Tom’s Guide reviews dozens of new smartphones, and we evaluate them in our lab and in the real world based on design, features, performance, camera quality and battery life. Our top overall pick right now is the Galaxy S7 Edge, which offers the best camera on the market in a sleek curved design. If your prefer a smaller screen, the regular Galaxy S7 costs less and offers the same photo quality.
The new iPhone 7 Plus is our top big-screen phone, because it sports an awesome dual 12-megapixel cameras that give you a true optical zoom. It also lasts more than 10 hours on a charge, which is well above the average, and boasts the fastest processor yet in a phone.
If you prefer a pure Android experience, check out the new 5-inch Google Pixel and the 5.5-inch Pixel XL. They’re the first two phones to offer Google Assistant, which lets you do everything from make dinner reservations and set reminders to turn on the lights, and shots using the phones' HDR+ mode look spectacular.
Our top 10 list of phones also includes great values like the $439 OnePlus 3T, which has a better processor and longer battery life than its well-regarded predecessor. And even budget models are adding premium features, with the ZTE Blade V8 Pro impressing us with its dual rear cameras and $229 price tag.
Check out our top smartphone choices in multiple categories, along with new and notable phones we're planning on reviewing shortly. We've also included rumors about upcoming smartphone updates in case you're considering whether to put off your phone purchase for the next big thing.
How We Rate Phones
We rate smartphones using a combination of subjective criteria (including design and ease of use); our own benchmarks (e.g., our battery, audio and display tests); and synthetic benchmarks (Geekbench 4 for speed, 3DMark for graphics). We also take photos in different lighting conditions and compare the results.
After we've conducted all of our testing, we rate each device based on its features, performance and overall value. Only the very best devices make our Best list.
Before you make the decision to buy a phone, you should make sure that something better isn't coming around the corner. Here are the major phones due out later this year.
Galaxy S8 (March 29, 2017)
We finally have a go-date for Samsung's next flagship phone. Samsung says it will hold an event in New York on March 29 to unveil the Galaxy S8. According to rumors swirling about the new phone, the Galaxy S8 will feature an edge-to-edge screen that essentially eliminates bezels. It looks like the new phone will include a new digital assistant developed by one of Siri's co-creators. And the phone could also ship with a dock that turns the S8 into a portable PC, similar to Microsoft's Continuum feature for its phones.
With a March 29 unveiling, we expect the Galaxy S8 to start shipping to customers a few weeks later. So you don't have long to wait for this new phone.
HTC 11 (First Half 2017)
HTC has already unveiled one phone this year — the HTC U Ultra, which is slated for a March release. But that AI-powered $749 phone won't be the only high-end device HTC has planned for 2017. The company is also working on a follow-up to the HTC 10, which is expected to have a Snapdragon 835 processor, dual cameras and touch-sensitive edges.
iPhone 8 (Sept 2017)
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are great phones, but Apple is expected to bring a radical redesign for the iPhone 8 that includes an all-glass front and back, OLED screen and possibly a fingerprint scanner underneath the display. Another rumor suggests Apple may introduce the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus in addition to the iPhone 8; those first two models would feature only modest changes from this year's iPhones, though all the phones Apple introduces in 2017 are expected to include wireless charging.
The dual-pixel camera in the Galaxy S7 Edge makes this phone a photographer’s delight, giving you both superfast autofocus and much better photos in low light. But while the camera may by the S7 Edge’s standout feature, you could pick any part of Samsung’s latest flagship phone, and you’ll likely find something that impresses. The dual curved screens on the phone’s sides now give you easier access to more apps, news and shortcuts. A curved back helps this 5.5-inch phone rest easy in your hand, while its water-resistant design means you won’t need to sweat over an unexpected bath. Throw in a Snapdragon 820 processor that outperforms most rival phones and more than 10 hours of battery life, and you’ve got a phone that can handle just about anything you can throw at it.
MORE: Galaxy S7 Edge Full Review
The iPhone 7 Plus makes room for a lot more than a big and bright 5.5-inch display. It packs in two 12-megapixel cameras, one of which offers a telephoto lens that provides true 2x optical zoom. It’s like cropping without the work; you just press a button in the live view. The Plus also boasts a superfast A10 Fusion processor, and it lasts a very impressive 10.5 hours on a charge. Add in a water-resistant design in two new color options — black and jet black — and you have a winner.
If you want a fast, pure and long-lasting Android experience, Google's homegrown Pixel is the phone to get. It has Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 821 chip, a camera on par with the best from Samsung and Apple, and Google's new Assistant, which puts both Siri and Cortana to shame. Available in both 5 ($649) and 5.5-inch ($679) versions and available through Verizon or unlocked for use on any carrier, Google’s flagship belongs on your short list.
MORE: Google Pixel Full Review
Simply put, the OnePlus 3T is best phone for the money on the market. It offers better performance than nearly every other handset available right now, a full 10.5 hours of battery life and a colorful 5.5-inch AMOLED display, all for just $439. And while the 3T's front and rear cameras aren't quite as good as the ones on more expensive phones from Samsung, Apple and Google, these cameras aren't that far off. If you can't justify spending $600 or more on a phone, but still want something solid, the OnePlus 3T is exactly what you need.
