The best smartphones
Mobile phones are becoming a major part of our lives so much in fact that they have nearly become a part of who we are. It’s amazing sometimes how we don’t realize how often we use and depend on something until we can’t use it any more. Have you ever stubbed your pinky toe or other body part you wouldn’t normally consider important only to find out that you use it A LOT. A phone can be the same way. Once you start having problems with your phone you start having issues with your job, your school, your friends, your family, emergency situations, you name it.
As such it’s important to know how to choose a good dependable phone, how to keep it protected, know how to care for your phone, how to solve common problems on your mobile phone, and make sure it’s there for you when you need it. Those are some of the primary goals of Smart Mobile Phone Solutions. Sometimes even Smartphones require smart solutions.
PLUS: Find out how we image-test camera phones and see our exclusive test-results slide show.
It’s hard to find a phone nowadays that doesn’t have a calendar, a few games, or even downloadable applications. But some phones go the extra mile to bring voice and data needs together, including syncing e-mail, surfing the Web, shooting pictures (Find out how we test phone cameras and see a slide show of results), and supporting hundreds of third-party apps. Some have full keyboards to get down and dirty with your e-mail. We call these multitalented devices smart phones.
If you’re the type who craves 24/7 connectivity, a smart phone could be your answer. With one device, you can take calls, receive all your corporate and personal e-mail, and store your PIM information, including phone numbers, contacts, addresses, calendar, and to-do lists. And with the hundreds of apps available for smart phones, you can perform business tasks, like reading PDFs and Excel spreadsheets.
But smart phones aren’t all business. Thanks to more powerful processors and more flexible OSs, many of these phones can play 3D games and MP3s, record and play back video, and bring together SMS and e-mail.
Many smart phones come with freely extensible OSs that can host third-party applications. These apps let you expand a phone’s capabilities—giving it true smarts.
Microsoft Windows Mobile for Smartphone (which we’ll call Windows Smartphone in this story) allows you to sync with PCs and Microsoft Exchange servers and offers an e-mail application similar to Outlook. There are three versions of Windows Smartphone: the first-released Smartphone 2002; the considerably faster Smartphone 2003; and Smartphone 2003 Second Edition (which adds support for higher-resolution screens).
BlackBerry OS is extremely e-mail focused. BlackBerry devices hook up to corporate or Web-based e-mail servers for up-to-the-minute e-mail. (You can do this with third-party software on other smart phones.) It’s also very easy to read and send e-mail on any BlackBerry. But only a few third-party applications are available to enhance the OS.
Palm OS is best known for its easy-to-use PIM applications, stylus-based input method, and vast array of third-party apps. Another advantage of Palm OS is that it’s already been test driven for years on PDAs.
Some phones opt for proprietary operating systems, with few or no third-party applications. Many of these have keyboards, which make them good for sending and receiving SMS and e-mail.
Symbian is perhaps the least known among U.S. consumers, yet it is Europe’s most popular smart-phone OS. It comes in various flavors, but all the Symbian phones we tested use the Series 60 version. Symbian uses much less memory and battery power than Windows Smartphone, the other major phone-only OS represented in this roundup.
As with Palm or Windows, third-party Symbian applications do everything from read Microsoft Office documents to help you plan routes through unfamiliar cities.
When it comes to carriers, you’re limited by where you live, work, and travel, as well as whatever contract you’re locked into.
U.S. carriers primarily use three cellular technologies: GSM (AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, and T-Mobile), CDMA (Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless), and iDen (Nextel). GSM phones can also be sold unlocked, ready to use on any of the three GSM carriers.
Smart phones are still in their infancy, and it takes patience from early adopters to tap their power. But you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish with these gadgets. They may even drag you away from your good old PDA.
Our contributors: Associate editor Jenn DeFeo and lead analyst Sascha Segan were in charge of this story.
So whether you’re after the best Android smartphone money can buy, an iPhone upgrade or a new Windows phone (actually, let’s forget about Windows, shall we?), we’ve seen and extensively tested them all so you don’t have to.
Take a look and we guarantee you’ll find the best smartphone for you, beginning with the very best phone currently available…
Our top recommendation…the best smartphone around today
Here’s our recommendation for the best all round smartphone on the market, right now.
1. Apple iPhone X
See Apple iPhone X on Amazon US
Best Apple iPhone X plans on Verizon Wireless
Best Apple iPhone X contract deals on Carphone Warehouse
It’s been some time since the iPhone has been our top smartphone recommendation, but then the iPhone X is the biggest shake-up in iPhone history. It’s unashamedly premium, from the build to the price, but it comes together in a package offering a smartphone experience that’s not matched elsewhere. It makes the iPhone 8 looks like a relic, it betters Android competition in the same space, as Apple makes a huge change to its flagship phone.
There’s power and refinement in abundance, with quality oozing from the stainless steel frame, with a fresh new look coming from the new 19.5:9 display that banishes bezels to the last decade. It’s not just the lack of bezels that are impressive about the display, but the overall quality is great too. It’s HDR compatible, supports Dolby Vision and it’s Apple’s first OLED display on a smartphone – and it looks fantastic. You’re not let down by the camera either, which offers great photos and the advantage of stabilised zoom.
For iPhone fans, it’s the pinnacle of the mobile Apple experience, a complete step-change in what the iPhone is. It’s a phone you can’t afford … to miss out on.
Read the full review: Apple iPhone X
Best of the rest top smartphones…
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ aren’t for everyone though, and there are plenty of other smartphones on the market to consider whatever budget you are on. Choosing the right phone for you is every bit as important as getting the best phone and there’s loads to consider.
2. Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+
See Samsung Galaxy S8 on Amazon UK or Amazon US
See Samsung Galaxy S8+ on Amazon UK or Amazon US
Best Samsung S8 64GB plans on Verizon
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Samsung has redefined its flagship handset in the Galaxy S8, offering two sizes of handset with an 18.5:9 display, losing the bezel and offering that premium dual-edge curved design. There’s a long list of things that Samsung gets right in the S8: there’s a pair of great cameras, the battery life is good, there’s waterproofing, the latest hardware and the slickest Android of skins, fully-featured and packed full of useful functions.
The contentious point falls on the fingerprint scanner, as the location isn’t optimal, but that’s not a deal breaker given that the phones support iris scanning too. The real decision might just come down to how big you want your phone to be, with that taller screen meaning your phone doesn’t feel huge, despite the large display. It is expensive, however.
If the price is too much to bear, the then Samsung Galaxy S7 edge comes highly recommended: it offers much of the same – great curved edge display, waterproofing, good battery life and a similar feature set and software experience – but you can buy the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge on Amazon for £200 less than the S8+.
Read the full reviews: Samsung Galaxy S8 |Samsung Galaxy S8+
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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This might feel like a Samsung walkover, but the Note 8 is Samsung’s most capable device so far. It has enhancements over the Galaxy S8+, like the S Pen and more RAM, but that comes at a price – the Galaxy Note 8 is one of the most expensive phones on the market. For those looking for the best, and that wonderful S Pen, then it has no rival.
One of the other advantages it has over the S8+ is the dual camera on the rear. This is not only great quality, but also offers stabilised zoom for super-sharp close-ups. That’s great and it works well, as does the bokeh mode that’s offered, but we’re not certain it’s a hugely important addition compared to the solid performance of the cheaper and more compact phones.
Ultimately, Samsung fans are well served: the Note 8 is a premium device, but the additions might be things you don’t necessarily need. And personally, we prefer the Galaxy S8’s slightly more curvy design, as it looks a little more radical.
Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8
4. Google Pixel 2
Best Google Pixel 2 contract deals on Verizon Wireless
Save up to $300 with trade in when you buy the Google Pixel 2
Best Google Pixel 2 contract deals on Carphone Warehouse
The 2017 Pixel 2 models have caused a stir. The smaller handset, the Pixel 2 is a phone you need to consider carefully. It has a subdued elegance in its design, while packing in all the power of a flagship phone. It’s every bit as powerful as the top phones from Samsung, LG or the larger Pixel 2 XL, but it’s more compact thanks to that smaller display.
While the Pixel 2 XL display struggles, the Pixel 2 is better, and it also packs in the full potency of that clever camera and the very latest from Android Oreo. It might not be the most exciting phone around, but it could be a big hit with those wanting a small but potent handset.
Read the full review: Google Pixel 2
5. Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Best Huawei Mate 10 Pro contract deals on Carphone Warehouse
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. That’s the mantra that Huawei has applied to recent flagship-competitors and it’s the Huawei Mate 10 Pro where this really feels like it’s paid off. The Huawei Mate 10 is the device that proves Huawei has what it takes to play with the big boys like Samsung and Apple.
It’s the best looking Huawei phone yet, presenting a big screen experience and plenty of power, with a great camera packed onto the back that’s every bit as capable as others, perhaps pipped by the Pixel 2. But importantly, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro offers an experience that’s refined to the point that Huawei’s software tinkering no longer feels like an obstruction. That makes for a capable phone we actually want to use.
The Mate 10 Pro also has an attractive price tag hanging on it. At £699, it’s available for pre-order in the UK, and available from 17 November.
Read the full review: Huawei Mate 10 Pro
6. Google Pixel XL
See Google Pixel XL on Amazon UK or Amazon US
Best Google Pixel XL plans on Verizon
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Have you gone completely mad? No, you haven’t. The Google Pixel XL was one of the best phones of 2016 and although it is old, it still has a lot going for it, especially because the price has been slashed to nearly half that of some of the phones on this list. You can get it for just £400.
That’s a lot of phone for your money, considering that it’s 2016 flagship spec, it’s running the latest version of Android Oreo and it has a really good camera. This is backed up by a display that’s great, if not as fancy as some of the 18:9 displays on the latest phones, but it looks good and packs in loads of detail. Remember, Google’s own head Sundar Pichai said that it was less about hardware and more about machine learning and AI. Here you have the full Google Assistant too.
It might not be around for long so if you’re after a great Pixel phone for a little less money, then get one while it’s a bargain.
Read the full review: Google Pixel XL
7. Apple iPhone 8 Plus
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Best Apple iPhone 8 Plus plans on Verizon
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Apple iPhone 8 Plus isn’t a hugely radical change in design like the forthcoming iPhone X. Instead it’s the iPhone you know and love, but better. It’s now sitting in a body with a glass black, bringing a change from the iPhone 7 Plus, but it also has all the power of Apple’s latest chip and runs iOS 11.
The display benefits from True Tone technology, so it adapts as the environment around you changes to keep everything looking great, while the shift in materials around the back also gives you the benefit of wireless charging. Not only that, but it now supports fast charging too, so using a more powerful charger and the right cable, you’ll be back to full in no time.
It’s still a big phone and it perhaps looks a little old compared to the iPhone X now, but it’s still a solid performer with a great camera. Importantly, it’s going to be more affordable than the iPhone X, so if you want to go big on Apple without spending all your money, this is the phone for you.
Read the full review: Apple iPhone 8 Plus