Our best phones list has changed dramatically since the start of the year, starting with the Samsung Galaxy S20 line that's come out on top. But one shouldn't discount offerings from LG and Huawei and even the top phones coming in at the end of last year, like the Galaxy Note 10, and iPhone 11.
Many of these phones now cost more that R20,000, so you'll want to take your decision seriously. Luckily we're here to guide you through the process.
Soon we'll be adding 5G phones to this line up and we may even see some foldable phones make the list, starting with the Huawei Mate Xs and perhaps the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2. But foldable phones are unproven, and 5G coverage is still very limited in SA.
Our pick for best phone isn't just crowning the newest iPhone and calling it a day, though our list does have a lot of familiar names: Apple, Samsung Huawei and LG, all in the top 10. However, brands new to SA like TECNO and Vivo, and some veterans like Nokia and Hisense have not made the list this time around.
Best phone at a glance:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 / S20 Plus
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro / 11 Pro Max
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- Apple iPhone 11
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
- LG V60 ThinQ
- Vivo X50Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S10 / S10 Plus
- Huawei P40 Pro
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus is the best phone on our list, though the S20 is so similar (and only slightly inferior) that we've lumped them together here. There are minute differences, but mostly in price: the standard S20 starts at R18,999, while the S20 Plus starts at R20,999.
Screen: The Infinity-O AMOLED displays on both phones - 6.2 inches for the S20, 6.7 inches for the S20 Plus - are gorgeous, with a maximum WQHD+ resolution of 3200 x 1440. The notches are both centralized like the Note 10, but they're much smaller this time around, and the S20 Plus only has a single lens. The result: more screen. Also new this year is a 120Hz maximum refresh rate for silky-smooth media and gaming, though you'll mostly notice it while browsing - and you'll have to drop your display resolution down to FHD+ to enjoy it.
Battery Life: The S20 packs a 4,000mAh battery, while the S20 Plus has 4,500mAh of capacity. That is, to put it lightly, a lot, and frequently got us through over a day without recharging. Keep in mind that battery life estimate will dip down if you set the refresh rate at 120Hz, use a ton of 5G connectivity or lend juice with Wireless PowerShare, so adapt accordingly if you're looking to keep your phone going longer.
Camera: The S20 and S20 Plus have truly spectacular cameras. No, not their 12MP main shooters, which are fine - it's the 64MP telephoto that really shines. While it only has 3x optical zoom, it still manages to crop zoom in to a muddy 30x digital zoom - which means the interim intervals are still a good deal more impressive than the competition. The 12MP ultra-wide performs adequately, while the 10MP front-facing camera works just fine. Another first-time bonus: 8K 24fps video from the rear camera.
Mini verdict: While the Samsung Galaxy S20 is impressive enough, it's the S20 Plus that we vouch for as the best phone right now, even if it's more expensive than expected. The combination of incredible cameras with top-tier specs and a great display makes it an unquestionable winner with more battery life than its smaller sibling.