These are the best smartphones released in 2018
WITH Christmas just around the corner and Boxing Day sales soon to follow, you could be looking to upgrade your smartphone.
Having been lucky enough to test many of the products currently available, I have broken down my picks for the devices of the year in order of my recommendation.
Just like it has in previous years, the Galaxy Note 8 takes the design fundamentals of the current Galaxy S model and puts them on a much larger device.
It has a 6.3-inch, 2960x1440 pixel Infinity Display, with almost all of the bezel and physical home button removed to give the most screen display possible.
The physical home button has been replaced with a virtual key on the bottom of the display, while the fingerprint scanner has been removed to the rear of the device.
The screen uses Super AMOLED technology, which means it's capable of displaying the same colours, high contrast, and inky dark blacks seen on HDR enabled TVs.
Admittedly HDR content for mobile is still rare in Australia, but with Netflix adding the Note 8 to its list of supported devices, you should have some quality choices.
Both the front and rear of the device are made of glass, with a metal frame wrapping around the perimeter holding it all together.
The rear camera has also been designed to sit almost entirely flush with the surface.
At the bottom of the Note 8 is the single bottom-firing speaker, USB-C charging port and Samsung's S-Pen stylus, which is ejected from the phone.
The S-Pen is small, responsive and easy to use, with a menu showing all of its functions appearing on the screen when the stylus is ejected.
I found the feature most useful when scribbling down quick notes on the fly or when I want to get on the tune using the Live Message feature - something that turns my S-Pen stylus scribbles into GIFs that are sent through Facebook Messenger.
The Galaxy Note 8 is the world's first smartphone with two 12MP rear cameras with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on both the wide-angle lens and the telephoto lens - this means blur-free photos from either sensor.
The dual camera is also a nice change from the Galaxy S8, which I criticised for only having one.
I found the camera fantastic, especially when using Samsung's 'Live Focus' feature that allows you to create the "bokeh" effect seen with many smartphones using dual cameras.
The phone also offers fantastic 2X zoom capabilities that offer the detail and quality to get any smartphone photography enthusiast excited.
Other than the dual camera, photography is relatively similar to the S8 and includes shooting modes like panorama, slow motion, virtual shot, and a pro mode with full manual controls.
The 8MP front-facing camera on Note 8 is also high quality, with Samsung's smart autofocus ensuring sharp and clear selfies.
The device also offers fingerprint and iris scanning to unlock the device, wireless charging and is fully protected from dust and able to handle being submerged in 1.5 metre of static water for up to 30 minutes.
Its 3,300 mAh battery ensures you would easily get a day's use out of the device with regular usage and fast charging will help you top up quickly when needed.
Under the hood, the phone is powered by Samsung's octa-core Exynos 8895 CPU and 6GB of RAM supporting all the usual 4G network bands.
• Has a removable stylus
• Beautiful 6.3-inch display
• World's first smartphone with two 12MP rear cameras with Optical Image Stabilization
• Could be a little large for some people
• Fingerprint scanner in strange position
The Note 8 retails for $A1499.
There is no denying Google's Pixel 2 XL has a sexy design, with the six-inch OLED display softly curving into the edges of the phone, leaving minimum bezel on the sides.
The horizontal bezels hiding the dual, front facing camera are thicker than what is seen on industry-leading devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone X or LG V30.
If you're someone who prefers audio over design, the bezel should be of little concern with the XL offering very loud sound that has no distortion even when turned to full blast.
The XL has also continued with the two-toned pairing of glass and aluminium, with the later now taking up the majority of the back.
Inside the top glass section is the large rear-facing camera, flash and accompanying sensors.
The fingerprint scanner remains on the rear of the device, with Google ensuring its texture matches the matt finish on the rear of the device.
On the bottom of the XL is a single USB-C charger, but the 3.5mm headphone jack has been completely removed.
One of the most impressive features of the XL is the "active edge" - a feature that allows you to squeeze the side of the phone to summon Google Assistant.
The XL has a 12.2MP shooter on the back and 8MP on the front, which both offer quality shots.
