More than the hardware underneath, 2018 Android smartphones stood apart from each other for the software optimisations.. While the hardware remained saturated across price ranges, 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, marking a big shift in design cues.
When it came to raw performance though, a handful of Android phone were there to choose from, helping us sort the wheat from the chaff. Also, while the Google Pixel 3 adamantly stuck to a single rear camera, we saw phones with not two, but three and even four cameras on the back. 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 (Review)
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 when you connect the phone to a monitor to use it as a desktop, or when you whip out the S-Pen to make a quick note or draw an elaborate doodle, or even when you’re getting that chicken dinner on PubG Mobile. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a phone meant for almost all use-cases. It’s by no means a compact phone and 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 and the 4,000mAh battery on the Galaxy Note 9 was the longest running among all other flagships with a screen-on time of 11 hours.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Review)
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. It’s performance is neck-to-neck with the Galaxy Note 9 thanks to the 7nm Kirin 980 chipset it comes powered by. 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 features three Leica-branded cameras on the back that we thought took better photos than the Galaxy Note 9. It even comes 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.
Google Pixel 3 XL (Review)
The Google Pixel 3 XL improves upon everything that it’s predecessor stood for. It has a considerably better display, a refined dual-tone glass design and an effortlessly good camera. While the hardware under the hood is more or less same as every other flagship phone this year, Google relied on software trickery 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 improve low-light photography without relying on additional hardware. More than that, Google’s Super-Res zoom that can recover details from objects far, far ahead really left us impressed with its accuracy. Android 9 Pie’s features tied with Pixel 3 XL’s own AI-based improvements make the Pixel 3 XL adapt to your needs with relevant app suggestions and shortcuts. It’s claim to fame continues to be the camera, and this time around, it’s performance is right up there with the best Android phone. The Pixel 3 XL is the most hassle-free, no-nonsense performer that excels in every aspect of performance, and as a result, this is our best buy.