Every year, smartphones come and go. Some stand out in the crowd, while others fall to the wayside. Regardless, every year one phone generally stands above the rest. This year is no different.
Picking an objective “best” smartphone of the year isn’t always an easy task, especially given the current state of smartphones. It’s no longer about major metrics like performance or battery life—most phones are just really good now. Really good. And in that respect, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the flagship phones.
But when you spend enough time using a variety of phones, as we do here at Review Geek, then you start to understand that it’s about refinements and a premium experience. The amount of smartphone you get for the money plays an important role in which device can be called the best one of the year. It’s a tight race, but despite that, this year’s pick was a surprisingly easy choice.
Our pick for smartphone of the year is…
The iPhone XR
When it comes down to it, selecting our pick for smartphone of the year was pretty simple. The XR is an incredibly premium device that offers the newest fit and finish that Apple has to offer. As we said in our review, it’s 98 percent of the XS experience at 75 percent of the cost. It’s not only one of the best smartphones of the year, but it offers an unprecedented value where the new iPhone are concerned.
That last bit is a key point, because while it’s still not what we would call “cheap,” it’s the most affordable new iPhone on the market while still offering a remarkably similar experience to the company’s pricier models. While many people consider the XS and XS Max Apple’s “flagship” smartphones, that’s not totally true—the XR is the flagship of this family; the XS and Max are the luxury models. Simply put, this is the smartphone for everyone.
While our review covers the reasons why we think so in detail, here’s a quick-hit look at why we love the XR:
- The battery life is insane. Like, it’s other-worldly.
- The fit and finish of this phone is pristine. It feels ultra-premium.
- The gesture navigation is unmatched. It’s the best interface navigation on the market.
- Cost to features is better than any iPhone before it.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Runner-Up: OnePlus 6T
We get it, not everyone is into iOS! That’s why it’s only fair to pick an Android phone too; while it may not be our “smartphone on the year,” the OnePlus 6T is easily our pick for Android phone of the year. The value provided by this phone is unprecedented compared to other manufacturers—it offers similar flagship specs at a fraction of the price.
The entry-level 6T comes in at $550, which is a full $200 less than the most affordable iPhone XR. It’s also significantly more affordable than other Android flagships like the Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S9. But don’t let the $550 price tag fool you—this is a lot of phone for the money.
The 6T features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 as most other Android flagships, but it also pairs that with up to 8GB of RAM (or 10GB if you opt for the McLaren build of the phone), a beautiful 6.41-inch AMOLED display, and up to 256GB of storage. While the $550 model comes with just 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, for just $30 more you can get 8GB RAM and 256GB storage; that’s clearly the better value. On top of these specs, the 6T has incredible battery life—probably the best outside of the Pixel line.
Of course, there are some shortcomings at this price point. Namely, the camera could use some work—it’s not awful by any stretch, but compared to other flagship phones, it’s just lacking. Sometimes images are washed out, while other times they’re overly saturated. Portrait mode with the front camera isn’t as good as the competition (though this is more of a software issue). Low-light performance isn’t great. Again, it’s still a very usable camera and this is just nitpicking at this point, but it’s still worth mentioning. While you’ll find better cameras on other smartphones, you won’t find a better one at this price point.
Otherwise, it lacks waterproofing, and it’s missing certain flagship features like wireless charging. These are both features we like to see in flagship phones, but they aren’t necessarily requisite—especially when you bring the price into consideration.
Despite those minor issues, however, the OnePlus 6T was an easy pick for “runner-up” or Best Android Phone of the Year. If you have less than $600 to spend on a phone, this is the one to buy.
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