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The best 5G phone in the US in 2022: the top 5G phones for photographers

best 5G phone
(Image credit: Apple)

The best 5G phones are some of the most future-proof handsets out there. With 5G infrastructure fast improving across the country, this is the network that's going to power the communications of the very near future, so if you're looking to upgrade your phone, it makes sense to jump into 5G.

With 3G networks shutting down over the next few years, lots of users are looking at a 5G phone for their next upgrade, and manufacturers are responding accordingly. The latest 5G flagship phones from the likes of Samsung, Apple, Google, Sony and more are packing some seriously impressive tech. While they tend to be flagship models and carry high price tags accordingly, these aren't the only options available. In this guide, as well as the latest phones, we've also included some 5G highlights from previous generations, which you may be able to pick up for a discounted price. 

If you're new to all this, you may want to jump to our article all about what is 5G as this is where we cover the basics of this faster mobile internet infrastructure. If you want more choice of handsets, then you may also want to take a look at our general guide to the best camera phones, where we take a broader view. For now though, we're looking specifically at the best 5G phones, so let's jump in. 

The best 5G phones for photographers

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra front and rear views with S-Pen

(Image credit: Samsung)
The best 5G phone for photography, for speed... for almost everything!

Specifications

Release date: February 2022
Rear cameras: 108MP f/1.8, 10MP f/2.4, 10MP f/4.9, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 40MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 228 g
Dimensions: 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Superior telephoto capabilities
+
Terrific S-Pen functionality

Reasons to avoid

-
Hefty and expensive
-
Ultra-wide camera lacks AF

Samsung's latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is an absolute tank, and the best 5G phone you can buy right now. Its telephoto unit manages a 10x zoom, it's got beefed-up night capabilities thanks to its neural processor unit (NPU), which also allows it to capture 16-bit RAW files. While it's not much of a change in hardware terms from the S21 generation, Samsung's improved processing has made a real difference, and images on the S22 Ultra look fantastic. Also, in a welcome upgrade, the S22 Ultra introduces S-Pen integration, meaning it behaves more like a member of the Note family than a phone. It's big, it's pricey, it's maybe over-specced for most users – but if you want the best 5G phone available right now, here it is.

In full: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max in Sierra Blue, front and rear views

(Image credit: Apple)
The biggest and best iPhone you can buy right now

Specifications

Release date: September 2021
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/1.8, 12MP 26mm f/1.5, 12MP 77mm f/2.8
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
Dual OIS: Yes
Weight: 240 g
Dimensions: 160.8 x 78.1 x 7.65mm
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Clever Cinematic mode
+
Automatic Macro mode

Reasons to avoid

-
Huge
-
Pricey, even for Apple

"Phablet" isn't a term you see bandied about too much any more, but, well, Apple's iPhone 13 Pro Max is pretty much a phablet. It's an exceptionally large phone, big enough to give pause to anyone with smaller-than-average hands, but it packs in some seriously impressive camera tech, as well as lightning-fast 5G speeds. It's got a dazzling rear camera array, with handy features such as the macro mode that kicks in automatically when you get close to a subject, and the Cinematic mode, which simulates large-sensor shallow depth of field, and even allows for focus adjustments after the image is captured. Like Samsung's flagship, it's big and pricey, but it really is a superb smartphone that can do just about anything.

In full: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max review

OnePlus 9 Pro front and rear views

(Image credit: OnePlus)
A superb flagship 5G phone at a price undercutting Apple and Samsung

Specifications

Release date: March 2021
Rear cameras: 48MP (wide-angle 23mm, f/1.8, OIS), 50MP (ultra-wide 14mm, f/2.2), 8MP (telephoto, f/2.4, OIS), 2MP (monochrome)
Front camera: 16MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 197 g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm
Storage: 128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous image colors
+
Beautiful, high-spec display

Reasons to avoid

-
OnePlus 10 Pro coming soon
-
No RAW capture

A dazzling phone priced specifically at a level to offer a compelling alternative to the big-name flagships, the OnePlus 9 Pro is well worth considering. The Chinese smartphone makers partnered with Hasselblad for the camera tech in this phone, and accordingly, its photo and video capabilities are exceptional. You can zoom in with excellent detail, use shutter speeds as long as 30 seconds, and enjoy one of the best ultra-wide phone cameras we've ever used. The lack of RAW capture is a bit of a shame, as this is something that has started to appear on other phones, but it's still a very impressive package. Be aware that the OnePlus 10 Pro is also coming soon, so the price of this phone may drop in the not-too-distant future. 

