The Best of Android series is designed to do one thing: give you definitive, objective answers to the subjective debates that fill the smartphone landscape. Which battery really is the best? Which phone actually has the best display? How do you know performance is as good as the manufacturers claim when so many companies are gaming benchmarks? How do you pick the best smartphone overall?

When all is said and done, there can be only one device crowned the best smartphone of 2018. That device has to excel in many areas, including camera, display, performance, audio and battery. It doesn’t have to win in each category – although that certainly helps its chances – it just has to stack up better than the competition overall.

Price is not a consideration here, being the best is. That’s why we have a special category for the best phones in a more affordable price bracket. So when you empty your piggybank and lay it on the counter for one phone above all others, which phone should you buy if you want the best of 2018?

Best of Android 2018: The candidates

Best of Android 2018: The winner is…

After weeks of testing against a field of 30 phones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has emerged victorious as the best smartphone of 2018. For many of you, this will serve as confirmation of what you already knew to be true. For others, you might be surprised that the incremental improvements Samsung has been making stack up so well against such a competitive field. The underlying fact is that smartphones are so good these days that even incremental improvements still matter.

After weeks of testing against a field of 30 phones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 has emerged victorious as the best smartphone of 2018.

The Galaxy Note 9 taking top spot is a great result for a company besieged by scandal in recent years. Despite tumultuous sales in a troubled landscape, Samsung still ships one in five phones globally. Some feel like Samsung is laying down, playing it safe. But Samsung continues to hone the razor’s edge of perfection each year, producing an ever-more competitive phone even if huge groundbreaking changes seem a thing of the past.

See our review!

Let’s look at the stats. The Galaxy Note 9 was the outright winner in Best of Android’s display category even as several contenders nipped at its heels. The Note 9 also took out one of our coveted best camera categories for being the most technically accurate camera (the Google Pixel 3 series took out the other award for computational photography). The Note 9 also had solid enough battery life to secure fourth place, excellent performance that locked in fifth spot (it was a very, very close race), and a top ten result for audio. (Right now, you can grab the Note 9 for $639.99 via the button below!)

In a test of this type, consistency matters more than a single standout feature. Having a great camera but weak battery won’t get you onto the podium, just as excellent performance but poor audio won’t do you any favors. If you want to be the best, you have to be great at everything we can measure, not just some of them.

In a test of this type, consistency matters: the Galaxy Note 9 had a top-five finish in four out of five categories.

Of course, we don’t have a software or UI category because that’s impossible to score even semi-objectively (but if that isn’t true we’d love to hear it). So absorb these results with an awareness that important factors like update frequency, after sales support, price and software stability haven’t be considered. Those factors are critical, yes, but they can’t be measured in quite the same way as our Best of Android categories can.

We are introducing the Best of Android Reader’s Choice Award this year to let you evaluate those additional immeasurable considerations for us. We’re running a bracket-style competition on the site and our social channels that lets you vote for your favorite phone. It may end up being one of our category winners or something else entirely: it’s up to you. The Reader’s Choice competition is entering its final stages, so stay tuned and keep voting!

Here are the winners of each primary category in Best of Android 2018:

  • Best smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
  • Best camera: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Google Pixel 3/3 XL
  • Best battery: Huawei P20 Pro (battery life) and Huawei Mate 20 Pro (charging)
  • Best audio: LG V40
  • Best display: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (overall) and Razer Phone 2 (gaming)
  • Best performance: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Stay tuned for our best value winners, the best smartphone innovation awards and the Reader’s Choice award (spoiler alert: it was also the Galaxy Note 9!).

The unique part about Best of Android is that, even though we crown winners in each category and one device overall, you don’t have to agree with the phone we say is best. If your specific criteria for what’s best differs from ours, you can simply dig into the data to find the information that matters more to you. So whether you agree with our weighting or scoring algorithm results, the raw numbers are always there for you to pore over and draw your own conclusions from.

This year we’ve seen some favorites fall by the wayside, some confirmed suspicions, and some notable special mentions in the winner’s circle. It’s impossible to please all the people all the time, so we encourage you to debate the results in the comments and suggest the specific comparisons and tests you want to see in greater detail. We’ll have plenty more content around the masses of Best of Android 2018 data we’ve collected, so stay tuned for plenty more once the awards are all handed out.

Congratulations Samsung.