Whether you are a current AT&T subscriber or maybe you want to come on board, the most basic thing you’ll want to do is check our list of the best Android phones available via the carrier’s stores. And those that are compatible with AT&T’s bands but are sold only unlocked, online or not.
We have also covered the best Android phones at T-Mobile, which should be helpful to you or your friends and family who are using the Magenta carrier. Also, check out our detailed roundup article on the best Verizon phones.
Since everyone has their own preferences when scouting the market for a new phone, we have divided this article into several categories based on what you are likely looking for in a phone — basically, the best.
The best AT&T phones [August 2018]
No one goes out to buy a phone that offers the second best value for their money (in their own opinion, that is). Whether it’s the design, camera, battery life or even display size, you’ll want to have the best of the best regardless of the money you’re ready to spend.
Speaking of money, this might be a cause of concern for some. While there are some great phones at AT&T, getting the best can be hindered by the asking price. Luckily, you can get them on a contract. Alternatively, you may have to settle for the second or even third best, which is why we’ll also include some honorable mentions along the way.
So, here are the best AT&T Android phones you can buy right now.
The best most valued phone
The Galaxy S6, S7, and S8 have set the trends in the smartphone industry with the curved displays and fine engineering overall. The year 2018 isn’t different as Samsung is once again stealing the show with the Galaxy S9.
Many will agree that the Galaxy S9 is the best smartphone on the market right now, much like the Galaxy S8 was a year ago. Save for the never-ending software debate, the S9 is an outstanding device. Whether it’s the seamless design, looks, raw power, top-notch photography, and overall experience, the phone has it all. The only down point with the Galaxy S9, like its predecessor, remains its battery life. Despite all the criticism, Samsung’s software has become pretty minimal now while the camera remains impressive, especially now that there’s support for a variable aperture and slow-motion video recording of up to 960fps.
The Galaxy S9 has a beautiful curved Super AMOLED screen with 5.8 inches of real estate and a QHD+ resolution. Being a 2018 flagship, you get a flagship standard processor in the Snapdragon 845 chipset that is mated with 4GB RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. If you want a bigger screen, more powerful specs, a better dual-lens camera and longer battery life, simply opt for the Galaxy S9+, which is a great option, too, even though costing $100 more.
At the moment, the standard S9 can be yours for $789.99 outright or $26.34 per month for 30 months while the Galaxy S9+ is priced at $914.99 outright or $30.50 per month for the same period. If none of these two impresses you, the next in line should definitely be the 2017 Galaxy S8 or S8+, which are now selling at $654.99 or $754.99 outright (monthly plans available too).
Outside the Galaxy world, AT&T doesn’t have many other options to choose from. You might want to check out the $585-priced LG G6, which is also available on a 30-month contract of $19.50 per month. However, you’ll be disappointed in the fact that it is powered by an older and slower Snapdragon 821 chipset, but that’s the price you pay for its affordability.
Since AT&T allows customers to bring their own devices, it’s easy to get tempted by the likes of OnePlus 6 and Google Pixel 2. These are great pieces of hardware in their own rightful ways. The OnePlus 6 offers the best bang for your buck and the Pixel 2 is what you need if you don’t like the software experience on the Galaxy S8.
Where the OnePlus 6 can be yours for $529, the Pixel 2 price starts at $649 and offers financing at $27.04 per month for 2 years. What makes the former an interesting prospect is what you get for your money. At this price, OnePlus 6 has a beautiful design featuring the latest 18:9 display with a notch, a Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6GB RAM, 64GB storage, a dual-lens 16MP+20MP camera, a decent 3300mAh battery unit and a ready update to Android P beta. If the software is your concern, the OnePlus 6 has one of the appeals of the Google Pixels – the bootloader is easily unlockable, which opens the door for installing custom ROMs.
But if you don’t want a bigger and bezel-less phone, and instead are cool with traditional design, then go for the Pixel 2 that also gets you timely (fastest) software updates, a pure Android experience, and the best camera. However, you get the smallest screen size of 5 inches, the smallest battery of 2700mAh, a design that looks dated and there’s no 3.5mm audio jack.
Given how fragile these phones are, you might be afraid to shell out hundreds of dollars to grab one and break it the next day. Well, if this is your concern, AT&T has an even better option for you in the shape of Samsung Galaxy S8 Active. Like other Active handsets before it, it packs the same hardware specs and features as the standard S8, only that it trades looks for durability.
There’s the same 5.8-inch QHD+ display, but it’s a flat screen. The battery is also bigger and the body housing the phone is MIL-STD 810G certified, which makes it the best-rugged phone on the market. The Galaxy S8 Active has a similar price tag as the Galaxy S8+ – $28.34 per month for 30 months or $850 outright. Alternatively, you can sit back and wait for a month or so to grab the Galaxy S9 Active. Your choice!
