Updated May 21. We just published our review of the OnePlus 6, which is being added to our top 10 list. We have also just published the results of our first annual phone drop test. See which phones are the toughest (and weakest).
In the battle between Apple and Samsung for best smartphone, Apple currently has the edge with the iPhone X. This 5.8-inch flagship demands a hefty premium at $999, but in return you get the best OLED display we’ve tested along with top-notch cameras and innovative features like Face ID. Plus, this flagship’s A11 Bionic processor (also inside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus) blows away every Android phone.
If you prefer Android, the Galaxy S9+ is a great big-screen phone, offering a gorgeous 6.2-inch display, fast Snapdragon 845 processor and a much improved camera that produces better images in low light and records awesome slow-motion video. (The regular Galaxy S9 is also good, though it has less RAM and a smaller battery, and it doesn't have dual rear cameras like the S9+.
The mid-range phone to buy is the OnePlus 6, which for $529 delivers a big 6.3-inch OLED display, a fast Snapdragon 845 processor and dual cameras for just $529. If you’re on a tighter budget, check out the Honor 7X. The $199 Android phone features a big and sharp 5.9-inch screen, dual cameras and speedy performance from its Kirin 659 processor.
Android purists and photographers should get the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL, which delivers the best camera we've tested and a squeeze-to-activate Google Assistant. Prefer an even bigger screen? The Galaxy Note 8 is currently the phablet to beat, thanks to its 6.3-inch display and versatile S Pen.
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. Check out our top smartphone choices in multiple categories, along with new and notable phones we're planning on reviewing shortly and the latest rumors about upcoming handsets.
Smartphone News and Rumors (May 2018)
- OnePlus 6: Targeting premium Android flagships, the new OnePlus 6 features a 6.3-inch OLED display, a Snapdragon 845 processor and up to a whopping 8GB of RAM. It does come with a notch, but you can hide it in settings. Other highlights include a new gesture interface and improved dual cameras. Check out our full OnePlus 6 review.
- LG G7 ThinQ: We've had a chance to review a pre-production unit of the LG G7 ThinQ, and there's a lot to like about this phone — specifically, its AI-powered camera and how it handles low-light images, and a thumping boombox speaker. But the design is too reminiscent of other phones to stand out, and the G7 delivered supbar battery life in our tests. The phone will cost $750 at T-Mobile when that carrier starts taking orders May 25; Sprint and Verizon will see the G7, too, though they haven't set prices yet. AT&T says it's skipping the G7 in favor of an LG exclusive later this summer.
- HTC U12: OnePlus isn't the only phone maker with a May phone launch on the schedule. HTC will hold an event on May 23, where it's expected to unveil the HTC U12. According to rumors, the new phone will feature dual rear cameras and a design with slimmed-down bezels. Rumored specs for the HTC U12+ leaked out in advance of the May 23 unveiling. Check out the HTC U12 rumors.
- Moto G6: Motorola's new value-priced phone gives you a lot for just $249, including an elegant glass design (front and back), dual cameras, and an expansive 5.7-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The Snapdragon 845 processor should be fine for most tasks. Check out our Moto G6 hands-on impressions.
- iPhone SE 2: Apple hasn't touched the iPhone SE since the 4-inch phone debuted in 2016, but that may change soon. The latest rumor has the iPhone SE 2 possibly arriving this month, and it could feature a new glass back to allow for wireless charging.
- Galaxy Note 9: The Galaxy Note 9 could have a 6.4-inch screen and a 4,000 mAh battery. Check out the other Note 9 rumors.
Google Pixel 3: Although it likely won't launch until October, some Pixel 3 rumors have started to surface. Expect Android P, a possible iris scanner and maybe three new models in the line.
- iPhone X2/iPhone 11: Apple is reportedly working on three new iPhone X models for later this year, and one of them could start at a more reasonable $850. Get caught up on all the latest iPhone rumors.
Buying options for the best phones of 2018:
The iPhone X isn’t just the best iPhone. It’s the best phone, period. That’s because it packs the most impressive OLED screen we’ve ever tested and fastest processor into a gorgeous edge-to-edge design that’s easy to use with one hand. The iPhone X also offers the top dual cameras you can get in a phone, plus a new TrueDepth front camera that enables everything from Face ID for unlocking the device to Portrait Mode selfies.
Another key selling point is the A11 Bionic chip inside, which delivers the fastest performance we’ve seen from a phone. This same CPU is also in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, but the augmented reality apps, games and other experiences the processor enables just feel more immersive on the iPhone X’s Super Retina Display. At $999, the iPhone X is quite pricey, but it’s well worth the splurge.
MORE: iPhone X Full Review
OnePlus continues its habit of delivering flagship features in a phone that costs hundreds less than what you'd pay for top models from Apple and Samsung. The OnePlus 6 introduces a new glass design that holds an expansive, impressive OLED screen (and yes, there's a notch dipping down into the display). The Snapdragon 845 processor teamed up with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM (depending on which model you get) delivers superior performance, and the OnePlus 6 charges just as fast as before. Battery life isn't as good as on previous OnePlus phones, and the 6 will be a little too large for some people's tastes. But it's hard to argue with a phone that delivers so much while costing $470 less than the iPhone X.
