13 best smartphones 2018: T3's pick of the very best phones

T3's roundup of the very best smartphones money can buy today

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These are the very best smartphones money can buy, from the gorgeous Apple iPhone XS Max, through the powerhouse Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and onto the amazingly fast OnePlus 6. So, if you are looking for one of the best phones on the market, you've without doubt come to the right place.

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.

The T3 team has tested every handset that matters, and this guide is designed to provide you with all the key info 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 HTC U12+ or LG G7 ThinQ 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 smartphone for your needs, beginning with the very best phone currently available...

Apple iPhone 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-Expensive

Is the iPhone XS / XS Max the best phone you can currently buy? Yes. But only by a whisker. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 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 is supported by Netflix and iTunes movies, 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 Samsung Galaxy Note 9 best smartphone

2. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The best Android phone in the world

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
+Technical hardware leader+6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen is best in the world+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

Not only is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 the best Android phone in the world, but it is the technical leader for the entire industry.

With it absolutely stunning 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, powerful internal hardware suite, and advanced new S Pen digital stylus, the Note 9 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 "the most functional, feature-packed, and premium Android smartphone in the world", before concluding that "if you can afford it, buy it. It's really that simple."

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.

It's the best-in-class option on Android and, technically at least, the best smartphone in the world.

best smartphone and best phone

3. Huawei P20 Pro

The Huawei P20 Pro is a legitimate premium alternative to the iPhone XS

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 is the latest flagship from the Chinese smartphone giant, and we really, really like it. It's the ideal smartphone if you're looking for a premium alternative to the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9, but it's also got plenty of features which make it great device in its own right. 

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 class leading, capable of lasting around two days.

Best smartphones

4. Samsung Galaxy S9

A quality all-rounder that is almost flawless

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
Reasons to avoid
-Bixby-Similar to S8

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

Yep, this futuristic smartphone is a looker, and Samsung managed to resist the temptation to add an iPhone X-style notch, too, which is definitely a good thing. It has its own identity.

The S9 is the complete package, as well as the amazing display and industry-leading specs, this handset also has decent battery life, an excellent camera and amazing performance. With all of that combined, you get not only the best-looking smartphone, but one of the top performing smartphones in the universe. Yes, the universe! 

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

Okay, so unfortunately Samsung hasn't released a perfect phone - there are a few small niggles - it's not the most exciting update over the S8 (which can now be purchased relatively cheap) and Bixby is still inferior to Google Assistant. But we guarantee you won't be disappointed if you buy this phone.

Best smartphones 2018

5. Google Pixel 2 XL

The best smartphone camera

Specifications
Weight: 175g
Dimensions: 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9mm
OS: Android 8
Screen size: 6.0-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2880 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64/128GB
Battery: 3520mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.8
Front camera: 8MP f/2.4
Reasons to buy
+Great camera+Super software
Reasons to avoid
-Plastic-like metal-Lackluster screen

We can't tell you how close it is between the Google Pixel 2 XL, iPhone X, P20 Pro and S9 for the title of 'best smartphone in the world.' All four are great smartphones, but the sleek design, and amazing screen puts the iPhone, Huawei, and Samsung in the lead, just. 

The Google Pixel 2 XL is still an amazing smartphone - especially if you prioritise camera quality and want software straight from Google.

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's got a lot right here and this is a brilliant phone. 

2017 was when Google came into its stride with the Pixel sequels. Google now has clear vision for its flagship smartphones. The design is distinctive and has character, and the Pixel 2 XL's edge-to-edge screen makes it the one to go for.

Of course, if you prefer smaller screens, the 5-inch Pixel 2 is also available, which is identical the OG (apart from size and screen).

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

6. Honor 10

The best value smartphone available right now

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 6 is in the best smartphone guide

7. OnePlus 6

A beautiful Android smartphone with speed that kills

Specifications
Weight: 177g
Dimensions: 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 6.28-inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2280 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM: 6/8GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB
Battery: 3300mAh
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+Lower price for a flagship phone+Beautiful and premium build
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof-No wireless charging

The OnePlus 6 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 6 smokes the opposition in terms of benchmark scores.

The phone's use of Android 8.1 Oreo 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 6.28-inch 19:9 AMOLED screen isn't the absolute best on the market, nor is its camera system or battery, however, they are all competitive and help deliver a top all-round mobile package. Plus, the fact the OnePlus 6 retails for quite a lot less than other flagships makes it an even more attractive proposition.

Sony Xperia XZ3

8. 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.

The back of the Rose Gold iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It is one of the best phones

9. Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Overshadowed by the X, but still a brilliant smartphone

Specifications
Weight: 202g
Dimensions: 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5mm
OS: iOS11
Screen size: 5.5-inches
Resolution: 1080 x 1920 pixels
CPU: Apple A11 Bionic
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 64/256GB
Battery: 2691mAh
Rear camera: Dual 12MP
Front camera: 7 MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Excellent camera+Convenient wireless charging
Reasons to avoid
-Dated design-iPhone X is coming

Here we have the iPhone 8 Plus - probably one of the most anticipated smartphones of the year. Some feel its sheer size does make it tricky to hold, but there's no denying Apple's beautiful 5.5-incher is a winner. If you prefer iOS to Android and don't want to splash out on the iPhone X, this should be your first choice.

