Phones we love: ZDNet writers actually (still!) use these devices

Curious in regards to the favourite units and cellphone shopping for habits of ZDNet’s tech reporters, cellular enterprise editors, and gadget freaks? Learn on.

Alternatively, in order for you our knowledgeable suggestions on the newest and best telephones, now we have you lined elsewhere.

The actual fact is, of the 22 ZDNet contributors we talked to, barely half at present use handsets which might be nonetheless on the market — new — by their respective distributors. A lot for “early adopters,” proper? 

Senior contributor David Gewirtz calls his six-year-old iPhone 6s Plus “the very best cellphone I’ve ever used. Why spend hundreds of when this factor hasn’t failed me as soon as?”

Opinions editor Charles McLellan stated that regardless of “having seen all method of recent and improved flagship telephones stream via the evaluations system,” he stays blissful along with his Samsung Notice Eight, thanks very a lot.

Against this, it is no shock that our cellular gadgeteer Matthew Miller thinks his iPhone 12 Professional Max “units the bar for all different telephones.”

As with our earlier survey of “Laptops We Love,” Apple as soon as once more dominated. In actual fact, 16 out of 22 editors are utilizing an iPhone mannequin. Particularly, the iPhone SE and iPhone XR are tied for hottest — every utilized by three of our contributors.

As anticipated, a few Samsung fashions confirmed up within the survey outcomes. Much less anticipated: The Lumia 1520 and Huawei P20 Professional every discovered a fan.

We additionally requested our colleagues about their subsequent deliberate cellphone buy and, trying additional into the long run, to explain their dream cellphone. Listed below are all their cellular realities and fantasies, in their very own phrases.


Jason Cipriani and Simon Bisson

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Jason Cipriani: I’ve nearly all the time used an iPhone as my every day driver, however the iPhone 12 lineup has solidified it for me. The digicam with improved portrait mode because of the Lidar sensor and HDR video is actually spectacular. And MagSafe, which I assumed was a gimmick, has become a really helpful function for me. Between the Shortcuts app and HomeKit units round the home, there’s not a lot I can not do from my cellphone. 

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? The iPhone 13 Professional. We’ll see what the long run holds, however 120Hz show and doubtlessly no ports? Go on, I am listening. 


Simon Bisson: With a pair of younger kittens in the home a very good, quick digicam cellphone is important for capturing these moments of cuteness that move by fleetingly because the kittens leap from one factor to the following. It is also bought a very good display screen it is also helped hold me sane throughout prolonged lockdowns right here within the UK, with my cellular operator throwing in Apple TV, Apple Arcade, and Apple Music as a part of a SIM contract. That is let me work my means via a backlog of movies in my every day exercises, and consequently, I could also be one of many few who’s popping out the opposite facet of the pandemic lighter and fitter. There are different advantages, too, as Microsoft has turned off Cortana as a house IoT hub, it is helped me shift to HomeKit-based automation for lights and heating, with instruments to set my units up for voice management from a few HomePod Minis. I nonetheless miss the usability of Home windows Cellphone, although iOS’s new Widgets are the closest factor but to Dwell Tiles.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? I think I will hold this one for at the least one other two years, so who is aware of what might be accessible then? The ARM ecosystem is accelerating at such a fee, it is laborious to foretell what might be accessible subsequent yr, not to mention in one other two. Then there’s display screen know-how, reminiscence, networks: So many various elements to contemplate!


$999 at Amazon


$1,000 at Best Buy


$999 at Apple


Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols and Charlie Osborne

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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: My Pixel Three was beginning to present its age, so I made a decision that since I used to be going to improve my cellphone, why not go for the gusto and get the top-of-the-line Samsung? Thus far, I am glad I did. I really like the 6.Eight-inch 120Hz Quad HD display screen. The 5 cameras backed by a 108MP sensor and 10x optical zoom are insanely good. It additionally has 5G, which, at this level, is not actually that necessary on Verizon since I do not dwell subsequent to a Verizon 5G UWB tower. What does matter to me is that it really works nicely with my Samsung Galaxy Watch Three. Samsung claimed early on that its watch would work nicely with different Android telephones. It does however it would not include all of the well being options. My solely downside is the value: It lists for $1,199. I did not that pay that a lot, however I nonetheless paid so much.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Pixel 7? Eight? Let’s examine what Google can do subsequent. I like telephones that sustain with the newest and best Android releases and which means Pixels.


