The 10 Best AT&T Smartphones to Buy in 2018

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The Rundown

  • Best Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Note9 at AT&T, "The cameras are top-notch too, with an 8MP AF sensor on the front for selfies and video calls."
  • Best Apple: iPhone Xs at AT&T, "Available in 64GB, 256GB or 512GB configurations and...a new gold option."
  • Runner-Up, Best Apple: iPhone XR at AT&T, "Offering almost all the perks of our top Apple pick, the Xs, but at a lower cost."
  • Best Unlocked: Google Pixel 3 at Google.com, "If you want to bring an unlocked phone to AT&T, then this is one of the best all-around Android phones on the market."
  • Best Camera: LG V40 ThinQ at AT&T, "An insanely substantial multi-camera system — not two, not three, but five cameras are loaded onboard."
  • Runner-Up, Best Camera: OnePlus 6T (Unlocked) at OnePlus.com, "Includes several smart filters that automatically and effortlessly create professional-level photos."
  • Best Display: iPhone Xs Max at AT&T, "If you’re a fan of the oversized screen, then the Xs Max may be your dream come true."
  • Runner-Up, Best Display: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus at AT&T, "The 6.2-inch, edge-to-edge Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display is beautifully designed."
  • Best Design: Red Hydrogen One at AT&T, "Three mods have been announced including an expandable storage mod, a battery mod, and a cinema mod."
  • Best Value: iPhone SE at AT&T, "If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, look straight at the iPhone SE."

Our Top Picks

Best Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Note9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9
 Courtesy of AT&T
4.3

Whether you’re in the market for a huge, beautiful screen, a killer camera, or you’re just a Samsung fan, the just-released Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a powerhouse with no shortage of modern features. First, there’s that display: At 6.4 inches and a 2960 x 1440 resolution, supported by Super AMOLED technology, this is the centerpiece of the phone. Combine that with the brand-new Bluetooth functionality of the S Pen, and you have an amazing machine. The cameras are top-notch too, with an 8MP AF sensor on the front for selfies and video calls, and a wide-angle/telephoto pair on the back sporting 12MP sensors. It even has dual aperture on the wide-angle.

With a 64-bit Octa-Core Processor offering speeds up to 2.8 GHz, you won’t be short on performance here. You can pick up the phone with 6 or 8GB of RAM, which comes with 128 or 512GB of storage, respectively. If that isn't enough space for you, you can bump it up to a whopping terabyte of storage with a microSD card. The battery has a capacity of 4,000 mAh, and AKG-tuned, Dolby Atmos-supported speakers give you a great music system, too. Pick this up in Ocean Blue or Lavender Purple colorways.

Best Apple: iPhone Xs

iPhone Xs
 Courtesy of Best Buy

As the ostensible replacement to the iPhone X, the newest Xs boasts Apple’s most cutting-edge tech to date. First, the beautiful OLED Super Retina display gives you 2436 x 1125 pixels to play with, amounting to a 458 ppi. Combine that with software features like the True Tone color-adjusting AI function and you have a truly brilliant-looking device. The whole thing is powered by the brand-new A12 Bionic chip, Apple’s fastest chipset to date with the most connections in the neural engine, delivering faster and smarter FaceID and performance. The construction has Apple’s signature sleekness with a glass front and back, premium stainless-steel sides and an IP68 water resistance allowing up to two meters and 30 minutes of submersion protection.

We can’t talk about a flagship Apple release without mentioning the camera. A 12MP telephoto and wide-angle systems on the back offer pro-level sharpness while the 7MP system on the front offers decent-quality selfies and video calling. But the raw hardware, per usual, isn’t the whole story. Apple’s new photo software offers features that range from smart HDR layering, AI content prediction, and amazing portrait bokeh that can be adjusted independently after the picture is taken. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a premium iPhone, this is the one to consider. It’s available in 64GB, 256GB or 512GB configurations and in color choices of silver, space gray, and a new gold option.

Runner-Up, Best Apple: iPhone XR

iPhone XR

 AT&T.com

Want to enjoy the perks of a new iPhone but can’t stomach the flagship price tag? The XR offers almost all the perks of our top Apple pick, the Xs, but at a lower cost. You’re still getting the same special features, like Group Facetime, Siri Shortcuts, and Face ID, plus the device comes equipped with the same high-performing hardware as the Xs. And the A12 Bionic chip’s processing power is quite a feat of engineering. It’s 15% faster and 50% more energy efficient than its predecessor, promising lag-free performance even with VR gaming. The XR also boasts a 25-hour battery and compatibility with Qi-wireless charging.

