The Best Smartphones: In 3 Simple Categories

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are undoubtedly great phones, but with Samsung’s smartphone release cycle dictating that we’ll see the Galaxy S10 as soon as late February 2019, what makes the Galaxy S9 the best Android phone right now?

In a single word: price.

The Galaxy S9 is currently selling for just $520, while the larger Galaxy S9+ is $640, both attractive price points for high-end phones that have pretty much the best hardware combination you can get. Samsung phones have fantastic displays, the Snapdragon 845 SoC delivers class-leading performance and great battery life, with excellent cellular radio support, fast storage, and excellent cameras with support for 1,000 FPS slow motion video capture.

Even though the Galaxy S design essentially hasn’t changed for almost two years, Samsung held such an impressive lead in terms of build quality and design that by today’s standards, they’re still pretty much up there with the best, and no notch. The fragility concerns regarding the phone’s mostly-glass construction persist, but that’s the price you have to pay for the infinity display looks unfortunately.

The Galaxy S9 fingerprint reader on the back of the phone remains the main authentication method although Samsung introduced a decent face unlock feature, it’s not at the level of Apple’s Face ID. The S9 packs stereo speakers, a headphone jack, USB-C port, microSD card slot and water resistance. The display remains one of the best available, with both an oversaturated default setting, an accurate mode you can use if you like, and excellent brightness for an AMOLED.

Two Alternatives

Over the past year we’ve gone back and forth, recommending either the Galaxy S9 or the Google Pixel as best Android phones. We had high hopes for the Pixel 3, and even though Google seems to have delivered on the software front, the external design remains too antiquated for our taste. Hardware-wise, the Pixel 3 does offer a marked improvement, with the same Snapdragon 845 SoC and all the high-end features you’d expect on a premium-priced handset, except for the lack of expandable storage.

The Pixel 3 takes better photos than the Galaxy S9 and also brings direct (read: better and timely) software updates. In fact, the Pixel is considered the best camera phone bar none, so if you don’t mind the looks, it is a great phone. Usually retailing for $800 and $900, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are discounted as of writing to $649 and $699.

Finally, the OnePlus 6T. A favorite among enthusiasts who value great specs at a good price. OnePlus continues to demonstrate a winning formula, and now in a shortened cycle, the company has improved its flagship phone aesthetics for the same price.

Usually we’d list the OnePlus on a separate category, dedicated to flagship value, however the 6T is $549 which is not less expensive than the Galaxy S9 at the moment. The OnePlus is larger however, matching the S9+ screen size and overall footprint.

So if you’re not buying it for the killer value, know the OnePlus 6T still has plenty going for it. The handset packs a 6.41-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2,280 x 1,080 pixels and a teardrop notch that’s covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 6. It’s powered by the same Snapdragon 845 SoC, up to 8GB of RAM and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of onboard storage. The phone’s design is top notch and it is one of the first to feature an in-display fingerprint sensor which works well for the most part. It also offers excellent battery life and ships running OxygenOS atop Android 9 Pie.

Showstoppers for some, the 6T has no headphone jack, no expandable storage, no wireless charging and no water resistance, which is why we believe the Galaxy S9 does offer a more complete package.

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