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If you rely on your smartphone as a main access point to the internet, one of the most important features to consider before upgrading is whether your new phone supports 5G.
What Is 5G?
5G is the next generation of cellular internet connectivity, replacing 4G LTE. Under the right circumstances 5G-enabled phones can get faster speeds than most home internet connections, allowing you to download a season of Netflix show in a minute or two. Large, densely populated areas (think sports stadiums), are installing 5G antennas, which will allow tens of thousands of people to use the internet without massive slowdowns.
What I just described is only possible in select locations, though. 5G is a new technology, and while the three major U.S. carriers — Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile — support it, it’ll still take a year or two for 5G to go mainstream. Another factor to consider is that you’ll need an unlimited data plan to access your carrier’s 5G network because it’s possible to burn through data incredibly quickly.
These are serious caveats, but getting a 5G phone now will allow you to take advantage of these new networks as they roll out in your area. You’ll still get a 4G LTE connection in the meantime. If you don’t upgrade your phone often, getting one that’s 5G capable is an important bit of future-proofing. Consider it an important investment in your personal technological future.
What Are The Best 5G Phones?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best 5G Phone for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Operating System: We’ve selected Android phones, which run Android and an iPhone, which runs iOS. Both operating systems can run tens of thousands of apps, and gets updated regularly with new features and security updates.
Display Size: The phones we’ve chosen have a display that’s six inches or larger, which is ideal whether you’re watching movies, taking pictures, or reading.
Display Resolution: The 5G phones in our guide have an HD (or better) screen, so text, images, and videos will look very clar.
Storage: All of the 5G phones in our guide are available in different storage tiers. If you take a lot of videos, or download a lot of music and movies, you should get a phone with more storage. If you mostly stream your media, you’ll be fine getting a base model.
Cameras: Every phone in this guide can take high resolution photos and HD (or 4K) video. There’re still going to be differences in camera quality, but you’ll get great shots for Instagram, or videos for TikTok.
Unlocked Phone: The 5G phones below are all “unlocked,” which means you can use them with any carrier. If you’d like to trade in your phone, or pay for it in installments, we recommend checking with your carrier for any deals they may be running.
1. BEST OVERALL: iPhone 12
The iPhone 12 is Apple’s first 5G phone, and it’s the best one you can get right now. The phone runs iOS 14, the latest version of Apple’s operating system, and should receive regular software updates for around four to five years. This is a major advantage over Android phones, which aren’t generally supported for that long.
The iPhone 12 has a 6.1-inch display with a resolution of 2532 x 1170 pixels, so everything you view will look large and sharp. It comes with 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage, and is available in four colors: black, blue, green, and red. Apple switched up the design this year, flattening the edges of the iPhone 12 to accommodate a large screen in a phone that’s physically smaller and lighter than previous models.
Apple outfitted the iPhone 12 with a pair of 12MP (megapixel) back-side cameras that can record video in 4K at up to 60fps (frames per second). This is complemented by a 12MP front-facing camera that can also record video in 4K, and is a major component of Apple’s FaceID security system. FaceID allows you to unlock your phone by scanning your face using a combination of infrared lights and a physical camera.
The iPhone 12 is an excellent “all around” phone whose new design, solid camera system, and high resolution display earned it the top spot in our guide. If you want a 5G phone, and want a phone that’ll still feel snappy several years down the line, this is the one to get.
2. BEST VALUE: Google Pixel 5
Google’s newly-released Pixel 5 gets you a lot of phone for your money.
It runs Android 11, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, and has a 6-inch display with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 (better than HD). Google has committed to supporting the Pixel 5 with major software updates for three years, which means you won’t have to worry about missing out on new features, or critical security updates.
The Google Pixel 5 is only available with 128GB of internal storage, which is enough to hold thousands of photos, hundreds of songs, and dozens of hours of HD video. This storage tier hits a nice sweet spot, but think twice if you don’t rely heavily on cloud storage for your data.
Google outfitted the Pixel 5 is a a 12MP telephoto lens and a 16.6MP wide angle lens, which can both record 4K video at 60fps. Its front-facing camera features an 8MP lens that can record 1080P video at 30fps. The Pixel 5 doesn’t support facial recognition, but does have a fingerprint reader its back, which allows you to unlock the phone without typing a password.
The Pixel 5 offers a lot of compelling features at a far lower price point than most 5G phones. If you want an Android phone that’ll receive regular software updates, and are OK with the 128GB storage ceiling, it should be your top choice.
3. BEST 5G ANDROID PHONE: Samsung Galaxy S20
Samsung’s Galaxy S20 is a premium Android phone, and its impressive tech specs make it a serious contender for the best 5G phone period.
The S20 has a 6.2-inch display with a resolution of 3,200 x 1,440 pixels, which is closer to 4K than any of our other picks. It comes with either 128GB or 512GB of storage, but you can add more by popping in a MicroSD Card, a feature that’s unavailable on the other 5G phones we’re recommending. It runs Android 10, and Samsung’s phones are generally supported with new software updates for a few years, but there’re no guarantees.
Samsung built an incredible camera system into the S20. Its rear-facing camera system features two 12MP cameras, plus a super impressive 64MP camera. The 64MP camera allows you to get very clear shots from far away. These cameras allow the S20 to record video in up to 8K at 24fps, or 4K at 60fps. The S20’s front-facing camera system is equally impressive. It features a 10MP camera that can record 4K video at 60fps. The front-facing camera cannot be used to unlock the phone via facial recongition, but the S20 does have an in-screen fingerprint reader instead.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Galaxy S20 is a technical marvel, and it’s the one to get if you want a no-compromise 5G Android phone.
4. BEST FOLDING PHONE WITH 5G: Moto Razr
If you want to be on the cutting edge of technology, you won’t find a more futuristic phone than the Moto Razr.
The smartphone, which runs on Google’s Android 10 operating system, but there’s no timeline on how long it’ll receive software updates. The Razr has a 6.2-inch display with a resolution of 2142 x 876. The ultra tall display is necessary because the Razr folds in half using a hinge system. When folded, its outer display has a resolution of 600 x 800.
Foldable phones are brand new, and all the kinks in this technology haven’t been worked out yet, but the Razr is a step in the right direction. It comes with 128GB of non-upgradable storage, which should only be a concern if you like storing a lot of media locally on your device.
Motorola built the Razr with a single 48MP back-facing camera that can record 4K video at up to 30fps. The lack of a second or third camera is a little disappointing, but something had to give since Motorola decided to make the Razr so thin. Its 20MP front-facing camera can record 1080P video at 60fps, whic is more competitive with contemporary smartphones. The front-facing camera cannot be used to unlock the phone, but the Razr does have a fingerprint scanner around the back, which can be used for this purpose.
If you want a taste of the future, and don’t mind making some sacrifices in camera quality to get there, the Moto Razr is the 5G phone to get.