Best 5G phones for 2021

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Last year, major carriers kicked off their 5G deployment in earnest, and we’ll continue to see 5G phones being released this year and next. In the US, 5G is currently live in select cities for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and other regional carriers. The 5G networks for all four major carriers in the UK are live too.

Apple’s latest iPhone 12 phones all have 5G connectivity, and Samsung, the most popular manufacturer of 5G phones, has several under its belt. This includes the Galaxy S21, the foldable Galaxy Z Flip 5G, the premium Galaxy Note 20 phones, and the more budget-friendly Galaxy A71 5G. Though it won’t replace 4G in its entirety, 5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. 5G works fast, and many industries will benefit from the new network, including drones, self-driving cars, and the Internet of Things. 

Most people will likely experience the benefits of a robust 5G network only through a 5G phone. After all, the grand promises carriers and chipmakers are making with 5G coverage won’t mean much if you can’t access 5G service with your own device after the rollout. To help you keep tabs on all the latest 5G phones and when we can expect more, here’s what the major phone makers are offering.

Read: Cheaper 5G phones are on the horizon, but they probably won’t be very good

Patrick Holland/CNET

In October Apple unveiled four iPhones, all of which are 5G phones. At the helm of the lineup is the iPhone 12, which starts at $829 (£799, AU$1,349) and features the A14 Bionic processor and dual rear cameras. If you’re looking for something smaller and cheaper, the iPhone 12 Mini is your best pick for a 5G capable phone. And if you want something more premium, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are decked out with more features.

Read our Apple iPhone 12 review.

Angela Lang/CNET

Equipped with Samsung’s S Pen smart stylus, the Galaxy Note 20 and 20 Ultra are pricey, ultrapremium phones with expansive screens and 5G support. They also have triple-rear camera setups, the high-powered Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and reverse wireless charging.

Read our Note 20 Ultra review.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G are 5G phones from Google that have long-lasting batteries, excellent cameras with fantastic low-light capabilities and software support from Google. As the more expensive of the two 5G phones, the Pixel 5 smartphone costs $699 (£599, AU$999) and has a 90Hz display, wireless charging or reverse wireless charging.

Read our Pixel 5 First Take.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite its high price tag and being a Verizon exclusive in the US, the Edge Plus is still a premium 5G smartphone worth looking into. It features a Snapdragon 865 chipset, a giant battery, an OLED screen with a high refresh rate and multiple rear cameras with heavy-duty specs. As CNET’s Patrick Holland declared, it’s “one of the most wonderful Android phones I’ve tried in a long time.”

Read our Motorola Edge Plus review.

Angela Lang/CNET

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro’s premium experience comes at a relatively affordable price compared to its high-end Android competitors. As the more advanced phone, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a 120Hz display and a telephoto camera. But the OnePlus 8 is cheaper and still has 5G technology, a 90Hz display and the same top-of-the-line processor.

Read our OnePlus 8 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy S21, but the best thing about it has got to be the price. Samsung’s next-gen flagship lineup starts at $800, and you can find it on Amazon right now for an extra $100 off. Samsung made some trade-offs to get to that price: The phone has 4GB of RAM less than its predecessor, the wall charger and headphones don’t come in the box and it doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expanded storage. But even with those sacrifices, you’re getting a lot for your money, including a striking design, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and 5G connectivity.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

Angela Lang/CNET

A  combination of 5G connectivity, solid specs, and a tempting price tag earned the Galaxy S20 FE a CNET Editors’ Choice award for 2020. Plus, it’s got a great screen, a lightning-fast Snapdragon 865 processor, and a potent triple camera.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S20 5G review.

Angela Lang/CNET

The LG Velvet is a polished, midrange 5G smartphone, available in the US on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. The device costs $588 to $700, depending on the carrier — Verizon’s more expensive model can access a faster version of 5G. The Velvet has a high-end look, a headphone jack and a sizable 6.8-inch display.

Read our LG Velvet review.

OnePlus Nord and Nord N10 5G

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As part of OnePlus’ midrange family of phones, the Nord N10 5G (pictured here) features a 90Hz display, a headphone jack and a generous 6.49-inch screen. The new phone will be available in Europe first then North America at a later date. It follows the company’s first Nord phone, which also has 5G and is only available in the UK.

Read our OnePlus Nord review.

Angela Lang/CNET

Right before it unveiled the Note 20, Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Flip 5G, a 5G variant of the Galaxy Z Flip that went on sale earlier this year in February. The foldable clamshell phone costs $1,450, though it’s currently on sale for $750, and is sold through Samsung, AT&T and T-Mobile.

Read our Galaxy Z Flip 5G first take.

Motorola

The $445 One 5G is one of the best, most affordable 5G phones available. This cheap phone has a total of six, yes six, cameras, a 90Hz high-refresh rate display and fast-charging technology. It’s available now in the US on AT&T and Verizon’s mobile networks.

Read our Motorola One 5G review.

Angela Lang/CNET

In addition to its headphone jack (a rarity among top-tier phones these days), the LG V60 is unique because it works with a case accessory that effectively doubles the size of its screen. Known as Dual Screen, it allows the V60 to fold open like a book, so you can display two apps on both displays or view content as a single tablet (albeit with a big hinge in the middle).

Read our LG V60 ThinQ 5G review.

Patrick Holland/CNET

At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, Motorola announced two flexible Razr phones within months of each other. The 2020 version is the better one of the two. Available for $1,400 (£1,399, which is about AU$2,470) this model has 5G support, a 48-megapixel camera, more memory and a faster Snapdragon 765G processor. 

Read our Motorola Razr 5G review.

Sony

The $950 (£799 or about AU$1,350) Xperia 5 II is a pricey but gorgeous phone for users who like to play games, shoot photos and record video. Its 120Hz display is silky smooth and its quasi mirrorless camera can record 4K 120fps video. And while it can connect to 5G, the US model of the phone cannot.

Read more.

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