Android smartphones of 2018 stood apart from each other for the software optimisations more than the hardware underneath. Words like artificial intelligence were thrown around quite casually. Bezels were shaved off, and textured glass designs with gradient colours and under-display fingerprint sensors became the design choices of the year.
When it came to raw performance though, a handful of Android phones were there to choose from, helping us sort the wheat from the chaff. Consistently good camera performance was ensured, but the battery life, except for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, left us asking for more.
2018 Zero1 Award Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Our winner for the best Android phone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Samsung’s most feature-packed phone outperformed all other Android smartphones from this year and is 24 percent faster than the Google Pixel 2 XL which was our winner in 2017. The giant leap in performance helps in Dex mode, or with the S-Pen, or even in gaming. The Note 9 is a phone meant for almost all use-cases.
The giant 6.4-inch Super AMOLED 2K display is the brightest and the most well-calibrated among Android phones. The variable-aperture camera can take sharp photos even when the light isn’t so good. The 4,000mAh battery on the Galaxy Note 9 was the longest running among all other flagships.
Runner-up: Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro arrived just in the nick of time to be considered for this year’s Zero1 Awards. Packed to the brim with features like reverse wireless charging, under-display fingerprint sensor and more, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is an over-engineered piece of marvel. Its performance is neck-to-neck with the Galaxy Note 9 thanks to the 7nm Kirin 980 chipset. It even managed to beat the Exynos 9810 in multi-thread operations, although it couldn’t match up to the winner in graphics processing.
The Mate 20 Pro also has three Leica-branded rear cameras that took better photos than the Galaxy Note 9. Even with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, the phone loses out to the Galaxy Note 9 for the display. Not because it’s bad, but the Note 9’s panel is slightly superior.
Editor’s Pick: Google Pixel 3 XL
The Google Pixel 3 XL improves upon everything that its predecessor stood for. It has a considerably better display, a refined dual-tone glass design and an effortlessly good camera. Google relied on software optimisation to make the experience of using the phone much better. The Pixel camera this year makes bold claims and manages to live up to it. The NightSight feature especially goes on to improve low-light photography without relying on additional hardware. Google’s Super-Res zoom that can recover details from objects far ahead, leaving us impressed.
Android 9 Pie’s features tied with Pixel 3 XL’s own AI-based improvements make the Pixel 3 XL adapt to your needs. Its claims to fame continues to be the camera. But this time around, its performance is right up there with the best Android phone. The Pixel 3 XL is a no-nonsense performer that excels in every aspect. Therefore, this ended up being the Editor’s Pick.