What's New - Updated 8/23: Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Note 8, and we've gone hands-on with the phone, highlighting some of the top features you can find in the Note 8. The Note 8, which is available for preorder on Aug. 24, will cost between $930 and $960, depending on carrier.
The Galaxy Note 8 is about to hit retail shelves, while the Phone 8 remains a rumor. So it still might not be the best time to buy a premium smartphone. However, if you really need a phone now, there are plenty of great options available. And if you're on a budget, there's no need to wait at all.
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
is the best choice for most people.
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ boast a new Infinity Display that stretches all the way from edge to edge of the design. The screen is also crisp, sharp and colorful. The S8 is the fastest performing smartphone that we have tested and features the best cameras we’ve tested. These handsets offer longer lasting batteries than their predecessors, too.
Prefer iOS? You should probably wait for the iPhone 8 at this point, as it should be announced next month. It's expected to sport a much better OLED screen, wireless charging and a 3D facial scanning feature, among other new features. Be sure to check out all the latest iPhone 8 rumors. If you want an iPhone now, the iPhone 7 is good but the iPhone 7 Plus is better because of its dual cameras, bigger screen and more 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 boasts 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.
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.
iPhone 8 (Fall 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 and OLED screen that will all but eliminate bezels from the front of the phone. It also looks like augmented reality will be a major focus for the next iPhone. (iOS 11, previewed at WWDC, includes a tool to help developers create AR experiences.) Another rumor suggests Apple may introduce the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, which would feature only modest changes from this year's iPhones. However, all the phones Apple introduces in 2017 are expected to include wireless charging. While there have been rumors about a delayed release, a prominent analysts thinks the iPhone 8 is on track to debut alongside Apple's other phones in September.
Google Pixel 2 (Fall 2017)
Google's already planning a sequel to the Pixel. "You can count on a successor this year," 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. Once again, expect two pixels, though the successor to the 5-inch Pixel isn't expected to be much of a departure from the original. As for the Pixel XL sequel, it's expected to feature a larger screen, and the sides of the phone may also be squeezable to let you control the built-in Google Assistant.
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 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
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
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
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 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
Audio is one of the most overlooked aspects on a smartphone, but the HTC U11 doesn’t make that mistake. HTC's BoomSound speakers combine the output of the phone’s earpiece and bottom-firing speaker to produce louder and richer sound than any other phone on the market. On top of that, when you want to listen to things a bit more privately, the U11's included USB-C earbuds offer adaptive audio adjustment that custom tunes sound just for your ears while also give you true noise-cancellation tech. There's just one downside: no headphone jack on the phone. But since HTC includes an adapter dongle in the box,there's still a way to plug in your old headphones, too.
MORE: HTC U11 Full Review
Phones to Watch
Samsung hopes to make you forget all about last year's Note 7 recall with the Note 8, a 6.3-inch phone that adopts the edge-to-edge Infinity Display of the Galaxy S8. The new Note is also powered by the same Snapdragon 835 processor found in the S8, but with 6GB of RAM. The Note 8 is the first Samsung phone to offer dual rear cameras — a pair of 12-megapixel shooters that offer a 2X optical zoom — and the S Pen Stylus has learned a whole bunch of new tricks. The Note 8 is available for pre-order on Aug. 24, with the phone hitting stores Sept. 15.
Samsung follows up this spring's Galaxy S8 release with a more durable version. The Galaxy S8 Active has the same screen size, processor, RAM and storage as its predecessor, but the Active has a more rugged design, including a shatterproof screen. We haven't gotten our hands on the S8 Active yet, but we're especially interested in seeing if the new phone's 4,000 mAh battery can improve upon the 10-hour, 39-minute time we got out of the S8 and its 3,000 mAh battery in our testing.