The Best Android Phones – October 2018
The last four years have seen Android mature from a platform with a lot of promise to an operating system where both the hardware and software have seemingly finally managed to combine to create some incredible experiences. From Samsung’s revolutionary and refined hardware to Motorola’s investment into their modular Moto Mods, phones have become incredible technical feats. Throughout 2015 and 2016, we saw Android phones become more powerful than ever before, and 2017 found that raw power backed with an all-new design trend for phones: minimized bezels. The designs of phones and displays have reached new heights, and nearly every phone last year was an excellent choice for day to day use.
But unfortunately for consumers, if every phone is good, choosing a phone inside the Verizon or AT&T store, inside your local Best Buy, or online through Amazon can be an increasingly difficult decision. That’s where we come in—we’ve looked at nearly every smartphone on the market today, from last year’s flagships to this year’s brand new devices, and have decided which ones are actually worth buying We’ve judged each phone on its design, its features, build quality, specs, the quality of the camera, and even the software included in your purchase, to help you decide which device is right for you. After all, when you purchase a new smartphone, you aren’t just signing up for a new phone—you’re buying a camera, a GPS, a mobile theater, and so much more. Our phones help us each day to keep track of reminders, find our way home, and to stay in contact with friends, so if you’re going to drop up to $1,000 on a device, you’ll want to make sure it covers every feature you could ever want.
With all that said, let’s take a look at what 2018 has to offer in terms of Android phones. From phones first released this past spring to critical acclaim, to brand-new handsets added to carrier shelves just this past month, we have recommendations for anyone looking for a quality flagship Android device in 2018. Here’s our full buyer’s guide at the best Android phones you can buy today.
Another autumn, another Google flagship—though this time, we’ve known about the flagship for what seems like years. The Pixel 3 XL, the largest of Google’s two devices this year, began leaking in May, five months before the device was officially announced, and it may come as a surprise, but Google fans didn’t exactly take to the device well. Early leaks of the Pixel 3 XL showed one of the largest notches we’ve seen on a device to date, making it an unfortunate example of what happens when too many design decisions are made in an effort to follow trends in the smartphone market. Plenty of consumers shouted that the design must be fake, or an older design that hadn’t made it to market. Conspiracy theories flooded forums: Google was making a third device with no notch, or the Pixel Ultra device rumored for years on end would finally come to fruition.
Of course, none of this mattered. The Pixel 3 XL leaks were all correct from the start, as were the leaks that had started around the smaller Pixel 3. These phones look very similar to the Pixel 2 and 2 XL from last year in many, many ways. In the eyes of some, this is an S year through and through, despite being an odd-numbered generation. The smaller Pixel 3 looks nearly identical to a Pixel 2 XL that went through the washer on a hot temperature, while the Pixel 3 XL looks nearly identical in size and shape to the Pixel 2 XL before it, with the corners of the screen stretched to the edge of the device. These are not radical redesigns, but they have been divisive. While many find the notch on the Pixel 3 XL horrendous, the Pixel 3 also has its own share of haters, thanks to the somewhat-large bezels on the top and bottom of the device.
Frankly, both of these phones look much better in person, but if you simply can’t stand the notch or the large bezels on the top and bottom of the device, there’s not much to be done. Unlike most devices, we do recommend you check them out in a store. Photos don’t do these justice, and you might be surprised how much better they look in person than you’re expecting.
Design aside, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL basically take what we saw with last year’s devices and improves them in almost every way. Let’s start with the hardware: the displays are both sourced from Samsung this year, instead of sourcing the Pixel 2 XL’s screen from LG. This means both screens are clearer, brighter, and more color accurate than what we saw last year. The Pixel 2 XL has some serious display problem, and the Pixel 3 XL fixes nearly all of them. The display isn’t quite as good as what you’ll find on Samsung’s own flagship devices—it seems they hold the good ones for their own devices—but you won’t find us complaining about the displays.
