From the latest Apple offerings to strong Android contenders, we pick out the best of the new handsets.
Smartphones have never been, er, smarter, with advanced processors, cameras that have software to do things traditional cameras can’t and the most sophisticated displays yet.
The latest trend is to stretch the display as far across the front of the phone as possible, to find the sweet spot of maximum screen in minimum phone size. Maximum screen doesn’t come cheap, mind.
Many new phones are waterproof, too. Not the Pixel 2 XL, Nokia 8, OnePlus or BlackBerry, but the others will survive getting wet.
Here are the 10 bobby-dazzlers that aim to be the computer in your pocket that can run your life and something else… what was it? Oh, that’s right, make phone calls.
Apple iPhone X:
At this price, it had better be something special. Well, it is. The most expensive mainstream mobile wins our Best Buy because of the handsome, opulent design and a gorgeous 5.8in display which virtually covers the front of the phone, but for a line of sensors at the top of the screen. These include a 7-megapixel camera which has remarkable facial recognition capabilities. Look at it, and the phone unlocks, reliably and fast. It also has wireless charging (if you have an optional charging pad) as well as through a regular cable, twin rear 12-megapixel cameras, waterproofing and an extremely fast processor running everything at speed. Expensive, but worth it.
Samsung Galaxy Note8:
Samsung’s Note8 is a slick machine with sloping edges to the 6.3in display that give a sumptuous look. Like the iPhone X, it has facial recognition, though not quite as reliable as Apple’s. It also has a fingerprint sensor, on the back of the phone. The twin 12-megapixel cameras work together for depth-of-field effects, where the subject is pin-sharp while the background is artfully blurred. Apple’s iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus perform similar tricks. The Note8 has a stylus called the S-Pen which tucks into the corner of the phone and offers extra features including scribbling notes on the screen.
Google Pixel 2 XL:
Google makes the software that all the phones here apart from the iPhones use. The Pixel 2 has hardware made by Google, too. The 12-megapixel camera, although it’s not a dual camera, its clever software can still create a depth-of-field effect. Like some other phones here, its display covers almost all the phone front. The phone has the purest, latest software version with neat new features like Now Playing which listens to music played nearby and displays the track name automatically on the lock screen. Like the latest iPhones, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Pixel 2 XL. If it’s too big for you, a smaller-screened version is also available.
The newest handset from the revived Nokia, made by a Finnish company called HMD Global, is an elegant and attractive phone. The 5.3in display is high-resolution and looks great. The 13-megapixel camera on the rear is made in conjunction with Zeiss. And Nokia has a gimmick up its sleeve: you can shoot rear and front cameras together, so if selfies aren’t enough you can go for what Nokia calls “bothies”. It also has clever speakers which make video sound tremendous. Nokia is a well-loved brand that has delivered a phone as good as any in its history.
This is the squeezy phone: the sides are pressure-sensitive so when you squeeze it, you can snap a selfie, turn on the torch, or whatever function you set it to do. The 5.5in display is sharp and bright and there’s a decent 12-megapixel camera on the backz. And if selfies are your thing, the front-facing camera is even more powerful with its 16-megapixel sensor. The shimmering finish of the back of the phone is beautiful. This is another of the waterproof phones.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro:
The latest phone from Chinese manufacturer Huawei is sleek, attractive and powerful, with a processor that boasts artificial intelligence. The effect of this is that it can automatically choose settings as it takes a photograph because it recognises whether you’re snapping a dog, fireworks or just your lunch. The cameras are designed with Leica and there are two on the back – one 20-megapixel black-and-white sensor and a 12-megapixel colour one. The monochrome shoots fast for maximum sharpness and the other one is used to offer colour fidelity. The 6in display looks fantastic.
Sony Xperia XZ1:
Sony’s phones are known for exceptional cameras (19-megapixel on this model) and outstanding battery technology, maximising battery life both in terms of day-to-day stamina and over the lifetime of the battery. The phone is very lightweight and has a distinctive styling. There are special effects like a super-slow motion video recording feature (960 frames per second). Sony was one of the first to make its phones waterproof, a feature found in this phone, too.
Apple iPhone 8 Plus: from
If you don’t need the very latest, most revolutionary iPhone X, then this handset is less expensive but has many of the same cutting-edge features as the X, such as the processor, wireless charging and so on. It also has twin rear cameras which are almost as good as on the iPhone X. The 5.5in display means this is a big phone in the hand, but it also means the battery is big and lasts well.
Chinese manufacturer OnePlus has created a powerful phone but sells it for much less than you might think. The display is the same size and resolution as the pricier iPhone 8 Plus and the OnePlus also has two rear cameras – a 20-megapixel telephoto and a 16-megapixel wide-angle respectively. There’s also a 16-megapixel front camera for standout selfies. The design isn’t as deluxe as some rivals but the price tag is impressive.
Although this is BlackBerry’s latest, it clocks in at a great price. If you do a lot of texting or emailing, this is a knockout choice because it has a proper, physical QWERTY keyboard that’s easy to use. And it’s a smart keyboard including a fingerprint sensor in the space bar and extra features which can be assigned to each key. The 12MP camera is good but not outstanding. BlackBerry used to favour its own operating system – now it uses Android but with extra levels of security on top. Because of the keyboard, the display is smaller than rivals here, at 4.5in, but still highly usable. Strong battery life, too.
The Verdict: Smartphones
The Apple iPhone X (pronounced 10) is a striking, powerful. It is expensive but has so much technology inside it’s actually good value. It’s the most exciting phone in years. Nokia and BlackBerry have both delivered great phones in 2017 and the Samsung Note 8 is also a ground-breaker.