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Best mobile phones of 2017: our pick of the year's finest smartphones

Stack of phones - smartphones

If you believe excitable smartphone-manufacturers’ advertising blurb, pretty much every new handset is a huge step forward for pocket technology and offers great features at a great price.

Seductive as that sounds, we know that isn’t always so. To help sort the trash from the treasure and find a smartphone that’s right for you, we’ve rounded up the handsets that really stood out over the last 12 months.

Want an ultra-premium phone that gets you the best in technology? Maybe you’re on a tight budget? Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between and want a mid-price handset that’s anything-but-middle-of-the road? Whatever you’re in the market for, we’ve got you covered.

Compare deals for the latest phones at our dedicated comparison page.

Happy with the phone you've got? Take a look at our pick of the best SIM only deals.

1) iPhone X

iPhone X two phones on desk

Billed as the handset to mark the tenth-anniversary of the iPhone, the iPhone X had to be something special to serve notice of a major landmark in Apple’s history. That went double when it became apparent that it bore a price tag nudging £1,000.

What Apple served up was a radical update that threw its well-worn smartphone design tempate out of the window and gave us the first-ever iPhone that dispensed with a home button.

As a result, Apple was able to equip the iPhone X with a large 5.8-inch screen that takes up the entire front of the handset, while keeping the phone itself compact. It looks incredibly striking. And genuinely futuristic too.

Want to know more? Read our in-depth iPhone X review.

With the home button missing in action, it also meant that users had to learn a brand new way to interact with their phone and perform core functions. It was a steep learning curve. That much we’ll admit. But once you’ve got to grips with it, the iPhone X is a joy to use.

Under the bonnet, Apple’s Face ID facial recognition security, which allows you to unlock the iPhone X just by looking at it, works brilliantly. And is proof positive that while Apple is seldom first to market with new technology, it usually executes it best.

The iPhone X is great for selfies too. That’s because Apple’s Portrait Mode, which lets you blur out background details to bring your subject into super-sharp focus, was available on the front camera for the first time.

Completing the package is wireless charging, a handy fast-charge mode, rear cameras that serve up richly detailed, colourful shots and plenty of storage. And you get to become an animated animal avatar thanks to Animoji, to boot.

Compare iPhone X deals.

2) Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review hero image S-Pen stylus

As probably the biggest and brightest phone on the list, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is definitely a serious contender for smartphone of the year.

With a 6.3-inch SuperAMOLED Infinity Display, the Note 8 could have run the risk of falling into tablet territory. But, thanks to the super-slim bezels (edges), Samsung has managed to fit this huge screen into a fairly compact body.

The upshot of this is you get a huge screen that’s ideal for watching videos and playing games, and all in a phone that’s small enough to use one-handed.

Elsewhere, the Note 8 is the first Samsung Galaxy handset to feature a dual-lens camera at the back. To do this, Samsung has paired a 12-megapixel camera with a large f/1.7 aperture with a secondary 12-megapixel camera that packs a f/2.4 aperture and 2x optical zoom.

The large apertures let in lots of light, so you get really colourful, natural-looking shots during the day and really excellent results in low-light too.

The dual-lens setup also means you can take ‘bokeh’ shots, which blurs the background of the shot while pulling the subject of the photo into razor-sharp focus.

Both cameras come with optical image stabilisation technology to help you get clear images and video when you’re on the move.

Like the S8, the Note 8 also comes with Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant already on-board. And it’s also got a 3,300mAh battery to keep it powered all day long.

As with previous generations of Note devices, the Note 8 comes with an S-pen stylus that gives you a whole host of features to help you get the most out of the device.

There's a lot to love about the Note 8. Find out just how much with our review.

Take the stylus out while the screen is locked and a memo pad will open up. So you can start scribbling straight away, without having to unlock the phone.

And when the phone is unlocked, there is a whole range of features you can use it with. You can use Smart Select to create screenshots and GIFs, or the Translate tool to highlight text with the S-Pen and translate it into a different language.

There are also a few note-writing apps that let you draw, doodle and jot things down in as many different colours as you like.

There's a lot to love about the Note 8. Find out just how much with our review.

Compare Samsung Galaxy Note 8 deals.

3) Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL side by side hero image

While the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL might not look like the most exciting phones of 2017, they’re actually among the nicest phones we’ve trialled.

Both handsets come with IP67 waterproofing, which means they can survive in up to a meter of water for half an hour. And it’s got a big battery to keep it going all day long.

It runs on Android Oreo 8.0 out of the box, so you’re guaranteed a lovely user experience. And it comes with Google Assistant, which enables you to navigate through the device, interact with different apps and get answers to all of life’s biggest questions just by asking.

