The gap between good and great smartphones is getting smaller and smaller, and ranking smartphones is becoming harder and harder.
There’s a lot to consider here, such as specs, features, design, and price. Thankfully, most of these smartphones come with more than enough power, great designs, and tons of features.
The biggest thing to watch out for in the next month is price. Phones like the OnePlus 5T and Essential Phone cost as little as $US500, and there isn’t a huge difference between them and the $US800-plus phones on this list. Prices of big-name smartphones are increasing, but the moderately priced premium Android phone is clearly making a comeback, and it’s better than ever.
Check out the top 20 smartphones you can buy. All prices are for US customers.
20. BlackBerry Classic
If you’re still a BlackBerry fan, you’ll love the Classic. It looks like older BlackBerry models but features a sharp touchscreen and an excellent physical keyboard.
19. Sony XZ Premium
Jeff Dunn, my former colleague, reviewed this phone for Business Insider, and he summed it up perfectly:
On the one hand, “this is a good phone,” he wrote.”The screen is great, the software is clean, and the whole thing is superfast.”
But on the other, “with its underwhelming battery and slippery, sometimes uncomfortable design, it’s not the device that should reverse Sony’s fortunes.”
Previously priced at $US800, the XZ Premium is now available for less than $US600 on Amazon, which makes it easier to live with its shortcomings.
18. BlackBerry KeyOne
The KeyOne is BlackBerry’s successor to the Priv. Both run Android and feature physical keyboards. But while the Priv’s keyboard slid out from behind its screen, the KeyOne’s is permanently located just below its display.
The KeyOne is a great device for those who want a physical keyboard and access to Google’s apps and services, which aren’t available on other BlackBerry devices.
17. Motorola Moto G5 Plus
The Moto G5 Plus continues to be our favourite budget-friendly Android smartphone. It demonstrates that “good-but-not-great hardware can become strong value at the right price,” as Dunn said in his review.
With the G5 Plus, you get a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, a fingerprint scanner, great battery life, a 12-megapixel camera that beats those of other phones in its price range, a nearly pristine version of Android, and a sleek design. All for a mere $US230.
It doesn’t have as many features as premium phones. For example, it doesn’t have an NFC antenna, so it can’t be used for mobile payments. And to charge the G5 Plus, you’ll have to use a microUSB cable – it doesn’t support USB-C, the newer, faster phone-charging standard.
16. Motorola Moto G5S Plus
The Moto G5S Plus is an upgrade from the G5 Plus.
The newer phone features an all-metal design, whereas the previous one has a half-metal, half-plastic case. And the new phone has a bigger screen – a 5.5-inch display versus 5.2-inch one.
But one of the biggest improvements is in the camera. The G5S Plus has a 13-megapixel dual-lens camera system.
15. Motorola Moto Z2 Force
The new Moto Z2 Force comes with everything you’d expect from a premium smartphone. As Dunn noted in his review, it’s “very fast, its screen looks good, its cameras are capable of taking nice photos, and it has a razor-thin frame.” And its 5.5-inch Amoled display is more resistant to cracking than most other smartphones’ screens.
However, the Z2 Force is a little too reliant on Motorola’s Mods – the company’s line of snap-on accessories, including external speakers and bigger batteries, designed for its Z-series phones. Without such Mods, the Z2 Force doesn’t feel like a complete-enough device to push it higher on this list.
14. Apple iPhone SE/6s/6s Plus
I grouped all these together, because they’re all two years old, have similar specs, and are still available from Apple. They’re also still amazing smartphones. Apple recently released iOS 11, the latest version of its mobile operating system, and my iPhone 6s Plus still runs great with it.
The SE, 6s, and 6s Plus all feature great cameras and Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which allows you to quickly unlock your phone. Another bonus: These are the last iPhones that still have headphone jacks.
These phones are even better if you buy them refurbished at a deep discount from Apple.
Price: iPhone SE $US350
Price: iPhone 6s $US450
Price: iPhone 6s Plus $US550
13. HTC U11
The U11 has an excellent camera, an eye-catching reflective back, and speedy performance. And it has a fun feature that allows you to squeeze its edges to open any app you want, including Google Assistant.
In most respects, it’s a great Android smartphone. But it has two notable shortcomings – it lacks a headphone jack and the borders around its display are relatively large, something that now looks “old-fashioned” in terms of design.
