“Buckle your seatbelt, the future is about to begin.”

Those were the words of Samsung’s CEO DJ Koh on stage at Samsung Unpacked, the launch event for a phone that’s going to shape the way we use smartphones for the next decade.

Koh was actually talking about the new Galaxy S10 range when he said the above, but it’s far more pertinent to today’s real showstopper: the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

It might sound overzealous, but the Fold is going to be one of the iconic devices of the next 10 years, something that sets the tone for not just phones but portable electronics in general. 

Koh alluded to the problem on stage tonight: that there’s a belief there’s nothing left in the smartphone world to inspire users. That’s probably true with the current form factor.

There’s no magical, pinch-and-zoom interface that the iPhone brought. There’s no incredible battery life or awe-inspiring camera. Everything is the much-maligned black rectangle.

But what we saw on stage tonight in the Galaxy Fold, a handset that folds outwards to show a large 7.3-inch screen, was the Promethean phone that we’ll look back on in years to come, a device that sparked a change in the desires of phone buyers.

There’s a hankering for something new, something innovative, the next ‘big thing’ that’s never satisfied in phone buyers – and a handset that folds out, that’s both a smartphone and a tablet in one, is just the thing for that. 

This claim sounds like jumping the gun a little bit, and that’s understandable. The Galaxy Fold is an ugly device when folded down in ‘phone mode’, after all – the 4.7-inch screen sits between two huge bezels, which are even more pronounced given most phone manufacturers are trying to remove them altogether, Samsung included. 

The thin screen dimensions make the phone look longer than it really is, but it has to be that way to accommodate the large screen inside, the thing that really sets this Galaxy Fold apart. 

The main draw is being able to start a task on the ‘phone’ screen and seamlessly open up the phone to continue on the large ‘tablet’ portion – it looks so impressive, but that doesn’t mean design compromises weren’t made. It looks thick when folded down, in a world of thin smartphones.

Bezel-haters, look away now…

We’re talking about a phone that no member of the media got to touch or test – while the handset on stage looked slick and fluid, it could still be full of bugs. That would make sense given you’ll have to wait at least two months to own one, and the demonstrator might have been under strict instructions to only show certain, working elements. 

Were that to be true though, it would draw an interesting parallel with the first demo of the iPhone, where Jobs reportedly had to press buttons in a very specific order to stop the phone from crashing.

Perhaps you’re wondering why Samsung is being given the credit for changing the way smartphones. After all, it’s offered a very restricted demo of a too-thick phone with an ugly front.

It’s not the first to bring out a flexible smartphone, and in a month it’ll be joined by a host of other smartphone manufacturers in showing off a foldable phone. 

But Samsung has been working on flexible displays for years now, and was the first to demo the technology on stage last year (albeit in a weird, silhouetted fashion).

It’s also got the reputation – if the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world brings out a radical new concept, people outside of early technology adopters are going to sit up and take notice. 

The flexible phone concept needs to be drip-fed into the mainstream, and only brands like Apple and Samsung are capable of doing that at the moment (although it will be interesting to see the impact Huawei has when it shows off its flexible phone next month).

Ouch.

It’s a bold claim to say the Galaxy Fold will be the genesis for the next wave of smartphones, but it seems inevitable that in the future we’ll all be sporting these flexible devices.

Not today though. Not this year. Probably not for half a decade, really. The Samsung Galaxy Fold seems likely to get a limited release worldwide, given the brand didn’t outline big plans for a global release on stage.

What it did say was that the Samsung Galaxy Fold price would start at an eye-watering $1,980 (around £1,500 / AU$2,700). That’s too expensive, and one wonders if it’s on purpose, a way to ward off the masses from buying – and then decrying – a new form factor that needs a few kinks worked out. Early adopters are usually far more forgiving because they have what they want: the new thing.

Even if it was slightly staged, that demo was impressive. The speed of the device was night and day compared to the buggy experience of the world’s first foldable phone, the Royole Flexpai

That was a phone that folded outwards, only had one screen, and got confused easily between open and closed modes. It’s also expensive, and it’s certainly not going to be a mainstream device. 

What the Flexpai did do is bring that buzz, that feeling of something new and groundbreaking. Seeing a display curve and fold was simply incredible, and Samsung possesses the marketing clout and reputation to get the world to take notice.

So sure, the Samsung Galaxy Fold isn’t going to sell in the millions. Perhaps it won’t even sell in the tens of thousands – but that doesn’t matter. In a decade, when we’re all using flexible electronics as part of our daily lives, it was days like today that put us on that path.

The ‘three app’ multi-tasking does seem too much for a smartphone

There’s no reason to believe that just because it’s created the Galaxy Fold, Samsung will ‘win’ the foldable war. Apple will certainly have something to say when the technology is mature enough, and there are reams of technologically-capable Chinese brands who will want to bring out something even more impressive.

That doesn’t stop the notion of a phone that opens up to a tablet being super cool right now. You might not buy a foldable smartphone today, but today’s launch could well be the reason you own one in the future.

All image credit: Samsung

Last August, Motorola announced what might still wind up being the world’s first true 5G phone — the Verizon-exclusive Moto Z3 with an optional 5G Moto Mod. It’s a snap-on module that the company promised would give you an insanely fast 5Gbps cellular connection, faster than most landlines these days. But Moto Z3 buyers had to take the company’s word for that, because the 5G Mod wouldn’t be available until “early 2019,” when Verizon’s 5G NR network is due to launch in the United States.

Well, the 5G Moto Mod just crossed the FCC today, and it came with a surprise in tow — a document that has more details about how it’ll work than I thought the company would ever publicly reveal.

