The smartphone world evolves at such a breakneck pace that a lot can happen in just a week, or even a day. But what about a whole year? Well, in that case, we’re talking about generational changes, concepts turning into actual products, and things like that. Unsurprisingly, this year wasn’t any different.
From mid-range smartphones with top-tier specs to old form factors becoming hip again, 2018 saw a lot of exciting developments happen in the mobile space. However, this was also the year when top-of-the-line smartphones reached set new records, both in terms of features and prices. While some of these flagship devices brought truly innovative features to the table, others were mostly incremental upgrades over their predecessors.
But, that’s a discussion for another day. As the year draws to close and the technology world gears up for an even more eventful 2019, here’s BGR India’s pick of the best flagship smartphones of 2018.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Earlier this year, Huawei edged out Apple to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. While that achievement was largely the result of the its expansive entry-level and mid-range portfolio, the company also showed that when push comes to shove, it can make some of the best flagship devices in the business.
Launched in October at an event in London, Huawei’s flag bearer Mate 20 Pro is packed with more features than you’ll probably ever need. An imaging powerhouse, Huawei Mate 20 Pro boasts Leica-engineered triple-lens camera system at the back. Comprised of a 40-megapixel sensor, a 20-megapixel sensor, and an 8-megapixel sensor, as well as full-blown manual controls, it allows you to capture some truly amazing photos.
Up front, there’s a 24-megapixel sensor for selfies and video calls. Backed by a massive 4,200mAh battery, the flagship smartphone supports both fast and wireless charging. Heck, it can even reverse charge other smartphones wirelessly, if that’s your thing.
Apple iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max
With its 2018 line-up of iPhones, Apple confirmed that last year’s iPhone X wasn’t just a funky ‘one more thing’, but the blueprint for the company’s future smartphones (at least, for the next few years). Unveiled in September, the flagship iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max (the iPhone XR is a ‘budget’ offering, according to Apple) follow the design language of 2017’s iPhone X to a T, notch and all.
The XS and XS Max come with 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch Super AMOLED panels, with the Max’s display being the biggest to be ever put in an iPhone. Powering the smartphones is Apple’s latest A12 Bionic SoC, based on the 7nm fabrication process. The Touch ID has been dropped in favor of facial authentication-based Face ID, with the numerous sensors required for it being housed in the huge notch on the front of the smartphones. They also come with up to 512GB of internal storage, with the maxed-out iPhone XS Max having an insane price tag of Rs 144,900.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Samsung’s stylus-wielding Galaxy Note series has always been considered as the gold-standard of productivity-centric mobile devices, and the most-recent addition to the line-up only cemented that status. Launched in August this year, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is easily among the top Android flagship devices of 2018.
Watch: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 First Look
The phablet features a gorgeous 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel with a resolution of 1440×2960 pixels, an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, and thankfully no notch. At the helm is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 (or Samsung’s Exynos 9810, based on region) SoC, paired with up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of on-board storage. Samsung Galaxy Note 9 also comes with a much-improved S-Pen, which features 4,096 levels of sensitivity, and more importantly Bluetooth support. This lets you remotely control presentations, play/pause videos, and much more.
Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL
Undoubtedly the worst-kept secrets in the history of smartphones, Google’s third generation pixels had just about everything leaked about them, in the months preceding their actual launch in October. Compared to their respective predecessors, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL don’t really offer anything new in terms of design (except for the XL having arguably the most hideous-looking notch to be ever put in a smartphone).
That said, they do come with updated hardware, including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB/128GB of internal storage. However, what truly sets the duo apart are their imaging chops. Like their predecessors, Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL undoubtedly have the best cameras you’re going to find on any smartphone today. Combined with Google’s magical ‘Night Sight’ mode, the 12.2-megapixel single-lens rear cameras on both smartphones capture low-light photos other smartphones can only dream of. Up front, Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL feature two 8-megapixel sensors, allowing you to capture ultra-wide selfies effortlessly.
Extending its long-running line-up of ‘flagship killer’ smartphones, OnePlus unveiled OnePlus 6T in October this year. However, it’s much more than an incremental upgrade to OnePlus 6. Having a starting price of Rs 37,999, the newest ‘flagship killer’ is OnePlus’ first smartphone to come with an under-display fingerprint sensor, and also the first to lack a 3.5mm audio port.
The smartphone features a 6.41-inch Optic AMOLED display, with a resolution of 1080×2340 pixels, a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and a fairly unobtrusive ‘waterdrop-style’ notch. Delivering horsepower to OnePlus 6T is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, helped by 6GB/8GB of RAM and 128GB/256GB of internal storage. There’s also a special McLaren Edition, which comes with an overkill 10GB of RAM. Backing up the whole package is a 3,700mAh battery, which can be juiced up in no time, thanks to OnePlus’ ‘Warp Charge’ (the new, slightly-better version of ‘Dash Charge’) technology.
LG G7+ ThinQ
LG has been making some truly great flagships for quite some years now, but they somehow always end up getting eclipsed by fellow South Korean rival Samsung’s offerings. The G7+ ThinQ, announced in May this year, is no exception.
A vastly-underrated smartphone, LG G7+ ThinQ features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset under the hood, helped by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Gracing the façade of the G7+ ThinQ is a 6.1-inch Quad-HD+ display, with a resolution of 1440×3120 pixels and an extra-tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio.
For all your mobile photography cravings, LG G7+ ThinQ features a dual-lens rear camera system at the back, comprised of a 16-megapixel regular module and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide module. Apart from the usual features like OIS and 4K video recording, the camera system also comes with all kinds of AI smarts. LG’s flagships have always been big on audio, so it’s hardly a surprise that the G7+ ThinQ comes with a 3.5mm audio port and an integrated quad DAC. Oh, and did we mention that its down-firing mono speaker is arguably the loudest you’re going to find on any smartphone?