Your buying guide for the best Android phones in 2017
We’ve reviewed all the major flagship phones available at the moment but plenty more are on the way this year, so the right handset for you might be just around the corner.
Android has the largest market share in the smartphone world, but while Apple’s share is divided between just a few iPhones with obvious differences between them, there are hundreds of Android phones available to buy.
The choice gets even more confusing when you consider that each Android phone manufacturer has multiple Android phone product lines, each with its own features and benefits.
If you’re still considering an iPhone, see how Apple’s phones stack up in our overall round-up of the best smartphones, and once you’ve made a decision you might want to check up our pick of the best phone deals right now.
In our best Android phones chart we focus primarily on flagship devices, with the exception of where a phone lower down the range stands out for its excellent value, feature set or performance. The phones in this group are those most likely to be bought on a contract, however, and their initial cost will be largely irrelevant.
Specifications to look for in an Android phone
When we talk about flagship smartphones, we really just mean the top model in a company’s phone line-up. You’d usually expect to pay between £500- and £600 for it SIM-free, or around £40- to £50 a month on a contract.
But cheaper phones can have flagship specs – and especially when you consider some of the surprisingly affordable Chinese phones we review.
In 2017 a flagship Android phone specification will look something like this:
• Android 7.0 Nougat
• Slim, lightweight metal/glass design
• 5-6in Quad-HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass 4
• Qualcomm Snapdragon 820/821/835 processor or comparable octa-core chip
• 4GB+ of RAM
• 32GB of storage, plus microSD support
• Fingerprint scanner
• 12Mp and higher primary camera with dual-tone flash, optical image stabilisation, laser autofocus and large apertures, plus support for 4K video recording
• 5Mp and higher selfie camera
• 4G LTE Cat.9
• Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
• Bluetooth 4.2
• NFC, GPS, GLONASS, OTG
• Circa-3000mAh battery with fast charging
Looking for phones like the Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel XL? We’ve got a separate chart especially for larger devices, aka phablets, so you can see them ranked here.
Samsung has taken the best phone around and made it even better with an impressive Infinity screen and premium design. It ticks a shedload of boxes – as you’d expect from a flagship. It’s the best phone of 2017 so far, but it is expensive and the biometrics are a let down. The OnePlus 5 is already a strong competitor, and we’re keen to see what Apple can offer in way of a challenge with its iPhone 8.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 review.
2. LG G6
The LG G6 is no doubt a striking smartphone. Metal and glass shimmer while the huge 18:9 screen is impressively brought to life with the improved software and its rounded corner design. It is a more refined smartphone than both the G4 and G5, and should appeal to a broader audience – even if its features aren’t the same globally.
There’s a lot to cover with the G6, and it’s a complicated phone to assess. The differences in hardware and the tweaks in software mean that is a phone that reveals itself to you slowly than the immediacy of, say, a Samsung Galaxy S. The design looks uniform at first until you realise how well it all comes together.
LG has quietly managed to build a mature phone with next to no bezels and some genuinely unique tweaks to software, leaving it feeling fresher and more creative than any Android phone we’ve seen for a while.
The age-old question for LG though – will people buy it?
Read our LG G6 review.
The Pixel 2 is a boring phone until you turn it on. The uninspiring hardware melts away to present you with a bleeding edge vision of the Android future, with machine learning fully integrated. It’s not quite there yet, but this is where we are heading.
The camera, one lens down on some competitors, is better than all of them in most situations thanks to the superior software onboard. You only get that benefit when you buy Google hardware, and the company is finally realising the end to end product that Apple has been making for a decade.
If you want a smartphone to fawn over and make your friends jealous with, you won’t want the Pixel 2. But it’s faster than the Galaxy S8 and takes better photos. It delivers the best overall camera and software experience on any Android smartphone to date.
Read our Google Pixel 2 review.
4. OnePlus 5
The OnePlus 5 is a logical refinement of the young company’s back catalogue. It marries solid design with excellent software in a package under £500. But a year ago, it did this all for a sliver over £300.
The phone feels like the end of OnePlus phase one and a bridge to whatever the company does next. It might not be the obvious bargain price OnePlus is known for but it’s still significantly cheaper, is incredibly fast and has improved cameras.
There are downsides with no waterproofing, Quad HD screen or wireless charging. We strongly recommend considering this phone if you’ve been tempted by the Galaxy S8 or LG G6 but can’t stretch to them – the fact it’s in that conversation is testament to OnePlus’ continuing impressive achievements.
Read our OnePlus 5 review.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a stunning smartphone, both in terms of design and performance. The mirror-like look isn’t for everyone due to the appearance of smudges, but it helps provide an elegant, high-end look.
The 4K HDR display is one-of-a-kind, bright and vibrant, and shows off snaps taken by the impressive Motion Eye camera perfectly. The camera itself can handle almost anything you can throw at it, although performance does slip in low-lit conditions and the super slow-mo video mode takes some practice.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous high-end smartphone with a huge focus on display and cameras with above average battery life, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a solid option.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ Premium review.
We’re really impressed by the Galaxy S8 Plus, just as we are with the regular S8. Samsung has done a great job of making last year’s phones even better.
Both offer the infinity edge screen and most people will be better off saving money and going for the S8 unless you specifically want the Plus’s larger display. Otherwise it’s hard to find any other reason to buy it over the smaller phone.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review.
7. HTC U11
There’s a lot to like about the HTC U11 and while it certainly has flagship level specs, it’s hard to differentiate in the market against the likes of Samsung and LG. The glossy and colourful design is fresh but won’t be for everyone, even though we’re glad it’s finally waterproof. The key is wether you want the squeezable Edge Sense feature which is useful at times but not something we’re blown away by.
Read our HTC U11 review.
The Pixel 2 XL is a fantastic phone. It’s well designed, well built and looks great. The screen issues could put you off, and don’t forget there’s no headphone socket or microSD slot.
This is where the Galaxy S8 Plus comes in: it’s slightly cheaper and has both of those features and matches the Pixel in just about every area.
The Pixel does win out on camera quality – just – but has the advantage of quick updates to future Android releases and unlimited photo and video storage for three years.
Read our Google Pixel 2 XL review.
9. Huawei P10
The Huawei P10 is an impressive beast – it’s gorgeous, powerful and the dual cameras are a huge improvement over the 2016 flagship, the P9. Portrait mode works better than expected, photos are crisp, vibrant and detailed and even the selfie camera has had a meaningful upgrade. Huawei’s EMUI, one of the most controversial Android overlays, is much better to use than with previous smartphones, and offers machine learning algorithms that should speed up your phone the more you use it. Even the price is competitive at £499.
The only downside? Despite being of a high capacity, the battery life of the P10 isn’t great, and some users may find that they have to plug it in to top it up once or twice a day, just to get through.
Read our Huawei P10 review.