12. LG G6
The G6 is LG’s best smartphone, and it’s truly great. With it, LG is finally offering a phone with a premium design and water resistance – features that put the G6 in the same league as Samsung and Apple’s flagship devices.
The G6 has a good dual-lens camera. It also has a slightly longer than average screen that’s great for viewing and using apps, because it shows more of them than a standard display.
But the G6 has one notable downside – an older processor. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip was superseded by the Snapdragon 835 just two months after the G6 launched. Unlike the G6, Samsung’s Galaxy S8, one of its chief rivals, has the newer chip.
While the Snapdragon 821 is still a great processor, its likely to become obsolete sooner than its successor, and the G6 is likely to start seeming slower sooner than the Galaxy S8.
11. Essential Phone
The Essential Phone is a gorgeous device. It has a mostly edge-to-edge display and a case made of ultra-premium materials – ceramic on the back and titanium on the sides. It also runs a near-stock version of Android, which I prefer over the heavily modified versions that Samsung and LG phones tend to use.
Overall, the Phone is a great first effort from Essential. It’s a speedy performer, and it takes great photos, too. It has two magnetic pins on its back that serve as a connection point for peripherals including a 360-degree camera and a wireless charging dock.
Essential recently dropped the price of the Phone from $US700 to $US500. That’s a great deal for a great phone.
10. Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are among the best looking smartphone out right now. It’s better looking than Apple’s iPhone 8, and it’s sleeker than Samsung’s Note 8.
With the S8 and S8+, Samsung took the curved glass design it used with the S7 and refined it. Meanwhile, the ultra-narrow borders around the S8’s screen make it the new standard for premium smartphone design.
In addition to their good looks, the Galaxy S8 phones are also full of great features. They’re water resistant. They have taller-than-average screens that allow you to see more of your apps or web pages. They supports both fast and wireless charging, and face and iris recognition. They have one of the best cameras, and unlike Apple Pay or Android Pay, Samsung Pay wireless payments service work on pretty much every credit card reader. The home button is also hidden beneath the display, so it’s familiar to use compared to new phones that have ditched the home button entirely.
With all those attributes, you’re likely wondering why the S8 phones didn’t make the top of this list. Here’s why: I’m not a fan of TouchWiz, Samsung’s software interface that runs on top of Android. I prefer the clean look and features of stock Android.
But it’s more than a simple personal preference. Modifications like TouchWiz almost always prevent the phones running them from installing the latest Android updates when they’re released. And that’s the case here.
The S8 phones do rely on TouchWiz for face and iris recognition capabilities. But those features don’t make up for their likely inability to install timely Android updates.
Price: Galaxy S8 $US638
Price: Galaxy S8+ $US704
9. Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are now a year old, but at their new $US550 and $US670 price tags, they easily beats the Galaxy S8 phones.
Apple phones generally offer better apps and a better owner experience than their Android rivals, and the iPhone 7 is no different. The support you get from Apple if something goes wrong is much better than what you get from Android device makers. And unlike on most Android phones, with iPhones you can always get the latest software updates straight from Apple as soon as it releases them.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus offer some compelling features, including a water-resistant case, a great camera that performs well in low light, and a powerful processor. It also works really well with other Apple products, including the company’s wireless AirPods headphones.
The iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens camera systems is the key feature. It allows you to take pictures with a professional-looking “bokeh” effect, which blurs the background behind the photo’s subject. The second camera in its system is a telephoto lens that offers a 2x optical zoom. Unlike the digital zoom feature found in other cameras, an optical zoom allows you to enlarge an image of your subject without sacrificing picture quality.
8. Razer Phone
The Razer Phone is marketed as a “gaming” phone, mostly because of its unique display that plays games incredibly smoothly. Indeed, the Razer Phone’s display can achieve up to 120 frames per second (fps), whereas most phones only go up to 60 fps. Having twice the fps makes for super-smooth gameplay.
But high fps isn’t just for gamers. The Android operating system running on the Razer Phone, as well as apps, gets the high fps treatment, too, and it works beautifully. Everything you do on the phone is ultra-smooth in a way that we’ve never seen before on a smartphone. In fact, Razer may have inadvertently set a new standard for how all phone displays should work moving forward, not just gaming phones.
