Question: Which are your favorite phones of 2017?
I'm relatively new here at GSMArena, but I have to say, I fell in head over heels for this year's Oneplus phones. We've had many amazing devices in the office, but once I started using the Oneplus 5, I couldn't let it go.
It struck a beautiful balance with its lightning fast near-stock Android, its great camera for both photos and videos, its elegant (albeit unoriginal) design, and its insane charging speed.
Basically, the phone was great at doing what I needed the most. The Oneplus 5T further built on that by greatly improving the screen and improving the camera's night game.
For me, the perfect phone would be the Oneplus 5t with IP68 protection and the Pixel 2's camera. Yeah, yeah, I know that's not happening anytime soon, but I can dream.
Other than my love affair with Oneplus, I'd say seeing the Samsung Galaxy S8 was a major wow moment. It was the first time in a long time I'd held a device and thought "Oh, I'm in the future!"
However, as beautiful as the S8's design was, I think the Note 8 deserves my honorable mention. It took the great parts of the Galaxy S8 and made them even better. Where the Oneplus phones had balanced simplicity, the Note 8 had pretty much every feature you could think of plus a gorgeous design.
Being a Galaxy Note fan myself, I was super excited about the Note8 after the gap year caused by the Note7's battery woes. And sure enough, I got one. I enjoyed the marvelous display, the battery life, the camera - portraits and zooming alike. I missed an S-Pen in my life and as soon as I had one again, I loved every bit of it. I sent Live messages left and right, I pinned Screen-off memo shopping lists, even did some coloring in Pen Up (perhaps too much).
All for a total of two weeks.
Then a certain retailer announced a €200 discount on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. I didn't think twice and ordered it straight ahead. Not residing in one of Google's official markets however, meant things weren't so straighforward. I had to go through a number of hoops to get the Pixel 2 XL shipped across borders and wait for a good three weeks to hold it in my hands. During which time I used the small Pixel 2 review unit we had lying around, as the Note was put up for sale, and eventually went into the hands of an LG V20 owner. I'd call it an upgrade. Anyway, we've been happy together for a whole week now, me and my Pixel 2 XL, and I can't see that changing.
So, um, yeah, if it wasn't clear enough, I'd give the 2017 best phone title to the Pixel 2 XL for its awesome camera but I still consider the Note8 a close second. Now if only we could have a Pixel with an S-Pen. Or a Note with the Pixel's camera. Either one. Pretty please?
Disclaimer: I am an out-and-out Android user, so you won't find the latest iPhones on my list.
My list of best phones for the year includes Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+, Galaxy Note8, and the Pixel 2/2 XL. I'd have easily picked up Pixel 2 as my favorite, had it not been for the plethora of issues (both hardware and software related) that have come to light in the past couple of months. So that reduces the competition to Samsung's flagships. Now, as I am not particularly inclined towards very large phones, I'd say the Galaxy S8 series takes the crown for me - I have to admit the phone looks drop dead gorgeous.
That's just my opinion. But it doesn't take away the fact that each of these devices has some standout features. For example, the Pixel 2 gives you arguably the best camera experience, while the Note8 is a very solid all-rounder, with the bundled software features deserving a special mention.
Another point worth mentioning here is that almost all these phones carry premium price tags. So if someone's not willing to spend that much, but still wants a high-end smartphone, I'd suggest taking a look at the OnePlus 5T or the Essential Phone (yeah, it has received a solid price cut). While both offer flagship-level specs, they are not without a fair share of downsides as well. However, given their price tags, it's likely one of them will fit the bill for you.
To me 2017 was the year of nearly there - so many great phones, not one to go the whole nine yards. So I'll just list a few phones worth mentioning (in no particular order).
The iPhone X is the first properly hot iPhone since the iPhone 5 came around. The notch and clumsy software solutions it has led to, unfortunately, prevented this device from being a home run in my eyes.
Then there was the Galaxy Note8, which was arguably the company's most important smartphone launch ever. It did well to match the best display around with the most comfortable iteration of the curved phone so far. The battery, which was smaller than the Galaxy S8+ let it down for me, as well as that awkward fingerprint sensor location.
LG V30 is another excellent package, but unfortunately, one that took just a little too long to actually come to the market this year (December!!!). Still, it's a clear indication that LG can still make flagship ready to take on the best on the market and beat them rather than relying on undercutting their prices. Here's hoping we see more of that next year.
Huawei's rapid rise continues and the Mate 10 and 10 Pro are a pair of awesome flagships and probably the ones to offer the best value for money in the segment. The only problem is you simply can't get the best of both worlds - it's either expandable storage or IP protection, or either OLED screen or a 3.5mm audio jack. With Huawei forcing you to make these choices, it's not the flagship treatment you'd expect. It's a good thing the two phones are not simultaneously available in the same markets
Here at GSMArena, I'm probably the person who changes phones most often - and I don't mean loaned review units but I straight up buy the phones that strike my fancy so I can use and abuse them as I see fit. So I've come to realize these are the main ingredients which make a phone "the best" for me - good screen, stereo speakers, great battery life and a superb camera. I don't care about design, bezels, if the screen is AMOLED or not nor price.