So why is the XR cheaper than the other new iPhones? It comes down to a few minor differences. First, the XR is a bit larger than the Xs, with a 6.1-inch screen instead of a 5.8" screen, but the resolution is significantly lower at 1792 x 828.It's worth noting that this still technically qualifies as HD. Aside from the resolution, the XR’s specs are almost identical to the Xs, so you can still enjoy its beautiful Liquid Retina display and 625 cd/m2 brightness.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to choosing the right iPhone.

Best Unlocked: Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3

 Google.com

AT&T has an extensive selection of phones to choose from on its nationwide service, whether its iPhone or Android. But if you want to bring an unlocked phone to AT&T, then the Google Pixel 3 is a great choice and one of the best all-around Android phones on the market.

This phone runs the latest Android Pie software and comes in white, black, and pink color options. It measures 5.7 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches and has a stunning-looking 5.5-inch OLED screen. Under the hood, you’ll find a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB of RAM, which means you’ll never get slowed down by multitasking. While all of these features are great, what really stands out on the Pixel 3 is its top-of-the-line 12.2-megapixel back camera and 8-megapixel front camera.

One other fun feature is that the Pixel 3 is built for VR and is compatible with the Google Daydream View headset.

Best Camera: LG V40 ThinQ

LG V40 ThinQ

 Courtesy of AT&T

The LG V40 ThinQ can compete with just about any other big-brand smartphone on the market today. It has a lot going for it: a 6.4-inch QHD display with a resolution of 1440 x 3120 pixels, 6GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 845 processor, and a perfectly reasonable 3300 mAh battery. But what LG is touting as the focal point of the phone is that it has an insanely substantial multi-camera system — not two, not three, but five cameras are loaded onboard. If high-quality pictures and video are a priority for you, then the V40 ThinQ is definitely worth checking out. The main cameras on the back are made up of three lenses and sensors: a 12MP standard, a 12MP telephoto, and a 16MP ultrawide. These amount to a super versatile trio that let you capture whatever subject you need. You can even turn on the aptly named Triple Photo mode to snap three pictures from all three focal lengths at once and choose from them later. The selfie camera is made up of an 8MP standard lens and a 5MP wide-angle lens. What’s cool here is that the standard lens will look every bit as crisp as what you’d expect, but the wide-angle lens means you can get group photos (or wider background selfies) with no problem. It all comes in a sleek, light package that holds up well within the flagship class.

Check out our guide to the best LG phones.

Runner-Up, Best Camera: OnePlus 6T (Unlocked)

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus.com

The OnePlus 6T falls short of the V40 ThinQ’s five camera inventory, but as the saying goes: “Quality over quantity.” The 6T contains three HD cameras: one 16MP front snapper, and a 16 + 20MP dual-lens in the rear. In addition to its crisp resolution, the device comes with several smart filters that automatically and effortlessly create professional-level photos. First, there’s AI Scene Detection, which adjusts the saturation, contrast, and brightness to showcase the most flattering photo. Second, the Nightscape feature makes its debut to capture beautiful evening shots, a feat which some more expensive smartphones still haven’t accomplished. Finally, the 6T also films in 4K resolution, and features slow-motion capture and time-lapse capabilities.

Photography aside, the 6T boasts some remarkable specs. The hardware contains a powerful Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 to 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB storage. The screen shows off 2340 x 1080 resolution at 402 pixel-per-inch and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9.

Best Display: iPhone Xs Max

iPhone Xs Max
 Courtesy of Best Buy

The iPhone Xs Max could easily have made the top Apple spot on this list — it offers everything the XS does and more. But, when it comes to phones, the market is decidedly limited for devices that are this large. If you’re a fan of the oversized screen, then the Xs Max may be your dream come true. Sporting a massive Super Retina OLED display with a resolution of 2688 x 1242 (458 ppi), the Xs Max has finally caught up with the sharpness, brightness and color response of the flagship Samsungs of the market. There’s also some amazing software functionality here too, including HDR response and True Tone technology that reads the ambient lighting of your surroundings and adjusts the screen’s brightness and color temperature accordingly. That’s a great feature both for limiting eye fatigue and also for watching media or photographing in true colors no matter where you are.

All of that amazing functionality is supported by Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip — the fastest they’ve ever made with the most neural engine components. That means that the phone will run faster and all the AI tech, including FaceID, will be smoother and more seamless. Speaking of software, Apple has taken the time to beef up their camera system (12MP telephoto/wide-angle on the back and 7MP on the front) and make it truly shine. There are new HDR layering composite options, smarter AI-supported content prediction features, and an even better portrait mode, allowing for excellent bokeh blurring that can be adjusted even after the picture has been snapped. Grab this beautiful 6.5-inch-display device in silver, space gray, or a premium new gold finish with internal storage ranging from 64GB to 512GB. 

