These Are the Best Smartphones You Can Buy Right Now
Smartphones are also quite an investment, typically costing anywhere between $350 and $700. So when shopping for a new device, it’s important to make the right choice. Which smartphone is right for you? Here’s a look at our favorite models on the market right now.
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Note: All prices refer to the full cost of the phone without carrier subsidies, payment plans, or discounts. This roundup only includes phones that are currently available for purchase.
Apple iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus
For many people, Apple’s iPhone embodies the best mix of design, usability, and processing power. Apple’s most recent flagship smartphones are no different: both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models feature improved cameras, speedy performance, and long battery life. (Read TIME‘s full review here.)
What makes the 7 Plus particularly notable is its dual-lens camera, which brings two primary benefits to iPhone photographers. First, it enables the camera to add a depth effect to images, similar to an effect known as “bokeh” often used in portrait photography to isolate subjects from their background. Second, it brings zooming capabilities that make the iPhone 7 Plus a much better choice for preserving detail from afar than its rivals.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are also the first Apple (AAPL) smartphones that are officially water-resistant — they can withstand being submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes.
Otherwise, little has changed compared to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, save for one noteworthy design tweak. Apple has removed the headphone jack from both phones, but includes an adapter for attaching legacy headphones and a pair of earbuds that plug into the phone’s Lightning charging port.
All told, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are great upgrades for iPhone fans using older models, like the 6 and previous. Those with the iPhone 6s, however, are probably fine waiting til the next big upgrade.
Google Pixel/Pixel XL
The Google Pixel, with its sharp camera, good looks, and easy-to-use software, make it a tempting choice for both Android lovers and iPhone users considering a switch.
Google (GOOGL) is betting that its virtual helper, named the Google Assistant, will set its phone apart from other competing Android devices. The Assistant can handle the same tasks as Google Now, but with enhanced abilities. For now, the Assistant is best at answering questions (i.e. What’s the best way to cook salmon? How do I get a juice stain out of the carpet?), since it pulls snippets of information from Google’s knowledge graph rather than just surfacing web search results. Developers are also building a selection of third-party apps and services that work with Assistant, so you can ask it to call an Uber or reserve a table at a restaurant. One drawback: the Pixel isn’t water resistant, a drawback compared to Apple and Samsung’s latest phones. (Read TIME‘s full review here.)
Samsung Galaxy S7/Galaxy S7 Edge
The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are Samsung’s best smartphones yet. Looks aside, the company’s newest pair of phones both come with a compelling mix of features, including a refined camera that can shoot better photos in low light, great battery life, a water-resistant design, and a beautiful screen. (Read TIME‘s full review here.)
The Edge model comes with a 5.5-inch display that’s slightly curved on one side, unlike the 5.1-inch standard Galaxy S7 (SSNLF). What’s particularly impressive about this, though, is that Samsung was able to squeeze a phablet-sized screen into a phone that only feels slightly larger than its sibling, giving those who want more screen space an option that doesn’t feel uncomfortable to use with one hand. The Galaxy S7’s biggest downside is that its glossy metal and glass design picks up fingerprints very easily, meaning you’ll have to clean it often or cope with a smudged phone.
Huawei Mate 9
With the Mate 9, it’s clear Huawei focused on core features like battery life, camera quality, and performance. The handset will also get Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant through a software update in the coming months. (Read TIME‘s full review.)
But what really sets the Mate 9 apart is its long battery life — it has a larger battery than rivals like the iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel XL, and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. When reviewing the phone, I noticed the battery only depleted by 50% after I had been using it for about 13 hours. Huawei also says its smartphone intelligently tracks usage habits over time, and allocates processing resources accordingly — meaning the phone shouldn’t slow down after you’ve had it for a while.
