The 10 Best Android Phones
UPDATE: The absolutely phabulous Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has been added to our list of the best Android phones of 2017 – Read on to find out where it placed and why it made the cut!
With an open platform and multiple manufacturers using the operating system, Android was always destined for greatness. Today, Android is easily the biggest mobile OS in Australia.
With only a couple of exceptions, all the companies that were making mobile phones before iOS was launched now run Android.
Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC, Huawei, Google and Motorola all wave the Android flag proudly on their devices.
Still, the many variations in screen size, processing power, software features and design makes finding the best Android phone for you extremely tough.
To help find the best Android phone for you, we've rounded up the best Android handsets out there today, rating the phones on hardware performance, OS upgrade potential and, of course, how shiny and nice they are to have and boast about to work colleagues.
So here they are - the best Android phones money can buy in 2017 – for many, many different reasons.
10. Sony Xperia XZ Premium
Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium was the first smartphone in the world to boast a 4K display. Now, the electronics giant has followed it with another magnificent 4K-ready phone in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
As you would expect, its 5.46-inch UHD display is truly stunning, now also boasting HDR's wider colour gamut for truly breathtaking clarity and vibrant images all round.
The phone itself is quite impressive in terms of specs, with 4GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 64 GB of storage (microSD up to 256GB), a 3,230 mAh battery, a water resistant build and it's also got Sony's unique side-mounted fingerprint scanner.
Though other handsets may have the edge when it comes to raw power, the XZ premium's incredible 4K screen (which boasts a whopping pixel density of 807ppi) is especially magnificent when used to view photos and video taken with the XZ Premium's impressive 19MP primary camera. It's got a dedicated shutter button (which you can half-press to initiate laser autofocus) and is also capable of shooting 720p video footage at a ridiculously slow 960fps. Of course, you can also record 4K footage at 30fps, too.
If there's one drawback to Sony Xperia XZ Premium, it's that its unnecessarily huge bezels distract from the amazing screen in front of you. Sony doesn't really make any meaningful use of the space, either (though there are some front-facing speakers tucked in there), opting to place the fingerprint scanner on the side and use on-screen buttons instead of touch capacitive ones at the bottom.
Still, the Sony Xperia XZ is a seriously slick phone with a jaw-dropping screen (backed by the same Triluminos display technology that powers Sony's 4K TVs). We recommend loading some 4K HDR footage from YouTube on there and watching your friends get extremely jealous of what this phone is capable of.
9. Huawei P10 Plus
While last year's Huawei Mate 9 was already an incredibly impressive phablet, the Huawei P10 Plus takes everything that phone did well and improves upon it, making it an ideal option for those who don't like larger-sized handsets.
Like the Mate 9, it has dual cameras (only this time with no camera bumps whatsoever) and photography is rightly the key selling point of the device. At 20MP and 12MP, these lenses combine monochrome and RGB sensors with a creative Wide Aperture mode that makes it relatively easy to achieve pro-level results.
Trust us when we tell you that you will never tire of applying bokeh effects and changing your picture's point of focus long after it's already been taken. And, if you want to get even deeper with your photography options, a pro mode lets you adjust ISO levels, white balance and more.
It's got a speedy fingerprint sensor on the front (one of the fastest we've ever tested), a gorgeous QHD display, a textured power button with red edging for added pizzazz, a large battery with fast-charging capability, and thanks to the Kirin 960 processor it inherited from the Mate 9, it performs just as terrifically.
It too uses a machine learning algorithm that learns how you use the phone, effectively creating shortcuts to your most-used features. This makes sure that your handset does not show signs of slowed performance for at least the first 18 months of usage.
While it may not have the name recognition of a Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6, it's hard to imagine anyone spending some time for Huawei's flagship and coming away wanting. If you're looking for a phone that takes amazing photos, you're unlikely to find a better option than the Huawei P10 Plus.
8. Google Pixel XL
The Google Pixel XL offers up a pure Android experience on a bigger, higher resolution display than its brother, the Pixel.
The clean, slick interface is a joy to use, while the 12MP snapper round the back delivers some quality shots.
A fingerprint scanner not only keeps the Pixel XL secure, it also uses gestures to give you easier access to the notification bar - saving you from over-stretching your thumb to the top of the screen.
The price is on the steep side, but this is a premium flagship device and while we'd like the battery to be a bit better the XL is still an excellent smartphone.
7. HTC U11
If you're an HTC fan – good news. HTC has brought you a phone that, in many ways, is as good as you could hope for.
It's got a hugely impressive spec list, unique design, innovation in the form of squeezable sides and a great camera. The latest processor buzzes along rapidly inside a phone that's neither too big nor overly compact, and the interface is as slick as anything HTC has ever made.
From the stunning rear glass to the speedy internals to the strong camera to the insanely good audio to the improved (and smart) battery, it's almost hard to find fault with this phone.
