Best 5G phones - June 2021

5 May 2021

Contents list

  1. Best 5G phone for you
  2. All round best 5G phone
  3. Best mid-range 5G phone
  4. Best value 5G phone
  5. Best 5G camera phone

Buying a new phone is always fraught with considerations. What’s the best operating system for you? How big and bright do you want the screen to be? Is the camera any good?

It’s even trickier now that you have to factor in 5G. If you’re shopping at the middle or top end of the market, you should be covered, but not every budget phone comes with next-gen network connectivity.

We’ve assembled this guide to offer a snapshot of the 5G phone market in mid 2021. It should help you pick your ideal 5G-ready phone, whatever your budget.

Best 5G phone for you

The best 5G phone for you might not be the best 5G phone for someone else. That’s why we’ve broken this down into three main budget-related categories: Best of the best, Best mid-range, and Best value.

We’ve also included a special category for the best 5G phone camera, as this is increasingly becoming a decisive factor in choosing a new phone.

All round best 5G phone

Note that our top picks aren’t necessarily the most expensive or feature-packed phones in their category. Rather, they offer the best all round flagship package for most people.

iPhone 12

iPhone 12 best ioverall 5g phone

  • Screen Size: 6.1 inches
  • Processor: A14 Bionic
  • Size / weight: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm / 164 g
  • Battery: 2815 mAh
  • Camera: 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

The iPhone 12 isn’t Apple’s top model, nor even its second. But it does 99% of what the iPhone 12 Pro does for hundreds less, so it’s the best pick for most people.

It’s got a bright and sharp 6.1-inch AMOLED display, the most powerful mobile processor on the market, a brilliant dual-camera that takes superb shots in all conditions, and access to the peerless App Store. It also smartly connects to 5G wherever possible.

All this and it’s wrapped up in the sleekest and most distinctive design on the market.

Compare iPhone 12 deals

OnePlus 9 Pro

Best 5g phone category Oneplus 9 pro

  • Screen Size: 6.7 inches
  • Processor: Snapdragon 888
  • Size / weight: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm / 197g
  • Battery: 4500 mAh
  • Camera: 48MP wide, 50MP ultrawide, 8MP telephoto, 2MP monochrome
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

The OnePlus 9 Pro offers a similarly priced package to the iPhone 12 for those who prefer Google’s Android OS, albeit in a very different form factor.

Its 6.7-inch AMOLED display is just about as good as you’ll get for any amount of money, with a simultaneous QHD resolution and 120Hz variable refresh rate. Performance is on point too, thanks to a Snapdragon 888 CPU that’s as fast as you’ll get in an Android phone.

OnePlus has really picked up its camera game, partnering with Hassleblad and fitting new image sensors to create bright, balanced wide shots and impeccable ultrawide landscapes. Elsewhere Oxygen OS is just about the slickest take on Google’s Android operating system, and the OnePlus 9 Pro charges ridiculously fast using its bundled 65W brick.

Compare OnePlus deals

Alternative pick

iPhone 12 mini

iPhone 12 mini alternative pick for best 5G phone

  • Screen Size: 5.4 inches
  • Processor: A14 Bionic
  • Size / weight: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm / 135g
  • Battery: 2815 mAh
  • Camera: 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

We’ve picked the iPhone 12 mini as our alternative pick because it’s almost identical to the iPhone 12, but much smaller and cheaper. This makes it the smallest 5G phone on the market, but with very little in the way of compromise.

It’s got the same sharp-angled design as its brother, the same class-leading A14 processor, and even the same impeccable dual–12MP camera system. But with a 5.4-inch display and a correspondingly tiny body, it’ll fit in the smallest pocket or handbag.

Most people will find it too small, especially when it comes to watching video and surfing the web. And its battery life isn’t particularly amazing either. But if you find modern 5G phones unwieldy, it’s comfortably your best bet.

Compare iPhone 12 mini deals

Best mid-range 5G phone

You don’t have to spend £800 to £1,000 to get a compelling 5G experience. There’s a growing market for mid-range phones that give you a flagship-like experience for half the money.

OnePlus 9

One plus 9 best mid range 5g phone

  • Screen Size: 6.5 inches
  • Processor: Snapdragon 888
  • Size / weight: 160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm / 192g
  • Battery: 4500 mAh
  • Camera: 48MP wide, 50MP ultrawide, 2MP monochrome
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

The OnePlus 9 offers many of the advantages of one of our Best of the best picks, the OnePlus 9 Pro, but for hundreds of pounds less.

It gives you a great 6.5-inch AMOLED with a FHD+ resolution and a fluid 120Hz refresh rate. You also get the same top-of-the-range Snapdragon 888 chip, and a very accomplished camera set-up with a great 50MP ultrawide and Hassleblad tuning.

The design feels a little cheaper thanks to the switch to plastic, and it doesn’t look particularly special. But it’s a very solid phone, charging speeds are rapid out of the box, and the OnePlus software experience is tough to beat.