Everything else about the device is improved too. The waterproof rating has been bumped up to IP68 instead of IP67. The speakers are a bit louder and a hell of a lot clearer, without some of the rattling we’d heard on some Pixel 2 units. The front-facing camera now has two lenses that allows you to take wide-angle selfies, fitting more people in your photo than you ever could before, which helps to make a seriously great photo out of your group shots. Both the Pixel 3 and 3 XL now use glass backs, which allows for wireless charging and helps to make the phone feel more premium than in years past. The device still remains a frosted feel on part of the glass, helping to give the impression of aluminum.
In terms of specs, these devices have exactly what you might expect in a 2018 flagship. A Snapdragon 845 powers the device, alongside 4GB of RAM (a relatively low amount of memory compared to most 2018 Android flagships), along with a 2915 mAh battery on the smaller model and a 3430 mAh battery on the larger. These are comparable to last year’s models, and should provide around the same solid battery life as we saw last year.
Let’s talk about the main aspect of this phone: the camera. The Pixel 2 remained the best smartphone camera for, effectively, it’s entire run as Google’s flagship device. Many reviewers compared the iPhone XS to the Pixel 2 and found that Google’s 2017 flagship still beat out Apple’s newest device, and with the Pixel 3, that is taken a full step farther. Many of the advancements in how good the camera produces photos comes from the improvements in the software, and improvements in the camera’s own processing chip, Google’s Pixel Visual Chip, first launched in the Pixel 2 lineup.
Just generally speaking, the camera takes incredible photos, with Google’s HDR+ software showing better results than ever before. If you’re buying a Pixel 3, you know you’re getting an excellent camera. But Google didn’t stop there; instead, they chose to build in a series of software tweaks and improvements that are destined to help you take better and more interesting shots. Top Shot, for example, allows you to select the best version of your photo, in case someone blinks or accidentally makes a strange face. Motion Auto Focus allows you to track an object as it moves throughout the frame, keeping it in focus along the path. And Super Res Zoom is designed to be a better digital zoom than ever before, even if it doesn’t measure up to what we’ve seen from other cameras’ telephoto lenses.
One of the most interesting features with the cameras hasn’t actually launched yet, and that’s Night Sight, a feature that promises to make it easy to take bright photos at night without the flash on. Google’s own test image shown on stage was impressive, but we’ll have to wait to see if it’s as good as they claim when the feature ships later this year.
In case you can’t tell, the Pixel 3 remains a phone to buy for the software, not so much the hardware. Though Google certainly stepped it up this year, the premiere reason to buy a Pixel device is because of Google’s excellent software features. From running Android 9 Pie and keeping up to date with software updates as they roll out, to offering advanced features like call screening to help avoid spam calls, the software on the Pixel 3 is nearly unbeatable. And good news for those who bought Pixel 2s: plenty of these options, including some of the camera trickery, will eventually show up on your device.
Look, at the end of the day, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL aren’t perfect. The designs certainly have some flaws on them, especially in the larger sized model; the prices are costly; and of course, there’s still no headphone jack to be found. Still, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL represent great evolution in the Pixel line, even if some will find the notch on the larger model to be absolutely garish. While some will spring for our runner-up devices, will hold onto their Pixel or Pixel 2, or might even jump ship for the iPhone XR or iPhone XS, it’s no secret that the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL represent the best camera and software experience for Android today.
- Unbeatable smartphone camera
- Fantastic software experience
- Great display
- Glass back scratches easily
- Only 4GB of RAM
Like clockwork, this spring has seen a refresh of Samsung’s flagship lineup of devices. The Galaxy S-series has not just been a longtime hit with tech reviewers, but has also been one of the most consistently popular phones we’ve seen. Though some of the earlier entries in the Galaxy S-lineup were occasionally derided as poor iPhone clones, the Galaxy S6 really reinvented what we thought of Samsung’s lineup of devices, introducing a premium metal-and-glass build and design language that has held up to this day. Last year’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ maintained our recommendation throughout the entire year, first as our top pick and later as our recommendation, even over the Galaxy Note 8 that arrived later in 2017. Three months into 2018, Samsung released the successor to last year’s phone, and to no one’s surprise, it’s another excellent entry—albeit a bit predictable.
