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These phones make great holiday gifts

So, you're giving someone a smartphone. Lucky them! (Or lucky you, if you're self-gifting.) There are a ton of excellent phones to choose from -- we'll help you chose the right one.

Jessica Dolcourt
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Jessica Dolcourt
1 of 17 James Matin/CNET

iPhone X

The iPhone X is for the tech-loving Apple fan. It introduces Apple's sophisticated new face-scanning technology, and has the biggest screen of all the new iPhones, while keeping the phone's size a tidy little package. The rumor of limited supply makes it extra prize-worthy.

2 of 17 Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

With its huge, 6.3-inch screen and digital stylus, the Galaxy Note 8 calls out to note-takers, doodlers and Android power users. It's the best phone for people who want to do it all. It sells through all major carriers.

3 of 17 Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 8 Plus

Buy the iPhone 8 Plus through your carrier or Apple's store for an excellent large-screen phone that'll cost less than the iPhone X, but matches its photo skills. The improved camera takes beautiful shots.

iPhone 8
4 of 17 Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 8

If you're helping someone upgrade from an iPhone 6S or older, the iPhone 8 will be a huge boost to speed and photo quality. It's a good, no-nonsense choice for phone owners who aren't in a rush to adopt the latest trend.

5 of 17 James Martin/CNET

Pixel 2

Google's Pixel 2 reaches out to those seeking a simple, "pure" Android experience. Launching with the latest Android Oreo software out of the box, the 5-inch Pixel 2 has the best camera on any Android phone. Though it only sells on Verizon, you can buy it for any carrier from the Google Store. It also works with Project Fi.

6 of 17 Josh Miller/CNET

Pixel 2 XL

During its initial launch, we liked the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL even more than the Pixel 2. It shares identical core features, but has a sleeker body and more screen space. Google says it designed the 2 XL to display less saturated colors than a typical phone. This initially turned some users off. However, thanks to a post-release software update, there is now a saturated color option. 

There were also reports of screen burn-in on the 2 XL. In our own testing, while we did see some screen burn-in, but we don't think it's severe enough to heavily disrupt your day-to-day experience with the Pixel 2 XL.

LG V30
7 of 17 Sarah Tew/CNET

LG V30

Your budding filmmaker will appreciate the more premium LG V30, which emphasizes some impressive photo and video tricks through its 16- and 12-megapixel rear cameras. It's available through LG's site and all the carriers.

8 of 17 Juan Garzón/CNET

Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus

If the Galaxy Note 8's a little more phone than your giftee needs, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus will save you some bucks. Just keep in mind they won't take depth-effect portraits. Both excellent all-rounders are widely available -- keep an eye out for holiday deals. 

9 of 17 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus 5T

CNET's favorite midprice phone, the OnePlus 5T' performance is neck-and-neck with its highest-end rivals. But it'll only cost you $500 for the 64GB version.

10 of 17 Sarah Tew/CNET

Motorola Moto Z2 Force

A shatterproof screen and magnetic modules that connect to the back of the phone are what set the Moto Z2 Force apart. High-end specs keep it fast and competitive. You can buy it across carriers.

11 of 17 Josh Miller/CNET

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Moto's budget version, the Moto Z2 Play, is still a great little phone, with long battery life and the same snap-on modules. Buy it from Verizon, Best Buy or Motorola's website.

12 of 17 Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

The heartier version of the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy S8 Active comes with its own built-in case and shatter-resistant screen. A giant battery keeps it alive much longer than the Galaxy S8. It's also pricier, and a little harder to find. Right now, you can pick it up from AT&T and Samsung's site, but it could come to more carriers. 

13 of 17 Josh Miller/CNET

ZTE Axon M

For the ultimate multitasker, the ZTE Axon M is the ultimate phone. Two 5.2-inch screens open like a book to turn into a 6.8-inch tablet. Open two different apps or expand one to fill the full display. AT&T snapped up the exclusive.

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Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Our favorite budget buy, the Moto G5 Plus gives you exceptional value for a modest starting price. You'll find it at Best Buy and Motorola's website.

15 of 17 James Martin/CNET


LG's G6 isn't an exciting phone, but it's a reliable dual-camera Android device that puts a big screen in a smaller-than-expected body. It's sleek, attractive and water-resistant. You'll find it in carrier stores.

16 of 17 Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone SE

The tiniest modern iPhone is a good choice (and your only choice) if you're looking for an affordable Apple-made phone with a small screen. The iPhone SE was recently blessed with double the storage, and is widely available.

17 of 17 Patrick Holland/CNET

Motorola Moto E4

The ridiculously cheap Moto E4, right, is a perfect choice if you're buying for someone who just needs the essentials, like a preteen first-time phone owner, for example. Get it from Motorola, Verizon, Target, Best Buy and Boost Mobile for starters.

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