Every year around the holidays, tech lovers line up in anticipation of getting their hands on the newest top-of-the-line flagship smartphones at great prices. Deemed “flagship” because they represent the best technologies from each major manufacturer, these phones feature upgrades and new features designed to make the smartphone experience better than ever before.
If you’re itching to own a flagship phone and just can’t wait for the holiday deals, you can snag some decent promotions from top carriers and big box stores around release time. Of course, the deals are only good if you get a phone with features you love and will use, so start by comparing what’s new from the big names in smartphone technology.
Here’s what you need to know about the best cell phone offers.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
Samsung’s newest offerings are a step up from the S8 models, but some features still need development to be fully realized.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 comes featured with these specs and features:
- 8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display
- 12 MP single rear-facing camera
- 4 GB RAM
- 64 GB storage
- 11 to 90 hours of battery life
- Priced at $720
The Samsung Galaxy S9+ comes featured with these specs and features:
- 2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display
- 12 MP dual rear-facing camera with wide-angle and telephoto options
- 6 GB RAM
- 64 GB storage
- 13 to 102 hours of battery life depending on activities
- Priced at $840
Both S9 models also include:
- 8 MP front-facing camera
- Android 8 Oreo OS
- Stereo speakers
- Edge-to-edge “infinity” display
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
- MicroSD expansion up to 400 GB
With a bright, attractive display and an improved camera, the S9 and S9+ show Samsung is working on giving the iPhone a run for its money. These phones take better pictures in low light than the S8 and feature a new “super slow-mo” video mode for capturing action in slow motion. A lengthy battery life allows users to do more without needing to recharge, and fast wired or wireless charging gets the phone back in action quickly when the battery does run down.
However, the Intelligent Scan feature, meant to combine iris scanning with facial recognition for security, isn’t as sensitive as it should be. The ability to create an “AR Emoji” avatar would be better if there were more options, and the Vision feature of the Bixby assistant still needs work to improve accuracy and functionality.
- Up to $140 off unlocked models on Amazon
- BOGO at Best Buy for AT&T and Sprint customers
- Trade in for $100 off an upgrade with Verizon or $300 off if switching from a competitor
- Sprint customers get the S9 for $9 per month or the S9+ for $14 per month
- $150 off if purchased at Wal-Mart with an AT&T or Verizon plan
Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
Camera phone lovers will rejoice over Google’s flagship models, but the inability to expand may limit how much can be captured and stored on these devices.
The Google Pixel 3 includes the following specs and features:
- 5 -inch full HD AMOLED display
- Notch-free design
- 4 GB RAM
- Priced at $649 to $849
The Google Pixel 3 XL includes the following specs and features:
- 3-inch Quad-HD+ POLED display
- Edge-to-edge notched design
- 6 GB RAM
- Priced at $899 to $999
Both phones feature:
- 2 MP rear camera
- Dual 8 MP front camera with a “Group Selfie” wide-angle option
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor
- 64 and 128 GB storage options
- Dual front-facing speakers
- Rear fingerprint sensor
- Android 9 Pie OS
- Strong Gorilla Glass construction
Dubbed by reviewers as the king of the camera phone, Google’s new Pixel models include colorful displays and fresh camera features to please any shutterbug. The “Top Shot” option is particularly useful when taking photos of people and objects in motion. It shoots a successive burst of photos and allows users to choose the best of the bunch. Super Res Zoom captures details from a distance, and the upcoming Night Sight feature should improve photo brightness in low-light environments.
A less-than-stellar battery life may hold Pixel 3 users back from fully enjoying all the features of the phone on the go, and there’s no way to expand the internal storage. The lack of a headphone jack will require music lovers to use Bluetooth earbuds or an adapter to listen.
New Google Assistant features may make up for some of these shortcomings. Updated management tools and more options for interaction and smart device control turn these phones into handy dashboards for the connected user.
- BOGO 64 GB models at Verizon, or buy one and get $799.99 off the 128 GB model
- Up to $400 credit for a trade-in at the Google store, or $550 for a current-generation phone
- Buy and activate with Verizon at Best Buy to get a $100 gift card, plus the retailer is honoring Verizon’s BOGO deal
iPhone XR and XS
Features get cooler and price tags higher as Apple continues to shape its iPhone line into a luxury brand.
The iPhone XR comes with these specs and features:
- 5-inch IPS LCD display
- Aluminum sides
- Single 12 MP rear-facing camera
- 3 GB RAM
- 64, 128 or 256 GB storage capacity
- 12- to 15-hour battery life
- Priced at $749 to $899
The iPhone XS and XS Max comes with the following specs and features:
- 8- or 6.5-inch AMOLED display
- Stainless steel sides
- 12 MP dual rear-facing camera
- 4 GB RAM
- 64, 256 or 512 GB storage capacity
- 15- to 16-hour battery life
- Priced at $999 to $1,449
Features found in all new models:
- Apple 12 Bionic processor
- 7 MP front-facing camera
- iOS 12
- Bluetooth and NFC technology
- Face ID unlocking
With a processor designed to use 40 percent less power and impressive edge-to-edge screen design, the new iPhones look good and should perform better than previous models. The XS Max offers the largest screen and shares the “Liquid Retina” quality Apple has included in this year’s phones. In most cases, the XS has more to offer than the XR, which has less memory, a smaller screen and does away with the 3D Touch feature.
Fast wireless charging is a perk of the XR and XS, but the included charger doesn’t support speedy battery revival. Taking advantage of the feature requires another purchase on top of an already pricey phone, which may be a turn-off for some. Users also can’t expand internal storage capacity; however, the option for over half a terabyte of space on the XS model should make additional space unnecessary.
- Trade in an old phone and sign up for Sprint’s 18-month Flex plan to get the XS for $0
- Up to $525 instant trade-in credit at the Apple Store
- Add a line with AT&T, and get up to $700 toward a new Apple device
- Minimum $100 credit from Verizon with a qualifying trade-in model
- Up to $300 off with a trade-in at T-Mobile
Compare these flagship phones to find the features you really want without emptying your bank account. You don’t have to shell out the list price to enjoy the latest and greatest smartphones if you know where to look. Deals change all the time, so keep an eye out for updates and new trade-in offers.