It also has an eye-catching industrial design compared to most sleek and svelte Android phones. The large bezels above and below the Razer Phone’s display may not appeal to everyone, especially since most phones in 2017 have switched over to bezel-less designs. However, hiding beneath those massive bezels are the loudest and best smartphone speakers we’ve heard on any smartphone.
7. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
With its gorgeous design, the ultra-thin borders around its screen, its beautiful display, fast performance, dual-lens camera system, and fancy stylus-based features, the Note 8 takes the best attributes of Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note smartphone lines and smashes them together into a phone that’s hard to beat.
6. OnePlus 5T
If you’re not looking to spend $US850 or more on a large-screened phone, the OnePlus 5T is the Android phone to get. It’s truly a fantastic phone that’s only made better by its incredible $US500 starting price.
It also comes with more RAM than any other smartphone we’ve tried, which guarantees top performance. On top of that, its camera is great and comes with a portrait mode that competes with the iPhone X and Pixel 2 phones. And, my personal favourite feature, it runs a near-stock version of Android.
5. Google Pixel 2
The Pixel 2 might not be the most beautiful Android phone you can buy, but its secret weapon is its pure Android experience.
The device runs the latest version of the operating system. Because it’s unadulterated, that version looks and runs better than any of the tweaked takes on Android other phone makers include with their devices.
Better yet, because the Pixel 2’s Android is unmodified, you’ll be able to install the latest updates to the operating system as soon as Google rolls them out. That’s not something you can usually do with other Android phones. It’s something I feel is important because who doesn’t want the latest software from the top software company in the world?
But the Pixel 2 has other features that help put it ahead of other Android devices, including its amazingly good camera, excellent performance, and great battery life. It’s like a less attractive but smarter Samsung Galaxy phone.
The Pixel 2 is also water resistant, unlike its predecessor, the original Pixel. But while we rated that device higher than last year’s iPhone 7, the new device doesn’t out rate the new iPhone 8. While the iPhone 8 supports wireless charging and ships with a set of headphones, the Pixel 2 offers neither.
4. Google Pixel 2 XL
The Pixel 2 XL has nearly the same components and features that make the Pixel 2 great, but it comes in a bigger package with a larger display and an updated, fresher-looking design. The Pixel 2 XL isn’t the best looking Android phone, but with the narrow borders around its screen, it looks sleeker and more refined than its smaller sibling or its predecessors from last year.
And the unadulterated Android experience it offers is unbeatable.
You should note, though, that users and reviewers have reported encountering several different problems with the Pixel 2 XL, mostly with its screen. I haven’t experienced any of the reported problems while testing my review unit, so I’m not factoring them into the phone’s ranking.
Users were also complaining that colours on the Pixel 2 XL’s display weren’t as vibrant as other top Android phones. Google has recently issued an update that makes colours more vibrant.
3. Apple iPhone 8
Google’s original Pixel phones topped last year’s iPhone 7. But now that the iPhones are here, Apple is back on top.
The iPhone 8 comes with a refined glass and metal case, a superb camera, and incredible performance. With it, Apple is finally supporting both wireless and fast charging – features that Android phones have long offered but had been missing from previous iPhones.
What pushes the iPhone 8 ahead of the Android pack is its iOS operating system and the broader Apple ecosystem. You can get the latest updates straight from Apple as soon as they’re released, iOS apps are generally better designed than their Android counterparts, and if something goes wrong with your phone, you can get help at one of the hundreds of Apple stores.
2. Apple iPhone 8 Plus
The iPhone 8 Plus includes all the best things about the iPhone 8. But it adds to those a bigger, better screen and a dual-lens camera system that features a telephoto lens and the ability to take shots similar to those you could capture with a professional camera.
1. iPhone X
It’s undeniable. The iPhone X offers the best of the iPhone and Apple ecosystem along with the best design in a smartphone we’ve ever seen.
With its outrageously beautiful OLED display that takes up most of the front of the phone, wireless charging, and fast charging, the iPhone X has brought Apple’s iPhones up to speed with top-of-the-line Android hardware. Indeed, Android owners always enjoyed the latest smartphone hardware features until now.
It will cost you $US1,000 minimum, but that’s the price of near perfection in a smartphone.
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