As the name suggests though, the Pixel’s standout feature is undoubtedly the camera. Although it just has the one lens, it has all the advantages of two, including an impressive Portrait Mode, which blurs the background of the shot and places the subject of the photo into razor-sharp focus.

The camera also yields incredibly detailed, lifelike shots, even in low-light. And it’s got a handy feature for taking accurate 360° images without any undue faffing.

Although the screens are smaller and less bright than you might expect from a 2017 smartphone, they’re actually great for watching films and playing games.

Take a look at all our best Google Pixel 2 deals.

Tempted by the larger Pixel? Check out all our best Google Pixel 2 XL deals.

4) iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus home screens hero image

If you’re not ready to learn to live without a home button or don’t much like the idea of paying out £1,000 or so for the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus are very good alternatives.

Although they look and feel very close to 2016’s iPhone 7 range and even 2015’s iPhone 6S models, they swap those phones’ metal construction for an all-glass build that looks more modern and sleeker. And they’ve got a neat selection of new features too.

Like the iPhone X, you can charge them wirelessly by resting them on a charging pad (sold separately, natch) and there’s a fast-charge mode too. Using the 29W Apple USB C Power Adapter from our MacBook we got about 50% or so of power with a half-an-hour charge.

Get a fuller picture of what iPhone 8's got to offer with our review.

You also get Apple’s new iOS 11 software, complete with Augmented Reality apps that superimpose graphics onto real world pictures. And you'll find an improved dual-lens camera that lets in more light for better results in low-light conditions.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus aren’t perfect, of course. And they’re not cheap either. But if you’re wedded to your home button and want a new iPhone that doesn’t force to learn a whole new set of gestures, the iPhone 8 is the handset to plump for.

Compare iPhone 8 deals.

5) Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus in-hand shot

With a stunning all-screen front, Samsung’s 2017 flagship phones are lovely to look at. And there’s no doubt that the super AMOLED display make the S8 and S8 Plus perfect for watching videos and playing games.

But these handsets are so much more than just a pretty face. And there’s a lot going on beneath the surface to put them among the absolute best smartphones of the year.

For one thing, the camera on the S8 and S8 Plus is one of the best we’ve seen on a smartphone. The 12-megapixel shooter features a large F1.7 lens aperture to let in more light. Which gives you fantastic, detailed photos, even in low-light.

Meanwhile the front-facing camera has eight megapixels but has the same large aperture. So it’s perfect for taking selfies when you’re on a night out.

Get the full skinny on the Galaxy S8 with our review.

The camera also uses multi-frame image processing. This means that every time you take a single shot, it takes three. The Galaxy S8 then combines all three photos to give you the best possible image.

Aside from the camera, Samsung also raised its game with other aspects of its 2017 flagship phones. Both the S8 and S8 Plus come loaded with Samsung’s own Bixby voice-activated assistant. Billed as more aware than Siri or Google Now, Bixby works with Samsung apps to help you navigate your way around your phone hands-free.

Even more impressive is Bixby Vision, which combines the smartphone camera with augmented reality tech to identify objects and search the internet for more information about them.

For example, if you’re out shopping and you want to find out more about something you’re looking at, just take a photo of the cover and Bixby will look up the price, reviews, and recommendations for similar products.

Bixby Vision can also identify landmarks and tell you more about them. And it can translate foreign languages too.

Compare Samsung Galaxy S8 deals.

6) HTC U11

HTC U11 review hero image

With its premium metal construction, glossy sheen, satisfying heft and pared-down design, it’s not hard to identify the U11 as an HTC phone.

The big difference this time around though is that the U11 features pressure-sensitive sides that allow you to activate key functions with a squeeze. Dubbed Edge Sense, it’s a neat trick and means you can, for example, fire up the camera quicker when you need to capture a fleeting moment. Or bring up a digital assistant in a trice.

But what really makes the U11 a good buy is that it does the core things you really want from a smartphone really well.

The 5.5-inch Quad HD screen is one of the best around and positively beams with colour. The 12-megapixel main camera is similarly excellent and the higher resolution 16-megapixel is tailor-made for our Instagram-obsessed times.

Want to know before you making up your mind? Read our HTC U11 review.

The U11 is also one of the few phones to support hi-res audio, so music sounds fuller and richer than standard MP3s. The BoomSound speakers offer better, crisper sound than we’ve come to expect from smartphones, as well.

Need more? It’s water-resistant, uses Quick Charge 3.0 to get you from zero to 100% in about an hour and you can expand the on board storage with a microSD card. And with support for Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and HTC’s own Sense Companion, you can choose from three voice assistants.

Compare HTC U11 deals.