And one of those details is sure to surprise some people, even if it’s not necessarily something anyone should actually worry about. Namely, the 5G Moto Mod will feature proximity sensors that shut off any of its four millimeter wave 5G antennas if your fingers get too close.

Here’s a portion of Motorola’s description:

As mentioned in the device description, capacitive and proximity sensors are used to disable transmission from a given mm-wave antenna array module when a user may be located in close proximity to the module and in a direction in which the module may transmit. The control mechanism is a simple one in which, if proximity detectors indicate the potential presence of the user within a roughly conical region in front of the module where power density may approach the MPE limit, that module is disabled from use by the modem. This terminates and prevents transmission from the module in question until the condition is cleared.

Before you react to that, a few things you should know:

  • Millimeter wave radiation is considered non-ionizing — it doesn’t have enough energy to tear apart living tissue.
  • You’ve probably already encountered millimeter wave radiation if you’ve gone through an airport body scanner. The FDA says there are “no known adverse health effects” from that kind of dose.
  • The FCC has millimeter wave exposure limits already, and that’s what Motorola’s system is complying with.
  • Motorola goes on to say that the proximity sensors aren’t the only way that it’s shutting off these antennas — the Mod will also automatically pick an antenna with better signal strength if your fingers are blocking others.

But it’s pretty interesting that Motorola felt the need to include such a system, and I’m curious if other 5G devices will have one as well.

We’d previously learned that the 5G Moto Mod contains practically all the guts of a high-end smartphone inside, including its own Snapdragon 855 processor, X50 5G modem, 10 antennas, and its own 2,000mAh battery so it doesn’t need to drain your connected phone, but the FCC filing reveals one less-exciting spec as well: the Mod appears to be 7mm thick at its thickest point, meaning it’ll more than double the thickness of your admittedly fairly thin 6.75mm Moto Z3 phone.

 FCC
13.75mm total – 6.75mm phone = 7mm. Looks like the Mod tapers down to 5.97mm at the edges, though.

We still don’t know how much the 5G Mod will cost, or quite how fast a connection you’ll be able to get in Verizon’s first 5G-equipped cities at launch — our early hands-on was hamstrung — but it’s worth noting that Motorola’s now only advertising a conservative estimate of 300 to 500Mbps, compared to the 5Gbps it’s theoretically capable of.

Oh, and I’ll leave you with one final tidbit I spotted in the FCC filing, though you might want to take this with a grain of salt: A sentence that reads “It functions only when it is snapped onto a 5G Mod-compatible smartphone device, such as the Moto Z3 Pro.”

The rest of the filing is pretty clear that the Mod was only tested with the existing Moto Z3 — I cross-referenced all the numbers to confirm — but I have to admit it was weird to see Motorola avoid launching a new high-end flagship phone last year. It wouldn’t be completely surprising if a “Pro” version of the phone arrives alongside the Mod when it shows up for real. Maybe we’ll hear something at Mobile World Congress next week?

Google’s core apps are almost designed to be taken for granted by owners of Android smartphones – Gmail, Maps and Photos are always there, delivering some of the core functions we use our handsets for. 

But dig deeper into what these apps can do, rather than just using them on autopilot, and you’ll discover a bunch of handy features you may never have known existed. 

So let’s take a look at some of the Google app features you may not have used before – we’re confident that a few of these will make it into your daily routine. 

The features below are designed for Android phones, but most of them are equally applicable to iPhone users – we’ll highlight where that might not be the case.

Google Maps

How to cache map areas in Maps

Google Maps lets you save huge chunks of map data, and this can be very handy. A phone doesn’t need mobile data to track your location, as it can use satellite-based GPS – but without downloaded or ‘streamed’ maps, it’ll look like your location is being tracked on a blank page. 

If you have the storage capacity on your phone you can download a rectangle hundreds of miles wide, and even more in the north-south axis. However, just saving a few square miles that you navigate around regularly should make Google Maps feel seamless. 

To select an area to download, tap Offline Maps in the Google Maps menu, then Select Your Own Map. You’ll see a map that you can pinch and drag to fit the cached area window, along with how much storage space it’ll take up.

How to use Street View on your phone

You can do a lot in Google Maps, but parts that Google doesn’t think you’ll want to use every day aren’t always the easiest to find. Street View is a good example. 

The app doesn’t let you zoom into Street View when you’re in Satellite view, as you can in a browser, but in any of the view modes you can tap and hold on a point on the map to bring up a red map marker, and you’ll then see a thumbnail image at the bottom-left of the screen – tap on this and Street View will launch from that point on the map. 

Log where you park your car

There are whole apps dedicated to letting you log where you’ve parked your car, but Google Maps can do it for you too. 

Just tap on the blue dot that identifies your location and menu will pop up that lets you find nearby spots and share your location – and also save that spot as your car’s parking location. 

This logs it as a saved point on the map, making it really easy to find – you’ll want to remember this tip next time you’re visiting an out-of-town shopping mall or parking at an airport.

Gmail

Creating a signature

Many of us use signatures for our work email, but few of us do so for our own accounts. 

You can add you own with just a few taps, and this will only apply to emails sent from your phone. In Gmail, tap the three-line icon to open the menu, scroll down to Settings and then select the account you want to add a signature to. 

Scroll down the Settings screen and you’ll see the Mobile Signature option. This lets you type in a message that’ll appear at the bottom of your mails – it might be the perfect place to apologize in advance for any egregious autocorrect errors you your phone makes. 

Gestures

If you want to change how Gmail feels to use, you can customize its gestures. As standard, when you flick left or right on an email it gets archived. However, you can change this, and make left and right swipes do different things – your options are delete, mark as read, move to a folder, snooze or no action at all. 