Compare OnePlus deals

Alternative pick

Pixel 5

Pixel 5 best6 5g phone category

  • Screen Size: 6 inches
  • Processor: Snapdragon 765
  • Size / weight: 144.7 x 70.4 x 8 mm / 151g
  • Battery: 4080 mAh
  • Camera: 12.2MP wide, 16MP ultrawide
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

Google challenged the whole concept of the flagship phone with the Pixel 5. Why pay £1000 for a phone when some smart hardware decisions and unmatched software smarts can give you an approximate experience for half the price?

That’s the Pixel 5 in a nutshell. Its Snapdragon 765 chip isn’t the fastest, but it’s fast enough that most people won’t notice. Nor is its 6-inch 90Hz OLED the biggest, sharpest, fastest or brightest, but it gets you most of the way there.

Even its 12.2MP camera is built on old hardware, yet Google’s unmatched image processing smarts ensure a highly competitive camera experience with spookily good night shots. All this, and you get the purest take on Android available, not to mention the fastest updates.

Compare Pixel 5 deals

Best value 5G phone

If you want to spend the least money possible on your 5G phone, it’s possible to go down into the £200 to £300 range. Our picks cost just a little more, but the payoff is that they provide a great all-round experience that really capitalises on those superfast network speeds.

OnePlus Nord

oneplus nord best 5g phone category

  • Screen Size: 6.44 inches
  • Processor: Snapdragon 765
  • Size / weight: 158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm / 184g
  • Battery: 4115 mAh
  • Camera: 48MP wide, 8MP ultrawide, 5MP depth, 2MP macro
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

If camera performance is a major priority for you, then you’re probably better off opting for our other budget pick, the Pixel 4a 5G. But otherwise, the OnePlus Nord is the better pick.

Currently selling for £329, it gets you a tidily designed phone with a great 6.44-inch 90Hz OLED display and a competent Snapdragon 765 processor. Its 48MP camera isn’t bad by any means, either.

Something both of our budget picks share is clean, fluid software that doesn’t suffer from the extreme bloat that most cheaper phones do. Oxygen OS is a joy to use here, as is the phone itself.

Compare OnePlus Nord deals

Alternative pick

Pixel 4a 5G

pixel 4a best 5g phone category

  • Screen Size: 6.2 inches
  • Processor: Snapdragon 765
  • Size / weight: 153.9 x 74 x 8.2 mm / 168g
  • Battery: 3885 mAh
  • Camera: 12.2MP wide, 16MP ultrawide
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

The Pixel 4a 5G isn’t an especially cheap phone - at the time of writing its costs £399. But it gives you a really good all-round experience for significantly less money than our mid-range picks.

You’re getting the exact same Snapdragon 765 processor, potent dual-camera set-up, and classy stock Android OS as the Pixel 5 (see above) for a couple of hundred pounds less.

You’ll miss out on the 90Hz screen refresh rate, IP68 certification, and wireless charging of Google’s flagship phone. But if you’re looking to minimise your outlay, you’ll get yourself a classy but affordable 5G phone.

Compare Pixel 4a 5G deals

Best 5G camera phone

There’s a new category of super-elite phone at the very top of the market costing upwards of £1,000. Fundamentally similar to our Best of the best picks, they mainly benefit those who demand the most comprehensive camera set-up possible.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

iphone 12 pro max best 5g phone category

  • Screen Size: 6.7 inches
  • Processor: A14 Bionic
  • Size / weight: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.4 mm / 228g
  • Battery: 3687 mAh
  • Camera: 12MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

Everything we said about the iPhone 12 applies to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but Apple’s top-end phone has a much bigger and brighter 6.7-inch display and a more premium stainless steel body. More importantly, though it has an all-round superior camera system.

It’s not just that you get an added 12MP 2.5x telephoto lens here. It’s that the main 12MP camera’s image sensor is larger, capturing more light and detail.

A TOF 3D LiDAR scanner also improves low light lock-on, while the unique ProRAW mode packs your shots with even more fine detail. As with the iPhone 12, it’s possible to shoot Night Mode shots across all of the phone’s cameras, even the selfie cam.

Compare iPhone 12 Pro Max deals

Alternative pick

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

  • Screen Size: 6.8 inches
  • Processor: Exynos 2100
  • Size / weight: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm / 227g
  • Battery: 5000 mAh
  • Camera: 108MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto, 10MP periscope
  • 5G networks supported: EE, Vodafone, O2, Three

This monster of a phone (it weighs 227g) packs a quad-camera system headlined by a 108MP wide sensor. But it’s the presence of both a 10MP telephoto and a 10MP periscope that really captures the attention.

Together they can achieve a 10x optical zoom and a staggering 100x hybrid zoom. Combined with that huge main sensor and a strong ultrawide, you’re getting arguably the most versatile camera system in any phone - though you will have to put up with Samsung’s garish colour science.

Aside from its camera chops, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a very well specced phone, with arguably the best display in the business. This 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED can do QHD and 120Hz simultaneously, and it gets brighter than any other phone on this list.

Compare Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra deals

Jon Mundy
About Jon Mundy

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Jon has nine years experience of writing and editing copy for leading publications, as well as attending technology shows and events and conducting interviews. Currently working with 5G.co.uk, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, T3, Digital Spy, What Mobile, Pocket Gamer, and The Gadget Show.

View more posts by Jon Mundy >
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