Looking for a new smartphone? There are dozens upon dozens of great options on the market today, but finding the best of the best can be a bit difficult. We’ve seen some great launches over the past year and more should be coming soon too, so let’s take a look at the best Android smartphones you can buy as of September 2018.
The best gifts for Android users
NEW FROM IFA:
Sony Xperia XZ3
After debuting the Sony Xperia XZ2 earlier this year, Sony took to the stage at IFA 2018 to announce the Xperia XZ3. This device doesn’t exactly change a lot when it comes to design, but Sony’s latest is one of the company’s most exciting releases as of late.
The big story on this phone is the display. This time around, Sony is including an OLED display based on its BRAVIA TV technology and it packs HDR as well. The 6-inch display has Gorilla Glass 5, and the back of the phone does as well with some fancy new colors in tow.
Sony is packing a Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,330 mAh battery. There’s a 19MP MotionEye camera on the back capable of recording 4K HDR video and a new 13MP front-facing camera with f/1.9. Sony also says that the speakers on the Xperia XZ3 increase overall volume by 20% with better bass and treble. Wireless charging and Sony’s vibration system are back as well. Of course, there’s also no headphone jack.
The Xperia XZ3 will go on sale this October from $900 with Android 9 Pie, and it’ll be available unlocked at Amazon and Best Buy in the US.
LG G7 One
A surprise from IFA 2018 came from LG in the form of the LG G7 One. This is LG’s first entry into Android One, and it’s a pretty fascinating offering. The device offers a lot of the perks of the standard LG G7 ThinQ, but in a package that has cleaner software and, presumably, a lower price point. We don’t know what that price is just yet though, so for now, we’re going to leave this on both of our best phones lists.
Taking a look at what the LG G7 One offers, there’s a Snapdragon 835 paired with 32GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and Android 8.1 Oreo without any of LG’s skin. There’s also only one 16MP camera on the rear. LG has also brought over the same IP68-rated metal and glass build, Boombox speaker, and the 6.1-inch LCD notched SuperBright display. It also has the same Google Assistant button on the side and a headphone jack with 32-bit HiFi DAC.
NEW FOR SEPTEMBER:
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Galaxy Note 9, similar to every Note before it, goes above and beyond to craft one of the best experiences you can get on a smartphone. At the center of the experience is the massive 6.4-inch display with ever slimmer bezels than the Note 8 that came before it. Running the show there’s a Snapdragon 845 chipset as well.
Samsung is playing no games when it comes to the specs either. The base model ships with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and the top-tier offers 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. There’s also Android Oreo out of the box, dual-12MP cameras with a dual-aperture sensor, and a whopping 4,000 mAh battery under the hood.
The S-Pen also gets a revamp this year, now including a Bluetooth connection to the phone. This enables handy features such as being able to use it as a remote shutter button for the camera, as well as a remote for presentations. The S-Pen also comes in some new colors, including yellow, and the phone itself is available in Black, Blue, Purple, and Brown.
As you’d expect, Samsung includes a pretty standard array of radios and sensors as well. There’s Bluetooth 5.0, NFC/MST, and iris scanning. There’s also a fingerprint sensor on the rear and a USB-C port for charging and displaying DeX with an adapter. Wireless charging is also here, and some of Samsung’s new charging pads can get the job done even quicker.
Pricing for the Note 9 isn’t cheap, though. The phone starts at $999 and goes all the way up to $1,249 for the 512GB variant. There are links below to a few places you can buy the Note 9, and you can click here to see everywhere you can pick it up.
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Google Pixel 2/Pixel 2 XL
The original Google Pixel was one of our favorite phones of last year, and this year, Google is stepping up its game in a big way. The Pixel 2 family differs from last year by introducing some pretty stark differences between the two phones, so let’s talk about them.