Runner-Up, Best Display: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9+
 Courtesy of Samsung

If you want a complete Android experience with a display that is best-in-class, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the AT&T smartphone to choose. The 6.2-inch, edge-to-edge Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display is beautifully designed to offer brighter hues, and, with a 2960 x 1440 resolution, 16 million colors mean seriously gorgeous results. Keeping the near bezel-less display in place is IP68-rated water resistant hardware sandwiched on both sides by glass, which has an aluminum frame in the middle that's durable enough to withstand small drops. The rear, 12-megapixel camera adds Super Slo-Mo at 960fps, two apertures (F/1.5 and F/2.4) for nighttime photography and a secondary telephoto lens that can focus on a subject blurring the background for a unique photo result. It can also record 4K and 1080p video at 30 fps or 60fps. In addition to housing a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the device comes equipped with powerful Dolby Atmos technology, so you can bank on high-quality sound performance.

See more reviews of our favorite Samsung phones available for purchase.

Best Design: Red Hydrogen One

Red Hydrogen One

 AT&T

You haven’t met a smartphone like the Red Hydrogen One. Ambitious and unique, the phone touts a bold design with raised lines on the back, a red logo, gold pogo pins, and Kevlar panels with a weave pattern. The standard model is made of aluminum, but you can upgrade to titanium — both models are on the heavier side, weighing in at over 260 grams. The 5.7-inch screen has 2560 x 1400 resolution and a Four-View display, which means it can display supported content in 3D.

One of the most appealing features of this phone is the addition of attachable “mods.” These mods are still in development, but the three that have been announced include an expandable storage mod, a battery mod, and a cinema mod that will allow users to attach different camera lenses to the back and treat the phone as though it were a DSLR. But keep in mind that many of these features, like the cinema mod, won’t be available until at least 2019.

Best Value: iPhone SE

iPhone SE
Courtesy of Amazon.com

If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, look straight at the iPhone SE. It has the same specifications and internal hardware as our Best Apple pick, the iPhone 6s. There’s a 12-megapixel camera capable of recording video in 4K. If you were a fan of the iPhone 5 or 5s, you’ll feel right at home as the phone is almost identical in size and shape. Apple’s Touch ID, the fingerprint-based method to access your smartphone without a password, is present, as is Apple Pay. In fact, if you have any cases lying around for the iPhone 5/5s, you’ll be able to slip it right in and feel nostalgic.

The 4” display might not please some of today’s “bigger is better” smartphone crowd, but finding a device that rivals the performance of the best smartphones on the market in a pocket-friendly package hasn’t been easy. In this area, Apple has succeeded and done so with spades. That the price is almost half of its larger sibling makes it an easy recommendation for the best value phone. The A9 processor, the very same as inside the iPhone 6s, is 3x more powerful than that of the iPhone 5s, which means console-class graphics and solid performance for Pokémon Go.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 122 hours testing three of the most popular AT&T smartphones on the market. They used them day and night and experimented with texting, taking photos, listening to music, and more. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these AT&T smartphones, from display quality to battery life. We've outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in an AT&T Smartphone

iOS vs. Android - Do you want an Apple iPhone or an Android phone? It may seem like a simple question, but it can be a difficult decision. If you’ve stuck with one or the other for years and have been happy with your choice, then the answer is probably simple. But there are plenty of people who switch back and forth. Apple enjoys broader compatibility and better security, but Android allows for much more customization and the phones often have more advanced technology.

Battery life - Having a phone packed with features is a good thing, right? Well, it depends. It’s always fun to be able to do more with your phone, but there’s often a tradeoff when it comes to battery life. If you’re a heavy phone user, then you’ll want to take a close look at how long your phone battery will realistically last.

Durability - If you’re hard on your phone, you may want to look into buying a device that has extra durability built in. Some phones can’t handle water at all, while others are water resistant and some even promise to be waterproof. Additionally, it’s important to look at the phone’s case and how durable the glass is. Will it shatter at the smallest drop? Paying attention to how well a phone will withstand a little wear and tear — especially if you’re a chronic phone dropper — will help protect your investment for years to come.

Test Results: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (Best Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Note9
 Courtesy of T-Mobile
4.3

What We Like

  • Easy setup

  • Superb battery life

  • Excellent camera

What We Don't Like

  • Delicate

Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 back
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 bottom
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 stylus
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 stylus

“The Note 9’s camera really competes with the iPhone X,” raved one of our testers. “The automatic mode focuses on the picture’s surroundings to ensure that you’re capturing the scene in the best way possible.” Our reviewers also loved this phone’s vivid screen display, easy setup process, and long battery life. They were slightly more nervous about its durability. “I’d make the phone itself a little bit more sturdy to match functionalities,” said one tester. “It feels a little too delicate to be able to comfortably utilize it to its full capacity.”