The best gaming phone is also one of the best 'consoles' you can get. No, really - we're serious. Although phones aren't a traditional games machine, the mobile space is one of the most vibrant in all of gaming nonetheless. There's always something new to try or geek out over, especially with services like Apple Arcade.
The hard part is knowing where to start. There are many, many options on the table from Apple to Samsung, so narrowing it down to the best gaming phone isn't easy. That's where we come in. Our team of experts is on hand to point out the best gaming phones currently gracing the market, not to mention the best prices. We've worked hard to make sure you know about big discounts and bargains as soon as they happen, so be sure to pop back in every now and then.
Broadly speaking, we'd recommend going for as large a screen as possible if you want a great gaming experience. Although it's not essential, it helps if you aren't squinting to see what's going on beneath your thumbs (and if size is still a concern, be sure to check out the best gaming tablets as well). Having a good amount of memory is also handy - that means you won't be running out of space after downloading a few apps. We'd suggest 64GB as a bare minimum for storage. That way you can store as many of the best Android games and iPhone games as you like, which is always nice. Whatever you go for though, we recommend giving the best antivirus software a look to see if it can keep your shiny new gaming device extra secure.
The best gaming phones
When you're looking for one of the best gaming phones, you'll also want to make sure you're getting a phone that kicks ass in other departments too and in 2020, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has taken no prisoners.
With a gorgeous full-screen 6.9-inch display, now running at an adaptive 120Hz, games have never looked better on a mobile phone. All that extra space makes FPS titles much easier to enjoy too, with your thumbs not taking up as much real-estate on the screen. Subtle software tweaks mean you'll get better performance from your battery and the phone runs cooler than most rivals when playing graphically-intensive games on high settings.
If you're spending this much on a phone though, you want it to be a top performer for streaming, taking pictures, shooting video, social media, and everything else, and the Note 20 Ultra dominates the competition. The camera has a massive 50x zoom, only beaten by the 100x zoom on the S20 Ultra, but given that picture quality nosedives at that level and overheated that phone, we're fine with 50x. There's a 108MP camera for closer shots too providing incredibly detailed images. The Night Mode is excellent too, only ever so slightly beaten by the iPhone 11 Pro.
We're big fans of the S-Pen Stylus too for taking notes (it'll even convert your handwriting to editable text), or using it as a shutter button when taking pictures. It's actually great for gaming too on more relaxed games whether it be a match-3 title or turn-based RPG. If you want to try something different we'd recommend using the pre-installed Penup app which is great for talented artists and utter newbs too thanks to a wide range of tools and user-friendly interactive tutorials. And thanks to the massive canvas-like display and vastly improved stylus latency (there's basically none now) doodling is a great way to pass the time. So that's the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: quite simply, the best gaming phone and arguably, the best phone full stop.
The iPhone 11 is arguably the best gaming phone from Apple; it balances price and power for a premium experience without the price tag. Considering how expensive some Apple devices can be, that's no bad thing.
Powered by an A13 Bionic processor, the standard iPhone 11 gives quite a show when it comes to games. In fact, this is one of the most powerful phones on the market. When combined with a battery that lasts around 24 hours, you've got a near-peerless gaming experience on your hands.
This is matched by an excellent Liquid Retina screen that looks gorgeous in use, not to mention 4K video recording capabilities and dual 12MP ultra wide / wide-angle cameras. That makes the iPhone 11 just as good for everyday use.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 is the tip of the spear when it comes to mobile technology, and that makes it a strong contender for the best gaming phone. With a phenomenal screen, powerful specs, and 5G capabilities, this is an exceptional piece of kit.
For starters, it's fitted with either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 processor depending on your region. This is complemented by either 8GB of RAM for 4G models or 12GB on 5G equivalents. That's more than enough to handle any game you throw at it, to say nothing of everyday use. Yes, the lack of a headphone jack is annoying. But on the bright side, it's been removed to make room for a superior battery. That means you can be playing on the S20 for longer.
One of the coolest features in the latest Galaxy S-phone would be the display's 120Hz refresh rate, though. This makes for an incredibly smooth scroll, and it's double the amount you'd find on other screens. Because this is paired with a 6.2-inch display, a resolution of 3040 x 1440 (when activated in the phone's settings), and 240Hz touch sensitivity for more responsive gaming, the S20 is easily the best gaming phone for Android users.
Pitched as an entry-level alternative to flagship models like the iPhone 11, this revamped iPhone SE gets you into the Apple ecosystem without breaking the bank. In terms of sheer bang for buck, it's the best gaming phone from Apple.
So, what are you getting for your cash? This 2020 re-imagining offers an excellent 4.7-inch Retina HD display with a resolution of 1334 x 750, and that's more than enough to make most games look great. It also harbors the same A13 Bionic processor as the iPhone 11 range, giving it plenty of oomph when it comes to specs. As such, the new SE is surprisingly good value.
Because it's based on the older iPhone 8, this model still has a Home button with Touch ID as well. That's not usually the case for Apple's newer phones, so we appreciate its inclusion here - as we do its light, breezy weight of 5.22oz (148g). It's smaller as a result, yes, but the iPhone SE 2020 still manages to find room for a lot of great features.
