The 15 Best Smartphones to Buy in 2018

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Apple: iPhone Xs

iPhone Xs
 Courtesy of Best Buy

A proper successor to the iPhone X, the iPhone Xs is more of an incremental update than an outright new smartphone. But when you consider how amazing the iPhone X actually was, an incremental update gives you lots to look forward to. We’ve chosen the Xs as opposed to the Xs Max because for the value, you really can’t beat it in the premium smartphone range. Available in silver, space gray, or the new eye-catching gold color, and with a configuration of 64GB, 256GB or 512GB, this is a phone you can still customize to meet your needs. Apple has taken the time to step up the visuals with a 2436 x 1125 resolution (458 ppi) screen around that signature notch. That’s pretty impressive considering its compact footprint. Another major update here is the processor: Apple has updated their chipset to a Bionic A12 with an amazing new neural engine. That gives you faster raw speeds and steps up the AI functionality of the phone, which is great for features like FaceID and the camera software.

The dual 12MP camera setup on the back gives you a wide-angle and telephoto lens — it isn’t exactly breaking any MP records, but it gives you some great resolution to play with. The front-facing 7MP camera is really only a step up in software. But with image stabilization on both sides of the phone, cool new software features like HDR composite layering and the ability to adjust the portrait mode’s bokeh blur (after the photo is taken, no less), the iPhone is now in direct competition with the award-winning photo software in the Google Pixel 2.

The Xs battery seems to have shrunk a bit here, but they’ve optimized the software to compensate. All of this, working in tandem with the updated iOS 12, makes the Xs a clear winner for our top spot.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best iPhones

 

Best Android: Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3

Courtesy of Best Buy 

We understand that there is a serious divide between the iPhone and Android users of the world, but the Google Pixel 3 may be able to sway die-hard fans to the opposing side. The phone features a 5.5-inch screen with the same crisp 2160 x 1080 resolution as the previous model. It also comes pre-installed with Google Assistant. Just say, “Hey Google,” then give a command. You can play music, screen phone calls, or even take a group selfie without touching the device.

And we would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to discuss the picture quality. The Pixel 3 delivers professional-grade photos with an eight-megapixel front-facing camera and two rear-facing cameras: one wide-angle 12.2-megapixel rear lens with f/2.2 aperture, and a second with f/1.8 aperture. Additionally, the Pixel captures videos in brilliant 4K resolution and offers unlimited Cloud storage with Google Photos.

Overall, the Pixel 3 promises reliable performance and durability, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor along with either 64GB or 128GB of storage space. The device itself also boasts an IP68 water-proof rating and contains a custom-designed Titan M security chip to ensure that your phone—and the data stored inside it—are equally protected.

Runner-Up, Best Apple: iPhone X

The phone comes in either space gray or silver in either 64GB or 256GB models, but the real eye-catcher is the screen. From corner to corner, it measures in at 5.8 inches, while the phone itself is actually smaller than the 8 Plus (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.3 inches). How? Well, the screen runs right up to the edges erasing basically any bezels and coexisting right next to the front speaker used for making calls. They’ve also done away with the home button to allow for more space to show off the screen’s beauty. How beautiful? Well, the display is Apple’s first OLED display, which allows for true blacks and brilliant whites and it offers a resolution of 2436 x 1125 pixels, giving you 458 pixels per inch. There is, of course, the requisite wide color display, 3D touch technology and everything else listed for the 8.

If you can tear your eyes away from all those specs, there’s also an impressive set of other features. For starters, Apple has found a way to truly revolutionize even the unlock phase of the phone by removing the need for a fingerprint sensor and employing face recognition. That’s right, the front-facing cam will actually recognize your face when you lift it to wake and will unlock automatically.

Beyond that, the phone gives you all that splash, water, and dust resistance, the full, blistering power of the A11 BIonic chip, a 12MP wide-angle rear cam with an additional telephoto lens (with all the features of the 8 Plus) and way too many photography tools to list here. It records video at up to 4K and up to 60 fps for cinema-quality movies and the front-facing camera (the one used for face recognition) clocks in at 7MP and also incorporates itself into a truly innovative animated emoji feature that maps your Animojis based on the facial expressions you’re showing to the camera.

