Best phone 2024: Top 10 Apple and Android smartphones

This is our definitive run down of the ten best phones you can buy (Image: Apple/Samsung/Google/Asus/OnePlus)

There are an overwhelming number of smartphones to choose from in 2024, from the familiar Apple iPhone lineup to the wonderful world of Android, where there are umpteen different phones vying for your attention on shop shelves and on online stores.

Whether you want a big screen and great battery life or a small phone with a great camera, there are plenty of options to mix and match the features you want at the price you’re willing to pay, particularly given we are all upgrading far less often than we used to. A phone should last for several years.

At Express.co.uk, our expert tech editors test all the major smartphones released in the UK and put them through their paces to find out if they are as good as the adverts say they are, or if you’re better off spending your money elsewhere.

In this article, we’ve rounded up the ten best smartphones money can buy, with a nod to those who also would prefer to spend a little less, because ‘best’ doesn’t always equal ‘most expensive’.

Apple and Samsung are here, but you have plenty of other options from OnePlus, to Honor, to Google, or even newcomers such as Nothing and companies you didn’t know made phones, such as Asus. There’s a perfect phone out there for everyone.

Here are the best phones you can buy in the UK in 2024.

1. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (Image: Samsung)

What we love

  • Fabulous camera

  • Oodles of power
  • S Pen is still unique
  • Improved 6.8-inch display

What we don’t

  • Can get very expensive

  • Charging could be faster
  • Size won’t suit all pockets

Even though it came out right at the start of 2023, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is still the best phone you can buy (until the Galaxy S24 Ultra comes out, probably). It stuffs absolutely every feature under the sun into its boxy, premium body, complete with S Pen stylus for drawing and writing in apps tucked away when not in use.

The huge 6.8-inch QHD+ display gets incredibly bright when needed and is pin-sharp, but that’s not a drain on the battery, which keeps this monster phone impressively ticking over into a second day on a single charge.

Best of all are the cameras, the most versatile you’ll find on any phone. Four rear lenses (main, two telephotos, and an ultra-wide) mean you can pan, zoom, or get up close and personal with your subjects or landscapes, complete with an amazing 10x optical zoom and enough pro features for tinkering with your photos afterwards. Add to that five years of software support and you really can’t go wrong with the S23 Ultra.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

2. Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max (Image: Apple)

What we love

  • Lighter titanium design

  • Powerhouse A17 Pro chip
  • Excellent cameras
  • USB-C
  • Action Button is helpful

What we don’t

  • Action Button hard to reach
  • Slow charging

The best iPhone is predictably the most expensive one, but at least the 15 Pro Max is a bit lighter in the pocket than the 14 Pro Max thanks to the move to titanium build instead of stainless steel. The sides are curved and it’s a nicer object to hold.

Another great improvement can be found in the cameras, which are the best ever on an iPhone, as you might expect. The battery life is also excellent, and can easily deliver two days if you’re careful with your usage (as I type this at 3pm I am on 76%). Apple’s usual excellent iOS polish is here too, with close to flawless performance thanks to the A17 Pro chip inside.

This power means the phone can run console-level games such as Resident Evil Village, or edit a full 4K video on the go without so much as skipping a beat. The Pro Max also has a 5x telephoto lens, further reach than the regular Pro, meaning this high-end iPhone is the one to go for if you want every top feature Apple offers on its flagship iPhone. Oh, and it has USB-C, finally. The smaller, cheaper iPhone 15 Pro is great but its telephoto is only 3x.

Read our full iPhone 15 Pro Max review

3. Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro (Image: Google)

What we love

  • Amazing cameras

  • Big bright sharp display
  • Clever Android software
  • Seven years of software updates
  • All day battery life

Google markets its Pixel 8 Pro on the strength of its AI features, but the phone is good enough without all that. The smarts include things like Best Take, which lets you mix and match faces from several group shots to make sure no one is blinking, to instant translation so you can quickly chat to someone who doesn’t speak your language.

You can also use other powerful tools in Google Photos to edit snaps to be at different times of day, erase unwanted people from the background, and generally perfect your pocket pictures.