In full: OnePlus 9 Pro review

Sony Xperia 1 III angle and rear views

(Image credit: Sony)
The most powerful 5G phone for photographers

Specifications

Release date: April 2021
Rear camera: 12MP (24mm f/1.7), 12MP (70mm f/2.3, 105mm f/2.8), 12MP (16mm f/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
OIS: Yes
Dimensions: 165 x 71 x 8.2 mm
Storage: 256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Inherits Sony's camera UI
+
Sharp, luxurious display

Reasons to avoid

-
Telephoto slightly soft
-
Specialised, not for everyone

If you're already a Sony camera user, this 5G smartphone's UI will instantly be familiar. The Sony Xperia 1 III is, like its predecessors, a smartphone designed for photographers and videographers (more the former than the latter), and as such, it has a formidable camera array, with Zeiss optics. The HDR display is also excellent, a 10-bit OLED panel with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. You can use Sony's Photo Pro camera app, with Auto mode that gives the interface an Alpha-flavored refresh and provides handy little features like a physical shutter button. However, results are notably better if you get out of Auto and customise settings for yourself, making this phone a good choice for those who know what they're doing.

In full: Sony Xperia 1 III review

Google Pixel 6 Pro rear view

(Image credit: Google)
A refreshed, redesigned flagship 5G phone from Google

Specifications

Release date: October 2021
Rear cameras: 50MP (82° FOV wide lens, f/1.85), 48MP (23.5° FOV telephoto, f/3.5), 12MP (114° FOV ultra-wide lens, f/2.2)
Front camera: 11.1MP f/2.2
OIS: Yes
Weight: 210 g
Dimensions: 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
Storage: 128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image processing
+
Boosted camera hardware

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed-focus ultra-wide lens
-
Can get hot in use

Google's Pixel phones were lagging a bit in the smartphone flagship race, so the Pixel 6 Pro ended up being a bit of a drawing-board rethink. The result: an utterly superb 5G smartphone, replete with sophisticated imaging tech and sublime image processing. It's a real jump from the Pixel 5, especially when you view the images it captures side by side – details are sharper, and dynamic range is noticeably improved. With its big gorgeous display and sleek physical design, the Google Pixel 6 Pro really does impress across the board. It's got RAW capture, and the Android OS means there's no shortage of third-party camera apps to play around with.

In full: Google Pixel 6 Pro review

Best 5G phone

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

6. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The previous generation from Samsung still impresses

Specifications

Release date: January 2021
Rear cameras: 108MP f/1.8, 10MP f/2.4, 10MP f/4.9, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 40MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 227 g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic camera zoom
+
Beautiful display

Reasons to avoid

-
A little pricey
-
No microSD card slot

If you're looking for one of the best 5G phones that comes complete with an excellent camera, then the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra could be exactly what you're looking for. This camera phone features four rear cameras, including a 108MP f/1.8 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera and two 10MP telephoto cameras – one with an f/2.4 aperture and 3x optical zoom and one with an f/4.9 aperture and a huge 10x optical zoom. It's worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is pretty big, offering a 6.8" screen size that users with smaller hands might struggle to maneuver. The Dynamic AMOLED 2X display features a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and gaming experiences, HDR10+ support, 1500-nit peak brightness and a 1440 x 3200 resolution. 

In full: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: OnePlus)

7. OnePlus 8 Pro

Excellent specs at a friendly price

Specifications

Release date: April 2020
Rear cameras: 48MP (wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS), 8MP (3x zoom, f/2.4), 48MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2) | 5MP (color filter)
Front camera: 16MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 199 g
Dimensions: 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5mm
Storage: 128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality primary camera
+
Solid macro skills
+
Tasteful look

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best zoom 
-
Pricey by OnePlus standards

The OnePlus 8 Pro has had some major upgrades and is one of the most affordable handsets of the best 5G phones. The primary camera sensor is bumped from the Sony IMX586 to the 48MP IMX689. This is a large 1/1.4-inch chip. Night photos look better than the OnePlus 7 Pro’s even when used with the Night Sight mode, low-light video is brighter and pixel-level detail looks cleaner and more confident during the day. Its ultra-wide camera has the same sensor as standard OnePlus 8’s main one and the phone is a surprise hit for macro photography, too. Zoom images aren’t best-in-class, though – it has a 3x mode, but uses a 13-megapixel sensor cropped to take 8MP images, rather than a true 3x lens. The rest of this 5G phone is great, with a huge, excellent 120Hz 6.78-inch screen, tasteful glass and aluminum design and loud speakers.

