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The best phones for 2024: Expert tested

We tested the best phones (both iPhones and Androids) and found the top picks to satisfy power users, budget shoppers, foldable enthusiasts, and more.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Reviewed by Nina Raemont
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra | Best phone overall
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra on purple background
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Best phone overall
View now View at Samsung
Google Pixel 8 Pro | Best camera phone
Google Pixel 8 Pro Actua Display
Google Pixel 8 Pro
Best camera phone
View now View at Best Buy
OnePlus Open | Best tablet-style foldable phone
OnePlus Open folded open on energy yellow background
OnePlus Open
Best tablet-style foldable phone
View now View at Amazon
Asus Zenfone 10 | Best compact phone
Asus Zenfone 10 in hand
Asus Zenfone 10
Best compact phone
View now View at Amazon
Nothing Phone 2a | Best budget phone
nothing-phone-2a-zdnet-9
Nothing Phone 2a
Best budget phone
View now View at Nothing
iPhone 15 Pro Max | Best iPhone overall
iPhone 15 Pro photo taken with iPhone 15 Pro Max in portrait mode
iPhone 15 Pro Max
Best iPhone overall
View now View at Apple
OnePlus 12 | Best fast-charging phone
OnePlus 12
OnePlus 12
Best fast-charging phone
View now View at Amazon
Motorola Razr Plus | Best flip-style foldable phone
Motorola Razr 2023 in hand
Motorola Razr Plus
Best flip-style foldable phone
View now View at Lenovo
Show more (3 items)

There are so many different and unique smartphones available on the market today that choosing the best one may not be as straightforward as it seems. That's why I've done all the dirty work, having tested and reviewed just about every major handset released over the past year to give you this definitive list of your best options right now.

What is the best phone right now?

The best phone overall goes to Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra for its immersive and vibrant display, reliable battery life, and wealth of special features, some of which are powered by the company's new generative AI model. Of course, the best phone overall may not exactly be the best phone for you. For the other top options, see the list below.

The best phones of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Best display available in any smartphone
  • Reliable quad-camera setup
  • Battery life remains among best in class
  • AI features deliver new value
Cons
  • Costs more than some premium laptops
  • No Qi2 magnetic charging
  • Can be unwieldy for some, especially with a case
More Details

Samsung's latest Galaxy S24 line is the first to go all-in on AI, and the S24 Ultra, the most premium of the three, is the best Android phone today. The new Galaxy AI model embedded in the device brings a host of generative capabilities, including real-time phone call translations, the ability to circle an object on screen to perform an image-based Google search, AI-assisted photo editing and transcriptions, and even a Chat Assist feature for figuring out how to phrase a message in different tones.

Like its predecessor, the S23 Ultra, the S24 Ultra is built with a large 6.8-inch AMOLED display and a reliable 5,000mAh battery. Though the price has gone up to $1,299 ($100 more than the S23 Ultra), the phone's upgrades make it well worth it: The S24 Ultra is made of a lightweight yet durable titanium frame, compared to last year's aluminum, and features Corning's new Gorilla Armor. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

The difference in display protection means the S24 Ultra is more glare-free than ever, which ZDNET reviewer Jason Hiner suggested: "makes its screen more enjoyable to use than the iPhone 15 Pro Max and other flagship phones." Reddit users seem to agree with Hiner, including one who said he believes "the anti-reflective glass really makes a difference."

Under the hood, the S24 Ultra includes an upgraded Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset for improved graphics and AI features, 12GB RAM (an increase from last year's 8GB), and 2,600 nits of brightness -- a big improvement over last year's 1,750. As for the new camera system, the big upgrade comes in the form of a 50MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom. The results, as Hiner discovered, were sharper and less noisy images, and an overall camera system that can pull in more light than ever before.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 | Display size: 6.8 inches | Storage options: Up to 1TB | Rear cameras: 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 50MP telephoto (5x), 10MP telephoto (3x) | Front camera: 12MP | Battery: 5,000mAh

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Quality cameras all across the board
  • Plenty of useful AI features
  • 5,050mAh battery with LTPO display
  • Priced to undercut the larger iPhone and Samsung Galaxy
Cons
  • Stock Android can feel too minimal
  • Capped at 30W fast charging
  • Costs $100 more than last year's model
More Details

When it comes to camera performance, you really can't go wrong with any of the flagship devices from the big three (Apple, Samsung, and Google). Depending on your preference for color temperature and feature set, you may lean towards one manufacturer over the other. But more often than not, it's Google's Pixel camera system that satisfies the most users, and the latest Pixel 8 Pro remains a champion both for instant capturing and post-processing. 

