best phone for gaming

There are plenty of things that smartphone owners use their devices for on a daily basis. One of the biggest uses, to no one’s surprise, is for gaming. In a survey of smartphone owners by the UK carrier O2 back in 2012, it found that people like to use their phones more for gaming than listening to music, texting or even to make calls.

There are no shortage of games that Android phone owners can check out from the Google Play Store ranging from puzzle titles like Candy Crush to high-end first person shooters. However, even the coolest looking game could look bad on a sub-par phone screen. Also, if your battery runs down quickly, you will soon not be able to play any games at all on the phone.

What is the best phone for gaming? We decided to offer a selection of what we think are the best phones for gamers. We took into account factors like screen size and resolution, along with battery life and even if it had extra features specifically for gaming.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

best phones for gaming

The latest flagship phones from Samsung may also be devices on our best phone for gaming list that you can currently buy, if you have the money. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus both feature large screens (5.8-inch for the S8, 6.2-inches for the S8 Plus) and both of those display have high resolutions (2,960 x 1,440). It doesn’t hurt that both have lots of RAM and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (or Samsung’s Exynos 8895 chip, depending where you live). The battery life is about average for these kind of phones, but it’s not horrible, and they also include some helpful power saving features.

If you are into VR gaming, you can also purchase the 2017 edition of the Samsung Gear VR, which will help extend your experience into virtual reality. A software update is also reportedly coming soon that will add support for Google’s Daydream View VR headset as well. Finally, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus also have new versions of Samsung’s Game Tools. When enabled, they allow the hardcore gamer to play games in Full Screen mode, which fills the entire edge-to-edge display, instead of seeing them in letterboxed mode.

Other Game Tools features lets players quickly take screenshots or record gameplay with little issues, along with a way to temporarily disable the phones’ digital home button and cuts off any notifications from showing up on your screen in the middle of gameplay. All that hardware does make the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus fairly pricey, but if money is no object, then these are the phones to get for the best mobile gaming experience.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S8

  • 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 570 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm, 155 g

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

  • 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 529 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g

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OnePlus 5

 
 
The OnePlus 5 was just released a few months ago and an excellent pick for our best phone for gaming list, especially for gamers who want a lot of power and battery life for not a lot of money. The 5.5-inch display has a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. While that’s not as big or as detailed as the display on the Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, it should be plenty for most gamers. More importantly, the phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, which should handle even the most graphically rich games for Android. You can also get a version of the phone with a whopping up to 8 GB of RAM. The battery life is also better than the Galaxy S8, and can last up to a full day on a single charge.
 
While the OnePlus 5 doesn’t have as many gaming specific features as the Galaxy S8 phones, it does have a Gaming DnD (Do Not Disturb) mode which, when enabled, cuts off notifications from popping up while you play. Finally, the starting price for the OnePlus 5, at $479 for the 6 GB version and $539 for the 8 GB model, make this phone much cheaper than its main competition and easily one of the best phones for gaming on the market.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch Optic AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform
  • 6/8 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • Dual 16 and 20 MP rear cameras, 16 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,300 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm, 153 g

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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After a controversial 2016, Samsung’s Galaxy Note line is back in full force. With top-of-the-line specs, a stunning design, an all-new dual-camera setup, and new software features, the Galaxy Note 8 is the best Android phone you can buy right now, and definitely on our best phone for gaming list.

As with earlier Samsung phones, the Note 8 includes Game Tools which lets users play games in Full Screen mode, which fills the entire edge-to-edge display, instead of seeing them in letterboxed mode. You can also still quickly take screenshots or record gameplay on the phone along with a way to temporarily disable the phones’ digital home button and cuts off any notifications from showing up on your screen in the middle of gameplay. It’s definitely pricey, but it may be worth it for your gaming needs.

The Note 8’s near-bezel-less 6.3-inch QuadHD+ Infinity Display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio is one of our favorite parts about this phone. DisplayMate agrees with us too. It’s big, maybe too big for some people, but at least the company puts that screen to good use. The Note 8 might be the best phone for gaming for you. Check out our full review below!

Specs

  • 6.3-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 521 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128/256 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 12 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,300 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm, 195 g

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Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

While the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are both over a year old, they are still worthy for our best phone for gaming list, especially if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Both the 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 and the 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge have high 2,560 x 1,440 resolutions on their displays, which means cleaner graphics for gaming. While the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor in both phones, along with 4 GB of RAM, are not as beefy as other handsets on this list, they should be more than good enough for some excellent gaming.
 
Both the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge also have versions of Samsung’s Game Tools. As with the same features found on the new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, they offer some extended functions for gamers, including shutting down notifications while playing, easy screenshot and recording modes, and disabling the phones’ Recent and Back buttons.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S7

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm, 152 g

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,600 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm, 157 g

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Motorola Moto Z Play

 
The Motorola Moto Z Play (known as the Moto Z Play Droid if you get it at Verizon) may be a year old, and this mid-range device may not have the hardware specs of other smartphones that we have discussed in this article. However, the phone still has one very impressive feature that’s vital to mobile gamers: awesome battery life. In regular use, the 3,510 mAh battery on the phone allows it to offer users up to two days of battery life on a single charge with regular use. While that will drop in heavy gaming, it’s still going to give mobile gamers a lot of time to play any title they want. In fact, the battery is much larger in the Moto Z Play than in the recently released Moto Z2 Play, which just has a 3,000 mAh battery.
 
 
There’s also one more factor in the Moto Z Play’s favor in the best phone for gaming category. It can use any current and upcoming Moto Mods, the snap-on accessories that Motorola first introduced in 2016. That includes the upcoming Moto Mod GamePad, which will place a control sticks on either side of the phone. It will also add a D-pad and four tactile action buttons, and it will have its own 1,035 mAh battery that is supposed to offer even more gaming time for any Moto Z phone. It’s due out later this summer for $79.99.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 403 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 16 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,510 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 156.4 x 76.4 x 7 mm, 165 g

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Best phone for gaming – Conclusion

Obviously, the world of smartphones sees new devices released almost every week, so this best phone for gaming list will be updated when new handsets that are game worthy are launched. In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What do you think of these phones on this list? Which one would you pick as the best phone for gaming, or do you want to see another phone placed on this list? Let us know your opinions in the comments.
John Callaham
John was a newspaper reporter before becoming a technology and video/PC gaming writer in 2000. He lives in Greer, SC with his wife and five cats.