Holiday Gift Guide 2018 – 2019: Best Smartphones
Smartphones have managed to become an integral part of our lives, it’s a device that you always have on you, a device which you use as your camera, which provides you with news, a device which lets you stay in touch with your loved ones, and so on. Choosing the right smartphone is not an easy task, that’s for sure, as there are tons of them out there, but each of them has its advantages and disadvantages, so it all depends on what you’re looking for in a smartphone. If you check out our holiday gift guide list down below, you will notice that we’ve categorized our recommendations, each of these phones is best at something, and no matter what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find it here… presuming you’re looking for the best of the best, of course.
Prices below are subject to change. This post will be updated regularly to ensure the most up-to-date pricing, but during the holidays, there will be flash sales and price drops so keep that in mind.
Best All-Around Smartphone – the one that has it all, for the most part
The Samsung Galaxy Note9 is one of the most expensive mainstream smartphones out there, but it’s also one that has the most to offer, arguably, of course. The Galaxy Note9 has one of the best displays in the market, if not the best, and it’s quite large at 6.4 inches, so it’s perfect for media consumption. The Galaxy Note9 is made out of metal and glass, and it has a slightly curved on its display, so it looks quite sleek on the outside, while it’s quite powerful on the inside, boasting the Snapdragon 845 SoC (in the US), 6GB / 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage. The phone is also IP68 certified for water and dust resistance, which will give you a piece of mind in a rain or if you drop the phone in a puddle, and on top of all that, the Galaxy Note9 also comes with an extremely capable cameras, that goes for both its rear-facing cameras, and a front-facing unit. To top it all off, Samsung has also included an extremely capable stylus in this phone, the S Pen stylus, which now has Bluetooth functionality, and it adds quite a few additional functions to the table, it can now only serve you as a remote shutter for the camera, but it can interact with the phone in a number of other ways.
Best Value For Money & Best Performance – best flagship experience for under $600
OnePlus 6T is the latest and greatest smartphone that OnePlus has to offer, and it once again offers a lot for the asking price. If you’re looking to get the flagship experience, but your budget is under $600, the OnePlus 6T is definitely worth checking out. This smartphone not only offers a really sleek metal + glass build, and a huge 6.39-inch fullHD+ OLED display, but it also has a really high screen-to-body ratio. The OnePlus 6T comes with a tiny display notch, and it is fueled by the most powerful processor that Qualcomm has to offer at the moment. The device comes in both 6GB and 8GB RAM variants, and all that in combination with OnePlus’ optimized, stock-inspired software, called OxygenOS, the OnePlus 6T is one of the fastest phones out there when it comes to day-to-day use. The device comes with the same camera sensors as its predecessor, but OnePlus boosted the quality of images this phone can shoot via software, so it’s not lacking in that department either, and on top of everything, it has a 3,700mAh battery on the inside.
Best Flagship Experience On A Tight Budget – if you have less than $400 to spend
The Poco F1 comes from a company called Pocophone, which is essentially Xiaomi’s sub-brand. The Poco F1 packs in great specs at its price range, there’s not a phone out there that comes close to it at that price tag. The Poco F1 is fueled by the Snapdragon 845 64-bit octa-core processor, equips 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The device also features a 6.18-inch fullHD+ display, which is quite solid, even though it’s not an OLED panel. On the back of the device, you will find 12 and 5-megapixel cameras which are actually quite capable, and also perform better than you’d expect considering the price tag of this smartphone.
Best Battery – the road warrior
If you simply love physical keyboards, and the feedback they offer, there are not many Android-running choices out there, and most of them come from BlackBerry. The BlackBerry KEY 2 is currently the most powerful smartphone that the company is selling, and it does come with a really capable physical keyboard. This keyboard is touch sensitive, it’s great or typing, and it allows you to utilize a ton of shortcuts, you can basically assign a new shortcut for every key on the keyboard. On top of all that, a fingerprint scanner is built into the space bar on the keyboard. The BlackBerry KEY 2 is easily recognizable in the public, and its battery life is also quite good.
Best Compact Flagship – if you need a compact monster
The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is one of the very few smartphones that are tiny, and yet offer flagship-grade specs and performance. This smartphone comes with a 5-inch fullHD+ display, and it is fueled by the most powerful processor Qualcomm has to offer. The device is IP68-certified for water and dust resistance, while it comes with stereo speakers, on top of everything. The Xperia XZ2 Compact has the same main camera sensor as the Xperia XZ2 and XZ3, and it’s capable of delivering great pictures. The phone also boasts a 2,870mAh battery, which may not seem like a great deal compared to most other flagships out there, but considering the size of the display here, that battery is able to provide more than enough juice for the Xperia XZ2 Compact.