The latest model features a reliable triple lens setup, with a 50MP primary lens, a 48MP ultrawide that's notably more capable at capturing macro and close-up photos than the 12MP sensor on the older Pixel 7 Pro model, and a 48MP telephoto lens for far-distance shots. Should you want more finite control over the Pixel 8 Pro's camera quality, there's now a series of Pro controls that allow you to tweak capture settings like the exposure and shutter speed.

ReviewGoogle Pixel 8 Pro

But real-time capturing is only half the battle with mobile photography; there's also post-processing and how flexible devices are with editing and tweaking subjects around. In that regard, the Pixel 8 Pro, powered by a new Tensor G3 chipset, may just have the most flexible and creative photo toolbox on the market, with AI features like Magic Editor, Photo Unblur, and Best Take that can turn any bad photo into a good one. When I tested the camera system last year, I found its stabilization and HDR capabilities just as impressive.

All in all, the Pixel 8 Pro has one of the most versatile camera systems on the market, with an output that's balanced in color and generally satisfying to look at. One satisfied Reddit user even says "The camera is a joy, and definitely prefer the look on this over the iPhone."  

Google Pixel 8 Pro tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor G3 | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 48MP telephoto | Front camera: 10.8MP

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Lightest and thinnest foldable design
  • Intuitive multitasking and productivity features
  • 65W fast charging will spoil you
  • 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage is the base level
Cons
  • $1,699 is still pricey, even if it undercuts the competition
  • No IP68 rating and wireless charging support
More Details

The number of foldable phones on the market has never been higher, thanks to the collective effort of just about every manufacturer, including Google with its Pixel Fold, Motorola with its Razr lineup, and OnePlus with the OnePlus Open. While Samsung has held the reins of the best foldable honor for years, I'm giving the top spot right now to the OnePlus Open. 

Unlike its competitors, the OnePlus Open strikes the best balance of weight-to-size ratio. When folded, the phone is as light as an iPhone, and when unfolded, it expands into a thin slate of visual goodness. OnePlus leverages the 7.8-inch display by offering some of the most intuitive multitasking features I've tested, headlined by "Open Canvas." With it, you can open up to three apps at once, and as you tap into each one, the other one or two will tuck itself to the side, ready to reappear when needed.

Review: OnePlus Open

The triple camera setup, while presented in a casing that sticks out more than I'd prefer, captures spectacular photos and videos, with an emphasis on blue and orangish hues that cinematographers and photography buffs know and love. By nature of the foldable form factor, the Open is also capable of taking hands-free selfies and group photos.

OnePlus got the fundamentals down pat with the Open, too, including 65W fast charging capabilities (with a charger in the box) that blow past Samsung's Z Fold 5 and Google's Pixel Fold standards, a base configuration of 16GB RAM and 512GB storage, and a crease-less inner display. The cherry on top for me is its $1,699 price tag. One Amazon customer even says the Open was a surprisingly smooth entryway into Android, "after going with just iPhones since the iPhone 7."

OnePlus Open tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 | Display size: 6.3 inches and 7.8 inches | Storage options: 512GB | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 64MP telephoto| Front camera: 32MP (outer) and 20MP (inner)

There's no denying that, over the past five years, smartphones have become more and more unwieldy. Apple now offers Plus and Max-sized iPhones, Samsung has an "Ultra" beast, and even Google has a foldable that opens up to 7.6 inches. On the other end of the spectrum sits the Asus Zenfone 10, a device that deviates from the norm in favor of ergonomics and in-hand comfort, and the decision pays off.

Compared to its predecessor, the Asus Zenfone 9, which I called "the iPhone Mini alternative for Android enthusiasts," the newest model features a compact 5.9-inch AMOLED display, all the power you'd need in a modern-day phone thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, and two capable cameras on the rear.

Review: Asus Zenfone 10

The battery life on the Asus holds up surprisingly well, too, with my review unit recording nearly two days of usage before hitting 0%. Some smaller yet significant details to note include the 3.5mm headphone jack on top, a physical side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a texturized back cover that looks and feels great in the hand. If you're planning to buy the Zenfone 10, multiple Reddit users have suggested to "get the 512GB version because there is no SD card slot," which I fully agree with.