- Read more: iPhone SE (2020) review
Picking up a cheaper gaming phone doesn't mean limiting yourself to match-three puzzlers or go with an unknown brand. The Samsung Galaxy A50 costs a small fraction of its flashier siblings like the S20 or Note series, but this is still a great phone and a stone-cold bargain if you want to spend less, but get a phone that won't let you down.
I was testing this for gaming against some very expensive phones and I almost had to have a word with it and explain how it needed to stop showing up the big boys. Call of Duty Mobile on high settings for graphics and frame rate. Why not? Sure, it wasn't quite as smooth or detailed as your $1000/£1000 flagship phones, but at less than a third of the price, the A50 is way better than it should be.
As a day to day phone, the Samsung Galaxy A50 has a very good camera, with only the night pictures being prone to a loss of detail if there are too many artificial light sources. Amazingly for a phone at this price, it has a dual-SIM slot, making it handy if you have separate work/home SIMs or if you're picking up a cheap data card when traveling abroad. There's a newer Galaxy A51 out there now, which aside from an upgrade to 48MP/32MP (back/front) camera lenses, carries the same internal spec and display, so we'd stick with the A50 for the generally cheaper cost, but if you're curious, here are the latest Galaxy A51 prices.
The latest iPhones arrived with the pizzazz of a New Year firework display, and they're arguably the best gaming phones that the company has ever produced - particularly this triple-lensed iPhone 11 Pro. There may be cheaper options, but this one has enough bells, whistles, and processing horsepower to make your games sing.
Although the 11 Pro is similar to the XS range at first glance, dig deeper and you'll find plenty to write home about. For starters, its battery life has seen a big improvement over previous models. That'll come in handy if you're playing Pokemon Go or Fortnite on your morning commute. Additionally, it's packing a gorgeous 5.8-inch OLED screen that'll show off your games at their best.
However, the biggest improvement would have to be that trio of high-quality cameras. You're getting a 12MP wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lens for your trouble, not to mention a 12MP front-camera for better selfies. A 'Night Mode' for dark environments is another bonus, putting the 11 Pro ahead of the competition.
- Not as fussed about the Pro model? Check out the best iPhone 11 deals
The iPhone XR has all the pros of the X model and few of the cons. Sure, we'll miss the OLED display and those dual cameras. But when it comes to gaming? The XR is a force to be reckoned with.
More specifically, the A12 Bionic processor has enough horsepower to get you through the most demanding games. They'll look great on that Liquid Retina screen, too. And because the battery shows an improvement over previous iPhones, you won't always be looking out for power points. That gives you more time playing your favorite games or watching movies on the morning commute.
Another bonus is the fact that you're getting a high-quality Apple experience without the expense. The XR is a very capable iPhone, but it manages to sidestep the often-crippling cost of other models. If you're not dead set on getting the latest and most powerful gaming phone, this one is well worth considering.
Few phones are truly games-focused; most of the time they get little more than a cursory nod. The OnePlus 7 Pro is an exception to that rule. Designed in collaboration with eSports competitors, its dedicated ‘Fnatic Mode’ promises an "aggressive CPU focus, with almost all available resources being concentrated into the game".
It does this by blocking network access from other apps and banning all calls or notifications while activated, leaving every scrap of power for your game. It's PC-style overclocking, in other words - and that's something we very rarely see on mobile devices.
Another feather in this phone's cap is its speed. Honestly, this is one of the fastest phones we've ever used. That's due to a blistering 90Hz refresh rate, which in turn is 30Hz more than most other phones. The quad HD+ display with a resolution of 3120 x 1440 help tie a bow around what is already a top-quality offering (oh, and that telescoping front camera is really cool).
- Read more: OnePlus 7 Pro hands-on
There aren't many phones that specifically target gaming, but one stands head-and-shoulders above the rest - the ROG Phone 2. Alongside bonus cooling and powerful innards that put the competition to shame, it has a unique selling point that's beyond useful: 'ultrasonic' Air Triggers.
These are touch buttons on the side of the device that act just like the bumpers on a PS4 or Xbox One controller. Used when the device is in a landscape position, they allow for easier, more accurate control schemes that would otherwise be impossible without extra attachments. Because they're linked to onscreen commands through an easy drag-and-drop method, these Air Triggers can be assigned to aim-down-sights or shooting in the likes of Call of Duty Mobile. That offers up a more traditional experience, allowing for greater comfort and leaving your thumbs clear for moving or reloading. As you'd expect, this provides an edge in combat where speed is of the essence. Frustrated by imprecise mobile controls? This is your answer.
That practicality is matched by overclocking capabilities and additional cooling attachments that bring down the system's overall temperature in the middle of a long gaming session. Don't worry about the ROG Phone 2's day-to-day tasks suffering as a result, though. Those gaming features are matched by an admirable performance in everyday usage, not to mention an arresting design and reskinned OS built on the Android system. The world's first 120Hz/1ms AMOLED HDR Delta-E display doesn't hurt, either.
