Best smartphones 2018: T3's pick of the very best phones available today

T3's roundup of the very best smartphones money can buy today. Get the best phone for you now

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These are the very best smartphones money can buy, from the gorgeous Apple iPhone XS Max, through the powerhouse Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and onto the amazingly fast OnePlus 6T. So, if you are looking for one of the best phones on the market, you've without doubt come to the right place.

That's because as we come to the end of 2018, a year in which the T3 team has tested every single mobile phone that matters, our authoritative best phones guide is now absolutely stuffed with the best smartphones that the year has had to offer.

Best smartphone overall

Apple iPhone XS / XS Max

With a stunning design, powerful internal hardware, and top-rate camera system, Apple's new iPhone XS is the best smartphone in the world, with the only question you need to ask yourself is whether you prefer the XS Max's larger screen. Very strong rivals like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 come close but, if you can stretch to it, the iPhone XS / XS Max should be right at the top of your list of potential upgrades.

Every quality phone worthy of your consideration is therefore now released and, for the crème de la crème, included in this best phone guide, which is designed to provide you with all the key information you need so you can choose the best smartphone for you.

And, simply put, we've gone to extreme lengths to ensure you've got the most authoritative smartphone guide on the market, testing every aspect of each phone from their battery life and screen quality, to their internal components and camera systems.

We also spend serious time with each phone as well, so we can let you know exactly what, say, the Google Pixel 3 XL or Sony Xperia XZ3 smartphones are like to live with on an extended daily basis.

We only include the best phones in this list, so you can be sure you're always getting the very latest, cutting-edge device. And we've listed all the phones in order of preference, too, so there's no confusion. The first phone is the best phone.

So whether you're after the most powerful Android smartphone money can buy, or a shiny new iPhone upgrade, we've seen and extensively tested them all so you don't have to.

Take a look and we guarantee you'll find the best phone for your needs, beginning with the very best smartphone currently available...

Apple iPhone XS Max best phones

The best phone in the world today? That's Apple's iPhone XS / XS Max.

1. Apple iPhone XS / XS Max

Simply the best smartphone you can buy today. Just choose a screen size…

Specifications
Weight: 177g / 208g
Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm / 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7mm
OS: iOS12
Screen size: 5.8 inches / 6.5 inches
Resolution: 1125 x 2436 pixels / 1,242 x 2,688 pixels
CPU: Apple A12 Bionic
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/256/512GB
Battery: 2658mAh / 3174 mAh
Rear camera: Dual 12MP
Front camera: 7 MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly desirable+Massively powerful and fast+Fantastic HDR screen
Reasons to avoid
-Average battery life

Is the Apple iPhone XS / XS Max the best phone you can currently buy? Yes. But only by a whisker. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is, in terms of hardware package, the best phone ever made. Overall, though, it's the ultra-desirability of the iPhone XS and larger-screened iPhone XS Max that wins the smartphone throne for Apple.

The first thing that strikes you about the design is, obviously, the gorgeous Super Retina OLED screen.  It's certainly true that the edge-to-edge screen looks absolutely stunning, both from a design perspective and from a technology viewpoint. 

Watching movies on the screen is especially impressive: all of Apple’s OLED phones support Dolby Vision, which is the most advanced kind of HDR, and it is supported by Netflix and iTunes movies, too, so there’s plenty of content. And that counts on both the 5.8-inch XS and 6.5-inch XS Max.

Aside from the screen you've got Apple's blazing fast A12 Bionic processor, fantastic dual 12MP camera with portrait lighting mode, and FaceID (which actually works very well).

Compared to last year’s iPhone X, the Apple iPhone XS / XS Max has been subtly re-engineered pretty much from top to bottom, and the results are superb.

Of course, we have to mention the price. The iPhone XS starts at a considerable £999 ($999), and the iPhone XS Max starts at £1,099 ($1,099) making it the most expensive iPhone to date. 

We'll start by saying this, if you think that's too much money then the iPhone XS / XS Max isn't for you. Are the prices justified? Well, it's complicated. Just like a Louis Vuitton Bag, there are more affordable alternatives that do exactly the same job, but it's all about prestige and branding.

Apple has slowly been morphing into a luxury goods company for a while now, and the iPhone XS / XS Max is another step in that direction. It's essentially a luxury range from a designer brand, with Apple successfully creating an incredibly desirable package that comes in two different screen sizes.

best phones Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the absolute best phones in the world in 2018.