Charlie Osborne: I bought this cellphone as a images fanatic — for me, it is all in regards to the digicam. For somebody with small palms, this system is unwieldy, however I do not remorse the gentle inconvenience as in return I can benefit from an in depth digicam zoom, a number of lenses, and a formidable show. I opted for a 5G cellphone as future-proofing for journey, however in hindsight, that ingredient — at the least — wasn’t essential.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? A dream cellphone that would come someplace near my Canon DSLR/L-Collection setup, or at the least offers extra selection on the subject of telephoto, fisheye, macro images. Subsequent cellphone? I’ve no plans to improve anytime quickly


$1,073 at Amazon


$1,000 at Best Buy


Matthew Miller

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Matthew Miller: After a pair years of favoring the smaller iPhone X and XS, I made the leap to the massive iPhone 12 Professional Max. As a cellphone reviewer, I often transfer my SIM alongside each month or so, however it’s now been 4 months with this cellphone serving as my every day driver, and never even the very best Samsung S21 Extremely can knock it from my palms. The constructed high quality is unbelievable, the cameras let me seize content material to my coronary heart’s delight, and common updates hold it operating completely for me. The addition of 5G and transfer to Qualcomm was the icing on the cake that set the bar for all different telephones.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Samsung Galaxy Fold Three. I bought the primary two Galaxy Fold units, they usually had been superior. Nevertheless, till this cellphone features a degree of water resistance and assist for the S Pen, the massive iPhone might be my main every day driver.


$1,099 at Amazon


$1,100 at Best Buy


$1,099 at Apple


Greg Nichols, Aimee Chanthadavong, and David Grober

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Greg Nichols: I am caught within the Apple ecosystem, for higher or worse. Principally for higher, and the combo of an growing old however dependable MacBook Professional and my humble iPhone SE, a substitute for my final SE (the unique!) is basically all of the computing energy I want for reporting and operating an on-the-go cellular workplace from a sailboat (my common digs) or the small journey trailer my household and I are at present loping via the Southwest with. For a tech reporter, I assume I am unusually skeptical in regards to the newest and best, and the SE is the very best funds cellphone I can think about and greater than sufficient for staying linked, posting tales, and taking goofy movies of my youngsters.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Lord, it is exhausting to think about searching for a brand new cellphone. Dream cellphone? I dream a variety of not being fairly so linked as of late. However, for kicks, as an instance the Nokia N81, a little bit cellphone that was forward of its time and made me fall in love with the probabilities of cellular journalism. I would like to get that thrill again.


Aimee Chanthadavong: I am a bit old-school on the subject of my telephones. I nonetheless want having a house button and maintaining them at a measurement that I can match properly into my smallest purse. Plus, I do not wish to be spending a copious amount of cash for one thing I am more likely to drop each 5 minutes, so when Apple introduced the iPhone SE (2020), it was all the time going to be a simple alternative. My home can be chained to the Apple model, so actually, what different choices did I’ve?

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Attempt me once more when Apple releases one other low/mid-tier priced iPhone.  The opposite variations of the iPhone aren’t precisely interesting, even when they may have a greater digicam. Nonetheless cannot justifying spending a lot on a cellphone.


David Grober: I like a cellphone that matches into most any pocket, and I am a cheapskate. The $400 iPhone SE is greater than sufficient cellphone for me. Sure, there are many comparable sub-$400 Android telephones, however I dwell in an Apple family (iPads, AirPods, Mac, and shortly Apple TV), so I stay a cheerful prisoner of Cupertino’s ecosystem. I am a video, picture, and podcast packrat, so my solely remorse isn’t spending the additional $100 for 256GB storage. And since I actually, actually like my dwelling button and contact ID, dearer iPhone 11 and 12 fashions had been by no means even a temptation.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? OK, if Apple may one way or the other squeeze the iPhone 12 Professional Max’s digicam into my iPhone SE, I’d by no means ever improve my cellphone once more. (Yeah, proper.)


