The best smartphones of 2017

As far as smartphone tech goes, 2017 has been one of the most interesting years in a while: the year of the 18:9, extended screen, of vanishing bezels and Face ID, augmented reality and more. We’ve seen some excellent mobile handsets launch over the last 12 months, and here’s our pick of the best.

1. iPhone X

iPhone X at a glance:

  • Screen: 5.8-inch Super AMOLED, 1125 x 2436 pixels (458 ppi), 19.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: A11 Bionic CPU, 3 GB RAM, 64/128 GB storage
  • Camera: Dual 12 MP

The iPhone X won’t be everyone’s favorite handset of the year, and you could make a good case that no phone is really worth a dollar shy of $1,000 and up. But on the other hand, it’s dominated the mobile conversation all year. Despite being identical to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in terms of internal specs, this still seems like a new era for Apple’s smartphone, led by that gorgeous-looking display, complete with its signature notch.

The other big new feature on board here is Face ID, with no room for Touch ID on the front of the iPhone any more, and while it’s going to take some getting used to, it seems face unlock is here to stay. Stunning looks, blistering speed thanks to that A11 Bionic processor, and all the goodies of iOS 11 thrown in too – the iPhone X may well be too expensively priced even for Apple, but this feels like the future of smartphones.

2. Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 XL a glance:

  • Screen: 6.0-inch P-OLED, 1440 x 2880 pixels (538 ppi), 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 835 CPU, 4 GB RAM, 64/128 GB storage
  • Camera: 12.2 MP

The burn-in and saturation screen issues that have affected some Google Pixel 2 XL units notwithstanding (you can find these well documented elsewhere, if you want to decide if these are dealbreakers for you) we think this is just about the best Android phone you can get right now, at least from the software side. The 6-inch OLED display banishes the bezels right to the edge, and combined with the softly textured backing, it means that the Pixel 2 XL looks and feels as good as anything else out there at the moment.

The 12-megapixel camera might only have a single lens and sensor but it’s widely regarded as the best in the business, helped along by Google’s smart image processing, and once you add in the style and polish of the latest Pixel launcher, complete with seamless Google Assistant integration, the overall package looks very, very good indeed. It might take until the Pixel 3 for Google to really knock it out of the park, but the Pixel 2 XL is very, very close.

3. Samsung S8 Plus

Samsung S8 Plus at a glance:

  • Screen: 6.2-inch Super AMOLED, 1440 x 2960 pixels (529 ppi), 18.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 835 CPU, 6/8 GB RAM, 64/128 GB storage
  • Camera: 12 MP

Samsung’s two 2017 flagships appeared way back in March, but they remain two of the very best smartphones you can buy today. Despite the likes of Apple and Google having an extra six months to perfect their handsets, the S8 Plus and the S8 still look just as good as any rival – as the almost bezel-free, AMOLED Infinity displays prove, no one does a smartphone displays quite like Samsung does.

We slightly prefer the 6.2-inch display of the S8 Plus to the 5.8-inch version on the Galaxy S8, but there’s only the size to choose between them. For all that’s great about the S8 Plus though, we didn’t see much of a camera upgrade over the (admittedly still excellent) Samsung Galaxy S7, the fingerprint sensor is awkwardly placed around the back, and Samsung’s version of Android still can’t touch Google’s (look at the quality of Google Assistant versus Bixby for one reason why).

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 at a glance:

  • Screen: 6.3-inch Super AMOLED, 1440 x 2960 pixels (521 ppi), 18.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 835 CPU, 6 GB RAM, 64/128/256 GB storage
  • Camera: Dual 12 MP

Samsung earns the distinction of being the only manufacturer to get two entries in our list, not least because it offers two handsets that are genuinely different to each other. The Galaxy Note 8 improves over the Galaxy S8 Plus with a bigger 6.3-inch screen, a better camera setup (with two rear cameras rather than one), and of course that stylus, which expands what users can do with the handset in various different ways – from lock screen note-taking to online translations.

Most of the same pros and cons of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus still apply to the Note 8, Bixby and all, but with that upgraded camera and the extra functionality that comes along with the stylus, the additional $100+ can look like decent value. Buy any of the 2017 Samsung phones though, and you’re getting one of the finest-looking, fastest, most capable handsets of the year.