This is one of the clearest ways to make the Gmail interface work smarter for you – although if this all seems like overkill then it probably means you’re a ‘no action’ kind of gesture user. 

You’ll find these controls in the General Settings sub-menu in Settings, under Swipe Actions, although this tip doesn’t work with the iOS version of the app.

Shortcut search commands

Ready to get nerdy? Gmail offers a search feature that, we’d bet, 99% of people don’t know about. But if you have an inbox crammed with 10-plus years of emails and you need to find one, or you want to have a clear-out, Gmail’s ‘search operators’ are invaluable. 

These are codes that you type into the search bar, and here are some examples:

Size:0000000 Change those zeroes to a number and Gmail looks for emails that are larger than that number, in bytes. So 1000000 will look for emails that are roughly larger than a megabyte. 

Older_than:1y – No surprises here: this command brings up all emails received more than a year ago. 

Has:attachment – This filters emails that include an attachment

Has:YouTube – Handy if you want to see emails that include a YouTube video 

If those don’t sound especially useful for your needs you can check out the full list of commands at the Google website.

Make your emails look more interesting

Start adding color and formatting to your emails and you quickly risk entering Comic Sans territory in terms of taste; however, if you’re emailing your friends, rather than your boss, maybe it doesn’t matter. 

You won’t see formatting options as standard when composing an email on your phone. To bring them up, long-press some text to select it and then select Format from the pop-up menu to bring up a bar of options. 

Among other things you can use italics, underline phrases, change font colors and add highlighting to text.

If you’re using an iPhone, you’re limited to only italics, bold and underlining – perhaps Google thinks iOS users don’t have time for such frippery (or it was just too hard to implement).

Google Photos

How to free up space on your phone

If you’ve had your phone for any length of time, no end of storage will be taken up with photos of your kids, your lunch, and the occasional accidental snap of the inside of your pocket. 

Google Photos offers the best way to quickly free up a lot of storage space, short of deleting those 4GB games you only played once. 

In the Settings menu there’s an option called Free Up Space. This removes from your phone shots that have already been uploaded to Google servers, assuming that you’ve turned on photo backups. 

The one thing to note is that if you use Google’s free ‘unlimited’ online storage you’ll then permanently lose the photos at their original quality. To get around this you’ll want to back up your favorite shots to your laptop or desktop computer, if you still have one. 

On a Windows computer, plug the phone into a USB port and enable USB file transfers in the phone’s drop-down menu – you can then drag and drop photos in Explorer as if your phone was a USB stick. The process is similar on a Mac, but you need to download the Android File Transfer app, available direct from Google. 

Using search

Search is perhaps the most sneakily powerful part of Photos, making full use of the clever software Google always has working behind the scenes. 

You can probably guess some of the kinds of searches you can make – type in a place name, for example, and Google Photos uses the geocaching tag on the image find suitable matches. Search for a particular month and, sure enough, photos from that month will show up.

However, you can also search for all kinds of objects, because Google automatically AI-scans your images as part of the process. Want pics of puppies, cheese, pizza, castles, rocks or faces? Just type in that term and Google Photos works its magic to find what you’re after. 

Settings images as your wallpaper

Google Photos lets you set your phone wallpaper right from the app (if you’re not on an iPhone, that is), and many of you may have done so already; however, the whole point of this article is that we’re not assuming everyone’s an Google whiz kid.

To set one of your photos as your wallpaper, find the image in the Photos app itself. Now tap the three-pip Settings menu button in the top-right of the screen and select Use As. 

This will bring up a sub-menu of options, such as setting it as a WhatsApp profile picture (if you have that app installed), as well as making it your Android wallpaper. 

Making your images more social-friendly

Google Photos Assistant offers many ways to tweak your photos before sharing them online – and the less capable your phone’s camera, the more important editing becomes. 

There are two parts of this to explore. First, just open up a picture and select the button that looks like a column of sliders. This opens up the editing menu. Photos keeps this part simpler than most image-editing apps, with a just a row of presets and Light, Color and Pop sliders. 

For a natural look just apply the Auto preset, which adds a little more oomph to your shots without altering their character too much. 

All done? The next top pick is Collage, found in the Assistant tab. This fits multiple shots into a single image, for a fetching ‘lifestyle’ look. 

Brought to you in association with Nokia and Android One, helping you make more of your smartphone. You can learn more about the new Nokia 7.1 here, and you’ll find more great advice on getting the most from your phone here.

The best Android phones of 2018 are starting to look a lot more interesting, with some wild design changes showing up. Given the quantity of killer Android smartphones, it can hard to pick a winner, but we’ve had plenty of hands-on time with each, and have done the tough job of sorting for you.

For now, Samsung is still holding strong thanks to its talent for blending features, high specs, and a great design. But, with the way its competitors have been making quick advancements to their design and technology, the roster of best Android smartphones should get more and more interesting.

If you’re on the market for a new Android smartphone, be sure to check all of these devices out, as you might find some you’d never have thought of. You can also see the best phones and best unlocked phones to see how Android and iOS devices stack up. And, if you need mobile service to go with your phone, we can help you find the best unlimited data plan.

Now, let’s take a look at the best Android phones available right now.

While many try, it can be really hard to beat a Samsung flagship that nails just about every aspect of being a great Android smartphone. The Galaxy S9 Plus offers so much to meet the varied needs of just about any phone user.

The design of the Galaxy S9 Plus is great, with a nearly bezel-less display measuring 6.2 inches across. That screen is crisp with a high resolution, and it’s only made better by the Super AMOLED technology. And, let’s not forget about the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack and an IP68 rating against water and dust ingress.