- Read more: ASUS ROG Phone 2 review
If you'll excuse the pun, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is a big step up from the S10. And we're not just talking size. It's insanely powerful, hosts an amazing screen, and impresses with a range of features like Wireless Powershare. If you want an alternative to Apple devices, the S10 Plus is where you should look first.
Carrying the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor as the OnePlus 7 Pro and the impressive ROG Phone 2, the S10 Plus has horsepower to spare. That means it'll breeze through games and everyday use without breaking a sweat. Oh, and that Super AMOLED screen? Fantastic. Having a 6.4-inch ultra wide display allows you to really appreciate it, too - the S10 Plus has a 93.1% screen-to-body ratio.
Non-gaming features help round out the package. Wireless Powershare is handy if a friend or family member's phone battery is on its last legs, and the triple-threat of a 12MP main, ultra wide, and telephoto camera.
When you want a quality smartphone experience for gaming, look no further than the manufacturer of the PlayStation 4 itself: Sony. The Sony Xperia XZ2 is an exercise in decadence that may not measure up to the rest of the never-ending cavalcade of smartphone releases over the rest of the year, but it still sports several features that push it quite far ahead of the rest of the pack.
Its top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 chipset powers a stunning 1080 x 2160 HDR display with 5.7 inches of screen real estate that's perfect for any game, bolstering performance in a big way. But other phones offer largely the same setup – it's the Xperia XZ2's stereo speakers that end up setting it apart. Its dual front-facing speakers are something to marvel over, especially when playing games where sound matters and earbuds just won't do. Coupled with its haptic feedback, dubbed the "Dynamic Vibration System," it offers one of the closest things to a true console experience any other smartphone has yet to deliver.
With decent battery life and microSD support for an abundance of storage, Sony's excellent smartphone is a viable contender for on-the-go gaming, no matter what your preferences lean toward. Note: low stock levels are driving prices up in some countries.
If you want Android the way it was meant to be, look no further than the Google Pixel 3 XL. This phone, straight from the creators of Android themselves, offers a stock Android experience on an absolute beast of a device. It's not a massive improvement over the Google Pixel 2 XL, but if you're looking to upgrade from a phone that's a couple of years old, you'll be hard-pressed to find a model that can top the Pixel 3 XL.
The Pixel series is the spiritual successor to Google's Nexus line, but where the Nexus cut corners to offer a premium product at a low price, the Pixel goes for broke. It touts a camera that surpasses the iPhone in many tests, and the new mode of OLED screen fixes any of the problems the Pixel 2XL had with washed out colors. However, all that comes at a cost. Though gaming on the Pixel 3 XL is a pleasure, the $900 price tag is getting into iPhone territory. Given that it shares the same CPU with many current flagships, and even has less RAM than some, you may do better to shop around for a similar phone.
If money is no object, though, the Google Pixel 3 XL is one of the best ways to experience Android. It receives updates straight from Google, so you're not stuck waiting months for the latest version of Android, and it has a lively development community, so if the stock feel isn't your thing you can tinker until you find something that is.
If the best and the brightest mobile tech doesn't concern you and you just need a formidable piece of hardware suitable for gaming, the Nokia 6.1 is a viable option. It's perfect for mobile gamers who want a more cost-effective option than the latest and greatest selections out there, and while it sacrifices newer tech for a lower price, it's still capable of reliable performance.
The stylish Nokia phone comes standard with the Snapdragon 630, which obviously isn't the top of the line when it comes to processing power, but the phone's decent amount of RAM ensures there are few issues when playing labor-intensive games. Still, it’s a bit less than what you may be used to. You won't be able to crank up your graphics settings to Ultra or anything like that, but it's perfectly fine if all you care about is having an available mobile device to jump into the most popular titles out on the App Store or Google Play Store with friends.
You get a decent suite of additional specs as well for the price, but the spotlight here is the price, since it's the most affordable out of the current crop of phones out there appropriate for regular gaming. It's nowhere near top-tier with its list of specs, but the price is certainly right, and that lets it hang with the best of them.
There's no mistake that the Black Shark 3 is an absolute beast of a gaming phone. With its giant, 1080x2400 resolution screen, liquid cooling system, and leviathan of a dual battery that is as fast to charge as it is slow to drain, this machine has been built exclusively with video games in mind. It's an expensive choice for a smartphone, with the standard model setting you back roughly £600/$700, but absolutely worth the investment if you're someone who plays on their mobile device as much as doing anything else with it.
Featuring a 90Hz refresh rate, front facing stereo speakers, adaptive HDR tech, and seamless compatibility with its own first-party controller attachments, the Black Shark 3 turns mobile gaming into a fully-fledged blockbuster experience that stands toe to toe with other portable platforms. Just be warned that the system's size and operating power makes it larger and heavier than most other phones, meaning you'll feel that thing in your pocket when out and about. Still, it's a compromise worth taking for one of the most impressive gaming phones we've ever seen, and one that does justice to the biggest and best mobile games out there.