The Best Sprint Android Phones – October 2018
No matter your choice in platform, this has been a banner year for smartphones. While most consumers don’t expect total revolution in their brand-new devices, the advancements and evolutions found in this year’s devices have taken imperfect ideas from 2017 into the next level. Samsung and LG led the charge into reducing bezel sizes on your display, with bigger, longer, and taller screens than ever before. Design and build quality finally evolved from a premium luxury into a conclusive decision among smartphone manufacturers and buyers alike: design counts. And we shouldn’t discount the evolution in smartphone cameras, which have improved vastly upon their earlier counterparts from even three or four years ago. With extra features like waterproofing and wireless charging capabilities finally beginning to become standard features in smartphones, consumers are right to feel excited about smartphones again.
With so many good phones on the market today, it’s more important than ever to make sure you purchase a phone you can be proud to be using six months from now. There are enough “great” phones on the market that you can safely ignore the “good” or “adequate” models, and still manage to get yourself a great device, no matter what your price range is. Whether you’re looking for a gorgeous, crisp display, multi-day battery life, fast and smooth performance, or an excellent camera, there’s a phone for you. That said, it can be a challenge to find devices that manage to combine all of these aspects together into a great package that you can use for years to come. Still, for the most part, devices in 2018 have finally begun to hit every asking point we have of them.
2018 is nearing its end, and both the spring and fall flagship phones are available to purchase. With the holiday season just around the corner, phone manufacturers, carriers, and retailers are all going to be offering phones at a reduced price, with some great deals to come in the future. Whether you’ve waited all year to upgrade or you’re simply looking for a new phone to pick up for a loved one, here’s our recommendations for the best phones on Sprint.
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
- Some software quirks
Though we consider the recently-released Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL to be our current favorite smartphones on the market today, there are a few reasons why it doesn’t hit the top spot on our list for Sprint. Because it’s only sold unlocked through Google and through Verizon carrier stores, it makes it a bit more difficult to walk into a carrier store and grab the device on the way. Still, the phone is so good that it’s impossible to not put it on this list, even if it doesn’t quite make it the easiest purchase on the store today. There’s so much to love about these phones, notch aside, that not putting it on this list would be ridiculous and, in some ways, the phone still manages to impress.
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 2915mAh battery on the smaller model and a 3430mAh 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.
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.
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
- Large notch on XL model
- Not available in Sprint stores
The Essential Phone, or PH-1, is the first device offered from Essential, a new company founded by Andy Rubin, known to many as the original developer behind Android. Rubin left Google several years ago to start his own company, and the Essential Phone is the result of his years of research and work into design. The phone is nearly bezel-less, except for a sliver of bezel at the bottom of the display to power the 5.7″ 1440p LCD screen panel on the front of the phone. At the top of the screen, there’s a small circular cutout for the camera, similar to the notch design that we’ve seen on the iPhone X, that users will either love, hate, or—most likely—ignore. The back of the device is made from ceramic, with titanium edges that make the entire phone incredibly solid-feeling in the hand.
Specs-wise, the phone ships with a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, basically standard flagship-level specs for 2017. Essential is planning on building a full ecosystem of modular devices for the phone, which will attach to small, Pogo pin-enabled magnets at the top of the back of the phone. Unfortunately, the biggest downfall for this device is the camera, which reviewers have more or less panned in its current implementation. We’ll have to wait to see if Essential can fix the camera through a promised series of software updates, but if you can live without an excellent shooter on the back of your device, the Essential Phone looks and feels like a device from the future. And since this phone is designed specifically to work on Sprint, alongside the three other carriers, you can pick it up for the network from Essential, Amazon, or Best Buy at the brand-new price of just $399. While we originally had difficulty recommending the device at its launch price of $699, this price reduction makes the Essential Phone a great buy for those looking for incredible hardware at an affordable price.
- Gorgeous hardware
- Solid software
- Ridiculously good value on Sprint
- Mediocre camera
- Still $449 unlocked on Sprint
- Questionable software future
The V40 is the newest smartphone from LG, launching in October 2018 for most carriers including Verizon, and it’s about what you would expect from LG. More than ever, the V-series of devices has become a souped-up version of what we’ve seen from LG’s G-series launched in the spring, much like the pattern Samsung follows with their Galaxy S-line of devices and their Note line of devices. The V40 is one of the best phones we’ve ever seen from LG, fixing a lot of the issues that surrounded the V30 last fall. Though LG has continued to struggle in the market since powerhouse devices like the G2 and G3 from several years ago had fatal flaws that caused them to crash and end up as bricks, LG’s newer devices from 2018 are absolutely work a look—especially this V40.
