Prefer a big screen? The Galaxy Note 8 is currently the phablet to beat, thanks to its 6.2-inch display and versatile S Pen. Android purists, however, should get the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL, which delivers a great camera and a squeeze-to-activate Google Assistant even if the display has some issues with color. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of great options, even under $250.
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. Based on our testing, the Galaxy S8 (See Plans and Pricing on Samsung) is the best choice for those willing to pay $600 or more on their next phone.
The Galaxy S8 ($750) and Galaxy S8+ ($850)+ boast an Infinity Display that stretches all the way from edge to edge of the design. The screen is also crisp, sharp and colorful. Both S8 handsets feature a fantastic camera as well. There’s no real difference between these two phones other than size, so take your pick between 5.8 or 6.2 inches.
The new 4.7-inch iPhone 8 ($699) is quite good, as its A11 chip is the fastest processor in a phone ever, but we prefer the iPhone 8 Plus ($799) because it offers a bigger display, dual cameras with enhanced Portrait Mode features and longer battery life to go with that A11 processor. Some may want to wait for the iPhone X, which will deliver an OLED display that goes from edge to edge and a new depth-sensing camera for Face ID, but it will start at $999.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s Note 8 boasts excellent dual cameras of its own, which let you adjust the live focus before and after you take a shot, as well as switch between wide-angle and close-up perspectives on the fly. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are both great phones for Android purists who demand great photo quality and want easy access to Google Assistant, but we’d spend the extra money on the Pixel 2 XL for its bigger display and longer battery life.
OnePlus continues to provide the most bang for the buck, with the excellent OnePlus 5, but those on a tighter budget may prefer the less expensive Moto G5 Plus. It offers 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 test; 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.
Smartphone Rumors and News
Razer Phone (November 2017): After trying its hand at tablets a few years ago, gaming giant Razer sounds like it's about to take another stab at mobile devices, this time with a gamer-centric phone. Razer has announced a product launch on November 1, and its CEO has already said the company would some out with a smartphone in 2017. Earlier this year, Razer bought Nextbit, makers of the Nextbit Robin smartphone that moved rarely used apps and photos to cloud storage to free up space on the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S9 (February 2018): Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S9 could be the world's first phone with a Snapdragon 845 processor inside, which would likely make it the fastest Android phone yet. Other Galaxy S9 rumors include a possible modular design, a dual-lens camera and a fingerprint sensor that could be integrated into the screen, though that might have to wait until the Galaxy Note 9.
Samsung Galaxy X (2018): We've been hearing for years that Samsung was about to release a folding smartphone, but it now looks like that might finally come to pass in 2018. Samsung's DJ Koh has confirmed that Samsung is working on a folding phone, with the Galaxy X reportedly folding its screen out into a larger display. Samsung had better hurry: ZTE just took the wraps off a dual-screen phone, the Axon M, that does much the same thing.
MORE: Samsung Galaxy X Rumors
Buying options for the best phones of 2017:
With a striking new Infinity Display that goes from edge to edge, even better cameras and strong performance from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the best phones you can buy. They also deliver long battery life, lasting more than an hour longer than their predecessors. Even with its voice-powered commands now available, the Bixby virtual assistant remains a work in progress, and the back fingerprint sensor could be more conveniently located. Overall, though, the 5.8-inch S8 and 6.2-inch S8+ are the handsets to beat.
MORE: Galaxy S8 Full Review
The iPhone 8 Plus is a real powerhouse of a phone, thanks to Apple’s blazing A11 Bionic chip. And Apple backs up that speed with versatile dual cameras that add new Portrait Lighting effects to an already compelling 2x optical zoom. In fact, the iPhone 8 Plus edged out the Galaxy Note 8 in our camera face-off. The iPhone 8 Plus also offers a strong 11-plus hours of battery life, an improved 5.5-inch screen with a wide color gamut and louder speakers, along with wireless charging.
Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL offer snappy performance, a Google Assistant you can squeeze to activate 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 is the better choice, 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. You’ll appreciate the extra screen real estate, whether you’re playing games, trying augmented reality apps or appreciating the Portrait Mode pics you snap. Just be aware that the display on Google's larger phone has some issues with color shift and graininess on solid colors. The Pixel 2 XL lacks wireless charging, but its fast wired charging works well.
The Galaxy Note 8 more than just redeems Samsung for the failed Note 7. It raises the bar for all big-screen phones. Its 6.3-inch Infinity Display, which stretches from edge to edge, 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.
The OnePlus 5 has everything we look for in a great mid-range phone. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor provides flagship-class power, its front and rear camera are both potent shooters, and with a battery life of more than 13 hours on a charge, it's one of the longest-lasting phones we've ever tested. You also get 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage — all for just $479. And if you want to splurge a bit, you can opt for the $539 model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The only real downside is that the OnePlus 5 won't work on CDMA carriers like Sprint or Verizon.
MORE: OnePlus 5 Full Review
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 a winner.
MORE: iPhone 8 Full Review
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. If you don't mind paying a little more, the newly available Moto G5S Plus offers a bigger 5.5-inch display and dual rear cameras for $279 (and an introductory price will save you $50). But we still think the G5 Plus is a better value for bargain hunters.
MORE: Moto G5 Plus 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 four hours longer than our previous battery champ, the Moto Z Play. You get more than a long-lasting phone 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.
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 Galaxy S8 Active boasts many of the features that highlight the S8 lineup — chiefly, the Infinity Display and the Snapdragon 835 — while adding features aimed at appealing to anyone who needs a phone that can stand up to a pounding. The 5.8-inch AMOLED display is shatterproof, and the phone is engineered to survive a 5-foot drop in addition to a dip in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes. You'll get longer battery life, too, thanks to a 4,000 mAh battery that lasted more than 11 hours on our battery test.
Phones to Watch
The iPhone X is a phone that looks like the culmination of 10 years of innovation, starting with an all-new design that sports a dazzling, edge-to-edge OLED display. Say buh-bye to the Home Button and Touch ID, because they’ve been replaced with simple gestures and FaceID recognition, made possible by the TrueDepth camera on the front. That same camera system makes it easy to insert yourself into animated emojis and enjoy a new array of sophisticated Snapchat filters. Under the hood is a fast new A11 Bionic processor that will make some laptops look slow, as well as dual rear 12-MP cameras that both have optical image stabilization. At $999, this slice of the future doesn’t come cheap, but it looks very promising.
MORE: Top iPhone X Features
The latest phablets from Huawei are all about the Kirin 970 processor inside. Huawei's CPU features an on-board neural processing unit to power artificial intelligence features. Point the Mate 10's camera at a plate of food, for example, and the neural processor will be able to recognize the object and adjust camera settings accordingly. Huawei has two versions of this new Mate — the 6-inch Mate 10 and the 5.9-inch Mate 10 Pro. Both phones have dual rear cameras, while the Mate 10 Pro has more RAM and storage. It's unclear when either model will reach the U.S. and what Huawei will charge. The Mate 10 costs €699 in Europe while the Mate 10 Pro goes for €799.
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