Best Android Phones in 2018

By | 18th May 2018

When money's no option, these are the absolute best Android phones you can buy.

Best overall

Google Pixel 2 XL

See at Best Buy

The Google Pixel 2 XL gives you sleek and solid hardware, powerful specs inside and simple and intuitive software. It's not a flashy phone, but it's beautifully efficient — and 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 has 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 XL. Great hardware and amazing software support a top-notch camera anyone can enjoy.

One more thing: Even though we recommend the larger Pixel 2 XL, the smaller and cheaper Pixel 2 is just as good, and easier to use with one hand.

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Why the Google Pixel 2 XL is the best Android phone

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 XL. Everything is blazing fast, smooth, consistent and intuitive throughout the interface. It's a core competency that separates the Pixel 2 XL from the competition, and it's something that any smartphone user can appreciate.

Google has become 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 phone's 3520 mAh battery manages to get you a full day of use, and you get front-facing stereo speakers (which get really loud), another nice-to-have.

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.

Google doesn't focus on the number of features, but rather on the impact of each one.

If there's one knock on the Pixel 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 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 XL.

 

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Best for features

Samsung Galaxy S9+

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The Galaxy S9+ isn't much different from its predecessor, but seeing as it was Samsung's best-ever-selling phone, that's not a bad thing. The S9+ is 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 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+.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S9+ doesn't require much thought — it can do everything, and looks great doing it, with few real downsides.

One more thing: If you're looking for a smaller version of the S9+, the S9 has a smaller battery and only one camera sensor but is otherwise the same phone. Which means it's just as good.

Best for battery life

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

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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, upgraded EMUI software, and a 1080p display make this a true two-day flagship for many people, and that's rare today.

Huawei's software, while still a bit divisive, continues to get better year after year and with Oreo, it's reached a point where it's as usable and enjoyable as any other skin — for the most part. There are still some issues with third-party apps, but the downsides are few and far between.

Bottom line: It's a true flagship with all 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.

Best for camera quality

Huawei P20 Pro

See at Amazon

Huawei's P20 Pro isn't officially available in the U.S., but it may be worth importing for one thing: its camera. Or should we say cameras. The first phone with three rear cameras, the main sensor is 40 megapixels and shoots the best low-light photos we've ever seen. Plus, there's an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom — perfect for those vacation shots of landmarks you can't get close to.

The P20 Pro is also Huawei's best-looking and most ambitious phone yet, from its improved software, focus on AI that's actually useful, and a stunning design. Just make sure to get the Twilight model.

Bottom line: With three rear cameras that are all amazing and EMUI software that's more than tolerable, get this phone for the photos, stay for everything else.

One more thing: Like the Mate 10 Pro, this has a 4,000mAh battery that should last nearly two days.

Best value

OnePlus 6

See at OnePlus

It's not dramatically different than the OnePlus 5T, but the OnePlus 6 shows the company operating at 120%. A beautiful 6.3-inch OLED display (with a notch) offers tons of real estate, and the addition of a classy-looking glass back and new, larger camera make this, at $529, one of the best smartphone deals around. Add to that fast software updates and one of the cleanest builds of Android yet, and you have a winning combination.

Bottom line: The OnePlus 6 is the phone to buy if you want cheap, fast, and stylish.

One more thing: The OnePlus 6 doesn't work on Verizon or Sprint.

Want something a bit cheaper?

If you're looking for something a bit cheaper than even the value-minded OnePlus 6, we have a separate list full of the Best Cheap Android Phones that you might be interested in. From the Moto G5 Plus to the upcoming Moto E5 Plus and Moto G6, there's plenty of power, camera quality, and performance in the budget segment.

The Best Cheap Android Phones

Conclusion

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.

But if neither of those phones hit the spot, or they're too expensive, may we recommend the excellent Huawei Mate 10, which has the longest-lasting battery we've ever seen on a phone. Or if you're looking for something a bit more stylish, the $529 OnePlus 6 is an amazing phone for the price.

We've used these phones a lot and none of them will disappoint. While we recommend the Pixel 2 series for its amazing cameras, fast updates, and overall performance, all the phones listed here are the best of the best.

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Best overall

Google Pixel 2 XL

See at Best Buy

The Google Pixel 2 XL gives you sleek and solid hardware, powerful specs inside and simple and intuitive software. It's not a flashy phone, but it's beautifully efficient — and 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 has 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 XL. Great hardware and amazing software support a top-notch camera anyone can enjoy.

One more thing: Even though we recommend the larger Pixel 2 XL, the smaller and cheaper Pixel 2 is just as good, and easier to use with one hand.

Update May 2018: The Pixel 2 XL stays at the top of our list, with the Galaxy S9 coming up close behind. This month, the Huawei P20 Pro and OnePlus 6 bring some much-needed competition to the list, with incredible cameras and value, respectively.

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