Apple got a lot of attention in 2017 when it launched three new smartphones instead of just two. This is no great shakes for Android fans, who are inundated with literally hundreds of new phones every single year. This past year was no exception. Most media attention is focused on just a handful of new hardware releases, which means many phones never get the attention they deserve.
Lets take a look at 5 of this year’s smartphones which in our opinion were underrated by consumers. That doesn’t mean these phones are bad; quite the opposite. We think they didn’t get as much of a chance in the public eye compared to phones like the Galaxy S8, OnePlus 5T or Pixel 2.
The Essential Phone got a ton of attention from the tech press in 2017, but it was mostly because it came from a new company founded by Andy Rubin. Naturally, we were all very curious to see what Rubin would produce. However, the phone that was released didn’t get a ton of coverage from the mainstream tech media, nor did it get a huge marketing campaign.
That’s too bad, because the Essential Phone turned out to be an impressive piece of smartphone hardware, albeit with one pretty major flaw. Most reviews of the phone, including our own, noted that the camera experience was sub-par compared to what was offered by other smartphones with the same hardware specs. Simply put, the camera software was pretty bare bones, and that hurt its overall review score (we also noted its lack of a headphone jack).
However, there’s a lot to like about the Essential Phone. It has a great near-bezel-free 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,312 display, with just a small notch on top for the 8 MP front-facing camera. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside, along with a solid 4 GB of RAM, and a roomy 128 GB of storage.
Essential has released a number of software updates since the phone’s August launch, including adding more features and improving the rear camera (like an HDR mode), along with new features like finger gestures for its fingerprint scanner.
The Essential Phone works with any carrier in the US (yes, that includes Verizon). It also supports additional hardware with its two connectors on the back that can be used to attach accessories such as its optional 360-degree camera. Perhaps the biggest plus on the side of this phone is that it now has a lower price of $499 without a contract. You can snap up this phone for much less than the Galaxy Note 8 or Pixel 2 XL.
When it was first announced that a new company called HMD Global would be launching a series of Android smartphones with the iconic Nokia branding, there was naturally a lot of skepticism. Many doubted this startup could produce phones worthy of the Nokia name. Thankfully, those doubts faded when the first Nokia Android phones were released by the company. Indeed, we were so impressed, we named HMD Global as our winner of our Best Smartphone Brand of 2017 award.
Part of the reason the company won was the quality of its Nokia 8 flagship. However, HMD also released other phones this year, including the Nokia 6. It didn’t get quite as much attention as the higher-end, higher-priced Nokia 8, but the Nokia 6 is still an excellent smartphone for a low price. It’s also the only HMD Nokia phone to be officially sold in the US. It’s available now on Amazon for as low as $150.
For that price, you get a phone with an all-aluminum design, a 5.5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display, and a stock version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat installed. Inside, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It also comes with a 16 MP rear camera, an 8 MP front-facing camera, and a 3,000 mAh battery.
It’s got some issues, like how it uses the older microUSB port for charging, but it’s still an excellent budget phone that many don’t even know is available here in the U.S..
Sony Xperia XZ1
Sony hasn’t had as much success in the smartphone market compared to rivals like Samsung. But its latest flagship device, the Xperia XZ1, has some features that make it stand out, even if no US carriers have decided to sell the phone.
The biggest standout feature on the Xperia XZ1 is its rear-facing 19 MP camera. It includes an Exmor RS sensor with 5-axis image stabilization, 4K video recording, and slow motion video at 960 fps. The XZ1 also includes a “Motion Eye” feature, which senses motion in front of the camera sensor and takes three photos before you actually press the camera button. This is supposed to give you a better chance of capture an image of a subject that might move unexpectedly.
The Sony Xperia XZ1 also has a 3D Creator app that can generate full 3D scans of people’s faces, food, and other objects. You can use that scan to create items via a 3D printer, use them in your social media posts and, eventually, use them as a gaming avatar.
Other standout features on the Xperia XZ1 include support for a wide number of audio codecs, including AptX HD audio, and support for Bluetooth 5 wireless connections. There are some issues with the phone, like its relatively small 5.2-inch display size and the fact that the US version lacks a fingerprint sensor. We also wish Sony would come up with a new design for its Xperia phones, as they have looked the same for some time. However, the Xperia XZ1 has a ton of high-end hardware inside, along with features that no other phone currently supports, which is why we think it should be on this underrated phone list for 2017.
Oh, and it’s one of the few phones you can buy with Android 8.0 Oreo installed out of the box.
Moto Z2 Play
If you watch good old-fashioned television shows with commercials, you have likely seen Motorola push its new flagship Moto Z2 Force smartphone in their ads, with its support for Moto Mods accessories. All of those cool Moto Mods work with the cheaper Moto Z2 Play. You will get much longer battery life too.
While the 3,000 mAh battery in the Moto Z2 Play is not as big as the 3,510 mAh battery found in the older Moto Z Play phone, it still lasts about a day and half, which is much longer than most current smartphones. Even more interesting, you can slap a battery pack on the phone and increase its life by even more time, since it supports the detachable Moto Mods.
There are also Moto Mods that can help you take a better picture (or even a 360-degree image), along with boosting your phone’s audio without the need for an external Bluetooth speaker, and more. The Moto Z2 Play even supports the cool Moto Gamepad, which adds a pair of analog sticks, a D-pad, shoulder buttons, and ABXY buttons, turning the phone into a true portable gaming console.
Inside the Moto Z2 Play, there are some solid specs for a mid-range phone, including a 5.5 inch display, up to 4 GB of RAM and up to 64 GB of storage. But the combination of its mid-range price (you can get it unlocked for as low as $340) and Moto Mods support make the Moto Z2 Play a real gem.
It was too bad, because the LG G6 had a lot going for it. It the first phone of 2017 to embrace the 18:9 display ratio, and came with an excellent dual-camera setup and an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.
In addition to the release of Samsung’s new phones so close to the launch of the LG G6, the phone suffered a bit because it had a Snapdragon 821 processor, just as the faster Qualcomm 835 started showing up on the Galaxy S8 and other phones. It also didn’t help that the price of the phone was perhaps a bit high, its older chipset. This all resulted in underwhelming sales, which caused the company to cut its price down pretty quickly. You can currently get the phone as an Amazon Prime unlocked device for just $399 (with lock screen ads). That’s an excellent price for a phone that deserved better, or perhaps should have at least launched a bit earlier in the year.
There were hundreds of new Android phones released in 2017. Many of them were likely overlooked by both consumers and the press. We thought these five were the most worthy of another look, but what do you think? Which Android phones didn’t get the attention, or sales, they really deserved in 2017? Let us know your thoughts and picks in the comments!