The Pixel’s screen is one of the best on any smartphone with very good viewing angles, vibrant colours and incredible brightness that you’ll really notice. Build quality is also the best ever from a Google phone, with a matt glass back that feels incredibly premium. Google also offers seven years of software updates – an industry best – so if you can keep the phone running it’ll last you longer than any other. If you want a smaller, cheaper version, you can get the Pixel 8.

Read our full Google Pixel 8 Pro review

4. OnePlus Open

OnePlus Open

OnePlus Open (Image: OnePlus)

What we love

  • Best inner display on a foldable
  • Normal size outer display
  • Incredibly good cameras
  • Clever software
  • Fast charging

What we don’t

  • Not fully waterproof
  • Very expensive
  • Bulky

We didn’t expect OnePlus would make one of the best phones of 2023, and we’re even more surprised that it’s a folding phone. The OnePlus Open is an incredibly accomplished book-style foldable with hardly any crease in the main screen when unfolded, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.

Its outside screen is also a much better shape compared to the Z Fold, much closer to that of a regular smartphone. The camera module on the back of the Open is quite large and bulky, but the pay off is it takes superb photos – the best on any foldable we’ve tested yet.

Battery life is solid, and the software is very thoughtful, such as the ability to quickly bounce between three open apps that hide just off screen when not in use – much better than squeezing three on the screen at once. The only real downsides are that it’s not fully waterproof, and that it costs loads. Aside from that, the OnePlus Open is close to foldable perfection.

Read our full OnePlus Open review

5. Apple iPhone 15

Apple iPhone 15

Apple iPhone 15 (Image: Apple)

What we love

  • Speedy A16 Bionic chipset
  • Clever Dynamic Island notch
  • Solid camera improvements
  • USB-C
  • Same price as iPhone 14 was

What we don’t

  • 60Hz display
  • File transfers via USB-C slower than 15 Pro
  • Android phones still charge faster

For every Pro iPhone there’s a non-Pro iPhone, but the regular iPhone 15 is better than it has any right to be. It has gained the Dynamic Island, matt glass back, and lovely curved design of the more expensive iPhone 15 Pro, to the point at which most people will barely be able to tell the difference. If that’s you, then you should spend less and get this one.

The main camera is outstanding, as is battery life, with only the 60Hz refresh rate on the display letting the phone down (every other phone on this list has 90Hz or 120Hz smooth scrolling). Otherwise the software is identical, and should still be getting updates at the end of the decade if Apple keeps up its good work.

It also now charges via USB-C, so if you have an older iPhone you’ll need to get used to not using your Lightning cables. But if you have an iPhone 12 or earlier and want to upgrade, or fancy a change from Android, the iPhone 15 should be the go-to choice for most people – only true tech-heads need to spend more on the iPhone 15 Pro for the higher refresh rate screen and telephoto camera. Opt for the iPhone 15 Plus if you want a bigger screen and better battery life.

Read our full iPhone 15 review

6. Google Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 7a (Image: Google)

What we love

  • Big features, small price
  • Great camera
  • Tensor G2 processor
  • Wireless charging

What we don’t

  • It does feel a bit cheap
  • Battery could be better

The Google Pixel 7a is incredible value at £449, and you can probably find it cheaper than that if you shop around. Using it makes us wonder why you should spend extra on the more expensive phones in this list (i.e. all of them) as the 7a performs admirably in all areas.

It has one of the best – if not the best – camera for still images, with the sharp, contrast-heavy look Pixel phones have become known for, with an ultra-wide angle camera thrown in too. The screen is a good size and is the first with a high refresh rate on a Pixel A-series phone, similarly as it’s the first with wireless charging.

It has the capable Google Tensor G2 chipset and Pixel-exclusive features such as Call Screen and Hold For Me, great automate dealing with spam calls and hold machines respectively. And because it’s a Pixel, you’ll get Android feature updates quicker than any other Android phone on the market, including Samsung.