5. LG V30

LG V30 at a glance:

  • Screen: 6.0-inch P-OLED, 1440 x 2880 pixels (538 ppi), 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 835 CPU, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage
  • Camera: Dual 16 MP + 13 MP

LG was the manufacturer that started the trend of bezel-free phones with the LG G6 in February, and then in August the LG V30 came along to improve on that blueprint even further. It’s bigger than its predecessor, but lighter too, and comes with an Hi-Fi 32-bit Quad DAC from Bang & Olufsen for your high fidelity audio listening needs. The LG V30 is also the first phone from LG to make the switch to an OLED screen.

One of the dual cameras around the back of the LG V30 makes use of a market-leading f/1.6 aperture (maximizing the amount of light let in), like the LG G6 before it, so the phone can hold its own in the photo-taking department as well as every other area. With support for HDR10, IP68 waterproofing, and compatibility with Google’s Daydream VR platform, the LG V30 has an awful lot going for it.

6. OnePlus 5T

OnePlus 5T at a glance:

  • Screen: 6.01-inch AMOLED, 1080 x 2160 pixels (401 ppi), 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 835 CPU, 6/8 GB RAM, 64/128 GB storage
  • Camera: Dual 16 MP + 20 MP

OnePlus first started offering flagship-level features at midrange prices in 2014 with the OnePlus One, and three years down the line the OnePlus 5T shows the Chinese company is really getting into its stride. This is a fantastic-looking smartphone, packed with top-end internal components and fitted with a 6-inch, 18:9 AMOLED display. That screen is a big upgrade over the OnePlus 5 we saw earlier in the year, though the latest handset keeps the starting price of its predecessor.

When you see something like the OnePlus 5T on the market it makes you seriously weigh up whether you need to pay close to $1,000 for the more famous handsets – the face unlock system might not be as advanced as Apple’s, and the camera quality might not quite match the Samsung phones, but this is still a very impressive phone at a very tempting price, and it even retains the 3.5 mm headphone jack. OnePlus keeps going from strength to strength.

7. Moto G5 Plus

Moto G5 Plus at a glance:

  • Screen: 5.2-inch LCD, 1080 x 1920 pixels (424 ppi), 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 625 CPU, 2/3/4 GB RAM, 32/64 GB storage
  • Camera: 12 MP

Round-ups of the best smartphones will inevitably focus on the high-end, premium handsets – because they have the best components, the best screens, and the best features – but we’d like to mention the Moto G5 Plus as one of the most appealing budget handsets of the year. Of course there’s no chance you’d mistake this for an iPhone X, but for less than $300 it does everything you need it to and then some.

One nice touch that we like is the ability to use the fingerprint sensor to swipe through screens and menus, meaning you have to spend less time jabbing at the screen, and while you just get a single 12-megapixel camera, it’s capable of taking decent shots in most conditions. There’s also Google Assistant on board, so you can tap into its ever-growing knowledge bank, and the Android Nougat software that comes with the phone has only been slightly skinned by Lenovo. As an added bonus, lower-level specs and a lower-res screen means decent battery life between charges.

8. Razer Phone

Razer Phone at a glance:

  • Screen: 5.7-inch LCD, 1440 x 2560 pixels (515 ppi), 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Internals: Snapdragon 835 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 64 GB storage
  • Camera: Dual 12 MP

Finally a bit of a curveball for our last recommendation for 2017 smartphones: the Razer Phone. It’s a handset aimed specifically at gamers, so if that’s not you then you’ll probably prefer something else on this list, but if you do fit into the right niche then this is one very powerful and customizable phone. A 120Hz refresh rate on the screen (a first for a phone) and the dual forward-facing Dolby Atmos-tuned speakers are just the beginning when it comes to catering for mobile games enthusiasts.

The 4,000 mAh battery beats most other phones on the market in terms of size and then you get Razer’s custom Android skin, enabling you to tweak various aspects of the phone’s performance so your games are always running as smoothly as possible (and also including a very handy notification mute option). The design may look blocky by the standards of 2017, but we suspect many people won’t care about that, and we have to give Razer credit for trying something different.



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