MORE: OnePlus 6 Full Review
Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 and S9+ aren’t radical departures from last year’s Galaxy S8, but we’re not complaining. The S9 duo takes the nearly bezel-free design and wraparound Infinity Display from the S8 and adds the latest generation Snapdragon 845 processor and an all-new camera fitted with super slow-motion recording and adjustable aperture. The larger S9+ goes even a step further, with a second rear camera that enables Live Photos, Samsung’s take on portrait mode where you can adjust the strength of the bokeh effect before and after the shot. Toss in stereo speakers, a repositioned fingerprint sensor that now sits under the camera (where your fingers won’t smudge the lens) and last but not least, a headphone jack, and Samsung has reclaimed the top spot among high-end Android handsets.
MORE: Galaxy S9+ Full Review
Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL offer snappy performance, a Google Assistant you can summon by squeezing the phone and an ingenious new Google Lens feature that can recognize everything from phone numbers and landmarks to restaurants in the photos you take. For our money, the Pixel 2 XL is the better choice among Google’s phones, because you get a bigger and sharper 6-inch display, longer battery life and, frankly, a much better looking design from the front with less bezels. The Pixel 2 XL lacks wireless charging, but its fast wired charging works well, and its single rear camera produces shots that give the iPhone X a run for its money.
You'll be surprised how much phone you can get for less than $200. The Honor 7X gives you a big 5.9-inch display with minimal bezels and a speedy Kirin 657 processor in an aluminum design. The dual rear cameras are pretty solid, too, with a 16-megapixel main shooter and a 2-MP sensor that aids in taking portraits. At 9 hours and 21 minutes, the battery life offered by the Honor 7X is a bit below average but should be good enough to get you through most of the day. We just wish this handset included a USB-C port for charging instead of micro USB. Just be aware that the Moto G6, which costs $50 more, arrives in June and promises to offer stiff competition for other budget phones.
MORE: Honor 7X Review
The Galaxy Note 8 more than just redeems Samsung for the Note 7. It raises the bar for all big-screen phones. The 6.3-inch Infinity Display stretches from edge to edge and is simply gorgeous. More important, the Note 8’s dual cameras give you more flexibility than other phones, letting you adjust the Live Focus (bokeh) effect both before and after you take the shot. The S Pen is improved on this phone, too, letting you save more screen-off memos and create fun new Live Messages you can share with others. Last but not least is a battery that lasts a very good 11-plus hours. The Note 8 is pricey, but it’s worth it.
If you’re not a fan of phablets, the iPhone 8 gives you the most power per inch of any device on the market. In addition to a mighty A11 Bionic chip that runs circles around Android phones, the iPhone 8 benefits from a bigger and faster camera sensor that takes fantastic-looking photos, including Live Photos with fun new effects in iOS 11. Add in above-average battery life and access to fun new augmented reality apps, and you have the best small phone.
MORE: iPhone 8 Full Review
We've never tested a phone that's lasted as long as the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom did on our battery test. Surfing the web continuously over T-Mobile's LTE network, the ZenFone 3 Zoom lasted 16 hours, 49 minutes. That’s nearly 90 minutes longer than next longest-lasting phones. You get more than an all-day charge with Asus's $329 device. Dual rear cameras offer optical zoom in a phone that won't put too big of a dent in your wallet.
With the iPhone SE starting at just $349 for 32GB, it’s a great starter phone for kids, especially since a lot tweens and teens use the iMessage app. The 4-inch display is definitely on the small side, but this handset provides easy access to all the apps your little ones want to use, whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat or Zello. The 12-MP camera also captures good-looking pics for the price, including Live Photos. The iPhone SE’s front camera could be better for selfies, but overall it’s a strong choice. If you can stand to wait a few weeks before buying, some rumors have suggested a new iPhone SE with a better processor is in the works.
MORE: iPhone SE Review
Serious content creators should take a good look at the LG V30, which boasts the best wide-angle camera in a phone yet along with a very large f/1.6 aperture for letting in lots of light. The V30 also captures stunning 4K video complete with a wide array of compelling effects and filters you won’t find anywhere else, and a recent software update added the same image recognition features LG is building into its newer G7 ThinQ phone. The 6-inch OLED display is another plus, which nearly goes edge to edge. The only thing holding this phablet back is relatively short battery life.
MORE: LG V30 Review
What Smartphones Cost
The best premium phones like the Galaxy S8, Pixel 2 XL and iPhone X cost anywhere from $750 to as much as $1,000. However, there are great values with flagship-level specs under $500. On a budget? You can get a very good Android phone for less than $250.
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 do real-world speed tests (such as video editing) and take photos in different lighting conditions to 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 top-performing devices make our Best list.