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February 7, 2018

Best Android Phones of 2018

by John_A

  • Best overall
  • Best with huge screen
  • Best mainstream alternative
  • Best for battery life
  • Best for features

Note: We’re just a few weeks away from the Galaxy S9 and S9+ being announced, which will certainly have an effect on this list. But until they’re available, here are the best Android phones you can buy today.

Best overall

Google Pixel 2

google-pixel-2-black-on-cement.jpg?itok=

See at Verizon
See at Best Buy
See at Google Store

Google’s new Pixel 2 gives you sleek and solid hardware, all of the requisite specs inside and runs simple and intuitive software at a breakneck pace. The hardware surely isn’t flashy, but it’s beautiful and efficient — and it’s now IP67 water-resistant like we expect.

The software features and Google’s apps aren’t numerous, but they’re delightfully useful without being bothersome. And with three years of guaranteed updates, you don’t have to worry about the future.

The Pixel 2 has once again set the standard for Android cameras as well, with Google’s “HDR+” processing buoyed by new camera hardware and even better processing. Photos are accurate with just a little extra punch of color, and can manage tough scenes with little issue. And with Android 8.1, the Pixel Visual Core chipset enables dramatically better photos in third-party apps.

Bottom line: The best Android experience comes straight from Google with the Pixel 2. Great hardware and amazing software support an amazing camera that’s only getting better.

One more thing: Though Verizon will tout the Pixel 2 is “exclusive” to the carrier, know that you can buy the phone unlocked from a variety of sources and use it on your carrier of choice.

Why the Google Pixel 2 is the best

If you want the best possible Android experience, you go straight to the source: Google. The company has gotten serious about user experience and interface design, and it really shows with Android 8.1 Oreo on the Pixel 2. Everything is blazing fast, smooth, consistent and intuitive throughout the interface. It’s a core competency that separates the Pixel 2 from the competition, and it’s something that any smartphone user can appreciate.

Google has gotten really good at user experience and interface design.

And it’s not just software customization that makes it happen — Google has included a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM and 64GB (optionally, 128GB) of storage to make sure your phone has plenty of room to run. A 2700mAh battery seems small (well, normally, it is), but it manages to get you a full day of use without worry. The little body also packs front-facing stereo speakers, which are a rarity in 2017.

Further to that point, Google has sourced a quality 5-inch 1080p panel that looks good at the $649 price point. Oh, yes, it’s just 5 inches. Despite its big top and bottom bezels (remember the speakers?), the Pixel 2 is quite comfortable to hold and reach to all four corners of the screen without the help of a second hand.

The Pixel 2 doesn’t focus on the number of features, it focuses on the impact of each one.

If there’s one knock on the Pixel 2, it’s that it doesn’t have the sheer volume of features in its hardware or software that some of the competition does. It doesn’t have a headphone jack, wireless charging or an SD card slot; and if you’re used to having a bunch of specialized software features on your Samsung, LG or Huawei phone you won’t find them here.

But for most people, those are relatively small prices to pay to get a daily experience of using a phone that’s fast, intuitive, smart and filled with a core set of features that can actually wow you. That’s what you get from the Pixel 2.

Best with a huge screen

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

note-8-vertical-black-back.jpg?itok=qC8E

See at Verizon
See at AT&T
See at T-Mobile
See at Sprint
See at Best Buy
See at Amazon

Take everything that makes the Galaxy S8 great, and scale it up — that’s what also makes the Galaxy Note 8 compelling. A very familiar glass-and-metal body is wrapped around a larger 6.3-inch display, but a panel that’s even better in terms of brightness and colors.

For this top-dollar phone you’ll find top-end specs, great performance and super-capable software. Plus a new dual camera setup that offers you 2X zooming without losing resolution and a new “Live Focus” mode that mimics the background blur of a professional camera. None of the camera changes come at a cost of reduced primary camera quality, either.

Then you get the S Pen, of course, offering fine input, drawing abilities and new productivity tricks you simply can’t get from any other phone out there. The stylus isn’t for everyone, but you’ll find plenty of people who swear by its capabilities.

Bottom line: For the biggest, most powerful and most capable phone Samsung makes, look no further.

One more thing: Be ready to spend the big bucks — the Note 8 is far and away Samsung’s most expensive phone ever at nearly $1000.

