The best 5G phones in 2020

The best 5G phones deliver much faster downloads, lower latency and a lot more

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The best 5G phones aim to deliver on the hype we’ve been hearing about 5G long before the new networking standard even launched. With every major carrier having launched 5G in some form and Apple introducing its first 5G phones, it’s now time to decide whether it’s worth making sure your next smartphone can connect to the new networking standard.

The answer so far? You can get blazing speeds, provided that you’re in an area with 5G coverage. But 5G phones have more to offer than just speedier downloads.

Initially, the best 5G phones offered outstanding cameras, big displays and super-sized batteries. That’s no surprise really, since many of these phones are really just the best phones overall, only with 5G modems included.

Price is becoming more of a consideration, though, as phone makers start to offer 5G phones that cost $600 and less. These devices don’t have the premium features found in flagship phones, but they also won’t put a $1,000 dent in your wallet.

If you’re in the market for a smartphone this year, the time is right to start looking at a 5G phone, especially with four 5G-ready iPhone 12 models arriving over the course of the next month. For now, here are the best 5G phones we’ve tested so far.

What are the best 5G phones?

With the first 5G iPhones now available, the iPhone 12 Pro has emerged as the best 5G phone, thanks to its powerful processor and excellent design. If you don’t care for the $999 price of the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12 offers many of the same great features including extensive 5G support while also costing much less.

If you prefer Android to IOS devices, we like the Galaxy S20 Plus. It works with every kind of 5G network, while sporting a big OLED panel, vastly improved cameras and above-average battery life. It just edges the more expensive Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, though gamers should consider that phablet for its compatibility with Microsoft’s streaming game service.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is also a top-ranked 5G smartphone, but it lacks support for mmWave-based 5G networks. As good as the phone is, if 5G is your primary concern, you should only get the OnePlus 8 Pro if you’re planning to use the phone with a network carrier whose network primarily relies on low-band spectrum to deliver broad 5G coverage; the OnePlus 8T provides a low-cost option, but it’s exclusive to T-Mobile at the moment.

While Samsung and OnePlus are dominating the selection of 5G phones thus far, don’t overlook LG, which offers a pair of 5G phones, and the LG Velvet is the best of the bunch, largely because of its $599 price tag. If you want one of the best performing cameras on a 5G phone, consider the Google Pixel 5.

The best 5G phones you can buy right now

  1. iPhone 12 Pro

The best 5G phone you can buy

Screen Size: 6.1 inches | Processor: A14 Bionic | Size / weight: 5.78 x 2.82 x 0.29 inches / 6.66 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:06 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile Verizon

  • Extensive 5G support
  • Best-in-class cameras
  • A14 Bionic chip blows away other phones
  • 5G puts a hit on battery life
  • No charger included with the phone

Apple says it’s squeezed more 5G bands into its latest iPhone models like the iPhone 12 Pro than any other phone out there. That allows the iPhone to work with 5G in most places, regardless of what kind of 5G network a wireless carrier has built. And that should also allow the iPhone 12 Pro to get the best of 5G going forward, making this an excellent option if you’re looking for a 5G phone.

The 5G connectivity comes at a price, with the iPhone 12 Pro taking a hit on battery life when it connects to the faster network. (When we turned off 5G, the iPhone 12 lasted nearly 90 minutes longer on our battery test.) But Apple has added a number of other features that make this a very appealing 5G phone, from a powerful A14 processor that outperforms any chipset found in an Android phone to a gorgeous 6.1-inch OLED screen.

The iPhone 12 Pro also boasts features that make it a great phone overall, not just the best 5G phone. The phone’s three rear cameras are augmented by a LiDAR sensor, producing some of the best shots we’ve seen from a smartphone. And the phone’s new MagSafe charging system makes it easy to wirelessly power up the battery on your iPhone 12 Pro.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

The best 5G phone for Android fans

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 | Size / weight: 6.37 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches / 6.56 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:31 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon

  • Screen features 120Hz refresh rate
  • Impressive 64MP telephoto lens
  • Supports all 5G network types
  • 120Hz refresh rate impacts battery life
  • Expensive

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Plus is the best 5G phone Android users can buy because it works on every type of 5G network. The Snapdragon 865 processor that makes 5G connectivity possible also delivers performance that can match any Android phone.

