Best Phone 2018: The best smartphones to buy

Which is the best phone to buy in 2018? Helping you choose your next smartphone

Choosing your next smartphone is a tricky task, and that’s because there are simply so many to choose from at a load of different prices. But to help make the process a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up some of the best smartphones on the market – including the Galaxy S9, Huawei P20 Pro, iPhone X and LG G7.

There’s also a few flagships we’re yet to see this year, including the recently announced Sony Xperia XZ3 and the upcoming Huawei Mate 20 and Google Pixel 3.

Oh, and don’t forget the new phones from Apple. It has recently unveiled the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

If you’re looking for something that’s a bit lighter on the wallet then take a look at our best cheap phones round-up.

How we select the best smartphones

Every handset we review is tested using the same combination of real-world use cases and repeatable benchmark tests. This means that we test everything from battery life and processor performance during the full range of everyday tasks, right up to call quality and screen calibration.

Phones are also now our go-to devices for taking photos, so the cameras are put through their paces in every situation possible. You want to know whether a phone’s camera will impress not just in bright sunshine at an exotic location, but also when taking shots of moving people at drunken parties, or just in the dull, flat light of a British winter.

best overall smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S9

Both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are excellent smartphones. The variable aperture is the biggest feature that separates it from rivals, enabling the S9 to capture fantastic shots even in low-light conditions.

£739.00

Similarly, you might want to know how your phone will cope with a Netflix binge or video call, so our battery-discharge tests take that into account.

Most of all, we take these phones out and use them as our own over an extended period, living with them to learn their quirks and discover their hidden treasures.

So now you know how we select the best smartphones, let’s take a look at our highlights.

Related: Best SIM only deals

OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6

Pros:

  • Lovely design
  • Great version of Android
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Camera still needs work

With a starting price of £469, the OnePlus 6 is easily the best value smartphone you can buy right now. It looks fantastic, has a slick version of Android and is arguably the fastest phone you can get at any price.

The 6.3-inch OLED might have a notch, but it remains gorgeously bright and colourful. There’s a Snapdragon 845 inside, 6GB or 8GB RAM and storage versions that top out at 256GB. Our only real complaint is the camera, which despite some excellent updates, still falls behind the quality of pricier phones.

The 3300mAh battery features the excellent Fast Charge tech (formerly Dash Charge) and takes only 90 minutes to fully fill up. We would like slightly better endurance though, as we often had to charge the phone by about 9pm.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Pros:

  • Fantastic screen
  • Big battery
  • The S Pen

Cons:

  • Bixby button is an annoyance
  • The S9 Plus feels better

Samsung’s Note series has long been the ‘Best Big Phone’ and that continues with the excellent Samsung Galaxy Note 9. There might only be a handful of tweaks over the Note 9, but they’re all important.

The biggest update is the battery. Gone is the 3400 mAh cell, replaced by a larger 4000 mAh version and it makes a real difference. The endurance here is much better, comfortably lasting a day even if you’re a heavy user.

There’s also more storage as standard (128GB rather than 64GB) plus a 512GB model too. The Micro SD card is still here, as is an IP68 rating, wireless charging and the S Pen.

The S Pen remains a handy tool for taking notes and with the Note 9 it’s available in a variety of colours. The lovely Ocean Blue device, for example, comes with a nice yellow pen. Bluetooth is now included on the S Pen stylus and this lets you use it a remote for a camera or for skipping songs.

Inside the Note there’s a very similar setup to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. The Exynos 9810 (Snapdragon 845 in the States) is paired with 6GB or 8GB RAM. There’s also a dual-aperture 12-megapixel camera on the back that’ll switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the environment. The camera takes some very good shots, but it can’t quite match the quality produced by the Pixel 2 or HTC U12 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9

Pros:

  • Fantastic screen
  • Feels great
  • Improved speakers

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Dual-sensor only on Plus model
  • Some lag with Samsung’s software

You can’t go wrong with either the Samsung Galaxy S9 or Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, though if we had to recommend one we’d go with the latter – and that’s because it comes with a dual-camera. The extra lens, in this instance, is used for zooming without losing quality, making the camera far more versatile.

Both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus sport an identical build (size difference notwithstanding) and similar internals, with the main differences being that the Plus model is equipped with an additional 2GB of RAM, a slightly bigger battery and the aforementioned dual-camera configuration – luxuries most customers should be able to live without.

The biggest update Samsung treated the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus to is a new variable aperture setting within the camera, letting customers switch between an f/2.4 and f/1.5 aperture whenever they see fit, which should ensure images come out bright and full of detail in almost all low-light environments.

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Apple iPhone X

iPhone X

Pros: 

  • Stunning screen
  • Much-improved telephoto camera
  • The best-looking iPhone ever
  • Face ID is much better than Touch ID

Cons: 

  • Software needs more optimisation for the taller screen and notch
  • No fast-charging plug included
  • Very expensive

The iPhone X is not only the best smartphone Apple has released to date; it’s also the most expensive, setting customers back £999 for the 64GB base model. But in our opinion, it’s worth it. Performance is fantastic, as are the images produced by the dual-camera setup, and Face ID is better than a lot of fingerprint sensors out there.

