The Android world never stops moving. It starts with the crazy variety of phones and tablets from dozens of different companies, but gets even more interesting when you thrown in all of the phone accessories, Chromebooks, smart home devices, Google’s services and all of the apps we use every day.
These are the best of the best that we’ve seen come across our desks and be part of our lives over 2017. They’re our Android Central Best of 2017 winners!
Best Hardware of the Year
Best Android phone
Google makes the quickest, smartest and most consistent software, and wraps it in strong hardware filled with great specs. And the camera absolutely leads the industry.
Best less-expensive Android phone
The OnePlus 5T isn’t just the best phone deal of the year, but it’s the most impressive $500 phone we’ve seen. OnePlus redesigned the OnePlus 5 in all the right ways while improving its camera. Win-win!
Most underappreciated Android phone
LG had an interesting year. The G6 is one of the best flagships of 2017, but was instantly overshadowed by the flashier Galaxy S8. That’s too bad because its camera, and its style, won us over.
Runner up: HTC U11+
Best Android phone camera
The best Android camera is the best smartphone camera, period. The Pixel 2 blew us away over and over again and we’re still trying to come to terms with our newfound power.
Biggest flagship phone letdown
Motorola set high expectations, and a high price to match, but the terrible camera and screen that scratched the moment you took it out of the box completely killed the experience.
Best phone design
The Galaxy S8 took everything we loved about the Galaxy S7 and stretched it —both figuratively and literally — into a new shape. The tall 5.8-inch screen is stunning in every way, but it’s the way the curved glass meets the shiny metal that … we’re going to need a minute.
Best Android tablet
It’s tough to recommend any Android tablet. But if you need one you probably want the Tab S3’s big screen, great specs and optional keyboard to make the most capable machine possible. It’s basically a Galaxy S7 blown up to a tablet size, and that’s a great starting point.
The Pixelbook is an incredible engineering feat, and the single best showcase for Chrome OS as an alternative to Windows 10 and macOS. Half laptop, half tablet, but all class.
Runner up: Samsung Chromebook Plus
Best smartwatch for Android users
A smartwatch that’s reasonably sized, good looking, packed with features and completely capable as a full-on fitness tracker as well. It doesn’t run Android Wear, but that just isn’t a problem.
Best fitness tracker
Samsung took all the basics of the Gear Fit2 and compressed them into a slightly more compact, significantly more water resistant, fitness tracker. For $199, this is a steal.
Best connected home accessory
In 2017, Nest rebounded in dramatic style. Its new $179 Thermostat E is purposefully unassuming, but its lack of flare belies an essential home tool.
Best Android accessory
Anyone with a smartphone can benefit from having a Chromecast Ultra plugged into their TV. It’s a super-powerful streamer with 4K and HDR support, and just about any media app you can think of has Cast support to send content right to the big screen.
Best wireless headphones
Incredible noise cancelation is to be expected from a pair of Sony headphones, but the WH1000X2 go above and beyond, producing vivid sound and accurate, plentiful bass.
Best VR headset
It’s limited to just Samsung phones, but it’s hard to argue that Samsung’s VR content library is great. And after a few iterations, its headset has gotten even more lightweight, comfortable and perfect for longer VR sessions.
Runner up: Google Daydream View 2017
Best Software and Apps
Best new Android Oreo feature
Sometimes the most important features are the ones you can’t see. Project Treble will reveal itself going forward, when phones that ship on Oreo can receive future software updates much faster than ever before.
Best new Google app/service
Project Tango is going away, but ARCore is proving to be a worthy successor. It doesn’t have dedicated hardware requirements, and if the content partnerships keep growing we can see this be a strong foothold for Google in the AR/VR space.
Runner up: Files Go
Most improved Google app/service
It’s hard to pinpoint a single important improvement in Assistant, but it’s quickly getting smarter about how it handles all sorts of questions. And best of all, Assistant is now far closer to parity across different devices and lets you type to it on phones.
Biggest Stories of 2017
Taller 18:9 aspect ratio displays are the new thing
The new form factor for smartphones now revolves around "tall" displays. The 2:1 aspect ratio gives you more screen without making the phone unwieldy in terms of width, and when combined with shrinking bezels just makes the experience of a modern phone more enjoyable.
The price gap between flagship and budget grows
2017 marked an inflection point where flagship phones got surprisingly expensive at the same time as the lowest-end budget phones got even cheaper. This year we got a Galaxy Note 8 near $1000, but also a super-capable Moto E4 for less than $100. What a world.
The Play Store exits beta on Chrome OS
It’s been a much longer road than anyone would’ve guessed, but Google is finally confident that Android apps from the Play Store are good enough for Chrome OS. There are still a few speedbumps to encounter, but Chromebook users have a new and growing bank of powerful apps available.
Google’s new TPUs rule the cloud
None of Google’s services would work as well as they do if it wasn’t for the company’s new Tensor Processing Units, aka TPUs. This server infrastructure lets Google manage massive data sets, give lightning-quick responses to online queries and make its apps more powerful than just about any other company can.
Android Go announced
As Android gets bigger, Google continues to have an eye on "the next billion" internet users. Android Go is the software for them, designed to run on phones with very low specs. Rather than creating a whole new version of the operating system, Android Go is smartly just a configuration of Oreo (and beyond) — that critically makes it easier for companies to implement.
Android One goes higher end
Corresponding with the announcement of Android Go, Google’s expanding Android One to new markets and pushing to nicer hardware at the same time. It’s bringing a "Google experience" to even more people, and that’s definitely a good thing.
December 28, 2017 at 05:07AM