The biggest knock on the Galaxy S20 Plus is its price. At $1,199, this is not a device for those on a budget. But you get a lot of phone for that hefty price. The QHD AMOLED screen lets you opt for a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and more immersive gaming. (Just be aware that the faster refresh rate can drain the phone’s battery at a faster clip.) Samsung has also made significant improvements to the four rear cameras, with the 64MP megapixel telephoto lens standing out in particular for its super-crisp zoom shots.

Cheaper 5G phones are now widely available, but only the Galaxy S20 Plus offers a great balance between features and price.

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Great for 5G gaming

Screen Size: 6.9 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 Plus | Size / weight: 6.48 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches / 7.33 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:15 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon

  • Streams Xbox games
  • Good battery life
  • Dynamic 120Hz display
  • Expensive
  • Large camera bump on the back

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung’s most versatile big-screen phone, and that includes its approach to 5G. This 6.9-inch phablet works with every available 5G network, and its dynamic 120Hz display adjust the refresh rate to squeeze more battery life while also delivering smoother scrolling and more immersive gaming.

It’s the gaming aspect of the Note 20 Ultra that makes it one of the best 5G phones, and not just because it runs on a powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra works with Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming to let you play more than 100 Xbox games on your phone. With 5G connectivity, gameplay should be a delight.

You’ll pay a bit more for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra than you would for some of Samsung’s other 5G phones, like the Galaxy S20 Plus. But you’ll find it’s well worth the premium price.

  1. iPhone 12

A more affordable 5G phone

Screen Size: 6.1 inches | Processor: A14 Bionic | Size / weight: 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches / 5.78 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:25 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile Verizon

  • Comprehensive 5G coverage
  • Excellent design with 6.1-inch screen
  • Impressive performance
  • Only 64GB of storage in base model
  • 5G can impact battery life

If you don’t want to pay up for a 5G phone, the iPhone 12 is an attractive proposition, costing $799. That’s $200 less than the iPhone 12 Pro, though you’re still getting many of the features that make Apple’s Pro model so appealing — a fast A14 Bionic processor, a 6.1-inch OLED screen and 5G connectivity with just about any network you can think of.

As with the iPhone 12 Pro, 5G connectivity puts a strain on the iPhone 12’s battery, as we saw when we switched off 5G and saw battery life improve by nearly two hours on our battery test. The iPhone 12 features a Smart Data Mode to intelligently switch between LTE and 5G depending on whether or not the device really needs the extra speed.

  1. OnePlus 8 Pro

A good 5G phone for the money

Screen Size: 6.78 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 | Size and weight: 6.5 x 2.9 x 0.33 inches / 7 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:05 | 5G networks supported: Unlocked

  • Bright and beautiful 120Hz display
  • Very good quad cameras
  • Super fast wired and wireless charging
  • No mmWave 5G support

The OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the best Android phones you can get, and it’s $300 cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Plus. But for the purposes of 5G, the OnePlus 8 Pro is more limited than some of its rival phones. The phone is only available unlocked, so you can’t buy it through a specific wireless carrier.

More significantly, the OnePlus 8 only works on sub-6Hz-based 5G networks. That means it can’t benefit from the higher speeds of mmWave-based 5G. Verizon customers will want to look for another phone, as that carrier’s 5G network relies heavily on mmWave.

That’s less of a concern on T-Mobile, which built its nationwide network on sub-6Ghz 5G. (AT&T customers report that the OnePlus 8 Pro doesn’t support AT&T’s 5G bands, even though that carrier primarily uses low-band 5G as well.) If the OnePlus 8 Pro is compatible with your carrier, you’ll get a phone with a vibrant and smooth 120Hz screen, very good quad cameras and a ridiculously fast charging speed even when you juice up your phone wirelessly.

