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Best smartphone 2023: The finest Android and Apple phones you can buy today

Nathan Spendelow Ben Johnston
25 Apr 2023

This year is stuffed with smartphone launches, so we've rounded up the best Android and Apple smartphones you can buy today

We all covet those little rectangles in our pockets. Smartphones play a massive part in our day-to-day lives, but buying the perfect smartphone can be an arduous task. However, don't fret – we're here to help you buy the best smartphone for you.

READ NEXT: Best phone camera

We've painstakingly put every smartphone to the test, with the best coverage in the UK, so we can help you make a buying decision. Our best smartphone roundup is always kept up to date, so be sure to check back often.

Best smartphone: At a glance

How to choose the best smartphone for you

Finding the right smartphone for your budget can be tricky, especially when there are so many expensive contracts to sift through. To make things easier, we've rounded up everything you need to know about buying your perfect smartphone, as well as what you need to know about picking out a contract.

Should I buy a smartphone on contract or SIM-free?

Generally speaking, buying a phone unlocked and SIM-free is the best option, as you can use any SIM you like and sell the phone when you want to upgrade, but you do have to have the money upfront. If you can't stomach the upfront cost, go with a contract, but work out the total cost of it over the period to make sure you aren't getting ripped off: if you can afford a bit more upfront, you'll most likely save over the contract's length.

Which smartphone operating system do I need?

There are two smartphone operating systems to decide from: iOS and Android.

You'll only find iOS on Apple's own smartphones. Typically, iOS gets apps first and is a wonderfully slick OS. It isn't as customisable as Android, but there's no doubt that it's incredibly easy to use.

Android has a much wider reach than its Apple counterpart and is found on the majority of smartphones on the market. There are many different versions of Google's operating system available, though. Generally speaking, you'll want a phone running Android 11 or higher, as older versions will now be outdated. Manufacturers often customise their own versions of Android, which means that the experience can differ between handsets.

READ NEXT: Best Android smartphone

What should I look for in a smartphone display?

As most smartphones are controlled entirely with their touchscreens, the size and quality of a handset's display are very important. A larger screen will make everything easier to read and is particularly useful for web browsing, but a big display makes for a big phone that you may find harder to carry around.

A screen's pixel density, measured in pixels per inch (ppi), will give you an idea of how clear and sharp text will appear on a screen – a smaller number of pixels stretched across a huge screen, for example, will lead to jagged edges. Screen technology can also be very important, with AMOLED screens and IPS being the two main technologies, each with their own pros and cons.

What about performance and battery life?

Most smartphones are powered by octa-core processors these days. As a general rule, the clock speed of a processor (measured in GHz) shows how fast the phone is and will give you a rough indication of how fluid the operating system feels, as well as how the phone copes with running apps and games.

READ NEXT: Best phone battery life

Alternatively, lengthy battery life is one of the biggest things you need to look for when picking up a new phone. Our battery tests help you make the right decision about the handset that's right for you, but generally speaking the bigger the phone's battery capacity (measured in mAh), the longer it will last on a single charge.

How much smartphone storage do I need?

Generally speaking, a minimum of 64GB of onboard storage is fine if there's a microSD slot, but you'll soon find the internal storage filling up quickly. With more of an emphasis on smartphone cameras in recent years, it's likely that your Instagram snaps will be the main culprit in using up your storage so we recommend at least 64GB to get you started.

How does Expert Reviews test smartphones?

When a handset arrives for review, we test it using a number of benchmarking methods. We typically start with CPU and GPU processing, where we use the Geekbench 5 and GFXBench applications found in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store – these provide us with a set of scores which we use to compare against similarly priced rivals. A phone's screen is tested using DisplayCAL software and a display colorimeter. This gives us an accurate reading of how good the display is at reproducing colours, as well as maximum brightness and contrast.

