How to Choose the Right Mobile Phone
The End of Sprint as We Know It
Sprint is over. Done. Kaput. Starting probably in June, Sprint will be folded into the “New T-Mobile,” a mega-carrier that will combine the T-Mobile and Sprint networks.
This doesn’t mean you should bail out of Sprint right now. New T-Mobile will probably maintain your affordable Sprint service plan as it transitions you over to the new network during the course of the next year. Now is a good time for Sprint subscribers to re-up their phones, in fact, as older Sprint phones won’t perform so well on the new-style network.
The most important new technology to know is VoLTE, voice over 4G. New T-Mobile is going to have a lot of 4G capacity and very little 2G capacity, so if you want to make calls, 4G is the way to go. If you have a Galaxy S8 series or iPhone 8 series or later, you’re good, but earlier phones may not be covered. Here’s Sprint’s current list of VoLTE-compatible phones.
Beyond that, you want your phone to work on T-Mobile’s band 12 and 71 4G networks, which not all older Sprint phones do. All of the phones in this roundup support those frequency bands, which will give you a smooth transition over to the New T-Mobile.
For more on the transition, see how Sprint and T-Mobile are merging their networks.
The Best Flip Phones for Sprint
Older Sprint voice phones use Sprint’s aged 2G network for voice calls, and while Sprint has said it will support that network in some form until 2021, you want a phone with 4G calling for the best coverage now and in the future. On Sprint, that means the Sonim XP3, a rugged flip phone that will work on both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks.
If you’re looking for something lighter or less expensive, hold out for a few months. Your older phone will work until 2021, as I said, and the New T-Mobile is likely to release some new flip phones after the transition.
The Best 5G Phones for Sprint
Sprint subscribers using one of the latest 5G phones will connect to T-Mobile’s 5G network, not Sprint’s slightly older network (which New T-Mobile is turning off, anyway.) The Samsung Galaxy S20+ has all of the different bands and systems that New T-Mobile intends to use over the next year, so it’ll get you the best coverage and speeds.
The OnePlus 8 lacks high-band, but it looks like T-Mobile is less committed to that technology than to the others, so the OnePlus 8 (which Sprint customers can buy unlocked) is a good affordable alternativbe. For more, see our list of the best 5G phones.
If you need more help buying a phone, check out our cell phone product guide for the most recent reviews. While you’re at it, take a look at our guides for the best phones on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. And see our Readers’ Choice picks for 2020’s top mobile carriers.
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Small, one-hand-friendly form factor
Cons: No camera night mode
Bottom Line: The 2020 Apple iPhone SE is a petite powerhouse with no-compromise performance for hundreds of dollars less than other recent iPhones.
Google Pixel 3a
Pros: Best-in-class camera.
Gorgeous OLED display.
Excellent battery life.
Cons: Not waterproof.
No microSD slot.
Bottom Line: Google’s well-rounded Pixel 3a is quite simply the best Android phone you can buy for $399.
Google Pixel 4
Pros: Attractive design. 90Hz display.Solid battery life. Excellent cameras. Live Caption and Recorder are excellent accessibility additions.
Cons: Not enough storage options.
Bottom Line: The Google Pixel 4 offers powerful hardware, innovative software that actually makes your life easier, and the best cameras you’ll find on a smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy S10e
Pros: Amazing screen color and clarity.
Industry-leading processor and modem.
Just the right size for most hands.
Cons: Low-light camera performance not as good as the Google Pixel 3.
Fingerprint sensor could be more accurate.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy S10e has the best overall price, performance, and size for a flagship smartphone today.
Samsung Galaxy S20+
Pros: Best 5G of any phone available today. Fast. Solid camera. Attractive design.
Cons: Expensive. In-display fingerprint sensor can be a bit picky. No headphone jack.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is pricey, but it’s the first phone that’s a solid investment in the 5G future.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Pros: Three cameras for great flexibility.
New Night mode for low-light photos.
Excellent LTE options, including dual SIM.
Long battery life.
Next year’s iPhone will probably bring much bigger changes.
Bottom Line: The pricey iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max bring more cameras, longer battery life, and better LTE capabilities to Apple’s flagship phone line.
Moto G Power
Pros: Solid performance for the price
Excellent battery life
Good audio and call quality
All networks bands for global usage
Cons: Mediocre camera performance
Bottom Line: Solid performance, multi-day battery life, and a gorgeous 6.4-inch display make the $249 Moto G Power the best budget-friendly phone you can buy right now.
Pros: Most affordable 5G phone
Cons: Camera not quite as good as more expensive phones
Lacks millimeter-wave 5G on T-Mobile
No wireless charging
Bottom Line: The OnePlus 8 delivers 5G flagship performance at a fair price, making it the right phone to buy for a new network in an economically uncertain time.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
Pros: Useful S Pen stylus. Top-notch performance. Long battery life.
Cons: Expensive. Huge. No headphone jack. Confusing 5G situation.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is a big, powerful phone that’s good for artists and note-takers.
Pros: Ultra-rugged build.
Excellent call quality.
Cons: Weak vibration feature.
Bottom Line: The Sonim XP3 is a terrific rugged flip phone for anyone who doesn’t want a smartphone.
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