7) Motorola Moto G5

Motorola Moto G5 review hero

When it comes to smartphones, cheap means chintzy. But not in the case of the £170 Motorola Moto G5 and £249 G5 Plus.

Unlike previous Moto G phones, they're constructed from hefty metal rather than plastic. So they feel and look a lot like much pricier, premium smartphones.

The screen is brighter than last year’s Moto G4. And there’s a handy, battery-saving Moto Display mode that means you can see key information (time, date, battery life, as well as notifications for emails and text messages) just by lifting up the phone.

Both phones come with the latest Android Nougat software out of box, as well as some neat customisations that allow you to interact with the G5 in new ways. And make them easier to use one-handed.

Get a better picture of the Motorola Moto G5 with our review.

Not least One Button Nav that allows you to navigate using the fingerprint scanner. Just as much of a winner is Swipe to Shrink that takes a leaf out of Apple’s Reachability feature and brings app icons closer to the foot of the screen and so makes the Moto G5 simpler to use if you’ve got smaller hands.

Elsewhere, you’ll find lots of storage space for your apps and downloads, with the option to boost capacity by up to 128GB by adding a microSD card. Battery life is decent too.

There is a catch, though. And that’s the Moto G5 and G5 Plus’ camera doesn’t quite match up to the rest of the phone. Although fine in good light conditions, performance is a bit shaky in low light.

Compare Motorola Moto G5 deals.

8) Huawei P10

Huawei P10 angled

With its sleek black finish, curved edges and ‘expensive-feeling’ materials, Huawei’s P10 sure looks and feels like an iPhone. So much so that even held up together, it’s actually hard to tell them apart. But that’s no bad thing, as far as we’re concerned.

The dual lens camera pairs 20-megapixel and 12-megapixel sensors and comes courtesy of high-end lens manufacturer Leica. It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s pretty terrific and excels at portraits, thanks to an iPhone-style Portrait Mode that blurs out background details, while casting your subject in ultra-sharp focus.

Not sure Huawei's P10 is a good buy? Take a better look with our review.

The only let down as as the camera is concerned is slightly disappointing performance in low light conditions. But that seems par for the course with most smartphones cameras, if we’re honest.

The screen is superb, with terrific colour reproduction, and the fingerprint scanner works well. Battery power is better than average (we got 28 hours or power on a single charge from the 3200 mAh battery) and the P10 supports fast charging.

It’s a shame Huawei's phone is a bit on the pricey side, which means it’s competing with some of the very best smartphones around. Or it would surely have been higher on the list.

Compare Huawei P10 deals.

9) Honor 7X

Honor-7X-homescreen-hero-image

In an era when almost all phones seem to be either ultra-premium handsets or in the sub-£200 budget-friendly bracket, mid-range, mid-priced phones have become something of a rarity.

Priced under £300 SIM-free, the Honor 7X is certainly mid-price. But it’s got a set of features that you’d expect to find on a more costly handset.

Not least among them is a 16-megapixel dual lens main camera that isn’t quite the equal of its pricier rivals, but enables you to take decent Portrait Mode shots.

Get the inside line on the Honor 7X.

The selfie camera flatters too and if you’re not happy with the results, there’s a beauty level filter that smooths away wrinkles and blemishes. Amazingly at this price, it’s also got a Portrait Mode.

This all-metal phone also finds room for a 5.93-inch screen that’s just about as good as it gets at this price, as well as a fingerprint scanner. And it’s dual SIM too, so you can use two SIM cards and have one number for work and one for friends and family.

Buy the Honor 7X SIM free here: Honor 7X.

10) OnePlus 5T

OnePlus 5T lifestyle hero

The OnePlus 5T gets you a lot of what’s great about top-end phones, such as the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but for half the price.

All-screen front? Check. Dual camera with 20-megapixel and 16-megapixel lenses and Portrait Mode? Check. Facial recognition technology so you can unlock your phone by looking at it? Check. Each one compares very well with the versions you'll find on pricier rivals, too.

There’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack that means you can use your wired headphones and don’t have to invest in a new wireless pair. Or carry around an adaptor.

Plus it’s equipped with OnePlus’ best-in-class Dash Charge fast-charge technology that delivers 60% charge in half an hour. Too dark to use facial recognition security? The 5T has a fingerprint scanner for just such an eventuality.

The only downsides are that the 5T comes with Android Nougat and not the newer Oreo version of Google's software. And it’s not waterproof either.

But at £449 for the 64GB version or £499 for the 128GB edition, you’ve got to expect some compromises. And you’re still getting an excellent phone for the money.

Compare OnePlus 5T deals.

Category: Features
Tagged: smartphones

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