Compare smartphones from Apple, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, OPPO, Samsung, Sony and ZTE on their user friendliness, battery life, camera quality, speed, appearance & style, value for money & overall customer satisfaction with Canstar Blue’s 2017 review & ratings.
See our Ratings Methodology.
For many of us, our smartphones are almost an extension of ourselves – they’re often the first thing we look at before going to sleep at night and the first thing we reach for when we wake up in the morning, so it’s understandable that we want the best that money can buy. But with the cost of new, high-end smartphones going up every year, many of us are looking for cheaper, yet equally capable, alternatives. And there is no shortage of options. You no longer need to break the bank to get your hands on a great smartphone.
While some people will struggle to see past the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy series of smartphones, if you’re willing to do a little research you’ll realise there are many other, great-value phones out there. Don’t believe us? Just look at our customer ratings! We’ve surveyed more than 1,800 smartphone users across Australia and recorded their feedback on their smartphone of choice. We’ve looked at important factors like user-friendliness, camera quality, battery life and value for money. As you can see, OPPO has been rated highest of the lot.
A Chinese brand, OPPO has risen through the ranks to establish itself as a smartphone ‘giant killer’ and in our 2017 review it has proven to deliver the most satisfied customers in Australia. That’s an incredible result considering OPPO’s new phones cost considerably less than the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8.
You may not have heard of OPPO before, but chances are you’ve seen one of its phones in the street and perhaps mistaken it for an iPhone – they do look quite similar. OPPO runs off the Android operating platform and its flagship model costs quite a bit less than $1,000, meaning you don’t necessarily have to blow out your budget to get the latest and greatest smartphone after all.
But don’t let us make your mind up for you. Read on for a guide to the eight smartphone brands in this year’s review to help you decide for yourself.
An ongoing debate in the smartphone world is the question of whether to bundle your new phone with a plan (usually over 2 years), or purchase the phone outright and pick a good SIM-only deal.
While purchasing a phone outright gives you much better flexibility, bundling often provides the most convenience and access to special deals with telcos that are not provided elsewhere. Here is a guide to the plans on offer in Australia depending on your smartphone preference.
OPPO’s flagship smartphone is the R11, which boasts a 20mp dual rear camera, super-fast charge times, a standard expandable 64GB memory capacity with face detection and other goodies. This phone can be bought outright for as little as $600, but you might find great value in bundling. Virgin Mobile currently offers some of the cheapest R11 plans out there, with unlimited calls & texts plus 3GB of data for only $40 a month over 24 months. You’ll also get $50 international credit and other bonuses depending on when you sign up. Woolworths Mobile and Vodafone are also worth a look into with big data available for comparatively low prices and the flexibility to bundle the phone over 12, 24 or 36 months.
Apple was the only other smartphone brand to register a five-star rating in any research category, getting top marks for user friendliness and speed, which probably aren’t big surprises for people in the know. With much hype, Apple recently released its iPhone 8 and iPhone X, with prices starting at $1,079 outright. Telcos quickly followed with competitive plans, and there is strong incentive to bundle. Plans for the iPhone X start from around $80 per month, from Vodafone, which offers 6GB per month over 36 months. Optus is the next cheapest, while Virgin Mobile and Telstra follow in hot pursuit. The more you spend with an iPhone X plan, the more bonuses you can receive, including things like Foxtel, data-free music streaming and other perks.
HTC’s flagship phone comes in the ‘U’ series, particularly the U11. U series phones can be found for less than $700 for the most part, but bundling can be convenient. Telstra and Optus are the leaders in the HTC bundle field, with plans for the U11 starting at around $60. Both Telstra and Optus offer ‘leasing’ plans, which means you basically rent your phone over 24 months and hand it back at the end of your term, or upgrade after a year. In turn you usually receive a discounted phone plan and big data bonuses. This is not unique to the U11, however, so it pays to shop around. HTC in our smartphones review was rated four stars overall and for most other research categories.
