Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Yes the fingerprint sensor is slightly awkward to use, but the GS8's iris scanner is dramatically improved to make up for it. And it only takes one look at the industry-leading display to start to forgive Samsung's decisions on the back.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming to novices, you can't argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there's something in here for everyone's needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: Of course, you can always pay a little extra and get the larger Galaxy S8+ for a bit more screen and battery life.

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Why the Galaxy S8 is the best

Samsung's Galaxy S brand carries considerable weight in the mobile world, and the Galaxy S8 continues to both leverage that brand while also offering a fantastic overall smartphone experience that today's consumers want. Once again, Samsung took its core principles of great hardware, a top-end display, waterproofing, solid cameras and mounds of features and updated it all for 2017.

The result is a fresh design that shrinks down the display bezels and really smooths out all of the sharp edges to give you a sleek, thin phone with a really large display that doesn't feel that large. The extra-tall 18.5:9 aspect ratio comes in at 5.8-inches across on the Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inches on the Galaxy S8+, and in both cases feels quite a bit smaller than the numbers would lead you to believe.

The sleek body still packs in top-end specs, of course, starting with that magnificent Super AMOLED display and backing it up with a Snapdragon 835 or Exynos 8895, 4GB of RAM, larger 64GB of storage (plus an SD card slot), a new USB-C port and locking it all down with waterproofing. The batteries are no bigger than last year's models, but battery life hasn't taken any hit. On the other side of the hardware, there's one big downside: Samsung moved the fingerprint sensor to an awkward position on the back next to the camera, leaving you with the less-consistent and less-convenient face scanning and iris scanning instead.

Samsung continues to make phones with all of the design and features people are clamoring for.

The camera experience has actually changed more on the front than the back with a new 8MP unit that packs auto focus. But the 12MP rear camera is still no slouch — Samsung has improved its processing to get even more out of this setup, and it remains a competitor for the best overall smartphone camera out there.

The ongoing point of contention when it comes to Samsung phones is the software, and that's the same once again on the Galaxy S8. Samsung continues to put in a massive number of features without removing any from years prior, leaving you with lots of things to get in the way and confuse you when you're trying to get the basics done. On the other hand, it's hard to find someone who can't get done what they need to get done right out of the box on this phone. It truly is aimed at being relevant to as diverse a set of consumers as possible, and it succeeds on that point.

By putting up with a few of the out-of-the-box quirks and taking some time to set it up how you like it, the Galaxy S8 can do anything you want and get it done at a fast pace while looking great as well.

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Best Google experience

Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel XL does almost everything right. Its metal body is well-built and easy to grip, and its spec sheet is still capable, featuring a Snapdragon 821 and 4GB of RAM powering its 5.5-inch QHD display.

But the Pixel XL really makes its case as a great phone because Google owns both the hardware and the software. Even the best manufacturers can't achieve what Google has with its first-party powerhouse. It's fast, clean and lovely to use with Google's apps and services. The downside is the Pixel can't match the others in terms of raw features.

Then there's the camera, which continues to be one of the best in the business in so many situations, helped along by Google's exemplary electronic stabilization that gives you silky smooth video recording.

Bottom line: Google doesn't compete in the raw number of features, but offers a sleek, consistent and holistic experience that absolutely deserves praise.

One more thing: The Pixel is available unlocked through Google's store in many countries, but at this point you should keep your eye out for discount deals.

Best for less

LG G6

LG G6

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at B&H

The LG G6 uses a tall 18:9 display and tiny bezels (hey, it even came out before the Galaxy S8) to give you a larger screen in a smaller body. The all-new metal-and-glass design may not be totally inspired, but it's built amazingly well and incorporates lots of little features — like waterproofing — to help it hold up over time.

All of the internal specs you expect are here, even though the battery isn't removable like its predecessors. The one downside here is regional differences: the higher-quality Quad DAC is exclusive to Asia, while wireless charging is only for the North American market.

LG's dual camera setup has returned but with a refined emphasis on the wide-angle camera so it packs the same sensor as the standard camera. The main camera takes fantastic photos to go toe-to-toe with the best of them, and the wide-angle shooter adds in something that no other phone offers.

Bottom line: This is LG's best flagship phone to date, and going a step further it's one that comes in at a notably lower price — around $500 now — than the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel XL.

One more thing: Shop around a bit before buying, as different retailers and carriers can have varying pricing schemes.

Best alternative

HTC U11

HTC U11

See at Amazon See at HTC See at Sprint

HTC is back at the top competing with the big names after a few years where its flagships just weren't up to speed. The HTC U11 is a great overall phone that has followed industry trends and also executed really well on them.

When viewed from the back you get a beautiful shining glass back that's truly unique. Around front it's a bit more boring, but the 5.5-inch QHD display is strong — and the fingerprint sensor is sensibly located below the screen.

The best example of HTC turning things around is its camera — the 12MP sensor gets all the hardware right, and also has the processing to take best-in-class photos.

Internally you get all of the right stuff, with a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, a big-enough 3000mAh battery and complete waterproofing. The one thing missing? A headphone jack on the bottom.

Bottom-line: The U11 is a great all-around phone at a reasonable $650 price that should definitely be considered in the same realm as other high-end options.

One more thing: This is the only phone on this list without a headphone jack — be ready to use Bluetooth or the included USB-C adaptor.

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Best for speed

OnePlus 5

OnePlus 5

See at OnePlus

OnePlus continues to iterate on its proven formula of offering a phone with top-end internal specs, great software and no obvious flaws for a really competitive price. The OnePlus 5 is blazing fast, has super-clean software and solid battery life.

At this discounted price you get hardware design that's rather simple, a good-but-not-great screen and a simply above-average camera — plus, it's missing waterproofing. OnePlus continues to do well with all of the basics, though.

Even at a slightly higher price of $479, the OnePlus 5 is a great deal in 2017 — especially for those who can't (or won't) spend $600+ on one of the flagship options.

Bottom-line: For a solid experience and future-proof specs for a lower price than the flagship competition, the OnePlus 5 is a great choice.

One more thing: Remember you won't get Verizon or Sprint compatibility on the OnePlus 5 — you'll have to stick to GSM/LTE networks.

Conclusion

For most people, the Galaxy S8 will serve as the best possible choice with its excellent design, top-end hardware, great camera and piles of software features. It's hard to go wrong with this phone, whether you're choosing the Galaxy S8 or the larger Galaxy S8+.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8

See at Verizon See at AT&T See at T-Mobile See at Sprint See at Best Buy

The Galaxy S8 has slick hardware with tiny bezels that let it have a big screen in a small body, but inside it still offers everything you want: a high-end processor, lots of storage, an SD card slot, full waterproofing and a top-end camera.

Yes the fingerprint sensor is slightly awkward to use, but the GS8's iris scanner is dramatically improved to make up for it. And it only takes one look at the industry-leading display to start to forgive Samsung's decisions on the back.

Though its software can be a little overwhelming to novices, you can't argue that Samsung continues to pack in hundreds of features to a single phone, making sure there's something in here for everyone's needs. Samsung continues to take this approach of offering more more more with just a few compromises — and it continues to work.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S8 gives you piles of features in a beautiful body, and is a great choice for a wide range of potential buyers.

One more thing: Of course, you can always pay a little extra and get the larger Galaxy S8+ for a bit more screen and battery life.

Update, July 2017: The Galaxy S8 stays at the top of the list. Some wording updated to better represent where in the lifecycle each of these devices lands.

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