With so many different (yet similar) smartphones from so many brands from across the globe, one may start feeling a bit lost. Which one of those many is the best phone you can buy right now, in January 2018?
THERE IS NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL DEVICE
Early 2018 is not a bad time to get a new phone: a few months have passed and all the dust around the new fall flagships has settled and you know what you are buying. Apple has recently introduced three new iPhones, and Samsung, Google and LG have all uncovered their best devices in late 2017.
But there is no definite one-size-fits-all device, as is quite clear these days, and that’s why we explore all the options, trying to help you narrow down the choice to some outstanding devices that we think won’t disappoint you. With no further ado, here are the best phones you can buy right now.
Best phone in a regular size:
Apple iPhone X
Price: $1,000 for 64GB, $1,150 for 256GB
The most advanced iPhone ever built is here: the 10th anniversary iPhone, or simply the iPhone X (where ‘X’ is pronounced as ‘ten), is here. Its biggest advantage over earlier iPhones is in the compact size – it’s just a bit larger than the iPhone 8 while having a much bigger, 5.8-inch screen of the new OLED type that is much bigger and yields much livelier colors. There is one other thing that’s changed: the way you unlock and work with an iPhone. The home button is gone and with it Touch ID is gone as well. Instead, you get a new Face ID feature that uses advanced technology to create a 3D map of your face, so the phone unlocks when you look at it. The interface is all gesture based, the cameras are state of the art (there are two cameras on the back, Portrait Mode, and the tele cam is stabilized, an advantage over the 8 Plus). Also, it costs $1,000.
Apple iPhone 8
Prices: $700 for 64GB, $850 for 256GB
Fast performance with A11 Bionic processor
Impressive colors on display
Smooth and fast iOS 11 user experience, regular updates
Outstanding camera, great video stabilization
Water-proof, louder dual speaker
Higher price than before
No 3.5mm headset jack
Less customization options than on Android
The Apple iPhone 8 is not the most exciting phone – not even most exciting iPhone (that would be the X) – this year, but it’s a solid upgrade that brings a big upgrade in performance with the faster new Apple A11 Bionic chip that also helps improve photo quality in a significant way.
The iPhone 8 now features a glass back and no antenna lines on the back, plus it supports the convenient wireless charging feature. We also love the new storage options: storage has been a big concern with iPhones and the new 64GB and 256GB storage options are definitely liberating.
The iOS ecosystem remains a big reason why one would buy an iPhone: you get guaranteed software updates for years on end, you get the best apps and games first and often exclusively, and the familiar iOS experience is just getting more and more refined.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is in many ways a revolutionary new phone: it features a larger, bezel-less display that takes up nearly all of its front and is gorgeous to look at, it sports an even more refined design, and it has become more powerful and smarter with the addition of the new Bixby assistant.
Yet despite its 5.8-inch display (keep in mind that you should not compare inch size directly with other screens, since this one has a different, taller aspect ratio of 18.5:9), it is not too big: it’s taller, that’s true, but its width is about the same as on the Galaxy S7 predecessor, so it is easy to handle in a single hand. The camera has received some improvements too: it shoots a little brighter images and seems to be able to get more definition in the details. The one thing where we don’t have so much change is the battery: it is good, but not great or revolutionary as other parts of this phone.
Premium design, solid build quality, water protected
No headphone jack
No microSD expansion memory slot
The Google Pixel 2 has finally broken cover, and the new Google phone is all about refinements and improvements.There is one thing that the Pixel 2 is not: a “bezel-less” phone. Quite the opposite, it’s got a big and prominent chin and forehead where two front-firing speakers are located for better sound quality. Under the hood, it rocks the Snapdragon 835 system chip, a market improvement from the Snapdragon 821 of last year.
The back of the Pixel 2 retains the glass accent around the camera, but makes it smaller. What is lacking here is a secondary rear camera, but the main one is improved over what was widely seen as one of the best cameras in the original Pixel. Also, it does support Portrait Mode. Turns out, it was possible even with one camera. Sadly, Google has removed the headphone jack in the Pixel 2, a feature the company touted as an advantage just last year with the original Pixel. On a more positive note: the new Pixel 2 is finally water protected with an IP67 rating, identical to Apple’s iPhone 8.
The Xperia XZ1 is another gradual update in the Xperia series: more refinements, better styling, slightly improved performance and camera. Slightly is the keyword here. But if you like clear Android builds and Sony’s brand and styling, the new XZ1 is its best and it comes with cool and novel 3D scanning functionality as well.
Immersive, bezel-less display with gorgeous colors
Base model has plentiful 64 GB of storage + microSD support
Water proof! Fast charge and wireless charge support
Fastest on Android, Snapdragon 835 system chip
TouchWiz icons look a bit ugly
Good (but not great) battery life
No dual camera system
Body is a fingerprint magnet
The Note 8 is one of the best Samsung phones out there: it’s got the S Pen for added functionality and a secondary camera for portraits and that camera supports stabilization too. But it’s not much different from the S8+ apart from that, it even has a smaller battery because of that S Pen.
