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The best phones for music lovers in 2020 - and the best phone deals

The best phones for music lovers 2020: and the best phone deals
(Image credit: Thomas Samson/AFP - Getty)

The majority of us are used to carrying a large chunk of our favourite music with us wherever we go on our phones – and thanks to smartphone-compatible streaming services such as Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify and the hi-res audio sounds of Tidal, listening to your best-loved albums and playlists whenever and wherever you want has never been easier. 

So, to get the best on-the-go audio experience you need the best phone for music lovers. And that's where our dedicated round-up comes in. 

Compared to other best phone guides you'll find online, ours is specifically tailored to music fans who want a handset that delivers good audio quality and great battery life.

With a decent enough data connection you can even enjoy your top tracks in High-Res Audio (HRA) quality. So the only thing left to think about, other than decent headphones, including wireless headphones and noise-cancelling headphones, is which of our best phones for music hits all the right notes.

Each generation innovates and we all get a slew of new features to enjoy, as well as faster processing speeds so we can do what we want on our phones much faster and with greater ease.

In a rush and want to discover what our best phones for music lovers are? Here you go...

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What is the best phone for music?

Of all the phone options out there, we have a top two that tick a lot of boxes. The first is the LG G8 ThinQ, thanks to its onboard 32-bit Quad HiFi DAC which makes for some of the best audio you'll likely hear on a smartphone, also thanks to the inclusion of a good old headphone port.

The second is the Samsung Galaxy S10+ thanks to its great quality audio, headphone port, masses of storage, microSD expansion and, of course, superb display, camera and battery performance.

The best phones for music: buying advice

Wired or wireless listening?
The first big choice you have to make is about how you're going to listen: wired headphones or wire-free? If you've already invested in a decent pair of true wireless earbuds, or you've shopped our best wireless headphones guide, the lack of a 3.5mm headphone port on a phone likely won't bother you. 

But if you're committed to that DAC and always need a wire, that's going to immediately narrow down your choice. Since Apple ditched the headphone port a few phone generations ago, plenty of other manufacturers have followed suit. A few remain, but as wireless audio becomes higher quality, the demand for classic 3.5mm ports is dropping. 

If you need wired then phones like the Google Pixel 3a, Samsung Galaxy S10 or Huawei P30 have got you covered. If you're Team Apple then you can get an adapter for that iPhone port but expect to pay extra for it.

Audio quality
For the best possible audio quality you already know about lossless audio and tend to download files for listening rather than going for streaming. Although Tidal is a great option for Master quality streaming on the go. Either way you'll likely want offline music so that means thinking about storage, so bear that in mind when selecting a handset that works for you.

Several Android phones still offer microSD ports – and this is a cheap and handy way of expanding how many songs you'll be able to hold. However, for an iPhone be prepared to pay more for every memory jump you make. Options include the Samsung Galaxy S10+, Moto Z4, LG G8 ThinQ and budget Nokia 7.1.

If you've made the decision to go totally wireless, a 5G phone with unlimited data could be the perfect choice. That way, you'll always have high-quality audio at your fingertips when you need it – without using up storage space.

Battery life
Battery life is always important to consider when taking the plunge for a new phone – especially if you find yourself listening to a lot of music throughout the course of your day. If that's the case, you may want to consider a phone with a giant battery, something lots of manufacturers are now offering. Options like the Moto G7 Power, OnePlus 7 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro, to name just a few.

How much should I spend on a new phone?
Budget largely comes down to what you can manage. If you're Team Wired then you'll need to go for either an iPhone with adapter and spend a chunk or a top end Samsung. If you're a proud member of Team Wireless, you have a greater range of options, but you may need to think about more storage or splashing out more on an unlimited streaming data plan.

The best phones for music to buy now

Best phones for music: LG G8 ThinQ Phone

(Image credit: LG)

1. LG G8S ThinQ

Hands down, this is the best phone for audio quality

Weight: 181g | Dimensions: 155.3 x 76.6 x 8 mm | Display: : G-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours | Resolution: 1080 x 2248 | OS: Android 9 Pie | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 13MP | Front camera: 8MP | Battery: 3,500mAh

Vibrating top speaker
Quad DAC
Design
Price

When it comes to pure sound clarity, the LG G8S ThinQ stands-out from the rest thanks to it packing in a hefty 32-bit HiFi Quad DAC onboard and DTS:X 3D Sound System for movies too. That means less distortion, less noise and a wider dynamic range than the competition. 

The fact that it also uses a headphone port means you can pair it with the best over-ear headphones for an audio experience that is as high quality as you can get on the move.

All that audio prowess and it's a top-performing smartphone too, with a 6.1-inch QHD+ notch display, dual cameras, Snapdragon 855 CPU backed by 6GB of RAM and an IP68 water-resistance rating. 

Our favourite extra is the Air Motion feature. This lets you control volume and more with Jedi-like hand gestures. Now that's pretty neat, right?

Best phones for music: Samsung Galaxy S10+ Phone

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy S10+

The best phone for music listening if you need a headphone port

Weight: 175g | Dimensions: 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3040 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 / Exynos 9820 | RAM: 8/12GB | Storage: 128/512GB/1TB | Battery: 4,100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP | Front camera: 10MP + 8MP

Superb display
Great audio sampling
Expensive
UI isn't for everyone

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ has a headphone port making it ideal for wired fans, but it offers so much more. You get that incredible display, microSD storage expansion and a go-all-day 4100mAh battery too. Yet it's the audio quality we love on this phone, thanks to its well-balanced and fine detail packing sound reproduction. 

