March 24, 2023

Smartphones are now an integral part of our world, of our day-to-day lives, and of our existence as human beings. For better or worse, owning a good smartphone can be not only the distinction between “cool” and “lame” but also sometimes a literal lifesaver.

The year is 2023, and the world of smartphones is constantly evolving and changing. This is happening so fast that the best phone of last year might be just a boring midranger this year. With so many options available on the market, it can also be a daunting task to choose the best smartphone for your needs.

In this article, we will explore what constitutes the “best smartphone” and provide some tips on how to choose the perfect one for you. There are some key smartphone features that are very important for the user experience, and even though “best” is a subjective thing to some extent, these features are the ones to look for when buying a smartphone.

Now that we have looked at the key features to consider when choosing the best smartphone, let’s explore our best picks for 2023.

best iPhone available right now

PhoneArena Rating: 9.0/10

If you’re looking for the best phone and you don’t have a preference between iOS and Android, the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max is the way to go. This model checks all the boxes, and except for the somewhat higher price, it doesn’t have any real drawbacks.

For starters, it has one of the best screens on the market, with a 6.7-inch screen that has great pixel density, excellent color calibration, and a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits (typical content is 1,000 nits), making it easy to see outside.

Additionally, it features a 120 Hz refresh rate provided by an LTPO panel that can drop as low as 1 Hz to support the new Always-on Display feature without draining excessive battery life. These features work together to make the iOS experience smoother, more responsive, and more satisfying.

Powering everything is the Apple A16 Bionic, which is currently the fastest processor in any smartphone. This phone will tackle every task, play every game, and won’t start to feel slower over time. The camera system is also very good, so the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivers on that front as well.

The main 48 MP sensor can take high-resolution photos that look great, and there is also a 12 MP ultrawide camera, and a telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom. The phone is capable of covering a wide variety of shooting scenarios and is also very good at recording video with 4K support and Cinematic Mode.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

best Android phone

PhoneArena Rating: 9.2/10

If you’re in the Android camp, your best phone bet is the Galaxy S23 Ultra. This phone has an updated, next-generation Dynamic OLED screen that can reach a record-breaking peak brightness of 1750 nits. The screen is an LTPO OLED that can switch between 1 Hz and 120 Hz to save battery life and still show smooth animations when needed.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra also has something the iPhone is missing: the mighty S Pen stylus. Thanks to this little pen, the S23 Ultra is a productivity champion. You can also use it for drawing and writing; it’s super sensitive and also has its own slot inside the phone.

If you were impressed with the camera system on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, prepare to be blown away by the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The phone has a huge 200 MP sensor, which gives it a lot of flexibility. You can combine pixels to make 50 MP photos, or you can take 12 MP photos that work well at night.

Also, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has the newest and most powerful Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which has been overclocked for Galaxy phones.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra has the same 5000 mAh battery as the S22 Ultra and maintains the 1440p resolution. You can count on the battery life, and there are several ways to save it if you need to. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is without a doubt the best phone Android can offer at the moment.

Google Pixel 7 Pro 

the flagship Android with the purest Google experience

PhoneArena Rating: 8.8/10

Pixel phones have always been sort of a peculiarity, mainly due to the limited stock and availability. Google has been attempting to alleviate this with its latest Pixel 7 series by making the phones more widely available. If you care about your software features, and want to get them as fast as possible (faster than with any other phone), then the Pixel 7 Pro is the best phone for you and one of the best Android phones as well.

All of the great Google features are onboard from day one, and if you’re an Android Beta user, you’re guaranteed to get them before anyone else. This phone also manages to deliver on the hardware front as well. The Pixel 7 Pro sports one of the best displays in the industry, color-calibrated to perfection.

Google Pixel 7 Pro comes with a triple camera with 5x optical zoom and tons of software tricks in the background to enhance the quality of your photos. Plus, the Google Assistant is at its best on a Google phone.

The individually calibrated Pixel 7 Pro camera set is now up there with the best of them in wide and ultrawide camera quality, while the periscope zoom rivals the S22 Ultra quality at each zoom level, even 10+ ones. Well, OK, the Pixel taps out at 30x zoom, but that’s still plenty of magnification on demand. The Google Pixel 7 Pro is the best Android phone for enthusiasts who want their software updates as fast as possible.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

simply the best foldable phone out there

PhoneArena Rating: 9.0/10

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 may not have a significant upgrade compared to its predecessor, but it is arguably the ultimate smartphone for tech enthusiasts who want a device that can do it all. It can function as a phone, tablet, or even emulate a desktop PC.

