- Best battery life in an iPhone to date
- Triple camera gives plenty of photographic flexibility
- Improved low light photography
- No onboard 5G
- Low light shooting is better on several Android handsets
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Finder’s team of experts have tested and reviewed every phone on this list. For each phone, we consider the design, cameras, performance, battery life and overall value for money.
When reviewing phones for this guide, we tested the models available in Australia. Phones sold in other markets may use different processors and/or support different network bands, but those differences don’t affect our overall assessment.
Our editorial team selected the phones on this list based on their overall quality and value compared to other phones on the market. The selection and order is not based on review scores. More detail on methodology below.
Apple sits at the top of our best phone list despite being one of the most pricey phones you can buy. Getting to that spot at that price point means it has to go further and do more than other phones, and this is where Apple’s heavy control over the whole iOS experience, from software to hardware really pays off.
It’s astonishingly easy to get two days of battery life from the iPhone 11 Pro Max, so it’s also in stark contrast to the woeful battery life we used to see from older iPhones. Apple’s triple camera array isn’t market leading at a technical level, but that rarely matters when its output is so very good across both still and video shooting.
Apple has continually released updates to iOS that have only made the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s camera better. The one slight downside here is that its 2x Optical Zoom isn’t particularly strong when compared to other premium phones. Apple is also still biding its time when it comes to 5G compatibility, and its absence is missed here when you consider the high asking price of the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Samsung’s early 2020 flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra certainly earns that suffix, as it’s one of the very largest phones you can buy. That means you get a lot of screen for your money, and it’s simply the most gorgeous Super AMOLED display Samsung has put into a phone to date, with support for 120Hz refresh rates giving you silky smooth screen animations. It’s 5G capable by default.
Samsung’s put everything it can into its camera, which includes neat features like Single Take, which fires off every one of its 3 primary rear lenses to capture an array of video and still shots of your target, meaning it’s easy to get that elusive “best” shot. It’s also very capable of zooming, although its heavily hyped 100x “Space Zoom” really is just a gimmick.
Camera output was a little inconsistent in our tests, and we’re hoping that Samsung copies Apple’s approach here and delivers updates that improve the camera experience. The hardware is there, but the software just needs a little tweaking.
Other considerations that are worth bringing up are its size, because this is a huge smartphone, so may not be your best bet if you want a smaller device. Like the 11 Pro Max, it’s also a pricey option.
Samsung’s late 2019 flagship phone sold on the inclusion of Samsung’s iconic S-Pen, which for the first time manages to convert handwriting to text. It’s the kind of feature that sounds like an utter gimmick – and the Note10+’s other S-Pen gimmicks such as AR Doodles and Air Actions are just silly – but it works astonishingly well, even if you’ve got the kind of chicken scratch that would confuse a doctor.
The Note10+ isn’t just a stylus-based phone, though, because it’s also got Samsung’s nicely refined design, a great Super AMOLED display and plenty of processing power for regular Android apps to give it appeal too.
Like Samsung’s other 2019 flagships, power management isn’t ideal, and compared to other contemporary flagships, its battery life isn’t stellar. A day is entirely feasible, but many of its competitors will keep on charging into day two at a point where the Note10+ is gasping for wattage.
Oppo made its name outside of China with a range of camera-centric phones at mid-range or budget prices, but in recent years we’ve seen a more premium-focused approach from Oppo. The Oppo Reno 5G stands out against other flagship phones – and especially flagship 5G phones – thanks to its exceptional battery life, which beats out any 5G phone we’ve tested by a considerable degree.
The design is also pleasing with a full screen design that’s enabled thanks to a pop-up shark fin style selfie camera, complemented by a good triple camera array that includes up to 10x hybrid zoom. You can push that to 60x digital, but you really shouldn’t.
The one downside with the Oppo Reno 5G’s design is that this isn’t a phone for quick selfie takers, as you have to wait for that fin to pop up every time you feel in any way extroverted. It also means that the Oppo Reno 5G is one of a rare breed of flagships that lacks water resistance. It also lacks a headphone-jack.
Huawei’s last great Android flagship with full Google services onboard impressed us in early 2019 thanks to its amazingly good camera. Co-engineered with Leica, it’s a sign of just how good the Huawei P30 Pro is that it’s still our go-to shooter for still photography, especially in low light environments. There’s simply nothing that’s surpassed it save for Huawei’s own Mate 30 Pro, but that phone lacks Google apps and has only been offered in very limited numbers anyway.
The same ban that applies to the Huawei Mate 30 Pro does make the P30 Pro less compelling because there’s no real guarantee that its access to services such as Google Play or YouTube will be maintained.