The front of the phone is adored with a notch that is much smaller in shape and stature than the Pixel 3 XL notch, making it relatively easy to ignore. With a 6.4″ screen, this is a massive phone, one that is about as large as Samsung’s own Note 9 from this past summer, but thanks to the notch and the smaller chin along the bottom of the device, the phone is actually a bit smaller than what we’ve seen from Samsung. Last year’s V30 (and by extension, the Pixel 2 XL) featured an LG OLED panel that was muddy and feature poor color accuracy; this year’s panel, thankfully, fares much better, with solid color reproduction, strong black levels, and no color shifts when looking at the screen from different angles. LG has notably improved here, and that alone is making this a phone worth looking at.
Inside the device is everything you’d expect to see in a 2018 flagship device. A Snapdragon 845 powers the V40, alongside the now-usual 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage, all par for the course. LG continues to be one of the few manufacturers still giving power users what they want, alongside their competitor Samsung: a microSD card slot is here, but the phone retains its IP68 waterproof rating. Same goes for the headphone jack, still found on the device and still featuring LG’s signature quad-DAC that makes it the phone to listen to music with. The back of the phone features three camera lenses: a regular 12MP lens, a 16MP ultra-wide lens, and a 12MP telephoto lens. All of this amounts to what is a very-good camera, albeit one that can’t compete with the likes of Google and their software tweaks. It’s certainly a camera that will work in practically any setting, but keep in mind that, for the best shots, you’ll want a Pixel 3.
And of course, we can’t forget about LG’s software. While it’s better than it used to be, the V40 shares the same software and visual design we’ve seen with the G7, and it’s…fine. Samsung’s software customizations are still better, while LG plays as a knock on what Samsung has been doing for a couple years now. Meanwhile, the Pixel line of phones features Google’s software tweaks and regular updates, and for that measure, you can’t get the same experience on the V40, which still ships with Android 8.1 Oreo. Still, if you don’t like what Google’s doing with hardware design and you’re looking for something that isn’t the usual Galaxy alternatives, the V40 will be a great option—especially over the next few months, when, like clockwork, the price of the V40 begins to drop.
- Great display
- Headphone jack
- Multitude of cameras
- Expensive, especially for LG
- Camera quality not up to par with Pixel
- Software experience
A new addition to any best-of Sprint list, the Galaxy S Active line is finally leaving its AT&T carrier-exclusivity behind and heading to both Sprint and T-Mobile. The 2017 version of the S8 Active is, by far, the most attractive “Active” version we’ve seen from the company, doing away with the camouflage coloring that was so prevalent on previous devices. The sides and back of the phone are covered in plastic and silicone, but it doesn’t feel cheap. Instead, it’s like having a protective case built into the phone, albeit without the option to remove or switch cases if the shell ever takes damage.
One of the biggest changes comes in the display: it’s Samsung’s only flagship this year to offer a flat display without curved edges, making the device look more like a G6 than the S8 family it spawned from (though it’s still the same 5.8″ Super AMOLED panel we saw grace the front of the traditional S8). That flat display helps keep it a little less susceptible to cracks from drops, which might be a godsend for the clumsier among us.
In terms of specs, it’s still a Galaxy S8. The Active is powered by the same combination of a Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, and this device still flies, even if Samsung’s software slows things down compared to the Google Pixel. You won’t have any complaints about using this phone as your daily driver, and despite its increase in size (the phone is about 10mm thick, much thicker than most devices on the market today), you make some of that room back by negating the need for a case. And the S8 Active uses that additional bulkiness to its advantage: while the phone may not be as sleek and slick as its glass-coated counterparts, it does offer a 4000mAh battery, nearly a full 1000mAh larger than the traditional S8. This puts the S8 Active into multi-day battery for most users, and even heavy users will find themselves with a solid 30 percent remaining when they head to bed.
The downside to the S8 Active is obvious: it’s an expensive phone, costing AT&T users $849 upfront or monthly payments of $28.34 for 30 months. All this, despite being a phone that is now over a year old. Samsung didn’t launch an active version of the S9 this year, so if you want this style of phone, you’ll want to jump on-board soon. While we’re sure plenty of Android users will stick with traditional phones and just pick up a cheap case, the extra strength and the bigger battery make the Active a compelling buy for anyone not on a budget.
- Drop-proof design
- Excellent battery life
- No need for a case
- More expensive than the traditional S8
- Clunkier design
- Fingerprint sensor placement still bad
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
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 $419. 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 build quality
- Decent camera for the price
- Water resistant
- Amazon Prime version not Sprint-exclusive
- Outdated processor
- Lackluster LG software
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.
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 build and design for the price
- Water resistant
- Okay camera performance
- Wide-angle lens is terrible
- 3GB of RAM
- Essential Phone on Sprint Flex is cheaper