I would do 8, but I’m too lazy for that.
Since 2017 is coming to a close, it’s time we round up the best Android phones of the year.
What makes a “Good” phone?
We’re basing this criteria on what people actually want in a phone. This includes:
- Internal & External Storage
- Hardware Design and Feel
- Charging & Battery Life
- Extra Features (e.g. fingerprint scanner)
- Support from the Manufacturer
It’s also notable that the phones in this list aren’t in any order, and do, in fact, stand out for many different reasons.
1. Samsung Galaxy S8
You knew this one was going to be in this list. Just about every entry in the Samsung Galaxy series is a strong candidate for the best phone of the year, to the point that it makes people refer to the whole of Android phones as Samsungs (and it still annoys me to this date).
The screen will take you away the moment you turn it on. Clear, sharp, and amazing colour reproduction, it makes watching movies in HD feel so surreal like a dream. The only issue with this is that the screen is a little too long to fit in one hand with an aspect ratio of 18:5:9 and a resolution of 1440 x 2960.
With the decision to now make the Galaxy series “edge” by default, the glass is curved on both sides. If you’re worried about accidentally touching the sides of the screen, you’ll be pleased to find that this doesn’t actually happen all that much.
The front and back of the phone rolls seamlessly into the metal rim and it really has that premium luxurious feel to it, easily making it the best looking phone in this list. You may not want to rely on its durability though.
An intresting design choice is the removal of the phone’s physical buttons on the front of its handset, replacing with buttons on screen. This does give you a larger screen size and is great when gaming or when watching movies, but to some, it can feel may feel a little odd.
As with performance, the S8 comes with a Snapdragon 835 processor paired with 4 GB of RAM, and manages to fair very well between multitasking and switching through different apps. The internal storage of the phone may only be limited to 64 GB, but it still has an expandable storage of up to 256 GB.
With the recent exploding battery incident with the Note 7, Samsung decided to play it safe with the S8 using the same 3000 mAh powerpack as the S7. This doesn’t mean that they haven’t upped their battery game at all.
The phone has fast wireless charging that works with any wireless charger you can find around to make sure you have more than one way to make sure you won’t be running around with a dead brick in your pocket.
The battery life however is sub-par, going from full-charge to 60% in about 6 hours with average use. It’s not as good as last year’s S7 Edge, but with this phone’s wide array of improvements, that’s to be expected.
The camera is still one of the best around. It makes good use of sharpness, lighting, and colour to give you great accurate photography of just about any scene you can find around. The 12MP rear-camera and 8MP front-camera both work nicely in low-light levels as well which can often take snaps that look better than you see them in real life. It also sticks to using a single lens instead of joining in with the dual-lense camera trope, which honestly, looks better on the phone.
The S8, however, isn’t great with the special features it uses to unlock the phone, namely, the fingerprint, iris, and facial recognition scanners. The fingerprint sensor, like the Note 8, is placed awkwardly beside the camera. The iris scanner and facial recognition aren’t great as well, and you may find that you’ll have to fiddle around a little to make them work, perhaps to the point that you probably shouldn’t be using these two features at all.
If you want a phone with some of the best design around, a great camera, and don’t mind the flunkiness of some of its extra features, by all means, get a Samsung Galaxy S8.
2. Oneplus 5T
Price: £449 (6GB Model)/£499 (8GB Model)
Oneplus has always been known as a flagship killer, bringing specs comparable to flagship phones at prices that make you wonder how they do them, and the 5T is no exception.
First things first, it’s nice on the hand with nicely curved edges and it being thin and not too big. You’ve got the screen going on an 18:9 aspect ratio with the 6″ screen almost running from edge to edge. The screen uses a Samsung OLED panel. It’s bright with an odd 2160 x 1080 resolution (to add more pixels on top making it sharper around the edge). The display is easily the best you can get for the price.
The downward-facing speakers, however, although they are loud, can be easily blocked when trying to watch something in landscape.
The Oneplus 5T uses a Snapdragon 835 with 6/8 GB of RAM, though there isn’t really any noticeable changes in performance between the 6 and 8 GB RAM models. In either case, the 5T uses its components well that you won’t be experiencing any lag issues with it. The Internal Storage comes at either 64 or 128 GB, although you’ll find that you can’t add external storage. I personally don’t find this an issue as I store many of my files on cloud storage, although if you are looking to keep a cinema’s worth of movies in your phone, this may not be the phone for you.
