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Best 5G phones 2021: find out the best 5G phones for business and personal use

5G phones
(Image credit: Future)
Complete guide to 5G

(Image credit: Future)

5G technology: how it works
4G vs 5G: how they compare
5G use cases: examples of 5G
5G Dangers: the fact and fiction
5G Internet: will it replace fibre
5G security: the full picture
5G speed: guide and tools
5G deals: get the best offers
5G networks: in the US and UK
5G stocks: investment tips

If you want to upgrade to 5G, you'll need a 5G-capable phone to access the new, higher-speed 5G networks that will become much more prevalent during the coming months. All the major manufacturers have released or announced 5G phones.

Apple was the last of the major players to get involved with a 5G handset. The iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are all 5G capable using Qualcomm 5G modems alongside Apple's fast A14 Bionic hardware that means the new devices are powerhouse performers as well as being fully 5G capable (the US models are compatible with mmWave).

As you may know, you need to have a 5G-enabled phone to use 5G technology and you'll also need to make sure your network supports it before jumping in. If you're in the UK or US, all major networks are now offering 5G in limited areas. And with second or even third-generation 5G devices now coming onto the market, meaning still-excellent models are being sold off at cheaper prices. 

What other 5G phones are on the way?

There are stacks of 5G phones coming in 2021. That's because every major handset launched this year will be 5G-capable. We have seen a lot of phone launches delayed because of the current global situation, but we're not expecting long-lasting delays in availability of new phones.

 Qualcomm has revealed a new flagship 5G phone platform - the Snapdragon 888 - that supercedes the 865 and 865+ and so expect that to power many of this year's flagships. It boasts the same power-efficient 5nm tech that Apple is using in its A14 Bionic platform. 

Soon we'll get the Samsung Galaxy S21 series including a well-priced standard S21 handset and a re-work of the Ultra version of the phone with the very latest tech inside. 

There should also be new foldables from the Korean giant, too, including a new generation Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold - maybe the Z Fold E, a more affordable version of the Galaxy Z Fold 2. 

We're also expecting a new range of phones from OnePlus in the coming months - the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. Elsewhere, they'll also be a new flagship from Xiaomi, the Mi 11 in addition to another affordable 5G phone from Nokia in the form of the Nokia 7 while there may or may not be a flagship Nokia device, too. There should also be a new 5G V series phone from LG, too. 

Huawei's current US trade ban prevents it from using Google services and apps. As such we aren't currently recommending its handsets as a viable option, even though the Mate 30, Mate 40 and P40 Pro are excellent 5G handsets in terms of their specification sheet, the design and the cameras. There will also be a new foldable from Huawei, expected to be called the Mate X2.  

BEST 5G PHONES: OVERALL

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

The top dog - for now

Release date: October 2020 | Weight: 228g | Dimensions: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4 mm | OS: iOS 14 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1284 x 2778 | CPU: Apple A14 Bionic | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128/256/512GB | Battery: 3687 mAh

Superb camera array
Extremely efficient platform
Large size
Expensive

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

(Image credit: Apple)

As it does with many things, Apple took its time to get into 5G phones but has struck a fine note right away. While the iPhone 12 Pro doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from the standard iPhone 12, the Pro Max certainly does with its huge display and sheer desirability. It's a super performer too while the cameras are among the best we've seen, especially in low light. It's eye-wateringly expensive, though. 

Samsung Galaxy S2O Ultra

Out-and-out power

Release date: March 2020 | Weight: 220g | Dimensions: 162.6x77.1x7.9mm | OS: Android 10/One UI | Screen size: 6.9-inch | Resolution: 3200x1440 | CPU: Exynos 990 or Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 128/256/512GB | Battery: 5000 mAh

Amazing 108MP camera
One of the most powerful phones around
Large size
Expensive

Put simply, this is an absolute stunner. Available most of the time in either 128 and 512GB versions, this phone prioritises two things - speed and a supremely powerful quad-camera. 

It's a 6.9-inch phone with a 3,200 x 1,440 AMOLED display. There are two headline facts about the camera - firstly, there's a 100x zoom. Now we think this is more of a gimmick rather than being something truly practical. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

But one of the lenses is capable of shooting unbelievable 108 megapixel photos alongside a still-large 48 megapixel telephoto lens.

