Clove’s top 10 smartphones September 2017
A few weeks ago Samsung announced the incredibly powerful Galaxy Note 8, a phone which is sure to feature on our upcoming lists once it is released for general sale.
Andy Rubin’s Essential also launched their subversive Essential Phone in the USA. A unique product, this is one we’re likely not to feature due to the limited distribution.
Meanwhile, back in the world of ‘normal’ smartphones, we’ve seen a couple of interesting releases. Motorola have started to move the Z2 range. The Z2 Play is available now in the UK, with the beefier Z2 proper due to start shipping shortly. Both of these continue with the Moto Mods approach to modular accessorising first seen last year.
We’ve also had LG’s Q6 make an appearance. This phone strips down the size and specification of the G6, while keeping the design and 18:9 FullVision display.
If you want to see our previous top 10 lists you can do so here.
10. Samsung Galaxy Xcover 4
Due to its popularity with workers and companies, the previous model was somewhat of a sleeper hit. It even received a specification bump midway through, keeping it on sale much longer most phones these days.
It had to end someday though and Samsung pulled the plug on the Xcover 3 a few months back now. As a result, plenty of people looking for one have stumbled upon its successor.
The Xcover 4 basically has everything that made the last version so popular. It also has the usual improvements to the OS, screen, processor, camera etc. that one expects from an incremental upgrade.
Xcover 4 now ships with Android 7.0 and a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor. The screen is bumped up to 5 inches and has a new ‘glove-mode’ with better touch sensitivity.
Other improvements include a programmable key and NFC. This supports Android Pay contactless payments and passive pairing/checking in. A redesigned case improves grip and notches the IP rating from IP67 to IP68.
Finally, Samsung have also included their Knox security software. A nod to the amount of companies that were interested in the Xcover range, this allows for simple management of device deployments and supports popular off-the-shelf MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions.
9. Sony Xperia XA1
The mid-range seems to be where the fiercest competition is at the moment. We’re seeing more customers looking to save; not convinced enough by flagships to spend over £500 but still wanting to spend a fair amount to avoid the entry-level specifications that may quickly be out of date.
The Xperia XA1 fits perfectly into this space, offering solid design from a trusted manufacturer, alongside a decent specification and price point.
Sony haven’t just spotted the right places to target in the specification. They’ve also cleverly located where to keep things simple.
For instance the 5″ screen size is average and the standard 720 HD resolution may not inspire many. Yet dialling back here allows Sony to install an incredibly good 23MP camera. This is the same sensor that used to grace their flagship devices up until the Z5 range.
The whole system is also powered by a nippy 2.3GHz octa-core MediaTek P20 processor and 3GB RAM.
We think this balance is excellent. If you don’t think you need the super-high resolution screens available on other phones, then the Xperia XA1 offers great value performance.
There is also an XA1 Ultra version. Definitely a niche device, which hasn’t sold as many, this model provides a whopping 6-inch screen!
8. LG Q6
Dubbed FullVision, this allows for more screen real-estate in a slimmer body, making for a tall/thin feeling phone. The unique display ratio also provides some unique split-screen options. These take effect in the camera, as well as some system apps such as Calendar and Messaging to increase productivity and generally make the interface more appealing.
The Q6 also has a very affordable price-tag, smack in the middle of the mid-tier at £270. Of course this does mean some features are pared back in comparison to the flagship G model.
As expected when the phone is less than half the price of the G6, there are quite significant drops in processing power and camera ability. However, the Q6’s Snapdragon 435 processor and 13MP shooter are still very respectable in this tier.
Other useful features include a new generation fingerprint sensor and facial recognition software for added lock screen security. At a time when some of the mid-range offerings from major manufacturers have either felt lacking or overprice, LG’s Q6 delivers an interesting design and overall performance that really stands out in the sub £300 range.
7. LG G6
The G6 is LG’s 2017’s flagship device. It pivots away from the modular design of the G5 to a more traditional smartphone style, albeit one with an interesting 18:9 screen ratio.
Frustratingly for LG it launched in shadow of the media frenzy that was the S8, which pulled a similar trick. Whilst well-received by critics and customers, this has impacted on the G6 which has slid down our top ten this month.
On paper the G6 does everything you would expect a leading smartphone to. If you’re looking for a top-tier handset but don’t want to commit to the Samsung brand, LG’s G6 offers a more than capable alternative.