2. Huawei Mate 20 Pro

The best phone in the world running Android

Specifications
Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm
OS: Android 9.0 Pie, EMUI 9.0
Screen size: 6.39 inches
Resolution: 1,440 x 3,120
CPU: Kirin 980
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,200 mAh
Rear camera: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP
Front camera: 24MP
Reasons to buy
+Kirin 980 CPU is insanely fast+Leica-made camera system is superb+Futuristic in-display fingerprint reader
Reasons to avoid
-None of note

In our review of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, T3's Robert Jones said that, "the Huawei Mate 20 Pro delivers an experience that leaves absolutely nothing to be desired and, for all real-world intents and purposes, it is perfect." Before he concluded that, "it's a phone that you'll soon fall in love with."

And, with the world's fastest CPU, the lightning fast Kirin 980, a gorgeous OLED, HDR screen, a knock-out Leica-made camera system, a next-gen in-display fingerprint reader, a capacious and long lasting 4,200 mAh battery, as well as Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, it soon becomes easy to see how that high praise was won.

Indeed, the whole Huawei Mate 20 Pro package is so advanced, slick and complete, that it is now hard to recommend anything else if you are shopping at the premium end of the Android phone market, and especially so as the phone also packs that hyper-desirability that is normally the domain of Apple's flagship iPhones alone.

The best-in-class option available in 2018 for Android users, and a smartphone that leaves you never thinking what could of been, or that the grass may be greener on another device. 

Best phones Samsung Galaxy Note 9 best smartphone

More than just a productivity powerhouse, the Samsung  Galaxy Note 9 is a do-everything powerhouse.

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

A superb Android phone that hits hard across the board

Specifications
Weight: 201g
Dimensions: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 6.4-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2960 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4000mAh
Rear cameras: 12 MP f/1.5-2.4 + 12MP f/2.4
Front camera: 8 MP f/1.7
Reasons to buy
+Top hardware+6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen is stunning+New S Pen digital stylus works superbly
Reasons to avoid
-4,000mAh battery is only competitive, not standout-Bixby AI assistant is still definitely a work in progress

With it absolutely stunning 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, powerful internal hardware suite, and advanced new S Pen digital stylus, the Note 9 is one of the absolute best Android phones available today and, simply put, delivers across the board.

Indeed, when you factor in the phone's excellent camera system, competitive battery, and audiophile audio credentials, you realise that this isn't just a work-focused productivity powerhouse, but a do-anything powerhouse.

In our review of the Galaxy Note 9 we stated that it is one of "the most functional, feature-packed, and premium Android smartphones in the world", before concluding that "if you're shopping for a flagship-level new phone, and can afford its high price point, then you should definitely count it among your top contenders. "

And, while its admittedly high price point may dissuade, as too the Android platform if you are used to iOS, you simply cannot ignore what a polished and highly useful device the Note 9 is.

Apple iPhone XR best phones

4. Apple iPhone XR

The best phone for Apple fans looking for maximum bang for their buck

Specifications
Weight: 194g
Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
OS: iOS 12
Screen size: 6.1 inches
Resolution: 828 x 1792
CPU: Apple A12 Bionic (7 nm)
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery: 2,942 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Modern, bright design+Liquid Retina screen+Excellent build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Camera system could be better-Lacks 3D Touch

If you're an Apple fan and can't stretch financially to the 5-star awesomeness that is the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, then a great, cheaper alternative is the iPhone XR.

The iPhone XR comes in a variety of attractive, bright colours, features a quality 6.1-inch HDR Liquid Retina display, Apple's latest and greatest A12 Bionic chipset, 3GB of RAM, a 2,942 mAh battery, and 64GB of storage space in the entry model (which can be taken up to 256GB with extra spend).

It is, across the board, a well-equipped and very well made phone that, straight out of  the box, feels great in the hand.

What you don't get in the Apple iPhone XR is the same flexibility of camera that you get in iPhone XS, and the screen too, while large and clear, is also trumped by the XS range and some other, equally-priced devices.

Regardless, though, as T3 concluded in our official review of the phone, the iPhone XR delivers "a full 2018 iPhone experience for a great price. It deserves to stand outside of the shadow of the iPhone XS, offering a finely balanced experience that takes most that phone's premium feel, and throwing in a couple of tricks of its own."

