Best Android Phones: Q3 2018
In our series of best product guides, here’s the latest update to our recommended Android Smartphone list. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing (June 5th).
We’re at the end of the spring refresh cycle, which means that all vendors have released their relevant devices for this generation. So now we can finally discuss the broader picture in terms of our current recommended device list.
|AnandTech Android Smartphone Recommendations: Q3 2018|
|Segment||Option #1||Option #2|
|Flagship (US/CHN/JPN)||OnePlus 6||Galaxy S9/S9+|
|Flagship (EU/ROW)||OnePlus 6||LG G7|
|Upper Mid-Range||Galaxy S8||Honor 10|
|Best Value||Honor 7X||Honor 9 Lite|
This year started off with Samsung releasing the Galaxy S9 and S9+ which we reviewed in detail. Oddly enough, this year many vendors opted not go toe-to-toe with Samsung in terms of device announcements and releases, and instead in the subsequent months following MWC we’ve seen a staggered release of competing devices from various vendors. Huawei was the first in line with the launch of the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro in early April. We’ve covered more exotic devices such as the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S and currently have OnePlus 6 and LG G7 reviews cooking in the oven. The HTC U12 deserves a mention of its existence, however he hadn’t had a chance to review it and due to its high pricing it has trouble to really distinguish itself.
The upper-mid-range is something that’s always a though to evaluate because if most of the time new devices at this price-point clash with last generation flagships which offer equally good value at their discounted price. The phones who do stand out on their own this generation are the Honor 10 and Honor View 10 which come with very similar fortes as Huawei’s flagships, but come at lower price points.
Best Flagship Devices Americas, China, Japan: OnePlus 6 & Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+
While we haven’t had the chance to publish our review of the OnePlus 6 yet, I’ve spent sufficient enough of time to test out the basics and come to conclusion that this device offers the single best value among current generation smartphones. The OnePlus 6 offers a fantastic updated design with a new glass back panel that overall feels and looks very premium. The phone has a notch but it does not detract from daily usage and the software integration is seamless.
In terms of performance the Snapdragon 845 inside the OnePlus 6 offers the very same blazing fast performance that I’ve come praise in the review of the Mi MIX 2S. What the OnePlus 6 does what the MIX 2S couldn’t do is to deliver a high quality screen: the AMOLED screen not only offers better display quality but also is more efficient as the OP6’s battery life exceeds that of the MIX 2S and almost comes near that of the Snapdragon Galaxy S9+, but manages to do it with a smaller 3300mAh battery while being both thinner and lighter.
Camera wise the OP6 easily battles with the S9’s at the top of daylight capture picture quality, meaning it’s among the best cameras currently available.
Choosing the S9 or S9+ over the OP6 comes at a slightly higher price point, but what you get in return is a higher resolution screen at no cost of battery life, and improved low-light camera capture capabilities along with a microSD slot (although OP6 offers much larger base capacities at the same price). Both options don’t disappoint and are as close as you can get in terms of no-compromise devices.
Best Flagship Devices Europe, Rest of World: OnePlus 6, with other considerations
The reason I split the flagship category into regional recommendations is Samsung’s uncompetitiveness in terms of the Exynos 9810 variants of the S9. While sporting the same excellent screen and camera, performance and battery life unfortunately does not compete against Snapdragon 845 devices. Here, the OnePlus 6 sits relatively alone in terms of best overall rounded package.
Alternatives to the OP6 in Europe are the LG G7, while its camera isn’t up to par with the S9, it bests the Exynos in terms of performance and battery life. The screen of the G7 is its weakest point as it’s impossible to achieve accurate colours as LG has returned to its abysmal screen calibration practices. LG still offers the only flagship phones with wide-angle camera lenses so if you value this feature, there’s little competition.
Huawei’s P20 Pro deserves a mention in terms of its excellent battery life which is industry leading among flagships and comes with a respectable camera in daylight, and outstanding picture quality in low-light with the best zoom optics on any phone. The latter’s disadvantage comes virtue of its very high price premium at release, but prices have by now fallen enough that the P20 Pro is maybe a consideration if one can get it under 700€ – still it’s a very polarizing device with some very good positives but also some negatives. The Mate 10 would have made a good contender at its current price of below 500€ – however its slight battery advantage doesn’t make up for being bested in every other category by the OnePlus 6. Also, no headphone jacks on Huawei’s latest phones is a minus.
Google’s Pixel 2 phones both overprice themselves out of competitiveness both in the US and especially Europe – both having disadvantages on the screen, with the regular Pixel 2 offering a subjectively unlikeable design with large bezels and the Pixel 2 XL suffering from quality issues on the LG OLED screen – the same issue as to why I can’t recommend the LG V30 as one would have to try one’s luck out in terms of getting a unit with a good screen.
Best Upper Mid-Range Smartphones: Galaxy S8, Honor 10 & Honor View 10
As I’ve noted in the introduction, this category of new phone releases always has trouble in terms of managing to compete with previous generation flagships. In today’s market, the Galaxy S8, either Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895 variants, both still offer great value and still beating out new smartphones at their updated new full price points of ~450€/$515, but most importantly the S8 offers an outright fantastic deal when bought refurbished at 350€/$380.
Among new smartphones, it’s very hard to beat the Honor 10 and Honor View10. The phones offer the same basic specifications as Huawei’s flagships along with the new Kirin 970 chipsets, but come in more affordable designs at £371/379€/$465 for the Honor 10 and £399/429€/$499 for the View 10.
Best Budget Smartphones: Honor 7X, Honor 9 Lite
This category of devices is very hard for me to write about due to the sheer size of the market and particular regional segmentation. Matt last year commented particularly how in the US this segment is very barren, and this was mostly due to the fact that many of the most attractive phones in the price ranges either weren’t officially available in the country or they didn’t come with the correct support for the needed frequency bands.
Fortunately Honor was able to introduce the Honor 7X in the US and has all the required bands for operation on AT&T and T-Mobile at least. At $199 / 229€ the you get a quite excellent phone – the most defining feature of the phone is its 18:9 2160x1080p LTPS IPS LCD screen which frankly at the price range manages outperform many of its peers in its category and can very well keep up with higher end devices.
The Redmi Note 5 is of particular interest in Europe and Asian countries as it supports all relevant frequency bands and is officially sold by Xiaomi. The Redmi Note 5 doesn’t have quite the as elegant and robust design as the 7X or 9 Lite, however where it absolutely shines is in its hardware power as the Snapdragon 636 in the phone just offers the best performance in this price category. Unfortunately I haven’t tested the Redmi Note 5 so I can’t comment on screen or camera quality when compared to the Huawei’s and as such can’t make full judgment on the phone.