First, let’s discuss what these two devices share in common, and that’s their specifications. Both Pixel 2 devices pack a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64 or 128GB of storage without a microSD slot, and USB-C for charging and audio (sadly, there are no headphone jacks here). Along with that, there’s IP67 dust and water resistance, front-facing stereo speakers on both units, and Android 8.0 Oreo with a brand new launcher.
Both devices also share the same spectacular cameras. According to Google, the new 12MP f/1.8 sensor is significantly better compared to last year’s sensor, and early results are brilliant. That’s partially thanks to the addition of OIS, and Google’s software skills are improved this year, leading to a portrait mode that works with just one camera on both the rear and front cameras.
Now, for the differences. On the Pixel 2, we’re looking at a 5-inch, OLED display with pretty significant bezels up top and at the bottom. The smaller Pixel is also available in three colors — Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue. As for the Pixel 2 XL, there’s a 6-inch 18:9 P-OLED display with slimmed down (but not totally gone) bezels all around. This one is available in two colors — Black and Black & White (aka Panda or Stormtrooper).
Unfortunately, these phones are far from perfect. Display issues have plagued the larger Pixel 2 XL in a lot of different ways, and the smaller phone hasn’t been totally free of issues either. Google isn’t giving up, though, as software improvements are continually making these phones better, and the 2-year warranty now included is an awesome bonus too.
As far as pricing goes, the Pixel 2 starts at $649 for the 64GB model and $749 for the 128GB model. The Pixel 2 XL starts at $849 for the 64GB model and goes up to $949 for 128GB. Monthly financing is available on both phones and you can also use Google’s new trade-in program to put a few extra dollars towards it. Verizon Wireless is once again the exclusive carrier of the Pixel 2 and has orders open now as well.
Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+
Like most other years, the headlining Android phone of 2018 is from Samsung. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ made their debut at MWC 2018, and they’re both fantastic phones, despite not being all that different from their predecessors. To that end, the best way to describe the hardware is that it’s basically identical, but a bit more durable.
Under the hood, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ both pack a Snapdragon 845 processor, the latest and greatest for Android devices, along with 64GB of storage. Both devices are water-resistant and offer OLED displays. For the smaller phone, there’s a 5.8-inch display and 6.2 inches on the larger S9+. The smaller phone also offers 4GB of RAM, with 6GB on the larger device.
The headlining feature on the Galaxy S9 family, though, is the cameras. While the dual-camera array is exclusive to the S9+, both devices offer Samsung’s variable aperture hardware and the improved software. Needless to say, these are some of the best cameras on the market today.
However, you’ll be paying up big time to get the S9 or S9+ in your pocket. In the United States, both devices are available unlocked as well as from any carrier.
One of our favorite smartphone releases every year is what comes from OnePlus. The company constantly releases killer Android smartphones, and the current OnePlus 6 is no exception to that rule.
For 2018, the OnePlus 6 trades out the metal build we’ve known for quite some time and replaces it with a glass and metal sandwich design. With the base “Mirror Black” model, you’ll get a standard glossy glass panel, but the “Midnight Black” and “Silk White” colors add a matte coating to that.
As usual with the specifications, OnePlus hasn’t pulled its punches at all. At the core is a Snapdragon 845 paired with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, as well as 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB of storage. It’s a pretty killer package that runs Android Oreo with Oxygen OS without breaking a sweat.
The OnePlus 6 also offers a 6.28-inch 1080p OLED display with pretty minimal bezels, but also a notch at the top. Regardless of where you stand on the notch, the OnePlus 6 has one of the best looking displays available on an Android device today.
You’ll also get a dual-camera setup on the back of the OnePlus 6 with a 12MP primary sensor and 20MP secondary sensor which is used to improve Portrait Mode. The front-facing camera is a 16MP sensor.
Rounding things out, the OnePlus 6 offers a 3,300 mAh battery with Dash Charge, water resistance (with no IP rating), a rear fingerprint sensor and Face Unlock, and a headphone jack.
