The best T-Mobile Android phones

Samsung Galaxy S9 Titanium Gray

Buying a new smartphone is a tough task: even when one has a clear idea of the desired device they intend to commit to, a 1-minute perusal of all the other products on store shelves may quickly undo weeks worth of confidence. There are just too many excellent devices out there, and with so many offering similar specs the choice becomes even more difficult. Luckily, we have created this handy-dandy reference feature to help make your mind up (or reaffirm your existing decision). This week we tackle the formidable T-Mobile.

It should be pointed out that T-Mobile doesn’t exactly have a large selection of smartphones to choose from. Of the recent releases, almost half are Apple products. Thankfully, Magenta allows for unlocked devices to be used on its network as long as they support the pre-requisite bands and are of GSM configuration. To this end, we will also include some off-carrier considerations to have at.

The best of the best [August 2018]

We have provided a summary of popular T-Mobile phones right below along with their prices. Some of the devices like the Pixel 2 sets, OnePlus 6 and HTC U12+ aren’t sold by T-Mobile, but they have been linked to their respective store pages — rest all are T-Mobile pages.

Android Phone Online Store Link
Google Pixel 2 $24.96/mo. | $599.00
Google Pixel 2 XL $32.25/mo. | $774.00
Samsung Galaxy S9 $30.00/mo.| $720.00
Samsung Galaxy S9+ $30.00/mo. ($120 upfront)| $840.00
Samsung Galaxy S8 $25.00/mo. | $600.00
Samsung Galaxy S8+ $130+$30.00/mo. | $850.00
Samsung Galaxy S8 Active $130+$30.00/mo. | $850.00
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 $120+$30.00/mo. | $840.00
OnePlus 6 $530.00
LG V30 $29.00/mo. | $696.00
LG G7 ThinQ $30+$30.00/mo. | $750.00
LG G6 $15.00/mo. | $360.00
HTC U12+ $34.00/mo. | $799.00 [HTC.com]
HTC U11 Life $59/mo. (6 months) | $349.00 [HTC.com]
Motorola Moto Z2 Force $20.83/mo. | $500.00 [Motorola.com]
Samsung Galaxy J7 Star $10+$10/mo. | $250
Moto E5 Plus $9+$9/mo. | $225
Moto E5 Play $6+$6/mo. | $150
Samsung Galaxy J3 Star $7+$7.00/mo. | $175.00
LG K30 $9+$9.00/mo. | $225.00
LG Aristo 2 Plus $6.00+ $6.00/mo. | $150.00

We will talk about the best Android phone under some of the popular categories, which are based on what feature you are the most about. Like, camera, phablet, display, design, battery life, etc. We would give you what we think is the best phone in that section, along with an honorable mention for a few other Android phones.

Let’s see to this.

The best most valued phone

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Ironically the idea of a 5.8-inch display – once unquestionably a phablet in the yesteryears – is now being deemed a normal sized phone. For those looking to buy such a “standard” smartphone, which is good at everything, the best option is Samsung’s smaller Galaxy S9. It’s a big phone but not too big owing largely to the fact that it has such small bezels. You can also look at the S9+, which comes with a larger screen size of 6.2 inches, and slightly larger battery too, while other specs (mostly) remain the same between the two: a QHD Super AMOLED display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, 64GB storage, Android 8.0, and a fantastic camera. Similar to last year’s S8 and Note 8, the sides of the screen are also curved, which gives the phone a very distinctive look and is sure to turn heads.

Speaking of the Note 8, this year’s S9+ borrows a leaf from its counterpart, coming in with a dual-lens camera that also rocks a telephoto lens. The S9+ is also more powerful with a standard RAM of 6GB as opposed to the S9’s 4GB, but the rest of the stuff remains the same. These include dual stereo speakers, an 8MP selfie camera, USB-C and 3.5mm audio jack, wireless charging and IP68 dust and water resistance, among others.

