Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 52 models in cell phones & services to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
Overall score is based mainly on Ease of use, Messaging, Web browsing, Display quality, Voice quality, Phoning, Battery life, Camera Image and Video quality, and Portability. Music, camera, and other features and capabilities are also considered. For those available from multiple providers, test results are averaged. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points. Phones are listed in performance order. Due to test upgrades, and phone firmware updates, results may vary from past Ratings.
Ease of use
Ease of use mainly considers how easy is it is to access the phone's various features and modes, such as phoning, messaging, Web browsing, the camera, the music player, applications and other multimedia content. We also consider one-handed operation, programmable shortcuts and touch screens.
Messaging mainly assesses keyboard ergonomics, e-mail readability, attachment capabilities, and text-messaging features. It also considers display size and corporate capabilities.
Web browsing mainly assesses browser capabilities, including the phone's ability to handle more than one browser, display size, processor, and data connections, such as 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi.
Display quality represents overall picture quality, which includes pixel resolution, contrast in normal and bright lighting (outdoor use), and color accuracy.
Voice quality considers listening quality which reflects what you hear; talking, what's heard by other phones. Tests were conducted in noisy and quiet environments using live conventional phone calls indicated by carrier used.
Phoning considers the step-saving functions for making and receiving calls. These include hands-free capabilities such as voice command and Bluetooth, one-handed operation, speed dialing, ringer controls, call timers, and other features. We also evaluated keypad readability under different lighting conditions, and holding a phone while on a call.
Battery life represents tests under nominal cell-network signals, including battery consumption performing tasks that involve voice, data, display, and other factors.
Camera: Image quality
Image quality is based on objective and subjective judgments of test images, which includes evaluating resolution, dynamic range, color accuracy, and visual noise.
Camera: Video quality
Video quality is based on the judgments of trained panelists who viewed recorded video images shot at the highest quality setting available (1080p max.) in multiple lighting conditions.
Portability represents our judgment based on the best combination of size and weight.
These models, purchased unlocked, should work on major providers such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Check with your provider for potential service limitations.
Display diagonal size
Display diagonal size is the diagonal length of main display measured to the nearest tenth of an inch. Some folding models have an additional, external display for viewing the time, music tracks, and other functions.
Indicates the manufacturerstated number of pixels that the screen can display, in portrait orientation.
Operating system indicates the smartphone's operating system. See "Buying Guide" for more information about the operating systems.
Recommended cell phones & services are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
Find out which Cell phones & services scored the best on our tests. Our tests are based not only on government and industry standards but also on standards our specialists think should apply, which re-create the experience you will have with the product.
Cell phones are some of the hottest products on the market, as shown by the excitement that surrounds newly-released smart phones and upgraded cell phone features and cell phone providers. In many families, every member has a cell phone. So it's wise to do some research before making your cell-phone buying decision. If you're looking for information about cell phones & services, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ cell phone & service reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our cell phone & service buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and cell phone & service reviews to help you choose the best cell phone & service for your needs.
Ratings & recommended cell phones & services
A smartphone can typically handle multiple e-mail accounts (including corporate types), has a sophisticated organizer, and can handle Office documents. Some allow you to create and edit spreadsheets and documents, and they usually support Microsoft Exchange. Their touch-screen displays are larger, and their cameras are more advanced than those on conventional phones. And they typically have Wi-Fi, and support high mobile wireless data speeds that facilitate better Web browsing and streaming media. Their advanced operating systems give them access to a host of applications: productivity tools, shopping, multimedia, games, travel, news, weather, social, finance, references, etc.
Many phones work only with specific carrier, so you must decide whether to stay with your current provider or select a new one when shopping for a phone. See Buying Guide for more details on choosing a phone.
The Ratings rank phones strictly on performance. Note that we have many other competent, low-priced phones in our Ratings that also make fine choices. Our recommendations call out those models with the highest overall scores and, except for CR Best Buys, do not factor in price. You may also want to consider other models that scored nearly as well. When narrowing your choice, weigh performance, features, and value. Recommended smartphones Smartphone Ratings
Smartphones are finally getting smarter about serving the people who actually use them. Us. If you're in the market for a new model, you can expect a larger, sharper display that's easier to read; better performance; and, perhaps for the first time, a battery you can lean on for a full day before needing a re-charge. Smartphone cameras are improving too. Most have sensors with at least 8 megapixels and allow you to shoot high-definition videos. If camera performance ranks high on your list of criteria, look for models that earned scores of very good or better for image quality and good or better for video. Phone-display resolutions are increasing, as well. So-called Quad HD displays offer very high pixel densities (often more than 500 pixels per inch). That should mean sharper pictures and more detail. But in our tests, we found that most users won't notice the benefits in everyday use of Quad HD--partly because even the largest phones have relatively small displays. You will notice a difference, however--and not in a good way--if you buy a phone with a display that isn't at least HD. Stick with resolutions of 720p and higher. (If the resolution is expressed in pixel density, you want 300 ppi or higher.) Most handsets we tested have displays in the 4.5- to 6-inch range. The larger screens are great for viewing Web pages, maps, and videos, but the phones may be hard to manipulate. If you're considering one of these so-called phablets, make sure you can use it comfortably with one hand.