Asus Zenfone 10 specs: Screen size: 5.9 inches | Storage: Up to 512GB | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 | Panel type: AMOLED | Color: Black, Blue, Hazel, White, Red | Battery life: 4,300mAh | Water and dust resistant: IP68 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Competitively priced at under $350
  • Large and bright 120Hz AMOLED display
  • Long-lasting 5,000mAh battery
  • Uniquely designed with Glyph Interface
Cons
  • Lack of wireless charging
  • Camera system is just passable
  • Must buy through Developer Program in the US
More Details

Nothing Phone 2a tech specs: Processor: Mediatek Dimensity 7200 Pro | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: 128GB, 256GB | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 50MP ultrawide| Front camera: 32MP

If bang for your buck is what you're after, consider the Nothing Phone 2a. There are really three key reasons why you should buy the Nothing Phone 2a over any other sub-$500 phone: For $349, you get a fantastic 6.7-inch AMOLED display that ramps up to 120Hz refresh rate, a beefy 5,000mAh battery, and Nothing's signature Gylph Interface design that beeps and glows depending on the notification your phone receives.

Clearly, Nothing knows what features its user base values the most, and even if you have preferences beyond that list, my time testing the Phone 2a has left me with enough confidence to recommend it to most people, even if budget isn't a priority. Coming from the older Phone 1, the latest model features a more durable plastic build (versus glass), a more performant MediaTek Dimensity 7200 chipset, and an improved camera system. Reddit user, u/arthav10100, described the Phone 2a best when they said, "It's refreshing, feels compact, and gives that ideal budget phone vibe."

Review: Nothing Phone 2a

A $349 asking price for any phone means that tradeoffs are bound to happen. In this case, Nothing's made very strategic ones, such as the omission of wireless charging (which the fast wired charging will make up for for most people), the lack of an IP68 water and dust resistance, and the lack of 5G bands for carriers like Verizon. For what it's worth, I've been testing the phone on T-Mobile and AT&T networks and it's worked great for those two. Lastly, keep in mind that you will have to apply for Nothing's Developer Program to buy the Phone 2a, as opposed to just walking into a brick-and-mortar or shopping on Amazon.

Nothing Phone 2a tech specs: Processor: Mediatek Dimensity 7200 Pro | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: 128GB, 256GB | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 50MP ultrawide| Front camera: 32MP

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Action button brings new customizability
  • Lighter, more comfortable form factor
  • Brighter screen for better outdoor use
  • 5X zoom camera for high-quality shots
Cons
  • Battery life could be longer
  • Apple-branded cases, especially the FineWoven, need to be better
More Details

The latest iPhone 15 Pro Max offers everything a premium flagship smartphone should, including a brilliant 6.7-inch AMOLED display for all the media consumption -- and mobile productivity, of course. This year's model also looks and feels different than any prior Pro Max devices, as it's made of titanium instead of stainless steel and, therefore, significantly lighter in the hand. This makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max noticeably more comfortable to use, as ZDNET Editor-in-Chief Jason Hiner noted in his review.

Another major feature of the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the USB-C connector; particularly, one that supports faster charging and data transfers and can charge other devices including the Apple Watch from your iPhone, directly transfer photos and videos into a portable SSD, and connect to an external 4K monitor. These benefits are game-changing for professional content creators.

Review: iPhone 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also features a new 5x zoom camera lens -- the equivalent of a 120mm focal length on a mirrorless or DSLR camera. The far-distance capturing and improved low-light performance of the new camera system has been so reliable that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has become my go-to for video recording during product launch events. Lastly, a new Action button replaces the mute-switch toggle of older iPhones and lets you better customize shortcuts and easily open the apps you need, including firing up the camera with a press-and-hold.

And the A17 Pro chip rounds out the year's upgrades, offering improved graphical performance over last year's iPhone 14 Pro model. Multiple Best Buy customers have attested to the iPhone's improved performance, with one citing, "No glitches have come up in the several weeks I've had the phone." Given all the upgrades, Apple is charging you more for the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max, with a starting price that's now been bumped up to $1,199. In turn, the device comes with a base storage of 256GB.

iPhone 15 Pro Max tech specs: Processor: A17 Pro | Display size: 6.7 inches | Storage options: Up to 1TB | Rear cameras: 48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto (2x), 12MP telephoto (5x) | Front camera: 12MP

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Snappy and smooth performance
  • 80W in the US with charger in the box
  • Premium build quality for the price
  • Competitive main camera for photos
Cons
  • IP65 rating is not as water resistant as flagship phones
  • Curved glass/frame design can be slippery for some
  • Video recording is not the best
More Details

OnePlus has had its ups and downs over the past four years, pivoting from value-driven smartphones to ultra-premium and then back to square one with last year's OnePlus 11. This year, it's doubling down on its value-driven flagships. 

The OnePlus 12 starts at $899, which undercuts its closest competitors, the $999 Samsung Galaxy S24 Plus and Google Pixel 8 Pro, and here's everything you get for the price: a large 6.8-inch AMOLED 120Hz display, a 5,400mAh battery, a triple camera setup with a competent 50MP main lens at the helm, the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, and more. Again: $899, and that's before the $100 discount when you trade in any phone in any condition to OnePlus. Take advantage of that. 

