That smartphone sat in your pocket? It's pretty much the ultimate gadget.
It’s just so many things: a pocket-sized device that gives the bearer access to all human knowledge; a portable music and HD video viewer; a handheld games console; a point-and-shoot camera and camcorder; a master of communications; and yes (very important), it’s a calculator.
All of the above is true, and none of it hyperbole, which is why here at Stuff we spend so much time and effort reviewing and reporting on smartphones. They’re the bread and butter of the tech world; a type of gadget that pretty much everybody owns; fast-moving, always developing and in a highly competitive marketplace, every year sees dozens of excellent smartphones released.
2017 has been no different – even though, at the time of writing, it’s only halfway through the year. So without further ado, let us bring you our favourite smartphones of 2017 so far.
Best flagship killer: OnePlus 5
At £449, the OnePlus 5 is somewhat pricier than previous OnePlus models – and yet it’s still significantly cheaper than the £600 plus you’d be shelling out for any other handset that delivers this sort of quality.
While it may fall short of true bargain basement territory (we’ll get to a phone that does further down this list), it still beats the competition on price. In fact, upon its release it was the most powerful smartphone on the market: armed with a sizzlingly fast Snapdragon 835 processor (the same you’d find in the far more expensive Samsung Galaxy S8) and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, at the time of writing it pastes anything else on the benchmarks front.
There’s more to it than sheer processing muscle, too: it’s OnePlus’ best-looking phone to date, runs on an elegant almost-stock Android platform with some thoughtful tweaks and rocks a fantastic dual-lens rear camera able to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone 7’s snapper in good lighting conditions.
If you’re looking for a flagship phone with a less-than-flagship asking price, heed our advice: take 5.
Best bezel-buster: Samsung Galaxy S8
We think the Samsung Galaxy S8 is 2017’s best smartphone so far, and a major part of that is its screen.
Dubbed the “Infinity Display” by its makers, it’s a huge 5.8in screen that curves around the left and right edges and extends almost the entire way up and down too, except for narrow bezels and the top and bottom.
Big screens on phones are nothing new, but there’s something about the way the Galaxy S8’s covers so much of the front side – it gives it a real visual impact that no other phone can deliver. We’d be shocked if there’s a sleeker, more desirable phone released this year – unless Apple has something truly spectacular up its sleeves.
Best bad blast from the past: Nokia 3310
You know what they say: nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. And that’s very much the case with Nokia’s 2017 take on the 3310.
While the original is a bonafide late 90s classic in much the same way as Tamagotchis, Oasis and landslide Labour election victories, the modern day remake is distinctly lacking in magic.
Yes, it’s a fine phone to take to a festival (thanks to sturdy build quality and mammoth battery life), but it’s not like there aren’t other, cheaper burner phones already available. By slapping a premium price tag on the 3310 without giving it at least a few premium features, Nokia comes across as making little more than a cynical grab for your wallet.
Yes, it’s got Snake, too. But c’mon, Snake’s not enough. Bin the rose-tinted specs and think hard before shelling out on this, because sometimes it’s better to let bygones be bygones.
Best use of colour: HTC U11
Most smartphones look pretty similar – a skinny grey/black/silver/sometimes red rectangle. That’s fine, we suppose, but sometimes it’s refreshing to see a handset that pushes the envelope when it comes to colour, and no phone this year has done more envelope-shoving than the HTC U11. It’s like a tech postman, just shoving envelopes left, right and centre.
Eschewing HTC’s standard aluminium for multi-layered glass, this phone catches the light brilliantly at any angle. And when it does so, it reflects crazy combinations of colour: the Solar Red model, for instance, appears bright crimson when viewed face on, but tilt it slightly and it bursts into stunning gold. It’s a little like the paint job on a 1990s TVR sports car, albeit on something that costs substantially less and fits in your pocket.
The U11 is a lovely phone in every other aspect too, but it’s its radical use of colour that makes it stand out from the pack. Quite literally.
Best pocket money pickup: Lenovo Moto G5
You might think there’s a tendency here at Stuff (and the tech world at large) to focus on the pricier, showier, fancier smartphones at the expense of cheaper fare. And while we make no apologies for our love of all things powerful and cutting-edge, we know that not everyone wants to throw down the best part of a grand on a mobile phone.
That’s where handsets like the Lenovo Moto G5 come in. Priced at just £170, it has a lovely, sharp 5in 1080p screen, runs on a nicely clean version of Android 7.0 Nougat and offers a decent balance of performance and battery life. It’s, quite simply, the best budget smartphone we’ve come across in 2017. Bargain hunters take note.
Best screen star: Sony Xperia XZ Premium
You may know that the Xperia XZ Premium has the smartphone world’s highest-resolution screen – a 5.5in LCD display with a stonking 3840 x 2160 pixels. That’s 4K, in other words, and works out to an insane pixel density of 807 pixels per inch.
Crazy stuff, but it’s not the sheer amount of crisp detail that made us fall in lust with the Sony’s screen – it’s the HDR support.
High dynamic range is now available on a handful of smartphones, but it has massive impact here, ensuring the XZ Premium delivers mind-blowing amounts of brightness and colour detail. We’re talking saturation central; it’s the perfect device if you want to kick back and give your eyes a feast.
Best for battery life: Lenovo P2
Another cut-price communicator from Lenovo here, but the P2’s most appealing aspect isn’t its affordability – it’s its longevity.
Rocking a stupendous 5100mAh battery, this Android stamina-beast will easily give you two days of normal use between charges, and if you’re careful (say, by turning the power saving mode to its “Ultimate” setting), it can manage about 100 hours of use before conking out. We even managed to get it to play video for 15 continuous hours.
With most smartphones barely getting through a day before needing a top-up from the socket, it’s good to know someone’s still looking out for those of us who can’t do with fretting about battery life.
Best for butter-fingers: Crosscall Trekker-X3
Most decent smartphones these days make at least some sort of effort at ruggedness, even if it’s something as simple as a Gorilla Glass screen or basic splash proofing – but almost nothing goes to the crazy extremes of the Trekker-X3.
Built for types who want to take a call atop a mountain or play Candy Crush whilst sliding down a glacier, this Android handset is sealed against dust, dirt and liquid (up to a metre), works to a temperature of -10 degree Celsius and has a tough, rubberised shell that shrugs off drops. It even has a touchscreen that works in the rain.
It’s no gimmicky trickster though, with that roughneck exterior concealing a very capable performer with great battery life and decent specs. Not just a rugged face, then.
Best for old-fashioned fingers: BlackBerry KeyOne
Are you the type that likes to type? And to do so with real, physical keys – not on one of these new-fangled “touchscreens”? You might have thought your time in the sun was over, that hardware keyboards had gone the way of the dodo, that you’d be stuck with screens for the rest of your life… and then the BlackBerry KeyOne trundled into view.
BlackBerry OS may be dead, the company may be a shadow of its former self but, dammit, it’s still able to make phones with great keyboards. Soft and reassuringly clicky, this one is great for tapping out emails and messages, and features touch controls that allow it to function as a navigation pad too.
Oh, and don’t worry about the screen – the KeyOne’s is pretty decent too. It’s small at 4.5in, but sharp and clear. So it’s really a case of the best of both worlds.