Best Android phones in Australia: the top handsets to buy in 2018
Posted by Stephen Lambrechts on 05 April 2018 04:32 AM
With an open platform and multiple manufacturers using the operating system, Android was always destined for greatness. Today, Android is easily the biggest OS in Australia.
With only a couple of exceptions, all the companies that were making mobile phones before iOS was launched now run Android.
Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC, Huawei, Google and Motorola all wave the Android flag proudly on their devices.
Still, the many variations in screen size, processing power, software features and design makes finding the best Android phone that suits your needs extremely tough.
To help find the Android handset that's right for you, we've rounded up the best phones out there running that operating system, rating each one on hardware performance, OS upgrade potential and, of course, how shiny and nice they are to have and boast about to work colleagues.
So here they are – the best Android phones money can buy in 2018 – for many, many different reasons.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus was one the best flagship phones of all time, though it did have some quirks. Thankfully, with its new Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, Samsung has made an effort to address almost every issue and niggle exhibited by the S8 range. You won't find an awkwardly-placed fingerprint sensor here, and the S8 range's underwhelming built-in speakers have been replaced with awesome Dolby Atmos-boosted stereo ones. That annoying Bixby button remains, however.
At first glance, the S9 Plus is easy to mistake for the S8 Plus when looking at it from the front, though there has been a slight design change here. The Galaxy S9 Plus has a height difference of 1.4mm, the benefit of which can be found in the device's smaller bottom bezel. Flip it over, however, and the differences become more apparent. The phone's new vertical camera and fingerprint sensor layout instantly feels more natural than last year's model, and is much easier to reach now.
While not quite as big as the Galaxy Note 8, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is still a large phone that approaches phablet territory.
Screen: The S9 Plus has what many believe to be the very best display on any handset right now, with its Super AMOLED 6.2-inch screen offering incredibly rich HDR-enhanced colours, inky blacks, and what is essentially the greatest viewing experience you can have on a mobile phone right now.
Performance: The battery life on the S9 Plus is better than the smaller version, thanks to the 3500mAh battery. That said, other phones on this list are capable of lasting much longer without a recharge.
Having listened to music through the S9 Plus' new speaker mouth (so long, speaker grill) we can confirm that a drastic improvement in audio performance has taken place. Sound quality is much fuller than before, exhibiting some added depth and bass. Sure, it won't inspire you to throw away your Bluetooth speaker, but the difference in audio quality is significant – especially when you take into account the inclusion of Dolby Atmos support.
And, thanks to its powerful new Exynos 9810 chipset (Snapdragon 845 in some territories), the Galaxy S9 Plus offers unrivalled performance when it comes to the Australian smartphone market.
Camera: The Galaxy S9 Plus' biggest selling point is undoubtedly its revamped dual camera setup (something not found on the standard S9), which is now capable of taking super slow motion video (up to 960fps at 720p resolution) and has variable aperture capabilities, which allows the phone to automatically switch between f/1.5 (for very low-light photography) and f/2.4 (super bright and vibrant photography). Depending in the light conditions, you can even see the camera's tiny shutter opening and closing.
Mini verdict: There are a number of factors that put the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ahead of the competition, from its incredible QHD+ 18:9.5 AMOLED display, to its powerful new Exynos 9810 chipset. However, it's the way that Samsung has truly listened to its customers and created a phone specifically for them that makes the Galaxy S9 Plus our current pick for best smartphone.
Overtaking Samsung's other large handset of last year, the fantastic Galaxy S8 Plus, Samsung's new Galaxy Note 8 has now taken the 'best phablet of the year' crown. No small feat given the battery problems that plagued the Note 7.
Though its design is based heavily on the aforementioned Galaxy S8 Plus, the Galaxy Note 8 differentiates itself by being slightly bigger and sporting the signature squarish look that has been synonymous with the Galaxy Note line since its inception. With its retractable S Pen and sophisticated look and feel, you'll know the Note 8 means business from the moment it's held for the first time.
Screen: Samsung's class-leading Infinity Display is better than ever here, with the Note 8's 6.3-inch display providing absolutely jaw-dropping HDR images and video from every angle. This is one screen that's bound to turn a few heads.
Performance: The Galaxy Note 8 was the most powerful phone that the company had ever produced at the time of its release last year, with 6GB of RAM, giving it the processing edge over its S8 range.