Motorola may have fallen a bit behind the 8 ball since flip phones stopped being a thing, but the truth is the brand still provides some exciting, cheap smartphones. They all operate off the Android platform of course, with its Z Series offering lots of bang for buck. The Moto Z is, according to Motorola, the world’s thinnest premium smartphone and the Moto Z Play offers a massive 45-hour capacity battery. Motorola was rated four stars for overall satisfaction and for most other categories. Due to the low-cost nature of Motorola’s smartphones, few bundling options are available. However, Southern Phone does bundle the Motorola Moto C from just $17 a month, making for a very cheap bundle.
Samsung is one of the biggest smartphone brands in this list and under the ‘Galaxy’ line produces many models. The cheapest can be had for around $300, while the flagship Galaxy S8 costs more than $1,000 to buy outright. This is where bundling has merit, with hot offers and lots of incentives. Many providers will bundle the Samsung Galaxy S8, with smaller providers like Woolworths Mobile and Southern Phone jostling for your attention among the big guys Optus, Telstra, Virgin and Vodafone. $60 seems to be the minimum price you can expect to pay for the cheapest S8 plans. Big data bonuses are on offer, as well as data-free music streaming, streaming subscriptions and international credit. Samsung has slipped a bit in this year’s ratings, but still achieved four stars for overall satisfaction and for every other category.
Huawei is another Chinese phone manufacturer and its handsets run off the Android platform. Arguably the latest and greatest smartphone in the Huawei line-up is the Mate10. This one comes with a camera developed in conjunction with Leica – one of the world’s most revered optics companies. The Mate10 can be bought for under $1,000, but bundled with a plan prices start at about $60 a month. Optus leads the charge in the Mate10 Pro segment, while Vodafone is the lead telco if you want the basic Mate10 model. Huawei was rated three stars for overall satisfaction in our review, but did score four stars for battery life and value for money.
Sony is well-known as an electronics giant and under its ‘Xperia’ brand, it produces some quite exciting smartphones. The premium model is the Xperia XZ Premium, which can be found for less than $900 outright. Currently, all four major providers offer Xperia bundles, with the XZ Premium starting at just over $50 per month. The cheapest plan is from Virgin Mobile, which offers 2GB for $54. Optus, Vodafone and Telstra also follow in hot pursuit with big data bonuses, extra incentives and streaming perks. Sony was rated three stars for overall satisfaction, but did rate four stars for value for money and camera quality.
Ever heard of ZTE? In its home country of China, it is one of the top five smartphone manufacturers, but outside the homeland it has traditionally struggled to compete with the iPhone and Samsung phones for market share. The flagship phone in the range is the Axon 7, which runs off the Android platform, comes with a 20mp main camera and Dolby ATMOS front-facing speakers for crisp sound. ZTE also offers some of the cheapest phones on the market, with many of them costing less than $300. However, Australian customers want more than just a cheap price when it comes to smartphones, with ZTE rating just three stars for overall satisfaction in our review. ZTE phones can be hard to find bundled, but several prepaid options are available from Optus starting at just $10.
High-end smartphones commonly cost more than $1,000 these days, with some even priced closer to $2,000. This is a huge amount of money for most of us, but that doesn’t stop people from upgrading every year:
With that said, it’s also tempting to take up your provider’s offer of upgrading every year. If you’ve bundled your smartphone with one of the big telcos, they make it very easy to upgrade your phone every 12 months, so you always get the latest and greatest while they get to secure your custom for another year. Before automatically upgrading, it’s worth considering your options, including seeing out your contract and going SIM-only.
Tribalism is also a thing in the smartphone world, with most of the battle being done in the Samsung versus iPhone debate. More than half of survey respondents (56%) always buy the same brand, with familiarity the main reason, though plenty are also just convinced they have the best phone going.
In any case, no matter which smartphone you buy, it pays to do your research. Also consider the fact that the most expensive smartphone brand does not necessarily produce the most satisfied customers. OPPO is known as a cheap smartphone manufacturer yet achieved five stars overall and for many other categories. The smartphone world is more than just Apple and Samsung – if you weigh up your options, you’ll realise there is a lot of choice out there.
Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have bought a brand new smartphone in the last 2 years – in this case, 1,826 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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