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The best smartphone really only comes in two flavors: Android or iPhone. Yet, there are many options to pick from, so while it’s great that there are plenty of choices, it also means that making a decision can be that much more difficult. After all, smartphones are expensive, and chances are that you’ll be stuck with that cell phone for 1 to 2 years.
Therefore, we’ve compiled a list to help, breaking down each handset’s features, pros and cons, and also providing you with what you need to know to make an informed decision. Without further adieu, these are 7 of the best smartphones that you can buy today.
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- 1 Best Smartphones 2019
- 2 #1 Pick Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – Editor’s Choice/Best Android Smartphone
- 3 #2 Pick Apple iPhone X
- 4 #3 Pick Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+
- 5 #4 Pick LG V30
- 6 #5 Pick Google Pixel 2
- 7 #6 Pick Moto Z2 Force
- 8 #7 Pick HTC U11
- 9 What to look for in the Best Smartphone
- 10 Mistakes to Avoid
- 11 Most Important Features
- 12 Which Smartphone is Right for You?
Best Smartphones 2019
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8||Apple iPhone X||Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+||LG V30||Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL|
|Rank||#1 - Editor's Choice/Best Android Smartphone||#2||#3||#4||#5|
|OS||Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)||iOS 11.0.2||Android 7.1.1 (Nougat)||Android 7.1.2 (Nougat)||Android 8.0 (Oreo)|
|Display Type||Super-AMOLED||OLED||Super-AMOLED||P-OLED||AMOLED (Pixel 2) or P-OLED (Pixel 2 XL)
|Display Resolution||QHD+ (1440 x 2960 pixels)||Super Retina HD (1125 x 2436 pixels)||QHD+ (1440 x 2960 pixels)||QHD+ (1440 x 2880 pixels)||1080P (Pixel 2) or QHD+ (Pixel 2 XL)|
|Display Size||6.3" (18.5:9 ratio)||5.8" (19.5:9 ratio)||5.8" (S8) or 6.2" (S8+),18.5:9 ratio||6.0" (18:9 ratio)||5.0" 16:9 ratio (Pixel 2) or 6.0" 18:9 ratio (Pixel 2 XL)|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 835 octa-core||Apple A11 Bionic hexa-core||Snapdragon 835 octa-core||Snapdragon 835 octa-core||Snapdragon 835 octa-core|
|Cameras||Dual 12MP: f/1.7 standard-angle + f/2.4 2x optical zoom) with Dual Pixel AF and OIS, 8MP front||Dual 12MP: f/1.8 standard-angle + f/2.4 2x optical zoom) with OIS, 7MP front||12MP (f/1.7, OIS, Dual Pixel AF) rear, 8MP front||16MP (standard-angle, f/1.6, OIS) + 13MP (wide-angle, f/1.9) rear and 5MP front||12.2MP (f/1.8, OIS) rear, 8MP front|
|Battery||3,300 mAh||2,716 mAh||3,000 mAh (S8) |
or 3,500 mAh (S8+)
|3,300 mAh||2,700 mAh (Pixel 2) or 3,520 mAh (Pixel 2 XL)|
|Starting Price||$960||$999||$750 (S8) or $850 (S8+)||$840||$650 (Pixel 2) or $850 (Pixel 2 XL)|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
#1 Pick Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – Editor’s Choice/Best Android Smartphone
Price: $960 | Display: 6.3″ S-AMOLED QHD+ | Battery: 3,300 mAh
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The accumulation of useful features and high quality components outdoes the competition.
The Galaxy Note series is what started the big phone “phablet” revolution and has been a solid, top-dog recommendation ever since – that is, until the disastrous event of the Note 7 battery failures and its eventual discontinuation.
In 2017, Samsung was diligent in burying the debacle by dropping the striking Galaxy S8 and S8+ duo at the beginning of the year, coupled with a robust 8-point battery test to ensure the incident never happens again. The Note 8 then followed in the Fall with that same successful formula, a couple new tricks, and the signature S-Pen stylus.
Bezel reduction was the focus in Samsung’s 2017 flagship smartphone design, and since the Note is always the big boy, we have an immense 6.3” made of the company’s brightest S-AMOLED panel to date. A 6.3” size may sound ridiculous to many, but it happens that the Note 8 isn’t impractically unwieldy because of its new 18.5:9 ratio (as opposed to the typical 16:9). The other new, headlining feature is Samsung’s first use of a dual camera system, where the secondary lens has an optical 2x zoom (so you can zoom without losing quality).