Given the Note 7's battery issues, it's perhaps not surprising that Samsung didn't taking any chances with the Note 8's battery, having reduced its size significantly – at 3,300mAh it’s 200mAh smaller than the battery featured in the S8 Plus, despite being a larger phone with an extra 2GB of RAM to work with. Still, in our experience, the battery has always managed to last a full day with regular usage.
Camera: The Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung's first flagship with a dual camera setup, allowing users to take impressive depth-of-field and portrait shots (under the right conditions) and take advantage of 2x optical zoom functionality. Until the arrival of the Galaxy S9 Plus, the Note 8 sported Samsung's best camera to date. While it may have been surpassed, it's still an absolutely fantastic snapper.
Mini verdict: At $1,499, it's also one of the pricier phones on the market. If the Note 8's S Pen functionality isn't essential to you, the cheaper and similarly specced Galaxy S8 Plus might be a better option for you. However, if you're set on owning the most top-of-the-line phablet on the market, the Galaxy Note 8 is certainly worth the price of admission.
With a slick design that leaves its predecessor for dead, an 18:5 QHD+ display with reduced bezels, and one of the best cameras on any smartphone, the Pixel 2 XL takes Google's smartphone brand to a whole new level.
That said, it does have its downsides: the headphone jack has been ditched and it seems like Google is dead-set against the inclusion of a microSD card slot, but at least its newest phablet now has an IP67 water and dust rating.
Screen: Though it sports an LG OLED display with small bezels and a QHD+ resolution, the Google Pixel 2 XL's screen is not one of its strong suits. Aside from some poor viewing angles, it's a perfectly fine display, though not to the same standard as what Samsung's Galaxy range is packing these days.
Performance: Pure Android aficionados will love what Google has whipped up here, with its clean OS providing the Pixel 2 XL with slick performance and a clutter-free interface.
In our experience, it feels as fast as the other flagships on the market, despite having lower specs. Multitasking is quick as can be, as is the general performance found in games and downloading media content.
But there are some areas where the performance seems to defy the specs, which probably has to do with how lean its version of Android is. And, because it's a Google phone, it'll always be the first to get new OS updates as they happen.
Camera: Another thing that sets the Pixel 2 XL apart from the competition is its refusal to follow the dual camera trend, instead offering single-lens setup manages to pip almost every other smartphone's camera on the market. You can look forward to a brilliant portrait mode and an incredibly fast capture speed on the Pixel 2 XL.
Mini verdict: Want a phablet that offers a stock Android experience, excellent performance and magnificent pictures, then look no further than the Google Pixel 2 XL.
There's no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S9 isn't quite as exceptional as its bigger brother, the S9 Plus. It's got just one camera sensor on its rear, less RAM and its battery is quite a bit smaller – but most people will be more comfortable holding a phone of this size in their hand, and it still packs the power and top screen quality of its esteemed sibling.
Screen: A QHD 5.8-inch screen takes up most of the front of the phone, and while it hasn't changed much in terms of design compared to last year's model, it's still a stunning device to behold. The S9's display is even better than last year's already stellar version, with brighter, more colourful images. The Super AMOLED tech is once again showing itself to be the best thing to look at on a smartphone, capable of showing off the best in movies and TV shows.
Performance: Admittedly, battery life is a little disappointing for a top-end smartphone, meaning you'll need to think about a top-up during the day if you're the type of user that expects heavy usage, such as video watching and game playing. Thankfully, this is helped by stellar wireless and fast charging capabilities that allow you to juice your phone up quickly if necessary.
Camera: While it only has a single sensor on the rear of the Galaxy S9 – the Galaxy S9 Plus has a dual camera array – it's still capable of taking stunning photos with exceptional low light performance and equally good noise performance. Though its larger sibling has the superior camera, you won't miss out on much with the Galaxy S9.
Mini verdict: The Galaxy S9 is a smartphone with all the top-end features you'd want, with plenty more on top. It's not quite at the level of the S9 Plus, and the iPhone X outranks it in some ways, but for a more palm-friendly Android phone, it's utterly tops.
The LG V30 Plus is a slightly updated version of the original LG V30, only with improved Quad DAC audio, larger storage capacity and other features. In terms of look and feel, though, it's exactly the same, which is good, because only the LG V30 Plus is available in Australia now.
Screen: The V30 Plus sports the fashionable 18:9 aspect ratio complete with an attractive 6-inch OLED display with 2880 x 1440 (QHD) resolution. While there are still bezels at the ends, the phone looks and feels superb.