The best phablet
Today, the definition of a phablet has changed. What used to be described as one doesn’t even match what is now the standard phone. Given that Samsung dictates a lot, the 5.8-inch Galaxy S9 is basically the standard screen size of any phone, but a few years ago, the Galaxy Note 5 was considered a phablet with its 5.7-inch screen.
With the changed parameters, it means the term phablet now refers to smartphones with screen sizes of 6 inches and beyond. In this category, there’s none better than the big and bad Samsung Galaxy Note 8. In fact, this should be your go-to option if for whatever reason the Galaxy S9+ or even the S8+ aren’t big enough.
Besides being the biggest with a 6.3-inch QHD+ AMOLED display screen, the Galaxy Note 8 also follows on the lines of the S8 and S9 in terms of design, but it still lags behind the Galaxy S9 and S9+, especially the latter, when it comes to raw power. It packs a bigger 6GB RAM alongside the powerful Snapdragon 835 and a dual 12MP camera on the back.
And then there’s the S Pen that opens a world of productivity and artistic features that are not just available anywhere else. In fact, despite the fact that the Galaxy S9+ presents a much better option as far as raw power and photography are concerned, the S Pen gives the Note 8 an edge over its counterpart. If you don’t really need the S Pen, there’s no reason to pick the Note 8 over the S9+, especially now that the latter also offers a dual-lens camera system, 6GB RAM and a superior Snapdragon 845 chipset.
As of this writing, the Galaxy Note 8 will set you back a cool $950 outright, but AT&T has a 30-month contract of $31.67 per month. For what it takes, the S9+ is slightly cheaper than the Note 8.
If the Note 8 and Galaxy S9+ are too expensive or you don’t like either for some reason, the Google Pixel 2 XL is a great option too. Priced at $849 outright or $35.38 per month for 2 years, the phone isn’t available through any of AT&T’s stores, but it works on the network. Although smaller than the Note 8, the 6-inch 18:9 display screen on the Pixel 2 XL is still big enough to fit the phablet narrative.
On the inside, it’s only dwarfed by the Galaxy S9+ and Note 8 when it comes to its 4GB RAM, but you can go as far as 128GB when it comes to storage, a luxury you won’t get with the U.S. variant of the S9+ and Note 8, but you can add a microSD card of up to 256GB on the latter and a whopping 400GB on the former. Although the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t have the trending dual-lens cameras, it’s, in fact, the best in the business with its 12.2MP unit, even better than the newly launched Galaxy S9+ (at least not according to DxOMark).
Samsung’s latest S9+ beats the Pixel 2 XL processing power thanks to the Snapdragon 845 chipset. Even worse is that the Pixel 2 XL has its own share of issues. On the brighter side, the company’s support team is always one of the best, if not the best, and they’ve done quite a commendable job fixing some of the many issues the phone had after launch. At the moment, it’s a much better device. Besides, you’ll also be getting timely software updates and a pure Android experience, something many Android fans crave for. Keep in mind that there’s no 3.5mm audio jack, if you are into such things.
If the S9+, Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL aren’t your types, you might also want to check out the LG V35 ThinQ. It looks like a mashup between the LG V30S and LG G7 ThinQ, the latter of which is not sold on AT&T, and shares the same display qualities as the Pixel 2 XL. In fact, they use the same 6-inch pOLED screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio and QHD+ resolution. You also get a powerful Snapdragon 845 SoC alongside 6GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded.
The LG V35 ThinQ also comes with a dual-lens camera on the back with a wide-angle shooter that makes it stand out from the crowd. The software on board is among the best out there and it’s easy to get accustomed to. AT&T is selling the V35 ThinQ at $900 outright or $30.00 per month for 30 months.
Another great piece of hardware that is available in the market, and gives you a phablet experience is the HTC U12+, but since this is not being sold on AT&T, you might want to sneak into the OEM’s U.S. shop to grab one.
The U11 was a good device, but the U12+ is more of a refined U11. The phone removes the bad stuff from the U11 and keeps the good stuff. It has the new 18:9 design (6 inches) and thinner bezels, which solves one of the main issues of the standard U11 – an outdated design. It also comes with the Snapdragon 845 SoC, Edge Sense, IP68 certification and a great quad-lens camera system. It also comes with a huge 3500mAh battery unit and Android Oreo out of the box, meaning you get Project Treble.
The 6GB RAM and 64GB storage variant of the HTC U12+ is priced at $799 and while you can pay it outright, HTC will let you have it on a contract of 24 months at $34 per month. If eying the 128GB variant, set aside $849 or $36 per month for the same period.
The best design
Smartphone design is all about the looks. All the other stuff, for instance, dust and water resistance, Gorilla Glass protection and what not always come after one’s eyes are happy with what they are looking at.
