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

5G phones
(Image credit: Future)

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 debuting over the coming months. That's because every major handset launched will be 5G-capable. 

Samsung is up next with new foldable phones that we believe will be called the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. Apple, OnePlus, Nokia and Xiaomi are also all expected to have new devices.

The new iPhone series, should be called the iPhone 13 logically, but we wonder if it will make the move to the number 14 or even 12 S. 

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.

BEST 5G PHONES: OVERALL

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

The top dog - for now

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Superb camera array
+
Extremely efficient platform

Reasons to avoid

-
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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing 108MP camera
+
One of the most powerful phones around

Reasons to avoid

-
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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
An Android powerhouse
+
Exynos chip not as preferable as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ in US devices

Reasons to avoid

-
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 all-rounder 5G phones

Apple iPhone 12

More than enough reasons not to go Pro

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent dual camera
+
Almost as powerful as iPhone 12 Pro

Reasons to avoid

-
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. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 5G

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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Several colour options
+
Some decent pricing around
+
A very powerful 5G phone

Reasons to avoid

-
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. 

Best budget 5G phone

Oppo Reno 5G

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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Notch-free display 
+
Pop-up camera 

Reasons to avoid

-
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

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Great-looking screen 

Reasons to avoid

-
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. 

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.