The best smartphones in 2018
Now that 2018 is nearly over, we can take a look at the tech that defines the year.
It’s been an interesting year for smartphones, with some incredible new camera-focused devices, and a new emphasis on machine learning. Phones are growing more expensive but they’re also getting incredibly powerful, with new features changing how we use our devices.
Included in our best smartphones of 2018 are a few smartphones from previous years: this is because these devices remain at the cutting edge of portable technology, despite being a little older than new phones. They’re also naturally a little cheaper, making them viable options for people looking for new devices.
These are our favourite smartphones of 2018.
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Best smartphones of 2018
1. OnePlus 6
Price when reviewed: £469 inc. VAT
When compiling this list, we generally have to weigh up price against performance and make a judgement call. Fortunately, the OnePlus 6 makes things easier by being both incredibly powerful and surprisingly affordable.
You’re looking at a handset packing the fastest processor around – the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 – in a package around £200 cheaper than other phones that manage to include it. You might think there would be obvious corners cut to make this possible, but they’re certainly not obvious: the screen is good, the camera is top draw and the battery life is more than adequate. Okay, it doesn’t have expandable storage and it lacks true waterproofing, but those are a small price to pay for a fine handset. This is the one to beat.
Price when reviewed: £739 inc. VAT
Cards on the table: the Samsung Galaxy S9 is actually about the best smartphone you can buy right now – it’s just hugely expensive for what it is. So yes, it’s better than the OnePlus 6 – but it’s not £300 better, that’s for sure.
Objectively, however, it’s as good as it gets. The screen is fantastic; the camera is as fantastic; and it manages to pack in waterproofing, wireless charging, and expandable storage without ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack. Basically, if you’re looking for a feature, the S9 likely has it.
The trouble is, so does the Samsung Galaxy S8, which is still almost as good as the S9 a year later. When the S9 comes down in price, it’ll be a no-brainer – for now, it’s for those for whom money is no object.
Price when reviewed: £999 inc. VAT
Speaking of hugely expensive: hello iPhone X!
What do you get in the £999 iPhone X that you don’t get in the iPhone 8? Well, you get a larger 5.8in screen, for a start – not only that, but it’s OLED as well, and it’s a beauty, covering almost the entirety of the front with next to no bezel. This means there’s no home button, but Face ID is here instead, meaning you can unlock the phone with your face as well as have emoji gurn back at you when you pull faces.
Yes, this is by far the best iPhone ever made, but at £999 you’d have to really dislike Android to go for it. Still, as a sign of things to come, things look bright for Apple.
Price when reviewed: £629 inc. VAT
While the Pixel 2 XL disappointed due to a flaky screen, the Pixel 2 quietly meets all our expectations of what a great Google-made phone should look like.
So yes, it’s as speedy as any handset released in 2017 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but the real triumph of the Pixel is twofold. Firstly, the camera is as good as it gets, managing to take images packed with detail and colour even in tricky conditions.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, as this is a Google-made handset, you can be sure you’ll be at the front of the queue for new Android features. It’s also mercifully free of bloatware, for the purest Android experience around.
Price when reviewed: £799 inc. VAT
Huawei’s latest was about as pleasant a surprise as it’s possible to have. Yes, it’s expensive, but it has three lenses on the back, and the result is the best camera in the business (for static shots – video is a touch more patchy).
There are two reasons it’s not higher up. The first is that the Kirin processor that powers it isn’t quite as fast as this year’s Snapdragon 845 – it’s more of a match for last year’s 835. The second is that £799 is a lot of money with that in mind, but given Huawei handsets tend to drop in price quickly, it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
6. iPhone 8 Plus
Price when reviewed: £799 inc. VAT
The iPhone 8 Plus is a very fine phone indeed – and with its dual cameras and bigger screen, it’s a big improvement on the standard iPhone 8. The trouble is that while it’s very good, it’s also rather expensive for what it is: £799 for the 64GB version puts it well ahead of the equally good phones above, and given there’s no way to expand the storage with a microSD card, you may well need to drop £949 for the 256GB version.
The battery life is good, the cameras are excellent and wireless charging is a welcome addition – even if its years behind Android in adoption. But crucially, this doesn’t feel like a big step forward from the iPhone 7 Plus, which makes the asking price a tough old pill to swallow. You won’t be disappointed, but if you’re willing to look beyond the walls of iOS, you’ll find better for less money.
Price when reviewed: £869 inc. VAT
The Note 8 is about as good as big phones – or phablets as they awkwardly used to be known – get. It inherits all the technology of the Samsung Galaxy S8, gets a second camera, more screen real estate and the fancy S-Pen stylus that lets you doodle and annotate all your sketches.
So why so far down the list? Well, stop me if you’ve heard this one before… Yep, it’s really expensive. At £869, it’s just too expensive to be a serious recommendation to most people. But as prices come down, this is definitely one that you should keep an eye on.
Price when reviewed: £739
Google hasn’t become one of the biggest tech companies in the world by accident, and the Pixel 3 is proof of their continuing innovation.
With machine-learning powering its camera, performance that trumps many older phones, and AI performing many of the unwanted tasks that come with a phone (like, for example, actually answering the phone), the Pixel 3 is a dream to use. It’s just a shame that this fact wasn’t a surprise, since pre-launch the phone received more leaks than a sinking ship.