The Best 5G Phone for You

Looking for a 5G-compatible phone? Your options are wider than ever.

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iphone12 Photo: Apple

Just two years ago, the number of phones that support 5G was so small we could list them all on one page. Today the tech is almost a standard feature, appearing even in models that sell for $500 or less.

Before you rush out to upgrade your phone, though, you should know that the 5G experience is not likely to dazzle you—not right now anyway. The wireless carriers are still working to expand their 5G networks, and while their service technically stretches from coast to coast, it’s still relatively spotty.

And even if you can get a signal, it may be a while before you experience the full benefits of 5G. According to industry experts, one day it will offer significantly faster download speeds and more reliable connectivity, but the rollout has been slow.

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At the moment, wireless providers are advertising super-fast 5G plans in addition to their everyday 5G service. On AT&T, it’s called 5G+; on T-Mobile, it’s 5G Ultra Capacity; and on Verizon, it’s Ultra Wideband. Those plans grant access to a high-frequency millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum mostly found in select dense urban areas and high-traffic venues like airports and sports arenas. If you have a phone with an mmWave antenna, you can benefit from those faster download speeds and more reliable connections.

If you live in an area where mmWave is unavailable, don’t worry. You can use any 5G phone to access a carrier’s more common low- and mid-band networks (not to mention the existing 4G networks). While slower than mmWave, those low- and mid-band signals are more reliable (because they travel farther and are less likely to get impeded) and they’re still faster than 4G.

Beyond support for the latest wireless technology, the best-performing 5G phones in our ratings (available to CR members) offer a full range of features, including highly rated cameras, large displays, and batteries that last for more than a full day on one charge.

Here’s a quick look at some of the best 5G smartphones to pass through our labs.

Best 5G Android Phone

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Overall score: 82
Typical price: $1,200 
5G bands: low, mid, and millimeter wave

Test results: Samsung’s top-scoring smartphone has a large 6.8-inch display that’s compatible with the company’s trademark S-Pen stylus. The model earns an Excellent rating overall, particularly shining when it comes to the screen and performance.

The phone also has a fourth rear camera—a 3x telephoto lens not found on its S21 siblings, which feature wide, ultrawide, and 10x zoom cameras.

Battery life is an impressive 38 hours.

Interested in other big phones? Check out our list of the best large-screen smartphones.

Best 5G iPhone

iPhone 13 Pro Max
Overall score: 84
Typical price: $1,100
5G bands: low, mid, and millimeter wave

Test results: Apple’s supersized 13 Pro Max boasts a 6.7-inch supersharp OLED display with a high refresh rate that makes animations appear much smoother than those on earlier models. It also has the longest battery life of the phones we’ve tested, lasting 53 hours on a single charge in our labs. And the cameras rank among the best on the market, earning Very Good scores for still image, selfie image, and rear video quality. 

If you’d like a more modest-sized iPhone, you might be happy with the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, which performs just as well as the Pro Max except it has a shorter 40-hour battery life. 

Best 5G iPhone Under $500

iPhone SE 2022
Overall score: 75
Typical price: $430
5G bands: low and midrange

Test results: Apple’s smallest and lightest phone also has the company’s lowest price. And yes, it’s 5G compatible, although it doesn’t support the faster 5G mmWave bands like the iPhone 12 and 13 models do.

Otherwise, this 4.7-inch phone (measured diagonally) shares many similarities with its larger, more expensive siblings, including Very Good scores for still photos, selfie camera, and video quality. 

Battery life for such a small phone is a decent 30 hours.

Best 5G Android Phone Under $500

OnePlus 8T
Overall score: 75
Typical price: $400
5G bands: low and midrange

Test results: The lowest-priced phone on this list, the OnePlus 8T has a lot going for it, but it’s designed to work solely on T-Mobile’s 5G network. (AT&T and Verizon customers can buy an unlocked version from OnePlus, but it will work only on the carriers’ older 4G LTE networks.)

The model earns Excellent ratings for performance and the quality of its 6.6-inch display.

It offers four cameras on the back (48-megapixel main, plus ultrawide-, zoom-, and monochrome-lens options), which perform very well in our tests for video quality. The still and selfie image quality receive Good ratings. 

The battery delivers 23.5 hours on a single charge, but that’s below average for a phone these days.

Best 5G Android Phone From Google

Google Pixel 6
Overall score: 75
Typical price: $600
5G bands: low, mid, and millimeter wave

Test results: If you prefer the pure Android experience to the customized interfaces and software developed by manufacturers like Samsung, check out Google’s flagship Pixel 6. The moderately priced phone has an even longer battery life than the more expensive 6 Pro (34 hours vs. 31.5 hours).

The 6.4-inch Pixel 6 earns Very Good scores for performance, display, still image, selfie image, and rear video quality, too.


Headshot of CR author Melanie Pinola

Melanie Pinola

As a service journalist, my goal is to help people get the most out of their technology and other tools. Prior to joining CR, my work appeared online and in print for publications including The New York Times, Wirecutter, Lifehacker, Popular Mechanics, and PCWorld. When I'm not researching or writing, I'm playing video games with my family, testing new recipes, or chasing the puppy. Feel free to reach me on Twitter (@melaniepinola).