The best AT&T phones to buy in 2023: Prepaid and with contract

The best AT&T phones to buy
As a member of the US carrier trifecta, AT&T is responsible for providing wireless services to over 100 million people. Its 4G wireless services cover over two-thirds of the population, enabling anything from staying connected with friends and family to watching TV on the go. AT&T's next-generation 5G network is growing steadily and now covers dozens of markets across the US.

Naturally, AT&T offers some of the best phones you can buy today: the newest iPhones, the latest Samsung Galaxy phones, and anything in between to fit any need and budget. But with dozens of great options available, picking becomes quite a challenge. So, which are the best AT&T phones to get in 2023?

Best AT&T cell phones available right now:

But how to choose the best phone

First up, you have to consider your budget. While going with a more affordable phone is often a sensible and logical conclusion, in reality, a premium flagship would often be a better value as it would not only receive software updates for longer but will also be a better value overall.

Next up, make sure to consider your ecosystem preferences. If you've been using iPhones for years and have no reason to get out of the ecosystem, purchasing a Samsung phone would make zero sense. The same applies to the same scenario but viewed from the other camp—getting an iPhone probably wouldn't be the best fit for someone who has surrounded themselves with Android-centric software and hardware. It's a whole different story if you are dissatisfied with your usual ecosystem of choice. If that's the case, then the world's your oyster. 

Next up, you have to consider your plan options. On AT&T, you can get both prepaid and postpaid plans with regular contracts. AT&T has a pretty limited selection of mostly entry-level and mid-range at best devices, which don't inspire confidence, so our recommendations would be to go against the grain and bring your device if you're interested in AT&T's prepaid service options. 

Finally, you have to consider the size. While a rule of thumb is that the largest phones are the most advanced ones, you can still get a compact capable phone, like the iPhone 14 Pro, or a foldable device, like the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Still, the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the Galaxy S22 Ultra are definitely among the best of the best. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Good

  • Battery life is great, big improvement from predecessor
  • New Snapdragon chip is the best one in years
  • Design is improved, feels more ergonomic
  • Screen is less curved and gets very dim (perfect for night time use)
  • Camera improvements are there, but not quite huge
  • Loudspeakers sound much better now
  • You get double the storage (256GB) at base model

The Bad

  • Base model still only has 8GB RAM
  • Charging speeds have not improved
  • Haptics are still not as good as rivals
  • Camera system hasn't improved as much as hoped for
  • Expensive if you buy at full price

The hot-new Galaxy S23 Ultra is arguably the best thing to happen to Samsung in a long time. With exceptional performance improvements over its predecessor, as well as quite the intriguing new 200MP main camera, the new Galaxy S23 Ultra perfects the flagship recipe. With a super-potent quad-camera setup, it’s a pretty capable and versatile camera phone that does it all, rather well at that.

You should consider this one if you’re always on the hunt for the best and most advanced device. With an S Pen on board, as well as the special Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, this phone is a power user’s best friend, a tool intended to pair exceptional performance with superb software functionality and utility.

In our Galaxy S23 Ultra review, we mentioned that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is definitely on the expensive side if you buy it at full price, and the camera hasn't improved as much as we hoped, but design, performance, and battery life, not to mention the audio experience and the display improvements all make the Galaxy S23 Ultra the best Samsung phone available right now, and certainly the best Android handset on the market right now.

iPhone 15 Pro Max

The best iPhone... so far

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

The Good

  • Cool new titanium frame
  • Action Button opens up more possibilities
  • Speakers are great as always
  • A17 Pro chip is an absolute beast
  • USB Type C with USB 3 speeds!
  • Slightly improved, much welcomed camera image processing

The Bad

  • Color options are a bit limited
  • Action Button needs fleshing out — it only does one thing
  • Doesn't come with USB 3 cable in the box
  • 5x zoom camera doesn't feel like a huge benefit

The new iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone right now, with the most features, the most sough-after design, and the most capable camera. This is the first iPhone with a USB Type-C port instead of Lightning, as well as a customizable Action Button and a titanium design with slightly curved sides that also keeps the weight of the iPhone in check. 

