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Best 5G phone to buy in 2021: top 5G-ready smartphones from Samsung, Google, OnePlus and more

Looking for fast download speeds? These are the best 5G phones you can buy right now.

best 5G phones

The last two years have seen 5G phones become increasingly easier to find and at a more affordable price. You’re now spoiled for choice when it comes to picking the best 5G phone.

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A phone with 5G connectivity should give you faster download speeds so that you can watch your favourite Netflix or Disney Plus show quicker and more easily. But, a 5G-ready phone still needs to get the basics such as battery life, camera and display right, too.

Here are the best 5G phones to buy in 2021, along with some advice on where to spend your money and additional features to consider.

Looking for more smartphone recommendations? Try our guides on the best Android phone, best iPhone and best camera phone. And, to keep in touch with older relatives, you might want to check out our guide to the best smartphone for older people.

Considering an Apple device? Make sure to read our iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 guide to see if it’s worth investing in the new flagship.

How to choose the best 5G phone

So, you’ve decided you want a 5G phone. Now, you need to establish a budget and choose which features are essential for you to have.

  • Price: When the first 5G phones were being released, they tended to be on the pricier end. Now, a 5G phone can cost anywhere between £200 and £1,800. You definitely do not need to spend over £1,000 to get a good 5G phone either. If you know you don’t want to spend a lot, make sure to check out our best budget smartphone guide.
  • Display: The size of smartphone displays now varies considerably from 6.2 inches all the way through to the 7.6 inches of the tablet-esque Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. If you watch a lot of videos and streaming services on your phone, you might want to invest in a bigger screen. However, this always has to be balanced with how big you want your phone to be and how easy it’ll be to carry around in your day-to-day life.
  • Battery life: Whether you’re buying a 4G or 5G phone, you want to be certain it will make it to the end of the day without dying on you. Decent battery life will easily last a full day with some extra charge left over. Keep an eye out for battery saver modes, too, if you know you’re guilty of forgetting your charger.
  • Storage: Most 5G phones offer one of two storage sizes; 128GB or 256GB. While 128GB should be enough for the average user, you might want to invest in the bigger 256GB model if you’re an avid downloader. With 256GB, you should have plenty of space for photos, videos and apps without having to rely on Cloud services. A 256GB model may also be a good option if you like to regularly download Netflix episodes to watch offline and don’t want to be constantly deleting to make space.
  • Camera: The camera setup is another area where smartphones can really vary. Most front cameras will be a punch-hole style in the corner of the screen. However, some can have a more sizeable bezel that can affect how big and undisrupted a display feels. The rear set-ups can typically contain two, three or four cameras. More cameras don’t always mean better quality photography. Consider what type of photos you most often shoot and shape your research around that.

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Looking for advice on whether to upgrade your phone? Head to our iPhone 13 vs iPhone 12 guide to see how the flagships compare.

Best 5G phones at a glance

Best 5G phones to buy in 2021

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

Best 5G phone

Pros:

  • Photos have a rich finish to them
  • Gorgeous, smooth, punchy screen
  • Very fast charging speeds

Cons:

  • Good, not great battery
  • Can get warm when gaming
  • Zoom camera isn’t class-leading

Key features:

  • Hasselblad tuned camera
  • Premium glass and metal design
  • Top-tier Snapdragon 888 power
  • IP68 dust and water resistance
  • Fast wired and wireless charging
  • 120Hz super-smooth display
  • Runs Android 11 with Google Play Store
  • Average sized 4500mAh battery

Beyond being 5G ready, the OnePlus 9 Pro is filled to the brim with top-notch features. At 6.7-inch in size, the phone’s screen has a 120Hz refresh rate that matches other flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. Fast charging is also available, and the smartphone is dust and water-resistant.

However, the star of the show is the quad-camera setup. Using Hasselblad tech, the smartphone has a 50MP ultra-wide sensor along with a huge 48MP front camera.

Read the full OnePlus 9 Pro review.

