Best at any price
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 under $600
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung’s last-gen flagship is still plenty capable, and now that it’s been updated to Oreo it feels extremely similar to the new Galaxy S9. It doesn’t have the absolute latest specs or the new camera found in the GS9, but it’s also a notable step down in terms of price — you can get a brand new, warrantied Galaxy S8 for under $600 (and often even less).
You’ll have to put up with the slightly awkward fingerprint sensor placement, and will have a shorter runway for future software updates, but if the difference in price is top of mind and you want a "flagship" phone, you should check out the Galaxy S8.
Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 is a year old, but it still feels modern with great design, capable specs, a good camera and the latest Oreo software.
One more thing: Be on the lookout for further price drops as the phone gets beyond a year old and Amazon looks to move old stock.
Best under $400
The Moto X4 is all about providing a high-end feel without the coinciding price. It originally retailed at $399, but now sits around $350 on Amazon. At that price, it’s a fantastic phone — it has a beautiful metal-and-glass build, dual rear cameras, solid battery life and really good specs for the money.
The software experience is typical clean Motorola, and runs buttery smooth thanks to some wonderful optimizations. It doesn’t offer flagship-like experience in every respect, but it’s also less than half the price of those phones — in all, it’s an inexpensive phone that doesn’t at all feel cheap.
Bottom line: The Moto X4 is a fantastic deal at under $400, providing a flagship-like experience in many respects for far less than half the price.
One more thing: There are regular sales on this phone that put it under the $300 mark, at which point it’s a better buy than the Moto G5 Plus at its usual retail price.
Best under $250
Moto G5 Plus
Motorola performed yet another pricing miracle with the Moto G5 Plus, the successor to the excellent Moto G4 series and a contender for the best affordable smartphone today.
It starts with the excellent 5.2-inch Full HD display, but the real benefit to the G5 Plus this year is the excellent performance and battery life from the combination of a Snapdragon 625 platform and a 3000mAh battery.
Also of note is the improved low-light performance from the 12MP camera, which boasts the same hardware as (and similar results to) the Galaxy S7.
Bottom line: This is the best sub-$250 phone you can buy today, and it’s still a great device even if price isn’t a factor.
One more thing: Motorola.com is offering the Moto G5 Plus with inexpensive financing if you don’t want to pay up front.
Best under $150
The Moto E line has always been about getting a barebones smartphone experience in order to get a super low price, and that’s where the Moto E4 still lands. The specs aren’t amazing, nor is the physical design, but you get that core Moto DNA that means this is a slick little phone for a great price.
You get a 5-inch HD display, a Snapdragon 425 processor, and 2800mAh battery. But you also get nice-to-haves at this price, like an 8MP auto focus camera and a fingerprint sensor. That’s more than you expect for an MSRP of $119.
Bottom-line: For a bargain basement price, it’s tough to get a phone that performs better or has the features of the Moto E4.
One more thing: The Moto E4 Plus is also available on Amazon for about the same price, with a larger display and much larger battery — but stock and pricing can be sporadic at times.
April 6, 2018 at 06:00AM