Pair that great design with powerful internals, ample storage that’s expandable via microSD card, and a suite of capable smartphone camera sensors, and you’ve got an easy winner. The pot is only sweetened by the lower price of the Galaxy S9 Plus compared to phones like the Mate 20 Pro, iPhone XS, and Galaxy Note 9.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

If it weren’t for the slightly bulkier design and the higher price, the Galaxy Note 9 would likely be at the top of this list. But, it still lands a neat second place behind the S9 Plus.

With a sharp, 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display, it’s offering a great viewing experience for anyone that’s on the go often. Inside, it’s powered by the same components as the Galaxy S9 Plus, but with larger storage capacities available, a bigger battery, and more RAM optional. 

The Galaxy Note 9 sets itself apart with the S Pen, which enables some handy hands-free features and smooth note-taking. The cameras on front and back are just as impressive as the Galaxy S9 Plus shooters. For everything that the S9 Plus offers and a little bit more, this is a winner if you have the wiggle room in your budget.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro isn’t the easiest to get your hands on in the US, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive a phone. It’s the best we’ve ever seen from Huawei, and stacks up well against all other Android phones.

It’s QHD display measures 6.39 inches and supports HDR10 for a great visual experience, as long as notches aren’t an issue There’s a fingerprint sensor embedded underneath the display as well. Inside, it’s offering impressive performance with Huawei’s own Kirin 980 chipset and 6GB or 8GB of RAM. It comes with plenty of storage and a large battery as well. 

The camera offering on the Mate 20 Pro is truly impressive, with a combination of three cameras on the back and a super-sharp 24MP selfie camera. The rear camera system combines a 40MP wide-angle sensor, an 8MP telephoto sensor, and a 20MP ultra-wide sensor. The result is an incredibly versatile snapper with AI backing it up.

Read more: Huawei Mate 20 Pro review

Almost as impressive as the Mate 20 Pro is Huawei’s earlier P20 Pro, which took the company’s phones to the next level in terms of camera performance. The P20 Pro also features a versatile triple-sensor camera system on the rear, combining a 40MP, 20MP, and 8MP sensor with different Leica lenses to offer lots of flexibility.

Inside the P20 Pro is Huawei’s Kirin 970 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000mAh battery to offer plenty of life. At the price, which is comfortably below the Mate 20 Pro, these specs feel right.

The design is also eye-catching, with a two-tone finish on the rear and a big 6.1-inch OLED screen on the front. 

Read our full review: Huawei P20 Pro

The Galaxy S9 just isn’t quite as exciting as some of the other new phones, and that sees it fall a bit lower than its larger siblings despite having similar looks and internals.

Like 2017’s model, it has a stunning 5.8-inch display that fills almost the entire face of the device, ridding you of needless bezels and (for better or worse) the home button. 

The rear fingerprint sensor has been better positioned over the Galaxy S8. But, with newer phones offering in-screen fingerprint sensors, it’s just not that exciting. Still, the flagship quality and performance of this phone are not to be overlooked, nor is the recent trend in price, which sees it competing more closely with the likes of affordable OnePlus phones.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy S9

Google’s Pixel 3 XL is the best choice for anyone focused more on the camera than the phone. It’s the best camera phone on the market, and it does that with just one rear sensor, two front-facing sensors, and a whole lot of software optimization.

The design of the Pixel 3 XL isn’t quite as dazzling as the other offerings on this list, but it’s passable. It boasts a 6.3-inch OLED screen, but has a glaring notch at the top. The dual front-facing speakers help make up for that unsightly notch.

The internals are also competitive with the other flagship phones. And, with regular operating system updates guaranteed by Google, the Pixel 3 XL may have a longer life than some of the competition.

Read more: Google Pixel 3 XL review

For brilliantly high performance and the looks of a premium Android smartphone all at a fraction of the price of the competition, the OnePlus 6T is the phone to get. 

The new flagship from OnePlus has leapt ahead of some of its biggest competitors, Apple and Samsung included, to push forward a 6.41-inch display that has almost no bezel, a tiny notch, and a fingerprint sensor built into the display.

OnePlus’s cameras have also improved, making them close in quality to some of the best smartphone cameras around, if not quite as good. OnePlus also does a great job offering tweaks to Android that improve the experience without introducing a bunch of clutter.

Read more: OnePlus 6T review

LG may not be as present in the collective phone consumer consciousness as it once was, but it’s recent smartphones have been quality options. The LG G7 ThinQ is a testament to that.

Inside, the LG G7 is similar to other flagships, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset and 4GB or 6GB of RAM depending on the device’s storage size. It has a 6.1-inch display with a sharp 1440 x 3120 resolution, and can offering a blazing 1000 nits when you really need to see the screen in direct sunlight.

The dual-sensor system on the rear offers both a standard camera and a super-wide-angle lens for versatile shooting. AI helps the cameras along as well, recognizing scenes and subjects to dial in the settings so you can get a good shoot.

Read our full review: LG G7 ThinQ

It may be older and running on 2017’s hardware, but the Galaxy Note 8 is still an impressive Android phone. And, it’s only getting more affordable.

The design is similar to the Galaxy Note 9, so no one needs to know it’s not the newer phone. And, the Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895 aren’t likely to feel slow too soon. The 6.3-inch screen is still plenty, and it offers a sharp resolution. The internals paired with the screen are still going to be great for gaming, and will compare favorably with the Note 9 for watching videos.

The dual-sensor camera on the back offer great bokeh in photography, even if they’re not quite as good as the newer cameras on the S9 Plus and Note 9. If you’ve got a tight budget, there will be plenty to like about the Note 8.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

If you hate the smartphone notch, you can still get the best smartphone camera without it. Google’s Pixel 3 comes in smaller and more affordable than its bigger sibling, but it offers the same best-in-class camera performance.