$400 at Best Buy


$399 at Apple


Chris Matyszczyk

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Chris Matyszczyk: My XR grew to become heavy and cumbersome. It had begun to fade. I noticed the 12’s blue colour and thought it could be fetching. After which an Apple retailer worker took the time to speak me into the 12, simply after I was at my weakest.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? The iPhold. I have been impressed by Samsung’s folding telephones, as soon as they bought the folding half proper. I’ve to hope that Apple will, as common, take its time and create a folding cellphone that is each fascinating and usable. I am far too misplaced in Apple’s ecosystem to alter.  


$829 at Amazon


$800 at Best Buy


$829 at Apple


Ed Bott

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Ed Bott: I swap between two telephones often, the iPhone 11 Professional and a newish Galaxy S21 5G, as a result of a variety of what I do requires that I perceive each platforms nicely. I usually keep roughly one era behind the present fashions, which avoids teething points and lets me save a ton of cash. I picked up the iPhone, which was solely about three months previous, from a vendor on Swappa, changing my previous iPhone XS and paying about $500 lower than a brand new mannequin would have price. The Galaxy was a deal from Xfinity Cell that principally gave me a flagship Samsung cellphone at half value with no contract or dedication. I like each telephones about equally and have been pleasantly shocked by the smoothness of the interface on the Samsung.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Subsequent yr I will in all probability get an iPhone 12 Professional, gently used, courtesy of some obsessive Apple upgrader who will commerce it in shortly after its successor comes out. I do just like the digicam enhancements Apple made within the 12 collection, however I am not tied to Apple’s ecosystem in any critical means so possibly I will get a brand new Samsung as an alternative.


$600 at Best Buy


$599 at Apple

Ulefone Armor 9

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

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Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: OK, I take advantage of my iPhone 11 Professional Max so much, however the Ulefone Armor 9 is a troublesome, ruggedized Android smartphone with a built-in thermal digicam. Not solely can I recreate scenes from Predator in my backyard, however that FLIR digicam is nice for diagnosing issues, from overheating elements, high-resistance in automobile wiring, and issues with plumbing methods. I’ve additionally dropped the cellphone so many occasions that I’ve misplaced depend, and it nonetheless seems like new. It is a tank!

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? iPhone 12 Professional Max. The digicam is simply excellent. The standard of Apple’s cameras, backed up by the subtle AI that takes mediocre images and makes them pop, has meant that my Canon DSLR will get much less and fewer utilization.


Tony Baer

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Tony Baer: I just like the Pixel as a result of in contrast to branded telephones (e.g., Samsung Galaxy), it has only one working system, and due to this fact, only one app for issues like images. This was an countless supply of confusion for me through the days with my previous Samsung telephones: Which picture app did my footage go in? (And so forth., and so forth. for different bundled apps.) Nevertheless, the Pixel 2 has one mechanical defect: The charging port is simply barely too massive, which means that after I plug within the charger, I can not all the time make sure that the cellphone is getting any juice. For work from home, that is simply an inconvenience, however after we return on the street once more, this might be a present stopper. 

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? When the world reopens, hopefully in 2022, my subsequent cellphone will nonetheless seemingly be a Pixel, however with one necessary requirement: It should have wi-fi charging.

[Editor’s Note: Good news, Tony, Google’s Pixel 5 does indeed come with wireless charging. See any of the links below.]