Review: OnePlus 12

Putting the value aspect aside, the OnePlus 12 shines with its charging speed, something you'll quickly take for granted once you realize that phones don't have to be sitting by an outlet for two hours every day. The 80W wired charging on the phone can power it from 0 to 50% within 10 minutes. A full charge takes less than 30 minutes. "80W fast charging is life-changing," a satisfied Best Buy customer adds.

Just as impressive is the OnePlus 12's new 50W wireless charging, a feature many users have been asking for and was sorely missed on last year's model. While the OnePlus 12 is not as "all in" on generative AI features, it offers a well-rounded, high-performing Android experience for a couple of hundred dollars less than other flagship phones.

OnePlus 12 tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 | Display size: 6.8 inches | Storage options: Up to 512GB | Rear cameras: 50MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 64MP telephoto| Front camera: 16MP

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Large cover screen is a phone in and of itself
  • Incredibly compact
  • First dust-resistant foldable
  • Form factor lends itself to creative camera features
Cons
  • Battery is just good enough for a day of use
  • Repair solutions remain up in the air
  • Undeniably more fragile than the typical slab phone
More Details

Phones are getting faster and more powerful, but they're also taking up more space in our pockets. That's why the Motorola Razr Plus shines in the sea of modern smartphones. This is a clamshell-style foldable, to be clear, meaning it shape-shifts from a smaller 3.6-inch display figure to a larger 6.9-inch size when you need it. Naturally, when folded, the phone is no larger than a card slot wallet.

Review: Motorola Razr Plus (2023)

Despite its small stature, the Motorola Razr Plus packs a lot of features and performance, as I discovered during my weeks of testing. The handset is powered by an older Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor but is still capable of running the typical slew of apps and services like Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, games, and more. Thanks to the larger external display (up from 2.7 inches of the previous model), you can run the same programs without ever needing to flip open the phone. An Amazon customer notes, "I get a lot of use of the external screen, and having the phone open halfway comes in handy a lot more than I would have thought."

This quote from my full review sums up my thoughts: "Razr Plus is Motorola's return to form, modernizing a classic flip phone into one of today's best foldables." While the aforementioned OnePlus Open remains the best in its class, the Razr Plus is just as considerable if you want a dual-screen handset for a fraction of the price.

Motorola Razr Plus tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 | Display size: 3.6 inches and 6.9 inches | Storage options: 256GB | Rear cameras: 12MP main, 13MP ultrawide | Front camera: 32MP

What is the best phone?

Our pick for the best phone overall is the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. It features everything you could want from a smartphone including a large display, four cameras that can shoot 200MP photos and 8K video, up to 1TB of storage, a built-in S Pen for writing and drawing, and a 5,000mAh battery powering the system. Here's how the S24 Ultra fares with the rest of our top picks.

Best phone model

Price

Storage

Screen size

Battery size

Processor

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

$1,299

Up to 1TB

6.8 inches

5,000mAh

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3

iPhone 15 Pro Max

$1,099

Up to 1TB

6.7 inches

4,323mAh

A17 Bionic

Google Pixel 8 Pro

$999

Up to 1TB

6.7 inches

5,050mAh

Google Tensor G3

OnePlus Open

$1,699

512GB

6.3 inches and 7.8 inches

5,000mAh

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

Motorola Razr Plus

$999

256GB

3.6 inches and 6.9 inches

3,800mAh

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1

Nothing Phone 2a

$349

128GB

6.7 inches

5,000mAh

MediaTek Dimensity 7200

OnePlus 12

$799

Up to 512GB

6.8 inches

5,400mAh

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3

Asus Zenfone 10

$699

Up to 512GB

5.9-inch

4,300mAh

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

Which is the right phone for you?

Choosing a phone can be a daunting task. But having a list of your must-have features can go a long way toward narrowing down your options. If you're a mobile professional or travel a lot for work, you'll want to choose a phone that can provide you with at least a full day of use on a full battery as well as both LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity. 

If you're looking for your teen's first smartphone, a budget-friendly and less feature-heavy option may be better to prevent overspending as well as misuse. And if you're a content creator or other creative professional, you'll want a phone with an excellent front and rear camera to capture photos and videos for your social media feed.

Choose this best phone...

If you want...

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A no-compromise smartphone that virtually any type of user can take advantage of. It's the only 2024 smartphone with a built-in stylus.

iPhone 15 Pro Max

The best iPhone money can buy. It has a large screen, the longest-lasting battery out of all the models, and a toolbox of a camera system.