At first glance, the Galaxy S9 looks nearly identical to last year’s Galaxy S8, a phone that managed to popularize the thin-bezel phone design we’ve seen from nearly every manufacturer, running the gamut from LG, Google, Apple, and even OnePlus. The front of the S9 and S9+ still feature the same minimal bezels, curved edges, and lack of branding we saw on the S8 and S8+. The displays on both sizes of the S9 have remained at the same 5.8″ and 6.2″, respectively, though the display tech has gotten better and brighter, displaying at a resolution of 1440p just like last year. These are still some of the best displays you can get on the market, and certainly exceed the displays on devices like the Pixel 3 XL and the LG V40. Unsurprisingly, the display compares closest with the iPhone X’s AMOLED display and the screens on the Pixel 3 lineup, which both contain displays from Samsung.
It isn’t until you turn the device over that you’ll notice the first major changes to the S9’s design. Though the camera remains in the upper-middle of the phone, the fingerprint sensor has been relocated from the side of the camera to the bottom, making for an easier experience when unlocking the phone. Samsung’s choice to move the fingerprint sensor from the front of the phone to the side of the camera was rightfully criticized throughout 2017, and it’s nice to see the relocation of the module to an easier location. The back of the phone also highlights the first of two major differences between the S9 and S9+: the larger model has a second lens, similar to the Note 8 from last year, while the smaller model has a single lens. We’ll talk more about the camera below, however, since it’s one of the biggest upgrades to this phone.
With minor hardware changes also come the usual spec bumps inside the phone. Both devices are using the brand-new Snapdragon 845 processor from Qualcomm, a solid chip that presents some minor improvements over last year’s Snapdragon 835. Expect to see the 845 in every major smartphone throughout the year moving forward. It’s a solid chip, though we’ll be honest: it doesn’t hold a candle to both the Samsung Exynos chip Samsung uses outside North America, and the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X. In addition to the processor bump, the RAM has also gotten a small improvement, albeit with a catch. Like last year’s device, the smaller S9 is using 4GB of RAM, while the larger S9+ matches the Note 8 with 6GB of RAM. It’s odd to see some differences between the two sizes, especially when the S8 and S8+ matched each other perfectly last year. Battery life is fine, similar to last year’s phones. It won’t blow you away, but it’ll likely get you through a full day of use (and not much more).
Some other small hardware notes before moving onto focusing on the software and camera tweaks. The headphone jack is still here, located at the bottom of the phone. After a year of nearly every manufacturer outside of Samsung and LG doing away with the port, it’s nice to see Samsung keeping it around for at least another year. You’ll also find a USB-C port at the bottom, complete with fast-charging, and a speaker. Samsung has added dual speakers to the device this year, with the earpiece acting like an additional speaker on the device. Along the sides of the phone are the same button combination we saw last year, with the power button on the right and the volume rocker and Bixby button on the left. Bixby’s seen a number of improvements over the last year, but ultimately, it’s remained fairly unimpressive compared to the majority of smart assistants available today.
Speaking of Bixby, let’s talk about the software on the phone. The Galaxy S9 ships with Android 8.0 Oreo, though it runs Samsung’s Experience UI software overtop the software, disguising some of the visual changes Google made with Oreo to essentially build a Samsung phone. If you’ve used the Note 8, you’ll know what to expect here in terms of visual polish. Not much has changed over the last year, which means you’ll likely fall into one of two camps regarding Samsung’s software, one of either indifference or distaste. If you’re a fan of Samsung’s enhancements to Android, you’ll love what’s supplied software-wise on this phone. That said, the S9 really shines on the hardware side of things, while software additions like AR Emoji and the “face scan” unlock are largely gimmicks made to deter Apple consumers from returning to the iPhone for another two years. If you’re more interested in the software of the phone, the Pixel and Pixel XL might be a better buy for you.
If there’s one thing Samsung is pushing hard with this device, it’s the technology built into the camera. Here’s the deal: the camera in the S9 and S9+ uses what’s called a dual-aperture lens, allowing the camera to change the f-stop similar to a full-fledged DSLR. Unlike all modern smartphones, which have a fixed aperture (the amount of light allowed into the camera for a photo), the S9 and S9+ has a variable aperture that can be set at f/2.4 and f/1.5. The difference between these two is relatively minor, but the lower f-stop means the camera can take better photos in low-light with less grain and less blur. In practice, the device is a bit of a gimmick (albeit one that is technically incredible; watching the lens change aperture manually is really cool); the photos, especially in low-light, are impressive, but they don’t blow away the iPhone XS and the Pixel 3 in day to day use.