Into the bargain, you also get a whopping 1TB of storage for those fans of keeping lossless audio right there on the phone. Add a DAC and this is one of the best music listening methods out there – the Dolby Atmos, 6.4-inch Infinity OLED display and superb camera are just bonuses.

Best phones for music: Apple iPhone XR Phone

(Image credit: Apple)

3. Apple iPhone XR

The best phone for Apple fans

Weight: 194g | Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm | OS: iOS 12 | Screen size: 6.1-inch | Resolution: 828 x 1792 | CPU: A12 Bionic | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: 2,942mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Affordable, for Apple
Great screen
No headphone port

There's no way we could write a best phones for music guide and not include the iPhone XR. After all, it's an affordable way to get an Apple iPhone with that edge-to-edge screen without pushing your budget to, er, its edge. For the privilege of owning an Apple phone, you'll have to sacrifice storage expansion and an headphone port, but with the headphone adapter you can still get wired if that's what you prefer. 

The Apple iPhone XR is a device that can produce genuinely high quality audio that sounds clear, smooth and unfiltered to your ears. This is partly thanks to plenty of processing power. 

And all of this is backed with a 128GB storage option and a 2,492mAh battery that will keep going all day. The 6.1-inch LCD display and 12MP camera also hold their own against far more expensive handsets making this a great option for Apple fans who don't want to take out a bank loan.

Best phones for music: Huawei Mate 20 X 5G Phone

(Image credit: Huawei)

4. Huawei Mate 20 X 5G

Rocking 5G? Then this is your best phone for music listening

Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.39-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3120 | CPU: Kirin 980 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Battery: 4200mAh | Rear camera: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP | Front camera: 24MP

Fingerprint scanner
Stunning camera
5G roll-out still not complete
Price

Streaming high-quality music through services like Tidal is great when you have access to Wi-Fi, but it's the power of 5G that will make this the future. 5G means instant access to the highest quality audio wherever you are – apart from underground without connection, of course. Although with 5G you could quickly save an entire album offline in seconds before going underground.

The Mate 20 X 5G also offers the latest Kirin 980 CPU for super speeds, a stunning and massive 7.2-inch OLED screen with stylus, 4,200mAh battery to back it all up and a triple lens Leica camera that's arguably one of the best out there on a phone. The 256GB storage is a nice extra but with 5G you'll likely struggle to fill it.

Best phones for music: Nokia 3310

(Image credit: Nokia)

5. Nokia 3310 Phone

The best budget phone for music fans

Weight: 76.9g | Dimensions: 115.6 x 51 x 12.8mm | Display: 2.4-inch | Resolution: 240 x 320 | Battery: 1,200mAh | OS: Nokia Series 30+ | Camera: 2MP

Price
Battery
Camera
2.5G connectivity

Not only does it have a compact and pretty cool retro look, but the refreshed 3310 keeps your tunes blasting for days. The phone’s 1200mAh battery isn't the biggest, sure,but wrapped within this glorified feature phone it offers an unbelievable 51 hours of continuous music playback. Fifty. One. Hours!

Want something smaller? Want to upgrade your parents' old Nokias? Or just after a spare phone that can keep the tunes coming as your main phone’s battery circles the drain? Then this is the phone for you.

Best phones for music: Apple iPhone X

(Image credit: Apple)

6. Apple iPhone X

Take a bite out of the big Apple

Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm | OS: iOS 12 | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Screen Resolution: 1125x2436 | CPU: A11 Bionic | RAM: 3GB **Storage:** 64GB / 256GB | Battery: 2,716mAh | Rear camera: 12MP+12MP (both OIS) | Front camera: 7MP

Great screen
Superb build quality
Still pricey
Easily scuffed

Loud and balanced dual drivers make this still a stunning sounding iPhone and since it's a bit older now, you can get it for less. There's one speaker on the bottom edge, and the earpiece speaker outputs sound for better dispersal when you hold the phone in front of your face. 

But there are negatives too. It doesn't have a headphone jack, which means the DAC lives in your wireless/Lightning headphones. Use a Lightning to 3.5mm socket adapter and that little thing actually has a DAC chip inside. 

If your music collection is still a mass of files rather than based in the cloud, an iPhone makes it a bit trickier to get on the phone than Android. Spotify will still work fine, but everything is easier if you use iTunes/Apple Music – worth keeping in mind if you've never used an iPhone before. 

Best phones for music: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

(Image credit: Samsung)

7. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The best phone for music fans who want a good Android experience

Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.5-2.4, f/2.4 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm | Battery size: 3,500mAh | Storage: 64/128/256GB + microSD

Great low-light camera
Good battery life
AR Emoji
UI overlay

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is still a great phone despite it no longer being the newest and shiniest offering from the South Korean manufacturer. So if you've got a great pair of headphones and need a headphone jack-toting phone for less, this is a great option.

Samsung has held firm and kept the handy 3.5mm jack in the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. Not only that, it's also worked with AKG to improve the quality of the speakers. There's also a driver on the bottom, and the earpiece speaker now outputs audio too, avoiding the lopsided effect of a single driver array.