Buy the OnePlus 9 Pro SIM-free:

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Best for features

Pros:

  • Fantastically rich and vibrant display
  • Long-lasting battery that charges up in 40 minutes
  • Camera captures accurate and detailed stills and video

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No software support after two years

Key features:

  • Dimensions: 163.6 x 74 x 8.26 mm
  • Weight: 193g
  • 6.7-inch AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Quad-camera set-up including twin 50MP wide and ultra-wide sensors
  • 32MP front-facing selfie camera with facial recognition
  • 65W SuperVOOC 2.0 fast charging
  • 30W wireless charging
  • 10W reverse wireless charging
  • In-screen fingerprint scanner
  • NFC included for contactless payments

The Oppo Find X3 Pro is another Android smartphone that has a lot of features to offer. Along with 5G connectivity, this Oppo flagship also has fast and wireless charging capabilities, a quad-camera set-up and an incredibly crisp and responsive 6.7-inch AMOLED display. If you want a smartphone that offers a lot more than just 5G and you don’t mind the premium price tag, the Oppo Find X3 Pro is the choice for you.

Read the full Oppo Find X3 Pro review.

Buy the Oppo Find X3 Pro SIM-free: 

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Best for Android fans

Pros:

  • Excellent main camera, day or night
  • Uncluttered software
  • Guaranteed quick Android updates

Cons:

  • Just OK battery life
  • Plastic casing

Key features:

  • 6.2-inch 2340 x 1080 pixel 60Hz OLED screen
  • 128GB storage
  • Snapdragon 765G CPU
  • Android 11
  • 12/16MP rear cameras
  • 8MP front camera
  • 3885mAh battery

The Google Pixel 4a 5G has one of the neatest and simplest interfaces to navigate. It makes it extremely pleasant to use, and this same streamlining carries on through the smartphone’s features. It has a 6.2-inch OLED display, which is a decent size without being cumbersome, and the design is slender. Where Google has gone the extra mile is with the camera. The camera matches that in the more premium Google Pixel 5, and there’s a 12MP primary camera and a 16MP ultra-wide that perform well even in low light.

Read the full Google Pixel 4a 5G review.

Buy the Google Pixel 4a 5G SIM-free:

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

Samsung Galazy Z Fold 2

Best for design

Pros:

  • Refined, premium folding design
  • Flagship power and performance
  • Packed with wow-factor

Cons:

  • Good, not class-leading cameras
  • Very expensive for a smartphone
  • Front-display can be impractically tall

Key features:

  • 6.2-inch smartphone screen when closed
  • 7.6-inch tablet screen when opened
  • DeX desktop mode when connected to monitor
  • Two 10MP selfie cameras
  • Three 12MP rear cameras
  • Up to 4K resolution video recording
  • Three-app split-screen multitasking
  • 5G mobile data speeds
  • Dual-SIM card support
  • 256GB storage (no memory card support)
  • Respectable 4500mAh battery
  • Fast wired and wireless charging

OK, so there’s one clear selling point when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, and that’s that it is ‘foldable’. When closed, the smartphone is a compact size of 6.2 inches that can then be folded out into a 7.6-inch tablet. However, there’s more to the Z Fold 2 than novelty. It has some decent specs, including fast and wireless charging, dual-SIM card support and split-screen multitasking that allows you to view multiple apps at once.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 SIM-free:

Motorola Moto G50

Motorola Moto G50

Best for battery life

Pros:

  • Low price for 5G
  • Excellent battery life
  • Decent, if mono, speaker

Cons:

  • Low-resolution screen
  • Basic camera array
  • It’s not a gaming powerhouse

Key features:

  • 6.5-inch
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G CPU
  • 5G mobile internet
  • Android 11
  • 64GB storage
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5000mAh battery
  • 48/5/2MP rear cameras
  • 13MP front camera
  • 164.9 x 74.9 x 9 mm
  • 192g

The Motorola Moto G50 has a battery life that easily lasts over 24 hours. And for a phone that’s under £200, the Moto G50 offers some of the best value available. Features include a 6.5-inch display, a triple-camera set-up and a 90Hz refresh rate that makes scrolling feel pretty smooth. If you want 5G and brilliant battery life for a budget price, the Motorola Moto G50 is the best option by far.

Read the full Motorola Moto G50 review.

