The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
The Insider Pick:
Smartphones have never been more powerful or more attractive looking. We've researched and tested dozens of smartphones to bring you the best ones you can buy. Our favorite smartphones are the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL because they represent the best of iOS and Android.
We’ve come a long way since the Nokia 8110 flip phone made its debut in a little film called "The Matrix." It's hard to believe that just over a decade ago, Apple started a revolution with the first true smartphone. Now, smartphones are everywhere and they have never been more powerful or better looking than they are today.
You can't go wrong with any of the major flagship smartphones that have been released in 2017 and 2018 — although it's early days yet for the new year. You can even get excellent phones for $500 or less these days.
In this guide, we've selected the absolute best smartphones at every price point, including top-tier phones, flagship killers, and affordable phones that work as well as many mid-range phones. We also highlight things you should look for in your next smartphone.
These are the best smartphones you can buy:
- The best iPhone: iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
- The best Android: Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL
- The best Samsung phone: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus
- The best modular smartphone: Moto z2 Force
- The best phone for less than $600: OnePlus 5T
- The best phone for less than $300: Moto G5S Plus
- The best phone to splurge: iPhone X
- The best phablet: Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Updated on 04/17/2018 by Tobey Grumet: Added the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus as the best Samsung phones you can buy. Updated prices and added more links.
Read on in the slides below to learn all about our top picks for the best smartphones.
The best iPhoneHollis Johnson/Business Insider
Why you'll love it: The super-quick, totally stunning iPhone 8 Plus is a solid choice for Apple fans, and the smaller iPhone 8 will please anyone who wants a smaller phone.
If you can stand not scooping up the most high-end iPhone from Apple and you don’t feel like dropping a grand on a phone, the iPhone 8 Plus offers the exact same processing power as the flagship iPhone X. The smaller iPhone 8 is also a great option for people who like smaller phones, and it too has the same processor as the X.
The powerful combo of iOS 11 and the A11 Bionic chip is an upgrade in performance for any iPhone owner. However, you’ll have to be satisfied with the almost instant Touch ID fingerprint unlocking mechanism, because you won’t get Face ID, the newest facial recognition technology, with the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.
In terms of size, the iPhone 8 Plus measures 6.24 inches with a 5.5-inch LCD screen. The screen uses integrated sensors to adjust the display depending on its surroundings. Apple calls this tech True Tone, and we found this especially enhanced the white balance and gave the screen a more paperwhite feel.
The iPhone 8 has a smaller 4.7-inch screen and a more compact body, which make sit ideal for people who dislike large phones. The only downside with the 8 is that it only has one camera and can't pull off the blurred background effect of the 8 Plus.
The iPhone 8 Plus not only has a main, 12-megapixel back camera, it also adds a 12-megapixel 2X telephoto lens. The bokeh Portrait Mode is capable and the Portrait Lighting filter includes five different styles including Studio Lighting for silhouettes against dark backgrounds and Contour for better shadowing. Updated 4K video allows a large range of frame rate options, and Apple’s foray into Augmented Reality is pleasurable on the larger screen.
Per usual, Apple gets points for design. The entire phone is crafted from starkly beautiful glass and ours, in Gold, was so pretty and classy, it made us seriously consider leaving off the protective case. Luckily, the body’s dual ion exchange process makes the glass extra durable, as well as water and dust-proof. As with all other iPhones, the headphone jack is no more, but it does support Qi wireless charging and comes with 3GB of RAM. — Tobey Grumet
Pros: Dual-lens camera with 2X optical zoom on 8 Plus, longer battery life, elegant glass back, wireless charging
Cons: The LCD screen has a lower resolution than the iPhone X OLED screen, a larger bezel makes it bulkier, expensive
Buy the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus from Apple for $799 full price
The best Android phoneHollis Johnson/Business Insider
Why you'll love it: The Google Pixel 2 XL sports the best camera of any smartphone, a high-resolution 6-inch screen, and the snappy new Android Oreo OS.
The Google Pixel 2 XL is big, beautiful, and chock-full of features. It may be pricey, but it’s worth it — especially if you travel or just don’t want to be chained to your service carrier.
