smartphone – How to select a cell phone (mobile phone) that will have the best camera hardware and software?

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I had the opportunity to attend a few art gallery openings that featured photography.

What surprised me was that some of the photographs were taken using cell phones (aka mobile phones, smartphones, and cameraphones). What surprised me even more was that some of these photos were enlarged to over 2m wide, and still looked good.

My first quality camera was medium format (followed by large format), so this was a real eye-opening experience for me.

As all photographers know, the foremost challenge to taking a good photograph is actually having a camera with you when you see an opportunity.

Cell phones have given us an easy-to-carry and portable solution to almost always have a camera (and even a short-range flash!) with us. But finding a cell phone with quality camera hardware and software can be challenging. Four issues make this especially challenging:

  1. Cell phone models are constantly being introduced, making previous comparative reviews less valuable.
  2. Cell phone brands and model availability are not consistent around the world. This is partly because different technologies and frequencies are used in different regions.
  3. Cell phone prices vary considerably, and different people have different budgets. Phone XYZ might technically offer the best combination of hardware and software, but it might be twice the price of a device that is 99% as good.
  4. The cameras of many cell phones get great reviews because they generate reasonable quality images if you never enlarge your photographs. But once you enlarge them to sizes appropriate for hanging in a gallery, quality often (but definitely not always) degrades to unacceptable levels.

Taking the above into consideration, how does a photographer select a cell phone that will have the best camera hardware and software that will meet their desires (those desires, of course, tempered by an understanding of the current limits of technology, manufacturing, and form factor)?