In 2023, 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 transform a phone’s utility. Luckily for you, SPY has rigorously tested the best smartphones of 2023 to make the selection process a little easier.
The Best Smartphones of 2023: At a Glance
SPY Smartphones Reviews: Comparing the Best Smartphones of 2023
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 as well. We also specifically looked at models that were released in the last year.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Best For: Power users who want it for productivity, gaming, and capturing memories.
Full Review: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Why We Chose It: Nothing else matches its utility, features, and performance.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was without question the best smartphone of 2022, and even now into 2023, it’s still king. It narrowly edged out its main rival, the iPhone 14 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.
Of the best smartphones, it’s one of the few 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.
- Beautiful design
- Excellent cameras
- Added utility with S Pen
- Desktop experience with DeX
- It’s expensive
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Best For: Just about anyone who wants a reliable phone.
First Look: Goodbye to the Notch, Hello to Dynamic Island Experience
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.
On the surface, it’s distinctively an iPhone because of the resemblance it shares with its predecessor, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max 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 in 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 delivered.
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.
- Intuitive Dynamic Island
- Record-breaking brightness
- Incredible cameras perform well under low light
- Emergency satellite SOS
- eSIM could frustrate some users
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Best For: Serial photography snappers who want excellent results with cool editing features.
First Look: Google Pixel 7 And Pixel 7 Pro Prove Once Again They’re Camera Pros
Why We Chose It: No other phone offers free cloud storage for photos and video.
Google calls the Pixel 7 Pro its “best-of-everything” phone, and for good reason. The phone is the most powerful Pixel yet, with an adaptive battery that can give you more than 24 hours of battery life and a powerful camera that makes it ideal for budding photographers.
The Pixel 7 Pro comes with a 5x telephoto lens and a 30x Super Res Zoom, as well as a more powerful ultrawide lens to capture both landscape and macro shots. There are multiple layers of security built into the phone, too, as well as a VPN that will protect you no matter what you’re doing online, whether that’s browsing the web or checking your bank balance. Google, we agree — you did make one of the best smartphones.
- Super sharp photos
- Fluid performance
- Stock Android experience
- Amazing dynamic range
- Underwhelming battery life
Apple iPhone SE (3rd Gen)
Best For: Budget spenders who want to get the most out of their phone while spending very little.
First Look: Apple iPhone SE Reigns Supreme in the Budget Space
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.
Not everyone needs a mid-range or flagship phone. The best smartphone for some people might be 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 bokeh 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.
- Compact size
- Affordable cost
- Smooth performance
- Packs only a single rear camera
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4
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.
Review: The Flip 4 Is the Reason Why This Form Factor Should Be Standard
Why We Chose It: Not only does it have the cool folding factor, but there’s serious utility when capturing photos and videos.
There’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 is the best foldable smartphone 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?
- Folds into a compact size
- Better self-captures using Cover Screen
- Solid hinge design
- Crease is visible
Google Pixel 6a
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.
Review: Google Proves It Makes the Best Budget 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.
All the great camera phones are big — yes. But 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 overly wide, 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.
- Perfect size
- Outstanding photo capture and editing
- Tons of value for its cost
- Receives latest Android updates
- Small size may not be for everyone
OnePlus 10 Pro
Best For: On-the-go users who can get a good charge without being tied down for long.
Review: OnePlus 10 Pro Review: Stunning Design Paired With Lightning Fast Charging
Why We Chose It: Thanks to its 65W charger, it can go from 1% to 100% in 60 minutes.
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.
- Super fast recharging
- Soft touch feel with casing
- No water-resistant design
Redmagic 7 Pro
Best For: Gamers who crave a fluid performance that won’t break up the action.
Read More: The Best Gaming Phones Allow You To Play on the Go
Why We Chose It: It is serious in the specs department and designed intelligently for optimum gaming results.
Every flagship smartphone is a worthy gaming phone, but Redmagic 7 Pro establishes itself as the top dog among the best smartphones for gaming with its 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.
- Great for gaming
- Built-in fans keep it cool
- Useful shoulder triggers
- Soft photos with front camera
AGM Glory G1S
Best For: Workers who need a phone that can withstand the elements.