So my picks are the Google Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone X and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.
The first time I saw the Pixel 2 XL it landed on my desk whilst I was just enjoying the recent purchase of a Samsung Galaxy Note8 and I didn't think much of it at the time. As part of my work I had a few other encounters with it and it spiked my curiosity. I decided to try it out as my main driver and a few days later I had forgotten all about the Galaxy Note8.
I love the Pixel 2 XL's battery life, I love the front-facing speakers, I'm happy with the screen and haven't had any hardware issues whatsoever, touch wood! And the camera is undoubtedly the best I've used on a phone - and I am photographer, so my expectations are probably as high as they get.
I'm not a fan of the Apple iPhone X but I think it deserves a place as "best of 2017" purely because it's the best iPhone this year.
I'm also a fan of the Mate 10 Pro. I think it's fair to say Huawei has made one of the best phones of 2017. Adding an AMOLED screen and waterproofing to an already good smartphone formula pushed the Mate to another level.
The first of my favorite devices this year is the Apple iPhone X. Well, it may be the most controversial iPhone to date, with numerous issues, a few odd design and UI decisions. But the new Apple hardware seems to be light years ahead of the competition, the screen is a real treat, and for the first time in a while, iOS feels fresh and new.
My decision to buy one was based not so much on practicality but out of emotion - but it's the first unique looking iPhone in years and has all the character you'd expect from a hight end smartphone. So I was enamoured with it as soon as I saw it in person for the first time.
With that said, I realize it's not a universal recommendation´I still feel like a beta tester and some aspects of the iOS interaction certainly can use more polishing, but for me it's one of the best phones this year when it comes to speed, display, design, and camera in 2017.
Then comes the Nokia 8. Call me old-fashioned, but when the Nokia 8 arrived in the office it became my favorite Android smartphone in an instant and I realize a lot of it was due to the Nokia and ZEISS logos on the back. The no-nonsense design and the vanilla OS are two of the most important things I want on an Android smartphone, but the Nokia 8 has a lot more to offer.
The color+mono camera combo is my personal favorite ever since the Huawei P9. It's also got portrait mode, manual mode for low-light shots, while the videos benefit from class-leading audio thanks to the Nokia OZO's mics. Even the selfie camera on the Nokia 8 has a high-end sensor with phase-detection AF and ZEISS lens.
Finally, it's the the top-notch performance that made me pick the Nokia 8 as my best Android smartphone for 2017.
But wait, there is one more device - the Oppo R11. I had the chance to use this one in the summer and I was quite impressed by its imaging skills. It had the camera of the OnePlus 5 sans the OIS, and captured some great photos and awesome portraits. The selfie camera, and I say this as a non-selfie person, was a revelation and I've put this through some heavy use! The selfie portraits with defocused backgrounds turned out superb, too, which was a real surprise for me.
Oppo's Color OS may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it has rich theme support and I enjoyed a new skin each week. Then there is the Snapdragon 660 chip, which managed to impress me with its high-end performance.
I am not sure how the Oppo R11 fared in Asia, but if it was available in Europe, I would have most definitely recommended it to my friends.
I'm so sure my colleagues will have covered this in detail that I'm not going to repeat it here, but suffice to say that if I could choose 'any' phone today it would the Pixel 2 XL in Black and White. With its 'storm trooper' or 'panda-like' appearance (call it however you like) it stands out without seeming to try. With its flagship innards it was going to be a foregone conclusion it would perform with its camera again punching above its weight and I've always been a fan of using an unadulterated version of Android.
I attempted migrating from iOS to Android over this Autumn but I hit a road block because it turned out that, as a family, we are too entrenched in the Apple ecosystem to make the transition as smooth as it was supposed to be. The phone I chose to migrate to was the LG V30, and even though the entire move never happened, I got to use the phone as a daily driver for a while. I originally chose the LG V30 as the Pixels and Galaxys seemed a tad to obvious a choice and with my initial brief hands-on, I liked the V30, and I liked it a lot.
Its build quality and design are up there with the best and whilst I wont pretend to be a fan of rear fingerprint sensors it surprised me the sensor was located exactly where I needed it to be. In daily use its P-OLED display was excellent, offering me a display that was bigger and better than my iPhone 6s Plus in a slightly smaller and lighter package. Whilst not completely without its quirks LGs implementation of Android is relatively pure (though I admit I spent far too long digging features in Settings menu).