The Note 8’s other specs are the same as its slightly smaller Galaxy S8+ brother: octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipset, 12MP f/1.7 primary rear camera sensor, 64GB internal storage with microSD expansion, IP68-rated waterproofing, and fast-capable wireless charging. However, while the Note 8 ups the RAM to 6GB from 4GB, its battery capacity unfortunately decreases from 3,500 mAh on the S8+ to 3,300 mAh (to make space for the S-Pen). The Note 8’s color variations are limited to Midnight Black or Orchid Grey (at the time of this writing).
#2 Pick Apple iPhone X
Price: $999 | Display: 5.8″ OLED Super Retina HD | Battery: 2,716 mAh
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone leaps into a new era with a nearly bezel-less OLED display, most robust face unlocking ever, and the fastest processor.
This year’s iPhone releases went a lot differently. The successors to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus came on que in September, but skipping the usual “S” phase and jumping straight to the “8” moniker. This may suggest that there are more than just incremental changes, but that actually wasn’t the case. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus primarily get the usual internal boosts. The only visible change is the change of the metal backing to glass, to accommodate wireless charging.
Fortunately, this wasn’t all that Apple had in store. The real highlight is the iPhone X – Apple’s additional and more technologically advanced release in light of the 10th year since the first iPhone. From the rear, the iPhone X isn’t too different from the also dual-camera’d 8 Plus. But the front bears a completely story. Apple, who has never paid much attention to its screen-to-body ratio, has introduced its first crack at ridding the bezels.
It’s apparent that this leap had its fair challenges, most notably from that strange notch up top that cuts into the display. Instead moving the fingerprint scanner to the back, Apple boldly chose to remove it completely. In its place is a brand new and way improved Face ID unlocking. The notch contains robust face scanning sensors to make sure the system is super secure and reliable.
For specs, we have Apple’s new A11 “Bionic” hexa-core processor (which has been shown to be the fastest smartphone processor to date), 3GB of RAM, 64GB/256GB storage options, and IP67-rated waterproofing. The 5.8″ edge-to-edge OLED has a “Super Retina HD” resolution of 1,125 x 2,436 pixels and True Tone adaptive technology. The standard angle rear camera is a 12MP f/1.8 module, while the 2x telephoto sensor is also 12MP but at a smaller f/2.4 aperture. Both sensors has OIS. It’s important to know that the front 7MP and f/2.2 selfie camera also has a Portrait mode and the ability to change the lighting of the subject.
Apple is using the major technological progressions to justify a drastic price hike. The iPhone X starts at a whopping $999 (64GB storage). You’ll be able to choose from Space Gray or Silver color options.
#3 Pick Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The Galaxy S8 feature set is multitudinous, headed by the best display tech in the market.
Like last year, Samsung launched a pair of Galaxy S8’s in 2017. But this time they’re equivalently designed, only with different display and battery sizes. Samsung carried over the subtly and symmetrically curved glass design from the Note 7 but didn’t just leave the Galaxy S8 to be an incremental update. On the contrary, this is one of Samsung’s most drastic updates to the Galaxy S line. The front of the phone loses its physical buttons and gains screen in its place. The Galaxy S8 was of the first smartphone to kick off the bezel-less trend in 2017, and in our opinion is still the best attempt.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ may sound like a handful at 5.8″ and 6.2″ sized displays, respectively, but the reduction of bezels came with new aspect ratios. The phones are now taller, at a 18.5:9, which means that they’re not as wide as the large screen sizes suggest. They actually feel great in hand. The only drawback of this change is that the fingerprint scanner had to be moved to an unergonomic placement next to the rear camera.
Several of the S8’s internals are similar to what we saw last year, such as the 4GB of RAM, base 64GB of internal storage, microSD expansion, IP68-rated waterproofing, fast wireless charging, and 3,000 mAh battery capacity (3,500 mAh on the S8+). The speedy 12MP Dual Pixel f/1.7 camera also makes a return, but is now flush with the back panel. But the chipset gained a significant bump to the octa-core Snapdragon 835, as well as a revamped and better optimized user interface. Samsung also debuted its own virtual assistant called Bixby (and a physical button for it).
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are offered in three color choices: Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, or Arctic Silver. They’re about $100 apart, starting at $750.
#4 Pick LG V30
Price: $840 | Display Size: 6.0″ P-OLED QHD+ | Battery: 3,300 mAh
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Beautiful OLED screen with tiny bezels, wide-angle camera, and unrivaled HiFi audio makes the V30 a top competitor.
The V30 is the third iteration of LG’s relatively but quietly brilliant V-series. Similar to Samsung’s Note line, the V-series is LG’s larger flagship smartphone that gets released in the 2nd half of the year. Surprisingly, the V30 doesn’t just happen to be a larger G6 (LG’s first flagship smartphone of the year); there are significant improvements. The display tech has switched to OLED from LCD – a very overdue change – with even smaller bezels than the G6. However, fans of the series’ signature secondary screen may be sadden that this move eliminated it. LG coded a software “floating bar” in its place.
