The best phones of 2017

Another year, another generation of amazing new smartphones… we’ve reviewed, previewed and fondled all of the lastest and greatest handsets from Mobile World Congress to help you decide which will be your next pocket companion

SAMSUNG GALAXY s8

We used to be appalled at the thought of owning a phablet. Now well take the biggest phone we can get our hands on. The SB’s gorgeous screen gives you yet another excuse to Netflix on your way to work… not that you really needed one.

After the Note 7 palaver, we believe Samsung has made the hottest phone in the world again. Only not literally this time.

Considering Its last big phone was prone to explosions. Samsung needs the S8 to be spectacular. Not Just‘quite good’or kind of alright’, but amazing enough to eradicate the memory of that combustible catastrophe. Here’s why we reckon It might just do the job…

ARE YOU BEING CURVED?

As per usual, Samsung is making two versions of its top phone. This time, both Androids have an enormous curved screen. The standard Galaxy S8 has a 5.8in display, while its even more massive brother the S8+ gives you 6.2in. Thanks to new screen technology that allows for smaller bezels than ever before, neither handset will be a faff to wedge into one of your jeans pockets.

If you’re looking at the S8 and wondering where Its home button Is, then squinting ain’t gonna resurrect it. It’s been replaced with a virtual home button on the touchscreen and a fingerprint scanner that sits next to the camera on the back. Thanks to the S8’s always-on and iris-scanning smarts, using it shouldn’t be too taxing. Anyway, you should get used to this button-free visage—Apple Is set to pull off the same trick next time out.

STRAIGHT SHOOTER Despite Apple, Huawei and LG all jumping on the dual-lens bandwagon, Samsung Is sticking with a single 12MP affair with super-accurate dual-pixel autofocus. That means no optical zooming or wide-angle shenanigans, but you should still be getting one of the best cameras around. A year on from its launch, the Galaxy ST’S pictorial prowess Is only rivalled by Google’s Pixel and the iPhone 7 Plus. We expect the S8 to be just as impressive.

HOT CHIPS

If you live in Europe, the S8 will feature Samsung’s new Exynos 8895 processor. Elsewhere it’s likely to come with the latest Snapdragon 835 chip. With such a huge screen to power, both processors will have to be efficient to serve up a respectable amount of battery life. About a day and a half is the standard for top-end phones.

Clearly, with a beautiful curved screen, a camera that’s expected to compete with the very best and a super-fast processor, the Galaxy S8 will be a standout phone in 2017. Oh. and It s keeping the headphone jack, so you won t have to splash out on Bluetooth buds. That’s just as well, given the S8 is all set to be one of the most expensive phones you can buy.

BANG AND BLAME

In order to make sure its Note 7 nightmare never recurs, Samsung has introduced a new 8-Point Battery Safety Check to strenuously test all its devices.

STRONG UP FRONT

With an 8MP frontfacing camera, the S8 should be a dab hand at selfies – that’s quite a significant leap forward from the S7’s 5MP unit

Rivals

• Huawei P10 Plus

The bigger version of Huawei’s latest flagship comes with a 5.5inQHD screen, better quality dual lenses and an IR blaster. Its a dear step up from the standard P10.

• iPhone 7 Plus

Apple’s most premium iPhone is the one to get Not only do those dual lenses give it optical zoom skills, but its battery lasts about half a day longer than the bog-standard IPhone 7.

• Sony Xperia XZ Premium

After years in the smartphone wilderness,

Sony has upped Its efforts with the XZ Premium. With a gorgeous design and ace camera, it should go toe to toe with Samsung’s latest.

SONY XZ PREMIUM

Who needs a 4K TV? Well hang Sony’s latest flagship phone on the wall instead

Back in 2015, Sony was the first maker to cram a 4K display into a phone. Two years later, the 5.5inXZ Premium is the first to do both 4K and HDR.

To see this tech in a smartphone is seriously impressive. Admittedly you’ve got to get dose to spot all that detail, but with both Amazon and Netflix bringing 4K and HDR support to their mobile apps later in the year you’ll be able to make the most of the deeper contrast, brighter whites and richer colors wherever you go. HDR and 4K are no longer exclusive to your living room.

