- Friends & family vacations
- Festival circuit
- Road trips
- City exploration
- Hiking and camping
What’s your favorite type of vacation? Beaches or mountains, cities or the countryside, museums over festivals? No matter how you prefer to spend your well-earned time off this summer, you’ll most likely bring a smartphone to document your adventures and keep you entertained. However, not all smartphones are equally well suited to every type of vacation. To help you in your selection of the best device for your purposes, we have dived deep into the results of our smartphone camera, audio, battery and display protocols, and compiled a list of the best smartphones for every type of vacation type.
Friends & family vacations
There are lots of great photo opportunities on a typical vacation with friends and family, kids jumping in the pool, the group gathered around the barbecue in the evening, a family bike ride and other leisure activities. All these situations create different challenges for smartphone cameras, and you want to make sure your device is capable of surpassing them all.
Given that a large proportion of photos and videos will include human subjects, the camera has to offer great portrait capabilities, with nice skin tone rendering and good subject exposure in all light conditions, but also be capable of freezing motion on moving subjects. A wide depth of field should help maintain good sharpness on all subjects in group shots, and video clips should come with a high-quality audio track that allows for good intelligibility of voices.
When viewing the recorded memories of the trip in a group, the display should offer a wide viewing angle, so everyone gets a good view, and the built-in speakers should provide good sound quality when playing back recorded video clips as well as movies or other entertainment videos.
Huawei P60 Pro
The Huawei P60 Pro features an outstanding camera that does an excellent job in pretty much any situation and is a perfect choice for taking pictures and recording videos of friends and family. Portraits come with accurate skin tones, and the P60 Pro is extremely good at balancing exposure in difficult conditions, for example backlit portraits. It also excels at freezing motion and capturing sharp subjects in dynamic scenes, even in low light. The innovative variable aperture keeps everyone in a group shot in focus, thanks to an expanded depth of field when multiple faces are detected in a scene.
Honor Magic5 Pro
Honor’s latest flagship smartphone is an excellent choice for photographing family and friends, thanks to accurate skin tones and high levels of detail, even in difficult light. In video mode, the autofocus keeps track of moving family members in all light conditions and recorded clips come with good face exposure, nice contrast, and an excellent balance between texture retention and noise reduction. Audio playback is good across the board, allowing for a pleasant sound experience when watching video content.
Google Pixel 7
The Google Pixel 7 is the most affordable option in this category but still captures consistently good images and videos of friends and family, thanks to good skin-tone rendering and natural contrast in all conditions. In addition, the excellent autofocus helps keep your subjects in focus. Video watching is great, especially with HDR content, thanks to adapted brightness and contrast. However, color shifts are visible when viewing at an angle, so the experience is best for those with the straightest view onto the screen. Sound playback quality with videos is decent but still leaves some room for improvement.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Apple’s current flagship phone comes with a camera that is excellent for capturing memories of friends and family, thanks to photos and videos with natural contrasts and accurate skin tones in all conditions. Fast capture ensures you won’t miss the decisive moment and a wide depth of field keeps all subjects in group shots in focus. The display is excellent overall, making it a great option for consuming video content, but when viewed at an angle color shifts can occur. Thanks to the wideness and energy of the audio track, the sound experience when watching videos is great as well.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into Trash Metal, Reggaeton or the London Philharmonics, all types of music festivals require a fairly unique mix of device capabilities in order to make the most of the day and come back home with a good selection of digital memories on your storage. When viewing recorded videos back home, those guitar riffs should sound just like they did in front of the stage. The photos and videos of your favorite band jumping on stage should be well-exposed and sharp.
In order to achieve this, the device has to provide great audio recording quality with the main camera, especially at the high sound pressure levels that you are likely to encounter at a rock or electronic music concert. At open-air events good wind noise reduction is a must-have as well.