Next up is battery life. This is where we use our in-house video rundown test, which displays a looped video with flight mode enabled and the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness. We simply play the video and record the timestamp when we first boot up the phone after it runs dry. A phone's cameras are put to the test in a variety of shooting scenarios, including scenic shots, low-light and indoor photography as well as rapid video panning in a range of modes.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones

The best smartphones you can buy in 2023

1. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: The best smartphone overall

Price: From £1,249 l Buy now from Amazon

Latest Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra contract deals

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a flagship smartphone of rare distinction. The most complete high-end handset the company has produced to date, it might cost you a bit more than other handsets on this list, but the S23 Ultra is the very best Android smartphone currently on the market.

Samsung's latest big-screened beauty has received a healthy internal upgrade this year, moving from the previous Exynos 2200 to the far superior Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Performance is greatly improved as a result, and battery life is significantly longer as well. 

Likewise, the S23 Ultra's cameras continue to impress, with the addition of a new 200MP main sensor (alongside a pair of telephoto lenses and an ultrawide). Samsung's terrific S Pen stylus also returns for its second year, and while the upgrades here might be lacking compared to the previous version, it's still a wonderfully versatile dinky doodler. 

If you're after the very best that Android can muster, then make no mistake, it doesn't get much better than the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 3.36GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy; Screen: 6.8in, 3,088 x 1,440; Camera: 200MP, 10MP (10x zoom), 10MP (3x zoom), 12MP (wide); Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB; Operating system: Android 13 

Also consider: Samsung Galaxy S23

Not got Ultra-sized sums for one of Samsung's latest flagships? Not to worry, the regular Galaxy S23 is just as formidable, with much less of an impact on your wallet. 

It's a significantly smaller handset than the S23 Ultra, with its 6.1in display, so it's also better suited for tinier hands and skinnier trouser pockets. It uses the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset as its bigger sibling, too and while its 50MP main camera might not be as headline-grabbing, it still managed to capture some truly excellent images in our tests. The real icing on the cake, of course, is the fact that it costs a huge £400 less. The S23 is truly a flagship for the frugal. 

Buy now from Samsung

2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11: The best budget buy

Price: £199 | Buy now from Amazon

Smartphone flagships are getting better and better, but with these top-notch innovations comes an increased cost. Paying almost four figures for the latest top-end smartphone simply isn't doable for most consumers, but thankfully Xiaomi's Redmi Note 11 provides a flagship experience at a vastly reduced cost.

Xiaomi's cheapo handset has seriously reset the benchmark of what to expect from a smartphone. Equipped with a surprisingly speedy Snapdragon 680 processor, the Redmi Note 11 outperforms phones that cost twice the price, and then some. Its quadruple-camera array is also excellent for the price, as is the large 6.43in FHD+ screen with 90Hz refresh rate.

In fact, the Redmi Note 11 doesn't really fail in any area, especially when you consider how little it costs. If you're in the market for a new phone in and don't have a huge amount to spend, then the Redmi Note 11 is absolutely where your wallet should be headed.

Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 680; Screen: 6.43in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro) and 2MP (depth); Storage: 128GB, 2556GB; Operating system: Android 11

3. Google Pixel 7: Pixel perfect

Price: £599 | Buy now from Amazon

Latest Google Pixel 7 contract deals

Substantially cheaper than the rest of the flagship-class handsets on this list, Google's Pixel 7 is yet again a true Android tour de force. Not only does it vastly undercut rivals in terms of price, but it surpasses them when it comes to photographic performance. Yet again the top contender for the camera crown, the Pixel 7's dual cameras are practically flawless, beating the competition in terms of clarity, detail and colour reproduction.

It's also the perfect flag bearer for Android 13. There's no better showcase of Google's latest version of its mobile operating system, so if you're a keen photographer, or you're simply after the very best that Android can get, then the Pixel 7 certainly won't disappoint.