The design of the Pixel 3 isn’t quite up to par with the rest of the new flagships from 2018, as it has sizable bezels above and below the screen. It fits a 5.5-inch display with a resolution slightly above Full HD. 

Though it’s not winning any contests for its looks, the internals are up to the task, with a Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM to power through most tasks quickly. Google’s phones also get timely and ongoing updates to the operating system, so the Pixel 3 may remain relevant longer than some of its competition.

Read more: Google Pixel 3 review

2018 is almost over, and so many great new phones have come out vying for the top spot as best phone in the US. Apple has released the iPhone XS, XS Max and the more affordable iPhone XR. The new OnePlus 6T hit the market with a price well below its competition while its specs and design are highly competitive. Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 continue to stand out. And, Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have hit the scene not just looking to be the best camera phone.

With so many great phones launching, it can be hard to keep track, but we’ve thoroughly tested all of the best and determined which stand above the rest. We’ve got all the specs and details you’ll need to know and detailed accounts of how each phone performs. Whenever a new phone comes out, we’ll see how it stacks up against the current roster of best smartphones. So, whether you’re excited about a new iPhone or Android coming out, or have heard a new phone has the best specs around, you can see where it ranks among the best smartphones right here.

Now, with all the phones ready to compare, we’ll make one thing clear. The best phone isn’t simply the new iPhone, although our list is made up of familiar names: Apple, Samsung, Google and LG, all in the top 10. 

The good news is that our team of smartphone experts has tested the best phones to be released in the United States, and buying the right one is more than just a hunch for us. We’ll tell you which phone is best and explain why on this page.

We test out the latest and – sometimes – greatest phones in comprehensive mobile phone reviews. That’s our job. We’re here to separate the best from the mediocre. To drill down to a list of our favorites in the US for October 2018, we based our newly updated rankings system on a lot of geeked-out factors: design, performance, battery life, camera quality, and consistency software updates. The truth is they’re all so close, but you want to walk away with the greatest phone for you.

Why we have more than just a No. 1 pick: Your personal preference among iOS 12 and Android Pie could sway you to another device besides our top-ranked phone. No one in the US wants to get rid of iMessages, and we understand that. Likewise, Android is better for a lot of people who like to tinker with their settings – that’s Google’s speciality with its mobile OS.

Likewise, your contract with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile is a preference. The best phone for AT&T may not be available on-contract on Verizon, and vice-versa. We have to take that into account when recommending phones.

If you didn’t catch it the first time, spoiler alert, our top pick isn’t just Apple’s iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. We’re not that predictable. Before you lock into a binding contract or spring for an expensive unlocked phone, consult our best phone guide, updated regularly.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is the best phone you can buy today if you’re not one to shy away from its $1,000 starting price for the 128GB version. The 512GB model is an eye-popping $1,250. But that version, when combined with a 512GB microSD card, gives you the first 1TB phone – bigger than many laptops sold in the US.

Screen: Samsung’s 6.4-inch Infinity Display is slightly bigger (taller, but actually more narrow than the Note 8) and wraps around the sides for a nice curved look and feel. Samsung is anti-bezel and anti-notch. What you may not see at first is the extreme brightness of this display and the color reproduction. It’s impressive when you see it in person.

Battery life: The Note 9 has a 4,000mAh battery and is the key reason we like it over the S9 Plus, the second best phone in the US. The capacity is 14.2% bigger than the S9 Plus and 33.3% bigger than the S9. It lasts all day with heavy use and deep into a day two with normal use. You can also charge over wireless easily, and fast charging boots in 17% battery in 15 mins.

Camera: The Note 9 camera is impressive, just like the S9 Plus six month before it, and it has the added benefit of remotely capturing photos from up to 30 ft away via the Bluetooth S Pen. Samsung also added AI smarts to the camera that automatically adjusts the white balance and color based on the scene it detects. The camera does as well as the Google Pixel 2 in low-light (sometimes better, sometimes worse, but not by much in either direction), and the default camera app is robust (more so than Google’s), yet remains streamlined and initiative. It does lack HDR video recording, seen on other Android phones from Sony and LG.

Mini verdict: The Note 9 is bigger in all ways, including the price. It’s one of the most expensive phones in the US, right up there with the iPhone X. But you’re getting a better camera and more storage (and a microSD card slot) for your money. The battery is bigger, too. Samsung packs a lot into its all-day smartphone with a stylus.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the second best phone you can buy today, and meant for anyone who won’t use the stylus. It’s slightly cheaper and marginally smaller than the Note 9. It’s still a big phone with an expansive screen, top-of-the-line camera and all-day battery life. This is one of the best Samsung phones you can buy in the US if you’re willing to pay the price and have large enough hands for its massive size.

Screen: Its 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display that really sells this phone, and not because it has more pixels than before (it doesn’t) than last year’s S8. It’s the futuristic-looking curved edges, vibrant colors, and high contrast ratio that make the screen pop. It’s hard to go back to any other size once you hold this large, beautiful light beam in your hand. 

Battery life: Samsung’s 3,500mAh battery is large enough to last all day and a little bit more. It’s better than the normal-sized S9, though other phones out of China are maxing out at 5,000mAh these days. It’s the one area this handsets seems adequate and not Plus-sized. Luckily, it support Samsung’s very quick fast charging standard.

Camera: Low-light scenarios are no match the the Galaxy S9 Plus dual-lens, dual-aperture. It does a fine job at amping up dark environments without adding noise that you’ll see from other camera phone. It does smooth out textures in the process, but it’s on par with, and at times better, than the Google Pixel 2.

