Sure, casual games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush are still wildly popular, but thanks to Unity now offering fantastic cross-platform support for developers, indie developers and big publishers alike are able to make full-scale games initially developed for consoles or PC over to and Android and iOS devices. This, along with game streaming services like Google's Stadia and Microsoft Project xCloud, means the time is right to make sure your next phone is capable of handling it all in stride. We think the
Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S20
Samsung's annual offerings continue to push the limits of what we expect from smartphones, and that extends well into the world of mobile gaming.
The Galaxy S20 is the latest flagship in Samsung's lineup, and as far as gaming goes, it's an absolute beast. Not only does Samsung's Quad HD AMOLED display offer vibrant colors and a razer sharp resolution, there's a 120Hz refresh rate that allows for buttery smooth animations to take your gaming to the next level.
Powering all of your games is some of the best silicone in the business. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 is at the heart of the Galaxy S20, and paired with 12GB of RAM, you end up with a phone that can handle every game imaginable. We're also geeked out about the 4,000 mAh battery, which should give you plenty of endurance even with heavy usage.
Other highlights include 128GB of expandable storage, a great in-hand size that's not too big and not too small, and compatibility with all U.S. carriers. The lack of a headphone jack is a bummer, but it's simply a sign of the times at this point.
+Fantastic Super AMOLED display
+Snapdragon 865 with 12GB of RAM
+Expandable storage via microSD
+120Hz refresh rate
+Gaming Mode and Game Launcher
-There isn't a headphone jack
-Slippery, all-glass design demands a case
Best Value: OnePlus 7T
While the OnePlus 7T isn't marketed specifically as a gaming smartphone, it does a great job including all the key features that make for a great gaming experience.
First off, the display is plenty big and bright, with the 90Hz refresh rate making everything look and smooth. Thanks to a lean Oxygen OS running on great internal specs, you shouldn't notice any slowdown even when playing the most graphically intensive games. OnePlus has been fine-tuning its charging technology to the point where the included Warp Charge 30T lets you fast-charge your phone while gaming without the phone overheating or experiencing a net drop in charging speeds.
Fnatic mode is OnePlus' take on a gaming mode, which prioritizes all the power of the CPU towards running your game. It improves your network connection by limiting network access to apps running in the background and blocking all incoming notifications so you can stay focused on the game at hand.
All of that, plus the greatness of an ultra-expensive flagship for a starting price that's substantially less makes the OnePlus 7T an easy phone to recommend.
+Huge display with 90Hz refresh rate
+Warp Charge 30T lets you top up while you play
+Software is intuitive and smooth
-No microSD slot
-No microSD slot
-No wireless charging
-No headphone jack
Best for Touchscreen Controls LG G8X ThinQ
Foldable smartphones were one of the biggest trends of 2019, but one phone that managed to stay below the radar was the LG G8X ThinQ. While lacking the flashy design we saw on the Galaxy Fold or Mate X, LG's foldable is arguably the more practical implementation of a dual-screen phone with some incredible gaming features.
Rather than offer a permanent fold-out display, LG offers a dual-screen accessory that plugs into the USB-C port when needed. The second screen is primarily designed for multitasking but also works wonderfully for dedicated controls for gaming. Games that offer controller support can use preset control configurations for different genres including racing games, shooters, and platformers.
For games that don't support controllers, such as PUBG Mobile, you can create your own custom configurations and add buttons and virtual joysticks to the second display. This frees up your view of the entire top screen and lets you set a comfortable angle for yourself.
There's some charm to keeping the second screen connected as you get clamshell protection for both screens. Without the attachment, the LG G8X offers a larger 6.4-inch display, a massive 4,000 mAh battery, 6GB of RAM, and a Snapdragon 855 chipset. There are premium features like an in-display fingerprint sensor, wireless charging, and capable camera setup that can shoot video in 4K.
+Dual-screen attachment is perfect for gaming
+Controls don't block the screen
+Expandable storage via microSD
+Preset and customized gaming controls
+Sizable 4,000mAh battery
-Lacks the modern sleekness of other foldable phones
-Second screen adds considerable bulk to pocket carry
Best Advanced Features ASUS ROG Phone 2
The ASUS ROG Phone 2 stands out from the rest of the pack with its unique design that includes secondary charging and headphone ports along the side for easier use while gaming, Air Trigger touch sensors that let you use the corners of your phone as customizable inputs for shooting games, and an external Aero Active Cooler accessory included in the box designed to line up with the exposed heat sync on the back to keep things cool while you game.
The 6.6-inch FHD+ display features a 120Hz refresh rate and the phone does a great job running games on the admittedly busy software skin ASUS included. ASUS has refined its vision for the perfect gaming phone this time around. It's still a large chunk of change to spend on a phone, which expands when you consider the extra
gaming accessories — if you can track them down online.