The outgoing Galaxy S8 might have been replaced by the better S9, but the former is still a great phone, especially now that it’s going to be available on the cheap. But if you are a game for unlocked without-contract devices, here are a few very charming choices: The OnePlus 6 and the Pixel 2.

OnePlus-6-smartphoneOnePlus is quite known for producing the best value-for-money devices year after year — and it has done it again with the OnePlus 6 this year. The OnePlus 6 is the best-unlocked device at its price point, and we say that because it runs fast, features great display and camera — not the best in industry, but best within its price point, and certainly not disappointing. It’s designed pretty well, even if there is nothing new and breathtaking here, and runs the show all day long without crying for a need to charge. At $530, the OnePlus 6 is an incredible phone that gets you flagship-level specs and performance (features the Snapdragon 845 SoC, BTW, with 6GB of RAM!), even though it cuts out on IP6X certification and wireless charging, which are not essential to many.

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And if you have some more cash to burn, have a look at the Pixel 2. At just $649, it’s a very compelling device if you can find a way to ignore the unexciting design. Yes, those bigger-than-usual bezels at the front, in the bezel-less era, kill the mood but man, give it a try: The performance is the best there is, the camera is among the best there is, while the battery and the display do not disappoint at all. It’s super-lightweight and at just 5 inches, it feels more comfortable in hand than any other phone mentioned here. You are guaranteed to receive Android OS updates until Android R (and it’s already on Android 9.0 (beta), something that will take ages to arrive on S9/Note 8/G7/U12+ etc.), and it will remain fast over the course of its entire life, while the likes of Galaxy S9 and even the OnePlus 6 start to stumble after a year or two.

Another exciting proposition is the LG G7 ThinQ. Its price is up there with other flagships and even though it features a design similar to the iPhone X aka notch, the G7 is still a powerhouse, one that features bezel-less LCD display, which means there will be a noticeable lack of color depth and saturation when compared to something like the Galaxy Note 8 or Galaxy S9 Super AMOLED panels. Still, it’s a 6.1-inch QHD+ IPS panel, which is no slouch. Buyer beware, however, do check out the Raspberry Rose color because it looks pretty good, and given the price it comes with on contract, the LG G7 ThinQ is one of the best there is at the moment.

LG-G7-ThinQ-2

Finally, there is also the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active, which is basically an S8 in a rugged body but with a flat display rather than a curved Edge variant. The phone is available for $850 or $130 down and 24 monthly payments of $30, but if you can wait for a few more weeks, there should be a Galaxy S9 Active that is better than its predecessor available for purchase.

The best phablet

Galaxy-Note-8

Large displays have become mainstream mainstays as what were once “mini tablets” are now sensible smartphones. The leader of the pack in T-Mobile’s stable is decidedly the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, released just a few months back and available for $150 upfront with 24 monthly installments of $30. That’s 870 bucks in total.

The Note 8 has a fantastic 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display along with top specs across the board and comes standard with 6GB of RAM. The device has received almost universal praise though the sheer size will not be for everyone. Of particular note to note about the Note is the more rectangular shape of the product as opposed to the curved corners on the pair of S8 phones. This isn’t Sony Xperia-level sharpness mind you, but some might find the slight shapeshift to be less pleasing.

Those looking for a slightly smaller screen would also do well with the Galaxy S9+, which has a 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display but rocks much more superior specs than its counterpart minus the crucial S-Pen. Interestingly, T-Mobile has given the S9+ a slightly cheaper price tag than the Note 8, so there is that to consider. Both the Note 8 and S8+ are available in a BOGO special as well. As mentioned above, the Galaxy S8+ has softer corners which may change or complement your clothing and/or pockets.

While T-Mobile doesn’t actually sell the Google Pixel 2 XL, it’s worth mentioning that nothing stops customers from buying one and using it on Magenta’s network. it houses arguably the best camera on mobile phones today and performs mind-blowingly fast, easily the best among all Android phones. Add to that quickest Android updates, whether that be about monthly security patches or Android OS version level — Google has promised 3 years of updates, till Android R, no less! — and you have a complete phone, which is only hurt by its non-exciting design. You can grab a panda version (black and white color model) to make up for that, BTW.

