Best 5G phones for 2021

The super-fast data speeds of 5G aren’t just limited to the wealthy — we’re now seeing the service become available on much more affordable handsets. What once seemed like a distant dream is now common, with all of the top phones released in the last year, including the iPhone 13 series and Samsung’s Galaxy S21, being fully enabled to take advantage of those 5G phone speeds. The Pixel 6 arrived recently too, though the picture regarding 5G is rather murky for Google’s new flagship phone.

Though it won’t replace 4G in its entirety, 5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. 5G works fast, and many industries will benefit from the new network, including drones, self-driving cars and the internet of things. Its growth across the US, the UK and the wider world has been fast, but it’s still not everywhere, so make sure 5G coverage is available — or at least coming soon — in your area before you splash the cash on a 5G-enabled handset. 

Remember that a 5G phone will still work as normal on a 4G network (albeit at lower speeds) so don’t be afraid of buying a 5G phone like the S21 Ultra even if you’re not in a 5G zone. It’s good practice to future-proof yourself; you may not be in a 5G zone right now, but it may well be that 5G will come to your area in the three years or so you have your phone, so at least you’ll be ready to take advantage of it when it arrives. 

But with 5G handsets being offered by every major phone manufacturer now, it can be difficult to work out which is best for you. We’ve done some of the hard work and put together our list of our top 5G-enabled phones that you can go and buy right now. 

Read: Cheaper 5G phones are on the horizon, but they probably won’t be very good

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple unveiled four iPhones this September, all of which are 5G phones. At the helm of the lineup is the iPhone 13 series, which starts at $729 and features the A15 Bionic processor and dual rear cameras. If you’re looking for something smaller and cheaper, the iPhone 13 Mini is your best pick for a 5G capable phone. And if you want something more premium, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are decked out with more features.

Read our Apple iPhone 13 review.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

At $899, the Google Pixel 6 Pro undercuts rivals on price while including so much value. It comes with a flagship camera setup, new AI features, a crisp display and a distinctive design. If you only have $600 to spend, you get get the lower-end Pixel 6, which still sports the flagship cameras and a big screen.

Read our Pixel 6 Pro review.


Angela Lang/CNET

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best phone Samsung makes right now, packing everything you’d expect from an elite flagship phone. It’s got a big, vibrant screen and an incredible rear camera setup (including a zoom lens unlike anything we’ve seen). It’s absolutely stuffed with power. This Android phone doesn’t come cheap, but it’s the 5G phone to go for if you’re looking for the best of the best in an Android handset.

Read our Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review.


Angela Lang/CNET

The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G are 5G phones from Google that have long-lasting batteries, excellent cameras with fantastic low-light capabilities and software support from Google. As the more expensive of the older two 5G Pixel phones, the Pixel 5 has a 90Hz display, wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, meaning it can wirelessly charge something else. The Pixel 4A is out of stock at Google, and the Pixel 5 has been discontinued, but both are still available elsewhere.

Read our Pixel 5 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite its high price tag and being a Verizon exclusive in the US, the Edge Plus is still a premium 5G smartphone worth looking into. This 5G phone features a Snapdragon 865 chipset, a giant battery, an OLED screen with a high refresh rate and multiple rear cameras with heavy-duty specs. As CNET’s Patrick Holland declared, it’s “one of the most wonderful Android phones I’ve tried in a long time.”

Read our Motorola Edge Plus review.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro impressed with their excellent performance, their slick designs and their generally decent cameras. While both are 5G signal enabled, it was the base OnePlus 9 that particularly wowed us, with its much better battery life and its more affordable price tag. It’s the phone to go for if you want a flagship experience but don’t want to empty your bank account to get it.

Read our OnePlus 9 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy S21, but the best thing about it has got to be the price. Samsung’s next-gen flagship lineup starts at $800, and you can find it on Amazon right now for over $150 off in certain colors. Samsung made some trade-offs to get to that price: The phone has 4GB less RAM than its predecessor, the wall charger and headphones don’t come in the box, and it doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expanded storage. But even with those sacrifices, you’re getting a lot for your money with this 5G device, including a striking design, the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and 5G connectivity.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S21 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G sports a 6.5-inch AMOLED display with a high-refresh rate that can be set to either 120Hz or 60Hz. The phone features four rear cameras and the main one is really good. On days with lighter use or when the display is set to 60Hz, you can easily get the 4,500-mAh battery to last 1.5 days. The Galaxy A52 5G is the best 5G smartphone under $500.

Read our Galaxy A52 5G review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Released in January, the Motorola One 5G Ace is the best 5G phone available under $400 right now. It features a big 6.7-inch IPS LCD display and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G. It can capture 48-megapixel photos with an option for 8-megapixel ultrawide and 2-megapixel macro shots. It’s your best bet under $400.

Read our Motorola One 5G Ace review.


OnePlus Nord and Nord N10 5G

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As part of OnePlus’ midrange family of phones, the Nord N10 5G (pictured here) features a 90Hz display, a headphone jack and a generous 6.49-inch screen. The new phone will be available in Europe first then North America at a later date. It follows the company’s first Nord phone, which also has 5G and is only available in the UK.

Read our OnePlus Nord review.


Angela Lang/CNET

Want to get in on the foldable craze? The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the phone to get. It offers flagship performance, good cameras and a decent battery life — all crammed into a small package that looks really, really cool.

Read our Galaxy Z Flip 3 review.



The $300 One 5G is one of the best, most affordable 5G phones available. This cheap phone has a total of six, yes six, cameras, a 90Hz high-refresh rate display and fast-charging technology. It’s available now in the US on AT&T and Verizon’s mobile networks.

Read our Motorola One 5G review.


Samsung Galaxy A71 5G




The Xperia 5 II is a pricey but gorgeous phone for users who like to play games, shoot photos and record video. Its 120Hz display is silky smooth and its quasi mirrorless camera can record 4K 120fps video. And while it can connect to 5G, the US model of the phone cannot.

Read our Sony Xperia 5 II review.


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