2020 Gift Guide: The Best Smartphones of the Season

By on November 4, 2020

2020 Gift Guide

Last year in this space, I said, “2020 will be the year of the foldable phone (for reals this time).” Yeah, well, that didn’t happen. Maybe something called a pandemic had a hand in that… While there have been a few foldable smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and Microsoft Surface Duo, they’re just not catching on… yet.

However, super speedy 5G is here, and all the smartphone manufacturers from Samsung to Apple are utilizing this technology in their latest, greatest phones. 5G versions of older models are also being released—at a premium cost, of course. Consumers now have plenty of mobile options to surf the web with the fastest data speeds ever.

As usual, Black Friday (month) is the best time to buy a phone. All major carriers and most retailers like Walmart, Target, Apple Stores and Costco will be offering trade-in credits to apply to the new 2020 phones. See our Black Friday ads for more details!

This year, we’ve distilled the best phones into four quadrants of what most Ben’s visitors are looking for: Expensive Apple (but I repeat myself), Cheap Apple (yes, it’s true this year), Expensive Android and Cheap Android. Watch for price drops and deals on these phones on Ben’s in the coming weeks (set deal alerts here)!

Best Apple – Under $500

1. Apple iPhone SE 2020 (2nd Gen)

Unlocked Street Price: Starts at $399 (64GB).

Display Size: 4.7” Retina IPS LCD (1334 x 750, 326ppi).

Connectivity: 4G LTE.

Rear Camera: 12MP.

Front Camera: 7MP.

Battery Life: 13 hours.

Under the Hood: Apple A13 Bionic Hexa-Core processor, 3GB RAM, 4-core Apple GPU.

Storage Options: 64GB, 128GB or 256GB.

Colors: Black, white or red.

Release date: April 2020.

Pros: Same processor as last year’s iPhone 11 but $200 less (and $300 less than last year’s price). Fingerprint unlock for those who prefer it over FaceID. Wireless charging. Slim profile.

Cons: No headphone jack (sigh). Old school appearance (big bezels). Only has fingerprint unlock for those who prefer FaceID.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

Best Apple – Over $500

2. Apple iPhone 12 / 12 mini / 12 Pro / 12 Pro Max

Unlocked Street Prices: Starts at $699 (12 mini) | $799 (12) | $999 (12 Pro) | $1099 (12 Pro Max).

Display Sizes: 5.4” Super Retina XDR OLED (12 mini) | 6.1″ (12 and 12 Pro) | 6.7″ (12 Pro Max).

Connectivity: 5G.

Rear Cameras : Dual 12MP (12 mini and 12)  | Triple 12MP+LiDAR (12 Pro and 12 Pro Max).

Front Cameras: 12MP+SL 3D.

Battery Life: 15 hours (12 mini) | 17 hours (12 and 12 Pro) | 20 hours (12 Pro Max).

Under the Hood: Apple A14 Bionic Hexa-Core processor | 4GB RAM (12 mini and 12) or 6GB RAM (12 Pro and 12 Pro Max) | 4-core Apple GPU .

Storage Options: 64GB, 128GB or 256GB (12 mini and 12) | 128GB, 256GB or 512GB (12 Pro and 12 Pro Max).

Colors: Black, white, red, blue or green (12 mini and 12) | Graphite, silver, gold or blue (12 Pro and 12 Pro Max).

Release dates: October 2020 (12 and 12 Pro) | November 2020 (12 mini and 12 Pro Max).

Pros:  Might be the best iPhone ever, now with 4 options. Apple went back to the flat-edge iPhone 4 design (the best one). OLED display is impressive. The Pro models get you stainless steel frame (vs. aluminum), LiDAR sensor, Dolby Vision HDR recording, ProRAW picture, telephoto lens.

Cons: No more charger for you! That’s right, Apple no longer ships a charging adapter in the box. You know, to save space. (And they want you to buy their new, expensive MagSafe wireless charger.)

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

Best Android – Over $500

3. Samsung Galaxy S20 5G / S20 FE 5G / S20 Plus 5G / S20 Ultra 5G

Unlocked Street Prices: Starts at $500 (S20 FE) | $800 (S20) | $1000 (S20+) | $1200 (S20 Ultra).

Display Sizes: 6.5″ 120Hz AMOLED (S20 FE) | 6.2″ (S20) | 6.7″ (S20+) | 6.9″ (S20 Ultra).

Connectivity: 5G.

Rear Cameras: 12MP+8MP+12MP (S20 FE) | 12MP+64MP+12MP (S20) | 12MP+64MP+12MP+ToF 3D (S20+) | 108MP+48MP+12MP+ToF 3D (S20 Ultra).

Front Cameras: 32MP (S20 FE) | Dual 10MP (S20 and S20+) | Dual 40MP (S20 Ultra).

Battery Life (60Hz): 9-10 hours (S20 FE and S20) | 11 hours (S20+) | 12 hours (S20 Ultra).

Under the Hood: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Octa-Core processor | 6GB RAM (S20 FE), 8GB RAM (S20 and S20+) or 12GB/16GB RAM (S20 Ultra) | Adreno 650 GPU.