Whilst it lacks stereo speakers, I tend to listen to my tunes through headphones and as a result, its audio playback, with its Hi-Fi Quad-DAC, was simply sublime. Camera quality is up there with the best and as I need to take interior architecture shots I found myself reaching for the LG V30 more frequently as opposed to my DSLR/wide angle lens combo.
As a result, this was one of those rare occasions where I didn't want to give a review unit back.
It's easy here at GSMArena Towers to get pulled along with flagship specs, etc... so an honorable (pardon the pun) mention goes to Honor with its recently announced Honor 7X. Few phones at this price point offer the design, build quality and specs and I'm looking forward to spending more time with it.
Oh, and what phone did I buy this year? Well, that turned out to be a 256GB iPhone 8 Plus, as I'm kinda trapped in the Apple ecosystem. I say this with regret, depsite the fact that this is a high quality, great performing phone. It's just that it has an overly familiar aging design, from which I wanted a break, but perhaps some other time, right?
My favorite phone this year is the Xiaomi Mi A1 and that's for a number of reasons. I like Xiaomi hardware, I especially like their prices, but I just can't get over MIUI. I know it has many fans and with good reason - it's one of the most polished, feature-rich maker ROMs out there. But it's not my thing.
Holo is still my favorite UI style and Material is a close second. Plus, I tend to use my own set of preferred apps rather than the ones that come as default with the phone. I'm a creature of habit and third-party apps really smooth the transition from one phone over to another (even better when they have a desktop counterpart).
All of this builds up to the reason I like the Xiaomi Mi A1 - it's the first Xiaomi phone with stock Android and also, it's the first Android One phone with decent hardware that I can actually buy. It's partly a regional thing, Android One hasn't been very common in Europe. But it tended to run on low-end hardware too.
I will probably not buy a Mi A1 in the end, OnePlus is doing a decent job of keeping Android clean. But I think that the A1 is just the first of many phones to come. Maybe I will get one of them or at least recommend them to friends and family - and not have to explain that some Chinese ROMs kill apps in the background even when you told them not to.
2017 has been a great year for smartphones, with several noteworthy options to choose from but if I had to pick one phone as the best of 2017 then that would be the iPhone X. For me, the iPhone X is not just the best phone Apple has made but also easily the coolest thing to have come out of the company in a really long time. It is also the first proper redesign of the iPhone since the original came out ten years ago, something that people have been asking for a few years now, which makes it that much more exciting now that it's finally here.
Apple also came closest to perfecting the edge-to-edge screen design that we have been seeing all year. We also get Face ID, which will likely revolutionize biometric security the way Touch ID did four years ago. Even though Apple wasn't the first to adopt either technology, it was the first to get it right and forced other manufacturers to follow suit. Apart from that it's a great phone all-around, with a stunning display, excellent cameras and powerful hardware. Sure, it costs well over a $1000, but Apple doesn't make phones for everyone just like Lamborghini doesn't make cars for everyone.
A very close second for me would be the Google Pixel 2 XL. While the original Pixel often felt like Google came with a knife to a gunfight when compared to its similarly priced rivals, the Pixel 2 phones come all guns blazing. Great hardware? Check. Great cameras? Check. Great software experience? Check. Great display? Yeah, maybe not but that's pretty much the only thing that's holding this phone back from greatness. That and the myriad software and hardware issues that people have experienced to a varying degree. Still, it has been a great effort from Google this year and the Pixel 2 XL is easily the best Android phone you can buy today.
The third best option from me would be the OnePlus 5 and the 5T. While it's easy to gravitate towards the most expensive phones on the market, OnePlus once again showed you don't have to spend the big bucks to get the high-end experience. Sure, it's not as good as either the iPhone X or the Pixel 2 XL above, but it's almost there and at nearly half the price, and that's a massive achievement. It's also heartening to see how far OnePlus has come in just a span of three years and continues to improve at a much greater pace than the rest of the industry. So much so that you wish they calmed down a bit and maybe not launch a new version of their last flagship after just six months. And then another version a month after that.
In honorary mentions, I would like to give a shout out to the Galaxy Note8 for having some of the best hardware of 2017, the Redmi Note 4 for redefining people's expectations from a budget smartphone, and the Razer Phone for being the first to have a 120Hz display on the market. Hopefully, we will see more of that in 2018. Oh wait, this was supposed to go in one of the next chapters.
During the first half of the year, I'd have to say the HTC U11 was probably my favorite phone. The 3D glass was so beautiful and the phone ran like a dream. The U11's camera was also very good thanks to HDR Boost (a similar implementation of the original Pixel's HDR+). It was one of the first smartphones to arrive with the Snapdragon 835 and the best top-tier flagship value for $650.