Runner-Up, Best Android: Samsung Galaxy S9

With a beautiful design, improved camera and new features, the Galaxy S9 is the best smartphone Samsung has ever produced. Equipped with a 5.8-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display, the screen of the Galaxy S9 pops with bright and vibrant colors. With support for HDR content, watching content is better than ever, thanks in part to the dual stereo speakers that are 40 percent louder than the previous Galaxy S model. Powered by a brand-new Snapdragon 845 processor that’s paired with 4GB of RAM, the S9 zips through opening applications or running multiple tasks in the background. A 3,000mAh battery allows all-day battery life, while an IP68 rating adds water-resistance in up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The rear 12-megapixel camera produces outstanding shots, and with Super Slo-Mo built into the camera, you can slow down video capture to 960fps for incredible results. ​

Best Alternative Brand (Android): OnePlus 6

While OnePlus’s name might not be as recognizable as other heavy-hitting brands, the Chinese company has garnered a reputation for producing high-quality tech with less daunting price tags. With the OnePlus 6, the company has created a phone that is a worthy contender within the marketplace. The sleek design follows the trend of moving away from bezels for a larger display – the AMOLED screen measures 6.28 inches — and includes the somewhat contentious notch, which allows you to use face identification technology to unlock it. However, this is more for convenience, as it doesn’t boast the same levels of security of Apple’s Face ID. The camera can also use artificial intelligence to heighten Portrait Mode and can capture video at up to 4K at up to 60 frames per second, along with slow-motion video. Running on an Android 8.1 Oreo OS, the phone has a Snapdragon 845 CPU, up to 8 GB of RAM, and storage options range between 64 GB and 256 GB. The 3300mAh battery, while not the best available, should get you through most of the day.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best Android smartphones

Best Splurge: iPhone Xs Max

iPhone Xs Max
Courtesy of Best Buy 

The XS Max, while occupying the same-sized footprint as the iPhone 8, manages to seriously amp up the screen size thanks to the edge-to-edge design. So, as long as you don’t mind a little notch cutting in, you’ll get a whopping 6.5-inch display (technically 0.1 inches bigger than the Galaxy Note). It’s a bright, beautiful OLED display with 2688 x 1242 resolution, a ppi of 458. Plus, Apple's True Tone tech adjusts your screen color spectrum and brightness depending on the ambient lighting of the room you’re in. The new chipset is pretty impressive, too: the A12 Bionic chip gives you requisite speed increases but also millions of additional connections in the Neural engine to noticeably boost AI performance.

The camera system has also been stepped up, giving you two 12MP sensors on the back for a wide-angle and telephoto lens. The front-facing system is a 7MP single lens setup, and both systems have image stabilization. The software is the real hero here though, as they’ve taken that raw power and harnessed it for an amazing layered HDR experience (excellent for low-light photographs without blown out highs) and an updated portrait mode that both effectively introduces background blur, but also lets you adjust it after the fact. The phones come in silver, space gray, or a new gold color with 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage, and the new iOS 12 means you’ll get all the latest multitasking features and a new optimization for the A12 chip and battery. If you’ve got the space in your pocket (and your budget), this could be the best phone you’ve ever had.

Best Budget: Moto E5 Plus

Priced under $300, Motorola’s new budget phone might not boast the advanced performance or camera capabilities of its more expensive counterparts, but the Moto E5 Plus’s super-powered battery makes it ideal for budget-conscious users on the go. The 5000 mAh battery keeps the phone charged for up to 1.5 days, and it can receive six hours-worth of juice in 15 minutes of charging.

The Snapdragon 435 octa-core processor isn’t the best you’ll find on the market, but it allows the phone to keep up with most tasks. The large 18:9 screen and 6-inch display will appeal to gamers, commuters, and multitaskers alike: landscape mode offers sweeping views of your favorite videos and games, and you could easily mistake the LCD display for AMOLED. A convenient split-screen option lets you cross multiple items off your to-do list at once. And, though it’s made of plastic rather than metal and glass, the phone still has a sleek, refined appearance. 

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best budget smartphones

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Xiaomi Mi Mix 2

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a real influx of phones coming from Chinese manufacturers that have become sought-after, affordable alternatives to more well-known (and expensive) brands. Xiaomi's Mi Mix 2 is one of these phones. The 5.99-inch screen is nearly bezel-less, offering a “mostly screen” device without the dreaded notch of the iPhone and similar form factors. The construction of the phone is another standout feature as Xiaomi has decided to build the phone nearly entirely of smooth, curved ceramic. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM, so the phone performs plenty fast. The cameras offer a cool additional feature not usually found in smartphones: four-axis optical image stabilization at the sensor level, giving you exceptionally sharp imagery and video. It all comes in a super-sleek package and is compatible with a ton of carriers around the globe. The best part? It’s under $400 for features that would run you almost a grand on other phones.