Mini verdict: The Galaxy S9 Plus is Samsung’s answer to the iPhone X, but better in several ways. It too has stereo speakers, face unlock, AR Emoji and vertically stacked 12MP dual cameras. What’s better? Its better low-light photos, 3.5mm headphone jack and larger 6.2-inch curved all-screen display – without a notch. No one else has this combination right now. 

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review

The iPhone XS Max is Apple’s new big iPhone with an expansive 6.5-inch display that can’t be missed if you’re looking for the best phone running iOS 12. It’s fast, has a brilliant all-screen display, and gives you great photos out of its noticeably upgraded 12MP dual-lens rear camera.

Screen: The 6.5-inch OLED screen is the reason to choose the iPhone XS Max over its smaller 5.8-inch iPhone XS counterpart. The phone is still about the size of an iPhone Plus, but thanks to the all-screen display (minus the notch cut out at the top), you get a lot more real-estate. It looks more color-rich vs the old iPhone LCD displays, too.

Battery life: You’ll get the best battery life out of the iPhone XS Max simply because it has room for a bigger battery. The 3,174mAh capacity is by no means the biggest (Samsung’s Note 9 is 4,000mAh), but Apple’s ownership of both software and hardware means it’s smartly optimized. You’ll get all-day battery life even with heavy use.

Camera: This is the best iPhone camera ever made, even if the 12MP dual-lens rear camera number hasn’t changed in several years. It’s all about the software inside and how the A12 chipset interprets scenes with Smart HDR. It’s up there with the Google Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9, even if Apple’s photos tend to be less vivid in our tests and more true-to-life.

Mini verdict: This is the iPhone for anyone who wants what’s new and doesn’t care what it costs. The iPhone XS Max is expensive, but it’s the best upgrade if you’re into big screens and Apple’s ecosystem, like the App Store and iMessages.  The iPhone XS is a good choice if you have smaller hands, and the iPhone XR may be better if you have a smaller wallet.

Read more: iPhone XS Max review

The Galaxy S9 is the standard-sized Samsung flagship for 2018, giving you a way to experience a curved screen smartphone. It’s minor specs bump from last year’s very similar looking handset, but it’s a better value than the iPhone XS. 

Screen: The 5.8-inch Quad HD curved screen is the standout feature, and you can hold this version in one hand without too much trouble. It’s bright, with punchy colors thanks to Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, and even at the default 1080p resolution looks fantastic.

Battery life: Battery life is a little disappointing for a top-end smartphone, meaning you’ll need to think about a top-up during the day if you’re a harder user. Wireless and fast charging capabilities help with this though.

Camera: The Samsung Galaxy S9 takes stunning photos, and especially amps up low-light photos without increasing the usual noise we see from other cameras. It has a single rear sensor compared to the Galaxy S9 Plus, but it’s nearly as good. You’ll still be wowed by the camera.

Mini verdict: The Galaxy S9 is the top Android smartphone for people with smaller hands who don’t want a giant phablet or pay top price. It’s still expensive compared to the Galaxy S8 when there aren’t that many advancements, but if you want a better camera and stereo speakers, this is the phone for you.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S9 review

Apple’s iPhone XR was a little bit late to launch after the iPhone XS and XS Max that launched a bit earlier. But thanks to its lower price point, it makes for a more affordable option than the XS models. For some, the powerful internals paired with the large screen and lower price will make for a compelling buy, especially thanks to the surprisingly good battery.

Screen: The iPhone XR screen isn’t its strongest selling point, as it’s a notable downgrade. It’s resolution falls short of Full HD, and it’s not a battery-friendly OLED. Still, the Liquid Retina LCD display used still has good sharpness and brilliant colors.That said, the 6.1-inch display offers plenty of real estate.

Battery life: Though this is the more affordable iPhone to come out in Apple’s latest batch, its battery life stands out. Thanks to the A12 Bionic and chipset and lower resolution, the battery performance is great, making it the first iPhone that could comfortably get through a whole day of use in our testing without us worrying about.

Camera: While the other iPhones have dual rear cameras, the iPhone XR has just one sensor. For normal photo shooting, it does a great job though. The lack of a second camera also reduces the quality of Portrait Mode photos. But, the detractors came largely in comparison to other top cameras. 

Mini verdict: The iPhone XR has all the performance of its more expensive siblings on the inside. It’s camera and screen may not be as impressive, but where it truly dazzles is in the battery life. If you want an iPhone with a battery you won’t always worry about, the iPhone XR is it.

Read more: iPhone XR review

The Google Pixel 3 came out in October, offering some internal upgrades, improved camera performance, a second front-facing camera, and a better screen than its predecessor. And, as with past Pixels, when it comes to smartphone cameras, this is a top contender. 

Screen: The Pixel 3 stretches the previous model’s screen to 5.5-inches for an 18:9 aspect ratio. There are no notches taking up any of the screen space either. Colors are rich on the OLED display, and thanks to the dual front-facing speakers, it makes for a handy streaming device.

Battery life: A 2,915mAh battery is nothing to get excited about in a modern smartphone. That said, with conservative us, it’s not hard to get all-day battery life. If you’re not taking a lot of photos, it may be easier to get a full day of battery, but with such a good camera, it may be tough to avoid.

Camera: The Pixel 2’s cameras are its best selling point. On back, the 12.2MP sensor paired with Google’s brilliant software optimization make for stunning photos in most situations. Optical Image Stabilization certainly helps, too. Selfie lovers get a bonus with dual front-facing cameras that can snap photos with different viewing angles.

Mini verdict: The Pixel 3 is powerful on the inside, and even though its design isn’t the most exciting from 2018, nor is its battery, it’s all about the camera in the end. And, with Google’s knack for photo optimization, this phone can almost sell itself with the camera alone.