The other excellent features of the G6 have carried over, like the IP68-rated waterproofing, wireless charging, secondary wide-angle camera, and premium glass-dominated build (for better or worse). But the camera quality has improved all around. The primary, standard angle sensor now has 16 MP and a f/1.6 aperture (the first in a smartphone), and the secondary sensor has a f/1.9 aperture (from f/2.4 on the G6). LG has also included the HiFi Quad DAC (sound processor) in every V30 model.
Other specs include the octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB base storage (microSD expandable), and 3,300 mAh battery (no longer removeable). Color is limited to Silver in the US. The price of the V30 is also very competitive compared to the nearly $1K Note 8, at $840 retail.
#5 Pick Google Pixel 2
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The best Nexus phone yet and most optimized Android software.
2017 brought the highly anticipated sequel to Google first house-made pair of Pixel smartphones. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL maintain the metal/glass construction like before, but with refinements all around. The glass window on the rear is significantly reduced and the finish atop the metal is much softer and better-feeling in the hand. The smaller, 5.0″ Pixel 2 keeps its large bezels, but the footprint is still plenty more compact than the large 6.0″ Pixel 2 XL. That said, the 2 XL has much smaller bezels and a 18:9 aspect ratio compared to the standard 16:9 ratio on its little brother. Despite the size differences, Google manages to preserve the same awesome specs, with the exception of the display and battery sizes.
So both phones rock the octa-core Snapdragon 835 like on all other top-end flagships, 4GB of RAM, 64GB/128GB internal storage options (no microSD expansion), and IP67-rated waterproofing. The 12.2 MP rear camera (f/1.8, OIS) gets a big boost in performance despite the original Pixel having one of the best smartphone cameras, receiving the best DxOMark smartphone score to date (98). Also, being that these are Google smartphones, they’re the first to ship with the latest Android build, 8.0 (aka Oreo).
Improvements to software and AI capabilities are the biggest things that the Pixel 2 phones bring to the table. Some of these are the introduction of Google Lens (grabs relevant information off the web for images you take), Now Playing (the phone tells you what is playing when it hears music in the background), and deeper Google Assistant (Google’s virtual assistant) integration and capabilities. There’s also a niftier way to toggle Google Assistant, by squeezing the sides of the phone.
The smaller Pixel 2 comes in Kinda Blue, Just Black, and Clearly White color options, while the larger Pixel 2 XL only has Just Black and Black & White. Pricing starts at $650 retail for the 64GB Pixel 2 and jumps up by $200 for the 64GB Pixel 2 XL.
#6 Pick Moto Z2 Force
Price: $750 | Display: 5.5″ AMOLED QHD+ | Battery: 2,730 mAh
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Awesome software performance and unique and useful modular add-ons.
Last year, Motorola introduced a new flagship smartphone series with the Moto Z. We welcomed the design shifts the company made in our review, primarily for its bold concept for modular add-ons known as Moto Mods. These mods, which effortlessly snap onto the back of the phone via a magnetic pin system, ranged from a large speaker, battery extender shell, and even a projector. Motorola is back with the Moto Z2 Force in 2017. The sequel doesn’t come with any drastic design updates, but is rather a refinement across the board.
So the front of the phone still sports a 5.5″ sized AMOLED display with sizable bezels and front-placed fingerprint scanner, while the rear still bears the circular camera protrusion and magnetic pin system for the Moto Mods. However, the back panel is now more durable metal than glass, and we have two rear camera instead of one. The secondary camera is a monochrome sensor, meant to boost the quality of images and enable bokeh depth of field (or Portrait) capturing. You can also expect the latest Snapdragon 835 chipset from Qualcomm coupled with 4GB of RAM. But we unfortunately don’t get some extras that other top-end flagships sport like wireless charging or waterproofing. Additionally, the battery capacity has dropped to accommodate a thinner profile (from 3,500 mAh to 2,730 mAh).
One great thing is that Motorola is sticking behind its Moto Mod concept with the Z2 Force. The design is the same, so even your original Mods will work on the new phone. Motorola’s Mod portfolio is also expanded with 360 camera, updated speaker, and an awesome gamepad attachment. Check out our Moto Z2 Force smartphone review for some impressions of these.
The Moto Z2 Force comes with 64GB on-board storage (with microSD support) and Black or Gold color options. On Verizon, the phone goes for about $750 retail.