Best mainstream alternative

LG V30

lg-v30-hands-on-20.jpg?itok=-s1_bmGb

See at AT&T
See at Verizon
See at Sprint
See at T-Mobile

LG’s V series has traditionally been a big and brawny phone, but in 2017 the V30 is just a great overall device that has handily taken over from the G6 launched earlier this year. It stuck with a metal-and-glass build, but slimmed down the sides and integrated subtle curves to make it rather easy to hold despite a 6-inch 18:9 display on the front.

Internally you get top-notch specs you’d expect from any flagship, and around back LG continues to impress with a fantastic pair of cameras. The standard shooter does really well despite its small pixels, and the secondary wide-angle camera is the best implementation LG has ever made. It offers an extremely unique perspective you just don’t see anywhere else.

LG’s software is capable and smooth, if still a bit clunky and uncoordinated in a few areas — but that can still be said about most phones nowadays.

Bottom line: LG does all of the basics amazingly well, and accents it with a nice body and super-capable pair of cameras.

One more thing: Some markets and carriers have a “V30+” model available with more storage available, offering even better value.

Best for battery life

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

huawei-mate-10-pro-second-6.jpg?itok=FVH

See at Best Buy
See at B&H

Unlike its predecessor the Mate 9, Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro is an absolute looker — and it clearly positions itself right next to the flagship competition. Metal and glass are finely crafted and filled with top-notch specs, and its Leica-tuned dual cameras are capable of some wonderful shots with the help of the Kirin processor inside.

Alongside all of that, the Mate 10 Pro hits it out of the park with battery life. The combination of a 4000mAh battery, efficient processor, somewhat restrictive software and a 1080p display make this a true two-day flagship for many people, and that’s just not something you see all that often.

The only downside, as ever, is Huawei’s EMUI software. Though it has gotten better with Oreo, it still has many areas that are rough on the eyes, not very functional or inexplicably broken when it comes to integrating with third-party apps.

Bottom line: It’s a true flagship with all of the best specs, and incredible battery life. You just have to give a little in terms of software experience.

One more thing: When searching for a Mate 10 Pro, make sure you’re getting the U.S. unlocked model so that you have proper network bands and warranty support.

Best for features

Samsung Galaxy S8

galaxy-s8-black-back-rock.jpg?itok=qbiGl

See at Verizon
See at AT&T
See at T-Mobile
See at Sprint
See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming, you can’t argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there’s something in here for everyone’s needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: With the Galaxy S9 being announced on February 25, it’s probably worth waiting to see what the new phone offers — or at the very least, how Galaxy S8 prices drop.

Conclusion

The Pixel 2 doesn’t have as many features as some other phones, but the entire experience of using the phone, from top to bottom, is ahead of the competition. Just about anyone can appreciate what Google offers in this phone.

Best overall

Google Pixel 2

google-pixel-2-black-on-cement.jpg?itok=

See at Verizon
See at Best Buy
See at Google Store

Google’s new Pixel 2 gives you sleek and solid hardware, all of the requisite specs inside and runs simple and intuitive software at a breakneck pace. The hardware surely isn’t flashy, but it’s beautiful and efficient — and it’s now IP67 water-resistant like we expect.

The software features and Google’s apps aren’t numerous, but they’re delightfully useful without being bothersome. And with three years of guaranteed updates, you don’t have to worry about the future.

The Pixel 2 has once again set the standard for Android cameras as well, with Google’s “HDR+” processing buoyed by new camera hardware and even better processing. Photos are accurate with just a little extra punch of color, and can manage tough scenes with little issue. And with Android 8.1, the Pixel Visual Core chipset enables dramatically better photos in third-party apps.

Bottom line: The best Android experience comes straight from Google with the Pixel 2. Great hardware and amazing software support an amazing camera that’s only getting better.

One more thing: Though Verizon will tout the Pixel 2 is “exclusive” to the carrier, know that you can buy the phone unlocked from a variety of sources and use it on your carrier of choice.

Update February 2018: The aging KEYone drops off the list, but we’ve added the now-widely-available Mate 10 Pro as our pick for battery life. The Galaxy S8 remains, but with a caveat on account of its impeding replacement, the Galaxy S9, launching at the end of February.

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