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The best phones for music lovers

The best phones for music lovers
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Your phone is everything these days. It's how you communicate. It's both your camera and your photo album. It's your weather forecast and your train timetable. And for many it's the most convenient way to consume music. 

Thanks to smartphones, and to streaming services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Spotify, getting music into your brain has never been easier. Now you can pretty much listen to anything, at anytime and anywhere thanks to smartphones. 

As long as you have a decent enough data connection you can even enjoy high quality music. The only thing left to think about, other than decent headphones and perhaps a DAC, is which is the best phone for you to get the job done.

There are plenty of smartphones out there right now and as each generation tries to innovate we get new features and incremental spec hops forward. But as prices get driven down, the playing field is starting to look very similar, making it harder than ever to pick the best phone for music, for you. 

Fret not, we've got you covered, whether you have rock god hair to consider when buying the right headphones for that phone or spray-on-looking leather leggings with puny pockets made only for plectrums, not super-screen smartphones. So what do you need to consider when buying a new smartphone for music? 

What is the best phone for music?

Of all the phone options out there we have a top two which 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 or wireless. If you've already invested in a decent pair of aptX friendly Bluetooth headphones then the lack of 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 then that's going to immediately narrow down your choice. Since Apple ditched the headphone port plenty of other manufacturers have followed. 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
If you want the best possible audio quality you probably 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 storage, so think about that when looking at your handset. Some Android phones still offer microSD ports, a cheap way to expand storage but for an iPhone you'll be paying a lot more for every memory jump you make. Options include the Samsung Galaxy S10+, Moto Z4, LG G8 ThinQ and budget Nokia 7.1.

Or perhaps you're totally wireless, in which case a 5G phone with unlimited data could be a good idea so you always have high-quality audio at the ready when you need it, without using up storage space – as long as you're not underground of course.

Battery life
If you're listening to music all day everyday, first of all, well done. But you've probably had battery issues, especially if that's wirelessly streamed music. So 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 team wireless then your options are greater but you may need to think about more storage or splashing out more on an unlimited streaming data plan.

These are the best phones for music right now

Best phones for music 2019: LG G8 ThinQ

(Image credit: LG)

1. LG G8S ThinQ

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

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 it also uses a headphone port means you can pair it with the most kick-ass cans for an audio experience that is actually moving, no matter where you're moving to at the time.

All that audio prowess and it's a top phone 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 that lets you control volume and more with Jedi-like hand gestures without even touching the phone. Ideal for that tongue-melting spicy chicken wing and ear-melting metal music combination, where dirty digits might otherwise stop you upping the volume to ear-splitting levels for that solo.

Best phones for music 2019: Samsung Galaxy S10+

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy S10+

This is the best phone for music 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
UI not for all

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ has a headphone port making it ideal for wired fans but it has so much more. You get that eye watering display, microSD storage expansion and a go-all-day 4,100mAh battery too. Yet it's the audio quality we love this phone for thanks to its well-balanced and fine detail packing sound reproduction. 

Plus you can 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 2019: Apple iPhone XR

(Image credit: Apple)

3. Apple iPhone XR

The one 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

The iPhone XR is a more affordable way to get an Apple iPhone with that edge-to-edge screen without pushing your budget to its edge. For that Apple privilege you will have to sacrifice storage expansion and headphone port but with an adapter you can still go wired. Apple, thanks to making hardware and software from scratch, manages to offer a device that can produce genuinely high quality audio that sounds clear, smooth and unfiltered to your ears. 

The entertaining audio that delivers a true musical sound is partly thanks to plenty of processing power. 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 2019: OnePlus 7 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

4. OnePlus 7 Pro

Listen for longer with excellent battery life

Weight: 206g | Dimensions: 162.6 x 75.9 x 8.8mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.67-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3120 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 6/8/12GB | Storage: 128/256GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 16MP + 8MP | Front camera: 16MP

Excellent battery life
Superb screen
Pricey for a OnePlus
Pop-up selfie camera not quick enough for everyone

If you've spent on a contract that gets you unlimited data and want to stream music all day then you'll need the battery performance to back that. The OnePlus 7, despite not having the biggest battery at 4,000mAh, is a real shower, not a grower. It's performance is one of the best out there right now and will have you listening for days without the need to lug a battery pack about with you – for the phone at least, your headphones are another matter.

The 48MP camera, decent price that undercuts the big dogs, 6.67-inch display and up to 256GB of storage make this a superb phone choice in general, not just for that stand-out battery performance.

Best phones for music 2019: Huawei Mate 20 X 5G

(Image credit: Huawei)

5. Huawei Mate 20 X 5G

Rocking 5G? This is the phone for you

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

Streaming high-quality music through services like Tidal is great, when on 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 2019: Nokia 3310

(Image credit: Nokia)

6. Nokia 3310

The best budget smartphone 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

2.5G connectivity

Not only does it have a compact and cool retro look, the refreshed 3310 keeps your tunes blasting for days.

The phone’s 1,200mAh battery isn't the biggest, but wrapped within this glorified feature phone it offers an unbelievable 51 hours of continuous music playback.

Want something small? Want to upgrade your parents' old Nokias? Are you a drug baron who wants a reliable burner phone? 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 2019: Apple iPhone X

(Image credit: Apple)

7. Apple iPhone X

Take a budget 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 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 2019: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

(Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Get a high-end Android phone for less

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 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 a driver on the bottom, and the earpiece speaker now outputs audio too, avoiding the lopsided effect of a single driver array. 

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