MORE: OnePlus 3T Full Review
While the 4-inch iPhone SE is a great value at $399, the iPhone 7 gives you more for your money. In addition to a bigger and brighter 4.7-inch screen, you get a faster A10 Fusion processor, longer battery life and a water-resistant design. Plus, the iPhone 7’s 12-MP camera offers very good low-light performance.
MORE: iPhone 7 Full Review
Talk about endurance. The Moto Z Play lasted an epic 13 hours and 46 minutes on our battery test, which involved surfing the web over Verizon’s LTE network. That beats most other phones by a mile, as well as the category average (around 9 hours). The Moto Z also offers magnetic mods to add extra functionality, such as a JBL speaker and even a Hasselblad camera. But the 16-MP camera inside this phone is plenty good for its $449 price.
MORE: Moto Z Play Full Review
When your kid leaves the house with the Alcatel Onetouch Go Play in hand, you can be confident the phone will make it back in one piece. This Android phone can withstand 5-foot drops and a dunk in 3 feet of water for half-an-hour; you can even use the Go Play’s volume buttons to snap photos when you’re underwater. An included ViewMe app records what’s on screen along with your face and voice — helpful for sharing gaming exploits with pals. Parents can also install a cell-phone monitoring app on the Go Play to manage how their kids use the phone — something that’s harder to do on an iPhone.
The ZTE Blade V8 Pro is living proof you don't have to sacrifice high-end features for a phone with a low price tag. This $229 phone has dual rear cameras, the sort of feature you'd find on a more expensive phone like Apple's iPhone 7 Plus. The Blade V8 doesn't skimp on battery life, either, as it lasted more than 12 hours on a full charge in our testing. This is the phone to get if you don't want to shell out big bucks for a feature-packed device.
If you’re looking for a phone that can withstand any punishment life throws at it, it’s hard to top the Cat S60. This durable phone survived repeated 6-foot drops and still worked after we left it in 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. Unlike other similar phones that trade looks for durability, the Cat S60’s design is fairly striking, with a polished metal band and sturdy carbon-fiber panel in the back. You won’t need every feature on this heavy-duty phone — the thermal imaging camera is really aimed at contractors and other professionals — but at $599, you can enjoy an extremely well-built phone for a fraction of the Galaxy S7 Active’s $795 price tag. Kyocera's DuraForce Pro also offers terrific durability at an attractive $408 price, but its battery couldn't measure up to the Cat S60 in our tests.
MORE: Cat S60 Full Review
Modular phones let you add to your smartphoneꞌs features by swapping add-ons in and out, and no phone maker has a better approach to this than Motorola. The Moto Z uses firm magnets and a pogo pin connector to securely hold modules in place, and you don’t even need to power down the phone to make a switch. Module options include everything from speakers to battery packs to projectors. We prefer the Moto Z Force Droid over the Moto Z Droid for its more robust battery life, beefier 16-megapixel camera and greater durability, but both devices are an example of the right way to tackle modularity.
There’s a lot to like about HTC’s vastly improved flagship phone, but the audio features on the HTC 10 take center stage. The speaker at the top of the phone takes care of top notes, while the bottom speaker is all about the bass, resulting in crisp, clear sound that can fill a room. The real star of the show, though, is the HTC 10’s personalized audio profile feature, which tailors sound to your hearing and the headphones you’ve plugged into the phone. With music designed for your ears, this is a phone you’ll want to keep playing.
New & Notable Smartphones
Out with the modular design of the LG G5, in with a super-sized screen squeezed into a compact body. The display on the LG G6 stretches virtually from one end of the phone to the other giving it an 18:9 aspect ratio that should make for more immersive video viewing and game playing. LG has also augmented your video experience by supporting HDR and Dolby Vision, which means richer, more colorful content. The G6 maintains the dual rear cameras of the G5, but bumps up the resolution of both cameras to 13MP; the front 5MP camera now supports a wider 100-degree view for more detailed group shots. We're still waiting on LG to announce pricing and availability for the G6.
MORE: LG G6 Hands-on
One of our favorite budget phones just bolstered its own camera. The Moto G5 Plus features a 12-megapixel rear camera that also includes dual-autofocus pixels. That should mean better photos in low light. This $229 phone packs in other premium features like the built-in Google Assistant and a fingerprint reader. We only wish that the 5-inch Moto G5 would join its 5.2-inch sibling when the Plus arrives this spring.
MORE: Moto G5 Plus Hands-on
Who needs to choose between virtual reality and augmented reality? Asus's upcoming ZenFone AR will offer support for both. In addition to working with Google's Daydream VR platform, the Asus phone is also compatible with Project Tango using sensors and cameras to calculate your phone's position and impose virtual images onto the real world. That takes a lot of processing power so the 5.7-inch phone will run on a Snapdragon 821 processor with 6GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU. A price hasn't been set yet, but look for the ZenFone AR to arrive in the second quarter of 2017.
MORE: Asus Zenfone AR Hands-on