It doesn't have the dual camera of the iPhone or Galaxy Note 8, but Google has managed to create the same bokeh effect using an algorithm - now that's clever.
In terms of video, the XL can shoot slow-mo at up to 240 frames per second and can shoot 4K at 30fps. Google's optical and electrical image stabilisation gives smooth video when shooting in rough conditions, although it's still no match for something like a GoPro.
The Pixel XL 2 is fully protected from dust and capable of being submerged under one metre of water for up to half an hour.
The device has an Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processors, 4GB of RAM and offers either 64GB or 128GB of storage - sadly there is no option to expand via microSD like with other Androids.
Google has opted for Android Oreo 8.0, without adding any skins or alterations like seen on competing devices.
Since launch, the Pixel 2 XL has been plagued with a number of display problems including dull colours, a blue tint when the display is viewed at an angle and screen burn.
Google has said it will fix these minor issues ahead of the next software update.
• One of the best cameras on a phone
• Summon Google Assistant by squeezing the side
• Uses Android Oreo 8.0, without adding any skins or alterations
• Glass design can leave fingerprints
• Can't watch 4K video you capture in the format
• No MicroSD expansion
The Google Pixel 2 retails for $A1399 for the 64GB model or $A1549 for the 128GB.
The Mate 10 Pro has ditched the smaller 5.9-inch display, making the new screen 6-inches, with a 2,160x1,080-pixel resolution.
Like most premium phones on the market, the Mate 10 Pro has removed the physical home button from the front to allow for maximum screen space.
The device has minimum bezel on the sides and a small bar across the bottom and top - thankfully Huawei didn't go the way of the iPhone X and its nasty notch.
Huawei has switched the rear design from metal to glass, with the fingerprint scanner also on the back below the camera.
The position of the fingerprint scanner feels natural, offering a fast and accurate response.
At the bottom of the device is the USB-C charging port and a single speaker that offers more than enough volume for your day-to-day use.
For those who haven't joined us in 2017, there is no physical headphone jack, which means you will need an adaptor or upgrade to wireless headphones.
The phone has 128GB of in-built storage, but sadly offers no MicroSD expansion.
As with all Huawei models, the device has an industry-leading camera designed in collaboration with lens company Leica.
The rear dual camera set up is similar to the shooter found on the Huawei P10, with a 12MP sensor taking shots in colour and 20MP sensor shooting exclusively in black and white.
To simplify the process, the Mate 10 Pro uses object recognition and machine learning to automatically adjust the settings so you can get the best shot depending on the subject.
The front camera also includes "beauty mode, which smooths out imperfections on your skin - just be warned it might look a little too fake.
Video footage taken using the Mate 10 Pro is shot in 4K.
Huawei has made its latest flagship water resistant - it can be submerged in up to 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes.
The Mate 10 pro is every bit as speedy as you'd expect from a top-end phone, with the latest Kirin 970 octa-core processor and 6GB of RAM found on the device.
One of the most impressive features is the 4,000mAh battery, which Huawei claims will give at least two days of use - if you are not using your phone.
• High quality, but doesn't break the bank
• Industry-leading camera designed in collaboration with lens company Leica
• Huge battery life
• Glass design can leave fingerprints
• Can't watch 4K video you capture in the format
• No MicroSD expansion
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro retails for $A1099
Easily the sexiest release of the year, the 'Infinity Display' of the S8 Plus maximises the nearly bezel-less screen by using the curved glass to remove the left and right borders, with the top and bottom including only what is needed for things like the front-facing camera and iris scanner.
The tallest phone the company has produced, the S8+ measures a whopping 6.2-inches, while the S8 has a much more humble 5.8-inch display.
Despite the S8+ having such a long display, it measures only 73.4mm wide, making it thinner than the iPhone 7 Plus and easier to operate in one hand - this coming from a man genetically cursed with little sausage fingers.
When watching 16:9 content on the 6.2-inch display you will have black bars on the side of the content, however if watching cinematic content shot in 2.35:1 or 2.39:1, the entire display will be filled, offering marvellous content.
To help with the bezel-less display, Samsung has replaced the physical home button with virtual buttons and the branding has been moved to the rear of the phone.