$699 at Amazon


$700 at Best Buy


$675 at Back Market


Federico Guerrini

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Federico Guerrini: Superb cellphone for its value (I purchased it for 280 euros). Good digicam, good show, helpful format. I purchased it earlier than the ban, so no downside with Google apps, and so forth. The charger could be very quick, in half an hour it goes from zero% to nearly 50%. I am not very involved about Huawei spying on me, however simply in case, I’ve different telephones on which I put in Ubuntu Contact for the “delicate” calls. 😉


View Now at Huawei P40 Pro


Damian Radcliffe, Angelica Mari, and Sean Portnoy

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Damian Radcliffe: I like a giant display screen and a very good digicam. I’ve two young children so my cellphone is my go-to system for capturing day-to-day and particular moments with them. My digital SLRs are gathering mud someplace, because the latest iPhones have made them redundant. Pre-pandemic I used to be additionally utilizing it so much for video calls — as the remainder of my household lives again within the UK — so massive screens and good digicam are beneficial for that, too. I spend extra time than I want to admit on my cellphone (about 5 hours a day, the display screen supervisor tells me), though I discover that my cellphone is usually faster than my laptop computer for a lot of duties, so I usually default to my cellphone for utilizing social media, on-line banking, and buying in addition to enhancing Google Docs. I simply want Siri and the speech-to-text operate may perceive my British accent.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? I will in all probability improve to the following iPhone, not least as a result of I’ve discovered the XR to be fairly glitchy. It is not occurred shortly, however for a very long time, I needed to restart it every day as it could usually crash. Possibly a brand new OS has addressed that? It is a bit of a pandemic self-indulgence, but in addition a possibility to geek out and play with one thing new. Constructed-in microphone high quality ought to in all probability even be a consideration, as I take advantage of the cellphone for lots of voice memos and recordings (interviews and podcasts).


Angelica Mari: I beloved my dwelling button and was able to improve my previous iPhone SE for its new era, however was additionally contemplating the XR, which dealt with a bit greater than I wanted and, in concept, I would not have to alter anytime quickly. Nevertheless, given the value distinction (the SE prices about $630 in Brazil, and the XR prices roughly $880 — I do know, import taxes), I used to be on the point of purchase an SE. A pal purchased an XR throughout an abroad journey and hated it and bought it to me for lower than I’d spend on an SE domestically. It’s alright, however I assume an SE with 256GB storage would do the job simply as nicely.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? I’ll hold on to this cellphone for so long as I can, however I assume my subsequent system might be an iPhone. I’m an Apple consumer and will not let go of my MacBook Professional. I might be aiming for the most affordable possibility, although.


Sean Portnoy: We had been on T-Cell’s Leap program for a while, however round a yr in the past, we determined to purchase off our present telephones and revel in slicing our payments in half. The XR nonetheless handles what I want from a cellphone and is not so huge it may well’t slot in my pocket.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Future iPhone with telephoto lens. I’d love a built-in iPhone digicam with extra lens versatility with out requiring me to interrupt the financial institution. In any other case, performance hasn’t jumped sufficient for me to see the necessity to improve anytime quickly.


$749 at Amazon


$500 at Best Buy


$750 at Boost Mobile


Robin Harris

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I’ve a Second wide-angle lens and case, which provides me the tech I want for panorama images. There’s a variety of panorama the place I dwell, and picturing it by no means will get previous. I hold trying on the newer iPhones annually, however issues like a wider lens and low-light efficiency aren’t sizzling buttons. I have never used my Canon DSLR in years.  

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? iPhone 13 or 14 Professional Max. Folding iPhone? I like a giant display screen so long as it’ll slot in a shirt pocket, and Second makes a case for it. Undecided I would be up for the additional fiddling a folding iPhone would require, however it could seemingly change my iPad Mini.   


$900 at Boost Mobile


Asha Barbaschow

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I’ve all the time used iPhones. Began with the iPhone Three, and by no means strayed. I refuse to make use of a case, so I am onto cellphone No. 2 after shattering my first XS Max like a disco ball. The display screen measurement is nice. I had the primary Max iteration and doubtless will not ever be capable to have a smaller display screen once more consequently.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? My improve cycle is predicated purely on when my contract runs out (outright price in Australia is insane), so I assume my subsequent system might be within the 13 vary later this yr (RIP checking account).   