Like the Note 8, the larger Galaxy S9+ has a dual lens camera, but like the dual aperture, it’s really a feature that is more of a gimmick than a real reason to buy the phone, allowing you to change to a telephoto lens, just like on the Note 8. Both the camera on the S9 and the dual-cameras on the S9+ have a 12MP resolution, and the front-facing camera has an 8MP resolution, which means your landscape shots and your selfies will be crisp and clear. The video quality has improved, and the phones once again shoot in 4K with stabilization, and the camera can even take slow motion videos at 1080p in 240fps or 720p at an astounding (and fairly low quality) 960fps. It’s another gimmick (at least, the 720p version), but it’s an interesting tech demo of where cameras on smartphones are headed in the future.
Ultimately, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are iterations on what made the S8 and S8+ so great last year. They improve on those phones in both significant and minor ways while ultimately changing little to nothing visually, creating the tock of a tick-tock cycle of innovation and continuing a design language first launched way back with the Galaxy S6. Those who don’t mind similar-looking hardware (especially if you’re coming from an iPhone or a Galaxy S6 or S7) will find a lot to like here, from the minimized bezels to the replaced fingerprint sensor, to the improved speakers and the IP68 water resistance.
The S9 and S9+ are enough reason to skip over purchasing last year’s S8—the quality of life improvements here are excellent—and even a great reason to skip buying the Note 9 unless you need a stylus. In our eyes, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are still the better buys for Android, but if you love having the newest and sleekest hardware, you can’t go wrong with Samsung’s latest flagships.
- Best display on the market
- Fast performance and solid camera
- Improved speakers
- Differences between two sizes
- Bixby button can't be remapped
- Software not for everyone
What began as a passion project for Samsung back in the early 2010s with the original Galaxy Note has evolved into one of their most beloved products. After an infamously-failed launch in 2016 for the Note 7 and a return to form in 2017 with the Note 8, Samsung continued their lineup of the device earlier this year with the launch of the Note 9, and more than ever, this device is a complete beast of a product, satisfying diehard Note fans and those who waited to update their devices til this year.
Powering the 6.4″ 1440p display (the best on the market, as well as one of the largest) is a Snapdragon 845, combined with 6GB of RAM and a huge 4000 mAh. That is one of the largest on the market, and helps to make the Note’s battery last absolutely all day. This is far improved over the Note 8’s battery, which was limited to a much-smaller 3300mAh after the battery concerns surrounding the Note 7. It made sense at the time to limit the size of the battery in the new model, but with the Note 9, Samsung has brought it back to its former glory as a complete tank when it comes to lasting all day. While we have seen some phones with longer battery life, this is still one of the best you can get in any device.
As with last year, the phone features two lenses on the back of the device, the same exact camera system we saw on the S9+ earlier this year. Both lenses are 12MP sensors, differing in their abilities as either wide-angle (by default) or telephoto lenses. As with most Samsung devices, these are great cameras—they’re just not the best you can get on the market, a prize that still belongs to the Pixel lineup of phones.
We’ll be honest: for most people, the Note 9 is either an obvious buy, or way too expensive. At $999 for the 128GB and only growing in price for the (we’ll be honest, insane) 512GB version, this is a super expensive phone. It’s one of the most expensive on the market, and certainly competes with Apple’s own iPhone XS Max as one of the priciest devices you can pick up. That said, if you’re interested in using your phone mainly as your computer, it could make sense to own a device this powerful. While Samsung device’s aren’t exactly known for their timely updates, there is a lot to love about this phone.
Of course, users who are looking for a big and powerful phone on a budget should keep in mind that the S9+ is nearly as large, and while it doesn’t include the S Pen, it’s available for several hundred dollars cheaper than the Note 9. As usual, choosing between the S-series phone and the Note device is a personal decision; both are great devices and are well-worth using.