Sales of the OnePlus 6 are available through the company’s website with pricing starting at $529 for 6GB/64GB, going up to $579 for 8GB/128GB, and $629 for 8GB/256GB.
LG G7 ThinQ
After delaying its launch, LG officially unveiled the LG G7 ThinQ recently. While it might not shake up the smartphone industry like some other recent releases, LG has a solid product here that should definitely be on your shortlist if you’re considering a new smartphone.
The LG G7 ThinQ, with its long name, packs a pretty run of the mill spec list for a 2018 flagship. Under the hood, you’ve got Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage with Android Oreo on board. The phone offers up a glass/metal build, rear-facing fingerprint sensor, IP68 dust/water resistance, as well as a 3,000 mAh battery and both quick and wireless charging.
You’ll also get a 6.1-inch, 3120×1440 LCD display on the G7. It is notched, but offers a special “Super Bright” mode which can max out the brightness at 1,000 nits for a few minutes for better viewing outdoors.
LG has also kept the headphone jack around on the G7 ThinQ, even upping the ante with a 32-bit Quad DAC just like in its V30. Another highlight of the phone is its “Boombox” speaker which is one of the loudest you can get on a smartphone today.
As usual, LG has also tossed in quite a few extra software features on the G7 ThinQ, this time primarily around AI. There are a lot of special camera modes that react to what the AI can recognize, and you can even launch the Google Assistant and Google Lens through a dedicated hardware button.
Pricing for the LG G7 ThinQ lands at around $750 and it’s available just about everywhere you’d expect. Verizon, T-Mobile, Project Fi, and Sprint all carry the device in stores, and you can order it unlocked from B&H Photo.
Andy Rubin’s startup Essential saw some big issues leading up to its launch, but there’s no denying this isn’t a fantastic phone. The Essential PH-1 uses premium, durable materials to create a bezel-less slab of pure Android goodness. Under the hood, it’s running on a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, all leading to pretty impressive performance with the stock Android build.
The Essential Phone doesn’t offer much in terms of features, but it does make an attempt in the camera game. There’s no hopping around the fact that the dual 12MP camera around back is disappointing, but things are continually getting better and the company’s 4K 360-degree camera mod is a pretty impressive addition to the phone.
What makes this phone an awesome deal is the recent price cut. Essential slashed the price of this phone to just $499. For what you’re getting, that’s an insanely good deal, especially now that it has Android Pie too.
Huawei P20/P20 Pro
Huawei’s efforts in the US might be in trouble, but that’s not going to affect the company’s dominance in the worldwide smartphone market all that much. Back in March, the company announced its first 2018 flagships, the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, and they’re both excellent offerings.
Both of these phones share similar, stunning designs with unique colors including the gorgeous Twilight. The metal and glass designs are very reminiscent of a certain Apple flagship, but they look great in their own way, and feel fantastic in person.
Under the hood, these phones share similar specifications. The base model Huawei P20 has a Kirin 970 chipset, 4GB of RAM, up to 128GB of storage, and Android Oreo based on 8.1 out of the box. Similarly, the P20 Pro offers that same Kirin 970 and Android 8.1, but with 6GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 is also on board over Oreo.
The phones also differ slightly in size, with the P20 offering a 5.8-inch LCD display and the P20 Pro packing a 6.1-inch AMOLED display. Both are FHD+ at an 18.7:9 aspect ratio, and yes, they both have a notch.
The main story here, though, comes with the cameras. The standard P20 has a solid setup with a 12MP primary sensor and 20MP secondary monochrome sensor.
On the P20 Pro, though, you get the first triple camera setup on any smartphone. This setup consists of a 40MP primary sensor, 20MP monochrome sensor, and 8MP telephoto camera. That gives you incredible detail and 3x optical zoom, as well as a 5x hybrid zoom. For camera quality, this is a force to be reckoned with. Both phones have various cameras modes including full manual, as well as 960fps video recording.