Performance: As the first LG phone to boast a Snapdragon 835 chipset, the LG V30 Plus finds itself in the company of such smartphone titans as the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 when it comes to performance.
If you love your music, this is the phone to get, with its Quad DAC (digital to analog converter) audio capability offering exceptional sound quality. This phone is more than capable of playing your Hi-Res FLAC audio files and will even make your regular MP3s sound better.
Camera: On the camera side of things, it's got a dual camera setup that allows you to take wide-angle shots, and new Point Focus and Cine Video colour grading tools let you make the most of your photography and video recording. An exceptional phone all round.
Mini verdict: In our opinion, the LG V30 Plus is an improvement over the already impressive LG G6, which was also released in 2017. It's got a beautiful design, powerful internals (it's the first LG phone to use a Snapdragon 835 chipset), a terrific camera and a gorgeous 18:9 QHD+ AMOLED display.
With 2016's Mate 9, Huawei turned the perception of its products around in a massive way, offering a top-of-the-line premium phablet at an attractive price. Now, the Chinese phone maker has delivered an equally impressive follow up with the Mate 10 Pro.
Screen: It's got a stunning 18:9 AMOLED display, which offers richer colours, deeper blacks and a brighter picture than its predecessor, and slim bezels for a modern look and feel.
Performance: Artificial Intelligence is one of Huawei's key selling points, and the Mate 10 Pro features a dedicated NPU (neural processing unit) on its new Kirin 970 processor to automatically adjust your camera settings based on what you’re shooting, from landscapes, food, plants, sunsets, pets – you name it.
It's also got a massive 4,000mAh battery which will keep it juice going for around two days of regular use before needing to be recharged. How many other smartphones can boast that?
Camera: Thanks to its partnership with camera powerhouse Leica, Huawei has once again delivered an incredible dual camera array that lets you take professional-looking shots with very little effort. A 12MP colour (RGB) sensor has been combined with a 20MP monochrome sensor to allow for amazing depth-of-field shots and magazine-ready black and white photos.
Mini verdict: Sure, we're not totally pleased with some of Huawei's design decisions on the Mate 10 Pro (losing the headphone jack and microSD card slot is not something that sits well with us), but we have to applaud its wonderful photographical features and striking new form factor.
Huawei released two major handsets in 2017, both equally capable of incredible photography and backed by premium hardware and AI smarts that elevate the Mate 10 range to new heights.
Choosing between the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro really comes down to personal preference. Do you like the Mate 10 Pro's longer Full HD+ AMOLED screen display more than the QHD IPS LCD display on the regular Mate 10? Do you value the Mate 10's headphone jack over the ability to take the Mate 10 Pro underwater? With each handset offering a number of tradeoffs, the decision isn't quite as simple as it would seem.
Screen: While the Mate 10 doesn't sport the same AMOLED screen as its Pro alternative, its LCD IPS display boasts a higher resolution, making its QHD display technically sharper and more clear to look at.
Camera: You'll be happy to know that both handsets boast fantastic Leica-branded dual camera setups, allowing you to take stunning, professional-level photos with your phone.
Performance: The real deal-breaker though, is that the standard Huawei Mate 10 has a microSD card slot, while the Mate 10 Pro does not. If you need the added storage, the Mate 10 is the way to go.
Thankfully, like the Mate 10 Pro, the regular Mate 10 sports a massive battery that's good for around two days of usage before you need to top up again. It also boasts the same powerful Kirin 970 chipset and AI smarts that can automatically adjust its camera settings depending on the object you're taking a photo of.
Mini verdict: The Mate 10 is a terrific flagship phone that's neither better nor worse than it's Pro sibling. If you favour a headphone jack, high resolution screen and microSD expansion over AMOLED and water-proofing, then we'd recommend the Huawei Mate 10 as your go-to phone.
Along with its XL-lent sibling, the Google Pixel 2 boasts what many consider to be the best smartphone camera of 2017, and that's not all when it comes to the various ways in which the Pixel 2 improves upon the original. We even like the two-tone effect on the phone's rear this time around
Screen: Admittedly, we're not crazy about its its bezel-heavy design, which looks terribly outdated in 2018, but the Pixel 2 does feel more stylish than its predecessor.
Its display, which surprisingly has a maximum resolution of just 1080p, is admirable, if not exceptional. Photos look excellent on it, so long as you pick the right colour setting to suit your taste. It also features Always-On functionality, so you can check the time, date and your notifications at a glance.