Also located on the back is the rear camera, which has been made to sit almost flush with the screen
The fingerprint scanner on the back sits to the left of the camera and while aesthetically pleasing, it's a little awkward for unlocking the device at times and can lead to some nasty smudges on your camera.
Thankfully there is the option for passcode facial recognition and iris scanning to avoid this issue when unlocking the device.
The 12-megapixel rear camera has the same specifications as the S7, which is a little disappointing.
The Galaxy S8 features the water and dust resistance you've come to expect from Galaxy phones.
As for the battery life, the S8 Plus has three display settings, allowing you to run the phone at either a WQHD+ (2960 x 1440), FHD+ (2220 x 1080) or HD+ (1480 x 730) resolution, with the lower tiers obviously offering more battery life.
With the default FHD+ setting, the 3,500 mAh battery allows you to expect around eight hours battery life, which is pretty standard and not all bad with wireless adaptive fast charging.
Also included on the phone is Bixby - Samsung's own personal assistant to rival Siri and Google Assistant.
• Slim, sleek and sexy - this design is phenomenal
• High screen to body ratio of 84 per cent
• No exploding battery saga
• Phone is very fragile without protective case
• Fingerprint scanner in strange location
• Camera hasn't seen a huge update from its predecessor.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ cost $1199 and $1349, respectively.
LG has opted to follow the 2017 mould with minimal bezel and no physical home button to offer maximum space.
The six inch display has an 18:9 aspect ratio and the LCD screen has been swapped to an OLED - a move that makes sense given LG dominates the TV market.
While the OLED display does offer breathtaking colour accuracy for the most past, I did find a slight blue tinge when looking at the screen from strange viewing angles.
The screen is housed in a smooth glass back and has a shiny aluminium band around the sides, with the later housing the volume rocker and SIM/microSD tray.
On the bottom of the device is a USB-C charger and bottom-firing speaker grill, while the 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the top.
The phone's power button is cleverly located on the rear of the device where it doubles as the fingerprint scanner used to unlock the V30+ - thankfully it's more central than the off-centre scanner found on Samsung's flagships.
For those who are coming from the company's previous V-series handsets, you will notice the second screen has been removed, although you can get a similar feature by turning on the new Floating Bar in settings.
LG offers a dual 16MP/13MP rear camera set up, with the later used for wide angle shots.
The camera offers bright, sharp pictures with very little noise in both bright and low light situations, however it doesn't match the likes of Samsung of Google's flagships.
While auto mode will offer great shots, playing around with the manual settings can increase the quality.
On the front of the device is a 5MP shooter, which is a little lacklustre compared to the quality of other competitors on the market
One of the biggest changes to this phone is a comprehensive suite of options in the camera software, with cinematic video filters developed to enhance the 4K footage.
This means users can essentially add an Instagram-esque type filter to footage, giving it the appearance it's been shot by a professional videographer.
LG has stepped away from the removable battery to offer better design, but the 3300mAh cell still offers decent life.
Instead of moving its operating system to Android Oreo, LG has opted to stick with Nougat with its own visual interface overlaid.
The device comes with 64GB of storage as standard, which can be expanded up to 256GB.
LG has also made the V30+ IP68 water resistant, meaning it can be submerged in 1.5m of water for up to thirty minutes.
The V30+ also offers Hi-Fi Quad DAC Audio, which essentially converts your digital music into an analog signal so it can be amplified by speakers and headphones without distortion.
• Hi-Fi Quad DAC Audio
• Power button doubles as fingerprint scanner
• Awesome video features
• Can give blue tinge from some viewing angles
• Not the biggest battery
• Average forward facing camera
The V30+ retails for $1199.
Featuring the same technology used in Sony's Bravia TVs, the company has developed the first smartphone in the world to include a 4K HDR display.
This means it has enough pixels to be able to display four times the level of detail seen on Full HD 1080p screens, while High Dynamic Range transforms your viewing experience by offering greater detail in bright and dark areas.
To put this into perspective, the XZ Premium's display has 3840 x 2160 pixels, which far exceeds the 1080 x 1920 and 1440 x 2960 pixel resolutions offered by the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8, respectively.
