It has been a stellar year for phones, with great devices seemingly coming out every other week. To cut through the sea of handsets, MobileSyrup has put together a list of the smartphones that we think are the best of 2018.
We’ve broken our top phones list down into five categories: Best overall phone, best colourful phone, best premium phone, best mid-range phone and most unique phone.
Best overall phone
Last year’s Pixel 2 also had several software hang-ups that plagued early adopters, but the phone largely went on to become one of the best of 2017. This year’s Pixel 3 is no different. Despite some small software hang-ups at launch, the third generation of Google’s smartphone has nailed almost every category, making it the overall best phone of 2018.
That’s not to say it’s the fastest, or has the most impressive specs. Quite frankly, the Pixel 3 doesn’t. However, Google has worked some magic under the phone’s hood. Its single-lens camera — thanks to Google’s AI and software — continues to beat the competition handily.
Android on the Pixel is excellent as well. Despite not having as much RAM as other phones, the Pixel 3 rarely chokes up.
However, the thing that makes the Pixel 3 so good is that it works well for just about everyone. At the average flagship price, Google’s phone does everything well.
Its screen looks good, its camera is excellent and its software is exceedingly smart. While $999 isn’t cheap, you’ll be hard pressed to find a phone that does everything as well as the Pixel 3.
Best phone colour
OnePlus makes great phones at reasonable prices, but the Thunder Purple OnePlus 6T blew us away this year with its beautiful design and killer specs.
Looking at the back of the phone never gets old. The way it catches the light and shows off the brilliant purple S-curve continues to amaze. The curve is a design choice that OnePlus first built into the OnePlus 6, but the Thunder Purple version of the 6T perfects it by adding colour to the mix.
The phone fades from a soft lavender purple into a super dark grey just below the camera on the back of the device. It’s difficult to describe, but the smokiness of the gradient is really pleasing to the eye and the grey and purple complement each other well.
There were a lot of pretty phones throughout 2018. The iPhone XR and Huawei’s flagships all looked great and came in appealing colours, but there is something understated yet pleasing about the Thunder Purple OnePlus 6T, and that’s why it’s our pick for the best colourful phone of the year.
Best premium phone
Flagships used to denote the ‘premium’ tier of smartphones, but in 2018 several companies showed there’s an ultra-premium tier above the average flagship. Populated by devices like the Samsung Note 9 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which break the $1,300 mark, it’s a tier where you buy a phone for the price tag as much as the functionality.
However, one phone stands above all others in this high-cost category:the iPhone XS Max.
The biggest iPhone ever is identifiable at a glance — which is a good thing. When you’re dropping over $1,500 on a phone, you want people to notice.
But there’s more to it than just that. Apple designs its phones meticulously, and it’s those details that pay off. If you’ve ever held an iPhone, you know what I mean. It feels like it’s worth every dollar.
The precise construction of its glass and steel body is unmatched by any phone. It feels like a piece of jewellery. The phone reacts to you as well, using its haptic feedback engine to provide notable vibrations. When you turn on the XS Max with the screen turned away from your face, the phone gives you a nudge to remind you to look at it. It’s subtle, but it works and feels terrific.
Further, the screen is one of the best featured in any phone. It’s big and bright and beautiful. Colours pop with a vibrancy seen only in some of the highest-end Samsung phones.
The A12 processor in the iPhone is also unbeatable. The power of Apple’s in-house silicon is yet unmatched in the mobile world. The camera is top-notch as well, and the speakers sound crisp and loud.
The iPhone XS Max might not be the best for the price-conscious consumer. However, if money is no object, if your device serves as a status symbol as much as a phone, and if you need the ultimate in smartphone craftsmanship, nothing beats the iPhone.
Best mid-range phone
The Moto G6 is a mid-range phone from Motorola that masquerades competently as a high-end device.
The phone features an all-glass design, so it feels premium to hold, and the near-stock Android helps this phone run quickly, so it feels much faster than it has any right to be.
The phone is moderately splash resistant, and it even kept the 3.5mm headphone jack that lots of other phones have ditched.
Overall, the Moto G6 is a lot of phone for a pretty attractive price tag of $349.95 CAD.
Most unique phone
The Unihertz Atom is easily the best unique phone of 2018. For its minuscule 93mm x 43.18mm x 17.18mm size, it’s able to pack in a ton of crazy tech along with stock Android.
The biggest draw of the Atom is its size. While small is great, it isn’t perfect. Using it can be difficult at times. Typing is hard on a 2.45-inch screen, and several apps just don’t play nice with the display.
To make up for the device’s small screen, this phone is pretty much indestructible. It can handle a decent amount of drops thanks to its built-in bumper. The Atom also features an IP68 water and dust proof rating.
Beyond this, the Atom features push-to-talk, 4G LTE, 8GB of RAM, face unlocking and a headphone jack. Even the battery life is surprisingly good and the rear camera can capture 16-megapixel photos.
All in all, this tiny beast costs about $206 CAD, so it’s the perfect phone for outdoorsy people.