Read our full Google Pixel 7a review

7. Nothing Phone (2)

Nothing Phone (2)

Nothing Phone (2) (Image: Nothing)

What we love

  • Distinctive design
  • Thoughtful, attractive software
  • Solid cameras
  • Good battery life

What we don’t

  • Big and bulky feel
  • Haptics could be better

This phone’s mere existence is impressive given it’s only the second phone from a start up that has only existed for three years, but the Nothing Phone (2) is also one of the best mid-range phones available in the UK, which means it’s also one of the best full stop.

The first thing anyone notices is the Glyph lights on the back, which can be programmed to flash for incoming calls and notifications, or to show other things like battery life or even a countdown timer to when your Uber arrives just using a single light strip.

The phone feels more expensive than it is, and the Android software is also top-notch, with a distinctive monochrome aesthetic with a touch of red thrown in. It’s minimalist in the best way, and the overall package will have you stand out from the usual iPhone/Samsung crowd with a phone that looks and acts like no other.

8. Asus Zenfone 10

Asus Zenfone 10

Asus Zenfone 10 (Image: Asus)

What we love

  • Small size is rare these days
  • Amazing battery life
  • Top tier perfomance
  • Headphone jack

What we don’t

  • Cameras could be better
  • Only two Android updates

If big phones aren’t your thing then you’re mostly out of luck in this day and age – and that’s a real pity. Apple killed the mini iPhone, and it’s harder than ever to find a genuinely petite Android phone. Enter the Asus Zenfone 10, which while not as tiny as the phones of the past it’s certainly easier to use with one hand and fits into more pockets than most of the other phones on this list.

This 5.9-incher packs in premium specs too, with the top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 powering things with Android 13 out of the box, capable dual cameras, and software you can tweak to your liking, making this small phone the antithesis to the iPhone with how much you can adapt it. It also packs in full waterproofing and wireless charging – and a headphone jack!

Remarkably, the Zenfone 10 also has some of the best battery life of any phone right now, which is incredible seeing as it has a relatively small battery due to its size. Asus is doing some wizardry here, and we love it. The one downside to this phone is the short software support, with Asus only guaranteeing two Android updates and three years of security patches from launch.

9. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 (Image: Samsung)

What we love

  • Stunning folding deign
  • New cover screen
  • All day battery
  • Fully waterproof

What we don’t

  • Cameras aren’t top tier
  • Fiddly fingerprint scanner

If you’re bored of always upgrading your phone to another black rectangle and you’d rather your phone looked like it was from the future then this is the one for you. Folding phones have been around for a few years, but the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 is one of the best yet, nailing the balance between design and function.

Also calling on the nostalgia you might have for the flip phones of the 2000s, this premium handset folds out to be the size of a regular modern smartphone but then flips shut to half the size to stow easily in a small pocket or bag. If you want to glance at the time and your notifications, the lid has a 3.4-inch cover screen, which can even run full apps if you want it to. But keeping it shut might make you pick up your phone less, which can only be a good thing.

When it’s open, the phone has excellent dual cameras for those all-important social media snaps, plus the battery life is good enough to keep you going all day away from the charger. With premium design and a guaranteed five years of software support, this is a great choice for something a bit different – and Samsung offers excellent UK support in case of defects, which are something to consider when it comes to folding screens.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 review

10. Honor Magic 5 Pro

Honor Magic 5 Pro

Honor Magic 5 Pro (Image: Honor)

What we love

  • Incredibly good cameras
  • Lovely curved display
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent, fast performance

What we don’t

  • Software is a little cluttered
  • Very big

Perhaps an outsider’s pick, nevertheless we have a lot of time for the Honor Magic 5 Pro with its unique design, excellent screen, and surprisingly capable camera set up. If you don’t want to have the same phone as your mates this is a great pick.

Honor rose out of the ashes of former Android favourite Huawei, and still pumps out several phones a year. The Magic 5 Pro is a great all-rounder with three 50Mp camera lenses that pack in 100x zoom, along with top level performance thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip and a boatload of RAM. The screen is very impressive, and one of the most curved you can buy, if that’s your sort of thing.

We find the software skin a little acquired a taste – this is practically Huawei software by a different name – as it changes a lot of stock Android and tends to try and act or look like iOS in several instances. But for the most part, the Magic 5 Pro is an outstanding phone that will help you stand out from the Apple and Samsung crowd.


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