Best 2018 Release: Huawei P20

It might be surprising that the iPhone or the Pixel didn’t earn this spot on the list, but the fact that Huawei has secured our “best 2018 release” spot is telling for 2018 — a year where phones have to try the hardest they have in years to differentiate themselves. The Huawei gives you a ton of bang for your buck, offering more than a few great features. Principal among them is the color: it comes in black, rose gold, a Midnight Blue that has a dark-to-light gradient, and a super-cool Twilight color that has a blue-to-green gradient. In a world of very similar-looking smartphones, it's fun to find one that offers something a little different. 

But the specs are where it really shines. The P20 has a 5.8-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1080 x 2244 with plenty of color representation. Huawei has opted for a Kirin 970 CPU, giving you 4 cores at 2.36 GHz and 4 cores of 1.8 GHz, and they’ve loaded it up with 4GB of RAM for blistering speeds. They’ve included an impressive set of sensors for additional functionality ranging from a gravity sensor to a front fingerprint reader and a gyroscope. The dual-lens camera system on the back is comprised of a 12MP and a 20MP sensor, plus an impressive pair of apertures for a phone system. Finally, at 3,400 mAh, the battery is plenty big for operation, even with all that power. It’s a great modern phone, built for 2018 market demands.

See more reviews of our favorite Samsung phones available for purchase.

Best Large Screen: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

As one of the first “phablets,” the Galaxy Note line has lasted long enough to get past a time when we even use the term “phablet” anymore. It’s an important thing to remember because as “Plus” phones take over the market, Samsung’s Note line has had years to optimize their functionality for the larger screen. The Note 9 is no exception, offering a huge 6.4-inch display while remaining only 0.35 inches thick. That display is a Quad HD+ Super AMOLED with a 2960 x 1440 resolution (516 ppi), so the massive real estate won’t lead to pixelation. The cameras are pretty solid too, with an 8MP AF sensor on the front (f/1.7 aperture) and a dual-lens setup on the back: one wide-angle lens with a super-speed Dual Pixel 12MP sensor (variable apertures of f/1.5 or f/2.4) and a telephoto lens with a 12MP AF sensor (f/2.4 aperture). In other words, this phone is a visual masterpiece.

Samsung has also updated the S Pen for this run, keeping the 4096 levels of sketchable sensitivity but adding in new Bluetooth connectivity (with 30 minutes of charge time from the phone) that allows you to use the pen as an external expression device rather than just a stylus. The Note 9 also has a 4,000 mAh battery to run all its taxing components. Roll that up with amazing video functionality, a host of expected Samsung features, up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, and a 64-bit Octa-Core Processor, and you have a high-quality large screen phone (if your pocket can accommodate it).

Runner-Up, Best Large Screen: Google Pixel 3 XL

Google Pixel 3 XL

 Courtesy of Best Buy

With a 6.3-inch screen, operating the Pixel 3 XL might actually require both hands. But the design is sleek and weighs only 6.5 ounces, and the OLED display boasts rich, true-to-life colors with 2960 x 1440 pixels. The XL has also increased its aspect ratio to 18:9, which makes for an even better video viewing experience.

The XL is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, upgrading from the 2 XL’s 835 model. It also offers 4GB of RAM and the option for 64 or 128GB of storage. The battery features 18 watts of power and is compatible with Qi wireless chargers. The XL also sports most of the same special features as the Pixel 3 including Google Assistant, Playground, and Google Lens. Additionally, the phone’s camera boasts the same HD lenses on the Pixel 3, promising 4K videos and professional-grade photos.

Best Camera: LG V40 ThinQ

LG V40 ThinQ

 Courtesy of Best Buy

LG has been fighting for the title of best smartphone camera for years. With the V40 ThinQ, it may finally win the throne. The camera is easily the most significant aspect of this device — it doesn’t just have a camera: it has five of them.  

On the rear of the V40 ThinQ is a 12-megapixel camera for standard shots typical of what we see on today’s smartphones. It also has a 16-megapixel wide-angle camera to capture a wide field of view and a 12-megapixel telephoto camera for close-up shots. The front on the V40 ThinQ adds an eight-megapixel standard camera and a five-megapixel wide-angle lens perfect for selfies with multiple friends. Altogether, these cameras add a whole new level of smartphone camera versatility.

