The Best Smartphones 2020
Apple perfected the iPhone formula in 2019 by keeping the expensive $1,000+ models and naming them 'Pro', while rounding up the XR variant and making it better in almost every single way, even the price. The iPhone 11 is by no means an inexpensive phone at $699, but it brings to the table a great mix of features and capabilities that make it the best phone that most users will be happy with in the long run.
On the Android side, there is a much wider variety of options to choose from. You also gain a lot of flexibility on the spec sheet and can save some money for a comparable handset. Our pick for most people is the Samsung Galaxy S10e, a direct competitor to the iPhone 11 that is currently being sold for $550 unlocked. Read on for more details why these our two top choices in this category.
Why the iPhone 11
The iPhone 11 features a 6.1-inch "Liquid Retina" LCD display that is almost identical to the one found in the iPhone XR, notch included. When the iPhone XR was offered a year ago, it seemed to check most boxes but the low resolution display seemed like a shortcoming on paper. A year later, customers didn't seem to care, the iPhone XR was Apple's best selling iPhone in the US and people simply preferred to spend less to get into into Apple's ecosystem while still getting a decently sized screen that is more than serviceable. Ask the average user and they'll tell you the phone looks great. And that's honestly the only big drawback on buying the iPhone 11 if you want an iPhone.
Build quality is top notch (no pun intended), you get to choose from six colors and because most people use a case to protect their phone, iPhones enjoy from the largest variety of accessories in that regard. The iPhone 11 gets Apple's latest silicon, the A13 Bionic which is the fastest CPU and GPU in a smartphone, that should guarantee some longetivity, in addition to software updates that come often and directly from the manufacturer.
The handset is IP68 water-resistant up to two meters and it's wireless charging capable, you also get a faster version of Face ID that is pretty good. What you don't get compared to an Android phone: no storage expansion (64GB is the default at $699, or pay $50 more for 128GB), and no headphone jack.
The iPhone 11 gets a very capable dual-camera setup that includes an ultra-wide shooter with support for 2x optical zoom, video can be captured in up to 4K resolution at 60 fps. The front camera features an improved "Portrait Mode." Besides the hardware, Apple has improved image processing making the iPhone 11 one of the best phone cameras around. Battery life is good, rated for 17 hours of video playback, it should last a day of heavy use without a problem.
Why the Galaxy S10e
Samsung's approach to Galaxy S phones is that they like to offer every feature possible on their premium handsets. In 2019, however they modified this formula to add the Galaxy S10e. This is a step down from the S10 flagships at a more affordable price point, while sacrificing in very few areas. Most importantly, since introduction, the Galaxy S10e is now available for $550 which makes it very competitive, rendering obsolete many mid-range options.
Samsung does premium hardware really well and the Galaxy S10 is one of the best phones in the market. So what do you sacrifice by going with the S10e? The S10e gets a full HD display instead of a Quad HD display -- it's still higher resolution than the iPhone 11 and AMOLED -- plus the average customer don't seem to care about the lower resolution as mentioned above. You lose the telephoto lens on the back and get a smaller battery, which is perhaps the biggest drawback in this phone. There's also no in-screen fingerprint reader, instead this is embedded in the power button which many owners tend to prefer as it's actually more accurate.
Now, what makes the Galaxy S10e a compelling package: It's very well built, the 5.8-inch screen is flat with regular-sized bezels which means it's less delicate than the S10. It's a compact phone, just slightly smaller than the iPhone 11 Pro. The phone is powered by the flagship Snapdragon 855 SoC, you get 128GB of onboard storage and 6GB of RAM, plus expandable storage via microSD slot.
The Galaxy S10e packs two rear cameras: a main 12-megapixel OIS sensor and a secondary 16-megapixel one used with an ultrawide lens. On the front is a 10-megapixel camera capable of recording video in 4K. Generally speaking, this is the same camera array used by the Galaxy S10 and is considered among the better cameras around, but shy of being the most consistent across different scenarios and lighting conditions. Usually the latest iPhones, Huawei and Pixel phones are a tad better overall.
The Galaxy S10e is IP68 waterproofed, gets wireless charging including novel 4.5W reverse wireless charging, fast charging via USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack is present. Samsung has also improved the look and feel of Android with One UI. It's certainly better than previous iterations of Samsung's skin, but the big shortcoming comes from the irregular software updates that are dictated differently by region and carrier, which honestly is pretty bad.