The LG G6 and LG V35 ThinQ come with great builds and are easily the best built LG phones from the recent past, but there’s nothing better-looking than the Samsung Galaxy S9. The phone embraces the current trend of slimmer bezels and accurately combines it with a curved screen housed on a glass body that is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5. To keep it safe even when it comes in contact with water, the body has IP68 certification for dust and water resistance.
The S9 offers a big enough screen on a fairly compact body, which makes it a perfect combination for most people. Unless you are after sheer size or more productivity, there’s really no need for the Galaxy S9+ or Note 8, especially since they also share the same design language as the standard S9. But of course, everyone has their own preferences and we won’t stand in your way.
The best camera
Having put the camera on the Galaxy S8, S9 and Pixel 2 to good use, we can safely vouch for this: the imaging is best on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, even though the Galaxy S9+ and Note 8 are superb, too.
One little problem, though, is that you won’t find the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL stored in any of AT&T’s stores. The only option is to grab it via the official Google Store. But if you want something from the list of devices offered by AT&T, the Galaxy S9/S9+, Note 8, and Galaxy S8/S8+ – in that order – are the best.
The LG V35 ThinQ also does a great job with the wide-angle shots on the dual-lens unit on the back. In fact, the V35 is your best bet when it comes to video recording and unless you are a professional photographer looking to capture award-winning photos, the V35 does a great photography job in general.
The best performance
Many will agree that the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the best performing Android smartphones in general. However, Samsung just beat Google thanks to the more powerful Snapdragon 845 chipset used on the Galaxy S9 and S9+. The latter gets even better thanks to the inclusion of 6GB RAM, but you and I know that zippy performance has more to do with software than hardware. Yes, the Galaxy S9 and OnePlus 6 come close, actually, and they are the only devices that deliver a Pixel-like smooth experience, which is in itself a manifestation of how highly we regard Pixel 2’s performance.
The facts that the Pixel 2 is powered by simple and intuitive software, has the best camera and is guaranteed up to three years of software updates — yup, Android P and Android Q are covered — make it one of the most efficient phones you can have on the market. To crown it, the body is now IP67 certified for dust and water resistance.
Unfortunately, neither the Pixel 2 nor the Pixel 2 XL is available directly on AT&T, but you can always grab one via the Google Store. As noted earlier, you don’t have to worry about financing because Google has one of its own too, just like AT&T, but you may miss out on certain carrier-specific features.
Going by what’s available in the carrier’s store, you can’t do better than the Samsung Galaxy S9+. The monstrous 6GB RAM coupled with a powerful Snapdragon 845 processor, top-end cameras and a big battery make the S9+ simply unbeatable. If the asking price of $915 is too much to pay outright, the carrier has a 30-month contract available as well.
Alternatively, you can also grab either of the Samsung Galaxy S9 or the bigger Note 8. Apart from the extra 2GB RAM, the former has the same performance capabilities as the Galaxy S9+ and is also slightly cheaper, but if you want massive raw power coupled by productivity functions, the Galaxy Note 8 is your safest bet. Since the LG V35 ThinQ packs the latest hardware, it can’t be written off either.
The best battery life
Ever since the smartphone made its debut, people said goodbye to week-long battery life on phones. Today, even phones with the biggest batteries won’t last you more than two days on a single charge when used moderately, but the good side of the story is that these phones have new technologies that ensure filling up the battery is also as fast as possible.
As noted, devices with big batteries promise a longer battery life. Talk of the Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy Note 8, HTC U12+, LG V35 ThinQ or the Pixel 2 XL. These are your best bet, but the Pixel 2 XL carries the day. Since it’s not available officially on AT&T, you might want to go for the Galaxy Note 8. If you, however, feel that the Note 8 is slightly old, you can’t go past the S9+. The 3300mAh battery unit on the LG V35 is also big enough to last a full day on a single charge and since it has more similarities with the Pixel 2 XL than the Note 8, S9+ or S8+, it might just be another great alternative.
The best in multitasking
If you are looking for the best productivity phone – a phone that can handle multiple tasks without flinching, you can’t do better than Samsung Galaxy Note 8. In addition to rocking a massive 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display screen with a QHD+ resolution, the Note 8 is also equipped with an S Pen stylus. With this tool, you’ll be entering a new world of productivity and creativity, be it sketching, taking notes, editing photos and what have you.
For the years the Galaxy Note series has lived, it has cemented its position as the best handset for power users and the Galaxy Note 8 fits this bill perfectly. If the sheer size of the phone is an issue or you simply don’t want anything to do with the stylus, there’s always an alternative hanging in the balance.