#7 Pick HTC U11
Price: $650 | Display: 5.5″ S-LCD 5 QHD | Battery: 3,000 mAh
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Gorgeous glass and reflective color design, stellar camera performance, and speedy software.
While the HTC 10 last year was a solid and competitive flagship smartphone, it didn’t manage to match up to sales of more recognized offerings from Samsung and LG. That is in no way stopping HTC from continuing to churn out compelling smartphones. 2017 came with HTC’s boldest release in a long time, the U11. Gone is the metal build in place for glass, and what a looker it is. Unlike most smartphone makers, HTC is not just embracing colors, and but showing them off in a spectacular way. The company is using a film under the glass that induces color shifting at different angles. The visual is eye-catching to say the least.
For specs, the U11 shares many of the top-end components as seen elsewhere, such as the octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB base storage (with microSD expansion), and IP67-rated waterproofing. But the battery capacity is on the small side for the phone’s 5.5″ size. The rear and front camera sensors are both big selling points of the U11. The rear uses HTC’s UltraPixel 3 technology (12MP, f/1.7 aperture, 1.4 μm pixel size, and OIS), while the front has a whopping 16MP with f/2.0 aperture (but no OIS like on the HTC 10).
One of two neat and unique features of this smartphone is the inclusion of HTC’s USonic earbuds in the box. The U11 does not have a headphone jack, but these buds have a USB-C connect and feature noise-cancellation tech. The second notable feature is the pressure sensors on the side of the phone. For the first time ever, you can squeeze the phone is toggle different functions (to your custom commands).
The HTC U11 is offered in several colors: Amazing Silver, Brilliant Black, Sapphire Blue, and Solar Red. It starts at $650 for the 64GB version.
What to look for in the Best Smartphone
Software: Hardware specs are important in smartphones, but we can’t forget that the software largely determines our experience. Chances are that you’ve decided on the operating system (iOS, Android, or Windows). However, if you’re going with Android, there’s another level to the software – the UI. Manufacturers all develop their own skin on top of Android, some more heavy than others, that offer different features. Make sure to research the differences.
Display: The two competing display technologies that manufacturers decide among are IPS LCD and AMOLED panels, which have different advantages and disadvantages. IPS LCD’s have more natural colors while AMOLED displays are more vibrant. Also, AMOLED can result in better battery life, because pixels can individually light up as needed.
Battery: The battery subject speaks for itself. Battery life is often a pain-point with smartphones. We ask so much from them, and before we know it, our precious phone is nothing more than a paperweight. Therefore, always be mindful of the battery’s mAh capacity in the phone’s specs.
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t go too cheap: Many times, casual smartphone users simply buy cheap variants. They’re typically fine at first, but then the tiny storage space gets filled up, or the system gets taxed with one too many apps. Manufacturers can skimp on important specs for the bargain price, so look for a good balance.
Camera: A high megapixel count doesn’t mean that a camera is good. The quality more has to do with the lens and sensor competency. When considering a smartphone, check out more specifics about the camera, such as aperture size. A larger aperture lens (less is more – e.g. 1.8f) lets in more light, making it better equipped for those tricky low-light situations. Also, avoid cameras with slow Auto-Focus. Life happens fast, and a smartphone camera should be able to keep up.
Most Important Features
- There are different tier chipsets for different smartphone prices. Avoid going too cheap. Processors with multiple cores and more RAM helps multitasking and UI navigation drastically.
- Be mindful of the internal storage space. 8GB is too low in this day and age (even 16GB, unless there is expandable microSD card support). If you’re looking at the iPhone, don’t go smaller than 32GB, otherwise you’ll be deleting photos and apps before you know it.
- The display quality that you get can be affected by the phone’s price. Manufacturers sometimes cheap out and use an inferior panel with low resolution.
- IPS LCD panels are commonly used, such as in the iPhone. They maintain the great color reproduction of LCD’s while improving viewing angles.
- AMOLED display technology is newer than LCD and offers some advantages: colors are vibrant, quality is maintained at even extreme viewing angles, and potential battery savings.
- Manufacturers try different approaches to help the battery life concern. Many tune their UI to be efficient, and some have two tiers of Power Saving settings.
- Quick or Fast charging have helped by getting us charged much faster. Make sure to check if the phone in question has this feature.
- Always look at the mAh battery capacity in the phone’s spec sheet. These days, phone’s that pack around 3,000 mAh can last a day with moderate-heavy usage.
Which Smartphone is Right for You?
Smartphones add a lot to our lives and it’s great that it’s harder to end up with a bad one these days. Top-end smartphones are reaching a performance limit, and that’s giving more affordable options a chance to catch up. However, manufacturers are still coming up with compelling features in order to win your money, so consider what matters most to you when deliberating these cellphones.