Giving the gift of a new phone? Pat yourself on the back for your wonderful thoughtfulness. This year’s crop of worthy phones is extensive — no matter your budget.
The iPhone XR (starts at $749) is quite simply the best-value iPhone in years. Feel good that in addition to “saving money” on a gift (who are we kidding, phones are one of the most expensive things you can give), the 6.1-inch device is nearly as capable as the iPhone XS — and it comes in vibrant coral, blue, yellow and red.
If you don’t know the OnePlus name, you will soon. The champion of midprice, high-powered Android phones is finally on a US carrier: T-Mobile. The excellent OnePlus 6T (it starts at $550) is the first in the US to have an in-screen fingerprint reader. That’s something your loved one can crow about all year long.
No phone takes better still photos than the Pixel 3, in day or night. With it, Google proves that one rear lens can be better than two, three or even four. Besides the hotshot camera, you’re giving the gift of wireless charging, waterproofing, and timely Android and security updates.
Pixel 3 XL
For the exact same experience with a larger screen — and a marginally larger battery — the Pixel 3 XL struts into view with a 6.3-inch display.
Galaxy Note 9
For creative types or Android power users, tie a ribbon around the Galaxy Note 9. Yes, it’s ultrapricey, but pound for pound you get a lot of value for money, including a massive battery and internal storage that starts at 128GB. A revamped S Pen stylus — which lets you draw, write and navigate — also doubles as a wireless remote that helps defeat the “long arm” syndrome of group selfies.
LG V40 ThinQ
LG may not get all the usual attention, but brand-agnostic shutterbugs will love the LG V40 ThinQ’s five cameras and dazzling variety of photography options. It also boasts a 6.4-inch display, a water-resistant design and a rare headphone jack.
The iPhone XS is your iPhone gold standard that’s smarter, better and faster than the iPhone X in almost every way. Plus, it comes in a gold finish, and a new 512GB version for storing all those blackmail photos of your little cousin in an ugly-cute holiday sweater.
iPhone XS Max
If the iPhone XS’s 5.8-inch screen just won’t do, the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max has identical software. The battery size gets a bit of a bump — but so does the cost. It starts at $1,100.
Red Hydrogen One
Available with Verizon and AT&T, the Red Hydrogen One is an edge product for the cutting-edge visual arts creative in your life… if money is no object. Starting at $1,295, it’s the only phone you can buy with a “holographic” 3D display. The ultraniche phone takes beautiful 2D photos and has strong battery life.
Galaxy S9 Plus
If the Note 9 is too much for your wallet or your giftee, the Galaxy S9 Plus is the obvious choice. Dual cameras mean portrait photos, and its top-of-the-line specs match the Note 9 in terms of performance.
Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus
For a smaller screen option and more savings, buy the 5.8-inch Galaxy S9. Like the other Galaxy phones, a gorgeous screen, sexy dual-curved design and terrific camera for well-lit shots can’t go wrong. Whiplash-fast speeds, wireless charging and water resistance complete the package. Just keep in mind there’s only one rear camera, so skip it if portrait photography is a must.
LG G7 ThinQ
With a smaller body than the LG V40, the similarly waterproof LG G7 ThinQ shares many of the same features. Dual rear cameras include AI smarts to give photos a boost, and two front-facing cameras mean you can fit more people or landscapes into selfies. Its headphone jack is a bonus for recipients loath to part with a favorite pair of wired headphones.
Razer Phone 2
For the gamer in your life, the Razer Phone 2’s screen has an unmatched 120Hz refresh rate. That means intense gameplay — not to mention website scrolling — will look really, really smooth. Wireless charging and neat software tricks elevate the $800 handset, and a $150 add-on gaming dock brings on the mini console feel. It’s certified to work with most US carriers.
Motorola Moto Z3 Play
If battery life is your loved one’s most common complaint, the Moto Z3 Play is long-lived and comes with an extra battery pack that keeps it running for two days before it needs to recharge. Its take on Android 8.0 Oreo is a pleasure to use, and the fingerprint sensor on the phone’s right side is easy to reach.
Motorola Moto G6
If you’re looking for a cheap phone, a starter phone for kids or a second phone for yourself, the Moto G6 is hands down your best budget buy. For $199, the quality of the hardware, software and photos is unbeatable. Don’t hesitate to pick it up — there’s a version for all US carriers.