Holiday Smartphone Shopping Guide

This year, as always, many new phones have come onto the market, making a purchase decision a tough task. It has been an especially hard year to make a choice, as there are many more high-quality offerings than usual, from manufacturers new and old. Here, I will recommend a smartphone for various budgets and types of use in order to help you make the right smartphone purchase this holiday season.

For the Mobile Photographer: The Pixel 2 XL (starting at $850). The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have the best camera on any smartphone. The race is closer than ever, with the iPhone X, Note 8, and Huawei Mate 10 Pro having cameras that are almost as good. However, the image processing done by Google’s machine learning and impeccable HDR (High Dynamic Range) capture mode set it apart from the rest. It is excellent in low light, has both optical and digital image stabilization, and also has one of the best portrait modes, both on the front camera and the back. The Pixel 2 XL also has a fairly large 3520 mAh battery, stereo front-facing speakers, and software updates guaranteed by Google. With the edition of unlimited HD storage in Google Photos, it is a perfect choice for the mobile photographer looking for a new phone.

For the Spec Lovers and Gamers: The Razer Phone ($699). The Razer Phone is the company’s first foray into the smartphone world, but it has lots of experience building high-quality laptops. Razer purchased the startup Nextbit in order to help them make their phone, and it fills a unique niche. This device features a 120Hz screen, the first-ever smartphone with this feature in the U.S. A 120Hz screen means that animations are twice as smooth, and games that support the higher frame rates are as well. It also features stock Android, a Snapdragon 835 with the best thermal performance of any flagship this year, a huge 4000 mAh battery, 8 GB of RAM, and 2 front-facing speakers that are the best ever put in a smartphone hands down. Its spec sheet is impressive, and games run smoother on it than on any other phone, but don’t buy it for its camera. The camera is not terrible, but it could use some work. The Razer CEO has said that they are working on updating it to make it better, but that is not a guarantee.

For the Note Takers and Enthusiasts: The Note 8 ($925). The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is like many of the Note devices before it. It has many, many features that please enthusiasts, one such feature being the S Pen. The S Pen is a stylus built into the phone that allows for easy note-taking, some sketching, and more precise navigation of the operating system. Other such software features include many customizations with the edge screen, theme, lock screen, and more. It is not the smoothest phone and does not feature stock Android, but it is still the smoothest Samsung phone ever made. It has the best screen on any phone, a good camera, a premium design, and decent battery life. However, its 3300 mAh battery does not impress in size like previous Note devices may have. Additionally, at 6.4 inches, it is definitely too big for some people. Still, it is a great phone for those who want a stylus or those who love as many features as possible.

For the Die-hard Apple Fans: The iPhone X (Starting $999). The iPhone X is the best iPhone ever made, as is said with each new iPhone every year. It is definitely better than the iPhone 8 and 8+, which feature a four-year-old design and few reasons to upgrade to the 7 models. The X, however, has a new and exciting design for Apple fans and a screen that is sure to impress. If you are a die-hard Apple fan willing to spend at least $1000, I definitely recommend the iPhone X. For everyone else, I’d say look elsewhere. With a starting price of $999, a design that is similar to several Android phones, and a reduction in smoothness and performance of the operating system with the sloppiness of iOS 11 compared to other iOS versions, there are better alternatives available. Don’t get me wrong — It’s a great phone. It’s just not for everyone.

For the Average Person: The OnePlus 5T (Starting at $450 with a student discount). Not everyone has $800 to spend on a smartphone. If you are looking for something a bit cheaper that doesn’t feel a bit cheaper, then the 5T is for you. It features an 18:9 screen with slim bezels like many of the flagships this year, and it keeps almost everything else the same as the OnePlus 5, which shipped earlier this year. It has good battery life, great nearly stock Android software, and 6 or 8 GB of RAM. It is everything you could want from a 2017 flagship, except for the cameras, which don’t quite live up to flagship quality. If you can sacrifice some camera performance for a lower cost, this one is a great choice.