While the smartphone obviously delivers very sharp and clear images, it's hard not to think the benefit of such technology is slightly lost on a 5.5-inch display - plus setting the device to its most vibrant and bright settings will burn through the phone's 3,230mAh battery.
You also need internet over 15 Mbps to stream content available in 4K, which is extremely limited for mobile devices in Australia at this point.
That aside, I still can't help but love the feature - if only for the fact I get to tell people my smartphone is better quality than their TV.
The 4K HDR display isn't the only trick shot on the device, with the XZ Premium holding the ability to record incredibly slow motion video.
While all of the competitor smartphones on the market can only record slow motion at maximum of 240 frames per second, the XZ Premium can record video at 960fps - making it four times slower than any other smartphone.
Unfortunately Sony has downgraded from the 23MP rear camera seen on its predecessor, although its 19MP replacement still offers high quality images.
The device also has a 13MP front-facing snapper, which is capable record videos in Full HD resolution.
Sony might not have moved too far from the brand's signature rectangular shape, but the XZ Premium has been tweaked to have a much curvier body than its predecessors.
Sadly there is a thick bezel around the screen - especially at the top and bottom - which looks slightly ugly when compared to the sleek design of Samsung's S8.
Sony has once again placed fingerprint scanner on the side of the device and the headphone jack at the top, while the bottom is home to the USB-C charging port.
The glossy Gorilla Glass 5 finish of the XZ Premium adds a nice touch of class to the design, although it is very susceptible to grubbily little fingerprints, which is something to keep in mind.
Sony's strong links to audio can be seen on the device, which delivers detail and clarity from the stereo speakers.
Like the earlier model, the XZ Premium is protected against water spills and dust with IP65/68 certification.
The XZ Premium also has 64GB of storage, with the ability to expand with a microSD card.
• 4K HDR display
• 960fps super slow motion
• Quality speakers built in to the phone
• Doesn't look as sexy as other phones
• Fingerprints are very noticeable
• Battery life still not the best
If you want to make the switch to Android from an iPhone, this is the perfect device - because it's pretty much a replica of Apple's design.
The rear panel has a premium metal unibody with a dual lens camera and flash layout that is almost indistinguishable to that of the iPhone 7 Plus.
Oppo's R11 volume rocker, power key and SIM card tray are also very similar to the positioning found with Apple's product.
The 5.5-inch full high definition screen almost blends into the edges of the phone, with the bezel measuring just 1.66mm wide - while impressive it can't match Samsung's S8 impressively high screen to body ratio of 84 per cent.
While other Androids have the fingerprint scanner on the rear, Oppo has moved it to the home button on the front of the device, which is another similarity to Apple.
Oppo has also included capacitive buttons beside the R11's oval-shaped home button, which only illuminate when pressed.
The bottom of the phone also includes a single speaker, headphone jack and microUSB port - it's disappointing to not see USB-C.
Despite having a similar layout to the iPhone 7 Plus, Oppo's camera surprisingly offers better specs than it's competitor.
The R11 has a 16MP standard and 20MP telephoto rear dual camera, while the iPhone 7 Plus only has 12MP standard and 12MP.
Oppo's device also comes with a 20MP forward facing camera, which is far better than the iPhone 7 Plus' 7MP.
The R11 comes powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded to 256GB using a microSD card.
Oppo's 3,000 mAh battery offers flash charge technology - 0 to 70 per cent in just thirty minutes - and will easily last for a whole day with medium use.
The design isn't the only thing taken from Apple, with the Android 7.1.1 operating system remarkably similar to the iPhone's iOS.
This means those who like Apple's app layout, settings and camera interface will feel right at home, although Android fans might not dig the vibe.
• Familiar feel to Apple products
• Excellent camera - one of the best on the market
• Great battery life
• No NFC meaning you can't use the device for mobile payments
• Lack of water resistance
• No USB-C charging port
The Oppo R11 retails for $649
N/A IPHONE X
Apple declined to supply a review unit of the iPhone X when approached. Unfortunately this means I wasn't able to fairly compare it against these competitor models.
However, more information about the device and its specs can be found here.