The HTC U11 is a strong – very strong – phone. However, it's still one that will only really impress those who want something that looks a bit different, have an affinity to HTC and respect good quality audio from a phone, rather than a handset that will wow you the second you hold it in your hand.
Annoyingly it's still a little expensive for what's on offer, but the price should come down over time.
6. Huawei Mate 9
A vast improvement over the Mate 8, Huawei's latest flagship is the Chinese company's most impressive to date.
Huawei's Mate 9 is a prestige phablet that's equal parts Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (minus the fire) and iPhone 7 Plus, mixed in with the brand's own increasingly-stylish design sensibilities both inside and out. Simply put, everything about the Mate 9 screams sophistication.
With its new EMUI 5.0 OS (based on Android Nougat), the Mate 9 has successfully bridged the gap between iOS and Android, letting users place their apps in an App Drawer or spread all of them across numerous home screen pages, iPhone-style.
Like the Huawei P9, the Mate 9's camera is Leica-branded, and with a bit of tinkering, users can produce photos with professional-looking depth of field effects and incredible detail. We also like the many functions the Mate 9 camera app provides, including a proper monochrome mode with dedicated sensor, as well as modes for document scanning and night shooting.
Performance is impressive, too – Huawei has included its own Machine Learning Algorithm in the Mate 9, which is designed to ensure your phone gets faster over time, and that's backed up by 4GB of RAM and the aforementioned Huawei-made Kirin 960 chipset.
Though it lacks a QHD display like its upper tier rivals, the Mate 9's Full HD screen looks crisp, vibrant and incredibly bright. That said, for those who are after a Daydream View-ready handset, you may be better off with the next phone on our list...
Read the full review: Huawei Mate 9
5. Google Pixel
If you're looking for the ultimate Android experience without any over-complicated features the Google Pixel is the phone for you.
It takes the latest version of Google's software - Android 7.1 Nougat - in its natural form. There's no annoying third-party manufacturer overlay, it's Android as Google intended.
Add to that its premium design (although the glass patch on the rear is a little questionable), excellent camera and huge amount of power under the hood and you've got yourself a rather special smartphone.
The battery life is the weak point for the Pixel, and we'd recommend carrying a charger with you if you're out all day.
4. LG G6
After a couple of wild attempts at shaking up the smartphone game, including last year's modular LG G5 handset, LG has built a more traditional phone with the LG G6, one that takes multiple elements from the top handsets around, blended together to assemble a terrific all-rounder of a handset.
The G6 is a much more conservative design than its predecessor, taking the form of a sealed unit that drops the removable battery of the previous LG flagships, replacing it with a larger-capacity power pack and waterproof shell, which we think is a pretty good trade-off.
While it lacks somewhat in innovation, it makes up for with its impressive Dolby Vision and HDR 10 supporting 18:9 display. This, along with reduced bezels, gives the user more screen real estate to play with, and also introduces some clever little changes to the user interface to exploit the extra pixels, especially when it comes to multi-tasking and photo taking capabilities.
The LG G6 camera is upgraded in a way, but also remains very similar to last year's in others. The same normal and wide-angle camera lenses are back, but they're now both 13MP.
Sure, the LG G6 is a phone that takes things back to basics, but that's what makes it such a great phone for the everyday user. its sleek metal and glass design is attractive, and to anyone using the iPhone 7 Plus, the ratio of screen to body will be eye-opening to say the least. Here's a phone that doesn't need to be phablet-sized to deliver a big viewing experience.
Read the hands on review: LG G6
3. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus
Second place goes to the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. The Galaxy S8 is fantastic, but if you like larger devices, this one is for you.
The size of the Galaxy S8 Plus may put some people off at 6.2-inches, but we found the device easy to use and we don't even mind its higher price.
Everything we love about the Galaxy S8 is available here as Samsung has decided to only really changed the sizes of the screens rather than fiddling with the spec inside the device.
You’re once again protected against the elements, too. Samsung’s phone has an IP68 rating to make it dust- and water-resistant. It can survive 1.5m underwater for 30 minutes – you can probably take it deeper, although we don’t suggest testing your luck or your warranty.
That same powerful 12MP camera and top of the range power setup is here to do everything you want it to as well as the new biometric tech that may allow you to unlock your phone faster than ever before.
Samsung keeps the old-fashioned 3.5mm headphone jack, dismissing early rumours that its new phone would eliminate this still-widely-used port in favour of USB-C audio. The company even includes high-end AKG-branded earbuds in the box for clearer audio.
The Galaxy S8 Plus is the Android phone you want if you like big and tall smartphones. The S8 Plus' amazing display, great camera and slick software are currently second-to-none.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Overtaking Samsung's other large handset or the year, the fantastic Galaxy S8 Plus, Samsung's new Galaxy Note 8 has now taken the 'best phablet of the year' crown. No small feat given the battery problems that plagued last year's Note 7.
