2019 was the year the 5G phones started appearing on store shelves, 2020 is the year that the technology is really taking off; with the country’s major mobile carriers now all supporting this new super-fast network infrastructure and a wealth of manufacturers now offering top-tier phones with 5G modems onboard.
Best 5G phones 2020
1. OnePlus 8 Pro – Best overall
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company’s first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68 waterproof rating to make it a genuine contender with Samsung’s finest.
Understandably the price has gone up accordingly, but the base model – no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers. You can save even more with the lower-priced OnePlus 8, though you’ll have to give up a few features and downgrade the display and cameras.
The 8 Pro camera is OnePlus’ best yet, and while it still lags behind rivals slightly in some software the hardware is among the best around, which has helped to close the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design, and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
2. Samsung Galaxy S20 – Best for ease of use
The Galaxy S20 is the best phone in Samsung’s S20 series, and simply the best phone the company makes right now. It’s compact, powerful, and packs a versatile camera system that may not match the top-tier S20 Ultra on zoom or detail, but it meets – and sometimes beats – it across the rest of the board, which means it’s more than a match for just about any other phone out there too.
The wider 5G ecosystem isn’t quite there yet, but will be within the lifetime of this phone, making it almost worth the upgrade. And while battery life remains a slight concern, that’s really the only major fault here. The Android ecosystem offers more for less elsewhere, but usually without Samsung’s level of prestige or polish, and in this case we think that’s worth paying for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
3. Oppo Find X2 Pro – Best camera
The Oppo Find X2 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in, 10-bit, 120Hz, QHD+ panel is the best display in any phone right now, and Oppo backs it up with the fastest wired charging around at 65W, and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses and up to 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging, and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish orange vegan leather finishes might leave some struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro can’t be beat right now, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 5G, 512GB storage, and 12GB RAM – you just have to be willing to pay the price, as it doesn’t come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra – Best for productivity
Samsung’s top 2020 Note is an absolute powerhouse. Provided you’re comfortable with the sheer size of it and the high asking price, there’s little this phone can’t do.
Better yet, Samsung’s addressed the camera issues found on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, making the system on the Note 20 Ultra far more capable and competitive.
Alongside 5G, the Ultra also boasts WiFi-6 support and is one of the first Android phones to tote UWB technology for fast localised data transfer.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
5. OnePlus Nord – Most affordable
OnePlus’ second-ever affordable phone is an absolute treasure; powered by Qualcomm’s solid mid-range 5G-capable chip, the Snapdragon 765G.
The Nord also totes a 90Hz AMOLED display, a great primary 48Mp camera and solid 30W fast charging.
Software-wise, the company’s OxygenOS user experience is also a major highlight – bringing responsive interactivity and a clean interface to the table that lends itself to the phone’s powerful, premium feel.
Read our full OnePlus Nord review
6. Realme X50 Pro – Best value
Realme’s first 5G flagship (and second-ever flagship phone) is an impressively affordable device that doesn’t skimp on high-end specs and features.
The Realme X50 Pro forgoes aspects like IP water resistance and a thin body, but in return sports the latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 chipset, 5G, up to 12GB of RAM, fast UFS 3.0 storage and insane 65W ‘SuperDart’ fast charging, which delivers 60% charge in just 15 minutes and a full charge in only 35.
Best of all, the X50 Pro costs approximately half that of most top-tier Android flagships on the market in 2020.
Read our full Realme X50 Pro review
7. Oppo Find X2 Neo – Best design
Falling somewhere between the Oppo Find X2 Pro and the OnePlus Nord, the Find X2 Neo marries capable mid-range internals with premium design and build quality.
For the briefest of moments, the Neo was “the world’s thinnest 5G phone,” until the Vivo X50 Pro arrived on the scene but that doesn’t detract from its beautiful aesthetics and responsive Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor (backed up by 12GB of RAM).
