Which is the best phone to buy in 2018?
Picking a new smartphone is a tricky task, and that’s because there are simply so many to choose from. But to help make the process a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up ten of the best smartphones on the market – including the Galaxy S9, Huawei P20 Pro, iPhone X and LG G7.
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.
Related: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
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
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.
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
- Lovely design
- Great version of Android
- Very affordable
- 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 S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus
- Fantastic screen
- Feels great
- Improved speakers
- 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
- Stunning screen
- Much-improved telephoto camera
- The best-looking iPhone ever
- Face ID is much better than Touch ID
- 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.
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Google Pixel 2 XL
- Stunning camera
- The best version of Android
- Minimal bezel
- Feels great to hold
- 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.
- Fantastic software experience
- Lovely screen
- Well built for the price
- 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.
- Beautiful screen
- Fantastic audio
- Handy Google Assistant button
- 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.
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Samsung Galaxy Note 8
- Stunning design and build
- Great screen
- Well-implemented stylus and software
- Superb cameras
- Average battery life
- Wildly expensive
Samsung was in a strange position after the world-famous Galaxy Note 7 debacle, having the choice to either axe the Galaxy Note range completely or come back with a safe bet to win then-former customers over – it chose the latter, opting to create the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, otherwise known as the best stylus-toting smartphone on the market (although the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 might have something to say about that).
And the firm didn’t disappoint, manufacturing a high-end handset with impressive internals, an incredible dual-camera setup and a fantastic square-like build, the latter of which feels nothing short of fantastic in the hand, that was awarded nine out of ten by our former Computing Editor, Michael Passingham in his review.
Huawei P20 Pro
- Fantastic tri-camera
- 128GB of storage
- Huge battery
- Stunning design
- EMUI interface has come a long way
- 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.
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Huawei P Smart
- Great 18:9 screen
- Heaps of value
- Slick design
- 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.
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