28/06/2018 – 1:30pm
As tech journos something we get asked a lot – pretty much every time we meet a new person and they find out what we do for a living, in fact – is “which is the best smartphone?” By that, of course, people usually mean which is the best “right now”.
Of course, there is no “best” full stop, because the market is constantly moving forward with new features and innovations being added every generation.
There are, however, usually at least one or two handsets which stand out every year as being particularly stellar examples for that 12-month period.
It must be said though, it doesn’t exactly help the way the launch schedules are distributed, as you end up comparing an iPhone which launches in September with a Pixel in October, then the Samsung Galaxy S in Q1 of the following year, and a OnePlus in Q2. It all gets a bit messy.
Ultimately, as with most things, there is no “best” handset that will suit absolutely everyone. Even the “best” in terms of features, specs, and all-round performance, may not be the best for some people, for whom such flagships are far too expensive.
This has become more and more relevant as flagship prices have skyrocketed in the last 18 months or so, with the poor iPhone X sales being representing the pinnacle of this phenomenon. Essentially a mass consumer rejection of increasing prices for cutting-edge specs. Meanwhile, even Samsung’s Galaxy S9 supposedly hasn’t sold as well as Samsung hoped.
So what are, in our view, the best phones of the last 12-months or so? What are the best phones you should consider if you’re getting a new one inside 2018?
Best iPhone – iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus
We ran a full feature on the subject of the “best” iPhone. For the absolute best of the bunch, in our view it basically comes down to a couple of choices.
You either pay about $1000 for the latest iPhone X. Now admittedly, that does mean you get the fastest performance, probably the best camera, and a number of fancy bells and whistles. However, that is one heck of an outlay, and you also have to adjust to some new and peculiar ways of using your iPhone without a Home key or Touch ID.
The alternative is to go for the iPhone 7 from late 2016. Why? Well because the iPhone 8 is not worth the significant price hike considering it is barely an upgrade. With the iPhone 7, you pay a respectable price and you still get a fantastic suite of hardware, fast performance, and an amazing camera.
In terms of bang for buck, while still packing a competetive set of capabilities, the iPhone 7 series still, in our view, rules the Apple roost. The only question then is, do you go regular or Plus? In our view, Plus is better for the battery boost, but we understand some people prefer a more compact phone, and the regular iPhone 7’s battery is still decent.
Best Samsung – Samsung Galaxy S8+/Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+
This one is kind of tough. There is a lot to love about the Samsung Galaxy S9 series and the variable aperture camera is undoubtedly Samsung’s best imaging setup to date.
However, the price is crazy and it actually isn’t so hot on battery life. The real Mac Daddy remains the Samsung Galaxy S8+ which still has a superb camera, tons of power, a similar design and frankly insane battery life. It’s still one of the best battery performers on the market.
Ultimately you have to choose whether you value camera or battery life more. If it’s the former, go Galaxy S9 series, if it’s the latter, go for the Galaxy S8+.
KYM’s Choice – OnePlus 6
Not only has the OnePlus 6 won our favour as one of the all-round best handsets on the market right now, it’s also one of the best phones OnePlus has made to date.
While we’re able to recommend last year’s Galaxy S flagship or even 2016’s lead iPhone, with OnePlus we can safely say this year’s model is well worth consideration.
Not only does it have an amazing camera, spec, and battery life, but it is also insanely good value for money compared to the competition. You pay a fraction of what it costs for Samsung and Apple’s flagships, and you’re getting just as good a device at the end of it.
Honourable Mention – Google Pixel XL 2
Although in some regards we feel the OnePlus 6 has usurped Google’s Pixel, it must be said that the current-gen flagship Google Pixel XL 2 from late 2017 is still one fantastic piece of kit. The battery life and camera are still more than a match for Apple, Samsung, and OnePlus’ offerings on this list.
The price isn’t too crazy, and best of all you have the fact that it’s Google’s latest software running stock in specially optimised hardware, with ongoing updates and support – that’s something you really can’t beat.
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