The device comes equipped with numerous polished power user features, including split-screen and windowed multitasking, a fixed taskbar, Samsung DeX, and stylus support, giving users the ability to do everything they desire with Android.

Even if you just want to enjoy media or play games on a larger screen that is still comfortable to hold, the Z Fold 4 is an excellent choice. This is the best phone for people who want to be on the forefront of technology, and also do some serious work on their phones.

However, if you are not a hardcore tech enthusiast or already own a Z Fold 3, shelling out $1800 or more for this phone may not be justified. Before making a purchase, ensure that you will fully take advantage of the device’s capabilities. Otherwise, consider getting a smaller tablet that is more affordable.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4

the best flip phone

PhoneArena Rating: 8.0/10

In 2020, the Galaxy Flip series was introduced, offering a fresh take on the classic clamshell flip phone, which had been popular during the 2000s. This new style of foldable phone was a major technological achievement. Samsung had to solve a lot of engineering problems to come up with this new shape.

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is the latest iteration of this clamshell idea, and it features the flexible OLED screens that are at the forefront of the foldable revolution. This phone is all about refinement; it takes everything its predecessor did well, and amplifies it.

It’s faster, it can last longer, and its camera system has been upgraded as well. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is now a true flagship that’s not hampered by its innovative design. If you want to get a taste of the foldable phone, but don’t like the huge Galaxy Z Fold (and its price tag), the Z Flip 4 is the best phone for you. It’s even cheaper than some more “rigid” and non-folding Android phones out there.

Asus Zenfone 9

PhoneArena Rating: 9.1/10

the best compact Android phone on the market

The compact Android flagship is dead! Wait, Asus doesn’t think so. If you long for the old Xperia Compact days, there’s an alternative, and it is just great. Asus has been perfecting its Zenfone line in the past couple of years, and the Zenfone 9 is the pinnacle of all that effort.The phone has one of the highest scores on our site, and for good reason. It’s super fast, the form factor is one of the most comfortable on the market, the display is great—bright and vivid, with all the feature you could ask for (always on display, lift to wake, and more)—and the battery life is amazing, especially at this compact size.

There are almost no cons to this model, and if you want to nitpick, there’s no wireless charging, and no microSD card slot, but these are absolutely not necessary. The user experience with the Zenfone 9 is just great, and the only drawback here is that the phone is not more widely available. The Zenfone 9 is the best phone for compact enthusiasts and one of the best Android phones out there. Period.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

the first phone with a variable zoom camera

PhoneArena Rating: 8.0/10

Do you like notches and cutouts in your smartphone display? You don’t? Well, there’s one brand that stubbornly sticks to its guns and keeps on designing 21:9 phones with great displays, professional-grade software, innovative hardware, and a ton of features that are lacking from other phones. That’s right, Sony!Sony’s Xperia 1 IV is the pinnacle of what Sony could do in 2022. It’s a very camera-focused phone, with three different apps that can either turn it into a manual shooter, a vlogging camera, or a cinematic mini rig. It also has a very impressive telephoto lens that moves physically to offer true optical zoom between 3.5x and 5.2x (85 mm and 125 mm).

This phone has it all: a 3.5mm audio jack, a microSD card slot, great battery life, wireless charging, premium design—the list just goes on and on. The only real drawback is the price. Sony was asking a ridiculous $1,599 for this phone at launch, but the good news is that just a few months later the price dropped significantly to a more pleasant level.

OnePlus 11 

back to the flagship-killer roots of OnePlus

OnePlus used to be great, but then it became greedy. The flagship-killer days of the great OnePlus One are long gone. But are they really? The company is taking a sharp turn with the OnePlus 11 in a bid to return the brand to its flagship-killing glory.

There’s no Pro version here; the OnePlus 11 is the only model in the lineup, and it aims to do what the original first model did back then. Offer a ton of features at a great price. This phone starts at $699, and there’s little to no competition at that price range, if you want the latest hardware (and software).

The OnePlus 11 is one of the cheapest phones with the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, and the only thing that comes close is the vanilla Galaxy S22, but at $100 more. The OnePlus 11 comes with a new design, a Hasselblad stamped camera system, and a super-fast charging. It might be the best budget flagship out there.