Though its design is based heavily on the aforementioned Galaxy S8 Plus, the Galaxy Note 8 differentiates itself by being slightly bigger and sporting the signature squarish look that has been synonymous with the line since its inception. With its retractable S Pen and sophisticated look and feel, you'll know the Note 8 means business from the moment it's held for the first time..
Samsung's class-leading Infinity Display is better than ever here, with the Note 8's 6.3-inch display providing absolutely jaw-dropping HDR images and video from every angle. This is one screen that's bound to turn a few heads.
The Galaxy Note 8 is also the most powerful phone that the company has ever produced, with 6GB of RAM giving it the processing edge over its S8 range. It's also Samsung's first flagship with a dual camera setup, allowing users to take impressive depth-of-field and portrait shots (under the right conditions) and take advantage of 2x optical zoom functionality.
Given last year's battery issues, it's perhaps not surprising that Samsung is not taking any chances with the Note 8's battery, having reduced the size of its significantly with the Note 8 – at 3,300mAh, it’s 200mAh smaller than the battery featured in the S8 Plus, despite being a larger phone with an extra 2GB of RAM to work with. Still, in our experience, the battery has always managed to last a full day of regular usage.
At $1,499, it's also one of the pricier phones on the market. If the Note 8's S Pen functionality isn't essential to you, the cheaper and similarly specced Galaxy S8 Plus might be a better option for you. However, if you're set on owning the most top-of-the-line phablet on the market, the Galaxy Note 8 is certainly worth the price of admission.
1. Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung has once again taken the two top spots of the best Android phone in the world right now.
Samsung's latest Galaxy S8 is in the first place position of this list thanks to an incredible design, amazing display and some truly great power packed into the phone.
Everything that has made Samsung phones great over the last few years has been packed into this 5.8-inch device - that's almost bezel-less too - and comes with top of the range hardware and some easy to use Android software.
The screen is just brilliant, offering the clearest, sharpest picture quality, along with lovely colour reproduction to make movie watching a dream. In terms of design, it's just pure premium from start to finish. The way the front and back of the phone roll into the metal rim that sits around the outside of the phone is simply exquisite, and there's a real pleasure to be had when just rolling this phone around and around in your palm.
There's a new iris scanner to allow you to unlock the phone with just your eyes and Samsung has also included a new voice assistant called Bixby (though it's not entirely ready yet). It's not the perfect device some had hoped for, but it's the best non-phablet Android phone you can buy at the moment.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a phone that should be one of the very first you look at when deciding which new phone you buy. The large, bezel-less display is truly iconic and beautiful, and the screen quality excellent.
Its improved battery life and tweaked camera will be among the best you’ll find on a top-end flagship. The Galaxy S8 is an expensive phone – make no mistake about it – but it’s one that we consider to be well worth the investment.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is easily one of the best phones on the market. Heck, it’s probably one of the best phones ever made, and will be pointed to in future retrospectives as a real turning point in smartphone design.
As always, the next generation of innovative smart phones is just around the corner. So if you're the kind of person that will not settle for anything other than the latest, most cutting edge handset on the market, you may want to hold your horses and wait for one of these phones to launch in Australia.
Huawei Mate 10
The Huawei Mate 9 was one of the best large screen phones of 2016, offering great battery life, impressive internal power and a good snapper on the back of the handset.
One of the most prolific Mate 10 rumours suggests the company is planning to include larger display with a reduced bezel size on its next phablet device.
We also heard that it will be a 6.0-inch 2,160 x 1,080 display with a 2:1 aspect ratio. That would make it long and narrow, again like key rivals.
Like it did with the P10 and Mate 9, Huawei is putting a lot of money into its dual-camera tech made in partnership with Leica, and it's expected that the Chinese company will also upgrade the front-facing camera for the Mate 10.
It's now confirmed that Huawei will debut its highly anticipated Kirin 970 chipset on the phone, which we also expect to see on next year's Huawei P11.
According to Huawei CEO Richard Yu, the Mate 10 will be more powerful than the new iPhone - a bold claim which we certainly hope is true.
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2
We knew they were coming, but now, Google has officially announced its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets, with the former available from October 15, 2017, and the latter releasing some time in November 2017.
If you're familiar with the last year's Pixel lineup, you pretty much know what to expect in terms of the Pixel 2's design. That said, the larger Pixel XL 2 has adopted the almost bezel-less design that's become all the rage this year following the release of the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
The two-toned design that Google implemented on the rear of its two phones last year is back, standing out even more this time around. Both phones will sport an aluminium design and curved edges on the back of the device.
While the Nokia 8 is one of the most powerful flagship devices currently on the market, rumours have suggested that Nokia isn't done yet, with the premium Nokia 9 handset set to arrive in the next few months.
Not much is known about the device, however it is expected to outperform even the stellar Nokia 8 handset, which means it has our full attention. Expect to hear more about it in the coming months.