Tom’s Guide reviews dozens of new smartphones, and we evaluate them in our lab and in the real world based on design, features, performance, camera quality and battery life. Based on our testing, theis the best choice for most people.
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ boast a new Infinity Display that stretches all the way from edge to edge of the design. The screen is also crisp, sharp and colorful. The S8 is the fastest performing smartphone that we have tested and features the best cameras we’ve tested. These handsets offer longer lasting batteries than their predecessors, too.
Prefer iOS? The iPhone 7 is good but the iPhone 7 Plus is better if you want a true optical zoom, bigger screen and more battery life. Just be aware that we’re getting ever close to the iPhone 8 launch in the fall.
Android fans who always want to have the latest software from Google should pick up the Google Pixel or Pixel XL, which also boast excellent cameras. For those on a tighter budget, there are plenty of good options, including the $229 Moto G5 Plus. It boasts a bright screen, long battery life and a rear camera with dual-pixel autofocus technology. The HTC U11 also joins our list of top phones, thanks to its superior audio.
What’s New: Motorola has unveiled its latest modular phone, the $499 Moto Z2 Play. It’s smaller and lighter than last year’s model, but at the expense of a smaller battery, which was one of the standout features on the original Moto Z Play. Still, critics who’ve gotten an early look at the phone like its improved camera and still impressive battery life. The Moto Z2 Play ships in July.
Check out our top smartphone choices in multiple categories, along with new and notable phones we’re planning on reviewing shortly. We’ve also included rumors about upcoming smartphone updates in case you’re considering whether to put off your phone purchase for the next big thing.
How We Rate Phones
We rate smartphones using a combination of subjective criteria (including design and ease of use); our own benchmarks (e.g., our battery, audio and display test; and synthetic benchmarks (Geekbench 4 for speed, 3DMark for graphics). We also take photos in different lighting conditions and compare the results.
After we’ve conducted all of our testing, we rate each device based on its features, performance and overall value. Only the very best devices make our Best list.
Before you make the decision to buy a phone, you should make sure that something better isn’t coming around the corner. Here are the major phones due out later this year.
OnePlus 5 (June 2017)
One of our favorite unlocked Android phones is about to get a replacement. On June 20, OnePlus will unveil successor to the OnePlus 3T that’s rumored to feature an extended screen, dual-rear cameras and Snapdragon 835 processor. We’re hoping that the OnePlus 5 — OnePlus is skipping over version 4 — maintains the attractive pricing that made the 3T such an appealing device.
iPhone 8 (Sept 2017)
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are great phones, but Apple is expected to bring a radical redesign for the iPhone 8 that includes an all-glass front and back and OLED screen that will all but eliminate bezels from the front of the phone. It also looks like augmented reality will be a major focus for the next iPhone. Another rumor suggests Apple may introduce the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, which would feature only modest changes from this year’s iPhones. However, all the phones Apple introduces in 2017 are expected to include wireless charging.
Google Pixel 2 (Fall 2017)
Google’s already planning a sequel to the Pixel. “You can count on a successor this year,” Rick Osterloh, vice president of hardware at Google, said in February. And if the company follows last year’s release schedule, the new phone should arrive in the fall, just in time for the holiday shopping season. Details are thin right now, but the Pixel 2 will likely feature water resistance and that their could be a third new supersized model called the Pixel 2 XXL.
Galaxy Note 8 (Fall 2017)
Expect a new Galaxy Note to arrive later this year, with early rumors suggesting the phone could feature a large 6.4-inch display, 6GB of RAM and possibly dual-lens cameras on the back. Samsung might also integrate the fingerprint sensor into the screen. Bixby is likely to make the leap from the Galaxy S8, too.
Buying options for the best phones of 2017:
With a striking new Infinity Display that goes from edge to edge, even better cameras and strong performance from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the best phones you can buy. They also deliver long battery life, lasting more than an hour longer than their predecessors. The Bixby virtual assistant remains a work in progress, and the back fingerprint sensor could be more conveniently located, but overall the 5.8-inch S8 and 6.2-inch S8+ are the handsets to beat.
The iPhone 7 Plus makes room for a lot more than a big and bright 5.5-inch display. It packs in two 12-megapixel cameras, one of which offers a telephoto lens that provides true 2x optical zoom. It’s like cropping without the work; you just press a button in the live view. The Plus also boasts a superfast A10 Fusion processor, and it lasts a very impressive 10.5 hours on a charge. Add in a water-resistant design and new color options — besides black and jet black, Apple just added an eye-catching Project (Red) version of the phone — and you have a winner.
