2017 has been a very interesting year in the smartphone industry. We didn’t just get upgrades of previous successors, we actually got a lot of ‘new’ tech from some of the biggest tech companies. We even got a new iPhone design, finally!
1. Apple iPhone X
The Apple iPhone X is now in the hands of buyers and available in stores. It is the highest price mass market phone to launch with a starting price of $999 for 64GB and $1,149 for 256GB, but it seems the majority of people are buying it on a payment plan so that the cost is spread out over time and not as shocking as a lump sum price. The iPhone X is the first unique iPhone design we have seen since the original iPhone launched 10 years ago. It has a large 5.8 inch front display with minimal bezels and no front home button. A Samsung OLED panel is used for the first time on an iPhone. There is a dual rear camera setup with a new way to use the iPhone due to the lack of a home button and traditional power button.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was at the top of my list at the end of 2016, before the recall forced its removal. The Galaxy Note 8 was in the top spot for a couple of months because it was the most advanced smartphone on the market. It still leads in many respects, but there are a few things about it that let the Apple iPhone X beat it out. Samsung’s Infinity Display earned the highest rating ever from DisplayMate and is 0.1 inch bigger than the S8 Plus. There is 6GB of RAM, the fastest Qualcomm mobile processor, advanced S Pen functionality, dual rear cameras with OIS, the ability to add inexpensive microSD cards, new Bixby assitant and a hardware button dedicated to its use, improved front facing camera, Samsung Pay payment technology, wireless and fast charging, IP68 dust and water resistance, a USB Type-C standard port, and traditional 3.5mm headset jack. There is nothing missing from the Galaxy Note 8 and it deserves the top spot.
3. Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Last week I had a chance to meet with several Huawei folks and am now testing out an Huawei Mate 10 Pro. So far, it’s fantastic and given some recent issues with the Pixel 2 XL (display, sound cracking, and more), I decided to position the Mate 10 Pro higher than the Pixel 2 for now. The Mate 10 Pro has a 6 inch 18:9 OLED display, Kirin 970 processor with neural network processing unit, Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8, 4/6 GB RAM, 64/128 GB internal storage, dual rear cameras, 8 megapixel front-facing camera, and massive 4,000 mAh battery.
4. Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were announced yesterday and bring some features I wanted to see (water resistance and smaller bezels on the XL) and some I didn’t (removal of standard 3.5mm headset jack). They appear to be compelling smartphones with the highest DxOMark ratings to date. The Google Pixel 2 XL has a large 6 inch 18:9 display, Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB and 128GB integrated storage, single rear 12 megapixel camera, IP67 dust and water resistance, a 3520 mAh battery, and dual front stereo speakers. The smaller Pixel 2 has a 5 inch display and smaller battery while the rest of the specs are the same as the XL model.
5. Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus
The Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus was at the top of my list earlier this year, but the Note 8 bumped it down with a few additional features and advanced hardware. Samsung’s Infinity Display looks fantastic and minimizes the top and bottom bezel while removing anything on the sides which roll down from the front to the back. Everything seen in the Note 8, except for the S Pen and dual rear camera, is present on the S8 and S8 Plus.
6. Apple iPhone 8/8 Plus
The new Apple iPhone 8/8 Plus look like the iPhone 7/7 Plus, but have glass backs for wireless charging support. In addition the new iPhones have a slightly improved processor, improved camera, and improved LCD display. There are stereo speakers for good sound performance, but no standard 3.5mm headphone jack. These new iPhones do have fast charging support so they can gain up to 50 percent of battery capacity in 30 minutes
7. LG V30
I spent a couple of months with a non-final version of the LG V30 and then about another month with a retail version from T-Mobile. It is priced at $800, which is reasonable for a high end flagship when we see the top of the line models launching between $900 and $1,150. It is clearly the best V series phone and LG’s best released in years. It is a phone for content creators thanks to its dual rear camera setup and advanced software designed to help you take great still photos and videos. The V30 feels wonderful in the hand and looks rather stunning in silver. It is loaded with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot, has an IP68 dust and water resistant rating, and built to survive military drop tests. You will find two cameras on the back, one 16 megapixel and the other 13 megapixel for a wide angle experience.
8. OnePlus 5T
About six months after the release of the OnePlus 5, we see the launch of the OnePlus 5T with a larger 18:9 aspect ratio display and improvements that make it a very compelling smartphone. The price, $499 and $559, are a major factor in considering this phone when there are flagships from $950 to more than $1000. The OnePlus 5T incorporates a face unlock system, has a dual rear camera setup, and several software customization options to make the phone extremely efficient for daily use. Rather than a glass sandwich design that is popular with most phones today, the OnePlus 5T has an unibody aluminum shell with a comfortable form factor and high quality construction
9. Essential Phone
Earlier this year Andy Rubin launched the Essential Phone for $699. We don’t have official sales figures, but there were some issues with the device for the first couple of months, particularly in regards to the camera performance. Since then we have seen several camera improvements, regular security updates, and a major price reduction of $200 with continued software enhancements coming soon. At $499, the Essential Phone is a compelling flagship-level smartphone that is extremely well designed with ceramic and titanium.
10. HTC U11
For many years I was an HTC fan and purchased most of the One series. The HTC U11 was released in June and while it doesn’t have minimal bezels or a 3.5mm headphone jack, it is the most gorgeous phone ever and has a camera that may be the best available. The HTC U11 is blazing fast and has a minimal HTC Sense software experience. It is similar to a Google Pixel, but has water resistance, much better audio, and a cool squeezable edge.
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