Updated July 18: The first official-looking images of the Galaxy Note 9 have emerged. See updated rumors ahead of August 9 launch.
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 Moto G6. For just $250, you get a colorful 5.7-inch display with minimal bezels, solid performance from its Snapdragon 450 processor and helpful software features.
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, but the upcoming Galaxy Note 9 is expected to sport a larger 6.4-inch screen, a new version of the Bixby assistant and other improvements.
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.
News and Updates (July 2018)
- The Vivo Nex phone is red hot because it sports a fingerprint sensor in the display and a unique pop-up selfie camera. And you can now buy the Nex if you import it.
- Galaxy Note 9: The Galaxy Note 9 is expected to sport a 6.4-inch screen and a 4,000 mAh battery, as well as S Pen enhancements and a new version of the Bixby assistant. The Note 9's price has leaked, and the first images of the handset that look pretty legit. 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, two lenses for the front camera and an October launch. There are new renders that show off the design of the Pixel 3 and notched Pixel 3 XL.
- iPhone X2/iPhone X Plus/iPhone 9: Apple is reportedly working on three new iPhone models for later this year, and one of them could start at a more reasonable $799 or even cheaper. Get caught up on all the latest iPhone rumors.
- Galaxy S10: Samsung's main flagship is expected to be unveiled in February and may come with a fingerprint-reading display and as many as five cameras. Here's the latest S10 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.
Moto's G Series has been the go-to phone for people who don't want to shell out a lot of money for their smartphone but still expect a solid performer. With its colorful 5.7-inch display, capable processor and inviting design, this year's Moto G6 continues to live up to that standard. You'll have to live with below-average battery life and a just-OK camera, but the G6 delivers on enough features to make it a great value. Best of all, the G6 works on both GSM and CDMA networks, so you're not restricted to using select carriers.
MORE: Moto G6 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.