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20

A 5G Samsung phablet for less than $1,000

Screen Size: 6.7 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 Plus | Size / weight: 6.36 x 2.96 x 0.32 inches inches / 6.77 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:38 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon

  • Fantastic cameras
  • Excellent performance
  • Handy S Pen
  • Battery life could be better
  • Lacks Note 20 Ultra’s faster refresh rate

The Galaxy Note 20 offers a nice compromise for people who want a full-featured 5G-capable phone without the four-figure price tag. At $999, the Note 20 isn’t inexpensive by any means, but you do get a lot for your money, including a device that works with all flavors of 5G.

The Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset inside the Galaxy Note 20 delivers some of the best performance you’ll see from an Android phone, and the cameras stack up well against other top flagships. Like the Note 20 Ultra, the Note 20 includes an S Pen, and while the stylus is more responsive on Samsung’s pricier phablet, you’ll still all the great note-taking features on this model.

If there’s one thing to be wary of with the Note 20, it’s the phone’s battery life, which was below average in our testing. Still, that’s one of the few marks against an otherwise outstanding 5G phone.

  1. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The best foldable 5G phone

Screen Size: 7.6 inches (main), 6.2 inches (cover) | Processor: : Snapdragon 865 Plus | Size and weight: 6.2 x 2.6 x 0.66 inches (closed); 6.2 x 5 x 0.27 inches (open) inches / 9.9 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:10 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon

 

  • Big cover display
  • Improved multitasking
  • Flex mode support
  • Expensive, even for a 5G phone
  • Heavy

5G phones may be getting cheaper, but the Galaxy Z Fold 2 goes in the opposite direction. At $1,999, this is the most expensive 5G phone you can buy, but Samsung has packed plenty of value into its Galaxy Fold follow-up.

First, there’s the Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, which not only delivers superior performance, but allows the Galaxy Z Fold 2 to connect to any type of 5G network. The phone opens up to reveal a 7.6-inch screen, which is ideal for streaming video over 5G’s faster network speeds. Any obsessed with productivity will also appreciate how that big screen allows you to do more, from multitasking with three apps to taking advantage of apps optimized for the full display.

In addition to not being cheap, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is not a slender device when folded up. You’ll want to carry this phone around in a coat pocket. And if you do, you’re getting the best foldable around that also happens to work with 5G.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung’s least expensive 5G flagship

Screen Size: 6.5 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 | Size / weight: 6.29 x 2.93 x 0.33 inches / 6.7 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:03 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon

  • Affordable price
  • Big 120Hz display
  • Solid performance
  • Disappointing battery life
  • Doesn’t include fast charger

If you want 5G connectivity and a lower-cost Samsung phone, you’ve now got options. The Galaxy A71 5G is available for $599 and uses the Snapdragon 765 chipset, but if you can spend the extra $100, we’d recommend the $699 Galaxy S20 FE. This phone features the same Snapdragon 865 chipset Samsung uses in all its Galaxy S20 models, and it boasts an OLED screen with a fast 120Hz refresh rate, too.

Battery life could be better on the Galaxy S20 FE, which fell about an hour shy of the smartphone average in our testing. But you’ll appreciate that expansive, immersive 6.5-inch display and the fact that the Galaxy S20 FE is compatible with all kinds of 5G networks.

  1. OnePlus 8T

A lower-cost 5G flagship

Screen Size: 6.55 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 | Size / weight: 6.32 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches / 6.6 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:49 | 5G networks supported: T-Mobile

  • Bright 120Hz display
  • Fast charging
  • Premium design
  • Disappointing cameras
  • No wireless charging

OnePlus has replaced the OnePlus 8 that came out earlier this year with the OnePlus 8T, and in many ways, it’s a welcome upgrade. The 8T adopts a 120Hz refresh rate, an improvement over the 90Hz refresh rate on the OnePlus 8, and it features the same powerful Snapdragon 865 processor. The battery life is solid (though enabling the 120Hz refresh rate will cut into its endurance), and when you need to charge, OnePlus’ Warp Charge 65 is super fast. We got a drained phone to 93% of capacity after a half-hour.