There are plenty of unique features, the most prominent being the 18:9 (or 2:1) screen ratio. With over 80% screen-to-body ratio, this 5.7″ display dominates the front of the handset.
The LG G6 also features a return of the rear-mounted power button, this time integrated into the fingerprint sensor. Volume controls are located on one side. An IP rating is here too, so there’s no problem if this used in a damp or dusty environment.
A dual camera set up has been an important development in mobile photography in the past year. Depending on the implementation though, results can vary drastically. At their best, dual cameras allow you to take images with enhanced depth of field, contrast and brightness, plus introduce special effect and layering technology not possible with just one lens.
LG have always pushed the boundaries of camera technology with the G range.
On the LG G6, both rear cameras have a 1/3.06″sensor with f/2.4 aperture and 1.12μm size pixels. The difference is one lens has a super-wide 125° field of view compared to the standard 71° on the other.Switching between the two cameras is easy as swiping across the screen. Also available are specialised shooting modes and effects utilising both lenses simultaneously.
32GB storage, 4GB RAM, MicroSD card slot (up to 256GB) and a 3,300 mAh battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 are all reasons to pick the G6 as your next device.
6. HTC U 11
HTC’s latest flagship entry has received a mixed response from critics. On paper the specifications look more than capable and match up to its competition. The camera too, has received some excellent reviews, including a 90/100 from DxOMark, making it their highest ever scoring mobile camera.
Still, it seems that the average buyer may not be sold on the Edge Sense control. For those not in the loop, HTC U 11 has a squeezable edge. You read that right. You can squeeze it.
Squeezing can launch and operate the camera, as well as implementing other context-sensitive actions depending on the app you’re in.
It’s certainly a novel feature and performs just like you’d expect. Still it’s the kind of thing that’s difficult to get across to people without them actually trying it.
Whether it’s HTC’s stripped back marketing or consumer confusion, we haven’t seen the kind of sales we’d expect for the U 11, which is why it doesn’t feature further up the list.
This is still a very good smartphone though and potentially has the best mobile camera to date. HTC’s Sense software is also considered by many to be one of the best OEM implementations of Android on a mainstream smartphone.
If you want to try something a little different, the HTC U 11 certainly ticks that box.
5. Moto Z2 Play
Motorola were one of the only ones to get a modular system off the ground and gain some traction. Called Moto Mods, Motorola developed the design of entire smartphone range around this. Even lower-end Moto phones that were not Mod compatible still followed the same design language.
So onto 2017 and the next generation of Moto handsets have become available. Moto have stuck to their guns and ensured previous Mods will work with the Z2 Play and Z2 when released. A whole new set of mods are also due to be released by the end of 2017.
But what about the phone itself I hear you ask? Well the Z2 Play takes on from where 2016’s Z Play left off. Not only does the phone offer a large 5.5″ 1080p display, but also manages to squeeze a 3,000 mAh battery into the super-slim chassis.
A base storage of 64GB offers tons of space for pictures and downloads, plus the included Moto Turbocharger can top up 50% of the battery in just 30 minutes via the updated USB Type-C connector.
For a limited time, new purchases of the Z2 Play will also receive a 2,220 mAh battery pack Mod included!
4. CAT S60
A niche requirement it may well be but it suits those that need, tough, rugged and capable.
If you are looking for a new smartphone for you mum, aunt or friend, this is unlikely to be the one unless being used for professional purposes.
On the flip-side, if you’re a bit of a power user and find yourself in the outdoors in your spare time, maybe it’s worth consideration.
For those who want a rugged and reliable phone that can survive water, impacts and a bit of a tougher life, the S60 is one you must consider.
A definite unique feature and big selling point is the built-in thermal camera. Have you seen what it can do? Check out just some examples of how it can be used here.
Dedicated thermal cameras exist but they’re not exactly pocket friendly. Nor can they do a lot more than just thermal imaging. As a result the S60 is a very compelling device. Capture thermal images and video, create the report and send it off all whilst several hundred miles away from the office and in the middle of almost nowhere!
Built into a very solid and rugged frame, the S60 is drop and water resistant to 5 metres. This is an Android smartphone which can serve construction workers, site managers, engineers and the outdoors type very well.
Create, edit and review documents on the go. Manage your email, music or catch up with the latest news. Navigate from point A to B via C. The S60 is an all-round modern smartphone device that just works.