Camera: But let's get back to the camera, which despite being a single-lens setup, has received top ratings from the renowned camera benchmarking team at DxOMark, outperforming most of its dual camera peers with ease.
Performance: Though we still don't know why the Pixel 2 still lacks a microSD slot or why its display is only 1080p, we're very pleased that Google has delivered a handset with an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance.
Like the Google Pixel 2 XL, the smaller Pixel 2 runs fast and snappy – a benefit of the handset sporting a Snapdragon 835 chipset and running a stock version of Android. While its 4GB RAM is more than capable right now, it's hard to know how the phone will perform in a couple of years.
Mini verdict: If you can overlook its large bezels, missing headphone jack and lack of expandable memory, the Google Pixel 2 is still one of the most powerful handsets on the market.
While 2016's Huawei Mate 9 was already an incredibly impressive phablet, the Huawei P10 Plus takes everything that phone did well and improves upon it, making it an ideal option for those who don't like larger-sized handsets.
Screen: A major benefit of the Plus version of the Huawei P10 line is its excellent screen, which is not only bigger, but boasts a higher QHD resolution – perfect for when you want to inspect the professional-looking pictures you've just taken.
Camera: Like the Mate 9, it has dual cameras (only this time with no camera bumps whatsoever) and photography is rightly the key selling point of the device. At 20MP and 12MP, these lenses combine monochrome and RGB sensors with a creative Wide Aperture mode that makes it relatively easy to achieve pro-level results.
Trust us when we tell you that you will never tire of applying bokeh effects and changing your picture's point of focus long after it's already been taken. And, if you want to get even deeper with your photography options, a pro mode lets you adjust ISO levels, white balance and more.
Performance: It's got a speedy fingerprint sensor on the front (one of the fastest we've ever tested), a gorgeous QHD display, a textured power button with red edging for added pizzazz, a large battery with fast-charging capability, and thanks to the Kirin 960 processor it inherited from the Mate 9, it performs just as terrifically.
It too uses a machine learning algorithm that learns how you use the phone, effectively creating shortcuts to your most-used features. This makes sure that your handset does not show signs of slowed performance for at least the first 18 months of usage.
Mini verdict: While it may not have the name recognition of a Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6, it's hard to imagine anyone spending some time for Huawei's flagship and coming away wanting. If you're looking for a phone that takes amazing photos, you're unlikely to find a better option than the Huawei P10 Plus.
Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium was the first smartphone in the world to boast a 4K display. And the electronics giant has followed it with another magnificent 4K-ready phone in the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.
Screen: As you would expect, its 5.46-inch UHD display is truly stunning, now also boasting HDR's wider colour gamut for truly breathtaking clarity and vibrant images all round. Admittedly, it won't always be showing you stuff at 4K resolution – that really only kicks in when viewing media in an effort to conserve battery – but even when running it at 1080p for everything else, the display still looks excellent.
If there's one drawback to the Sony Xperia XZ Premium it's that its unnecessarily huge bezels distract from the amazing screen in front of you. Sony doesn't really make any meaningful use of the space, either (though there are some front-facing speakers tucked in there), opting to place the fingerprint scanner on the side and use on-screen buttons instead of touch capacitive ones at the bottom.
Camera: Though other handsets may have the edge when it comes to raw power, the XZ premium's incredible 4K screen (which boasts a whopping pixel density of 807ppi) is especially magnificent when used to view photos and video taken with the XZ Premium's impressive 19MP primary camera. It's got a dedicated shutter button (which you can half-press to initiate laser autofocus) and is also capable of shooting 720p video footage at a ridiculously slow 960fps. Of course, you can also record 4K footage at 30fps, too.
Performance: The phone itself is quite impressive in terms of specs, with 4GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 64 GB of storage (microSD up to 256GB), a 3,230 mAh battery, a water resistant build and it's also got Sony's unique side-mounted fingerprint scanner.
Mini verdict: The Sony Xperia XZ is a seriously slick phone with a jaw-dropping screen (backed by the same Triluminos display technology that powers Sony's 4K TVs). We recommend loading some 4K HDR footage from YouTube on there and watching your friends get extremely jealous of what this phone is capable of.
You're at the end of the guide, and that means no more phones to recommend. But that doesn't mean we can't still help you – we've listed all the phones here in one easy comparison table (with a few extras), so you can decide between them all at once.
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