The big new feature about the iPhone 15 Pro Max, however, is the new tetraprism telephoto camera that offers 5X optical zoom and boosts the iPhone's long-zooming capabilities. The main camera offers three different camera FOVs.

A 3nm chipset, the Apple A17 Pro, is powering the iPhone 15 Pro Max and delivering excellent performance. Finally, we have a larger 4,422mAh battery which is among the largest ever fitted on an iPhone and delivers excellent battery life. 

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is available in Blue Titanium, Natural Titanium, White Titanium, and Black Titanium.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus

A sensible Android flagship phone

Samsung Galaxy S23+

Samsung Galaxy S23+

The Good

  • Superb performance
  • Excellent battery life
  • Super-bright and vivid display
  • Improved camera image quality
  • Excellent selfie camera
  • Friendly and ergonomic design
  • Superb video stabilization

The Bad

  • Display isn't as accurate as previous Galaxy flagships
  • Lots of storage reserved by the system
  • Boring color options

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus certainly falls in the shadow of the much more exciting Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it shouldn't be underestimated at all. Boasting similar flagship-grade performance thanks to the bespoke Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, but not over-encumbered by an overly large display or an S Pen, the Galaxy S23 Plus is a phone with excellent value.

With a triple camera setup on deck, consisting of a 50MP main camera, a 10MP telephoto shooter that offers a 3X optical zoom, and a 12MP ultra-wide snapper, the Galaxy S23 Plus propels Samsung's photography effort forward, and definitely leaves us hopeful for its bright future. So, when it comes to a capable cameraphone, the Galaxy S23 Plus should be considered. 

On AT&T, the Galaxy S23 Plus goes for $999 or $27.78 a month for three years, but you may pay much less if you trade in an eligible device and opt for any of the select AT&T Unlimited plans. Potentially, you can save up to $800 if certain conditions are met. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

One of the top foldable phones right now

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

The Good

  • Improved hinge feels better
  • Fast and solid performance
  • Sharp, colorful screen with smooth refresh rate
  • Wide and detailed sound from the speakers
  • S Pen (separate purchase) is excellent

The Bad

  • Battery life is ok at best
  • External screen can be too narrow for comfortable typing
  • The crease is shallower, but still very much present

Slightly different than its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 comes with an improved hinge that forms a zero-gap wedge between the top and bottom panels. 

Still, there's a crease visible on the middle of the screen, which isn't a very nice thing to see, considering that newer foldable have completely gotten rid of that one. 

In terms of specs, we are looking at a 7.6-inch inner display that folds inwards, aided by a 6.2-inch cover display, which is surprisingly useful despite its much narrower size. The phone is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, has 12GB of memory that should be enough for even the heaviest of multitaskers, and starts at 256GB of storage (but maxes out at 1TB). 

The camera setup is the same as the one you'd find on the Samsung Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus, so not too good but not too bad either. 

Additionally, you can also grab an S Pen stylus to use with the foldable phone, greatly improving the potential utility of the device. 

Google Pixel 8 Pro

The best stock Android phone at a reasonable price.

Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro

The Good

  • Good battery life
  • Seven years of updates!
  • Clean software, no bloat
  • Top notch camera system

The Bad

  • Portrait Mode is frustratingly bad
  • Charging is on the slow side
  • No one really big standout new feature
  • Pricier now

Google's latest flagship phone, the Pixel 8 Pro, has a number of interesting new features, but the core recipe behind the Pixel flagship phone is still the same: an approachable design language, practical AI-driven features, a very good camera, and frequent feature releases. 

Outfitted with a super-bright 2,400-nit display that will make it perfectly legible in even the most extreme lighting conditions. Powered by the Google Tensor G3, it's not one to score very high on synthetic benchmarks, but Tensor chips are usually geared towards artificial intelligence and user-oriented features, of which the Pixel 8 Pro is chockfull.

The Pixel 8 Pro comes along with a 50MP main camera aided by a telephoto with 5X optical zoom, as well as a 48MP ultra-wide camera. 