Good video quality, with effective stabilization, is required for recording your favorite acts on stage. A good tele zoom allows you to get closer to the performers both when recording video clips and snapping still images. Festival days can be long, so good battery life is essential. And if you do ever run out of juice, you want to make sure you can recharge to a high battery level in very little time, to not miss out on any acts.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung’s current flagship phone really ticks all the boxes for this category, making it an excellent option for recording at concerts and festivals. Audio recording quality is very good, including at high sound pressure levels as they are usually encountered at concerts and similarly loud events. An effective wind noise reduction feature ensures good results even in gusty conditions. The camera delivers great results in most conditions but excels particularly at long-range zoom, making it ideal for capturing performers on stage. In addition, the very good battery autonomy of nearly 67 hours in moderate use means you won’t have to worry about carrying a power bank or finding a power outlet on the festival grounds.
Apple iPhone 14
The Apple iPhone 14’s audio recordings feature a pleasant sound signature and deal well with the loud volumes and high sound pressure levels of concerts and music festivals. A decent wind noise reduction feature helps improve audio recording quality further. Like all current iPhones, the 14 is capable of recording excellent videos and capturing nice still images, but the lack of a dedicated tele lens means you will have to accept a noticeable loss of image quality when zooming in closer to the performers on stage. It’s also worth keeping in mind that battery autonomy is low when using the camera, so an occasional recharge might be required if the festival day is long.
Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G is a more affordable device than the Galaxy S23 Ultra or iPhone 14 which means that compromises will have to be made in some areas. As a sound recording device the A54 5G delivers a solid performance across a wide range of use cases, including recording concerts, but the built-in microphones are slightly prone to wind noise.
The camera produces well-exposed images and videos but the lack of a tele lens means zooming in results in a loss of image quality. Battery autonomy is good under moderate use and overall the Samsung is a very decent smartphone option in its price bracket for festival-goers.
Alongside the Galaxy A54, the Xiaomi 12T is one of the more affordable options in this list. Although it’s not a flagship-level product, it is still a very good option in its price segment. In terms of audio recording, it’s best for recording vocals in quiet environments but performs fairly poorly with loud sources, making it only suitable for recording at quieter events. On the plus side, an effective wind noise reduction allows for recording in windy conditions.
The camera delivers a pleasant photo and video performance with good noise management and accurate autofocus, but image quality suffers when applying tele zoom. Battery autonomy is not the best we have seen, but the Xiaomi is capable of charging very quickly, so a few minutes plugged into a power outlet will expand your recording time quite significantly.
During long hours on the road, smartphones provide valuable entertainment options to passengers. Good display and audio playback quality make for a great video- and movie-watching experience. A long battery life and good quick charging capabilities help keep devices running until the destination has been reached.
For the occasional drive-by snapshot of a tourist site, the camera should be capable of limiting motion blur to a minimum and capture good image quality in all light conditions, from bright daylight to low light when driving in dim conditions.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra offers an outstanding display experience when watching videos, with good brightness and pleasant colors. Audio quality is great, too, with a nice timbre and a deep and powerful bass. Excellent battery autonomy means you can keep going a long time between recharges and the camera’s autofocus is fast enough to capture the decisive moment, with good color and exposure across all light conditions.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Apple’s latest top-of-the-range model is an excellent device to take on a road trip, thanks to an overall excellent display that is particularly good at video playback, with contrast tuning that renders videos close to the artistic intent. Immersive audio with great wideness and energy adds to the video consumption experience on the Apple. Battery autonomy is excellent, too, allowing for more than 20 hours of continuous video watching, and the camera is capable of capturing nice images in any light condition you could possibly encounter along the way.
Google Pixel 7 Pro or Pixel 7
Google’s latest Pixel phones offer an overall very good display experience when watching videos, especially when consuming HDR10 content, with good brightness and color. The audio track comes with a good and clear tonal balance, as well as a consistent timbre at all volume levels, completing an excellent movie-watching experience. Battery autonomy when streaming video is decent as well, more than 17 hours in the case of the 7 Pro, and the camera experience is consistently good across all use cases, ensuring excellent holiday pictures along the way.