Pricing on these flagships isn’t particularly cheap, but you’re getting a lot for the money. With the P20, you’ll pay £599.00 from an outlet such as Carphone Warehouse, and that goes up to £799.00 for the P20 Pro. Alternatively, if you’re looking to get one imported to the States, reputable eBay sellers are offering the P20 Pro for about $880.
Motorola’s past few releases haven’t been all that crazy, and the Moto Z3 does anything but buck that trend. In all reality, the Z3 is just a carrier for Verizon’s 5G initiative, but that doesn’t stop it from having one redeeming quality.
The Moto Z3 at surface level is pretty simple. There’s a 6-inch display with cut-down bezels, a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a 12MP/12MP dual-camera setup. There’s also face unlock, Android Oreo, and a pretty 2017 spec package. Specifically, a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM, and a 3,000 mAh battery that charge over USB-C.
Realistically, there’s nothing mind-blowing about this hardware, but at $480 on Verizon, it’s not a half-bad deal. For that price (or $20/month), you’re getting a Moto Mod-compatible phone with specs that are actually pretty good at this price point. Sales are open now at Verizon.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung’s follow-up to the disastrous Note 7 brings back a lot of features from that popular phone, as well as introducing a new design and the biggest display ever on a Note device.
The Galaxy Note 8 brings, as you’d expect, a ton of specs and features to the table. Up front you’ve got a 6.3-inch AMOLED display at 2960×1440 which is actually the brightest display ever on a smartphone, according to DisplayMate. Around back there’s also Samsung’s new dual-camera system with its optical zoom and portrait mode effects, as well as a fingerprint sensor and heart rate sensor.
Under the hood, we’re looking at a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and Android Nougat out of the box. That also includes Samsung’s software skin which doesn’t really change all that much from the Galaxy S8. The notable difference here is the S-Pen.
Samsung’s infamous stylus returns in the Note 8 and it packs a few new features. It’s water-resistant just like the phone and features the same levels of sensitivity found with the Note 7, and it also adds some new software features. Screen-off memos now support up to 100 pages, and Samsung has also added “Live Messages” which lets you create fun GIFs with the S-Pen for your friends.
As you’d expect, the Note 8 is a killer device going into the fall and it’s likely a smartphone no one will regret buying. However, it comes at a cost. The Note 8 is easily one of the most expensive phones on the market today at $930 and up, but if you’re interested despite that, you can order the phone at the links below.
While they’re never going to be for everyone, some people still absolutely adore phones with a physical keyboard. After returning to its good ol’ days last year with the Keyone, BlackBerry is back with the new and improved Key2.
This device, like its predecessor, pulls the nostalgia card by implementing a full QWERTY keyboard underneath the display for input. This year, the keyboard has been improved with a matte coating, better spacing, and taller keys.
Outside of the keys, though, the BlackBerry Key2 sees a whole lot of improvements. That includes the spec sheet which now includes a Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. That results in better performance and multi-tasking on the 4.5-inch display. There’s also a new dual-camera setup on the back, improved design, and both black or silver paint jobs.
As for pricing and availability, the BlackBerry Key2 is available for $649 unlocked. It works on GSM carriers, and you can pick it up through the links below.
Sony Xperia XZ2/Compact/Premium
Sony’s Xperia smartphones don’t get much love in the United States, but they’re still solid Android smartphones. For 2018, the company’s big release is the Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact, both on sale now.
These two smartphones have seen Sony’s biggest design changes in years. Gone are the overly massive bezels and blocky designs, exchanged for curvy designs that even incorporate glass on the larger device.
As for specs, the larger Xperia XZ2 brings a 5.7-inch 18:9 LCD display to the table, packing a 3,180mAh battery. On the smaller Compact, you’ll get a 5-inch 18:9 LCD display, with a 2,870mAh battery. Under the hood, specs are similar with the Snapdragon 845, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and Android Oreo powering both devices. You can even install the Android P beta on the larger XZ2.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 runs $799 unlocked in the States while the smaller XZ2 Compact lands at $649. Both models are compatible with GSM carriers, while the Compact also works on Verizon Wireless. Orders are open now at Best Buy.