SLOW COOKIN’

It’s not the XZ Premium’s only world first either. Most phones can only manage to shoot slow-motion video at 240 frames per second but this 1/2.3in 19MP camera sensor is Sony’s fastest yet, able to cope with a DSLR-matching 960fps.

It’s all thanks to some extra high-speed memory that’s been added directly behind the sensor, and the result is that even dips of rain hitting a puddle become smooth, moody vignettes.

And you’d better believe the XZ Premium has the hardware to back up that screen. Sony has managed to bag Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 CPU, which makes it the most powerful phone around today.

The mirrored finish, chamfered corners (which double as antennae) and 2.5D glass – curving slightly at the edges – mean the design hasn’t evolved much; but if you want the latest and greatest screen and camera tech, there are few phones that can compete.

• OS Android 7.0

• Processor Snapdragon 835

• RAM 4GB

• Screen 5.5ln 3840×2160

• Storage 64GB, expandable via micro5D

• Cameras 19MPrear, 13MP front

SONY XA1 ULTRA

Sony’s XZ Premium not big enough? Why not take a good long look at this 6in whopper

How big is too big?

What difference does half an inch make?

When does a phone become a tablet? These are ail questions you’ll ask yourself when you pick up Sony’s whopping XA1 Ultra.

There’s no getting around it the XA1 Ultra is huge… but it’s definitely still a phone. The size issue is exacerbated slightly by the vast bezels on the top and bottom of its 6in screen, making one-handed use either Impossible or an accident waiting to happen.

If you do like large screens, though, there’s plenty here for your YouTube browsing and Netflix gorging.

BIG DEAL?

It’s a shame the resolution only reaches 1080p Full HD. Stretched across all six Inches of the screen, that works out at a pixel density of 367ppi – it’s not going to look super-sharp when you press your nose to it.

The MediaTek octa-core CPU, while not the latest and greatest Snapdragon, Is still not to be sniffed at. and 4GB of RAM keeps it up to pace with LG’s G6 – but a slightly measly 2700mAh battery could struggle to power that screen all day.

There’s more to picture quality than megapixels, but the snapper on the back of the XA1 Ultra is a 23MP monster. Given Sony’s camera pedigree that’s very promising, particularly when most phones with these kind of mid-range specs make do with similarly mid-range cameras.

As long as it does end up being priced to reflect all of this, and you’re happy to sacrifice battery life fora larger screen, the XA1 Ultra could be a dollar-per-inch bargain to consider.

• OS Android 7.0

• Processor MediaTek Helio P20

• RAM 4GB

• Screen 6in 1920×1080

• Storage 32/64GB, expandable via microSD

• Cameras: 23MP rear, 16MP front

DARK FORCES

The dips we’ve watched on the XA1 Ultra ail looked detailed and contrast-heavy, although a bit more brightness wouldn’t go a miss.

SELFIE ESTEEM

The front camera is a top-spec 8MP f 1.9 job with Leica glass. Combine it with Portrait Mode and you’ll look cuter than you’ve been since you were three.

SAY CHESE… TWICE

• The P10’s two cameras add up to more than the sum of their parts: they let you zoom up to 2x with almost no loss of quality. You don’t just get 1x and 2x either — you can zoom to any point in between.

• They also let you get creamy blurred backgrounds In shots. This trick works in both the Wide Aperture and Portrait modes – and unlike on some other phones, it never looks fake and gimmicky.

• Low-light pictures are also better as a result of the two cameras working in tandem, and even your everyday outdoor snapshots will be sharper as a result. The monochrome cam takes lovely pictures too.

HUAWEI P10

There’s no 4K screen on the P10, nor sides that curve into nothingness… but, at the end of the day, great phones don’t need a load of gimmicks

The Huawei P10 is an iPhone in Android form. It looks like an iPhone, behaves like an iPhone, and often rivals an iPhone. It’s far from a mere done – the P10 has its own charms and foibles. But the similarities are there, from the zooming dual cameras to the way It looks. Even the so-so battery fife is very Apple.

ANDROID IN DISGUISE There’s certainly no denying that the P10 looks like an iPhone. It has the same slim body with metal back, the same subtle curves, and In truth it resembles an Apple phone far more closely than it does a Samsung, HTC or LG.