Samsung’s other handsets – Galaxy S9 and S9+ – are the best options available on AT&T, but if you are willing to step outside the box, Google’s Pixel 2 XL is your next stop. The display size is huge, you get powerful specs, a fluid software experience and a big battery – features that should do a good job when it comes to multitasking. If you are running on a budget, there’s the OnePlus 6, which offers even more raw power at a more affordable price.
But what if you are looking for something unique? Well, grace the ZTE Axon M. At $24.17 per month, or $724.99 unlocked, you are getting one phone with two 5.2-inch displays. yes, two. The best setup for multitasking, right?
But there is a reason we didn’t list it at the top. Because as great as it can be in multi-tasking, the Galaxy S9+ and Note 8 offer much better deals in every aspect of the smartphone, be it camera, performance, support, design and whatnot. However, if you really want the best multitasking, having two screens than one is the best choice, more so when you don’t care about anything else.
Another good choice would be the Moto Z2 Force is a great option. This handset can be yours for $614.99 outright or at $20.50 per month for 30 months. Although not as big as the others, the Moto Z2 Force packs the same hardware specs, but it has more to offer than any of these phones.
The modularity of the Z2 Force makes it stand out from the crowd. With this feature, you can add extra functionality by swapping the back panel with mods like a 360-degree camera, JBL speaker, projector, a zoom camera or even a battery pack to up the battery life, among others. It’s true the Moto Mods can get costly, but it’s what they bring that actually makes the Moto Z2 Force worth a try.
The best AT&T mid-range phones
Sadly, the US doesn’t have some of the best mid-range Android phones available in the form of Honor 7X, Redmi Note 5, and the Honor 9 Lite. Xiaomi and Huawei are yet to make an impact in the US, but as options under the mid-range from Samsung, Motorola and others aren’t too strong, you really miss the Chinese OEMs in the budget segment.
Other than the flagship phones, AT&T also boasts a good number of mid-range phones, but as you know, this is a market segment that has never picked off in the U.S. In fact, you’ll be better off looking elsewhere (read Amazon, GearBest) for an unlocked mid-range phone, but sure let’s first check out what’s on offer at AT&T.
When talking mid-range phones, these are phones ranging from $300 to $500. Honestly, AT&T doesn’t have the best in this class. While you could go for the BlackBerry KEYone at $401 outright or $13.37 per month for 30 months, what you get on this phone is mediocre when compared to $400-priced smartphones outside the U.S. Add an extra $100 on top of that and you can grab the Asus ZenFone 5Z or Huawei Honor View 10, which are more beautiful and even more powerful than the KEYone.
But if you want a taste of the good old hardware keyboard combined with touch-screen capabilities, the KEYone is a good package. It rocks a good enough camera, a big battery and BlackBerry has been pretty impressive with its software updates, which is a good thing.
Our take: Simply go for the OnePlus 6, as this device offers the best hardware and performance at this price. If you are looking to spend less, you can check out Motorola devices like the Moto G6 on Amazon as this one gives you pretty good performance and camera for its price.
The best budget phones
Like the mid-range segment, AT&T doesn’t have much to choose from in the budget category. Still, you can walk away with the Samsung Galaxy J3 2018 at $210 outright or just $7 per month for 30 months. Alternatively, the Galaxy J7 2018 can be yours for $270 outright or $9 per month for 30 months.
Outside of the Samsung Galaxy, AT&T also offers the LG K20 at a decent price of $120 outright or a 30-month contract of just $4 per month. The $300-priced LG Stylo 4 is also a great piece of hardware, especially since it’s more than your typical smartphone thanks to the inclusion of a stylus pen, a feature you can only find on the premium Galaxy Note 8. The Moto G6 Play is also a great option at just $180 or $6 per month. Even further outside, you can also try out devices from Xiaomi, Huawei’s Honor division, HTC or even the recent additions to Sony’s Xperia phones.
AT&T may be the second biggest carrier in the U.S., but it’s obvious that it doesn’t have a huge list of phones to choose from. There are good picks for those who have no issue with spending $700+ on a phone, but the mid-range and budget market has nothing particularly good.
On the brighter side, just about every phone manufactured across the globe is GSM-compatible. This doesn’t mean any phone will work with AT&T, but most will, even those from China and other regions. Before you think of shipping an unlocked phone from Europe or Asia for that matter, make sure you confirm that it has the necessary bands to work on AT&T, especially LTE.
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 8 have their marks all over this article, but many will agree that it’s partly because AT&T has no Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL or even OnePlus 6. Nonetheless, the said Samsung phones are among the best on the market, but you can always grab the year-old Galaxy S8 or S8+ on the cheap and thus score an impressive deal.
Which one is the best Android phone at AT&T in your opinion? Do you think AT&T direly needs some good budget phones from the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, and Motorola? With 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage on offer on the likes of Honor 7X, would you even need to spend top dollar on flagship phones?