- Incredible AMOLED display
- Beautiful design
- Solid cameras
- Very expensive
- Lower capacity battery
- S Pen might not be used by everyone
Twice a year, OnePlus comes out with a brand-new device that seemingly follows the same pattern. The first device of each year, released in late spring or early summer, features an all-new design, new features, and a slowly-increasing price tag. OnePlus promises big selling points, and typically, mostly succeeds. Ultimately, however, something with the device will assuredly be called into question by critics and fans alike, and in the fall, OnePlus will release a new device. This began following the OnePlus 2 with the OnePlus X, a cheaper version of the OnePlus 2 released in 2015, but starting in 2013 with the OnePlus 3, the fall release was used to feature an upgraded model. The OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 5T were both better, and slightly more expensive, versions of the preceding phones that often fix small issues or complaints with the previous version.
You can count the OnePlus 6 in the former category, though surprisingly, not much griping as been made about the device by most fans outside of yet another price increase for the device. The OnePlus 6 comes hot on the heels of the OnePlus 5T, a phone we recommended with pride following its release last year. The OnePlus 6 continues the design trend of the 5T, dropping the 18:9 display in exchange for an iPhone X-like notch at the top (that can be artificially hidden inside the settings menu of the device. The device features an all-glass build, moving away from the aluminum build of the former devices, but without adding in wireless charging. The phone continues to use a USB-C port with OnePlus’ own Dash charging system that allows it to quickly charge faster than nearly any phone on the market today, and has a headphone jack that allows you to use actual headphones.
Realistically, the device is great for just $529. Though that may be the highest-priced OnePlus phone to date, it makes sense. This thing has a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, dual-cameras on the back and a camera on the front, and a huge OLED display that looks really solid for the money. In actuality, the things holding the device back are the same as ever: it doesn’t support Verizon or Sprint, the camera is improved but still only produces average shots, the phone isn’t truly waterproof and isn’t IP-certified like most flagship devices, and for those who wish to have a smaller device, you’re more or less out of luck here. Still, the OnePlus 6 is a solid phone, made perfectly for anyone looking for a flagship-like experience at a fraction of the cost. Just make sure you’re on AT&T or T-Mobile before you purchase one.
All of this said, be prepared for the launch of the OnePlus 6T in late-October. If the leaks are true, the device will be an improved OnePlus 6, but will lose its headphone jack along the way.
- Flagship experience at half the price
- Great OLED display
- Headphone jack still kicking
- Camera is okay, but not fantastic
- Doesn't work on Verizon or Sprint
- Not IP-certified
We have long praised Motorola’s budget line, the G-series, for its affordability and its ease of use. The Moto G4 wasn’t the most attractive phone in the world, but the battery life was solid, the display was a sharp 1080p LCD, and the device was sold from Amazon for under $200. The Moto G5 Plus stepped up the game last year, with an improved metal design, better (if not great) cameras, and yet another low price when purchased through Amazon. Both devices, like much of Motorola’s lineup of phones, were able to work on basically every carrier in the United States (all four national carriers, plus every MVNO carrier like Straight Talk or Republic Wireless), and when Amazon revoked lock screen advertisements from their lineup of Prime-exclusive devices, the phones only got that much better.
So, for the Moto G6, expectations were set pretty high. After a few leaks that did end up basically confirming what we expected to see from Motorola in 2018, the Moto G6 was officially unveiled in April of this year, and overall, it’s an impressive device. Available for just $235 for Amazon Prime subscribers and $250 for those without Prime, the Moto G6 is a step up from the G5 in almost every way—though it’s worth noting that the G6 Plus, the natural successor to the G5 Plus, will not be arriving in the United States. Still, the G6 is a solid buy for the money. The build is all-glass, similar to Moto’s other devices, and though it looks great, it does increase the fragility of the device and works towards making it easier to break the device. Despite the glass back, however, the front of the device has seen a major improvement: an 18:9 aspect ratio, with a 1080p LCD that looks good.
