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 has been the Galaxy S7 Edge, but it's about to be surpassed by Samsung's sequel.
In fact, there are a couple of reasons to wait if you're in the market for a premium Android phone. The Galaxy S8 will be announced March 29, which is expected to sport a slick new design and a new virtual assistant named Bixby. There's also the impressive LG G6, which won't be in stores until March 30 or April 7, although you can pre-order now.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is still a good phone, but we'd look for it on discount. For those on a tighter budget, there are plenty of good options, including the new $229 Moto G5 Plus. It boats a bright screen, long battery life and a rear camera with dual-pixel autofocus technology.
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. Samsung has already confirmed that a digital assistant named Bixby will give you a new way of interacting with the S8. 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, the Galaxy S8 could ship by April 21, though most rumors point to an April 28 ship date. So you don't have long to wait for this new phone. Expect to pay up, though, as the Galaxy S8 may start at $859, according to some rumors — a $100 premium over the S7 Edge's debut price.
HTC 11 (First Half 2017)
HTC has already unveiled one phone this year — the $749 HTC U Ultra, which is now shipping though without its marquee Sense Companion feature. (That digital assistant is expected in an April update to the phone.) But HTC may have something else planned for 2017. The company is reportedly 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. It also looks like augmented reality will be a major focus for the next iPhone.
Google Pixel 2 (Fall 2017)
Google's already planning a sequel to the Pixel. "You can count on a successor this year, even if you don't hear a date from me now," Rick Osterloh, vice president of hardware at Google, said in February. And if the company follows last year's release schedule, the new phone should arrive in the fall, just in time for the holiday shopping season. Details are thin right now, other than a rumor that the Pixel 2 will likely feature water resistance.
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 be the S7 Edge's standout feature, you could pick any part of Samsung's 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 many 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. Just be warned that Samsung is about to take the wraps off a new Galaxy phone on March 29.
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 and new color options — besides black and jet black, Apple just added an eye-catching Project (Red) version of the phone — 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. Besides the 5-inch Pixel ($649), you can opt for the bigger screen and longer battery life of the 5.5-inch Pixel XL ($679). Whether you get either version from 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. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, this Apple device now features a Project (Red) version to go with its jet black, black, silver, gold and rose gold finishes.
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. And with the price on this phone falling to less than $100, it's an even more attractive option for parents with an eye on the bottom line.
The Moto G5 Plus stands out in an increasingly competitive market for sub-$300 smartphones, thanks to a super-bright screen and epic battery life that keeps the phone powered up for more than 11 hours. We were also impressed by how the phone's camera performed, producing sharp-looking photos even in low light. The unlocked Moto G5 Plus also works on all cellular networks in the U.S., unlike its main rivals, which are limited to GSM-based carriers.
MORE: Moto G5 Plus Full Review
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 $630, 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.
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. All four major carriers will offer the LG G6. The phone arrives at Verizon first, where it will be available starting March 30 for $672, but T-Mobile will sell it for less at $650 on April 7.
MORE: LG G6 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
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