Many will tell you 5G phones are the future, and it's true that this next generation of connectivity can really improve the way you use your smartphone in a number of ways.
5G gives you much higher data speeds on your phone, snappier even than Wi-Fi for most people. It's also more reliable than 4G, so your connection won't drop frequently or for no obvious reason.
But with so many different 5G smartphones on the market, it can be really hard to know which is the best for you, especially if you have a particular reason you're buying a phone, or are working within a specific budget.
At TechRadar we test every new 5G phone that comes out, so we've got a good idea of how they all run, work and compare, and we've used that knowledge to create this buying guide to help you work out which 5G phone is best for you.
Since most new smartphones are 5G-compatible, this list could easily become a re-run of our 'best phones' list. Instead, we've broken this list into a few different categories, so it can cater to you whatever you like in a smartphone.
Each of these entries has a 'best' model and a 'runner up'. This is so you have a choice even within the categories, which is especially important given that not all of our best phone picks are available in the US.
We've reached the end of the year - at least according to the smartphones calendar, with no big launches left - so this line-up likely won't change until the new year. There might be some wild cards though, so we can't say that for sure.
- What is 5G? Our full explainer about the next-gen internet tech
Best 5G phone at any price
The Samsung Galaxy S20 series are all available with 5G versions, but we'd suggest the base model is the best option, as it combines plenty of top-end features with a (relatively) low price tag.
As with most Samsung phones, the S20 devices have great-looking displays with AMOLED panels, but they up the refresh rate to 120Hz. They've also got top-end chipsets and cameras, with plenty of software tricks to help you take the best picture possible.
Sure, the Samsung Galaxy S20 misses some tricks from the phones that sit above it in the range, the Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra, but we believe the lower price makes the Samsung Galaxy S20 more accessible and better value for money.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
The OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the best phones available so of course – since it comes with 5G as standard – it’s also one of the best 5G phones.
5G-aside the highlight is undoubtedly its screen, which is a 6.78-inch curved, Fluid AMOLED display with 513 pixels per inch. But it also has a 120Hz refresh rate, which is higher than most phones, and can help interactions feel smoother.
This being a flagship it also has flagship power, with a Snapdragon 865 chipset and up to 12GB of RAM. It has a quad-lens camera too, headlined by a 48MP snapper, and there’s a big 4,510mAh battery.
Speaking of the battery, this is the first OnePlus phone to support wireless charging, as well as the first to have a real water resistance rating. You could in fact say that it’s the first to have no real compromises.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
Best cheap 5G phone
This phone has different names depending on where you live - in some regions, like the US, it's the Motorola One 5G, in others, like the UK, it's the Moto G 5G Plus. Wherever you live, though, this handset is the best affordable 5G phone you can pick up.
The Motorola One 5G is a big phone with a 6.7-inch display and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and its processor, camera capability, and screen are all better than you'd expect for its low price.
Sure, it's not a perfect phone, and the signs of its low price (and some of Motorola's quirks) bring it down in a few departments. But if you're looking for a 5G phone without a high price, you should start here.
Read our full Motorola One 5G review
If you're looking for a 5G phone that's stylish and affordable, the Oppo Find X2 Lite is for you, as it looks great and has a display that matches. The only problem? As with most Oppo phones, this isn't available in all countries, including the US. That's why it's not our top pick for the best cheap 5G phone you should consider, because in many places, you can't consider it.
If you live in a place where you can pick up the Oppo Find X2 Lite, you'll find it great, as it barely betrays its 'budget phone' traits. It's well-spec'd with a good chipset, powerful rear cameras, and some of the best-looking software we've seen.
As that 'cons' list above betrays it isn't perfect, but we had a good time using it and it beats out some same-price and even pricier rivals in a few key ways.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Lite review
Best 5G gaming phone
The Nubia Red Magic 5G has all you'd want from a gaming phone - a FHD+ AMOLED screen with a 144Hz refresh rate, a top processor paired with plenty of RAM, and a long-lasting battery with fast charging capabilities.
You won't be able to pick up the Red Magic 5G in all regions, but if you can get it, and you're looking for a 5G gaming phone, it should definitely be your first pick.
We found some software issues with the phone, but if you're a mobile gamer it'll handle anything you throw at it with ease, especially if you want to play games online while out and about (thanks to the 5G connectivity).
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 5G review
The Asus ROG Phone 3 is our runner-up for best 5G phone for gaming, and it's certainly a close call, given how the phone has lots of great gaming features as well as two separate USB-C ports for plugging in accessories.
The main reason this phone doesn't reach its Nubia rival is because of price, as it's a fairly premium gaming phone with a higher cost. That's justified by its top features and specs, though the Red Magic also has lots of those.
But rest assured, this is great for playing games, especially if you play online, thanks to that 5G connection.
Read our full Asus ROG Phone 3 review
Best 5G phone for watching and streaming media
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has been winning awards for its display, so it's no wonder it makes its way onto our 5G phone list in the 'screen' category.
With its big 6.7-inch OLED screen, great contrast and sharp visuals, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is great whether you're using Apple's own services like Apple TV Plus or something like Netflix.
The phone also has better battery life than its predecessors, so watching TV during your commute to work won't stop you being able to stream on the way back. The presence of 5G also makes downloading movies on the go super easy.
Read our full iPhone 12 Pro Max review
The Sony Xperia 1 II is the only phone on this list with a 4K screen, so if you need the highest resolution possible for viewing content, this is the device for you. Plus, it has a 21:9 aspect ratio which means there are no black bars above and below movies you watch.
The phone is no slouch in other areas either, with snappy processing making it a great gaming phone, and a 3.5mm headphone jack being great for fans of wired audio.
It's not the best phone for media consumption mainly because the iPhone 12 Pro Max beats it in a few ways, but also because its high price makes it hard to recommend, and because in the US there actually isn't a 5G version of it.
Read our full Sony Xperia 1 II review
Best small 5G phone
The smallest of its line, the iPhone 12 mini has a relatively tiny 5.4-inch display. It's easily totable, fitting in your pocket or hand with ease.
The phone gets most of the specs of its bigger iPhone 12 sibling though, including the same processor, cameras, 5G and MagSafe technology. It's a veritable powerhouse, so you shouldn't judge it based on its size.
That dainty design does pressent one or two issues, especially in the battery department - the battery life isn't great and wireless charging is a touch on the slow side. Overall, though, if you're looking for a small 5G phone this is the one to go for.
Read our full iPhone 12 mini review
Google Pixel phones tend to be smaller than your average flagship, and that's certainly the case with the Pixel 5, as its 6-inch display is quite a bit smaller than most 5G phones.
That makes it easy to carry about and use, and that's just one reason to pick it - it also has a nice clean Android interface, a metal design that's refreshing compared to loads of plastic or glass rivals, and the great camera software that Google is known for.
Like all phones it isn't perfect, with middling camera hardware, and it's not actually the smallest 5G phone either, as the iPhone 12 mini is quite a bit smaller. Still, if you're an Android fan and want a mini phone, this is your best bet.
Read our full Google PIxel 5 review
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