Google Pixel 7

a cheaper Pixel 7 that hits just as hard

PhoneArena Rating: 8.5/10

In essence, the Pixel 7 can be seen as what the Pixel 6 ought to have been initially – a smaller and more manageable device that prioritizes the overall user experience over raw power. Google’s latest smartphone also boasts an enhanced camera, longer battery life, and refreshed design that stack up well when compared directly to the Pixel 6.

Although the Google Pixel 7 lacks some of the bells and whistles found on the Pro model, it is still equipped with the powerful Tensor chip. As a result, users can still enjoy on-device speech recognition, Google Assistant features, and outstanding camera performance similar to the Pixel 6 Pro.

With a starting price of $599, the Pixel 7 is an excellent value and offers some amazing features for the price. The Pixel 7 might be among the best phones when it comes to value for the money.

Apple iPhone 13 mini

best compact iPhone

PhoneArena Rating:9.0/10

The Apple iPhone 12 mini was pretty good and all, but it kind of lacked in the battery department. The 13 series remedied that issue. So the iPhone 13 mini has the same powerful processor as the 13 Pro, but is a tiny little phone that stays out of the way most of the time. 

And, for $600, it’s pretty hard to beat — a 5.4-inch display is OLED with excellent colors and brightness, a thin and compact body, superb performance, and pretty respectable cameras. There’s no alternative on that front – the iPhone SE is terribly outdated, and aims to capitalize on nostagia, and the iPhone 12 mini has terrible battery life.

If you tend to two-thumb type on your phone often, the 13 mini is probably not your cup of tea. If you want a phone that can fit any pocket and can bring the power and performance if you happen to need it throughout your day — that’s the contender right here.

Honorable mentions

It’s hard to pick just top 10 phones as the best ones, especially in 2023. There are some pretty niche devices that are worth mentioning, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next few lines. These are top phones that for some reason couldn’t make it into our top 10 list but they absolutely deserve your attention.

Sony Xperia Pro-I

pro camera in a smartphone

PhoneArena Rating: 8.0/10

There’s much talk about camera phones nowadays, and many manufacturers want to coin their models as DSLR equivalents. There’s only one phone that does it right, though: the Sony Xperia Pro-I. This model comes with a 1-inch sensor taken from Sony’s compact RX-100VII camera, and if you’re into photography, this is one of the best phones for you.

Perhaps it’s the phone’s impressive camera capabilities, its surprisingly user-friendly design, or the overall unconventional concept behind it. The Sony Xperia Pro-I is unlike any other phone released in 2021.

Smartphones have replaced traditional cameras as the most popular way for most people to take photos. However, there have been surprisingly few phones made for professionals that offer the level of fine-tuning that is needed for essential features. The Sony Xperia Pro-I occupies that niche.

Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro

the best gaming phone

PhoneArena Rating: 9.0/10

Gaming phones are a bit of a meme, but it’s nice to see Asus fully embracing it. The ROG Phone 6 Pro is, once again, deliciously over the top in every aspect. Starting with the aggressive design, the RGB on the back, the secondary screen that displays gamer-related little animations while the phone is active, and the new bulky AeroActive Cooler 6. 

It wouldn’t be a “gaming phone” if it didn’t have absolutely silly specs, too, and the ROG Phone 6 Pro delivers. 18 GB of RAM on a smartphone? 165 Hz screen? External cooler? Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1? Yes, yes, yes, and how else would you have it?

It’s a niche phone, absolutely, but it’s hard to keep it away from a “best” selection. After all, it is probably the (or among the) most powerful Android phone(s) out on the market right now. Even if you don’t need all the power — you definitely get the bragging rights.

If the ROG Phone 6 Pro is a bit too much for you, go for the non-Pro version. It’s just as good, it just cuts back on all of that overhead that you may or may not need, and brings the price down to a more reasonable level.

Samsung Galaxy A53 5G

the best midrange phone

PhoneArena Rating: 9.0/10

At first glance, the Galaxy A53 5G might look like an average smartphone, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. It boasts a 6.5-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED display that delivers vivid colors and sharp details, making it a joy to use for entertainment, gaming, and work. And it boasts a 120 Hz display refresh rate!

The phone is powered by an octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM, which provides sufficient power for most everyday tasks, including multitasking and running multiple apps simultaneously. There’s also 128GB of internal storage, which is expandable up to 1TB via a microSD card.

This Samsung mid-range phone is one of the best budget phones you can buy. That’s because it doesn’t really make you compromise with anything. The Galaxy A53 is a great value-for-money device, and that’s why it is even Samsung’s best selling phone worldwide. You can find one on a deal for as low as $349 these days. It’s a steal!