I have to give credit to Samsung for making some really nice-looking hardware on the Galaxy S8 and S8+. Although it wasn't the first to do the ultra-wide display, it certainly did it well with an excellent-looking display and great camera performance to go along with it. Still, I don't think Samsung's software was polished enough (in terms of stability and smoothness) until the Galaxy Note8 launched. The Note8 is the best all-around phone this year.
Despite all the flak that the Google Pixel 2 XL got soon after its release due to its display, it still stands in my book as the best Android experience this year. The hardware looks great and the camera performance with both the front and rear cameras is quite hard to beat. Combine that with the most polished version of Android to date for an excellent smartphone package.
I believe that people need more versatile and usable phones, one that deliver on basics like dependable speed and camera performance, coupled with quality and battery efficient components. Most people don't realistically need to run a powerhouse Snapdragon 835 in their pocket and chips like the Snapdragon 625/626 and the Exynos 7870 still strike an amazing balance of perfectly adequate performance and great battery efficiency. The trend is growing as well and thankfully trickling down to even cheaper silicon, like the Snapdragon 450.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 and Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro are fan favorites for a reason. Both have the benefit of efficient chipsets and great battery life. Samsung's offer also brings a superior Super AMOLED panel to the table and its own heavily custom and feature-rich take on Android. If that is not your cup of tea, the Mi A1 has you covered with a similarly balanced specs sheet and a clean vanilla version of Google's OS. Even a trendy and very decent dual-camera setup is part of the mix, all without breaking the bank.
No year-end review of 2017 would be complete without mentioning Samsung's flagship roster - the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8. From a design standpoint, these manage to impress me even today, as they still look like they are glass-and-metal technology sandwiches from the future with their curved Infinity Displays and minimal bezels. This year was all about the war on bezels, and Samsung has been at the forefront of the fight all along. These three devices are obviously no slouches in other areas either, but what still stands out most to me is the way they look. On this note, I'd like to also say the LG V30 is probably the most underrated smartphone of the year in terms of design, and it's good to see the other Korean company finally giving up on its weird experimentation streak and churning out very modern-looking flagships.
Switching gears, Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL deserve applause for their (shared) cameras, which have somehow managed to improve upon the already excellent snappers of their predecessors. You may call the Pixel line 'overpriced Nexuses', but in doing that you're choosing to ignore one of the biggest things that actually differentiates the two series (aside from price, yes), and that's the relentless focus on computational photography for the Pixels. This has paid off for Google even in the first-gen devices, and continues to with this year's phones.
And then there's the iPhone X. In my mind, this is undoubtedly the most exciting iPhone in quite a few years, and that's thanks in large part to the design. The notch may be controversial, but the mere fact that the iPhone X doesn't look like an iPhone is something to celebrate. For a company that loves to rehash designs year after year, this was one bold step forward. And of course it doesn't hurt that the Face ID system is the most advanced facial recognition technology ever put in a device so small. Sure, Apple could have just settled for a fingerprint sensor on the back, but I think it deserves praise for not going that route: developing Face ID was a much bigger challenge, technologically speaking, so I commend the company for not choosing the easy way out. To paraphrase JFK, Apple did this not because it was easy, but because it was hard - and we always need more of that, in the mobile world but not just.
Of all the phones I tried and used this past year, I enjoyed the Huawei P10 the most - it's far from the latest and greatest today, but for me, it was the most comfortable to use. I feel like phones just keep getting bigger and bigger, but with the P10's light weight and small size, there was never any need for thumb gymnastics. The textured finish on the back felt nice and grippy compared to all-glass builds, and I never had this one fly out of my pocket. Plus, with the front fingerprint reader, I never missed a step, especially when using the phone on a table.
2017 was still unfolding when Asus introduced the Zenfone AR. I thought this is going to be a strong year for the augmented reality platforms but all we got was taller screens. In the echo chamber of unusual ratios and brand names like Infinity Display and Full Vision not more than two phones managed to stick out for me.
One of the more impressive devices that I handled throughout 2017 is the Samsung Galaxy Note8. It is essentially the top-notch specs of Galaxy S8 with a more exciting dual camera. The device looks good and performs well; it also pleases the senses with the AMOLED screen and glass-sandwiched body. The reason why I don't pick the Galaxy Note8 to be my lawfully wedded top 2017 smartphone is the uncomfortable fingerprint scanner and the completely useless Bixby (sorry, Samsung fans) that still needs fixing.
The other phone that impressed me is the Huawei Mate 10. I am a simple man who likes to take simple minimalistic photos and the Leica-branded camera does a perfect job. Long exposure and detailed ISO setup is all I need. Sadly, Huawei skipped on the AMOLED and the UI is not the friendliest out there, but you can look past it. Sure, the Mate 10 Pro would be a better choice, but scratching off the microSD and audio jack was not the innovation I am looking for in 2017.