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A flagship camera experience at your fingertips. The Pixel 8 Pro differentiates itself with a slew of AI-powered camera tricks like Magic Editor and Best Take.

OnePlus Open

The best phone-to-tablet foldable that money can buy. And if you're a power user, the multitasking and charging features especially will serve you well.

Motorola Razr Plus

A flip-style foldable that's both compact and performant. With a large 3.6-inch external display and the market's first dust-resistant build, this is the foldable to buy for most people. 

Nothing Phone 2a

A more budget-friendly smartphone that doesn't compromise on performance and battery life. The Phone 2a also has a unique grip-enhanced design, with Nothing's signature Glyph Interface on the back for an LED-based alert system.

OnePlus 12

A phone that lasts long and charges from 0% to 100% in just 30 minutes. The OnePlus 12 is quietly good value, too, starting at $799.

Asus Zenfone 10

A compact phone that's easy to pocket but doesn't compromise on performance and specs. The Zenfone 10 is also competitively priced, starting at $699.

Factors to consider when choosing a phone

The process of making our phone selections includes real-world testing and researching about the phones for weeks, consulting with colleagues, industry experts, and analysts who also have hands-on experience with the smartphones, and then selecting the best from all of the available choices. 

Ultimately, we weigh in the following aspects when curating this list:

  • Design: There's only so much you can do with a slab design, but size differences, material choices, color options, and even the ability to bend a screen in half give shoppers enough diversity to have a preference. That's why we have a recommendation for every form factor.
  • Performance: For many, smartphones are the center of our lives, which means the best ones are performant and can handle most, if not all, tasks you throw at them.
  • Camera: Arguably the most valuable feature of a smartphone; the consistency and reliability of a camera system can make or break the overall mobile experience. We test every device in broad daylight and in the darkest of nights when finalizing this list.
  • Battery: Every option in this guide should last you at least a day of moderate use. We also consider what devices support fast charging and/or wireless charging.
  • Value: Price points are noted, but the most important thing with buying a phone is getting your money's worth. With these picks, you can rest assured that you're getting the best bang for your buck. 

How we test phones

ZDNET's review team spends upwards of a year testing the ins and outs of every major phone release, evaluating the day-to-day performance, camera quality, battery life and endurance, and special features. Performance testing includes real-world usage scenarios like social media browsing, taking phone calls, playing games, and emailing. Throughout the year, we pit the latest devices with their closest competitors, including the Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus, and iPhone.

You can go more in-depth with each model mentioned in this article through ZDNET's dedicated product spotlight or review, which breaks down specifics like battery life, software experience, and durability.

What is the #1 best phone?

As mentioned above, the best phone right now is the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which features just about everything you could want in a mobile computing device. From the large and vibrant display to the generative AI features to the quad-camera setup, there's no device on the market that checks more boxes than Samsung's latest Ultra flagship.

Which phone is best for money?

Besides the ones listed above, the OnePlus 12R is another great pick for the money. At $499, the device features a large 6.7-inch display with 120Hz refresh rate, a 50MP main camera system, a 5,500mAh battery that beats that of higher-cost devices, and 80W wired charging. The real kicker is OnePlus' aggressive trade-in offer, with the company discounting $100 when you turn in any phone in any condition, effectively bringing the 12R's price down to $399.

Which phone has the best camera?

It's debatable between the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Google Pixel 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. For long-distance shots, Samsung's 200MP rear camera with 100x Space Zoom can capture subjects as far out as the moon. For point-and-shoot pictures and a rather simplified (but effective) camera experience, Google's Pixel phones have always been at the top. If you're a videographer at heart, then the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with Cinematic mode and Action mode, makes for an excellent tool to get the shots you need.

How long should a phone battery last?

The average phone battery gives you about 22 hours of use on a full charge, which is great for staying connected on your commutes, work flights, and at home in the evenings. But that's just the average, actual use time varies by phone model and by what you're using your phone for. 

For example, the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts a 29-hour battery life. But you'll most certainly get less than that if you habitually scroll through social media or stream video and music. 

How much storage should my phone have?

Most smartphones have a base storage capacity of 128GB, which is plenty of space for average users to download apps and music, take photos, and shoot videos. However, if you're a mobile or creative professional, you'll need more space. Many smartphones have expanded storage options up to 512GB or even 1TB, and you can always sync your phone to your preferred cloud storage service to free up local storage space.

Other phones we tested

Whether you're looking to upgrade or get your first smartphone, Apple, Samsung, and OnePlus have great choices that ZDNET's tested and recommends.

View at AmazonView at OnePlusView at Best Buy
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