We’ve blown past the halfway point for 2017, and already it’s been a banner year for smartphones. As we predicted, the market has been reinvigorated by exciting new technology, transforming our favorite flagships into immaculate works of art.
Just look at the Galaxy S8 as an example. But Samsung’s powerhouse isn’t the only device worth checking out. The OnePlus 5 offers a seamless blend of hardware and software, while some of last year’s standouts, including the Google Pixel, are still in heavy rotation among TechnoBuffalo staff.
The sheer amount of quality out there right now is astonishing, which is both good and bad. Good because there’s no longer such thing as a bad phone. Bad because choosing just one is more difficult than ever. We’re here to help you find the right phone for your needs.
Rather than highlight five of our favorite phones, we’re going to break things down by category. Want a phone that takes amazing pictures? Most devices will get the job done, but the Google Pixel is the best. We’ll also have picks for software, value, screen, battery, and more.
Note: While we wholeheartedly recommend the phones mentioned below, it’s worth pointing out there are some really good devices on the horizon, including the Galaxy Note 8, iPhone 8, and Google Pixel 2.
Best screen: Galaxy S8
Once you lay your eyes on the Galaxy S8’s display, you’ll understand why everything else pales in comparison. It’s been praised by both critics and fans—and even more in-depth testing has concluded that Samsung’s mobile screen is the best in the business.
And it’s not just the vibrant colors, eye-popping brightness, or incredible sharpness. The Galaxy S8’s Infinity Display beautifully melts right up to the edge of the device, leaving very little room for unsightly bezels and more space for viewing photos and video.
Best battery: iPhone 7 Plus
As our phones get thinner, the batteries inside them get smaller. Even worse, our high resolution screens and power-hungry apps guzzle battery at an alarming rate. While most phones will last you through a day of general use, the iPhone 7 Plus relishes long endurance.
Which is funny, because the 2,900mAh battery found inside the iPhone 7 Plus is by no means the biggest. But thanks to Apple’s unparalleled ability to integrate hardware and software, the device has been a reliable companion during trips, making it the best option for those who need the best battery life possible.
Best intangibles: Galaxy S8
Hands down, the phone that offers the best intangibles is the Galaxy S8. Not only does it feature wireless charging, Bluetooth 5.0, and support for expandable storage, but it offers Samsung Pay and Bixby, the latter of which is the company’s new intelligent assistant. Many other phones offer their own perks, but none can match what’s offered by the Galaxy S8.
Best budget: OnePlus 5
You don’t have to look far to find a good budget device. But we recommend the OnePlus 5 because it offers a brilliant design and powerful specs at a relatively affordable price. I say relatively affordable because the OnePlus 5 starts at $479, which is edging ever so close to premium pricing territory. For now, it’s still the best bang for your buck if you want a high-end experience without traumatizing your wallet.
Best software: OnePlus 5
To our surprise, OnePlus’ OxygenOS has arguably become the best software experience out there, and that’s saying a lot considering it’s up against iOS and Google’s own spin on Android.
What’s great about OxygenOS is it offers great tweaks while allowing Android’s best attributes to shine. Some of OxygenOS’ best features include a dark mode, gesture support, expanded screenshots, and more. Essentially, it’s a better version of stock Android, making it our top pick.
Best camera: Google Pixel
Its design was mediocre and Google could barely keep up with demand. Yet, the Google Pixel was a great phone that featured a killer camera. Even months after its release, it still offers the best experience and quality of any phone out there.
What’s funny is the Pixel’s camera doesn’t sound like it would be particularly amazing. With a 12.3-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 aperture, it doesn’t even have optical image stabilization. Yet, it produces beautiful pictures, which you can then upload in high-quality to Google Photos for free.
What phone you buy depends entirely on what feature you feel is most important. Of course, every one of the phones mentioned above can capably fill other categories on this list. The Galaxy S8 could easily replace our top camera pick, while iOS is regarded by many as offering the best mobile software.
Because so many other phones are still expected to come out later this year, this list is in no way final. The iPhone 8 could very well usurp the Google Pixel for best camera, while the Note 8 will undoubtedly offer an even better display than the Galaxy S8.
Which begs the question: Which phone will be the best smartphone of the year?