Top phones to look forward to in 2023

  • Google Pixel Fold.
  • Huawei Mate X3.
  • Oppo Find X6 Pro.
  • Xiaomi 13 and 13 Pro.
  • OnePlus V Fold and V Flip.
  • Nothing Phone (2)
  • iPhone 15 and 15 Pro.
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.

Why should you trust this buying guide

The Author

Mariyan Slavov is a technology enthusiast and expert in mobile phones. With a background in Nuclear Physics and Journalism, Mariyan is the former Editor-in-Chief of PCWorld Bulgaria and currently writes for PhoneArena. He enjoys writing about emerging technologies such as graphene batteries, holographic smartphone displays, smart contact lenses, and nanotechnology. In his free time, Mariyan can be found playing guitar, practicing Japanese, or hitting the running track.

The Publisher

PhoneArena has been around since 2001 and, as the name suggests, was intended as a platform where phones can be explored, compared, and pitted against each other. We never stopped building and evolving our expertise and with our 20-some years of experience we serve an audience of over 5 million monthly US readers.

The Approach

We believe that there is not one true phone that is “the best” as each user has their unique needs and preferences. Through our wide range of testing procedures and review approaches, we try to find where each phone shines and what it lacks. We spice it up with our professional opinion and empower you to make an informed decision on which phone is “the best” for you!

How to choose the best phone for you in 2023

After all of the devices you’ve seen on these list, you’re probably wondering how do you pick the best one for you? Well, as you should know, everyone has different needs from their smartphones. Some are into photography and need the best camera smartphone there is. Some want the best screen and performance. And some are more modest and want a more affordable, yet all around good and reliable smartphone. On this list there are great camera phones, like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and the Sony Xperia 1 IV. The best performance and screens are once again found in the Samsung and Apple, but also in OnePlus’ 10 Pro. 

When it comes to functionality or quirkiness, you will find it in Samsung’s foldable Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 phones. Example of an affordable, yet good smartphone, are the Galaxy A53 5G, the iPhone 13 mini, and the OnePlus 10T. The 13 mini is one of the few compact phones left, and it is actually an excellent device to have, as long as you’re not looking for a battery champ. 

Consider all we’ve spoken about in this list carefully, and when you’re wondering which phone to pick, ask yourself what are the main features I need daily. That mentality should make your decision a lot easier.

How we test the best phones

We won’t lie, we’re putting our review phones through many, many tests. The include display, performance, and battery life tests, among others. We are checking every screen’s color temperatures, brightness, we are checking the performance of its processor and memory, and we are running days worth of tests to determine how much the battery lasts in different conditions. 

Still, real-life conditions are just as, if not even more important. That’s why we make sure that we always spend enough time with the devices we review so we can say with certainty what are their strengths and weaknesses. Cameras are very important in phones too, so we put these to the test in many conditions in our goal to determine which one wins and which one is still behind in the smartphone photography race.

Should you go for Android or iOS when choosing the best phone

The safe answer to this question is to go for a platform that is familiar to you. For example, if you’ve been using an Android phone your whole life, an iPhone will be quite an adjustment, and vice versa. Still, you should consider what phones your close friends and family, the people that you’re going to text and share files with, are using. If most of them are using an iPhone, AirDrop will be a very missed feature once you switch to Android. If you have a MacBook or an iPad, getting an iPhone is the most logical thing, as it will allow you to stay in the ‘ecosystem’. But Apple’s iOS doesn’t let you share files via Bluetooth-only to any device, so if that’s a feature you use often, then an iPhone is a no no. 

When it comes to customization and freedom, Android was and still is king. iOS 16 is set to allow for more iPhone customization by the user, but we doubt it will go to the lengths Android has gone. Android also allows you to download and open files more easily, and supports more types of these. That’s another important feature if you’re either a gaming or app enthusiast. 

But the elephant in the room is the fact that iPhone users tend to hold onto their phones much longer than people with Android phones. That’s mainly because the long-term software optimization of iOS phones is superior to Android phones. Also, iPhones get major OS updates for many years, while most Android brands only give you two to three years of software updates. Apple’s phones also tend to stay fast and unproblematic for longer, which as you may have heard isn’t the case with most Android-running phones.

However, you should also consider what you get for the money you spend. Here, the mid-range Android phone market is offering you phones with many flagship features for much cheaper than Apple. That’s a fact that shouldn’t be overlooked. Of course there’s also a downside to this lower class and lower price tag type of phones. These tend to loose their value with time much quicker than iPhones.

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