The highest of high-end phones are in this category. The Galaxy Note and the iPhone are the default choices at this level, with OnePlus climbing to almost be accepted at that tier. All of these have high-quality OLED displays, battery life to spare, and no less than three cameras on their backs that deliver excellent output. What sets them apart?


Editors’ choice

  • Only option with a stylus, and it’s great if you have a use for it
  • Short of a high refresh rate, one of the best displays all-around
  • Expandable storage
  • Questionable ergonomics – power button on the left, fingerprint reader not great
  • Samsung caved and removed the 3.5mm jack
  • ‘Best iPhone ever’
  • Robust build – steel frame, IP68 and then some
  • Most potent chipset on the market
  • Huge notch, thick bezels, dated design, heavy and bulky
  • No memory expansion, Lightning port
  • Buggy software in the early days
  • Expensive

The iPhone 11 Pro Max doesn’t have the 3.5mm jack either, nor does it offer memory expansion. It’s the most expensive mainstream phone too, has a three-year-old design with the biggest of notches, and is thick and heavy, plus it got off to a rocky software start.

All that aside, it’s inevitably a refinement over the previous generation, offering an extra camera, improved dust and water resistance (still IP68, but deeper and for longer), and unmatched performance. If you’re at all an iPhone type of person, the 11 Pro (Max or otherwise) is a no-brainer.

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  • Small-ish size (narrow for sure)
  • Is a Sony
  • No night mode
  • No wireless charging
  • Frustrating fingerprint sensor

The Xpeira 5 is perhaps best suited to Sony loyalists too, but it’s our favorite Xperia of late (no, the 1 isn’t it) and it’s objectively a great top-tier smartphone. It’s one of the more compact high-end entries this year, even if it’s not a true ‘Compact’.

Now, the Xperia 5 isn’t without its flaws, including lack of wireless charging, night mode, and 4K60 video recording, plus its audio output (through a dongle, of course) isn’t on the level of its peers. It does have a great display, excellent battery life, and capable cameras, however, and all it takes is a little Sony love to have you convinced.

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  • 90Hz screen
  • 3x telephoto camera in a land of 2x’s
  • Ultra wide cam has AF
  • Faster charging than the big two
  • Clean, yet feature-rich OS
  • No IP rating
  • No memory expansion
  • No wireless charging

Almost there

  • Waterfall display looks awesome
  • Unique ultra wide camera, 3x tele
  • Top-class speakers
  • Great face recognition
  • No Google Play Services
  • Questionable ergonomics (1 physical control, potentially tricky to handle)

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