Read more: Google Pixel 3 review

Following its trend in recent years, OnePlus has released its iterative update in the OnePlus 6T. The new phone doesn’t substantially change the internals of the phone, but the design is tweaked with some exciting improvements that can challenge the best of them.

Screen: The new OnePlus 6T screen is the most exciting part off the device. It’s a huge 6.41-inch AMOLED display, and though the resolution is just 1080×2340 (not as sharp as more expensive competitors), OnePlus has made the screen dominate the space on the front of the phone. It’s even shrunk down the notch to a negligible side, and the coup de grace is an under-screen fingerprint scanner.

Battery life: The OnePlus 6T packs in a nice 3,700mAh battery. In our testing, it was easy to get through a full day. With fast charging, it’s not too hard to add in a extra battery life if you’re using the phone a lot on any given day. 

Camera: The back of the OnePlus 6T packs two good cameras, both with wide aperture. There’s a 16MP wide-angle camera and 20MP secondary sensor. They take great photos that may not beat the top competitors, but they come satisfactorily close. For sharp selfies, the front camera has a 16MP sensor.

Mini verdict: For all that the OnePlus 6T offers, it’s all the more impressive that it’s priced as low as it is. The value proposition of the OnePlus 6T is so good, anyone looking for flagship quality without the high price has a good option here.

Read more: OnePlus 6T review

The Google Pixel 3 XL brings higher end internals and a notched screen to the latest iteration of Google’s larger phone. It’s got the same great cameras as its smaller sibling, but more screen and more battery. Unfortunately that also means a higher price.

Screen: The Pixel 3 XL has a sizable 6.3-inch OLED screen with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. There’s HDR support and a sharp 1440 x 2960 resolution. The viewing experience is good, though this screen does have a rather chunky notch that may not be to everyone’s liking.

Battery life: In our testing, we found the 3,430mAh battery to be plenty. Power users can get a full day, and average users are likely to find themselves getting a day and a half. Some of that battery performance is likely coming from good battery optimization within Android Pie. Fast charging and fast wireless charging just round out the offering.

Camera: The Pixel 3 XL has the cameras to beat. Google knows how to make a good camera that far exceeds what the specs sheet says. It uses a 12.2MP rear sensor, but software optimization helps it outperform other smartphone cameras in just about all cases. The dual front-facing cameras also give selfie-lovers some extra versatility.

Mini verdict: The Pixel 3 XL improves on the previous generations design, fitting more screen into roughly the same size. It also manages a battery life that should satisfy most. Best of all, the camera is better than anything else you’ll find (except the Pixel 3, which is just as good).

Read more: Google Pixel 3 XL review

iPhone XS is a minor, but important upgrade over last year’s completely redesign iPhone. It’s noticeably faster and has an improved dual-lens camera to make it a better choice, if you’re willing to pay the same launch price. No the look of the 5.8-inch new iPhone hasn’t changed on the outside, but if you want a more one-hand-friendly size for a cutting-edge iPhone, this is the one to buy.

Screen: The 5.8-inch OLED on this iPhone is big, but not a turn off for some people who literally can’t handle the 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max (which we like a bit more in our big mitts). This phone size isn’t too much bigger than your old 4.7-inch iPhone 7 or iPhone 6 thanks to its reduced bezel – though you’ll miss the Touch ID home button. You’ll forget about that when staring into the color-rich OLED that’s dreamier than the old iPhone LCD.

Battery life: The iPhone XS has about the same battery life as the iPhone X, so you’ll get all-day battery life with normal use. Power users may struggle a bit without one of the best power banks, and although Apple says it has 30 minutes more battery life than the iPhone X, the smaller capacity and our tests show it’s shy of that claim.

Camera: This is where you’ll see differences in the otherwise familiar-looking iPhone XS. Its dual-lens camera offers Smart HDR and optical image stabilization (OIS). It’s not as vivid as the cameras on a Google Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S9, but you’ll get true-to-life photos that make the 2018 iPhone’s a worthy upgrade.

Mini verdict: Although still expensive, the iPhone XS is our best phone for someone who wants to use iOS 12 and doesn’t want to spend even more money on the bigger iPhone XS Max. You have your limits, and that may be 5.8 inches and $1,000.

Read more: iPhone XS review

Google Pixel 2 is the best phone if you’re looking for a pure Android experience with a big screen, incredible camera and stereo speakers. It’s not cheap like an old Nexus phone, but it’s a big improvement in terms and quality and specs.  

Screen: The Pixel XL 2 has an expansive 6-inch display that’s decent for gaming and video playback (although a few issues have surfaced around its viewing angles), and it boasts an improved design over the smaller Pixel 2, with slimmer bezels housing its dual front-facing speakers.

Battery life: The XL has good battery life – you won’t have a problem with it. It will comfortably last you a full day under normal conditions and with normal use, and its ability to save power when it’s not doing anything means it’ll last a few days in standby.

Camera: Like the smaller Pixel 2, the camera on the XL is stunningly good. Photos look fantastic, and they’ll please both casual and more serious snappers alike. Low light conditions in particular are where this phone shines – perhaps not as competent as the Galaxy S9 pair though – and you’ll struggle to take a poor snap with this phone.

Mini verdict: This phone is for you if you want to go for a pure Android experience with the best camera on the market, and with a large screen. It’s a pricey phone but worth it if the above appeals. 

Read more: Google Pixel 2 XL review

The OnePlus 6 represents excellent value compared to its competitors, with a strong package put together for far less money than you might expect given the spec and performance of this thing.

Screen: The negative thing here is that we’re looking at a Full HD display, but it’s a long 19:9 ratio with a notch at the top. Yes, it lacks HDR, but it does have decent OLED contrast ratio – it’s far from shabby to look at.

