There are dozens of good smartphones out there these days, and while that may be a good thing for consumers, it’s also become easy to get lost when looking for something new.
There are dozens of manufacturers, including old tech giants, startups, and even newcomers from Asia, and the market has never been more saturated.
This is why we wanted to make a simple list, which divides smartphones in five categories — high, mid-high, midrange, mid-low, and low end — that are separated by a combined mix of price and quality.
Each category has a winner, and a runner-up — this obviously means that some great devices are missing, as each category would have way more than just two contenders.
If you are shopping for a new smartphone and need a simple guide to make your way through the sea of handsets out there, look no further.
Low-end, winner: Moto E4 Plus ( £150 / $180)
The first smartphone in our list is one of the most surprising: For just £150, the Moto E4 Plus is living proof of how far smartphones have come in a matter of just a few years.
Highlights include: A large, 5.5-inch HD display, a 13MP rear camera with HDR capabilities, 16GB of internal storage (with microSD support up to 128GB extra), and a decent MediaTek MT6737 that keeps Android 7.1.1 Nougat running nicely, with Motorola’s extremely lightweight skin on top.
But there’s more impressive stuff inside the E4 Plus, such as a whopping 3GB of RAM — the same amount you’d find inside the iPhone X, for reference — an insane, tablet-size 5000mAh battery (which might well last you beyond two days of use), and even a fingerprint scanner.
With all that goodness inside such a neat package, it almost seems hard to even look beyond.
Low-end, runner-up: Nokia 5 (£179)
If you do want to look at alternatives, however, Nokia has got you covered.
Ever since the Finnish startup HMD Global acquired the remaining parts of Nokia’s mobile operations (the ones Microsoft hadn’t absorbed), the company has focused on making affordable smartphones.
The £129 Nokia 3 isn’t particularly noteworthy, but £50 more will get the Nokia 5 in your hands, a phone you can think of as a slightly less capable but more elegant version of the Moto E4 Plus.
The screen is still HD, at 5.2 inches, while the processor is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 430, which still plays nicely with Android 7.1.1 Nougat; there is, however, just 2GB of RAM.
You still get a big 3000mAh battery, a fingerprint sensor, and two 13/8MP cameras for the back and front, respectively, which are still great features to have for such a small price.
Where the Nokia 5 shines, however, is probably design: The aluminium coating makes it feel way more premium than a phone like this should be, and the choice of not one, but three non-generic colours (a shiny midnight blue, a classy silver, and even a glaring copper) make it a no-brainer for the aesthetics-conscious.
Mid-low, winner: Honor 7X (£269)
The Honor brand — a Huawei spin-off born to expand the company’s presence in western markets — was conceived with the idea of blending good specs, modern design, and affordable prices under the same umbrella.
It took the firm some time, but the Honor 7X is arguably the culmination of all that.
At just £269, the 7X offers some flagship-level specs in a pretty sweet, good-looking package, and performance that will blow your mind considering that you’re spending about a third of what top-of-the-line smartphones ask for.
A striking Full HD, 18:9 aspect ratio display takes up most of the phone’s front, while a metal case wraps it around back, where only the fingerprint reader and dual camera system live.
Those lenses allow the 7X to take enhanced portrait photos, which combine the ultra-fast phase-detection autofocus with depth information for optimal results (you won’t get Pixel 2 XL quality, but results are much better than many other cameras from phones at this price point).
Inside, the 7X is even more impressive: The chip is an eight-core Kirin 659, and there’s 4GB of RAM to go with it. Performance is incredible, even if the Android 7.0-based EMUI 5.1 still isn’t the best software skin around.
Sadly there’s no USB-C, but at least Honor kept the headphone jack.