High-end flagships smartphones appear in advertisements and dominate review headlines, but these innovative smartphones are often priced at $1,000 or more. With smartphones being released with high-quality components, durable features, and the capability to receive software updates, phones that were flagships one or two years ago can save you hundreds while offering nearly the same experience as the latest and greatest.
It’s that time of year when all the newest Android smartphones and the latest Apple iPhones are announced and released into the market. The following are excellent smartphones to consider as you ignore the hype around the shiny new phones available at the end of 2020. They are not in any sort of ranked order, but they are all very capable phones that are definitely worth considering.
$699 for a gorgeous powerful 5G phone
At the end of 2019, the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren was at the top of my 10 best smartphones list and is still a stunning phone. While the name is a mouthful, it was one of the first 5G phones on T-Mobile and has several cool McLaren design elements, including the unboxing experience.
The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. Three rear cameras offer a solid imaging experience. The front-facing camera slides up from the top only when you need it and is a sleek design feature.
A large battery and super fast Warp Charge 30T keep you topped up all day long. The black with papaya orange highlights is delightful and it was tough to sell this phone and move on. Right now it is $200 off the original price so $699 for a very capable 5G phone is a great buy.
$699 at OnePlus
On sale: $449 full price
The OnePlus 7T was recently succeeded by the OnePlus 8T, but that means a huge price drop on last year’s model. You can now find it $150 less than last year for just $449 on sale. It is an extremely capable phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of UFS 3.0 internal storage. The 90Hz display offers one of the smoothest experiences seen on an Android phone.
Triple rear cameras let you capture standard, ultra-wide, and telephoto images. There is also a macro mode that lets you capture images from as close as 2.5cm. It’s rare to have this capability on a phone without an external macro lens.
The Warp Charge 30T adapter keeps the 3,800mAh battery topped off in minutes. In our full review, we stated that it was the best smartphone value of 2019 and while competitors are now offering phones in this price range those phones often compromise on the internal specifications.
$599 at OnePlus
Bluetooth S Pen and amazing note features
The new Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G is probably the best enterprise phone available today, but last year’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus is still worth considering. It is priced at $1,099.99, which is still a lot of money, but the comparable new Note 20 Ultra 5G starts at $1,299.99. You can also find it from other online retailers for less than Samsung.
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus improved on the Note 9 with enhancements in the S Pen, enhanced audio, and an improved camera experience. It’s a gorgeous phone powered by a Snapdragon 855 process and will be upgraded to Android 11.
$559 at Back Market
$1,078 at Amazon
$1,150 at Best Buy
Three sizes to meet your needs
The Samsung Galaxy S20 was announced in February with multiple models ranging from a smaller sized one up to one packing 5G and taking on the best flagships available. Last year’s Samsung flagships were arguably the best smartphones available at the time.
The Galaxy S10 is offered in a small S10e form, S10, and S10 Plus. There is some difference in the cameras, as well as display and battery size. These devices have an interesting feature where you can charge up your Galaxy Buds, or even other wireless charging capable phones, by placing them on the back of the Galaxy S10.
The Galaxy S10 phones are now running Android 10 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processors, plenty of RAM and internal storage, IP68 dust and water resistance, and more. These phones are renowned for excellent cellular reception and fast performance.
$400 at Back Market
$729 at Amazon
$750 at Best Buy
2019’s Pro models are still awesome
Apple’s iPhone models are sold on an annual basis, but Apple is the leader in keeping its phones updated for years after launch. While the four new iPhone 12 models are compelling, you can save some money and pick up the iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max from last year and maintain a high level of productivity.
The 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max differ only in screen size and battery capacity with the Apple A13 Bionic chip, 4GB of RAM, and three internal storage options. The latest version of iOS is available on these phones and the triple rear cameras help you capture amazing still and video content.
The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max have a high level of water resistance and will last you through a full day, and there are plenty of accessories available at low prices. The 11 Pro and Pro Max are no longer available directly from Apple, but can be found from other online retailers. Amazon sells renewed iPhone 11 Pros starting at $729.
$720 at Back Market
$999 at Amazon
$900 at Best Buy
2019’s best iPhone for everyone
The best value iPhone of 2019 and the one universally loved was the Apple iPhone 11. It remains a classic and despite the new four iPhone 12 models Apple still sells the iPhone 11, starting at $599.
The iPhone 11 provides a nice 6.1-inch display while being powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic processor, 4GB of RAM, and three internal storage options. The display is LCD, compared to the OLED panels used on the Pro models. We also find two cameras on the iPhone 11 so no telephoto option is present.
Several color options are available for the Apple iPhone 11 and it slots into Apple’s new pricing tier nicely.
$699 at Amazon
$539 at Back Market
$600 at Best Buy
High-end imaging for just $349
Last year, Google tried something different and released two mid-range phones in the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. This year, it went with just the smaller variant and launched the Pixel 4a. Since then we have seen the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 released so if you want a higher-powered 5G Google Pixel phone then look to either of these two.
The Pixel 4a brings nearly the same amazing imaging experience to a phone with a mid-level processor and al ow starting price of just $349. If fantastic still photos that you can capture with ease are desired then you may even want to consider carrying one around as a second imaging phone.
With the Pixel 4a, you get a classic, fast rear fingerprint sensor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, 12.2-megapixel camera, front 8-megapixel camera, and a capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor.
$349 at Amazon
$350 at Best Buy
$349 at B&H Photo-Video
An affordable dual screen option
This year we have seen LG roll out the LG Velvet and LG Wing phones, but one phone released earlier this year stands out as an affordable option to gain dual-screen functionality. The LG V60 with Dual Screen cover is available
The LG V60 ThinQ is a 5G phone with MIL-STD 810G shock resistance, a Google Assistant key with LG specific functions, and a triple rear camera system. The 5,000 mAh battery seems to go on forever.
Inside the phone, we see a Snapdragon 865 processor, 6.8-inch display, 8GB of RAM, 128GB internal storage with a microSD card slot, IP68 rating, 5000mAh battery, and more. It is available now for $699.99, $200 less than the original launch price, and this includes the Dual Screen cover.
$900 at Best Buy
$900 at LG