Photos and video are best viewed on the beautiful 6.4-inch, 3120 x 1440 display. The Snapdragon 845 processor with 6GB of RAM keeps everything moving, plus there’s 64GB of storage for photos, videos, and apps. The 3300mAh battery is enough to keep you going all day, but you will probably need to recharge every night.

See more reviews of our favorite LG phones available for purchase.

Runner-Up, Best Camera: HTC U12+

The HTC U12+ brings some pretty unique features to the table, even though it seems to fall short in some of the standard set. That being said, it brings some serious features to the table: first, the phone comes with a whopping four lenses. They have the expected dual lens setup on the back in addition to a dual 8 MP lenses on the front for deeper, portrait-style selfies. This cam system has achieved a mobile DXOMark score of 103, topping the rest of the market. This model also boasts HTC's best audio yet, with a BoomSound Hi-Fi speaker system that has a separate woofer and tweeter to deliver powerful sound. That, paired with the included noise-canceling USonic earbuds, creates an immersive and high-quality audio experience. The U12+ also features Sonic Zoom, which lets you "zoom in" on a sound while filming video, amplifying voices for a true-to-life effect.

The U12+ also offers an interesting innovation in a set of pressure-sensitive buttons on the side of the phone, allowing for squeeze gestures that make your interface with many of the apps you love deeper and more multi-dimensional. The 6-inch screen offers a resolution of 2880 x 1440 (537 dpi), with the option to personalize colors. And, the phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 2.8 GHZ octa-core processor to bring it right to parity with the flagships from brands like LG and Samsung. There’s 6GB of RAM and you can get the phone with either 64 or 128 GB of storage, and they’ve even given you the option to expand the storage via Micro SD. All of this, paired with the more unique features above, and this new HTC might just be worth considering if you’re willing to risk that sometimes-quirky HTC software skin.

Check out our guide to the best HTC phones you can buy today. 

Best Battery: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Hands-down, the best smartphone for battery life is the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Its 3,600 mAh battery is larger than most phones an ensures at least two days of moderate usage, and maybe a full day of intensive, video-heavy power consumption. Of course, the S7 Edge’s sizable screen hogs a good deal of all that power, so you can expect the slightly smaller Galaxy S7 to operate with similar efficiency, even if its 3000 mAh battery is less powerful. When it comes to sheer specs, though, the S7 Edge wins out — at least when it comes to flagship, mainstream phones.

In addition to having great battery life (and turning heads left and right), the Galaxy S7 Edge is probably the best gaming smartphone in the market right now. So, what sort of features should you expect from it? How about a high-quality display with sharp resolution? Check. The Galaxy S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch, Quad HD (2560 x 1440) Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 534 ppi. And what about a fast processor? Check. The S7 Edge has a quad-core, 64-bit processor running Snapdragon 820 with a 4 GB RAM.

Best Older iOS Model: Apple iPhone 7

iPhone 7
Apple

With Apple's iPhone 7, you will find an improved battery, a better camera, water resistance and, for better or worse depending on who you ask, no headphone jack. On top of that, the introduction of the A10 Fusion chipset offers a nice performance bump. It's available in four colors, including jet black (which looks fantastic, but is prone to fingerprint marks and scratches).

The iPhone is the same size as its predecessors, but it has IP67 water-resistance standards. You can keep your iPhone up to a meter of water for 30 minutes without worrying about it getting fried. The Taptic-home button will take some getting used to, but it’s a welcome change as the physical button had to go to make way for water resistance protection. The 4.7” Retina HD screen remains top-notch and is more vivid than the 6S, especially when it comes to viewing in direct sunlight.

The inclusion of a f/1.8 sensor on the rear 12-megapixel TrueTone camera, as well as the addition of optical image stabilization are definite upgrades as well. Low-light photography has improved, too, thanks to four smart LEDs built into the camera that 50 percent more light than the previous iPhones.

The quad-core A10 chip is fantastic and allows for faster launching of apps and multitasking. Battery life on the iPhone 7 is much improved over the 6S, adding an additional two hours of talk time, thanks to the new processor and 14 percent larger battery. The lack of a headphone jack has caused quite a bit of negative chatter, but this is easily remedied with an adapter. Overall, the iPhone 7 is easily the best smartphone on the marker today.

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