Honor Magic5 Lite
We’ve also included the Honor Magic5 Lite on this list for its extremely long battery life when watching video. More than 22 hours of continuous video consumption on one charge is outstanding, making the Honor your best bet when charging options are scarce.
Activities during an urban vacation can be extremely varied, creating the need for a versatile mobile device that is very capable across a wide range of areas. The camera has to be capable of producing good image quality across all light conditions, in bright daylight, under indoor conditions and in very low light, for example when shooting cityscapes at night. A wide field of view on the ultra-wide camera is very useful for architectural photography in narrow city streets, and so is a good tele for zooming into the details of urban life.
During visits to museum, galleries and similar indoor locations, good indoor performance of the display is key and a good battery life and quick charging capabilities help you keep going all day long.
Huawei P60 Pro
The Huawei P60 Pro comes with one of the very best cameras we have seen on a smartphone. Still-image quality and video quality are great overall and outstanding in low light, making the Huawei an ideal imaging tool for any city trip. The ultra-wide camera’s very wide field of view lets you squeeze a lot of scene into the frame. The ultra-wide also captures excellent detail and low levels of image noise. In general, the level of detail is high across the entire zoom range, allowing for great images of subjects at all distances.
Xiaomi 13 Ultra
The Xiaomi 13 Ultra camera delivers consistently excellent image quality across the entire zoom rage, with good exposure, a wide dynamic range and natural rendering of detail, even in low light. The ultra-wide camera offers a wider field of view than most competitors, with accurate exposure, fairly neutral white balance, and well-controlled image artifacts. Its versatility makes the 13 Pro an ideal imaging companion on a city break.
Honor Magic5 Pro
The Honor Magic5 Pro camera captures great detail and is excellent for low light photography, with accurate colors and good exposure even in night shots. The zoom delivers great image quality across all settings, from ultra-wide to tele, offering a lot of flexibility when composing images of urban scenes. The display is also well suited for city trip use, offering good brightness and readability in all light conditions, including indoors.
Hiking and camping
Lovers of the great outdoors want a mobile device with a camera that is capable of capturing great landscape shots with the main camera or ultra-wide, as well nice macros when getting close to plant life or even small animals. The display has to offer good readability in bright sunlight and good audio playback quality with the built-in speakers allows for musical entertainment during picnic stops or back at camp after a long day of hiking. Out in the wild, far from any power outlets, battery life is paramount as well.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Thanks to good detail, nice colors and a wide dynamic range the iPhone 14 Pro Max camera is an excellent option for landscape photography. Readability of the display is excellent, including in sunlight, where the iPhone screen manages impressive brightness levels and nice color rendering. Battery autonomy is excellent, with more than 64 hours in moderate use, meaning there is no need for battery packs on shorter trips into the wild. Musical entertainment at the campfire is ensured as well, thanks to good audio playback with a pleasantly wide sound scene and energy.
Honor Magic5 Pro
The Honor’s camera delivers good exposure, nice color and high levels of detail, making it a great tool for taking landscape shots of the great outdoors. The phone’s display offers good brightness and readability in all light conditions, even in bright sunlight which is great for outdoor use. In addition, the Magic5 Pro is great for listening to music, thanks to a natural and pleasant tonal balance, good dynamics performance and a wide sound scene.
Huawei P60 Pro
The Huawei P60 Pro camera is outstanding in all conditions and use cases, including landscape photography, capturing great detail, nice colors and a wide dynamic range. If you need to squeeze more scene into the frame, the ultra-wide camera won’t disappoint with its 13mm field of view, good fine detail rendering and low levels of image noise. The Huawei is also an excellent option for macro photography, using its tele lens to keep some distance to the subject, which is essential with living subjects and helps prevent shading the scene with the device.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
We have included the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in this list specifically for its macro photography capabilities and great display. In its macro camera mode, the Samsung captures close-ups with great detail and nice color, making it a great option for capturing small subject in the nature surrounding you. The phone’s display offers great readability and color fidelity in all light conditions, making sure you can see the contents of your screen even in bright sunlight.