The Samsung Galaxy S8+ is the bigger of the two S8 siblings. Unlike Apple’s devices, though, we have no huge differences here except for the larger screen and the bigger battery. The S8+ is the same beautiful, full-screen phone that display an outstanding level of craftsmanship. It also features a bezel-less, 6.2″ display with a 18.5:9 aspect ratio (it’s taller than a regular display) that looks gorgeous. The fingerprint is now on the back alongside the camera. The S8+ comes with a new interface and the brand new context-aware Bixby assistant.
Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Price: $800 for 64GB, $950 for 256GB
Secondary tele camera, Portrait Lighting
Improved photo quality with Pixel-like auto HDR
Glass back, wireless charging
Super fast Apple A11 chip
Louder dual speakers! Water-proof!
Great for gamers, games arrive first on iOS
Physically larger than most its 5.5″ rivals, huge screen bezel
No 3.5mm headset jack
If you can deal with its size, the iPhone 8 Plus is the better iPhone. It has bigger battery and longer battery life, and it features dual cameras with Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting that give you more options for better pictures, and it has more RAM. The fast Apple A11 Bionic chip is a small revolution in processing power on a mobile device as well.
But it’s also costlier: the base model costs $800, while the 256GB one that we recommend carries a whopping $950 price tag. And the design remains decidedly outdated when compared to modern phones with almost no bezel. In contrast, the iPhone 8 Plus still feels huge and uncomfortable to carry in a pocket.
Google’s larger phone, the Pixel 2 XL, is a beautifully crafted device with a “bezel-less” design (but it has more bezel than other similar phones), the latest Android software and hardware, and aspirations to have the best camera ever on a phone.
The hidden highlight of the Pixel XL, however, is without a doubt the stock Android experience with the promise for timely updates in the future and the smooth performance.
LG’s best phone so far, the V30 features a stylish glass and metal styling, an edge-to-edge screen with no annoying notch or any other interruption, and a dual camera system with a super wide-angle camera unlike any other phone.
The V30 is a phone that will make the most demanding techies happy: it has a high-quality audio output to make your expensive headphones pump out sound to their maximum, and it has manual video recording capabilities that will make enthusiast videographers happy. But it’s also a good phone for just any other person in need of a phone. The interface is a bit strange and clunky, and photo quality is not quite the best, but overall the V30 is easy to recommend.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is a big phone with an edge-to-edge screen and a big battery.
It has a stylish glass design with a distinct accent around the camera, it features a great camera and it has a very peculiar, custom Huawei interface. It performs well, but takes some getting used to.
The HTC U11 might have a worthless ‘Squeeze’ gimmick as its most advertized feature, but it’s the outstanding camera, fast performance and good battery life that make it worth a look.
It’s the no-flares flagship of 2017, a phone that still has bezels and that is larger than the taller and narrower “bezel-less” phones around, but that still performs admirably well.
The Essential Phone is the newest competitor on the flagship block and it brings a lot of innovation: a beautiful, exclusive ceramic body with a meticulous fit and finish, a clean Android experience with the promise for timely updates and the latest Snapdragon 835 processor. It’s also got a dual camera setup with a color + monochrome cameras that don’t seem to deliver as great results as one would expect, but updates are promised to fix that. The Essential Phone has also got a curious magnetic attachment port that supports a 360-degree camera at the moment, but has the potential of being a hub for a growing ecosystem of accessories in the future.
Price: $500 for 64GB, $560 for 128GB
The OnePlus 5T is a new flagship-grade phone offered for a great price. It looks very similar to the company’s previous phone, the OnePlus 5, but also brings innovation in one key area: it has a larger, 6″ edge-to-edge screen. For all else, it features a nearly identical metal body with a nice, ergonomic curve, it features some improvements to the camera performance, and it has its fingerprint scanner on the back now. You also get a new identification option: Face Unlock, which is impressively fast, but not as secure as 3D face scanning systems. The 5T is also one of the fastest-charging phones ever, with support for Dash Charge.
Price: $500 for 32GB
Solid design, pocketable size
Excellent camera, useful wide-angle option
Very fast recharging capability
Battery life is good, but not great
A bit on the pricey side
The LG G6 marks a new era for LG: less experiments with crazy designs and a focus back on the essentials of great design and performance. The new G6 is not a revolutionary phone, but it still has the extremely cool bezel-less screen with a new, taller 2:1 format. It has also improved its already very good cameras: now you have two 13-megapixel shooter for the dual camera system on the back, so there is no abrupt switch in the camera when you zoom in and out. LG has also improved battery with the G6 to good (but it’s still not great), and coupled with nice software experience, the LG G6 is one of the best options for a new phone out there.
Price: €400 for 64GB
The Huawei P10 is a beautifully designed, stylish phone for a price much lower than most other flagships, yet with a similar level of performance and a very good camera. The bad news is that it will not be sold in the United States (at least initially), but it will be in all other parts of the world.