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The Mate 9 also has a high-quality camera that’s on par with that of its aforementioned competitors. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, Huawei’s device includes a dual lens camera for capturing images with a “bokeh” effect, which blurs backgrounds to make subjects appear crisp and sharp. The Mate 9’s camera, which was co-engineered with Leica, offers a range of controls sure to please photography nuts, like the ability to adjust ISO and other settings. Photographers can even tweak how blurry the background looks when shooting photos with the bokeh effect, which is a useful option not offered on the iPhone 7 Plus.
The Mate 9 is an ideal choice for smartphone shoppers seeking a good-looking, big-screened Android phone that won’t run out of juice easily, although there’s little else that differentiates it from competing smartphones. It also includes lots of annoying apps right out of the box.
Buy now: $599 Huawei Mate 9
Upstart Chinese smartphone company OnePlus calls its phones “flagship killers,” mainly because it prices its smartphones aggressively compared to more well-known competitors like Apple, Samsung, and LG.
The company’s third-generation smartphone, the OnePlus 3, delivers on that promise more so than ever before. The design feels slimmer and more polished than last year’s model, the battery charges faster, and it now includes NFC for making mobile payments. Plus, it offers decently long battery life and its software is clean and easy to use. (Read TIME‘s full review here.)
At $400, it’s an excellent and affordable choice for most Android fans. Still, there are two minor drawbacks that should be considered: it doesn’t support expandable storage like some alternatives, and its camera doesn’t take the best photos in low light. The slightly more expensive OnePlus 3T model includes a processor that’s a bit faster, a larger battery, and has a higher resolution front camera.
The iPhone SE is designed for Apple fans who want something smaller and cheaper than what Apple usually has to offer. It looks almost identical to the iPhone 5s, but with iPhone 6s-level guts on the inside. It has the same processor and camera as Apple’s previous generation flagship, packed into a compact 4-inch device. The SE is also about $250 cheaper than the iPhone 7 and $150 less than the iPhone 6s, making it a bargain compared to Apple’s other options. (Read TIME‘s full review here.)
Buy now: $339 iPhone SE 64GB
Moto Z Droid/Moto Z Force Droid
The slick Moto Z Droid is a worthy option for Verizon customers looking for a thin, polished Android phone.
At 5.19 millimeters thin, The Moto Z Droid is slimmer than most flagship phones, including the iPhone 7, which measures 7.1 millimeters. Its camera is okay — casual users probably won’t complain about the Moto Z’s 13-megapixel shooter, but I’ve found that Samsung and Apple phones produce bolder colors. The more expensive Moto Z includes a higher-resolution 21-megapixel camera, although I didn’t notice much of a difference during my testing. (Read TIME‘s full review here.)
The Force model brings other advantages, including a screen that Motorola says is shatter-resistant and a larger battery. Those upgrades, however, come at the cost of a thicker design.
Both the Moto Z Droid and Force come with a special characteristic that Motorola hopes will make it easier to customize the devices. Each phone includes a magnetic port on its back that makes it possible to snap on accessories called Moto Mods. Current Moto Mods include a $299.99 projector attachment made by Motorola, a $79.99 JBL speaker, and a $299.99 Hasselblad camera lens that adds a 10x optical zoom.
The HTC 10 is a solid bet for those seeking a reliable Android phone that looks and feels nice. It’s an especially great choice for audiophiles, thanks to its impressive speakers and ability to tune frequencies depending on the listener’s preferences. Photography enthusiasts won’t be blown away by the 10, but its camera is adequate enough for casual snappers. The phone performs well overall, and its software is clean and simple. (Read TIME‘s review here.)
Still, the HTC 10 doesn’t offer any particularly unique features that you won’t be able to find on competing devices, so it might be worth shopping around. HTC fans looking for a new Android phone might want to wait — the company will soon launch a new flagship Android phone called the U Ultra. The soon-to-be-released phone will feature HTC’s new virtual assistant, a second screen located near the top of the phone, and a refreshed design, among other changes.
Buy now: Starts at $487 for HTC 10 32GB | $749 for U Ultra