(Image credit: Google)
A capable point-and-shoot 5G phone with great battery life

Specifications

Release date: October 2019
Rear cameras: 12.2MP (27mm-equiv. wide angle lens, f/1.7, PDAF, OIS), 16MP (ultra wide angle, f/2.2)
Front camera: 8 MP, f/2, 24mm (wide), ToF 3D Camera
Weight: 151 g
Dimensions: 144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0 mm
Storage: 128 GB

Reasons to buy

+
Great camera
+
Good battery life
+
Wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

-
No expandable storage
-
No telephoto power
-
Midrange power

If you're looking for a fuss-free and capable point-and-shoot camera phone, then the Google Pixel 5 might be the handset for you. While the Google Pixel 5 might not have the most up-to-date tech, which was the case even before the arrival of the Pixel 6 Pro, what it lacks in innovation it makes up for with reliability and usability, making it one of the best-value 5G phones. The rear dual camera unit on the Google Pixel 5 features a 12.2MP 27mm f/1.7 camera and a 16MP ultra wide f/2.2 camera, but it's the software that really elevates this camera to excellence. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 765G chipset works well with the Android 11 OS for a lag-free camera phone experience. The Google Pixel 5 also has some exciting flagship features to offer, such as a 90Hz refresh rate display, water resistance and wireless charging. 

In full: Google Pixel 5 review

Best 5G phone

(Image credit: Motorola)

9. Motorola One 5G

Also called the Moto G 5G Plus

Specifications

Release date: July 2020
Rear cameras: 48MP + 8MP + 5MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP + 8MP
Weight: 207g
Dimensions: 168.3 x 74 x 9.7mm
Storage: 64/128 GB

Reasons to buy

+
Great battery life
+
Good camera array
+
Super affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not much storage available compared to other models

Depending on where you live, this handset has different names. In the US, it's the Motorola One 5G, while it's the Moto G 5G in the UK. However, no matter what name it is in your region, it's a super affordable way to get your hands on one of the best 5G phones. Featuring a large 6.7" display and a fingerprint sensor mounted on the side, the Motorola One 5G also offers a flexible array of cameras, including a 48MP main wide angle camera and two front-facing cameras (at 16MP and 8MP respectively). While we wouldn't expect the Motorola One 5G to perform as well as other more expensive handsets, you simply can't argue with the price!

Best 5G phone

(Image credit: Apple)

10. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Still a fantastic 5G phone for Apple users

Specifications

Release date: October 2020
Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6, 12MP 52mm f/2
Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera
Dual OIS: Yes
Weight: 189 g
Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Triple-camera unit
+
New Apple ProRAW file format
+
LiDAR scanner
+
5G

Reasons to avoid

-
'Only' 12MP camera sensors

It took Apple longer than we'd hoped, but it's finally delivered the 5G goods. The iPhone 12 family are some of the best 5G phones, offering lightning-fast internet speeds (as long as you're in an area serviced by 5G). Interestingly, the iPhone 12 will automatically switch to using 4G LTE if 5G speeds don't matter to what you're doing to save battery power. The 5G will then turn itself on when it's needed. Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 Pro is one of the best camera phones currently available, featuring an impressive triple camera unit, including an ultra wide f/2.4 camera, a wide f/1.6 camera and a telephoto f/2 camera. There are plenty of new features on the iPhone 12 Pro, such as a LiDAR scanner – which will mean faster focusing in low light situations. 

In full: iPhone 12 Pro review

(Image credit: Sony)
The best 5G phone for video enthusiasts

Specifications

Release date: March 2020
Rear camera: 12pm (24mm f/1.7) + 12pm (70mm f/2.4) + 12MP (16mm f/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.4 + f/2.2
Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2 mm
Storage: 128GB

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent pro video features
+
Stunning screen
+
Decent battery performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Suited to serious content creators
-
Comparatively drab colors

The Sony Xperia 1 II is the best 5G phone for video pros and cinema buffs who want to get manual with their smartphone videography. It’s able to shoot footage at up to 21:9 for cinema style capture, offers full manual control and features a beautifully flat color profile, perfect for post-processing in Premiere Pro or Da Vinci Resolve. Thankfully, almost everything else about this phone is excellent too, with a striking 21:9, 4K HDR screen, a clean UI and a snappy chipset ensuring plenty of power under the hood. There are a number of welcome improvements over the original  there’s no wireless charging. If want the ultimate cinema experience, both from a content creation and consumption point of view, the Xperia 1 II is it.

In full: Sony Xperia 1 II review

[Note: This phone model is not available in Australia as Sony has discontinued the Xperia line Down Under.]

Read more:

• The best camera phones you can buy today
• Which is the best iPhone for photography?
• The best flip phones and fold phones
• The best add-on lenses for iPhone and Android phones 

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Jon spent years at IPC Media writing features, news, reviews and other photography content for publications such as Amateur Photographer and What Digital Camera in both print and digital form. With his additional experience for outlets like Photomonitor, this makes Jon one of our go-to specialists when it comes to all aspects of photography, from cameras and action cameras to lenses and memory cards, flash diffusers and triggers, batteries and memory cards, selfie sticks and gimbals, and much more besides.  


An NCTJ-qualified journalist, he has also contributed to Shortlist, The Skinny, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, The Guardian, Trusted Reviews, CreativeBLOQ, and probably quite a few others I’ve forgotten.