The Samsung S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra 5G smartphones.
The Samsung S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra 5G smartphones.

If you’re in the market for a new phone, this might be a good time to consider 5G. The new wireless technology has many people excited. And after years of buzz, we're getting our first real glimpse at what it can do.

It may not be widely available where you live, but the major carriers have been steadily expanding their 5G networks over the past year, slowly turning what once was spotty connectivity into something resembling national coverage.

The choice of 5G-compatible phones is wider now, too. Bare-bones models start as low as $500, with high-end models stretching beyond $1,000 because of cutting-edge cameras and OLED displays.

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According to telecommunications experts, 5G speeds—five times faster than 4G connections at peak performance—will eventually allow users to download a movie in just 5 seconds.

The technology will also pave the way for the instantaneous response times required to safely perform robotic surgery and operate self-driving cars that communicate with other vehicles and road infrastructure.

Before you crack open your wallet for a new 5G phone, though, make sure it includes the hardware required to operate on your carrier's 5G network, because not all 5G signals are the same.

As we witnessed firsthand in this early look at 5G technology, the high-frequency millimeter wave (mmWave) signals are much faster than those on 4G networks, but they don't travel as far as signals sent over the lower bands of 5G. They don't have much success penetrating walls, buses, and throngs of pedestrians, either.

Conversely, midband and lowband 5G frequencies are slower but more reliable.

In the end, you want a phone equipped to capture the full range of 5G signals in your carrier's network. Most of the models listed below are set up for lowband and midband signals. Others—specifically those set up for Verizon’s “Ultra-Wideband” network—are compatible with millimeter wave signals.

We've tried to include all the information you need to make an informed decision about each model. But it's not a bad idea to double-check with your carrier or retailer before you buy the phone.

Here’s a quick look at the 5G smartphones currently on the market.

Samsung

Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra 5G
Pricing: These start at $1,000 for a S20 with 128GB of storage, $1,200 for a S20+ (128GB), and $1,400 for a S20 Ultra (128GB).

Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus unlocked.

Test results: These rank among our highest-rated smartphones. The S20, which has the least in the way of bells and whistles, scores the highest, mainly because it survived our tough durability testing. The other two models didn't.

But as you'd expect, the S20+ and Ultra get higher marks for battery life and cameras. While the S20 powered along for a very respectable 37 hours in our testing, the S20+ and S20 Ultra lasted 40 hours and 40.5 hours, respectively.

In addition, the S20+ offers a rear-camera setup with a 3x lens, and the Ultra has one with a 10x lens.

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Samsung Galaxy S20 5G

Price: $1,000

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G

Price: $1,200

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

Price: $1,400

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Galaxy Note20 and Note20 Ultra
Pricing: The Note20 will cost you $1,000, and a Note20 Ultra with 128GB of storage starts at $1,300.

Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus unlocked.

Test results: These are two of the top models in our ratings. They feature displays that are slightly bigger, and brighter, than those of last year’s Note models.

Samsung also made some significant improvements in battery life this time around. In our testing, the Note20 lasted 34 hours on a single charge, and the Note20 Ultra made it 36.5 hours.

The cameras on the phones are top-notch. The Note20 includes a 3x camera, and the Note20 Ultra has a camera with a 5x lens.

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Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G

Price: $1,000

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G

Price: $1,300

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Galaxy Note10+ 5G
Pricing:
 Samsung continues to sell this phone for $1,300, but it's almost a year old. So if you shop around, you might find a deal.

Carriers: AT&T and Verizon.

Test results: This remains one of the higher-rated models in our rankings. It comes with a 6.8-inch OLED display and the Note line’s trademark stylus.

The rear cameras received Very Good ratings for both still-image and video quality. And the battery lasted a respectable 29 hours in our testing.

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Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G

Price: $1,300

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Galaxy Z Flip 5G
Pricing: $1,450.

Carriers: AT&T and T-Mobile, plus unlocked.

Test results: This phone just went on sale in August, so we don't have test results yet. But beyond the 5G capabilities and chipset, the phone appears to be almost identical to the Galaxy Z Flip that launched in February.