As a completely unlocked option, you can swap in a SIM card when you leave the country and switch carriers without a penalty. Google also offers its pre-paid, Project-fi as a carrier, which automatically switches between three mobile networks to improve coverage and reverts to Wi-Fi to make calls and send text messages. The good news? It works overseas, and you’ll never pay more than $80 a month — no matter how much data you use.
The design is sleek and simple. The 6-inch Quad HD OLED panel is surrounded by a 6.2-inch chassis and buffeted on the bottom with two, front-facing speakers. Weighing in at 6.2 ounces, it comes in both black and black-and-white. We love the pop of playful color on the black-and-white one.
The Pixel 2 XL has a glass and aluminum back that’s waterproof. A USB-C adapter is included instead of a headphone jack, but Google threw in a new technology called “Fast Pair” to make it easier to connect compatible Bluetooth headphones.
Buying a Pixel 2XL gives you instant access to Android 8.0 Oreo, and you’ll be the first to receive OS and security updates from Google. Our other favorite software feature is Google Lens, which is like Wikipedia for images. Once you take a photo, you can tap the Lens button and the AI algorithm will recognize your surroundings and give you more information —whether it’s about location, text or just pictures within the image. For example, you’ll be able to identify info on movies, books and art just from covers and posters or media or pull up Google map directions from a written address.
We also like how easy it is to conjure the Google Assistant: just squeeze the lower part of the sides of the phone, and the Assistant will automatically pop-up.
But the star of this Google-produced show is the Pixel 2 XL’s cameras. The main camera sports a 12.2-megapixel sensor and cannot be beat on auto-mode — especially in low-light. Amazingly, its bokeh Portrait mode is also superior using just one sensor instead of the usual two. — Tobey Grumet
Pros: Timely Android updates, waterproofing makes this phone oblivious to toilet drops, Google Lens feature, Google Assistant, excellent cameras
Cons: No headphone jack, the display is conspicuously not edge-to-edge, expensive
The best Samsung phoneAntonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
Why you'll love them: The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus have sleek bodies with curved screens, heavy-hitting cameras, and lots of AR and AI goodies.
Samsung’s newest flagship phone comes in two sizes: the S9 with a 5.8-inch screen and the larger S9 Plus with a 6.2-inch screen. Although at first glance, they don’t look like much of a step up from its S8 and S8 Plus, these new smartphones are packed with high-tech features and hefty processing power.
In our official review, Business Insider's reviewer declared, "Samsung's Galaxy S9 is proof that you don't need to spend $1,000 for a great smartphone."
Both the S9 and S9 Plus include a brighter screen, camouflaged sensors, reduced bezels and wireless charging. And dual, stereo speakers are 40% louder than the S8 and use Dolby Atmos for virtual surround sound, which most definitely optimizes gameplay and movies.
The biggest upgrade is the cameras, the S9 with just one lens and the S9 Plus with an extra, telephoto lens. Each boasts a superspeed dual pixel sensor and a mechanical aperture for low-light images.
According to Samsung, each shot produces three sets of four images, which go through the processor for better focus and noise reduction. Tech reviewer after tech reviewer has taken gorgeous photos with the S9 and S9 Plus cameras. Digital Trends put the S9 Plus through intense low-light tests, and it excelled.
Another big update is the Super Slo Mo video, which you can now activate by just swiping left. It automatically detects when the action begins in your video.
In keeping with the AR trend, Samsung has also introduced the AR Emoji. Although they're compelling, they still feel creepy. Just take a selfie of your face, then create an entire library of, well, you. As an emoji. You can also customize your AR Emoji with physical features and outfits and even film a video of “emoji you” to share. But, truthfully, you may want to wait until this technology is a little more nuanced before you freak your friends and family out with personal pixelated emotions.
If you’re simply interested in beautifying yourself, Samsung’s Bixby digital assistant has partnered with Sephora and CoverGirl to let you apply digital make-up, then shop your look.
With all these extra features and digital assets, we also appreciate the Micro SD memory card slot, which will take up to a 400 GB card. — Tobey Grumet
Pros: Super camera for even better low-light photos, Dolby Atmos, dual speakers, headphone jack stays intact
Cons: Creepy AR emojis, high price, Face-Unlock uses Intelligent Scan, which is not as secure as iPhone X
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
- The best SD cards you can buy for your DSLR camera
- The best notebooks you can buy
- The best toothpaste you can buy