You’ve also got to contend with Huawei’s sometimes inconsistent EMUI launcher sitting on top of Android, which gives the Huawei P30 Pro hard to get used to if you’re coming from any other Android flagship. The Huawei P30 Pro does support storage expansion, but it’s via Huawei’s own proprietary nm card format, which is far more expensive on a per-MB basis than plain old microSD.
The largest and most recent update to Google’s in-house Android phone family, the Google Pixel 4XL expands on what has made its own phone line so popular with the Android faithful. You get guaranteed Android updates to the operating system, something that’s not true of all that many flagships.
Google’s also consistently tweaked the Pixel 4XL software experience since launch, which means that they’re phones that are about as close as you’re going to get to iPhones in terms of added features appearing months after they’re actually “new” phones. Google’s Pixel 4XL camera has some neat features, including a superb astrophotography mode that can even cut through the heavy light of cities to get pleasing shots.
Not everything is a hit on the Pixel 4XL however. For a larger phone its battery life is only ordinary, and like every other Pixel phone you can’t bump up the storage with cheap microSD cards. It’s the first phone to feature Google’s technically smart Motion Sense radar, but to date it’s only been used for simple features like music playback control, and it’s not even very accurate for that.
Samsung’s first 5G phone was the Galaxy S10 5G, and it retains its place in our roundup thanks to the fact that you can now pick it up at a much cheaper price than when it launched, making it a good entry level point into the world of 5G phones while still retaining many flagship features that you’d expect on a premium phone. Samsung phones consistently impress us in display terms – it helps a manufacturer when it’s also the maker of the screens that go in them, which Samsung is – and the Galaxy S10 5G also marks the last true Samsung flagship phone to still feature a headphone jack.
It also still features Samsung’s Bixby assistant, like every Samsung Android flagship, but it also comes with a side-mounted “Bixby Button” to summon it that we guarantee you’ll accidentally hit more than once when you actually wanted the power button.
The cheaper price that the Galaxy S10 5G sells for means you are missing out on some of the faster performance and features found in the Galaxy Note10+ or Galaxy S20 Ultra, and that has to be part of your buying decision in the premium phone space.
The key selling point of Nubia’s Z20 is that it’s a dual-screen phone. It’s not a foldable phone, or one that comes with a secondary screen attachment. Instead, the back of the this 6.4 inch screened phone is itself a fully functional 5.1 inch display screen. It’s a weird gimmick that only really works when you’re taking selfies, because you can shoot with the cameras and use any of the Z20’s primary cameras for the purpose, because there’s no real “back” to a dual-sided phone.
Ultimately dual screen is just a gimmick, but the reason we rate the Nubia Z20 as worthy of consideration is because it’s otherwise packing a lot of premium components at a price that’s around half that of other flagship phones. This means you mostly get best of breed performance at a much lower price point.
There are some catches, however. Nubia’s software setup means it can’t handle HD Netflix, only Standard Definition. That full screen display looks nice but you cant’ get it wet as it lacks water resistance, and wireless charging is also notably absent. You’re also going to have to slap a clear case on it – or risk scratching that rear display screen when you put it down.
Asus as a brand is more closely associated with PC parts and gaming laptops, and it’s the latter market that Asus taps for the ROG Phone II. ROG, in this case, is Republic of Gamers, Asus’ gaming-centric brand. In the ROG Phone II, it throws a very PC-centric approach to mobile phones, which starts with its immense 6.59 inch AMOLED display, and continues with a range of bolt-on accessories that can turn the ROG Phone II into a near-clone of Nintendo’s Switch console visually. If you’re a keen mobile gamer it’s an easy recommendation on that basis alone, helped along by a 6,000mAh battery.
As a more regular everday phone the ROG Phone II is a harder recommendation. Its size won’t suit every hand, and while it sports multiple rear lenses, it shoots well below the competition in more challenging light environments, which is not what you’d typically expect out of a flagship phone.
It’s a sign of how good the Samsung Galaxy S10+ was at launch in early 2019 that we’re still keeping it in our best phones list in 2020. That’s partly a function of the fact that it’s seen price cuts since launch that keep its appeal high as a more general “flagship” phone than the pricier Samsung Galaxy Note10+ or Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra especially. It’s still a good premium phone in 2020, however, with an easy to use camera that includes solid low light performance. If you’re a fan of wired headphones you won’t need to fiddle with USB converters, because it still belongs to the generations of Samsung phones that incorporated headphone jacks too.
However, it’s not the best phone that Samsung makes now – that would be the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and if your budget can stretch to its asking price you’ll get an even more capable phone for your money. The S10+ was also one of the first of Samsung’s 2019 phones to have generally mediocre battery life, which was unexpected for a flagship phone. Its glass design is sleek, but it’s also very slippery, so throwing a case onto it is a must.
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