The best Android phones at T-Mobile (October 2017)

    We’re asked on a regular basis to help determine which phone is the best one available. We get it as a team here at AndroidGuys, but we also field it on an individual level, too. To help address that, we’ve put together a list of the top models you can currently buy at the carrier in question.

    If you’re in the market for a new smartphone from T-Mobile, this is where you’ll want to start. Note that while this is called the “best Android phones” you can purchase this month, it’s worth noting there are plenty of other models to choose from.

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    Best is not a universal term to apply to all consumers. Some of you might have a limited budget; some of you may only have very modest needs. To that end, we suggest digging around a little bit and checking with the service provider.

    Also, keep in mind that you can purchase your own phone from another outlet which can work with T-Mobile. Because it is a GSM service provider, there are plenty of unlocked devices around which are compatible with its network. Just make sure you double check the phone’s bands with all the ones T-Mobile uses to make sure you’ll fully utilizing the network.

    With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best phones you can purchase this month from T-Mobile.

    Samsung Galaxy Note 8

    This year’s Note device has been the hardest wait because of the Note 7’s crazy fiery outcome last year. Early in the year with the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, Samsung proved that delivering excellent hardware could effectively silence the woes. The Note 8 continues that successful formula – maybe a bit too closely with the S8 Plus, where most of the specs are equivalent.

    So front and center is 6.3″ of that visually stunning, curved Infinity Display with shrunken bezels at a 18.5:9 and brilliant S-AMOLED panel at a QHD+ resolution (2960×1440 pixels). But we must warn to tread carefully if you’re weary about large phones; this is a 0.1″ increase from the already sizable S8 Plus. Under the hood is still the octa-core Snapdragon 835 (but with 6GB of RAM now), 64GB internal storage + microSD expansion, mono bottom-placed speaker, fast-capable wireless charging, and yes, the infamous button to toggle Samsung’s own Bixby virtual assistant. It’s all protected by a IP68 waterproof casing.

    The Note 8 in Orchid Gray.

    The main differences that the Note 8 brings to the table are a secondary, telephoto sensor and the excellent S Pen stylus. The primary 12MP f/1.7 sensor with quick Dual Pixel focus is still present, but the additional 12MP sensor allows for optical 2x zoom and a new Live Focus mode that can create Portrait-effect captures like on the iPhone. The S Pen hardware and experience is very similar to the Note 7, but we can now send glow-y written animated messages.

    Samsung hasn’t yet been able to incorporate the fingerprint scanner under the display, so we again have that unfortunate placement next to the rear cameras. And the Note 8’s colossal size makes the scanner even less feasible than on the S8+. At least there’s alternatives for security like face unlock or the IRIS retinal scanner. Another downer is that battery capacity had to take a hit to make way for the stylus, down to 3,300mAh from 3,500mAh on the S8+. Samsung is of course being exceedingly cautious to play on the safe side with the battery after the Note 7 fiasco.

    The Note 8’s software is driven by Android Nougat 7.1.1 and the latest Samsung Experience interface. Bixby, the company’s software assistant, is also fully incorporated  and its voice commands are growing in capability. You’ll find the Note 8 in two color in the US: Midnight Black or Orchid Gray. A point of contention for many will be the price tag, which now inches close to the $1k mark. On T-Mobile, the Note 8 retails for $930, or you can opt for $30/month financing for 24 months after $210 down.

    Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

    Although the Note 8 is technically newer, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are still relevant. The feature set is almost identical, and being a few months old, you could save a couple hundred in comparison.

    To recap, the only things the Note 8 really has on the Galaxy S8 duo is a secondary, 2x telephoto sensor, 2GB more of RAM, the S Pen stylus. The rest of the core specs are the same: octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipset, 64GB internal storage + microSD expansion, Dual Pixel 12MP f/1.7 primary sensor, fast-capable wireless charging, and IP68 rated waterproofing.

    The S8 and S8 Plus are what started Samsung’s beautiful curved Infinity Display, with elongated 18.5:9 ratio’d panel with tiny bezels and QHD+, HDR-capable S-AMOLED tech. But with the S8 and S8 Plus, you’ll get more manageable sizes, at 5.8″ and 6.2″, respectively. Even, the S8 Plus’ battery is 200mAh more than the Note 8, at 3,500mAh vs. 3,300mAh.

    On T-Mobile, you can find the Galaxy S8 duo in Midnight Black or Orchid Gray flavors. The standard Galaxy S8 retails for $750 or $30/month for 24 months after $30 down, while the larger S8 Plus goes for $800 or $30/month for 24 months after $80 down.

