but we found it handier that it managed to charge from 1% to 10% with 5 minutes of charging.

Like its rivals, the OnePlus 10 Pro is a flagship smartphone that can tangle with some of the best in the category. We were smitten by its design, which we feel is one of the more underrated designs because it’s slim, easy to hold with one hand and has that soft touch matte feel with the Volcanic Black version. And yes, we were impressed at how the photos captured by its Hasselblad camera system could reveal more details when edited in post.

Pros:

  • Super fast recharging
  • Soft touch feel with casing

Cons:

  • No water-resistant design
  

Redmagic 7 Pro

BEST GAMING PHONE

Best For: Gamers who crave a fluid performance that won’t break up the action.

Why We Chose It: It is serious in the specs department and designed intelligently for optimum gaming results.

Red Magic 7 Pro Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

Every flagship smartphone is a worthy gaming phone, but Redmagic 7 Pro establishes itself as a true gaming phone because it’s accompanied by features and specs that serious gamers crave. It features an active cooling system that leverages a built-in Turbofan that spins at 20,000 RPM to remove heat and keep the phone cool. It’s packing the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform to keep up with all the gaming action, while the display’s 960Hz multi-finger touch sampling rate ensures that latency is at a minimum.

Completing the experience are the dual shoulder triggers that are perfect for first-person shooters, and the included 65W GaN fast charger to ensure that it won’t take long for the phone to recharge.

Pros:

  • Great for gaming
  • Built-in fans keep it cool
  • Useful shoulder triggers

Cons:

  • Soft photos with front camera
  

AGM Glory G1S

BEST RUGGED PHONE

Best For: Workers who need a phone that can withstand the elements.

Why We Chose It: Bumps and drops won’t impact how it operates, plus it has a handy infrared camera for added utility.

best smartphones

Nowadays, you’ll find that most high-end smartphones have water and dust-resistant constructions, but they pale in comparison to the rugged design of the AGM Glory G1S. One look at its design is enough to convince you of its ability to withstand drops and submersion. Even the USB-C charging port on the phone has a hefty cover to ensure it’s protected.

What makes the AGM Glory G1S even more useful is that it features an infrared camera that can be used in numerous ways. For example, plumbers could use it to determine whether or not hot water is running properly through a pipe. If you’ve watched those Predator movies, you can appreciate the usefulness of an infrared camera. Furthermore, the camera on the back also offers true night vision to illuminate dark areas, much like a security camera. And lastly, there’s even a laser pointer that can be activated.

Pros:

  • Rugged construction
  • Infrared camera sees heat
  • Night vision camera

Cons:

  • Image quality from camera is soft
  

OnePlus 10T

FASTEST PHONE

Best For: People who want a consistent performance across all apps.

Why We Chose It: We can’t tell you how buttery smooth this phone performs for all the little things. From scrolling through long web pages to juggling two apps, it maintains its ultra-fast response.

First Look: The $649 OnePlus 10T Charges in Just 20 Minutes

OnePlus 10T first look, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

OnePlus’ second flagship of 2022 made our list for two reasons: it’s the most affordable flagship caliber smartphone you can buy, and it’s also the fastest we’ve seen running different tasks. It’s powered by that lovable Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Mobile Platform, which works wonders with the OxygenOS 12.1interface it’s running on top of Android 12.

We thought the Pixel 6 Pro was snappy with its performance, but the OnePlus 10T takes the cake for offering the smoothest, most responsive performance we’ve seen this year in an Android phone. If that’s not enough, it’s priced well below the average $1,000 price that most flagships cost today.

Pros:

  • Affordably priced flagship phone
  • Extra responsive performance
  • Recharges quickly

Cons:

  • No wireless charging
  

TCL Stylus 5G

BEST UNDER $300

Best For: Super budget users who don’t want to spend more than $300.

Why We Chose It: Its ultra-affordable cost is undeniable, but it even manages to package a stylus.

Read More: TCL Stylus 5G Affordably Priced Phone With Stylus

TCL Stylus 5G Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

TCL already has a robust lineup of affordable and mid-range smartphones, like the TCL 30 V 5G that we got to check out during CES 2022, but nothing packs more features at a lower price point than the TCL Stylus 5G. As the name implies, it’s accompanied by a stylus that can be used to jot down notes — much like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and its S Pen. Unlike that phone, you’re not spending your rent money because you can pick up the TCL Stylus 5G for $258.

Don’t worry about low-quality results from this affordable smartphone because it comes with a sizable 6.81-inch 1080p LCD display, 4,000 mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G chipset.

Pros:

  • Ultra affordable cost
  • Comes with stylus

Cons:

  • Boring design
  

Motorola Edge+

BEST THIN DESIGN

Best For: Users who want an attractive, thin, lightweight phone that’s easy to handle.

Why We Chose It: Don’t let its slim size fool you because it has the horsepower to be a workstation.