One of the bigger new features of the Pixel 8 Pro is the seven years of software support, which is unprecedented and sets an important blueprint for all other manufacturers to follow. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Good

  • S Pen in a flagship, great for creatives
  • Industry-leading screen quality
  • Faster charging than before
  • 10X zoom camera is improved significantly
  • Video recording gets smoother stabilization
  • 4 years of major software updates!

The Bad

  • Battery life has gone down from the S21 Ultra
  • You get less RAM than last year
  • No microSD card slot, no headphone jack
  • Loudspeaker quality could be better
  • Jittery swiping, microstutter with gesture nav in One UI

Samsung's heavy-hitter for 2022, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, is a phone that seemingly has it all: a superb design with a built-in stylus, top-notch hardware, and probably the most capable camera system available right now. Powered by either the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or the Exynos 2200, depending on the region, with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage in the base version (but going up to 1024GB in the most premium version), and with a 10X periscope lens that brings everything close to you, so to speak, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a phone that has it all.

Powering all up is a 5,000mAh battery, which is okay for the needs of the phone but definitely could have given us even better battery life with a more efficient processor included. Rumors say the Galaxy S23 Ultra could be powered by such a more efficient chip, namely the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, so we have very high hopes that the Galaxy S23 Ultra would bring big improvements to the mix. 

On AT&T, the Galaxy S22 Ultra can be yours for way less than usual with an eligible trade-in, and the carrier usually hosts some pretty lucrative Galaxy S22 Ultra deals

AT&T Prepaid phones

As we mentioned, AT&T doesn't exactly have a diverse selection of prepaid phones, as Verizon does. There are just a handful of devices available as prepaid options on the carrier. The most notable ones include:

  • Galaxy A23 5G - With a 6.6-inch display, and quad-camera setup, this Samsung phone is one of the best prepaid offers on AT&T. Usually goes for $300 outright. 
  • Galaxy A03s - This AT&T prepaid phone comes with a 5,000mAh battery, microSD card slot, triple camera, and a 6.5-inch HD+ display. Usually goes for $140, but regularly dips to $70.
  • Moto G Pure - With a 6.5-inch Max Vision HD+ display, very long battery life, and dual-camera system, the Moto G Pure is an affordable device that focuses on the essentials. You can get it for $120. 
  • Moto G 5G - This one comes along with a 6.5-inch 90Hz display, two-day battery life, and 64GB of storage on board. You can regularly have it for $220, but it's currently going for half that, $110.

Can I get a free phone from AT&T?

Depending on the details of a particular deal or a promotion that's currently going on at AT&T, you could technically get a new phone for a $0.00 down payment. Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds, as the carrier will most often require an eligible trade-in and/or an eligible new cellular line to be opened before you could reap the rewards and score your "free" phone. 

Are phones from AT&T sold locked?

Yes, unless otherwise stated, you should presume that all new AT&T phones are sold locked to the carrier's cellular network. They are eligible for unlocking, though. 

The eligibility will vary per device and customer, but in the most common case, you will be eligible to get your phone unlocked if you've fully paid off your phone, either via your regular monthly bills or paid off early, don't have a past due account balance, and haven't reported your phone as lost, stolen, or involved with any kind of fraud. 

If you have an AT&T Prepaid phone, you need to have six months of service on the AT&T network. To submit an unlock request, you can either use your device's Unlock app (if it has one) or submit your IMEI directly to AT&T's device unlock page right here. To find your IMEI, dial in *#06# in your phone app.

What are the benefits of prepaid phones at AT&T?

As usual with prepaid services, you can bring your phone to AT&T's network and enjoy the awesome affordable plans on one of the most reliable networks in the US. AT&T's prepaid plans also require no credit check, no annual contract of any kind, very easy activation, as well as a pretty good roster of prepaid plans to pick from. 

However, as we established earlier, AT&T doesn't have a particularly good selection of prepaid phones, mostly entry-level and mid-range devices that are a far cry from the more appealing flagships other carriers sell as prepaid. However, you can easily bring your device to the carrier and jump on any of its prepaid plans very quickly, so AT&T should be considered as an option for all potential cord-cutters. 

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