It's certainly a serious phone, based on Samsung's own Exynos 990 platform in Europe or Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 in the US. And, for such a serious device you get serious colour options to go with it - cosmic black or cosmic grey.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G

The top-spec 5G phone so far

Release date: September 2020 | Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.9-inch | Resolution: 1440x3040 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+/Exynos 990 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Battery: 4500mAh | Colours: Mystic Bronze/Mystic Black,Mystic White

An Android powerhouse
Exynos chip not as preferable as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ in US devices
Expensive
No 3.5mm headphone jack 
Do you need the S Pen

Samsung Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

Our pick for the best Android 5G phone out there currently, the Note 20 Ultra is very similar to the S20 Ultra but features the desirable S Pen stylus and bang-up to-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ platform on US models (other models with Samsung's own Exynos hardware aren't so lucky). It also has probably the best display out there. It has a more pronounced (ugly) camera housing than the predecessor Note 10 but the lenses are well-balanced and a fine package. 

Best foldable 5G phone

Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G

The only foldable 5G phone also has the biggest screen.

Release date: September 2019 | Weight: 263g | Dimensions: 160.9x62.9x15.5mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 4.6-inch/7.3-inch | Resolution: 1536x2152 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 512GB | Battery: 4235mAh | Colours: Space Silver and Cosmos Black

Massive screen for productivity
Six cameras
Most expensive 5G phone 
No 3.5mm headphones jack

5G phone: Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

Is your phone foldable? Samsung’s first effort at a shape-shifting smartphone was originally announced in February. However, it was withdrawn pre-sale after some ‘issues’ with its folding screen. It's back after some remedial work, especially on the screen edges. 

The headline act sees it transform from a 4.6-inch to a 7.3-inch screen, though with six cameras, the 5G-ready Fold has top specs all-round. However, it is the most expensive 5G smartphone currently on sale. 

Best all-rounder 5G phones

Apple iPhone 12

More than enough reasons not to go Pro

Release date: October 2020 | Weight: 228g | Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm | OS: iOS 14 | Screen size: 6.1-inch | Resolution: 1170 x 2532 | CPU: Apple A14 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: 2815 mAh

Excellent dual camera
Almost as powerful as iPhone 12 Pro
Expensive
iPhone 12 mini better for some

Apple iPhone 12

(Image credit: Apple)

The standard iPhone 12 is in many ways the pick of the new iPhone 12 range with plenty of reasons not to go for the same-sized iPhone 12 Pro - though we love the Pro Max as you can see above. The whole iPhone 12 range comes with the latest A14 Bionic platform so there's no performance limitation either (Pro has more RAM though). Available in Black, White, Red, Green, Blue, there's also the iPhone 12 mini to consider, too. 

OnePlus 8T

A beautiful phone, but it comes at a cost

Release date: October 2020 | Weight: 192g | Dimensions: 160.7 x 74.1 x 8.4 mm | OS: Android 11/OxygenOS 11 | Screen size: 6.55-inches | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4500mAh | Colours: Aquamarine Green, Lunar Silver

48MP front camera 
Great design
No 3.5mm headphone jack
The OnePlus Nord is better value overall

OnePlus 8T

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus has had a little bit of a change in direction over the last year. Originally offering flagship phones for mid-range prices, the desire to make the hardware better saw the price creep up with the One Plus 7, 7T and 8 series. Now though, it has released this well-priced and re-thought OnePlus 8T alongside an even cheaper series - the OnePlus Nord. That latter phone is also worth checking out. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 5G

The new S20 is early 2020's key 5G phone in the UK and US

Release date: March 2020 | Weight: 163g | Dimensions: 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9mm | OS: Android 10/One UI | Screen size: 6.2-inch | Resolution: 3200x1440 | CPU: Exynos 990 or Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4000 mAh

Several colour options
Some decent pricing around
A very powerful 5G phone
Only available in 128GB

This is 2020's key 5G phone - or rather it is until we get a 5G iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy S20 absolutely sings, with flagship power under the hood in the form of Samsung's own Exynos 990 platform in Europe and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 in the US. 