Though the folding-screen concept has its merits, the phone itself is one of the lowest-scoring models in our ratings.

Where did it fall short? In our battery life testing, it logged just 17.5 hours, which is paltry by today's standards, though not entirely surprising given the phone's small form factor. 

Looking for a foldable option that promises to do better? The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, which recently went on sale for a whopping $2,000, is an updated version of the 2019 Galaxy Fold, and that phone lasted 31 hours in our testing.

Galaxy A71 5G
Pricing: 
$600.

Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus unlocked.

Test results: We’re still in the process of testing this model. But on paper, it packs in quite a bit for the price. It comes with a 6.7-inch OLED display and a 64-megapixel main camera.

Looking to save even more money? The recently released Galaxy A51 5G is priced at $100 less. It comes with a 6.5-inch display and a new 48-megapixel main camera.

We haven't tested the 5G version of that phone, but the non-5G version performed fairly well. The cameras are just okay, but the OLED display received an Excellent rating.

And Samsung just unveiled the Galaxy S20 FE 5G. That phone, which is available for preorder now and goes on sale Oct. 2, will cost $700. 

OnePlus

OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro
Pricing:
The OnePlus 8 starts at $800, and the 8 Pro costs $900.

Carriers: T-Mobile and Verizon, plus unlocked.

Test results: The OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the highest-scoring phones in our ratings, receiving Excellent ratings for both display and performance. But the camera test scores fell short of those for other top models. In particular, the rear camera received just a Good rating for video quality.

The lower-priced OnePlus 8 also performed well in our testing. In the battery life trials, it scored better than the 8 Pro despite its slightly smaller size, lasting 38 hours compared with the 8 Pro’s 34 hours.

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OnePlus 8

Price: $600

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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OnePlus 8 Pro

Price: $700

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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LG

V60 ThinQ 5G
Pricing:
About $950.

Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus unlocked.

Test results: LG’s latest smartphone comes with a 6.8-inch display, the ability to shoot video in 8K, and an optional attachable dual screen. In our ratings, the model ranks about the same as last year's LG V50 ThinQ 5G.

The rear cameras received Very Good ratings, and the battery lasted an industry-leading 45 hours in our testing.

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LG V60 ThinQ 5G

Price: $700

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Velvet 5G
Pricing: $600.

Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Test results: It's not one of our top-rated models, but the Velvet is a decent 5G for the price.

You get a 6.8-inch OLED display, and the triple-camera setup on the back received Very Good ratings from our testers for still-image and video quality. The phone is both wireless and quick-charge-compatible, and the battery lasted an exceptional 40 hours in our testing.

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LG Velvet 5G

Price: $600

Performance
Battery and charging
Camera: Rear image quality
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Motorola

Moto Z4
Price:
This phone retails for $500 but appears to be on its way out. To get 5G service, you have to add a $350 Mod attachment that's sold separately.

Carrier: Verizon.

Test results: The Z4 boasts a 6.4-inch OLED display rated Very Good by our testers and an ample 3,600-mAh battery that lasted 28.5 hours in our labs. But the cameras rank near the bottom of our ratings, reflecting a midpriced phone with midpriced hardware.

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Motorola Moto Z4

Price: $500

Camera: Rear image quality
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Edge
Pricing: $700.

Carriers: Unlocked.

Test results: Our testers rated the Edge’s rear cameras Very Good for still-image and video quality. And the battery lasted a respectable 34 hours in our labs. But after 50 drops in our tumbler, the phone’s display no longer worked.

Verizon sells a similar model called the Motorola Edge+, which we haven’t tested. That phone costs about $1,000 and features a larger battery. 

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Motorola Edge

Price: $700

Performance
Battery and charging
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Sony

Xperia 1 II
Pricing:
$1,200.

Carriers: Unlocked.

Test results: A premium-priced 5G phone from Sony? That's right, and it performed fairly well in our ratings.

It doesn’t rise to the level of Samsung’s top 5G phones, but the Xperia 1 II does rate Very Good overall. It has a great 6.5-inch OLED display and rear cameras that rate Very Good for still-image and video quality.

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Sony Xperia 1 II

Price: $1,200

Performance
Camera: Rear image quality
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