    LG V30

    LG’s V-series Fall releases have been stealing the flagship show as of late, and this year is no exception. The V30 one-ups the G6 in many ways, where we’re used to seeing only minimal improvements in brotherly variants.

    The LG V30 in Cloud Silver color.

    The first thing to note is the design advancement. The bezels on the V30 are noticeably smaller than the G6 just a few months ago, and the glass on the sides of the display have a premium curve (similar to the current Galaxy phones). Also, LG has finally dropped old LCD technology and embraced OLED – a 6.0″ QHD P-OLED panel to be exact. Other key hardware includes the commonly used Snapdragon 835 chipset with 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage + microSD expansion, 3,300mAh battery (no longer removable), and wireless charging. This is all in an IP68 waterproof rated casing.

    As for cameras, the LG V30 continues with a 16MP rear unit, but now with the largest lens aperture found on a phone, f/1.6. The secondary, 13MP wide-angle camera also gets a low-light improvement with a f/1.9 aperture. On the front is a 5MP selfie shooter with f/2.2 aperture.

    One of the V-series’ standout features is HiFi-capable output from the headphone jack, and LG and ESS Technology have partnered once again for the best mobile dedicated sound processor, aka Quad DAC, you can find on a smartphone. It now comes with a handful of meticulously-tuned EQ profiles meant to suit a wide range of audiophiles.

    The software on the V30 is driven by the latest Android Nougat build (v7.1.2) and LG’s latest UX interface, which brings some lofty updates like a Floating Bar for shortcuts, ability to lock the camera zoom on an object, more Always-On display options, and voice recognition to unlock the phone. T-Mobile only has the Cloud Silver color (at least right now) and prices the V30 at $800 retail or $30/month for 24 months after $80 down.

    Motorola Z2 Force

    Motorola’s second generation Z Force arrived in the middle of 2017 with quite a powerful spec sheet. As is to be expected, though, it’s one of the flagship models for the unlocked phone maker, and is yet another take on the modular experience.

    Powered by the newest version of Android on the market, 7.1.1 Nougat, the Z2 Force will be offered across a variety of carriers. This is somewhat of a departure for Motorola who had been heading toward a direct-to-consumer only route.

    Interestingly enough, Motorola has opted for a smaller battery capacity for the Z2 Force. But, don’t let that discourage you from buying as it does have feature the TurboPower Charge capability and Android is ever more optimal for battery life.

    Currently, the Moto Z2 Force is available in a few color variants with pricing that hovers around $750.

    BYOD Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL Deal

    It’s worth mentioning that in light of the newly launched Pixel 2 duo from Google (and exclusivity with Verizon), T-Mobile has kicked off its own special deal to get in on the action. The Un-carrier cannot sell the Google phones, but instead is going to reimburse you half the cost if you buy it yourself and bring it to the network (via a prepaid card). Sweet deal, but the catch is that you have to open up a new line with it.

    Pixel 2 on the left is available in Kinda Blue, Just Black, and Clearly White colors. The Pixel 2 XL on the right gets Just Black and Black and White colors.

    The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are Google’s 2nd iteration flagship phones, with 5.0″ and 6.0″ displays, respectively. They’re essentially Google owned and controlled phones, with pure, stock Android and the very latest software tricks and optimizations.

    On the hardware front, the two devices share just about every spec, with exception to the screen and battery sizes. The standard Pixel 2 has a 5″ AMOLED 1080P panel (at the typical 16:9 aspect ratio) and 2,700mAh battery while the 2 XL boasts a 6″ QHD P-OLED (but at the newer 2:1 aspect ratio) and 3,520mAh battery. The common specs are an octa-core Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB storage options, 12.2MP rear camera with f/1.8 aperture and 1.4 µm pixel size (looking to be the best performing smartphone camera to date), 8MP front selfie camera, front-facing stereo speakers, IP67 water resistant rating, and Bluetooth 5.0.

    Both phones are up for pre-order right now through Google’s online store, with a ship date towards the end of the month. The smaller Pixel 2 will get Kinda Blue, Just Black, and Clearly White colors options and goes for $650 retail, while the Pixel 2 XL gets only Just Black and Black and White at $850 retail.

    Going Unlocked

    One of the benefits of T-Mobile being a GSM service provider is that you can bring just about any unlocked smartphone to its network. Moreover, many of the top devices being offered in 2017 are sold in an unlocked capacity. You might have to purchase directly through the handset maker or another retailer, but you are by no means restricted when it comes to choice.

    EDITOR NOTE: Where applicable, this article contains content that found on other shopping guides.