The Pixel 2 XL is actually quite a long phone despite it only having a 6-inch display, owing to the fact it has two front-facing speakers: one on the top and the other on the bottom. This goes a long way to improve the listening experience for those who constantly cover the bottom-firing speakers on Samsung phones and thus encounter muffled sound. Despite some minor grumblings about screen issues, the device has been extremely well received by the media and fans alike.

For the audiophiles and fans of video shooters, there is also the LG V30 to consider, which has specs comparable to the Galaxy S8+ but with a larger focus on media via its dedicated DAC audio. It is available for $800, or 24 monthly payments of $30 each, plus an $80 initial payment. The product comes with 64GB of storage and microSD support, however, there is also the LG V30+ which bumps the storage up to 128GB and costs $850, or $130 today and 24 monthly payments of $30. The pre-installed effects LG V30 comes loaded with make it the best phone to have if you are into shooting videos from your mobile phone.

The best designed

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Ask 10 people what they think looks good, and you are likely to get 10 different answers, though inevitably with some overlap and consensus. The overall trend in 2017 among flagships was a significant reduction in the bezel around displays, and as such, all the devices listed in this piece make use of the new approach. Selecting a phone will ultimately depend on what you like.

Samsung’s Galaxy S9, S9+, Note 8, S8+ and S8 all share a similar design language, though as mentioned the Note 8 has a more boxy look going on. While the size situation might depend on individual preference, any of the five Samsung smartphones would definitely be a good choice for lots of looks. All phones feature a glass front and back, as well as a metal frame that blends subtly with the front and back of the body to give you a really smooth slab to hang on to. You must grab one of these in your hand to get a good idea of what these devices feel like — a premium smartphone, in all sense.

If you are not into Galaxy S9, S8 and Note 8, then the HTC U12+, LG G7 ThinQ, and the V30 all have something to impress you with their own special kind of beauty. Have a look at HTC U12+, which even though is not available on contract from T-Mobile, can be bought from the HTC’s website directly, for use on T-Mobile. Its back makes it a stunner in looks, while it is certainly able to deliver strong, smooth performance without batting an eye. Add to that impressive camera quad-lens camera system and you’ll have little to cry foul about.

Also check out blue colored LG V30 and the Raspberry Rose LG G7, both of which pack in awesome specs like the S8 and U12+, come with the bezel-less display (and a notch on the G7), and give you a peace of mind in the design department too. LG’s G7 and V30 both have familiar, LG-esque designs and look like slightly more modest versions of Samsung’s S/Note series. Front and back are glass, and a metal frame is sandwiched between.

When we’re talking a seriously well-looking phone, that can become a darling of your eyes, we sure can’t bring in Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL here, no matter how much we love them for everything else than design.

The best camera

best-camera-phone

This is another tough issue, as all the flagships in 2018 basically have fantastic cameras. Until recently the Note 8 was top-ranked, but the Pixel 2 XL and then Samsung Galaxy S9+ came along. Many feel Google’s Pixel 2 phones have the best cameras among the assortment of Android phones in the market, and numerous experts around the world have agreed. Add to that the now-unearthed-but-hidden-at-launch Pixel Visual Core that improves the camera captures of even the third-party apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and any other app, you have a winning phone in Pixel 2 XL, by any means.

Assuming you don’t want to buy an off-carrier unlocked device, however, the choice is ultimately the Galaxy S9+ (if you can deal with the 6.2-inch display), but the Galaxy Note 8 and the standard Galaxy S9 are not far off the pace. Last year’s S8 and S8+ are still great options in photography, too.

The LG G7 ThinQ also has a fantastic camera setup with dual rear offerings and is another good consideration for buyers. And if you are into video-shooting particularly, the LG V30 is your best bet because of extra efforts LG has put into this guy with video-dedicated capture and effects in mind.

