Sprint’s future is up in the air. It has been steadily improving and now covers more people with 5G than any other US carrier, but it’s trying to merge with T-Mobile in a way that would lead to a T-Mobile takeover. Top Sprint phones would be able to take advantage of T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network, so you don’t need to worry about your phone being obsolete, but if the merger does finally go through, there will certainly be a whole bunch of new plans, options, and device strategies.
Picking a Sprint phone can require a little more attention than choosing an AT&T or Verizon phone because Sprint’s network is unique. It uses bands and technologies no other carrier in the US does (specifically, LTE band 41 and CDMA 1X Advanced), so it ends up missing out on some phones that are popular elsewhere, and instead gets an unusual number of exclusives. If the T-Mobile merger goes through, we think those unique technologies will be turned off in favor of T-Mobile’s more globally compatible LTE system.
The two 4G technologies to look for on your Sprint phone are gigabit LTE and HPUE, or “high performance user equipment.” Gigabit LTE combines 3x carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO antennas on Sprint’s high-speed LTE band 41 to get the best possible speeds. HPUE boosts upload speeds and range. The carrier is also just now starting to introduce VoLTE, or phone calling over 4G LTE, but that launch strategy will change if the T-Mobile merger goes through (as T-Mobile has much more broadly compatible VoLTE). Every phone on this list except the iPhone 8 has HPUE. The Pixel 3, Galaxy Note 9, Galaxy S10e, iPhone 11 Pro, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, and Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ have 4×4 MIMO.
The Best Flip Phones for Sprint
Sprint, uniquely, still relies on its old 2G network for phone calls, and it’s committed to supporting it until 2021. So unlike on other carriers, existing older flip and voice phones will work fine on Sprint without declining coverage and quality, for a few more years at least. Unfortunately, according to the National Wireless Independent Dealers Association, you can no longer activate used, older phones without 4G if you buy them on eBay, for instance.
We have put one very good voice phone at the end of this list: the Sonim XP3. The XP3 is a tough, future-proof flip phone that supports calling over Sprint’s 4G network (and T-Mobile’s, if the carriers merge).
The Best 5G Phones for Sprint
As of this writing, Sprint offers three 5G phones and a hotspot. There’s the LG V50, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, and the HTC 5G Hub. At the moment, Sprint isn’t slated to get the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G.
Sprint has currently launched 5G in decent portions of nine cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, LA, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, DC. If you live and work in a central area of one of those cities and feel you need even faster Sprint download speeds, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is a fine choice for now. You can check out our full results from testing Sprint 5G for a day in Dallas with the OnePlus.
I’m more comfortable with people buying a 5G phone on Sprint right now than on any other carrier. Sprint’s mid-band 5G is blanketing cities with speeds about double that of LTE, whether or not Sprint merges with T-Mobile. And these are big, high-end, good-looking phones that will perform well whether you’re on 4G or 5G.
I think the OnePlus is the best balance of power and performance. But if Sprint does merge with T-Mobile, no existing phone will be able to handle all of the combined carrier’s frequency bands. Unless you live in one of Sprint’s initial few 5G cities, it’s smartest to hold off until mid-2020 to see what happens with the merger and future devices.
If you need more help buying a phone, check out our cell phone product guide for the most recent reviews. While you’re at it, take a look at our guides for the best phones on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. And see our Readers’ Choice picks for 2019’s top mobile carriers.
Best Sprint Phones Featured in This Roundup:
Pros: Compact. Fast performance. Beautiful OLED screen. Sharp front and rear camera with impressive low-light, zoom, and bokeh capabilities. Useful Google Assistant functionality. Highly optimized software with guaranteed updates.
Cons: No headphone jack or memory card slot.
Bottom Line: The Google Pixel 3 is the best small Android phone you can buy with the latest specs, impressive camera capabilities, and genuinely innovative AI features.
Pros: Best-in-class camera. Gorgeous OLED display. Solid performance. Excellent battery life.
Cons: Not waterproof. No microSD slot.
Bottom Line: Google’s well-rounded Pixel 3a is quite simply the best Android phone you can buy for $399.
Pros: Big battery. Lots of storage. Excellent S Pen stylus. Class-leading processor and modem.
Cons: Expensive. Heavy.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is an attractive pen-enabled phablet with a fast processor, a terrific modem, and a huge battery.
Pros: Amazing screen color and clarity. Industry-leading processor and modem. Wide-angle camera. Headphone jack. Just the right size for most hands.
Cons: Low-light camera performance not as good as the Google Pixel 3. Fingerprint sensor could be more accurate.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy S10e has the best overall price, performance, and size for a flagship smartphone today.
Pros: Excellent battery life. Solid performance. Sleek design. Ships with Android 9.0 Pie.
Cons: Not waterproof. Mediocre camera. No NFC.
Bottom Line: The Motorola Moto G7 Power offers excellent performance, two-day battery life, and an attractive design for a budget-friendly price.
Pros: Ultra-rugged build. Excellent call quality. Three-year warranty.
Cons: Weak vibration feature. Lackluster camera.
Bottom Line: The Sonim XP3 is a terrific rugged flip phone for anyone who doesn’t want a smartphone.
Pros: Three cameras for great flexibility. New Night mode for low-light photos. Excellent LTE options, including dual SIM. Long battery life.
Cons: Expensive. Next year’s iPhone will probably bring much bigger changes.
Bottom Line: The pricey iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max bring more cameras, longer battery life, and better LTE capabilities to Apple’s flagship phone line.
Pros: Relatively affordable. Fast, smooth performance. Frequent bug fixes and updates. Sprint’s 5G has the best coverage right now.
Cons: Not the best 5G speeds. Average camera. Sprint’s future is up in the air.
Bottom Line: The relatively affordable OnePlus 7 Pro 5G would be a great phone to try out Sprint’s 5G network on, if we could be assured Sprint will continue to exist.
Pros: Useful S Pen stylus. Top-notch performance. Long battery life.
Cons: Expensive. Huge. No headphone jack. Confusing 5G situation.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is a big, powerful phone that’s good for artists and note-takers.
Pros: Wireless charging. Powerful new processor.
Cons: Lacks the latest modem features and bands. Single camera is a disadvantage for AR. Not a huge upgrade over last year’s model, which is still available.
Bottom Line: The iPhone 8 anchors Apple’s 2017 phone line, but it isn’t where the future is.