Storage Options: 128GB + microSD slot up to 1TB | 512GB + microSD slot up to 1TB (S20+ and S20 Ultra) .

Colors: Navy, lavender, mint, red, white or orange (S20 FE) | Gray, blue or pink (S20) | Gray or black (S20+) | Black (S20 Ultra).

Release dates: March 2020 (S20, S20+, S20 Ultra) | October 2020 (S20 FE).

Pros: Good price point for the S20 FE (“Fan Edition”) which sacrifices little but the price tag. You do have to settle for a plastic back (vs. glass), but it’s available in 6 colors. For $300+, you can bump up to the S20 (and beyond) and get 8K recording, more RAM and fancier cameras. 120Hz screen refresh rate across the entire line.

Cons: Battery performance could be better (and is much worse with the 120Hz refresh rate option).

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

4. OnePlus 8 Pro

Unlocked Street Price: Starts at $799 (128GB).

Display Size: 6.7″ 120Hz AMOLED (3168 x 1440).

Connectivity: 5G.

Rear Cameras: 48MP+8MP+48MP.

Front Camera: 16MP.

Battery Life: 11 hours (60Hz), 9 hours (120Hz).

Under the Hood: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Octa-Core processor | 8GB or 12GB RAM |Adreno 650 GPU.

Storage Options: 128GB or 256GB.

Colors: Black, blue or green.

Release date: April 2020.

Pros: Comparable specs and quality to the Samsung S20+ but $200 cheaper. Wireless charging and IP68 water-resistance. (Its predecessor, the 7 Pro, didn’t have those features.)

Cons: Camera is not on par with comparable flagship-type smartphones. No microSD slot.

Buy at OnePlus Store Check Deals on Ben’s

Best Android – Under $500

5. Google Pixel 4a / 4a 5G

Unlocked Street Prices: $349 (4a) | $499 (4a 5G).

Display Sizes: 5.81” OLED (4a) | 6.2″ (4a 5G).

Connectivity: 4G LTE (4a) | 5G (4a 5G).

Rear Camera(s): 12.2MP (4a) | 12.2MP+16MP (4a 5G).

Front Camera: 8MP.

Battery Life: 9 hours.

Under the Hood: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G Octa-Core processor (4a), Snapdragon 765G (4a 5G) | 6GB RAM | Adreno 618 GPU (4a), Adreno 620 GPU (4a 5G).

Storage Option: 128GB.

Color: Black.

Release dates: August 2020 (4a) | November 2020 (4a 5G).

Pros: Like the 3a before it, the 4a outperforms its price point again. Fantastic camera, one of its biggest selling points. Headphone jack. The step-up 4a 5G is essentially a “4a XL” with 5G (if that’s what you’re looking for).

Cons: Battery life could be better (9 hours vs. 13 hours for the Galaxy A51 or iPhone SE). No microSD slot. No water resistance. Still no wireless charging. Still just one color.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

6. Samsung Galaxy A51 | A51 5G

Unlocked Street Prices: $400 (A51) | $500 (A51 5G).

Display Size: 6.5″ Super AMOLED (2400 x 1080, 405ppi).

Connectivity: 4G LTE (A51) | 5G (A51 5G).

Rear Cameras: 48MP+12MP+5MP+5MP.

Front Camera: 32MP.

Battery Life: 13 hours (A51) | 14 hours (A51 5G).

Under the Hood: Samsung Exynos 9611 Octa-Core processor (A51), Exynos 980 (A51 5G) | 4GB RAM (A51), 6GB RAM (A51 5G) | Mali-G72 MP3 GPU (A51), Mali-G76 MP5 GPU (A51 5G).

Storage Option: 128GB + microSD slot up to 1TB.

Colors: Black, white or blue (A51) | Black or blue (A51 5G).

Release dates: December 2019 (A51) | April 2020 (A51 5G).

Pros: Solid battery life. Slim bezel and big screen. Great value compared to the similar-sized Galaxy S20+. Has a headphone jack. For $100 more, the 5G model gets a bigger battery, snappier CPU, aluminum frame and is slightly heavier due to the 5G tech.

Cons: A51’s CPU is just OK. A51 has a plastic back. No wireless charging and no water resistance.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

7. Motorola Moto G Power

Unlocked Street Price: $250.

Display Size: 6.4″ IPS LCD (2300 x 1080).

Connectivity: 4G LTE.

Rear Cameras: 16MP+8MP+2MP.

Front Camera: 16MP.

Battery Life: 18 hours.

Under the Hood: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 Octa-Core processor | 4GB RAM | Adreno 610 GPU.

Storage Options: 64GB + microSD slot up to 1TB.

Color: Black.

Release date: April 2020.

Pros: Astounding battery life (5000mAh battery). Good value. Thin bezels. Solid performer. Headphone jack.

Cons: Old school LCD screen. 7 oz. heavy (it’s the battery). Compare to the 6 oz. Galaxy A51 or the svelte 5 oz. iPhone SE and Pixel 4a. Plasticky.

Buy at Best Buy Check Deals on Ben’s

Check Ben’s for the latest Smartphone deals

About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

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