The camera is great too, boasting 16MP + 20MP Sony sensors dual rear-cameras, and a 16MP front camera which is nothing to scoff at. Oneplus’ intelligent pixel technology merges pixels to improve clarity and reduce noise and blurring, although this software is still nothing compared to the Google Pixel 2’s software.
As for the battery life, at max screen brightness and accounts syncing over WiFi, the Oneplus 5T can play a 90-minute Full HD video and only lose 12% of its battery life which is pretty great. It’s not the best, it’s still up there. The charging on this phone, like its predecessors, is exceptional, with ‘dash-charging’ giving you a day’s worth of battery life (60%) in 30 minutes, and only another 15-30 minutes to get to 100%, which puts it on top of its competitors.
The Oneplus 5T does have a new feature called the ‘Face unlock’, which is like the iPhone X’s Face ID, but while it’s not as high-tech (uses the front camera instead of dedicated sensors), it works surprisingly well, and unlocks the phone fast enough for you to sometimes realise it’s not even there. It also has ‘parallel apps’ which allows you to create secondary versions of apps like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to allow you to easily use two accounts in.. well in parallel. The alert slider from older Oneplus phones is back in this one as well, allowing to easily switch to and back from silent mode.
If you want a phone that gives you the best bet for your money, great design and display, and rich in features, definitely go for a Oneplus 5T.
3. Google Pixel 2
Price: £629 (64GB Model)/£729 (128GB Model)
Fun fact: The name ‘Pixel’ came from Google making the best camera on a smartphone, and that came to life with the Pixel 2. It may not sound great on paper with its 12.2 MP rear camera, but its superior software that comes from Google’s smart development tactics sends it leagues above other phones with photos that no other phone on this list can rival.
As for the design, the hardware feels good to hold and fits well into the hand, but its front design looks rather bland and won’t be giving you that fresh 2017 smartphone feeling. The XL version of the phone also has a tendency for image retention where you could see ghostly buttons on top of the actual image in cases such as when the phone is in full grayscale.
The performance of the Pixel 2 is great across the board as well with a Snapdragon 835 processor and 4 GB RAM which is plenty and all you really need. It also has the most stable version of any Android release as both Android and the Pixel 2 come from Google, so you can rely on getting support for the phone for quite a while. As for storage, it comes with 64/128GB of internal storage which is decent, but it doesn’t have any micro SD card slot for expandable storage.
Battery life is rather average. It’s enough to last you the whole day with 6 hours with the screen on at 75% brightness, but it’s definitely not as good as some other phones in this list. It does however have good charging speed with ‘Fast-charging’ going from 0 to 100% in 1hr 10 mins. What’s annoying though is that it doesn’t display it’s current battery percentage while charging when the phone is off. You’ll have to switch the phone on when doing so which can be annoying at times.
The phone’s got great speakers, being able to achieve high volumes with little distortion, and is quite water-resistant, being able to survive being dunked quite a few times with few to no problems at all. It does however, have no 3.5mm headphone jack, forcing you to switch to bluetooth headphones which can be quite a pain if that is not your thing.
If you want a phone that doesn’t have the best design but definitely does have the best camera you can find in a smartphone, by all means, start snapping those photos with a Google Pixel 2.
4. LG V30
The LG V20 had just about everything unique about it picked apart by its rivals, but the LG V30 may be another story with a phone that’s bursting with features.
The phone’s understated design makes the screen stand out nicely. There are bezels on the sides of it, though it does help prevent accidental touches which can get quite annoying. The display is a beautiful 6-inch OLED display with a 2,880 x 1,440 resoulution. It’s a big phone at 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.3mm and 158 grams, making it as big as the Google Pixel XL.
The phone uses a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 GB RAM, a standard for most phones on this list. The phone can efficiently multitask and switch between apps with little to no lag at all. It also has an internal storage of 64/128 GB, and an external storage expandable up to 256 GB.
As with before, LG equipped its latest phone with a centre-aligned dual camera system, nothing new for the company. The V30 puts this to great use with a 16 MP rear camera and an impressive f/1.6 aperture that should make it good for taking photos at low light levels, but you may find that it’s still not the best at illuminating a dark scene, perhaps due to the software that controls it.
It does, however, give you a great balance of lighting and contrast for dim shots, such as when shooting photos at dusk. On the other side of the phone, 5MP front camera is a bit disappointing. Photos coming out of this one can tend to be a bit blurry. Definitely not the phone if you’re looking to take many selfies.