+Uniquely designed for gaming
+Air Trigger controls are still innovative
+120Hz display refresh rate is gorgeous
+Front-facing speakers are loud
+Great battery life
-Phone design maybe toogamer-y
-Accessories are pricey
-ASUS has busy software skin
Best for Stadia: Google Pixel 4 XL
The Pixel 4 XL is the highest-end smartphone Google has in its lineup right now, and while it isn't perfect, it's worth putting on your shortlist if you're in the market for a gaming phone.
Looking at the phone itself, there's plenty to like. The Pixel 4 XL has a simple design with a matte glass back that feels great to hold, the 90Hz AMOLED display makes games look better than ever, and the Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB of RAM allows for ample performance. You should be able to get through one day of normal use on a single charge, but this is definitely one of the weaker batteries on this list.
While you can play regular mobile games just fine on the Pixel 4 XL, it's also one of the select Android phones that supports Stadia — Google's cloud-based game streaming service. While this is also true of the Galaxy S20, using Google's streaming service on a Google phone just feels right.
Stadia is far from a perfect service, but it does allow you to play games like Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands 3, and Mortal Kombat 11 right on your smartphone. How cool is that?
+Guaranteed updates through October 2022
+Clean, minimalistic design
+Face unlock and wireless charging
+90Hz AMOLED display
-No expandable storage
-Disappointing battery life
Best for iOS: Apple iPhone 11
Since we're looking at gaming phones as a whole, we'd be remiss if we wholly ignored Apple's offerings. While the iPhone 11 Pro is the big gun in Apple's iPhone arsenal these days, the iPhone 11 simply offers the best value for those looking to get the most out of the latest version of iOS and enjoy the features included in the current iPhone — all without having to drop a cool grand.
Apple is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to the type of spec sheets we've come to expect from Android phone makers, but it's also quite loud when it boasts about the chipsets and technology it develops in-house for its devices. The iPhone 11 uses Apple's latest A13 Bionic chipset, a six-core CPU that's one of the most impressive mobile chipsets we've ever seen. Needless to say, it should handle anything you throw at it with ease. The iPhone 11's LCD display isn't as impressive as the AMOLED panels of other phones, but thanks to Apple's Liquid Retina display technology, the screen goes right to the edge of the phone — maximizing the screen-to-body ration for your favorite games.
Above all else, if you're buying an iPhone it's probably because they're so easy to use thanks to the constant improvements Apple makes to the platform. You'll get the latest version, iOS 13, along with full support for upcoming releases and security patches for years to come.
+6.1-inch Liquid Retina display
+Running iOS 13 with years of software support ahead
+A13 Bionic chip is a performance beast
+Available in fun colors
-Not an Android phone
-No headphone jack
-LCD display isn't as impressive
-Big ol' notch
Best International: Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
There are plenty of excellent gaming phones available in the U.S., but if you aren't thrilled about the options available to you here, it's worth checking out some of the international models — specifically, the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro. While the phone isn't officially sold in the U.S., you can import it via Amazon without too much hassle.
Why would anyone want to do that? Simply put, the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro is a beast of a smartphone that's paired with an incredible price. You're getting a 6.39-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2340x1080 resolution, Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000 mAh battery. In other words, you get flagship-grade specs.
The design of the Mi 9T Pro is also a site to behold, with the display having virtually no bezels, the selfie camera pops up out of the top frame, and the carbon fiber design on the back is downright stunning. For this price, it's a steal.
+Generous specs for gaming
+Hefty 4,000 mAh battery
+Headphone jack included
-Lack of Stateside availability
-No microSD slot
Best for Widescreen Gaming Sony Xperia 1
Admittedly, the Sony Xperia 1 might not be on too many people's radars as a top pick for gaming smartphones, but it performs admirably thanks to its Snapdragon 855 chipset and 6GB of RAM. In his review, Hayato Huseman describes the Xperia 1 hardware as "well thought-out and luxurious" with perfect weighting and a curved back glass that is a pleasant departure from previous Xperia phones. That's particularly great for the purposes of gaming because you definitely want your phone to be extra comfortable to hold.
The Xperia 1 is designed first and foremost for entertainment and it all starts with the display. Sony built this phone around a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display with a 21:9 aspect
ratio — the same proportions often used in widescreen films. Sony calls the display CinemaWide and it makes the phone feel extra tall and slender held in portrait orientation but really shines when held in landscape mode for watching videos or playing games. Stereo sound is included using the earpiece and the bottom-firing speaker and is enhanced with Dolby Atmos.
Sony included a Game Enhancer mode that lets you set custom options for performance or battery prioritization, locking out the navigation bar and limiting notifications on a per-game basis. Not only will you enjoy the sights and sounds of your favorite games, but you'll also feel the action thanks to Sony's Dynamic Vibration Engine that delivers great haptic feedback to the action on the screen. It's a feature that few companies prioritized when designing a phone, but it does make a difference in terms of immersing you into the game world.
+CinemaWide 4K HDR OLED display is incredible
+Dynamic Vibration Engine delivers great haptic feedback
+Mostly stock Android 9 software really zips
+Stereo speaker setup with diverse audio settings
+Includes microSD slot
-No headphone jack
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