The best performance

google-pixel-2-xl-front-back-small

Arguably the best phone to select for performance is Google’s Pixel 2 XL, or even the smaller Pixel 2 (though the latter comes with 2015-era bezels). However, you got to give this one to the newly launched Galaxy S9 and S9+ solely because of their more powerful processors – the Snapdragon 845. The software, as usual, may end up being a letdown, which is where the Pixel 2 XL comes in.

Google makes Android, and it is Google’s Android products that receive the quickest updates and new software additions. Just this month, the Pixel 2 series received Android P developer preview 4, which shows the power of updates from Google, as this OS will easily take months to show up on the likes of S9, Note 8, G7, V30, U12+, etc. handsets after rolling out on the Pixels. The lack of a custom UI skin over Android’s base means not only is it more eye-pleasing, but the system will also run hell-lot-of smoother, too.

Of course, Samsung’s offerings have improved in recent years and now have less bloat with TouchWiz, which has been renamed to Samsung Experience. There is still lots of overlay and tinkering to be had, but it’s not nearly as pronounced as it once was. It also needs to be clarified that many of the features and enhancements Samsung brings to Android are actually good additions that millions upon millions of customers actually want. Google itself has adopted many of Samsung’s enhancements over the years and brought them to stock Android, such as the quick setting toggles in the notification bar, one huge feature that was earlier exclusive to Samsung smartphone since the first Galaxy S, until other OEMs, followed by Google itself, found this a necessary addition.

Ultimately, the Snapdragon 835 processor is behind some of the above devices so the basic benchmarks and overall performance will be top-notch, but yes, you will find the Galaxy S9 and S9+, as well as the new LG G7 ThinQ, outgun the rest by a mile purely because of the new Snapdragon 845 chipset.

The best battery life

battery-life

You have to consider either of the Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL if you want the battery to last long, under the premium segment of smartphones. Between these two choices, if you want a very good-looking all-rounder phone, go for the Note 8, no doubt.

But if you want a smartphone which is really smart, runs super-smooth, performs tasks superfast, never gives a lag/jerk/anything like that, besides getting you updates first of all on the planet, get the Pixel 2 XL. You are compromising on looks here a bit, but hey, did we mention it is also marginally better in the imaging department than the Note 8, thanks to Google’s super-cool AI at work in its camera.

The new Galaxy S9+ might benefit from the battery-saving Snapdragon 845 and thus deliver a slightly better battery life than its predecessor and even the Note 8, but of course, this depends on how you use the phone.

The best in multi-tasking

With split-screen mode, every Android phone is a great multi-tasker, but the screen size plays hands-down the biggest role in this arena. There are two prime contenders for this field. The more obvious, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, comes with a built-in stylus called the S-Pen which opens up an enormous amount of creative capabilities. Sketching, note taking, picture editing, scrapbooking… there is a venerable laundry list of all the potential possibilities that one could use the pen input for, and as such the Note has remained a popular “professional” device in the 7 years since its first introduction.

It’s true the S9+ is a more powerful handset than the Note 8, but the productivity features you get on the latter are invaluable, more so the S-Pen.

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However, if the stylus is not important for you — it isn’t for us, actually! — then you just basically need a very fast phone to effectively and efficiently multi-task, where switching between the apps is blazing fast, or that phone shouldn’t stumble when you load your Maps and Spotify apps together with split-screen feature. Well, the Pixel 2 XL is the answer. Even the mighty Galaxy Note 8 doesn’t come anywhere near to this one, and the Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch screen (compared to regular Pixel 2’s 5-inch) means there is plenty of space for loading two apps together for multitasking. You can also consider the OnePlus 6, which is also a very fast phone, and great in everything else too.