As such, we feel the iPhone XR is the best phone Apple currently makes in terms of bang for your buck, and as such is an easy recommend for most users.

best smartphone and best phone Huawei P20 Pro

5. Huawei P20 Pro

The Huawei P20 Pro remains one of the very best phones available today

Specifications
Weight: 180g
Dimensions: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 6.1-inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2244 pixels
CPU: Kirin 970
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4000mAh
Rear camera: Triple 40MP + 20MP + 8MP Leica
Front camera: 24MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Premium design+Battery life+Awesome camera
Reasons to avoid
-Software-'Just' HD screen

The Huawei P20 Pro, despite being surpassed by the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, remains one of  the very best phones if you're looking for a premium alternative to the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9.

We love the P20 Pro's Leica-branded triple camera. Yes, you read that right, this camera has three camera sensors, a 40MP RGB, 20MP Monochrome, and 8MP telephoto. The three lenses are can be used to capture some very pleasing images.

The OS is coming on leaps and bounds as well, and the design and feel of this device really is fantastic.

It's a smartphone that really puts a cat among the pigeons. The pigeons in this case being Samsung, Apple, and Google.

But it's not quite perfect. The UI still lags behind its competitors, and some won't be too fond of the iPhone X-esque design.

Despite its flaws, we think it's a brilliant smartphone, thanks to a neat blend of design, features, and camera. Plus, the battery life is top draw, too, capable of lasting around two days.

Google Pixel 3 XL review best phones

The Google Pixel 3 XL is a great smartphone for photography enthusiasts thanks to its excellent camera system.

6. Google Pixel 3 XL

One of the best phones for photography lovers

Specifications
Weight: 175g
Dimensions: 158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm
OS: Android 9.0 Pie
Screen size: 6.3-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2960 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/128GB
Battery: 3430mAh
Rear camera: 12.2MP f/1.8
Front camera: 8MP+8MP f/1.8 + f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Superb camera+Pure Android 9.0 Pie out of the box
Reasons to avoid
-No in-screen fingerprint reader-Battery life is unspectacular

The Google Pixel 3 XL is one of the best smartphones going, and especially so if you prioritise camera quality and want a vanilla software experience that comes straight from Google. It ain't cheap, but it offers Apple levels of prestige and premium.

Indeed, whether it's the excellent camera, the metal-and-glass chassis, the oodles of power involved or just the fact that the software and virtual assistant work in perfect harmony with the hardware, Google gets a hell of a lot right with the Pixel 3 XL.

Indeed, pure Android 9.0 Pie out of the box partnered with Qualcomm's very capable Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage space is a very tasty combination in terms of UI speed and app performance, and the engorged 6.3-inch, 18.5:9 aspect ratio screen makes looking at anything a pleasure, too.

It's the single-lens, 12.2MP rear camera though that is the real star of the Pixel 3 XL show and, somehow, delivers truly superb detail, colour and image sharpness. It's not a huge improvement over the Google Pixel 2 XL, but that phone's camera was already among the best in class, so this unit truly is something special.

Best smartphones

7. Samsung Galaxy S9

A quality all-rounder that is now available at some truly amazing price points

Specifications
Weight: 163g
Dimensions: 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm
OS: Android 8.0
Screen size: 5.8-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2960 pixels
CPU: Exynos 9810 Octa
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3000mAh
Rear camera: 12 MP f/1.5
Front camera: 8 MP f/1.7
Reasons to buy
+Amazing design+Almost flawless+Now available at low prices
Reasons to avoid
-Bixby AI is half-baked-Similar to Galaxy S8

The Samsung Galaxy S9, despite being outshone by the absolutely stunning Galaxy Note 9 and even more fantastic Huawei Mate 20 Pro, is still a quality Android phone, boasting a brilliant Infinity Edge display which occupies 84-percent of the body and cutting-edge guts.

Yep, this futuristic smartphone is one heck of a looker, and Samsung managed to resist the temptation to add an iPhone X-style notch, too, which is definitely a good thing to our mind, as it helps the phone maintain its own identity.

The S9 delivers an excellent all-round package. As well as the amazing display and industry-leading specs, this handset also has decent battery life, an excellent camera and fast performance. With all of that combined, you get not only one of the best-looking smartphones on the market, but one of the top performing, too.

We think the 5.8-inch S9 is perfect, but if you're after an even larger smartphone, Samsung also offers the Galaxy S9+, which features a larger 6.2-inch display.

The Ice Blue Honor 10 showing the front and back design. It's one of the best smartphones you can buy.

The Honor 10 is the best value phone on the market today, delivering a great package at a crazy-low price point.