Read More: See Way More With These Thermal Infrared Cameras
Why We Chose It: Bumps and drops won’t impact how it operates, plus it has a handy infrared camera for added utility.
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.
- Rugged construction
- Infrared camera sees heat
- Night vision camera
- Image quality from camera is soft
Best For: People who want consistent performance across all apps.
First Look: The $649 OnePlus 10T Charges in Just 20 Minutes
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.
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 used while 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.
- Affordably priced flagship phone
- Extra responsive performance
- Recharges quickly
- No wireless charging
TCL Stylus 5G
Best For: Super budget users who don’t want to spend more than $300.
Read More: TCL Stylus 5G Affordably Priced Phone With Stylus
Why We Chose It: Its ultra-affordable cost is undeniable, but it even manages to package a stylus.
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 $269.
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.
- Ultra affordable cost
- Comes with stylus
- Boring design
Best For: Users who want an attractive, thin, lightweight phone that’s easy to handle.
Read More: These Motorola Phones Will Make You Rethink Paying $1,000 For a Samsung or iPhone
Why We Chose It: Don’t let its slim size fool you because it has the horsepower to be a whole workstation.
We can’t stop looking at the design of the Motorola Edge+. First, you should know that it’s unbelievably skinny at .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.
- Sleek design
- Incredibly lightweight
- Desktop experience with Motorola Ready For
- A little expensive
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
Best For: Watching videos, working with long spreadsheets and experiencing games on a bigger screen. Power users who need to juggle multiple apps.
Review: I Didn’t Think I’d Love Foldable Phones This Much
Why We Chose It: Because you’re essentially carrying a mini tablet inside a smartphone.
Sure, it’s one of the most expensive smartphones, but not without 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.
- It opens up to the size of a small tablet
- Great for watching video
- Supports multiple apps on-screen at once
- You’re paying a premium for it
Apple iPhone 14 Plus
Best For: Anyone looking for a new Apple phone that isn’t ready to pay for the Pro pricing.
Read More: The Best Apple Gifts To Shop for
Why We Chose It: It’s the same phone as the iPhone 14, but with a larger screen and extensive battery life, as well as phenomenal performance in low-light photography.
Undoubtedly, Apple still rules the smartphone space with its line of iPhones. The iPhone 14 Plus is one step above the base model iPhone, with a slightly larger screen but otherwise the same specs.
Despite being the same, the iPhone 14 Plus is a powerhouse device that fills every need anyone might have without the staggering price point of the Pro lineup. Between its battery life, superior camera performance, and beautiful display, the iPhone 14 Plus will be the ideal fit for all but the most hardcore of iPhone users.
- Intuitive interface
- Captures crisp portraits
- Water resistant
- Ceramic Shield protects against damage
- It’s a big phone to handle
Google Pixel 7
Best For: Anyone that wants a Pixel but doesn’t want to pay Pixel Pro prices.
Review: Minimal Upgrades, But Still a Rock Solid Smartphone
Why We Chose It: The Pixel 7 is a fantastic all-around phone that is water resistant, takes great photos, and is more beautiful than ever thanks to the Material You interface.
The Pixel 7 is the latest Pixel release from Google, and it’s more powerful than ever thanks to the Google Tensor G2 chip. The chip comes equipped with AI that automatically adjusts resource allocation to make it faster and more efficient than ever. Combine that with a potential three-day battery life, and you’re looking at a phone that can do almost anything you could ask for it for an affordable price.
There’s a dual rear camera system for taking 4K photos and video, and a lot of onboard editing tools to give you the best possible outcome. Google is also introducing Google One, a built-in VPN that protects you online regardless of whether you’re checking Facebook or trying to scan in a paycheck. All of these features make the Pixel 7 and ideal choice, especially if you’re already an Android fan and want to upgrade to the next best thing.
- Beautiful interface through Material You
- Stunning photography and editing tools
- Water resistant
- Some features like Google One aren’t live yet
How We Chose the Best Smartphones
We looked at over 10 different smartphones covering the gamut in 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.
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 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.