Read our full Google Pixel 7 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 2.85GHz Google Tensor G2; Screen: 6.3in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 12MP ultrawide; Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 13

Also consider: Google Pixel 7 Pro

If you have the budget and you're happy to spend more than the regular Pixel 7, then its bigger brother is also a terrific choice. For your extra £250, you get the same camera array as the smaller model, albeit with a third 5MP telephoto unit.

The screen is also bigger (6.7in), higher resolution (3,120 x 1,440) and refreshes at 120Hz. Everything else is the same, however, so if you aren't fussed about the extra zoom camera and fancier screen, then the regular Pixel 7 is still your best bet.

Buy now from Amazon

4. Motorola Edge 30 Ultra: Best value flagship smartphone

Price: £650 | Buy now from John Lewis

Despite coming in a good few hundred pounds cheaper, the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra is a remarkably strong challenger to Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra. Performance is nothing short of exceptional, with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor keeping up with much pricier handsets. The large OLED display is also a delight to use thanks to superb colour accuracy and a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz.

The battery life managed an epic 25 hours in our testing which, once depleted, went back to full charge in just 20 minutes courtesy of super-fast 125W charging. It’s not all glowing news, though: the cameras aren’t quite as outstanding as the rest of the package, and the IP52 weatherproofing is weaker than most competitors.

Still, if you can look past these minor snags, the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra is an easy recommendation. It’s not just the best smartphone that Motorola has released in a long time, it’s the best-value flagship on the market right now.

Read our full Motorola Edge 30 Ultra review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 3.19GHz Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1; Screen: 6.67in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 200MP, 50MP (ultrawide), 12MP (2x zoom); Storage: 256GB; Operating system: Android 12

Buy now from John Lewis

5. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4: The best folding phone

Price: £999 | Buy now from Amazon

Folding phones might still be getting off the ground, but the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a non-conventional flagship worth buying. Offering peace of mind features such as IPX8-rated waterproofing, as well as a hard-wearing "Armor Aluminium" frame, the Flip 4 not only looks the part, but it's also a clumsy-proof folding phone as well. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 powers things, providing a huge processing boost over last year's model, and the main display's refresh rate is a generous 120Hz, too.

Best of all, however, is that the Flip 4 is still the cheapest folding phone on the market right now. Priced the same as a regular-sized flagship, the Flip 4 is a much more tantalising proposition. Now's the time to jump aboard the folding bandwagon.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 3.19GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus gen 1; Screen: 6.7in, 2,640 x 1,080 (cover: 1.9in, 512 x 260); Camera: 12MP, 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12

6. Nokia C21 Plus: The best smartphone for £100

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

The Nokia C21 Plus is a perfect example of not judging a phone based solely on how much (or in this case, how little) it costs. For less than £100, the Nokia C21 Plus does everything any other smartphone is capable of doing, and you can buy almost ten of these for the price of just one iPhone 13. Naturally, there are a handful of drawbacks; performance is a bit on the slow side and it only charges via Micro-USB but for the most part, the Nokia C21 Plus is a solid budget pick for those that don't fancy spending triple figures.

You might be able to find better low-priced handsets if you're willing to spend just a little bit more, but if your budget is limited, you can't do much better than the Nokia C21 Plus when it comes down to sheer affordability.

Read our full Nokia C21 Plus review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Quad-core 1.6GHz Unisoc SC9863A; Screen: 6.52in, 1,600 x 720; Camera: 13MP, 2MP (depth); Storage: 32GB; Operating system: Android 11 Go

7. Apple iPhone 14 Pro: Excessive excellence

Price: £1,099 | Buy now from Amazon

Latest iPhone 14 Pro contract deals

What's so special about Apple's latest flagship? Well, aside from its wallet-scaring configuration options, the iPhone 14 Pro represents a handful of tweaks on top of last year's iPhone 13 Pro.