In the U.S., the OnePlus 8T is a T-Mobile exclusive, so it’s really only an option with the Uncarrier’s 5G network. That makes this a non-starter if you’re an AT&T or Verizon customer. We were also disappointed by the OnePlus 8T’s cameras, though we suspect a software update will address some of the issues we ran into during testing.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The 5G phone that pulls out all the stops

Screen Size: 6.9 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 865 | Size and weight: 6.6 x 2.7 x 0.34 inches / 7.7 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:58 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon

 

  • Impressive photos
  • Gorgeous 120Hz display
  • 5,000 mAh battery
  • Expensive

When money’s no object, turn to the Galaxy S20 Ultra for your 5G phone needs. It may have a price tag as expansive as its 6.9-inch OLED display, but the S20 Ultra also boasts plenty of features for its $1,399 asking price.

That display has a 120Hz refresh rate for a much smoother, immersive experience when you’re scrolling or gaming. ( The quad-lens rear cameras take excellent pictures, and the powerful Space Zoom works really well up to 10x. A huge 5,000 mAh battery means you’ll get through the day on a single-charge.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra works with every kind of 5G network so you needn’t have to worry about which model to get for which carrier. The phone’s price means it won’t be for everyone, but people who do splurge on the Galaxy S20 Ultra will be satisfied with the result.

  1. LG Velvet

The most stylish 5G phone

Screen Size: 6.8 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 765G | Size / weight: 6.6 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches / 6.53 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:29 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, Verizon

  • Great looking phone
  • Decent performance, cameras, battery life
  • Low-light photos are subpar
  • Bloatware on AT&T version

The prices of 5G phones are falling, and the LG Velvet is just one of many new handsets offering 5G connectivity for less than $600. But you’re not getting a cheap-looking phone for that price by any means — the Velvet features a stylish design with a bright, colorful display whose looks put many more expensive rivals to shame.

Powered by a Snapdragon 765G processor, the LG Velvet delivers solid performance at this price, and its cameras are just as capable, with the possible exception of when the light drop down low.

While the LG Velvet works with both AT&T and Verizon — a T-Mobile version is coming soon — you will need to pay a $50 premium for the model that works on LG’s high-speed 5G signal. At least, you’ll be toting around one of the best-looking 5G phones currently available.

Like the LG V60 ThinQ 5G, the LG Velvet is compatible with LG’s Dual Screen attachment — a case that provides a second screen for your 5G phone.

Read our full LG Velvet review.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

  1. Google Pixel 5

Best 5G phone for photos

Screen Size: 6 inches | Processor: Snapdragon 765G | Size / weight: 5.70 x 2.77 x 0.31 inches / 5.33 ounces | Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:29 | 5G networks supported: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon

  • Excellent cameras
  • Gorgeous compact design
  • Underwhelming performance
  • No higher storage capacity

Unlike other 5G flagships, you won’t have to pay big bucks for the Google Pixel 5, which starts at $699. To get that price, though, Google make sacrifices, like using a Snapdragon 765G chip instead of something more powerful from Qualcomm’s 8 series of chipsets. That puts the Pixel 5 at a performance disadvantage, especially when the Galaxy S20 FE uses a Snapdragon 865 while costing the same $699.

There’s one thing the Pixel 5 delivers that other 5G phones really can’t match — outstanding photography. The Pixel 5 benefits from Google’s photo processing smarts to produce excellent shots even with just two rear cameras, neither of which is a telephoto lens. The phone’s design is pretty compact, too, avoiding the bulk that characterizes other early 5G handsets.

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