Buy the Motorola Moto G50 SIM-free:

iPhone 12 Pro

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Best for iPhone loyalists

Pros:

  • Brilliant photography
  • Great for AR
  • 5G-ready

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • On the heavier side

Key features:

  • SuperRetina XDR display
  • 6.1-inch OLED screen
  • IP68 (waterproof up to 6 metres)
  • 189g
  • Apple A14 Bionic chip
  • Three 12MP sensors: wide, ultrawide, and a 2X telephoto lens and a LiDAR sensor
  • iOS 14
  • MagSafe compatible
  • 5G

The release of the iPhone 12 series last year meant that Apple loyalists could finally get the benefit of 5G. The four iPhone 12 models are the only iPhones that are 5G-ready. If you’re willing to spend a little extra, the iPhone 12 Pro offers a more comprehensive camera set-up than the standard iPhone 12, along with the key features including the A14 Bionic chip, IP68 water resistance and wireless charging.

Read the full Apple iPhone 12 Pro review.

Interested in the newest model? We’re gearing up to review the iPhone 13, but in the meantime you can head to our iPhone 13 features guide for the full list of specs, or check out the latest iPhone 13 deals.

Buy the iPhone 12 Pro SIM-free: 

Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G

Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro

Best budget 5G option

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • 5G connectivity
  • Smooth 90 Hz display
  • Long-lasting battery
  • UI is nice once tidied up

Cons:

  • Large logo on the back
  • Too much pre-installed software
  • Battery takes a long time to charge
  • Glossy back is a fingerprint magnet

Key features:

  • Future-proofed with 5G connectivity
  • 161.81mm x 75.34mm x  8.92mm
  • 6.5-inch FHD+ LCD display (2400 x 1080)
  • 90Hz screen refresh rate
  • MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset
  • 5,000 mAh battery
  • 48 MP main camera, 8MP selfie camera
  • Side fingerprint sensor & face unlock
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • 3.5mm headphone jack on top

The Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro is one of the most affordable ways to access the benefits of 5G. The highlights of the Poco M3 Pro include a battery life that easily lasts two days of use and a 6.5-inch FHD+ LCD display that has a decent 90Hz refresh rate. It also has an old-school headphone jack for those of us who still prefer wired headphones.

Read the full Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G review.

Buy the Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro SIM-free: 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Best affordable Samsung

Pros:

  • Across-the-board excellence
  • Best-in-class screen
  • Excellent camera system
  • S Pen support is welcome

Cons:

  • S Pen not included
  • Can get warm when gaming
  • Chunky size will put some off

Key features:

  • Big phone, premium design
  • IP68 dust and water-resistant
  • Fantastic, smooth, sharp display
  • S Pen support for note-taking
  • 108MP high-resolution main camera
  • 40MP selfie camera
  • Impressive 10 times zoom range
  • Sharp 8K resolution video recording
  • Excellent night photography
  • Fast performance with Exynos processor
  • 5G mobile data speeds
  • Large 5000mAh battery
  • Fast 25W charging and wireless charging

If you’re looking for a 5G Samsung phone that doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of a grand and a half, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a great option. It’s still a premium offering but just with a slightly more reasonable price of £999. Its best features include S Pen support, a camera that captures 8K video and a large 6.8-inch display.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra SIM-free:

How we tested the best 5G phones

All the smartphones in this guide have been tried, tested and reviewed by our tech experts. Each smartphone was tested against the same criteria before being given a final rating out of five.

The categories we considered included the phone’s design, camera, battery life, and features such as wireless charging and dual SIM support. These are, of course, weighed up against the phone’s price to decide if it is good value for money. This is essential when the cost of 5G phones can vary from £200 to a huge £1600.

To determine the scores (out of 5), we carried out a series of tests. For example, we timed the whole set-up process, from opening the box, through various updates, to being signed into all our favourite apps.

All the smartphones to make it into our best 5G phones guide received an overall rating of 3.5 or higher.

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Head to the Technology section for more product guides and reviews, including our round-up of the best smartphones and best SIM-only deals. Happy to wait a little longer? Keep an eye on our Black Friday 2021 and Cyber Monday 2021 coverage.