Under the hood roars Huawei’s own Kirin 960 system chip, which is indeed a powerful creation, and Huawei has improved the dual camera system. The idea is to be able to blur the background to images, a nice effect, but not quite as accurate as the Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. Still, it’s nice to have and you get a secondary, black-and-white camera that gives you a different perspective to images.
Price: $400 for 32GB
The new Moto X4 is a stylish dual camera phone with a mid-range price of $400. It’s also available on Google’s Project Fi, the affordable US carriers, as an Android One device with clean Android build and the promise for timely updates.
And it’s a great phone on its own: with a good-looking design and an LG-like secondary wide-angle camera that allows fitting more in the frame.
If you want the phone with the best battery life in this list, the Moto Z Play is certainly that. With its economical Snapdragon 625 chip and specs that are not too demanding, this is the true 2-day battery phone and that is quite the gamechanger. Apart from that, it is just a good and thin phone. It is not particularly elegant with those huge magnetic connections, but you can add some neat Moto Mods to spice its looks, or at least use as easily exchangeable covers. The Z Play has also got a solid camera that is able to shoot 4K video and it has been updated to Android 7.0 Nougat.
Honor 9 and Honor 8
Price: $400 | Review
Good-looking design, solid build quality
Fast and responsive fingerprint reader
Excellent battery life
Interface feels a bit strange and takes some getting used to
The Honor brand is new to the U.S. market, but after the successful and affordable Honor 5X, some phone enthusiasts have already set a curious eye on it.
The new Honor 8 is the brand’s new and more refined phone, and the latest one to join the “$400 flagship” battle arena. And it does so with a heavy bang: an extremely stylish phone made out of glass and with an innovative dual rear-cam system that allows creating a fake bokeh-like effect, the Honor 8 is a compact 5.2″ phone with the fast, but not fastest Kirin 950 system chip.
Big phones are just not everyone’s cup of tea (at least not yet), and that’s why there is still a market for extremely compact devices that you can easily use with a single hand.
The iPhone SE is one of the best such phones you can get at the moment: in fact, it’s the only phone of such small sizes. It stands out not just with its size: even among Android compacts, it offers the fastest performance with a great and consistently reliable 12-megapixel camera that can capture 4K video and supports the fun Live Photos.
On top of that, the small iPhone SE features better battery life than even the iPhone 6s and 6: its smaller screen size and newer silicon allow for more effective use of battery. Add to that the affordable (at least in the US) price, and you have quite the appealing small phone.
Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
Price: $540 for 32GB
Very compact for the screen size
Screen has high brightness
Very good camera
Good battery life
Questionable, all-plastic design
A bit too thick
The most notable alternative to the iPhone SE in the compact phone market is the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact.
The phone features a 4.6-inch display in a very compact body (but it’s not an edge-to-edge screen).
Price: $240 for 32GB storage, 3GB RAM ; $300 for 64GB storage, 4GB RAM
Very affordable price
Clean and fast build of Android
Very good performance
Fast and decent camera
Good battery life
Plastic design elements are a bit on the cheap side
The new Moto G5S Plus brings back the Moto G series to where it first started: an amazing value-for-the-money proposition. At under $300, this phone is great value: it ships with a clean and well-performing version of Android, it’s got very good performance, a decent camera and above average battery life. The G5S also features a sturdy metal design that feels reassuringly solid.
The new Galaxy A5 (2017) is more than just the sum of its parts: it’s a beautiful, stylish, compact phone that features water-protection, a rarity in affordable phones of this class. It also just runs well on Samsung’s new TouchWiz interface, it has got a rock solid battery life that could go to as much as two days, and it features cameras that do great in daylight. It’s biggest drawback is the poor video stabilization that makes all of your footage look as if it was recorded during an earthquake, but if you do not care too much about that, the A5 (2017) is a great phone. Remember that the Samsung A series are not officially sold in the United States.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 is the company’s first Android One phone. That means it is free of clutter, runs fast and will get updates faster than most other Xiaomi phones. Great news!
Also, we love that it has the Snapdragon 625 on board, as the chip is very frugal and allows for some great battery life figures. The dual camera system on the back is also a luxury in this price segment, so we’re glad the A1 has it.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
Price: €500 for 128GB
Crazy screen-to-body ratio
Ceramic back, stylish look
No bezel design also means it’s easier to crack the screen if you drop the phone
Only available in Asia
Xiaomi is a company that has been growing quickly in China, but that does not sell its phones in the United States or Europe officially. And that’s a pity.
Its Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is an actually impressive bezel-less flagship phone that is an evolution of what was the first “bezel-less” phone on the market: the original Mi Mix. But it is much more usable now: it has a narrower aspect ratio that makes the phone more comfortable for single hand use, and it has even less bezel than before. The phone features a well-crafted body and the company’s feature-rich MIUI as well.
The Mi 6 is one of the top offerings by Chinese company Xiaomi. It builds up on the successful formula: top-notch hardware for an affordable price. The Xiaomi Mi 6 is also an improvement over the previously released Mi 5: it features a much more solid design, it’s got a brand new dual-camera system with a secondary telephoto lens, and it’s got a longer battery life. All of that comes at a price of less than $500, which is certainly impressive.