The features, where the LG V30 really shines. Firstly, it’s both water and dustproof with IP68 resistance, and meets military spec standards, meaning it’s very durable. Maybe it can even take a bullet for you, but don’t rely on it. The settings on this phone is bursting with interesting things to try out, like the “Smart Settings” mode which gives you IFTTT-like features (IF This happens Then do That). It can make things happen like automatically launch your music app when you plug in your headphones, for example.
The LG V30 takes listening to music to a whole new level with its Quad-DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter), delivering distinguishable high qualities of sounds that can just utterly satisfy you especially if you have a pair of higher quality headphones. It also gives you the ability to tweak this sound profile to your liking, even being able to deliver different volumes of sounds to each ear.
If you want a phone that has stunning music, bursting with features, and don’t mind the lack of quality in its front camera, go for the LG V30.
5. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung’s main powerhouse of the year. While the most expensive Android phone on the market right now, it’s arguable whether it’s the best, but it’s still pretty solid.
The Note 8 boasts the new ‘Infinity Display’ which presents you with a larger screen size (6.3″ display with an 18:5:9 aspect ratio!) on a phone that fits comfortably in your hand thanks to it’s curved symmetry. The screen itself takes on after the Galaxy S series’ super-high resolution Quad-HD + AMOLED display, although it is set to Full-HD by fault, the ability to achieve an insane amount of detail on the Note 8 is always present, and at 1200 nits, it displays well in the sunlight too! Even more so than the 1000 nit panel of the Galaxy S8, and the 700 nit panel of the iPhone X. All in all, this phone is an absolute beauty.
But all that’s just look and feel. How about the inner workings?
It’s dual sim with an internal and external storage of up to 256 GB each, and has 6 GB of RAM with a Snapdragon 835 chipset and an Octa-core (4×2.3 GHz & 4×1.7 GHz). The storage is great, but though the performance is great, it feels very similar across the board to other phones in this list.
The battery life is good with the Note 8 being able to loop a video on 50% brightness with WiFi on for 15 hours. For charging, it uses ‘adaptive charging’ which really doesn’t stand out, taking 1 hour and 47 minutes for a full charge.
The biggest flaw with the Note 8 is the position of its fingerprint scanner. Carrying on from its predecessors, Samsung chose to place the fingerprint scanner at the back of the phone. This makes many users feel awkward, although it is definitely something you can get used to and isn’t a reason not to get a Note 8.T
The 12 rear megapixel camera and the 8 megapixel front camera, while being very good in itself, isn’t an achievement for any of the other phones in this list.
What seperates the Note 8 from the S8 the most is the inclusion of the S-Pen to easily take down notes, creates screenshot GIFs, annotate articles, draw on pictures, and the like.
If you want a phone that gives you great design and display, a bit of size, and note-like capabilities, by all means, get a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
6. Sony Xperia XZ Premium
This is the phone that really brings fans of Sony to joy, with eye-catching display, a strong camera, and great battery life.
The design may be the phone’s weakpoint. Despite the sleek front and rear flat Gorilla Glass 5 front, the phone’s plastic edges really kill the premium feeling, and since this is the part of the phone that you hold, it definitely doesn’t feel premium as well, but don’t let that kill what this phone does have going on for it.
Its screen, on the other hand, is in a league of its own, boasting a 4K display backed up by the Sony’s Bravia TV tech, equating to a resolution of 3840 x 2160. On a phone that’s 5.46″ long, you get an eye-popping pixel density of 807ppi. Putting that in perspective, the Infinity Display on the S8 puts up 570ppi. That’s almost 50% higher! This is the sharpest display of any phone in the market right now. In addition, unlike its predescessors, you’ll be getting this high resolution all the way through, from the home screen, browsing through apps, and not just when watching a movie of the same resolution.
Despite the high resolution though, it doesn’t have the same ‘pop’ you get from the AMOLED displays found in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Oneplus 5T, but it does give you the best experience you can get when watching movies and videos in 4K.
What’s even better is that the battery life is strong enough to hold this resolution. Techradar testing this phone mentioned the phone comfortably lasted them the whole day from a single charge with moderate use, which they describe as “a couple of hours of Spotify streaming, around 40 minutes of TV shows, multiple calls, messages and social media action, a flurry of emails and web-browsing, and an hour or two of gaming”.