It's not small, with a super bright 6.2-inch AMOLED display. While the more upmarket S20's have a quad camera, there are three lenses here, led by a very powerful 64 megapixel sensor. It's also capable of a 30x digital zoom. 

Samsung Galaxy S20

(Image credit: Samsung)

It's competitively priced versus other handsets - the same can't be said for others in the S20 range - and is available on some good contract deals, too. 

It's only available in a 128GB version which is a bit of a shame but if you want bigger you can always plump for the S20+ instead. 

The S20 comes in cloud pink, cloud blue and cosmic grey. 

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

2019's most famous 5G phone remains one of the best.

Release date: April 2019 | Weight: 198g | Dimensions: 162.6x77.1x7.9mm | OS: Android 9/One UI | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1440x3040 | CPU: Exynos 980 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4500 mAh | Colours: Crown Silver, Majestic Black, Royal Gold

Curved AMOLED display 
3.5mm headphones jack 
Large size
Expensive

5G phone: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

As well as a 6.7-inch curved screen, the S10 5G has six cameras, an in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, Qi wireless charging and power share, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

The colours, contrast and the viewing angle of its AMOLED screen is to die for, even if its Bixby natural language commands and dictation is probably not. Still one of the best 5G smartphones around.

Best budget 5G phone

Oppo Reno 5G

A 5G phone with a pop-up camera that also pushes the price down.

Release date: May 2019 | Weight: 215g | Dimensions: 162x77.2x9.3mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.6-inch | Resolution: 1080x2340 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4065 mAh | Colours: Ocean Green, Jet Black

Notch-free display 
Pop-up camera 
Relatively heavy 
No 3.5mm headphones jack 

5G phones: Oppo Reno 5G

(Image credit: Oppo)

Chinese phone maker Oppo has come up with something no other 5G phone has; a motorised selfie camera. Essential stuff? Absolutely not, but it does mean that the Reno 5G has a notch-free display and is great value, too. As well as that pop-up 16-megapixel front-facer for selfies and video calls, this phone – the world’s first commercially available 5G handset when it was launched in 2019 – has a 48-megapixel primary camera alongside a sensor for 10x zoom. 

Also inside this 6.6-inch phone are two nano SIM card slots to make global travel easier.

Best mid-range 5G phone

Samsung Galaxy A90 5G

An affordable 5G phone at last

Release date: October 2019 | Weight: 206g | Dimensions: 164.8x76.4x8.4 mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1080x2400 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Battery: 4500 mAh | Colours: White, Black

Long battery life
Great-looking screen 
No telephoto lens 
No 3.5mm headphones jack 

5G phone: Samsung Galaxy A90 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

Happily Samsung’s attempt at cutting costs isn’t immediately noticeable on the Galaxy A90 5G. Its AMOLED display has a novel 20:9 aspect ratio, which makes it a very tall phone. It’s there for watching widescreen video, of course, but it could also push productivity. 

Unusually, its three-camera array drops the telephoto lens, so forget about optical close-ups. It’s also not quite as slim as or as lightweight as Samsung’s flagship phones, and it’s a little plasticky to hold, but the Galaxy A90 5G is nevertheless a great way to enter the 5G era. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G

The former 5G king

Release date: August 2019 | Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.8-inch | Resolution: 1440x3040 | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855/Exynos 9825 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Battery: 4300mAh | Colours: Aura Glow/Aura Black/Aura White

HDR10+ for better contrast 
IP68 waterproofing 
Expensive
No 3.5mm headphones jack 

5G phone: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

Despite its huge price tag at launch in 2019, analysts reported that the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G sold faster than any other 5G phone.  It has a 6.8-inch ‘cinematic infinity’ AMOLED screen – now superceded by the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra. 

An interesting ‘Live Focus Video’, feature blurs out backgrounds in video for movie-like depth of field. It’s also waterproof to 1.5m for 30 minutes, and ships with Samsung’s S Pen stylus. It really is a total powerhouse. If you don't want the stylus though, look elsewhere. 

Jamie Carter is a freelance journalist, copywriter and author with 20 years' experience. Carter has written for over 50 publications and websites, and creates content for dozens of global blue-chip brands. Carter works with publishing houses and brands in the United Kingdom, the United States, and China, where he writes primarily about travel, technology, science and nature.