Still, it ‘s really well built and. if you’re lucky enough to pick it up in one of the special colors or finishes, also quite distinctive. Two of the eight colors (greenery and dazzling blue) were designed In conjunction with color specialists Pantone, and both stand out from the sea of black, silver and gold handsets you’ll see on your commute.

SUN SCREEN

Most Android flagships these days have QHD screens, but the P10 has to make do with a 5.1in 1080p effort. A higher resolution would be nice, but otherwise the P10’s display is excellent

Colors are superb, and while you’re given full control over the tone and color temperature, we never needed to tweak it from the defaults. Viewing angles are also good and it can go really bright – you’ll have no problems using it in sunshine, useful in these parts. It’s sharp too — so while the P10 Isn’t quite built for Netflix binges in the way that the 5.5in, QHD-packing P10 Plus will be, this Is a far from disappointing screen.

JUST A NORMAL DAY Speed is another big bonus here: the P10 is so fast It almost seems to be defying time. There’s no lag anywhere, whether you’re waking it up with the fingerprint sensor or getting In a few games of Clash Royale. You also get a whopping 64GB of storage and can add more via microSD. This phone is more powerful than you need it to be.

We wish the same could be said of its battery life, though – it s very much an all-day rather than all-day-and-aH-night-and-some-of-the-next-morning phone. But at least it charges quickly: you’ll get up to about 50% in just half an hour, which will be more than enough to get you through your next Clash Royale session.

There’s nothing massively distinctive about it — no wondrous bezel-less display, no massive 4K screen, and no intriguing curved glass. Instead, this Huawei is just quietly, efficiently excellent.

STUFF SAYS

Style, speed and a superb camera add up to an all-round top smartphone

• OS Android 7.0

• Processor Kirin 960

• RAM 4GB

• Screen 5.1in 1920×1080

• Storage 64GB, expandable via microSD

• Cameras 20MP and 12MP rear. 8MP front

ONE-CLICK WONDER

The P10’s fingerprint scanner and home button has a nifty trick; you can set it to function as all three Android shortcuts in one.

Nokia 3310

Take a dose of nostalgia with Nokia’s rebooted 3310. Can this two-decade-old phone live up to the hype? (Don’t worry, it’s got Snake on it)

Nostalgia is a powerful weapon. First Brexit promised to give Britain its country back, then Donald Trump claimed he’d make America great again. Now Nokia is taking us back to the days when your mobile battery lasted days rather than hours and you could drop it without fear of smashing it to smithereens. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

FOREVER L ALWAYS The new 3310 might not look identical to its ancestor but you can certainly see the resemblance -and it feels like it’d probably survive an unintended meeting with the floor too. On standby it’ll last a month, or if you can find someone to chat to for long enough It’ll do 22 hours of talktime.

Of course, managing such amazing battery-based feats means there’s a lot that it doesn’t do. There’s no touchscreen, no Wi-Fi, no proper app store, and the camera’s only 2MP (although It does have a flash). But it does do Snake.

It also supports dual SIM cards, has a headphone socket (and Bluetooth if you want to use wireless cans instead), plus there’s a microSD slot that will take cards up to 32GB. and an FM radio, so it’s not terrible for entertainment either. A calendar, notes and contacts will also help you keep up with your smartphone owning friends.

While the Nokia 3310 certainly isn’t for the Snapchat generation, its Opera browser means you can check Twitter and Facebook etc plus it automatically optimizes pages. That’s just as well, because the 2G connection isn’t going to set any speed records. Still, those Snapchatters never owned the original, so that pull of nostalgia won’t be as strong as it is for us fogies.

• OS Series 30+

• Processor Not specified

• RAM Not specified

• Screen 2.4inQVGA

• Storage 16MB, expandable via microSD

• Camera 2MP

THE KEYS ARE KEY

The 2.4in QVGA display isn’t a touchscreen, so you’ll be using the keypad to do everything from playing Snake to, er, playing Snake again.

We are a buffalo in an antiques shop – no glass phone is safe with us. Give us that dumbphone: let us eat iced gems, play Snake and remember pre-adult bliss.

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