ColorOS – the phone’s Android 10-based user experience – still needs a little work but it’s always improving. The quad rear camera setup adds a pleasing amount of photographic versatility, while the 6.55in OLED display delivers smooth viewing thanks to a 90Hz high refresh rate.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Neo review
8. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G – Great for multitasking
The Note 10 Plus has a huge 6.8in Dynamic OLED display but it’s easier than you might think to hold in the hand, with its tall aspect ratio and almost bezel-less design.
This 2019 flagship phablet piles on the performance with its 7nm processor and 12GB of RAM, sports Depth Vision and Time of Flight sensors to the rear camera and integrates an in-display fingerprint sensor for the first time in the Note series.
It does ditch the headphone jack but there’s USB-C audio (with bundled AKG earbuds), microSD support and Samsung’s famous S Pen stylus – complete with Air Actions that allow it to behave almost like a magic wand, triggering abilities without it even touching the screen.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review
9. Samsung Galaxy A90 5G – Great value
The first 5G phone that sits outside a phone maker’s flagship family, the Galaxy A90 commands a slightly lower price than some of those listed here.
That said, it does have a flagship processor, in the form of the Snapdragon 855 (necessary for it to have a 5G modem), though Samsung makes some savings elsewhere, with a downgraded triple-lens camera and lack of support for wireless charging.
A 6.7in AMOLED screen is interrupted only with a small teardrop notch to house the selfie camera, while a fingerprint sensor is integrated to the display. There’s also a high-capacity 4,500mAh battery and 25W fast charging.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A90 5G review
10. Red Magic 5G – Best for gaming
The Red Magic 5G is undeniably one of the best gaming phones on the market. Its 144Hz display and stereo speakers are among the best in their class, while the camera enjoys a notable upgrade over the Red Magic 3S.
The phone is targeted squarely at mobile gamers and as such, some aspects are less well suited to mainstream users. These include its imposing industrial design and some unimpressive software tweaks – the frustrating in-display fingerprint scanner chief among them.
All things considered, however, the Red Magic 5G offers everything budding gamers are looking for, not to mention 5G speeds, at a price that means it’s hard to resist.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 5G review
Before you buy
Getting a 5G phone is only one piece of the puzzle, of course. To actually take advantage of this next-gen connectivity you need to:
Have a 5G-capable phone
Subscribe to a network that actively offers 5G connectivity
Subscribe to a contract that actively includes 5G connectivity
Be in an area with good 5G coverage
EE and Vodafone were the first networks to get their 5G networks up and running, with O2 joining the fray in October 2019. Three’s 5G network was technically up and running in 2019 too but the carrier didn’t start offering 5G phone plans until earlier this year.
There’s also the matter of the nation’s MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) – carriers that effectively piggyback off of other networks’ existing 5G infrastructure. Right now, BT Mobile (using EE’s 5G network), Sky Mobile (using O2’s 5G network), Tesco Mobile (using O2’s 5G network) and Voxi (using Vodafone’s 5G network) all also offer 5G plans/phones.
Before you splash out on a 5G phone, it’s worth checking to see what the quality of 5G coverage in your area is like. Not all 5G phones are available from all carriers and you may have to change network if you want to reap the benefits of 5G in your area.
Check out RootMetrics’ coverage map for an independent evaluation of mobile coverage (including 5G coverage) from the UK’s major carriers, across the nation.
Why upgrade to 5G?
5G is around 20 times faster than 4G, with the potential for even better speeds in future. With 5G, you’ll be able to stream video in 4K resolution without buffering and make high-resolution video calls if you so wish. There are also benefits for mobile gaming, because of 5G’s lower latency. For more details on the technology, check out our ‘What is 5G?’ guide.
Related: Best cheap 5G phone 2020
If you decide to wait, we’ve also tested some great 4G smartphones at various price points. Check out the best flagship, mid-range and budget phones available now, as well as some great phones coming soon (some are even foldable, which for now is arguably cooler than supporting 5G).
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