Apple has chosen to stick with a similar design to the iPhone 7, swapping the out the all-metal case for a glass back and making it heavier (more premium feeling). There is a glorious new Gold colourway available, and to top it off, the glass casing allows Apple to add wireless charging. The S8 and recent S9 design does make the iPhone 8 feel slightly dated now, however.

It's inside where the iPhone 8 Plus has received the biggest overhaul - now packing Apple's blazing fast A11 Bionic processor. The dual camera has also received a significant upgrade, now a better sensor and smart software powering it. To finish it off, the iPhone 8 Plus comes running iOS 11, Apple's latest and greatest mobile OS.

It is expensive, and may be too large for some, so the standard iPhone 8 with a 4.7-inch display is also worth your consideration.

HTC U12+, despite its few flaws, is in T3's best smartphone guide

10. HTC U12+

A powerhouse Android phone for tech enthusiasts

Specifications
Weight: 188g
Dimensions: 156.6 x 73.9 x 8.7mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 6-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2880 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 64GB (expandable)
Battery: 3500mAh
Rear camera: 12MP + 16MP
Front camera: 8MP + 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Clean 3D glass design+Premium build quality+Dual-camera secured face unlock
Reasons to avoid
-Only available from HTC-Average battery

Taking the quality base design and feature set of the HTC U11+, and then dialling everything up to 11 and coating it with a big dollop of 2018, the HTC U12+ offers one of the most comprehensive and quality Android experiences on the market today.

Flagship internal hardware and a gorgeous 18:9 HDR screen that go toe-to-toe with those from all the other big players, such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2, are partnered with a quality, feature packed dual front and rear camera system, as well as a bunch of unique tech (such as Edge Sense 2) that helps generate the U12+ an identity of its very own.

Certified IP68 water resistance, dual LTE SIM functionality, and a fast running version of Android 8.1 Oreo complete a very strong all-round package.

LG G7 ThinQ best mobile phone

11. LG G7 ThinQ

A lightweight Android phone with a stunningly bright screen

Specifications
Weight: 162g
Dimensions: 153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 6.1-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 3120 pixels
CPU: SDM845 (2.65GHz Octa-Core)
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 3000mAh
Rear camera: 16MP(F.16) / 16MP(F.19)
Front camera: 8MP FF
Reasons to buy
+Super bright screen+High-level audio features+Fast UI and app performance
Reasons to avoid
-Only 3,000mAh battery-Image processing could be better

LG is really putting out quality Android handsets now and the LG G7 ThinQ is the best so far, delivering a phone packed with a stunningly bright high-resolution 18:9 aspect ratio screen, flagship-level internal hardware (that's a Snapdragon 845 CPU with 4GB of RAM), and a selection of high-level features geared toward performance users.

The LG G7 ThinQ's Super Bright Camera mode, which automatically activates in dark environments, makes low-light photography a breeze, while the camera's Portrait Mode delivers shots with very subtle and user variable bokeh.

The phone's audio credentials are also top draw. The LG G7 ThinQ comes rocking both DTS:X virtual 3D sound for all content (up to 7.1 channel with earphones) and also a Hi-Fi Quad DAC. In addition, LG's Boombox Speaker delivers remarkably loud playback with decent bass (for a phone), too.

The front of a white and rose gold iPhone SE. Showing a pink flower wallpaper on screen. Perfect for our best smartphone guide.

12. iPhone SE

The best small smartphone

Specifications
Weight: 113g
Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
OS: iOS 10
Screen size: 4.0-inches
Resolution: 640 x 1136 pixels
CPU: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32/128GB
Battery: 1624mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/2.2
Front camera: 1.2MP f/2.4
Reasons to buy
+It's small!+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Old, boxy design-Due an update

Notice how all of these smartphones have 5+ inch screens? What if you have small hands? You can't reach all four corners of the screen. It's a problem not many of us face, but the truth is -- some people just prefer smaller phones but don't want to sacrifice high-end specs. The iPhone SE is for you. 

With a 4-inch screen and guts which match the iPhone 6S, including the 12MP rear camera, 2GB RAM, Apple Pay, Retina display, and Apple A9 chipset, this thing is a little pocket rocket.

There are a few drawbacks - the design isn't beautifully curvaceous like the iPhone 8 (the SE is based on the iPhone 5), the front-facing camera has fewer megapixels, and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is older and therefore slower. The best thing about it? Despite its range-topping specs, the iPhone SE is also one of the cheapest smartphones Apple has ever released. What's not to love?

The front and back of the Moto Z2 Force. Showing how thin the phone is and the metal contacts for MotoMod add-ons. It squeaks into best smartphone

13. Motorola Moto Z2 Force

The best durable smartphone

Specifications
Weight: 143g
Dimensions: 155.8 x 76 x 6.1 mm
OS: Android 7.1
Screen size: 5.5-inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM: 4/6GB
Storage: 64/128GB
Reasons to buy
+Durable design+Unbreakable screen
Reasons to avoid
-Weak battery life-Not waterproof

The Moto Z2 Force is a refreshing phone - it's both designed to be sleek and sophisticated, as well as durable with the ability to survive a beating. That's mainly down to the screen, which features a thick, toughened outer layer which won't break - no matter how hard you try. 

The casing is also pretty rugged, with a strong aluminium skeleton, the Moto Z2 Force doesn't look like it belongs in a workman's tool bog. The specs are up there with every other device on this list, and the ecosystem of Moto Mods is impressive to.

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