However, if you are looking add modules, to make your phone do extra than what any of the phones could do out of the box, then you have to look at Moto Z2 Force, which can use the power of — costly! — Moto mods to do some awesome stuff. Available for just $375 full retail price or $15 down and 24 monthly payments of $15, this modular wonder makes use of swappable back panels that can enhance the core device in ways that no other product natively can. Options include a JBL speaker, a 360-degree camera, a projector, a battery pack, a zoom camera module and more. While somewhat pricey, the ability to simply pop off a back plate and instantly add new functionality is a fantastic idea. For what it’s worth, the Android 8.0 Oreo update is now available on the T-Mobile Z2 Force.

Mid-range Android phones (T-Mobile)

OnePlus-6-3

Within the range of $300-$500, do have some solid options. If your budget stretches to $530, it’s hard to tell which device could best the OnePlus 6 here. As we said above, the 6 ticks every box just right — the performance, the camera, the design, the battery life, and the software. Everything is solid good with this device, even if not the best. Its performance is kind-of matchable to Pixel 2 – or even better – which is a big statement in itself.

Only if you are not interested in OnePlus 6, whether that’s because of your budget, or a sheer unlove for Chinese OEMs (they often do things which we don’t like), check out the LG G6, which also gets you a pretty good camera, decent 5.7″ bezel-less display, design, performance and battery life, while costing just $500 (much less under the deals that often show up).

Those eager to get away from Samsung could buy the HTC U11 LifeLG Stylo 3 PLUS, or LG K20 Plus all of which run for the $200-300 range. Oh, the U11 Life is a looker, BTW, and it can perform better than the rest of the lot, really, thanks to it running Android Oreo now, and also because of the better software optimization by HTC. And So, do give it a serious consideration before making a final decision.

Budget-friendly phones

LG-Stylo-4-unlockedT-Mobile has quite a few budget-friendly phones available from mainstay OEMs, including the Samsung Galaxy J3 Star, Galaxy J7 Star, LG Stylo 4, Motorola Moto E5 Plus, and others.

LG Stylo 4 presents a great option in the budget segment. In addition to coming in with plenty of interesting specs and features on a budget, the Stylo 4 also happens to be your only other route to enjoying the stylus experience outside of Samsung’s realm. At $250 outright or $10+$10/mo. for 24 months, the Stylo 4 won’t disappoint you.

Another LG smartphone worth looking at is the LG Q7+. In addition to coming in with the trendy 18:9 aspect ratio on a 5.5-inch FHD display screen, the LG Q7+ also happens to tag along most of the premium features we are used to seeing in the likes of LG G7 and LG V30, among them IP68, MIL-STD 810G certifications, fast battery charging, USB-C port, facial recognition, NFC, and support for Hi-Fi Quad DAC audio technology.

Related: LG Q7 series: All you need to know

If you don’t mind spending $225, then the Motorola Moto E5 Plus is the best on this list. However, if you do mind that, look at LG K30 at about the same price or the cheaper LG Aristo 2 Plus, which despite mere 16GB ROM, is a good deal at just $150 or $6 per month for two years. Also, you can always opt for Samsung’s Galaxy J3 Star, which is basically the successor to the Galaxy J3 Prime.

Fans of Motorola will be glad to learn that the Magenta carrier also has a cheaper alternative to the Moto E5 Plus – the Moto E5 Play, which can be yours at just $150. Both phones are also available on contract.

Wrap Up

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Clearly, there is no shortage of top-quality smartphones to be had from T-Mobile, and because the Pixel 2 handsets and OnePlus 5T are not available under the contract, your best choice may come in the form of an unlocked device. However, that’s not to say contract options are not cool, as Samsung’s Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, the S8/S8+ and Note 8 offer you plenty in the range of $600-$950.

By far the best option would be the Galaxy S9 and S9+, given their specs and design, often found very pleasing thanks to both coming frequently on sale or as a part of BOGO campaign.


Do let us know if you have any queries regarding T-Mobile Android phones in the comments section below. And also do share your experience and thoughts on these phones.

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Life-long tech enthusiast based in Tokyo, Japan. Enjoys spicy food (especially Indian curry), mobile devices, exploring new places, and video games. If there's a mobile phone or tablet out there, he's probably used or owned it.

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