Even when you are running out of battery, Sony has you backed up with several features such as the Quick Charge 3.0 which replenishes battery 4x faster than a standard charger. It also has 2 different power saving modes, being the Stamina Mode which saves battery by reducing background data and screen brightness, as well as disabling some functions. A more extreme option is the Ultra Stamina Mode which reduces your phone into a little feature phone, restricting you to a few core apps and a very simplistic interface. It’s handy when you’re really desperate to keep your phone alive.
The camera is really impressive with a whopping 19 MP on the rear camera and a 13 MP front camera which is one megapixel higher than the standard flagship phone’s REAR camera. The rear camera even offers you a slow motion capture mode which can capture footage at a staggering 960fps. To put that in perspective, the slow motion modes in the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 only record at 240fps. That’s 4 times the quality!
The performance is great overall with a Snapdragon 835 processor back up with 4 GB of RAM, a standard for most phones on this list. The internal storage is 64 GB, but it has an expandable storage of up to 256 GB. The micro SD card slot is pretty annoying to take out as it requires you to dig a nail through the side of the phone to get it out. This may not be an issue if you’re only going to change your micro SD card once or twice, but if you’re someone who switches regularly, this may get on your nerves.
If you want a phone that has all-around strong competitor and don’t mind an iffy design, definitely go for the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
7. Huawei Mate 10 Pro
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is the best that Huawei has ever been at, with a slick premium design, a vibrant screen, and a real beefy battery.
The design is a curved Gorilla Glass back panel combined with a metal frame to make the phone look slick. This gives it that rich luxurious premium feel, and it also water and dustproof with IP67 resistance thanks to the Gorilla Glass on both sides. The display is decent with an OLED display packed with added HDR10 support to give a little extra pop to the display. Even with this, at full resolution, the Mate 10 Pro can’t compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
Unlike most other phones in this list, the Mate 10 Pro uses a different chipset to the Snapdragon. The Kirin 970 is an eight-core chip that has dedicated neural network hardware which allows it to easily handle tasks such as language translation on the phone rather than on internet servers. Other than this, there isn’t much notable difference in performance with the Snapdragon 835. The Mate 10 Pro comes with 128 GB internal storage, but sadly, you can’t add any external storage on this one.
As for the camera, the rear camera has two modules,one with a 12 MP RGB sensor and OIS (optical image stabilization) and the other one is a 20MP monochrome (black and white) one with no OIS, and both have f/1.6 aperture lenses which means this camera will work greatly at low-light levels. There will still be some grain, but it does away with mottled looks on overly processed cameras.
On the other hand, these cameras don’t work too well at better light-levels as it has a tendency to slightly overexpose shots and less dynamic range than cameras of the likes of the Google Pixel 2 so I would place the Mate 10 Pro’s camera in a tier just behind it. Detail is still good in macro shots and it has a multitude of focus types which come together to make the Mate 10 Pro one of the fastest locking on and picture taking around. Overall, the automatic camera on this phone isn’t great, but it has lots of depth to it if you’re willing to fiddle around with it.
The battery of the phone is a huge 4000mAH one giving it the largest capacity cell of the phones in this list. With this, the Mate 10 Pro can last comfortably through the day with lots of screen-on time, and if you’re only a moderate user of your smartphone, you could probably even get through a second day without charging this phone.
Even with the large battery cell capacity, charging can still be quick and easy thanks to Huawei’s Super Charge technology where half-an-hour’s charge will give you over 50% of your battery life back. Both of these combined make the Mate 10 Pro the best phone in this list for staying alive.
Unforunately, the speakers are a downgrade from its predecessor, the Mate 9. With one bottom-firing and one front-firing speaker, the Mate 10 Pro does emulate a stereo effect, but it delivers shriller tones. As for quality over headphones, its USB-C plays you music at decent quality but you may not enjoy its lack of a headphone jack.
If you’re looking for a phone that stays alive for a really long time, has AI capabilities, and don’t mind the lack of a headphone jack or external storage, this phone will definitely suit you.
Here’s a quick rundown of each of the phones on this list and their greatest strengths
- Samsung Galaxy S8 – Best overall design
- Oneplus 5T – Best value
- Google Pixel 2 – Best camera
- LG V30 – Best music and smart features
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – Big Galaxy S8 with a pen
- Sony Xperia XZ Premium – All-around competitor
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro – Best battery life