When money’s no option, these are the absolute best Android phones you can buy.
Google Pixel 2 / 2 XL
Google’s Pixel 2 and 2 XL give you sleek and solid hardware, all of the requisite specs inside and run simple and intuitive software at a breakneck pace. Once again they aren’t flashy, but they’re beautifully efficient — and now IP67 water-resistant.
The software features and Google’s apps aren’t numerous, but they’re delightfully useful without being bothersome. And with three years of guaranteed updates, you don’t have to worry about the future — Google’s phones are well-known for holding onto their performance longer than most.
Google ahs once again set the standard for Android cameras, with great hardware buoyed by the "HDR+" processing that can create amazing images. Photos are accurate with an extra punch of color, and can manage tough scenes with little issue. And with Android 8.1, the Pixel Visual Core enables dramatically better photos in third-party apps.
Bottom line: The best Android experience comes straight from Google with the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. Great hardware and amazing software support a top-notch camera anyone can enjoy.
One more thing: Though Verizon will tout the Pixel 2 is "exclusive" to the carrier, know that you can buy the phone unlocked from a variety of sources and use it on your carrier of choice.
Why the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL are the best Android phones
If you want the best possible Android experience, you go straight to the source: Google. The company has gotten serious about user experience and interface design, and it really shows with Android 8.1 Oreo on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. Everything is blazing fast, smooth, consistent and intuitive throughout the interface. It’s a core competency that separates the Pixel 2 and 2 XL from the competition, and it’s something that any smartphone user can appreciate.
Google has gotten really good at user experience and interface design.
And it’s not just software customization that makes it happen — Google has included a Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM and 64GB (optionally, 128GB) of storage to make sure your phone has plenty of room to run. The Pixel 2’s 2700mAh battery seems small (well, normally, it is), but it manages to get you a full day of use regardless. You also get front-facing stereo speakers on both phones, which is nice to have.
Google has sourced a quality 5-inch 1080p display that looks good for the $649 price. The Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch OLED display has seen its fair share of criticism, and is the one true weak point of the phone, but on the larger phone that’s just something you give up to get this hardware and software experience — even though that’s a tougher pill to swallow at $849.
They don’t focus on the number of features, but on the impact of each one.
If there’s one knock on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, it’s that it doesn’t have the sheer volume of features in its hardware or software that some of the competition does. It doesn’t have a headphone jack, wireless charging or an SD card slot; and if you’re used to having a bunch of specialized software features on your Samsung, LG or Huawei phone you won’t find them here.
But for most people, those are relatively small prices to pay to get a daily experience of using a phone that’s fast, intuitive, smart and filled with a core set of features that can actually wow you. And with years of guaranteed software updates, you won’t be left out in the cold. That’s what you get from the Pixel 2 and 2 XL.
Best for features
Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9+
The Galaxy S9 and S9+ aren’t much different from their predecessors, but seeing as those were Samsung’s best-ever-selling phones that’s not a bad thing. These phones are all about giving you the most features in the most beautiful package. You get top-end specs across the board, plus all of the hardware features you expect: waterproofing, wireless charging, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and more.
The camera is all-new this year, with a sensor that does fantastic processing to remove noise and sharpen fine detail. It’s aided by a dual-aperture lens to get the best combination of light and detail in different shots, and in the case of the Galaxy S9+ is paired with a secondary telephoto lens for zoom and portrait mode shooting.
You don’t get the clean and simple software experience of the Pixel 2, which may take some extra customization and tweaking on your part, but the Galaxy S9 is far less polarizing overall — just about anyone looking for a high-end phone will love using the Galaxy S9 or S9+.
Bottom line: The Galaxy S9 and S9+ don’t require much thought — they can do everything, and look great doing it, with few real downsides.
One more thing: Consider paying the extra $120 for the Galaxy S9+, where you get more RAM, a bigger screen and longer battery life. It’s worth it for most people.
Best for battery life
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Unlike its predecessor the Mate 9, Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro is an absolute looker — and it clearly positions itself right next to the flagship competition. Metal and glass are finely crafted and filled with top-notch specs, and its Leica-tuned dual cameras are capable of some wonderful shots with the help of the Kirin processor inside.
Alongside all of that, the Mate 10 Pro hits it out of the park with battery life. The combination of a 4000mAh battery, efficient processor, somewhat-restrictive software and a 1080p display make this a true two-day flagship for many people, and that’s rare today.
The only downside, as ever, is Huawei’s EMUI software. Though it has gotten better with Oreo, it still has many areas that are rough on the eyes, not very functional or inexplicably broken when it comes to integrating with third-party apps.
Bottom line: It’s a true flagship with all of the best specs, and incredible battery life. You just have to give a little in terms of software experience.
One more thing: When searching for a Mate 10 Pro, make sure you’re getting the U.S. unlocked model so that you have proper network bands and warranty support.
The Pixel 2 and 2 XL don’t have as many features as some other phones, but the experience of using the phone, as a complete package, is ahead of the competition — and the camera is still a standout feature, even though the Galaxy S9 gets close with its new camera. Just about anyone can appreciate what Google offers in its phones, and if they don’t care for the simplicity and would prefer more features, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ are here for you.
Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL
The best Android experience comes straight from Google with the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. Great hardware and amazing software support a top-notch camera anyone can enjoy.
Update March 2018: The Pixel 2 and 2XL still stay at the top of our list. But the new Galaxy S9+ takes over for the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 as a fantastic overall phone with tons of features and a great camera. The LG V30 has also been removed, as it doesn’t do much particularly better than the Galaxy S9+ and still has a high price.
March 14, 2018 at 09:02AM