$1,100 at Boost Mobile


$520 at eBay


$500 at Back Market


Tiernan Ray

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Bought in 2016, I’ve had no purpose to improve in 4 years. The factor does a superbly effective, which is to say, in Apple’s case, pretty mediocre job of calling and texting and apps. I by no means take my cellphone out of my pocket, often use it with AirPods, so I do not care about display screen measurement or decision upgrades. I’ve an precise digital digicam, so I do not care about digital digicam upgrades.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? Apple Watch Collection 13. It might simply be a classy wi-fi transceiver for the AirPods. By no means fear about leaving the cellphone someplace accidentally as a result of it is all the time on the wrist!    


$670 at Boost Mobile


$360 at eBay


$245 at Back Market


David Gewirtz and Iliana Meir

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David Gewirtz: I’m nonetheless utilizing my iPhone 6s Plus from 2015. For these maintaining monitor, that is nearly six years previous. However it’s the very best cellphone I’ve ever used (with the Palm Treo operating a detailed second). I have never wished to present it up as a result of I take advantage of the headphone adapter whereas filming and to make sure I’ve a set of earbuds that by no means run out of battery energy. Positive, the brand new iPhones appear good, however I haven’t got a single grievance about this one, so why spend hundreds of when this factor hasn’t failed me as soon as?

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? iPhone 13 Extremely Large. It is seemingly my 2015-vintage iPhone will not run iOS 15 and, by extension, will not run some iOS 15 apps. So, it is seemingly that might be after I semi-retire the grand 6s Plus. However, so long as it nonetheless runs with my digicam software program, I will in all probability nonetheless use the previous fellow as a digicam within the workshop, Fab Lab, or my workplace. If I’ve to improve, I am going for the complete monty, with all of the options and display screen measurement I can get. However that is nearly a yr away.


Iliana Meir: Purchased it in 2016 and it hasn’t damaged regardless of just a few drops and accidents. I solely use it for important stuff: Test mails, calls, Instagram, Maps, so I have never felt the necessity to improve. The digicam feels outdated (however I’ve just a few skilled cameras for work and by no means use the iPhone for that) and storage capability (64GB) is not sufficient, so I’d change on the finish of 2021.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? I don’t know. I get overwhelmed by the quantity of alternative. It will be an iPhone I assume. I am used to them.


$245 at Best Buy


$550 at Boost Mobile


$270 at eBay


Mary Branscombe

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Sure, I’m certainly nonetheless clinging to the cellphone that made me love phablets, upgraded to Home windows Cell 10 despite the fact that that was by no means formally supported. You possibly can’t beat the Home windows Cellphone begin display screen and dwell tiles for providing you with clear navigation and exhibiting the few notifications you really want. I’ve a desktop-grade browser, so most websites do not fob me off with a cellular model. I’ve nice e-mail, and I’ve OneNote, and I even discovered some good third-party Sonos controller apps. And irrespective of what number of occasions I drop it, the Lumia polycarbonate retains on rocking. Oh, and 24-hour battery life, and I do not fear about trackers in apps!

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone? An Arm-based Home windows 10 cellphone with built-in Skype in a phablet kind issue with 5G; whereas I hope that a mission like Empirion can succeed, I am not banking on it. However absolutely we’d like a 3rd OS to stability Android and iOS as the federal government investigations proceed?


$204 at Amazon


Charles McLellan

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I have been utilizing Samsung’s Notice Eight for a number of years now, regardless of having seen all method of recent and improved flagship telephones stream via the evaluations system throughout this era. It is bought a wonderful 6.Three-inch AMOLED show, a Three.5mm headphone slot, MicroSD storage to enhance the 64GB on-board, two 12MP cameras on the again, plus an S Pen stylus and IP68 mud/water resistance. It is powerful, too: I’ve damaged loads of telephones earlier than, however the Notice Eight has survived the longest. In all probability reaching the top of the street now, although.

Subsequent cellphone or dream cellphone?  A 2021 flagship-class cellphone with an built-in thermal digicam. A thermal digicam is a superb instrument for jobs round the home/workplace and for in search of out wildlife after darkish


$259 at eBay


$250 at Back Market