Apple's latest A16 Bionic chipset is once more the fastest around, even surpassing the mighty performance of Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1-equipped Android flagships. The Always-On display with its revampedDynamic Island notch is an absolute delight, and the huge boost to a 48MP main camera (from 12MP) with a 65% larger sensor is a major advancement in terms of photography and videography as well. It's not the most groundbreaking of updates, but if you're an Apple devotee that happens to be nearing the end of a 24-month contract, then it doesn't get much better than the iPhone 14 Pro.

Read our full iPhone 14 Pro review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.46GHz Apple A16 Bionic; Screen: 6.1in, 2,556 x 1,179; Camera: 48MP, 12MP (3x zoom), 12MP (wide); Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB; Operating system: Apple iOS 16

8. OnePlus Nord 2T 5G: Simply superb value

Price: £319 | Buy now from Amazon

Sitting at the top of OnePlus’ mid-range smartphone selection, the Nord 2T 5G is an excellent value proposition. The MediaTek Dimensity 1300 processor delivers some of the fastest speeds you can get at this price and the battery life extended beyond 23 hours in our testing. This will easily see you into a second day of moderate use, and when it runs out, the 80W fast charge can get the battery back to full in under 30 minutes.

The display doesn’t get any upgrade from the OnePlus Nord 2, but it’s still a beautiful AMOLED panel, with essentially perfect contrast and a slick 90Hz refresh rate. There are a couple of small issues with the cameras – namely, the portrait mode isn’t particularly effective and the 4K video recording lacks stabilisation – but these problems are relatively small compared to how much value the OnePlus Nord 2T offers.

Read our full OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 3GHz MediaTek Dimensity 1300; Screen: 6.43in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 8MP (ultrawide) 2MP (depth); Storage: 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: Android 12

9. Xiaomi 13: The best compact flagship

Price: £849 | Buy now from Xiaomi 

Sometimes a flagship smartphone is simply too big to handle, and it's here where the Xiaomi 13 really comes into its own. A proper pocket-sized powerhouse, the Xiaomi 13 is as high-end as it gets, with a terrific 6.36in AMOLED display and top-notch performance courtesy of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. What really sets it apart, however, is its size: at just 153 x 72 x 8mm (HWD) it's one of the most compact flagships we've reviewed in recent years.

A breath of fresh air, especially if plus-sized phones aren't really your thing, the Xiaomi 13 is undoubtedly the best smartphone the company has produced in quite some time. It addresses a host of pain points we had with the previous model, too, including the addition of IP68 waterproofing and a rather special 3.2x optical zoom camera. It really is the complete package, so if compact phones are more your style, there's absolutely nothing better. 

Read our full Xiaomi 13 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core 3.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2; Screen: 6.36in, 2,400 x 1,080; Camera: 50MP, 10MP (zoom), 12MP (wide) Storage: 256GB Operating system: Android 13

Buy now from Xiaomi

10. iPhone SE 3 (2022): The best-value iPhone

Price: £499 | Buy now from Amazon

Latest iPhone SE 3 contract deals

With the iPhone SE 3 (2022), you're getting a heck of a lot of smartphone for not a lot of much money. It might look like a bit of a relic – it shares the same design as the 2017 iPhone 8 – but the iPhone SE 3 is Apple's best-value handset yet. Why? Well, it's all about what's inside: the iPhone SE 3 (2022) uses the A15 Bionic chipset, which is the same processor shared by the pricier iPhone 13.

That means you get the same levels of performance achieved by those high-priced flagships, at just a fraction of the cost. Likewise, the single 12MP camera might seem unassuming at first but actually manages to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone 13 in terms of sheer detail capture, especially when it comes to low-light photography.

The only fly in the ointment is that the iPhone SE 3's battery life is quite poor by modern standards. However, if you have this amount to spend and you'd rather not use a big-screened handset, then the iPhone SE 3 (2022) remains a worthy choice. It may be the cheapest iPhone, but it's still mightily impressive.

Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Hexa-core 3.23GHz Apple A13 Bionic; Screen: 4.7in, 1,334 x 750; Camera: 12MP; Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB; Operating system: iOS 15