The device has 3GB of RAM and runs on a Snapdragon 450, which is a strange choice for those possibly looking to upgrade from a Moto G4 Plus or G5 Plus. Because this device isn’t the Plus version of the G6, it uses Snapdragon’s 400-series line of processors, and this change is a major difference between models. The new Snapdragon 450 is a good processor, but if you’re looking to play a lot of 3D, intensive games, this might not be the phone for you. The camera is solid, but unfortunately, takes a while to actually capture a shot when taking a photo, largely because of the slower Snapdragon 450. Battery life is solid, and Motorola has finally moved their G-series to USB-C. Ultimately, the Moto G6 is a solid successor in the G-series line, though we wish the G6 Plus model had arrived on US shorts. Moto G5 Plus users may want to hold onto their devices for another year, but if you’re coming from the G4 or G4 Plus, it’s a perfect time to upgrade.
- Modern display
- Solid software experience
- Weaker processor than the G5 Plus
- Glass but no wireless charging
- Camera is slow
The LG G6 was originally released over a year ago, in March of 2017, complete with an all-new design aesthetic from the company and a then-fresh 18:9 display ratio. The phone garnered somewhat positive reviews, but the choice to use a Snapdragon 821 from the fall of 2016 over the newer Snapdragon 835 seemed like an odd call, especially when the Samsung Galaxy S8 was released just a couple weeks after for roughly the same price. The camera was hit or miss with some, thanks to the over-processing that distracted from the actual shot, and LG’s software is still a take on Samsung’s own software that is buggier and slower than the real thing.
So why recommend a phone from early 2017 with late 2016 specs on a list of the best Android phones for fall of 2018? Because Amazon picked up the LG G6 for a Prime-exclusive version last year, and you can currently grab one for just $380 to work on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. For that price, you’re getting a camera that’s better than almost every mid-range product on the market today, a reliable build and a solid screen, and the same processor that still keeps Pixel fans happy in the original Google Pixel devices. It has a decently large 3300mAh battery that should get you through a day without any sort of issue, and it’s IP68-certified water resistant, better than every device in its class save for the Moto X4. This was a good deal last year when it went on sale through Amazon at $499, and it’s an even better deal now that it’s priced at just $379.
Amazon also offers an LG G6+ model that some users may be tempted to buy into, priced at $519. The G6+ boosts its internal storage from 32GB to 128GB, wireless charging (which the original model also had), along with 6GB of RAM and a HiFi DAC, similar to the quad-DAC seen in 2017’s LG V30. This is less of a solid deal; the RAM increase is nice but 4GB of RAM isn’t going to make or break your mobile experience, the storage bump can be accomplished by using an SD card on the lower-priced model, and though the DAC is a nice touch, most users won’t notice if it’s there, thanks to the prevalence of streaming music in 2018. Ultimately, go with the lower-priced LG G6. It’s a solid device for under $400, and can compete not just with the Moto X4, but also with newer devices like the OnePlus 6.
- Solid-feeling chassis
- Minimal bezels
- Cheap flagship experience
- Two generations old processor
- Only 32GB of storage
- Software still feels underbaked
As the successor to both the HTC U11 and U11+ from last year, the U12+ had a lot riding on it. The former device, released this time last year, was a quiet success in critical support if not quite in sales or carrier stock. The phone’s camera was a massive success, seemingly following in the footsteps of the HTC-developed Pixel camera from 2016, the device offered modern specs with a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of RAM, and the software was massively improved. The U11+, unfortunately, was not quite as much of a critical darling. The device had gone from ergonomic to slippery and massive, the display appeared washed out and dull, the massive battery didn’t attribute to much longer life in day-to-day use, and the phone never shipped in North America, making it impossible for some Android users to buy the device.
The U12+ is, fittingly, a mix of good and bad, matching the split between its status as a successor for the U11 and the U11+. This is HTC’s first phone following their hardware team’s acquisition by Google, in order to continue the development of the Pixel line through 2018 and beyond, which means this could be one of the final phones to ever ship from HTC. There are plenty of things to love about this phone, especially over the U11+ last year. The ergonomics have improved, making for a more-friendly design that’s easy to hold in your hand, and the design of the phone is absolutely gorgeous. From the red model to the translucent blue, the device looks unique as ever. The device uses a Snapdragon 845 with 6GB of RAM, and it absolutely flies in performance while offering solid, dependable battery life. And the camera is excellent, offering one of the best mobile photography kits on the market today.