Battery life: The battery life of the OnePlus 6, despite using the thirsty Snapdragon 845 chipset, is more than decent, with it mostly landing on around 15% left at the end of the day through medium usage.

Camera: A dual 16MP sensor on the back, combined with a 16MP option for the front, means that you’ll get some decent snaps out of this phone. There’s no ‘AI smarts’ to play with here, but ultimately you’re getting some good bokeh modes and impressive low-light work.

Mini verdict: Sure, there’s nothing here that really wows… except the price. The design, screen, battery life and camera are all more than serviceable, and the operating system is pretty close to stock Android, which will attract many. There’s a lot of power and storage on offer here too, making it an easy recommendation.

The LG G7 ThinQ is an impressive little phone from the brand (irritating name aside), bringing with it a strong package and a decent price in many regions. There’s an attempt to right the wrongs of the LG G6 – and it’s resulted in a good alternative to the traditional big hitters.

Screen: LG’s Super Bright screen might not be OLED – LCD is preferred here – but it’s capable of delivering good peak brightness, can handle HDR10 and Dolby Vision playback and has a large, expansive look with a smaller notch. It’s a little large to hold, but it’s one of the most capable screens around.

Battery life: At 3,000 mAh, the LG G7 ThinQ isn’t the largest on the market… and it shows in the performance. It’s not terrible, with some clever background processing keeping things going, but it’ll only last you around a day when others are starting to eke into two.

Camera: The smart camera here is great if you want to capture more of the picture, with a much wider field of view bringing in more information. The smart sensor tries to work out what’s in front of you – with great results, but only when it gets things right. It’s not the best camera out there, but you can take some stellar shots.

Mini verdict: It’s so tight at top of our best smartphone list that the small tweaks can make all the difference, and LG impresses thanks to offering up a tightly-made package for a pretty reasonable price – it’s similar to many other top Android phones out there, but you’ll certainly find some elements to enjoy here.

Read more: LG G7 ThinQ review

The LG V40 is all about its cameras, and that’s obvious with one look at it – the five cameras are its standout feature. It doesn’t rival Google, Apple, or Samsung on photo quality, but it does have more angles and that’s fun for creative types. We ranked it just below the LG G7 only because its price is unnecessarily higher.

Screen: This smartphone has a great big OLED display that stretches 6.5 inches with support for HDR10. It’s almost as bezel-free as an iPhone XS, and it includes a smaller notch, with just enough room for a small speaker and two selfie cameras.

Battery life: The LG V40 battery is smaller than we had hoped, which is a key reason why this phone didn’t rank a lot higher. You’ll get all-day battery life, thanks to the lower peak brightness of the display, but you may want to take the charger with you to work and on overnight trips.

Camera: There are a total of five cameras on this phone, and that’s been the most fascinating part of testing it. It offers both super-wide and telephoto lenses on back as well as a regular lens. On the front, you get a wide lens and normal lens. The HDR isn’t always as good as you’ll find on a Samsung, Apple or Google phone, but there are some creative perspectives you can capture and neat tools like Cine Shot (cinemagraphs) and Cine Video (tap-to-zoom-anywhere).

Mini verdict: The LG V40 is for creatives, even if its execution puts it behind Apple, Samsung, and Google. If it’s on sale below $900, it’s something you should consider. The dedicated Quad DAC gives it good audio, and you’ll have fun with all five cameras.

Read more: LG V40 review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is an incredibly impressive phablet that’s perfect for anyone who wants a productive, powerful device. It’s got one of the best displays, a top camera, and an excellent mix of speed and performance under the finger. On top of that, the S Pen is a real point of differentiation in a sea of similar phones.

Screen: The Note 8 maximises Samsung’s dual curved edge and nearly bezel-less Infinity Display to the point where this phone feels like a mini tablet from the future. It’s more squared off than the Galaxy S phones, but still lovely to look at. 

Camera: The camera on the Note 8 is superb and near the front of the pack for all round quality. On the rear its dual lenses allow for optical zoom as well as digital zoom, as well as live focus which enables you to do all kinds of effects including blurring the background – even after you’ve taken the shot.

Battery life: The battery in the Note 8 isn’t quite best in class – you can thank the large screen and slender design for that. But it’ll still last you all day unless you’re streaming a lot of video or using it with the brightness pumped up.

Mini verdict: It’s an expensive phone – only just behind the iPhone X in terms of out-and-out cost. But it’s a better choice than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – its competitor in terms of overall size and quality – if you want to be able to jot things down in an instant and take beautiful bokeh photos, as well as splash the phone in water. 

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review 

No surprise, the curved Samsung Galaxy S8 was the best phone when it launched a year ago and it deserves to remain on our top 10 list thanks to its remarkable design and now cheaper price.

Screen: The 5.8-inch curved screen was deemed the best on the market when it launched and it still holds up thanks to its 18.5:9 aspect ratio that stretches up and down the phone. Its color reproduction and contrast ratio look even, if if you don’t have it cranked all the way up wot Quad HD.

Battery life: The battery life, despite being smaller than in previous devices from Samsung, is still pretty decent. It’s not amazing, but it’s not very far from the performance of the Galaxy S9 and will last around a day… although you might want a little top up wirelessly or fast charged.

Camera: The camera is still very strong, despite being usurped by the S9 – the auto mode offers clean, crisp and clear shots every time and combined with screen quality makes you want to show off your best snaps. There’s an easy-to-use pro mode as well to get the best out of your snapping.

Mini verdict: The Samsung Galaxy S8 is an easy way to upgrade a recent Samsung flagship smartphone without paying the full price of the slightly superior Galaxy S9. It has a great camera and enviable curved screen design. The not-center-aligned rear fingerprint sensor is a pain, but one you can overcome if the price is right.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S8 review