LIST: Here are the best smartphones to buy in 2024, tried and tested

Are you still undecided on which smartphone to buy in 2024? It’s been years and years of incremental advances, a brighter screen here, a better selfie camera there and finally, the real difference comes into play as AI is now transforming what mobile phones can do. 

Google has been the first to capitalise on it, with the result that their remarkable Pixel 8 Pro has overtaken the iPhone at the top of our rankings. Samsung introduced a host of AI features on their new Galaxy S24 (whose prohibitive price keeps it off our top spot). It can’t be long before Apple strikes back.

This year, the choice is further complicated by the proliferation of folding phones, which are very impressive but shockingly expensive. When is upgrading the right choice for you?

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Despite the amazing things that some 2024 phones can do, if you find a good deal on an even older model it will still be worth considering. If it’s less than about five years old, you’ll find a very good camera, lots of storage for photos and videos, a fully stocked app store and a good screen.

Now let’s see which are the best smartphones to buy and own in 2024. We tested the best phones on the market, from iPhone to Android, and these are the top picks for power users, content creators, budget shoppers, and more.

See the best phones of 2024

1. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung’s latest Galaxy S24 line is the first to go all-in on AI, and the S24 Ultra, the most premium of the three, is the best Android phone today. The new Galaxy AI model embedded in the device brings a host of generative capabilities, including real-time phone call translations, the ability to circle an object on screen to perform an image-based Google search, AI-assisted photo editing and transcriptions, and even a Chat Assist feature for figuring out how to phrase a message in different tones.

Like its predecessor, the S23 Ultra, the S24 Ultra is built with a large 6.8-inch AMOLED display and a reliable 5,000mAh battery. Though the price has gone up to $1,299 ($100 more than the S23 Ultra), the phone’s upgrades make it well worth it: The S24 Ultra is made of a lightweight yet durable titanium frame, compared to last year’s aluminium, and features Corning’s new Gorilla Armor. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 | Display size: 6.8 inches | Storage options: Up to 1TB | Rear cameras: 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 50MP telephoto (5x), 10MP telephoto (3x) | Front camera: 12MP | Battery: 5,000mAh

2. iPhone 15 Pro Max

The latest iPhone 15 Pro Max offers everything a premium flagship smartphone should, including a brilliant 6.7-inch AMOLED display for all the media consumption — and mobile productivity, of course. This year’s model also looks and feels different than any prior Pro Max devices, as it’s made of titanium instead of stainless steel and, therefore, significantly lighter in the hand. This makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max noticeably more comfortable to use, as ZDNET Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner noted in his review.

Another major feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the USB-C connector; particularly, one that supports faster charging and data transfers and can charge other devices including the Apple Watch from your iPhone, directly transfer photos and videos into a portable SSD, and connect to an external 4K monitor. These benefits are game-changing for professional content creators.

iPhone 15 Pro Max tech specs: Processor: A17 Pro | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: Up to 1TB | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto (2x), 12MP telephoto (5x) | Front camera: 12MP

3. Google Pixel 8a

If bang for your buck is what you’re after, consider the Google Pixel 8a. There are really three key reasons why you should buy the latest Pixel over any other mid-range phone: For $499, you get a comfortable 6.1-inch OLED display that ramps up to a 120Hz refresh rate, a reliable 64MP camera system, and Google’s catalog of AI features like Magic Editor, Audio Eraser, and Gemini, all backed by seven years of operating system updates.

Software is the name of the game with Google Pixel phones, and the extensive support provided for the 8a series, powered by a new Tensor G3 chip, should keep it feature-relevant for as long as until 2031. For reference, most phones in this price range, including last year’s Pixel 7a, typically receive two to four years of software and security updates.

Google Pixel 8a tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor G3 | Display size: 6.1 inches | Storage options: 128GB, 256GB | Rear cameras: 64MP main, 13MP ultrawide| Front camera: 13MP

4. Google Pixel 8 Pro

When it comes to camera performance, you really can’t go wrong with any of the flagship devices from the big three (Apple, Samsung, and Google). Depending on your preference for color temperature and feature set, you may lean towards one manufacturer over the other. But more often than not, it’s Google’s Pixel camera system that satisfies the most users, and the latest Pixel 8 Pro remains a champion both for instant capturing and post-processing. 

The latest model features a reliable triple lens setup, with a 50MP primary lens, a 48MP ultrawide that’s notably more capable at capturing macro and close-up photos than the 12MP sensor on the older Pixel 7 Pro model, and a 48MP telephoto lens for far-distance shots. Should you want more finite control over the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera quality, there’s now a series of Pro controls that allow you to tweak capture settings like the exposure and shutter speed.

Google Pixel 8 Pro tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor G3 | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 48MP telephoto | Front camera: 10.8MP

5. OnePlus Open

The number of foldable phones on the market has never been higher, thanks to the collective effort of just about every manufacturer, including Google with its Pixel Fold, Motorola with its Razr lineup, and OnePlus with the OnePlus Open. While Samsung has held the reins of the best foldable honor for years, I’m giving the top spot right now to the OnePlus Open. 

Unlike its competitors, the OnePlus Open strikes the best balance of weight-to-size ratio. When folded, the phone is as light as an iPhone, and when unfolded, it expands into a thin slate of visual goodness. OnePlus leverages the 7.8-inch display by offering some of the most intuitive multitasking features I’ve tested, headlined by “Open Canvas.” With it, you can open up to three apps at once, and as you tap into each one, the other one or two will tuck itself to the side, ready to reappear when needed.

OnePlus Open tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 | Display size: 6.3 inches and 7.8 inches | Storage options: 512GB | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 64MP telephoto| Front camera: 32MP (outer) and 20MP (inner)

Other Phones rated highly in 2024 include;

  • Asus Zenfone 10
  • OnePlus 12
  • Motorola Razr Plus

It’s debatable between the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Google Pixel 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. For long-distance shots, Samsung’s 200MP rear camera with 100x Space Zoom can capture subjects as far out as the moon.

For point-and-shoot pictures and a rather simplified (but effective) camera experience, Google’s Pixel phones have always been at the top. If you’re a videographer at heart, then the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with Cinematic mode and Action mode, makes for an excellent tool to get the shots you need.

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