32GB of internal storage can be expanded via a microSD card. Plus you can run 2 SIM cards, combining a personal and work SIM into one phone.
3. BlackBerry KEYone
There are those that love the idea and are a bit nostalgic. Of course the flip side are those who feel it is a lost product in today’s all-touch environment.
I am not here to argue who is right or wrong. It’s not for everyone and to each their own. What I can say though is that by judging by the interest here at Clove, there are plenty of people who like what the KEYone offers.
It ticks the boxes for a solid high-mid specification; it’s not all singing and dancing, but definitely not a budget device.
One thing it does offer is excellent performance and battery life. The KEYone’s blend of power-efficient processor, reduced screen size and physically large battery make for a total workhorse of a phone.
The keys offer tactile feedback. They also include an integrated capacitive trackpad and fingerprint sensor. Plus the 4.5″ touchscreen is large and responsive enough for when you need it.
You can set shortcuts to certain keys on the 4-row keyboard with short or long presses. There’s even a programmable shortcut key on the side of the phone.
Android 7.0 is the operating system of choice over the older BlackBerry OS. This offers access to all the latest social and messaging platforms, with additional BlackBerry security layered on top.
BlackBerry too have added a variety of apps on top to give extra value and functionality to the phone.
32GB of internal storage, 3GB RAM, MicroSD memory card slot, 8MP front camera with flash, 12MP auto-focus large pixel rear camera, fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C connector and RGB notification LED are all built into it.
2. Honor 9
In many ways the Honor 9 feels like the culmination of the Honor strategy. Launched as an online-only “millennial-focussed” brand, Honor have been making great gains both in their native China and globally.
Initially conceived as a provider of budget devices with decent specifications, the higher range handsets have progressively included more impressive technology at prices that make you do a double take.
The Honor 9 is the logical extreme of this, with a construction and specification sheet that could sit it comfortably next to flagship phones from any of the major manufacturers. Yet it only costs £380!
On closer inspection you can see where a difference of about £200 is compared to the likes of Samsung or Sony. The 1080p screen is not quite as crisp or sharp as a Galaxy S8 or XZ Premium. The cameras too – whilst very good in their own right – don’t have quite the same level of finesse either.
Still for anyone looking for a top-tier device on a budget, you really need look no further. The Honor 9 ticks every box and delivers an excellent saving.
1. Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+
Every year manufacturers try to wow us with a new flagship release. In recent years though it has become increasingly difficult to be impressed. Many of the advancements in recent devices are not the big jumps in technology they once were.
Samsung has chosen to make an obvious statement with the new Galaxy S8 range. The screen is the most important feature of the phone. It is the window through which we view and interact with the modern world.
The last few generations have given us truly curved edges and new ways to interact. With the S8, Samsung take this to the logical extreme available in modern technology. The Infinity Display is available in 2 variants; the standard S8 has a 5.8″ screen and the S8+ comes with a 6.2″ panel.
Other important and notable hardware features are:
- 2.4 GHz Samsung Exynos 9 Octa 8995 processor / 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage & microSD support (up to 256GB)
- 12MP dual-pixel camera with smart OIS
- 8MP selfie camera with face tracking autofocus
- 3,000 (S8) 3,500 (S8+) mAh battery with fast charging and wireless charging (Qi or PMA)
- Bluetooth 5.0 / GPS / Dual Band Wi-Fi / NFC
- Gorilla Glass 5 front & back
- IP68 water and dust resistant
- USB Type-C / 3.5mm audio jack
Naturally this is an Android phone with a hefty amount of additional software features. In addition to standard Android features are Samsung’s developments, including the new Bixby Assistant. You can also turn the phone into a desktop workstation via Samsung DeX.
Google accounts, corporate exachange email accounts, social media accounts and more, they all run like a charm on the S8. It is the S7 perfected. Whilst some may not see a need to upgrade from the S7 but when held side-by-side you really can see how impressive it is to fit such a screen in only a marginally larger body.
Clove top 10 information
Please do remember that this list is our top 10 based on our preferences, feelings, sales and customer feedback. Others may have a very different opinion on what makes their top 10. For a complete list of the phones that we range, see our SIM free smartphones section.
If you have any questions then contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning +44 (0)1202 552936 and we will happily help.