So what’s not to love? For starters, HTC has included bloatware on the device called News Republic, an app that sends random news notifications to your device about “viral” stories around the internet. While the software experience is clean, this bloatware really hurts the praise. HTC also chose to replace the physical buttons with pressure-sensitive areas on the side of the phone that allow for the device to be clicked, similar to the home button on the iPhone 7 and 8.
Unfortunately, the buttons have been panned by nearly every critic and user alike as unnatural and unusable. Finally, while the USB-C headphone adapter included with the U11 sounded pretty bad, HTC has somehow made the only worse decision possible with the U12: not to include one. Ultimately, there are a lot of drawbacks here, but HTC’s hardware and software are still solid Android experiences. If you want to own something that may soon be a piece of history—the final HTC phone—the U12+ is a solid buy.
- Ergonomic design
- Long battery life
- Great camera
- Fake buttons are bad
- Bloatware and spam on device
- Unknown future for HTC
While the Moto G-series might be Moto’s most successful lineup of devices, it was the Moto X line that originally attracted so much press and fanfare nearly five years ago. When the first Moto X launched, it was the first device from Motorola under Google’s umbrella, and while that ownership model didn’t last long before the company was sold to Lenovo, the first two Moto X devices were not just successful—they were legendary. When Motorola brought back the Moto X line for a fourth generation in 2017, the device had changed quite a bit. Gone were the days of Moto Maker, replaced with a glass back that came in black and sky-blue. The device was no longer the flagship of Moto’s own offerings, now being offered as a mid-range product aside Moto’s Z-series of mod-enabled phones.
The 2017 Moto X4 isn’t a perfect device, but it’s pretty solid for the money. For just $279 through Amazon Prime (as of writing), you’re paying just $45 more over the Moto G6 for a device that is similar in most aspects and better in many areas. The design is nearly identical, save for a standard 16:9 aspect ratio as opposed to the 18:9 display on the Moto G6. It’s also smaller, measuring in at a more pocketable 5.2″ instead of the 5.7″ on the G6. The phone is IP68 water resistant, making it one of the few devices available below $300 that offers IP-certification for water resistance. 3GB of RAM is the minimum amount we would recommend in 2018, but it hits the mark, and offers a Snapdragon 630 processor for solid performance during both day-to-day activities and when gaming.
The software, like every Motorola phone, is basically stock software with some Motorola enhancements built in. The Moto X4 makes a major exception here when purchased through Amazon—you also gain access to Alexa built into the phone. The device has USB-C, a step-up from every other budget Motorola phone outside of the new Moto G6, and features a dual-lens camera on the device that takes solid shots during the day, but unfortunately, average-at-best shots at night. Overall, the Moto X4’s original price tag of $399 is simply too expensive for what you would be receiving, but at $249, it’s a really solid buy. For those disappointed by the OnePlus 6’s price increase, the Moto X4 represents a great buy at under $300. Though it was too expensive to initially add to this list, the past few months have helped to make this a great buy for anyone looking for a modest mid-range device.
- Solid, smaller display
- IP68 water resistance
- USB-C support
- Poor low-light performance
- No wireless charging
- Slow camera performance
Earlier this year, rumors began to pop up that LG had delayed and cancelled their 2018 flagship, the LG G7, in order to head back to the drawing board. For some, this seemed to be good news. LG has been lost in the woods for a while, and we’ve longed for the days of the LG G2 or LG G3, classic devices that had problems but seemed to have a direction worth following. It’s no secret that the LG G5 was a major disaster, a setback for LG that basically removed them from the marketplace for an entire year with a focus on a modular system called “Friends” that never took off beyond the initial add-ons. The LG G6 was a solid redesign and refocus, but sank like a stone when sitting aside the more-powerful Galaxy S8. And so, despite the rumors that the G7 had been cancelled for retooling, LG announced the phone at the beginning of May, along with the ThinQ branding we’ve decided to leave off the name.
