With such a huge variety of phones on offer today, finding the best smartphones in 2020 can be a daunting undertaking. Are you going to go for old faithful and pick up an Apple iPhone? Perhaps you’d rather Samsung’s latest model with its innovative screen technology and the Note-series’s pen-input? Or you could brave a challenger brand like Huawei, with its incredible camera zoom. There’s so much to choose from – so we’ve done the research and tested hundreds of Android and iOS devices to bring you our best smartphones 2020 list.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is – what’s your priority? If you’re after a champion camera phone, then you’ll want to check out our round up of the best camera phones. If you need a creative toolbox, then you’re in the right place, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus taking the crown, thanks to its S Pen. Alternatively, there are other better value options from the likes of OnePlus if all you want is premium hardware across-the-board, and even Apple’s dropped a value champion this year – the iPhone SE (2020).
Before picking up any phone, remember to check that the best iPhone apps and Android apps for creatives are available. If you’re jumping from an iPhone to and Android, for example, the stellar Good Notes won’t be an option on Google’s mobile OS.
Once you’ve cross-checked your must-have apps and know which OS you need, our list of top-ten creative phones should help you figure out which is the right device for your personal life, productivity, work and everything in between.
The best smartphones available now
01. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Let your creative abilities run free with the Note 10
Release date: August 2019 | Weight: 168g | Dimensions: 151 x 71.8 x 7.9mm | OS: Android 9.0 | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 1080×2280 | CPU: Exynos 9825 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 3,500mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 10MP | Release date: August 2019 | Weight: 196g | Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm | OS: Android 9.0 | Screen size: 6.8-inch | Resolution: 1440×3040 | CPU: Exynos 9825 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4,200mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP | Front camera: 10MP
If you’re a creative and your phone is an extension of your work, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a dream device, especially if you’re a fan of illustration or note taking.
You’re getting a massive 4,300mAh battery to power you all the way through the day, a triple camera set-up, featuring an ultra-wide lens, a regular lens and a telescopic one – perfect for a range of different photo shoots.
This level of quality continues through to the video camera. With advanced image stabilisation and ‘bokeh’ background blur, you can create high quality videos straight from your device.
While the collection of cameras is certainly an added bonus, the real power of this phone comes through the S Pen, which adds 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity to the screen – as found on many Wacom tablets.
With this pen you can take notes without even turning on your screen (perfect for pitches and meetings), make gestures to control apps and easily draw with the phone – an added feature to really make this the best smartphone for creatives in 2020.
02. iPhone 11 Pro Max
Go all out on Apple’s greatest
Release date: September 2019 | Weight: 226g | Dimensions: 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm | OS: iOS 13 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 1242×2688 | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64/256/512GB | Battery: 3969mAh | Rear camera: 12MP+12MP+12MP | Front camera: 12MP
For those that don’t mind spending a bit more on their phone and want the best Apple device around, the iPhone 11 Pro Max could be the best smartphone for you.
Everything about this phone feels like it was designed for the creative market. The cameras are more powerful than ever, offering up an ultra-wide camera and optical zoom.
From the demonstrations Apple showed when the phone was released, you can get some incredibly impressive shots from this device. Look past the camera and this phone has a massive 3969mAh battery, giving you well over a day of life at a time.
And, a feature really set to impress is the power. This phone has the fastest CPU currently on the market, making it perfect for gaming or editing on the go.
03. Samsung Galaxy S20 (& Plus)
Excellent across the board
Release: February 2020 | Screen size: 6.2-inches | Screen type: AMOLED | Resolution: 1440 x 3200 pixels | Sharpness: 563 pixels-per-inch | Certification: HDR10+, Gorilla Glass 6, 120Hz | Dimensions: 151.7 x 69.1 x 7.9 mm | Weight: 163g | Rear camera: 12MP (wide + OIS) + 64MP (telephoto) + 12MP (ultra-wide) + ToF sensor (on Plus only) | Front camera: 10MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 8K, 30fps | Storage: 128GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 4000mAh
The Samsung Galaxy S20 might not be the best equipped of the S20-series, but it’s still one of the most popular. Why? Because it packs an impressive set of features and a sharp, crisp screen into a super-manageable size. Plus, it costs a heck of a lot less than its bigger sibling, the S20 Ultra.
The device comes complete with three rear cameras, which includes a 64MP 3x zoom telephoto camera to help you capture shots from an impressive distance. The main camera is lower resolution at 12MP, but its nighttime performance is a big step up when compared to last year’s Galaxy S10. Combined with an ultra-wide camera and up to 8K video recording, the Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus cover all bases without breaking the bank like the S20 Ultra does.
Water and dust resistant, like the iPhone 11 Pro, the S20 also supports wireless charging. Unlike its Apple rival though, you can add storage via an SD card. No doubt about it, one of the best smartphones money can buy right now.
04. Sony Xperia 1 II
Best smartphone for videographers
Release date: February 2020 | Weight: 181.4g | Dimensions: 165.1 x 71.1 x 7.6 mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 1644×3840 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP
most smartphones around today, iPhones included, Sony hasn’t managed to achieve best-in-class status with its own smartphones to date. The Sony Xperia 1 II hopes to change that, borrowing from the brands alpha camera line, with eye-tracking and pro-grade video and photography software baked in.
The phone’s specs are flagship across-the-board with a flagship Snapdragon 855 chipset matched with 8GB RAM, and with that ultra-tall 4K screen, protected by Gorilla Glass 6, sandwiching a metal frame, the Xperia 1 II is premium on the outside too.
Loaded up with three 12MP cameras: a wide, ultra-wide and 3x zoom camera and a Time of Flight sensor, on-paper, the Xperia 1 II is nothing special when compared to many flagships like the OnePlus 8 Pro. Combined with the Zeiss optics, eye-tracking and a new Photo Pro app, which gives photography enthusiasts more control over photos, though, dive in and the Xperia 1 II starts to stand out.
There’s also full IP68 water and dust resistance here, as well as a few other flourishes including a creator mode, which guarantees accurate colours in compatible apps, including Netflix, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, not to mention stereo speakers.
05. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Galaxy Note 8 is still superb
Release date: September 2017 | Weight: 195g | Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm | OS: Android 7.1.1 | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2630 | CPU: Exynos 8895 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB | Battery: 3,300mAh | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 8MP
If you saw us banging on about how good the Note 10 is, above, but balked at the cost, then the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is an easy sell. Since this device came out we’ve seen both the Note 9 and 10 come out, which means the Note 8 now rocks an incredibly affordable price tag.
It’s a big, bad brute of a phablet with fantastic cameras and the kind of processing power that wouldn’t look weak in a cheap laptop. Snazzy features to help you get the most from the impressive dual lens main camera include live focus for instant bokeh, and potent optical and digital zoom. It might be superseded, but on a features-price ratio, the Note 8 remains one of the best smartphones in the world.