As the end of this year draws near, it is time to look back and appreciate all the great smartphones that graced the store shelves and ended up in the hands of the consumers. If I were to sum up 2017 in one sentence, I would call it a year of slim bezels, amazing camera phones and Chinese smartphone makers. All three of these dominated the industry this year and it is clearly visible in my best smartphones of the year list.
This list includes the best of what the Android smartphone industry had to offer to the consumers.
Google Pixel 2
Although the Nexus smartphones were the first devices on which Google put its stamp of approval, it was the original Pixel phones that were really the Google phones. With the second-generation, Pixel phones have become even better by wholeheartedly incorporating Google’s AI capabilities. Thanks to its slimmer bezels, the Pixel 2 XL would have ideally taken this spot, but the display troubles and other smaller issues have kept the phone from realising its true potential. So, here we are with the smaller Pixel – the Pixel 2. It is in no way an inferior device to the Pixel 2 XL, but those huge bezels do look a bit dated. Apart from the bezels, the Pixel 2 is an amazing smartphone. It packs the best smartphone camera of the year, which has gotten praise from everyone and is the single-most important feature of the phone. The phone’s AMOLED display lacks any of its bigger brother’s problems and the Snapdragon 835 provides it all the necessary power it need to take on everything that is thrown at it.
The added bonus is Google’s artificial intelligence chops, which are present in almost all the features of the phone and make it a better smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung started this year with its great Galaxy S8 and S8+, which were probably the best smartphones in the first half of 2017, but with the Note 8, the company took things even further and offered the consumers the best big-screen phone of the year. With its marvelous Infinity display, great dual rear camera and an excellent performance, the Galaxy Note 8 is a complete package. After a disastrous Note 7, Samsung came out guns blazing and the Note 8 removed all apprehension and doubt from the consumers’ minds.
While it is easier to offer a great smartphone to the consumers when you can charge them a thousand dollars, the real skill is in providing an affordable high-end phone. OnePlus shines in that department. Since wowing the world with OnePlus One in 2014, the company has further perfected the recipe and the company’s first launch of the year ‘OnePlus 5’ showed that. It had a few issues including an underwhelming camera, but with OnePlus 5T, the company has been able to silence the critics. With slimmer bezels, an improved camera and a starting price of $499, OnePlus 5T is in a class of its own. The phone offers flagship-level performance in half the price.
Xiaomi Mi A1
Apart from a few markets like Japan and Turkey, Google’s Android One phones have been relatively absent since 2015, but that changed this year and Xiaomi’s Mi A1 was the first phone in the new crop of globally available Android One devices. Android One is no longer just about entry-level specifications. Mi A1 packs a capable hardware with stock Android, in turn offering a phone that isn’t trying to be just enough. It provides a performance that is a rarity in its price bracket. The phone shows that you might not have the greatest phone camera on the planet but you can still enjoy everything that the modern smartphone technologies have to offer in less a quarter of the price of a flagship phone.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung’s Galaxy S was among the first smartphones that truly showed that Android wasn’t going to be just another smartphone operating system and after seven years of its launch, Samsung’s Galaxy S-series continues to go strong. More often than not, the Galaxy S-series phones are the best phones to buy in the first half of a year and Galaxy S8 was no different. Among the first phones with bare minimum bezels, the Galaxy S8 includes everything that you would want from a flagship phone – a gorgeous design, great performance, an amazing screen, and good camera performance. It seems even Samsung was so happy with the S8 that the company is unlikely to make any major changes in the S9, apart from the fingerprint sensor placement and the latest-generation components.
Moto G5S Plus
Moto G-series has been among the best things that Motorola has given to the smartphone industry in the recent few years. The company might have changed hands, but the G-series remains a highlight of the mid-range price segment. Mi A1 might have stolen some of the spotlight this year, but Moto G5S Plus continues to be a no-nonsense mid-range offering. For the last few years, whenever anyone asked me for a recommendation in the mid-range category, I would always say that you can’t go wrong with the latest Moto G phone and that statement remains true this year.
When Huawei introduced the online-only Honor brand a few years ago, no one would have thought that it would soon become a force to be reckoned with. The Honor team has released a few good devices this year, but it provided its best work in Honor 7X. The phone might have come out a little late in the year, but it has still managed to gain a spot in this list by being one of the best in its categories and it is not an easy category to be in. Even with the competitors like Xiaomi Mi A1, Moto G5S and G5S Plus, Honor 7X has carved out a place for itself. It is really a great year to buy a mid-range smartphone.
Although the above seven are the best Android phones of the year, 2017 was full of great Android phones. So, now is the time to look at a few phones that might not have made to the top seven, but they do deserve to be appreciated.
Over the few last years, Xiaomi has completely changed the budget smartphone segment. The consumers no longer have to just make do with the pathetic phones that lag all the time. It is no wonder that two of the most selling phones in the Indian market are the budget Android devices from Xiaomi. The Redmi 5A is a recent launch and it is the most affordable device from the company. Despite its low price-tag, the phone is not full of issues like the entry-level phones from the yesteryears. It includes an HD display, a tried-and-tested Snapdragon 425 processor and a decent 13MP camera. This is not all, you also get 2GB/ 3GB of RAM. The specifications like this used to a dream of an entry-level buyer.
HTC may be heading towards its demise, but the company clearly hasn’t forgotten how to make quality Android phones with a great design. Thanks to a capable camera and great performance, U11 is an HTC lover’s dream.
Google Pixel 2 XL
Even after all the brouhaha over the display, Pixel 2 XL remains a great Android phone. It has the industry-leading phone camera, great performance and a nice design. It might have been the best phone of the year, but Google’s inexperience has let the phone down. Hopefully the Pixel 3 XL will not disappoint.
Mi Mix 2
Much before the Infinity and FullView displays were the talk of the town, Xiaomi was quietly trying to slice away the bezel with its first Mi Mix phone. With its successor Mi Mix 2, the company has been able to offer a widely available premium Android phone that barely has any bezels. While it might not be the best premium phone out there, it deserves a mention just for the effort.