The LG G7 is a curious phone, one probably destined to follow in the footsteps of the LG G6 before it. The device utilizes the notch design that we’ve seen becoming more popular on Android phones in the wake of the iPhone X, but while that device used the notch to build the equivalent of a Microsoft Kinect into your phone for face unlock technology, the G7 uses it for a camera and not much else. The phone also uses an IPS panel instead of the standard OLED display we’ve seen from most phone manufacturers, though considering the problems that faced LG’s display on the Pixel 2 XL, this might be a good thing. Still, it does make it impossible to truly hide the notch in software, despite LG’s massive attempts to allow you to so with black and a multitude of colors. The notch isn’t the biggest concern in the world, and since the Pixel 3 XL is all but guaranteed to have one, it seems to be the future moving forward. Still, we wish LG had included a real reason to have the notch here.
There’s plenty of good about this phone, though, including the addition of a headphone jack with top-tier audio, an ultra-wide lens on the back of the device that helps with photography (and takes some solid shots!), and a loud, albeit mono, speaker on the device that sounds good. Unfortunately, the software complaints we had with the LG G6 carry over here—LG just isn’t putting in the work to make this a compelling device with good software—and the battery life just isn’t anything to write home about, a must-have in 2018. It does use a Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM, answering the complaint about the processor in the G6, but considering the $799 MSRP for the LG G7, it might be too expensive for many to consider as a day to day phone. If you are interested in the G7, wait to see if the price drops following the pattern from the G6 before it. When we last checked, the device was selling for a much-more palatable $600 on Amazon.
- Solid design
- Great display
- Ultra-wide camera
- Weak battery life
- Software experience is mediocre
- Expensive MSRP
First things first: yes, it’s true that the United States government has warned against US consumers from buying products from Huawei, warning that their status as a Chinese company could contribute to leaking of personal details of Americans and the chance that the equipment is used for espionage against the United States. We aren’t here to tell you whether or not these claims are true—there are far too many unknowns, missing details, and unanswered questions for us to offer our take. That said, Huawei continues to be a massive powerhouse of a company, the second-largest mobile phone developer behind Samsung worldwide, and popular in both Europe and Asia. If you have the option to purchase a Huawei device, the P20 Pro is one of the best phones from the company yet, with a striking design and a powerful camera.
Available from Amazon for $885, the P20 Pro is a sight to see. The design is absolutely gorgeous, and though the glass-clad black model is sleek as ever, the midnight blue and the twilight versions (with its reflective teal and purple hues) are simply unmatched in the black and space gray world we live in currently. It’s obvious that part of the design aesthetic comes from the iPhone X, but ultimately, Huawei has taken a twist on that phone’s existing design and made its own. In addition to the colors of the device, the back of the phone finds a different camera module, and while the front of the device uses a notch, you’ll also notice a large bottom bezel that houses a fingerprint sensor. Despite Apple’s move to face unlock technology, most will agree that the fingerprint sensor is perfect for unlocking your devices, and keeping it here was the right move. There’s a face unlock feature here too, and it’s fast and accurate, but it isn’t nearly as advanced as Apple’s own implementation.
The 6.1″AMOLED display is absolutely gorgeous, rivaling only the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9 for the best display on a phone at the moment. The device uses a 1080p panel instead of a 1440p panel, but all that does is assist in the device achieving a strong battery life that helps to make your battery last that much longer. That display, matched with the custom-made Huawei Kirin processor, makes the 4000mAh battery able to extend for days, plural. This thing could potentially go on a weekend camping trip and manage to return home on Sunday with juice to spare.
The camera is phenomenal, with some calling it best in-class, and the software experience has evolved. Huawei still uses EMUI on their devices, a heavy iOS-like skin that some people enjoy and some hate. The lack of wireless charging and a headphone jack are unfortunate, but overall, the device is a success that will, unfortunately, evade many US consumers. You can buy a P20 Pro in the United States, but be prepared for the warranty to be worthless when you do.
- Gorgeous display
- Multi-day battery life
- Incredible camera
- Hard to buy in the US
- No headphone jack