If you want a fast, pure and long-lasting Android experience, Google’s homegrown Pixel is the phone to get. It has Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 chip, a camera on par with the best from Samsung and Apple, and Google’s new Assistant, which puts both Siri and Cortana to shame. Besides the 5-inch Pixel ($649), you can opt for the bigger screen and longer battery life of the 5.5-inch Pixel XL ($679). Whether you get either version from Verizon or unlocked for use on any carrier, Google’s flagship belongs on your short list.
Simply put, the OnePlus 3T is best phone for the money on the market. It offers better performance than nearly every other handset available right now, a full 10.5 hours of battery life and a colorful 5.5-inch AMOLED display, all for just $439. And while the 3T’s front and rear cameras aren’t quite as good as the ones on more expensive phones from Samsung, Apple and Google, these cameras aren’t that far off. If you can’t justify spending $600 or more on a phone, but still want something solid, the OnePlus 3T is exactly what you need. Be aware, though, that OnePlus is working on a successor to the 3T that will debut on June 20.
While the 4-inch iPhone SE is a great value at $399, the iPhone 7 gives you more for your money. In addition to a bigger and brighter 4.7-inch screen, you get a faster A10 Fusion processor, longer battery life and a water-resistant design. Plus, the iPhone 7’s 12-MP camera offers very good low-light performance. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, this Apple device now features a Project (Red) version to go with its jet black, black, silver, gold and rose gold finishes.
We’ve never tested a phone that’s lasted as long as the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom did on our battery test. Surfing the web continuously over T-Mobile’s LTE network, the ZenFone 3 Zoom lasted 16 hours, 49 minutes. That’s four hours longer than our previous battery champ, the Moto Z Play. You get more than a long-lasting phone with Asus’s $329 device. Dual rear cameras offer optical zoom in a phone that won’t put too big of a dent in your wallet.
When your kid leaves the house with the Alcatel Onetouch Go Play in hand, you can be confident the phone will make it back in one piece. This Android phone can withstand 5-foot drops and a dunk in 3 feet of water for half-an-hour; you can even use the Go Play’s volume buttons to snap photos when you’re underwater. An included ViewMe app records what’s on screen along with your face and voice — helpful for sharing gaming exploits with pals. Parents can also install a cell-phone monitoring app on the Go Play to manage how their kids use the phone — something that’s harder to do on an iPhone. And with the price on this phone falling to less than $100, it’s an even more attractive option for parents with an eye on the bottom line.
The Moto G5 Plus stands out in an increasingly competitive market for sub-$300 smartphones, thanks to a super-bright screen and epic battery life that keeps the phone powered up for more than 11 hours. We were also impressed by how the phone’s camera performed, producing sharp-looking photos even in low light. The unlocked Moto G5 Plus also works on all cellular networks in the U.S., unlike its main rivals, which are limited to GSM-based carriers.
If you’re looking for a phone that can withstand any punishment life throws at it, it’s hard to top the Cat S60. This durable phone survived repeated 6-foot drops and still worked after we left it in 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. Unlike other similar phones that trade looks for durability, the Cat S60’s design is fairly striking, with a polished metal band and sturdy carbon-fiber panel in the back. You won’t need every feature on this heavy-duty phone — the thermal imaging camera is really aimed at contractors and other professionals — but at $630, you can enjoy an extremely well-built phone for a fraction of the Galaxy S7 Active’s $795 price tag. Kyocera’s DuraForce Pro also offers terrific durability at an attractive $408 price, but its battery couldn’t measure up to the Cat S60 in our tests.
Modular phones let you add to your smartphoneꞌs features by swapping add-ons in and out, and no phone maker has a better approach to this than Motorola. The Moto Z uses firm magnets and a pogo pin connector to securely hold modules in place, and you don’t even need to power down the phone to make a switch. Module options include everything from speakers to battery packs to projectors. We prefer the Moto Z Force Droid over the Moto Z Droid for its more robust battery life, beefier 16-megapixel camera and greater durability, but both devices are an example of the right way to tackle modularity.
Audio is one of the most overlooked aspects on a smartphone, but the HTC U11 doesn’t make that mistake. HTC’s BoomSound speakers combine the output of the phone’s earpiece and bottom-firing speaker to produce louder and richer sound than any other phone on the market. On top of that, when you want to listen to things a bit more privately, the U11’s included USB-C earbuds offer adaptive audio adjustment that custom tunes sound just for your ears while also give you true noise-cancellation tech. There’s just one downside: no headphone jack on the phone. But since HTC includes an adapter dongle in the box,there’s still a way to plug in your old headphones, too.