If you want to up the package even more, there’s the Xperia XZ2 Premium. It offers the same basic specs as the standard Xperia XZ2, but with a dual-camera setup on the rear, 6GB of RAM, and a 4K display. You’ll pay a pretty penny for the additions, though, as the XZ2 Premium lands at a hefty $999.
Another excellent option which launched last fall is the LG V30. While it might not get as much attention as the Note, LG has a serious winner on its hands here. The V30 is powered by the Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage with Oreo on board and LG’s skin. Not much has changed with the software outside of the addition of a “floating bar” for shortcuts, but with these specs under the hood, this phone runs well.
The V30 also packs LG’s first mainstream OLED display and it’s excellent. The 6-inch panel is sharp, has vibrant colors, and is very bright as well. The bezel-less design keeps the phone compact in the hand as well.
One of LG’s most notable features on the V30, though, is the dual-camera system around back. While the company’s standard and super wide-angle sensors are nothing particularly new, the record-setting f/1.6 aperture on the standard 16MP sensor and f/1.9 aperture on the wide-angle 13MP sensor.
Pricing varies by carrier but lands between $27-$38 a month between the major 4. A more specific breakdown is available here. The phone is, of course, also available unlocked.
If you’d like slightly higher specifications including 6GB of RAM, you can also opt for the newer LG V30S ThinQ, which is available for around $700 right now. There’s also the new LG V35 ThinQ which is similar to the V30S, but with sales available on AT&T and Project Fi.
Razer announced its first foray into the smartphone industry back in November with the aptly named Razer Phone. This spec-heavy “phone for gamers” actually has a lot of promise, even if it’s not going to be the first choice for everyone.
The Razer Phone doesn’t pull its punches at all with the spec sheet on this device, and that starts with the display. You’ve got a 5.7-inch QHD IGZO panel here, but what’s impressive is the 120Hz refresh rate. That not only helps makes compatible games a smoother experience, but makes the entire phone buttery smooth.
Further, the Razer Phone has a Snapdragon 835 under the hood, 8GB of RAM, 64GB of UFS storage (with microSD, of course) and a massive 4,000 mAh battery to keep the phone going all day. Razer has also included THX-certified speakers on the front of the phone, but there’s no headphone jack here, just an included 24-bit adapter.
Razer also has Android Oreo on board here with a near-stock experience, a dual-camera system on the back with a 12MP f/1.7 primary sensor, and interesting added features such as Nova Launcher Prime pre-installed.
Retail pricing for the Razer Phone is $699 in the US unlocked online and in select stores such as Microsoft stores, as well as in the UK from Three. You can buy your phone from Razer’s website now or Amazon, where the price is currently $549.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Despite a high price tag and the fact it won’t be sold through carrier channels, the Mate 10 Pro from Huawei is one of the best phones you can get today. The successor to the Mate 9 has a new design, improved specs, and catches up to the rest of the industry.
For its second US flagship, Huawei has gone all out. The new 6-inch OLED 18:9 display is sharp and clear with fantastic colors and viewing angles. Backing that up, you’ve got one of the best looking designs on a smartphone today. The glass rear looks fantastic across the board, somehow standing out in a sea of glass phones.
Under the hood, the Mate 10 Pro is powered by a Kirin 970 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and Android Oreo on board out of the box.
As for cameras, Huawei is back with another dual-camera array once again built-in collaboration with its partners from Leica. The f/1.6 aperture is impressive, and both stills and video look great.
Unfortunately, a lot of this greatness gets ignored for one major reason — this phone is $799. Sold only unlocked in the States (for GSM carriers only mind you), $799 up front is a pretty tough sell, even with one of the best phones on the market today.
The Mate 10 Pro is available internationally from various carriers and retail outlets, and in the US, it’s available unlocked from several popular outlets, several of which are listed below.
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