Motorola Edge+ 5G Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

We can’t stop looking at the design of the Motorola Edge+. First, you should know it’s unbelievably skinny at 0.35-inches thin and tips the scales at 6.91 ounces. That combination and its 2.99-inch width make it incredibly easy to handle. Plus, its rear casing features a polarizing effect that makes the 3D satin matte rear glass glimmer in the light.

Just because it’s lightweight and thin doesn’t mean it’s hollow. The Motorola Edge+ packs the power of a desktop PC. We were enamored by the desktop-like experience it offered when we connected it to a monitor, which launched Motorola’s “Ready For” interface that mimics a desktop PC’s look, feel and functionality.

Pros:

  • Sleek design
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Desktop experience with Motorola Ready For

Cons:

  • A little pricey
  

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

ALSO CONSIDER

Best For: Watching videos, working with long spreadsheets and experiencing games on a bigger screen. Power users who need to juggle multiple apps.

Why We Chose It: Because you’re essentially carrying a mini tablet inside a smartphone.

Review: I Didn’t Think I’d Love Foldable Phones This Much

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review John Velasco | SPY

Sure, it’s one of the most expensive smartphones, but for good reason. Boasting next-generation tech, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 offers users that tablet-like experience in a smartphone size.

Juggling around multiple apps simultaneously is no problem, thanks partly to its large 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED display. It’s perfect for watching videos while on the go, sending emails, and working with never-ending spreadsheets. Power users will eat up the productivity this phone provides.

Pros:

  • It opens up to the size of a small tablet
  • Great for watching video
  • Supports multiple apps on-screen at once

Cons:

  • You’re paying a premium for it
  

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

CONTENDER

Best For: Anyone that wants a solid flagship phone without having to pay that new flagship price.

Why We Chose It: Sure, it’s last year’s model, but you can’t count out Apple’s former flagship because it’s still beautifully designed, captures excellent photos, and offers long lasting battery.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max Review, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

Undoubtedly, Apple still rules the smartphone space with its line of iPhones. It may be last year’s flagship now that the new one is out, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max stands out for its longer battery life and bigger screen. You’re paying the extra cost for those two reasons over its smaller sibling in the iPhone 13 Pro.

Regardless, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a phone that gets the job done. Apple’s iOS experience is simple, minimalist and intuitive enough for anyone to pick up and use. Adding to the package are the excellent triple cameras on the back of the phone, offering crisp portrait shots with just enough of that out-of-focus effect to the background.

Pros:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Captures crisp portraits
  • Many compatible accessories to use
  • Premium design

Cons:

  • It’s a big phone to handle
  

How We Chose the Best Smartphones

We looked at over 10 different smartphones covering the gamut regarding classification, features, price, platform and much more. Not surprisingly, you’ll notice that more Android phones made our list since they outnumber the iOS devices that Apple currently has on the market. We tested them each over a minimum of one week.

OnePlus 10 Pro Camera Roundup Review Featured, best smartphones John Velasco | SPY

To determine the best smartphones, we rated each in the following categories.

  • Display: Screen sizes differ and offer consumers more variety, but we specifically looked at their resolutions and measured their peak brightness output using a lux meter.
  • Cameras: Not only did we look at the number of cameras each smartphone offered and their specs, but we also judged them by their quality when capturing sunny, nighttime and portrait shots.
  • Battery: Having a phone with a long-lasting battery certainly helps, so we tested each one to see how it handled our daily usage. Furthermore, we used the included chargers to see how quickly it recharged. For models that don’t come packaged with chargers, we used alternate ones that support them at the fastest rate.
  • Design: The best smartphones don’t only look great, but they’re also solidly constructed with premium materials. You don’t want something that feels shoddily made or brittle in your hand.
  • Features: All smartphones accomplish the same basic tasks, but there are unique features that give some of them added utility over the competition — such as a stylus for additional interaction. We took these features into consideration, given how they benefit the overall experience.
  • Performance: In addition to running synthetic benchmark tests such as AnTuTu, GeekBench 5 and GFXBench to determine CPU and GPU performances, we also look at how smooth and reactive they are with basic functions like navigating around the interface, opening apps, and more.

Click here to read more about how we test and review products.

  

About The Author: John Velasco

John Velasco is the Tech Editor at SPY.com and has tested hundreds of smart home products during his decade-long career reviewing gadgets. Since joining SPY.com, he’s reviewed the best home security cameras, flagship smartphones and Amazon’s first smart TV. Previously, John worked as the smart home editor at Digital Trends. He’s also worked for Android Authority covering Android-related news as the editor-at-large, and at PhoneArena as the senior editor. John has been covering mobile and smart home tech for over a decade, and he is also passionate about virtual reality, drones and electric bikes.

Editor’s note: William Goodman previously contributed to this article. This was last updated on September 20, 2022, where we added the iPhone 14 Pro and moved the iPhone 13 Pro Max to the end of the list.

  

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