8. Honor 10

The best smartphone available right now for amazing value

Specifications
Weight: 153g
Dimensions: 149.6x71.2x7.7mm
OS: Android 8.0
Screen size: 5.84-inches
Resolution: 1080x2280 pixels
CPU: Kirin 970
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 3400mAh
Rear camera: Dual 16MP + 24MP
Front camera: 8MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Great price+Excellent design+Fantastic camera
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof

The Honor 10 is a fantastic smartphone, partnering a young, hyper-modern, and eye-catching design with good hardware and an impressive suite of features, including some genuinely impressive AI functions.

The fact that this phone costs just £399 is absolutely nuts, too, especially when you take into account its hardware benchmarks that are right up there among those logged by much more expensive handsets.

The AI camera functionality is also really nicely integrated, and the camera system grants you serious flexibility and scope to take creative shots.

Overall, then, a great new phone from Honor that shows, more than anything, that the Chinese maker is going from strength to strength.

OnePlus 6T is a best phone and in T3's best smartphone guide

The OnePlus 6T is one of the best phones available today for pure speed.

9. OnePlus 6T

A beautiful Android smartphone with speed that kills

Specifications
Weight: 185g
Dimensions: 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 9.0
Screen size: 6.41-inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery: 3700mAh
Rear camera: Dual 16MP f/1.7 + 20MP f/1.7
Front camera: 16MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly fast with big benchmark scores+Priced lower than some flagships+Beautiful and premium build
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof-No wireless charging-Similar to OnePlus 6

The OnePlus 6T is one of the absolute fastest Android phones on the market. Its combination of the high-end Snapdragon 845 CPU, powerful Adreno 630 GPU, and a whopping 8GB of RAM (that's 4GB more than the Samsung Galaxy S9), means that the OnePlus 6T smokes much of the opposition in terms of benchmark scores.

The phone's use of Android 9.0 Pie and OnePlus' own light skin of vanilla, OxygenOS, adds to this rapidity, too, with menu navigation as well as app loading and switching a buttery smooth experience.

The phone's 6.41-inch 19.5:9 AMOLED screen isn't the absolute best on the market, nor is its camera system (which is borderline identical to that on the OnePlus 6). It's battery, too, is merely competitive, and is soundly beaten by devices like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

This said, though, in terms of pure speed the OnePlus 6T sits at the top table of flagship phones, and its maker also delivers a device that is beautiful to look at and to hold. The in-box package of accessories is also first class, which taken with its mid-range price point, help make it a very attractive phone package overall.

Sony Xperia XZ3 is in our best phone guide

The Bravia-engineered display on the Sony Xperia XZ3 is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

10. Sony Xperia XZ3

A premium build, stunning screen, and Android 9.0 Pie out of the box

Specifications
Weight: 193g
Dimensions: 158 x 73 x 9.9mm
OS: Android 9.0
Screen size: 6.0-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2880 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3300mAh
Rear camera: Dual 19MP
Front camera: 13 MP
Reasons to buy
+Lithe new 18:9 form factor+Premium aluminium and glass build+Stunning Bravia-engineered screen+Android 9.0 Pie out of the box
Reasons to avoid
-Camera system isn't as good as XZ2 Premium's-Beaten in benchmarks by other flagships

Sony delivers a fast and stylish refresh to its technically impressive Xperia XZ2 with the Xperia XZ3, bringing in a stunning new Bravia-engineered 6-inch,18:9 QHD+ HDR screen, as well as a premium new aluminium and glass design.

This notch-less, OLED beauty also comes packing some rock solid competitive hardware, too, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space, and a 3,300 mAh battery delivered. Combined this hardware delivers flagship level performance in games and apps.

Be under no illusion, though, the screen is the big sell here. Consuming media on it is a pure pleasure and, whisper it quietly, it's probably the best phone screen ever made.

In terms of cameras, you get the same 19MP rear camera on the XZ3 that was installed in the XZ2, which is good and delivers detailed shots. Although, the system falls just short of that installed on Sony's own Xperia XZ2 Premium, which is marketed as the maker's best phone for photography enthusiasts.

That said, though, the Sony Xperia XZ3 is capable of 4K, HDR video recording, and can also capture super slow-motion footage (960fps) at 1080p, too, which is a standout ability that is currently unmatched by its rivals.

The Xperia XZ3, then, is overall the best phone Sony currently makes, and a luxe addition to our best smartphone guide.

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