Now let’s talk about its design. The iPhone X was designed to show the market that Apple hasn’t lost its touch when it comes to innovation, introducing an edge-to-edge OLED screen, complete with a notch, as well as Face ID. That, for those unaware, is the face-recognition feature that was introduced to replace Touch ID.

Buy Now: iPhone X SIM free for £899 / $1,269 from Amazon

Top iPhone X deals right now

iPhone X 64GB – 60GB of data on EE

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Google Pixel 2 XL

Pros: 

  • Stunning camera
  • The best version of Android
  • Minimal bezel
  • Feels great to hold

Cons:

  • Lifeless screen
  • No wireless charging

Those looking for the most vanilla Android experience will love the Google Pixel 2 XL. It’s one of the best smartphones we’ve put through its paces to date, earning a covered nine out of ten rating in our comprehensive review, with Max Parker, our resident Mobile and Tablets Editor, praising its build, camera and performance.

Our one qualm with the Google Pixel 2 XL is the screen. It’s a bit too plain for our liking, delivering poor viewing angles. It is, however, possible to alter the colour presets using an aftermarket application – but when you’re shelling out more than £600 for a smartphone, you’d expect it to be set to the optimum out of the box.

Buy Now: Pixel 2 XL SIM free for £629 / $647 from Google

Moto G6

Moto G6

Pros:

  • Fantastic software experience
  • Lovely screen
  • Well built for the price

Cons:

  • Some performance frustrations, especially with the camera

Lots of the phones on this list are pricey flagship devices, but that’s not the case with the Moto G6. For a shade under £220 you get a lovely display, slick software and a surprisingly well-built phone.

Moto does a good job at ditching gimmicks here. The few apps it adds on top of Android are thoughtful, and there’s no fussy skin ruining the Android experience. There’s even basic facial unlocking, which is still a rarity at the budget end of the market.

Of course, there are some drawbacks at this price. The camera is fine, but the app is slow and you’ll often miss focus. If you can live with that then you’ll be very impressed.

LG G7

LG G7

Pros:

  • Beautiful screen
  • Fantastic audio
  • Handy Google Assistant button

Cons:

  • LG’s software is still ugly
  • Camera can’t match the competition

The main reason you ought to be interested in the LG G7, however, is for its fantastic display, which ridiculously bright and good looking. It’s an LCD, rather than an OLED, but it can hit 1000 nits for HDR playback. This high brightness isn’t constant, instead, it peaks in bright sunlight and if you use the SuperBright mode.

On the back, you’ve got two cameras, with the main being a 16-megapixel f/1.6 shooter and the secondary a wide-angle sensor. The wide sensor is great, but the regular camera is less impressive. It takes fine photos but lacks the clever auto-HDR modes of competing devices.

Buy Now: LG G7 SIM free for £599

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Pros:

  • Stunning design and build
  • Great screen
  • Well-implemented stylus and software
  • Superb cameras

Cons:

  • Average battery life

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 might be out and sitting pretty in this list, but don’t discount the model that proceeded it. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is now available at a much more reasonable price and it still offers a lot of great features.

The 6.3-inch OLED packs HDR support and a high resolution, while the Exynos 8895 is still a fast chip even a year on. Samsung has also updated the software on the Note 8 since launch, so you’ll have Android Oreo with a Pie update hopefully coming at some point.

Arguably the biggest issue with the Note 8 is battery life. The 3400 mAh cell just isn’t big enough for everything that’s going on here, and it depletes very fast in heavy use.

Buy Now: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 SIM free for £579 from Amazon

Huawei P20 Pro

Pros:

  • Fantastic tri-camera
  • 128GB of storage
  • Huge battery
  • Stunning design
  • EMUI interface has come a long way

Cons:

  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Screen needs some fine-tuning
  • No wireless charging

The Huawei P20 Pro is the first smartphone on the market to feature a tri-camera – a 40-megapixel f/1.8 sensor, a 20-megapixel f/1.6 monochrome sensor for depth and texture, and an 8-megapixel f/2.4 telephoto sensor. But that isn’t its only claim to fame: it’s also equipped with a top-of-the-line processor, 6GB of RAM and a huge 4000mAh battery.

That means that the P20 Pro is a smartphone that can tickle everyone’s fancy. Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned photographer, a power-hungry specs maniac or quite simply someone who’s after a handset that can last for 48 hours on a single charge, Huawei’s flagship has you covered. It’s also very well priced when compared to the competition.

Buy Now: Huawei P20 Pro SIM free for £799 on Carphone Warehouse

Best Huawei P20 Pro Deals

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Huawei P Smart

Pros:

  • Great 18:9 screen
  • Heaps of value
  • Slick design

Cons: 

  • Frustrating EMUI software
  • No fast-charging
  • Some issues with build quality

Customers on a stricter budget should turn their attention to the Huawei P Smart. Sure, it doesn’t have the most interesting name, but it is  – in our opinion, at least – one of the best affordable handsets out there, offering users access to high-end hardware, including an aluminium body, for a fraction of the cost of a flagship.

Under the hood, there’s a 5.65-inch 18:9 screen, a Kirin 659 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable internal storage and a 3000mAh battery. There’s also a dual-camera setup on the rear (13MP + 2MP) that’s not too bad in well-lit environments, but misses the mark at night. At £179, though, it’s an absolute steal.

Buy Now: Huawei P Smart for £179.95 / $195 from Amazon

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