Best Camera Smartphone – if you need a great camera smartphone on auto settings
The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are the latest smartphones from Google, and are first in line to receive new versions of Android, straight from the company, while on top of that, these smartphones are great when it comes to shooting pictures on auto settings without messing around with the camera app. Both devices are running a stock version of Android, so if that’s your thing, and you like what it delivers, it doesn’t get any cleaner than this. On top of everything, both devices offer the same camera setup, and despite the fact they have a single camera on the back, that camera is able to provide you with great pictures in collaboration with Google’s software. The two devices may be a bit uninspired when it comes to the design, especially the Pixel 3 XL, but they do have a lot to offer overall.
Best Audio Smartphone – if audio is everything to you
The LG V40 ThinQ has its shortcoming, that’s true, but if you’re looking for a great audio smartphone, the LG V40 ThinQ is hard to beat. This smartphone comes with a Quad DAC for audio, while it also offers stereo speakers. No matter if you’re looking for a capable audio smartphone for all to listen to (speakers), or something that you’ll enjoy by using headphones, this is a good choice. The device does come with a 3.5mm headphone jack, and thanks to its Quad DAC, and LG’s optimizations, it’s a great audio smartphone. The device has been tuned by Meridian Audio, while DTS:X surround sound is a part of the package, not to mention that it has an active noise cancellation microphone as well. The device is capable of 24-bit/48kHz audio recording, and 32-bit/192kHz audio output.
Smartphone With Best Speakers – if you’re looking for the best speakers around
The HTC U12+ is not exactly as popular as HTC had hoped, but the company’s flagship has its upsides, quite a few of them, in fact. The phone’s most notable feature are probably its speakers. the HTC BoomBox speakers are great thanks to the hardware itself and the general BoomSound setup that the company has going on. These are the company’s loudest speakers yet, and they’re actually really good and bassy in general. On top of having great speakers, the HTC U12+ is also quite a powerful smartphone, with the Snapdragon 845, 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, not to mention that it’s really good looking as well.
Best Gaming Smartphone – if you’re a mobile gamer
There are several really powerful gaming smartphone out there these days, but the ASUS ROG Phone is definitely worth singling out. The ASUS ROG Phone is easily recognizable in the public, while it comes with two Type-C USB ports, which allows you to either plug in your cable on the bottom, or on the side of the device, so that your gaming is not affected by an awkward grip. This phone comes with per-app settings for the best gaming experience possible, while its display has a 90Hz refresh rate. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 SoC is included here, and you can set its clock speed per-game, so you can go as high as 3GHz, in which case the phone’s water cooling will definitely come in handy. The phone’s LED light strip (ROG’s logo) on the back can be customized, and you will have quite a few gaming accessories on your disposal should you get this smartphone.
Best Designed Smartphone – if you’re all about the design
The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are still considered to be the best-designed smartphones around, despite the fact that some phones sport considerably less bezel. The Galaxy S9 and S9+, as a whole, cater to both consumers who want smaller and larger devices, while neither of these phones have a display notch. Neither of these phones have a sliding camera mechanism, or a pop-up camera mechanism at all, while you’re also getting a curved display on both devices which looks really nice, on top of being amongst the best in the business. It is also worth saying that the Galaxy S9 and S9+ look the same, save for their rear-facing camera setups, as the Galaxy S9+ has one extra camera back there.
Best For Durability – if you like phones that feel really sturdy in the hand
The Razer Phone 2 is a gaming smartphone, and it’s great at that, but it’s also a great phone if you like industrial design, and that hefty feel in the hand. The Razer Phone 2’s bezels are thicker than on most modern flagships, not to mention that the phone is made out of metal, while most other combine metal with glass. The Razer Phone 2 also doesn’t sport curved front or back, while the same can be said for the corners of the smartphone, which makes it even larger than it seems. If you like your phone to feel like a tank, while you also want a flagship at the same time, the Razer Phone 2 is the way to go.
Best Smartphone With Camera Sliding Mechanism – if you’re adamant to get that truly bezel-free look
The Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 is the latest flagship from Xiaomi, and it features a camera sliding mechanism, though it has somewhat different implementation compared to the OPPO Find X. The Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 does not have a motorized setup, and in this case, its front-facing cameras are hidden away only. You will need to slide the phone’s front side down with your thumb in order to reveal the phone’s front-facing cameras, similar to some sliding phones back in the day, but in the other direction, basically. The Mi MIX 3 is made out of metal and ceramic, while it comes with the Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6.39-inch fullHD+ AMOLED display, and 6GB / 8GB of RAM.
Best Smartphone With A Motorized Sliding Camera Mechanism – if you’re looking for the most futuristic smartphone out there
The OPPO Find X is OPPO’s flagship, and a smartphone that comes with a motorized sliding camera mechanism. All the cameras on this smartphone are hidden away until you fire up the camera application, after which they will automatically appear. Because of this, the OPPO Find X has a really high screen-to-body ratio, and the cleanest design, as its cameras are not visible at all. The phone is made out of metal and glass, while it sports a really tiny ‘chin’ below the display. The phone’s display is curved on the sides, and the device is fueled by the Snapdragon 845, while it comes with 8GB of RAM, and a 6.42-inch fullHD+ display.