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Our take on the top 10 bestselling smartphones on Amazon

Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 👁 J. Simon Leitner, Daniel R. Deakin, 12/28/2018

December 2018 update. In this article, you will find NotebookCheck's overview of the top 10 bestselling smartphones on Amazon.com. Read on to find out what we think about these bestsellers and whether they actually perform well or not for various use cases. We will keep this constantly updated to cover new bestselling smartphones every month.

Introduction

While most users in the US prefer getting their phones subsidized via a contract with their carrier, many also look for an outright purchase of a fully unlocked phone if they sense changing carriers often or just need a backup phone. Amazon offers a good selection of unlocked phones from popular brands along with some sweet deals and price-cuts. Therefore, it makes sense to have a look at the Amazon bestseller list to see which unlocked smartphones are popular among buyers and what makes them tick. If you are looking for category-specific options, the following articles might be useful —

We see an assortment of phones from various OEMs in the Amazon bestseller list. Samsung's flagship Galaxy series seem to be quite popular at the high end along with a few BLU phones. BLU phones offer excellent value for money if all you want is a phone to use as a backup device. We've compiled the top 10 bestselling phones on Amazon in the list below, which can be sorted based on the parameters in the table headers at the top. So, without further ado, let's get started with what we think of the current crop of bestselling smartphones on Amazon.com

Bestselling smartphones on Amazon.com (December 2018)

Pos.RatingDateImageModelHeightWeightSizeResolutionOSBest Price
184%05/2018Motorola Moto G6Motorola Moto G6
Qualcomm Snapdragon 450
Qualcomm Adreno 506
3 GB Memory, 32 GB eMMC
8.3 mm167 g5.7"2160x1080Android 8.0 Oreo
291%04/2018Samsung Galaxy S9Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Exynos 9810
ARM Mali-G72 MP18
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
8.5 mm163 g5.8"2960x1440Android 8.0 Oreo
309/2018LG Stylo 4LG Stylo 4
Qualcomm Snapdragon 450
Qualcomm Adreno 506
2 GB Memory, 32 GB eMMC
8.1 mm172 g6.2"2160x1080Android 8.1 Oreo
409/2018Huawei Mate SEHuawei Mate SE
HiSilicon Kirin 659
ARM Mali-T830 MP2
4 GB Memory, 64 GB eMMC
7.6 mm165 g5.93"2160x1080Android 8.0 Oreo
591%03/2018Samsung Galaxy S9 PlusSamsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung Exynos 9810
ARM Mali-G72 MP18
6 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
8.5 mm189 g6.2"2960x1440Android 8.0 Oreo
692%06/2017Samsung Galaxy S8Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Exynos 8895 Octa
ARM Mali-G71 MP20
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
8 mm155 g5.8"2960x1440Android 7.0 Nougat
787%09/2014Apple iPhone 6Apple iPhone 6
Apple A8
PowerVR GX6450
1 GB Memory, 128 GB eMMC
6.9 mm129 g4.7"1334x750Apple iOS 8
811/2018Nokia 6.1Nokia 6.1
Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
Qualcomm Adreno 508
3 GB Memory
8.2 mm172 g5.5"1920x1080Android 8.1 Oreo

Editor's Note

The Amazon bestsellers list provides an idea as to what categories and brands of unlocked smartphones are preferred by end-users. This list is dynamic and changes almost on a daily basis. The current selection of smartphones reflects the bestseller ranking at the time of writing. New smartphones populate this list often so we will be keeping this list up to date on a monthly basis. The purchase links at the end of each product description take you directly to the product listing. We've also included a Pricecompare tool to help you with alternate options, if available. 

BLU phones seem to be receiving good patronage in the US so we've included them in this article, although we haven't tested them ourselves yet.

Note: NotebookCheck receives a small affiliate commission for products purchased via the included Amazon links.

Motorola Moto G6

The Motorola Moto G6 is great if you are into Amazon services.
The Motorola Moto G6 is great if you are into Amazon services.

The Motorola Moto G6 is a formidable offering in the Moto lineup. While the Moto G6 Plus offers a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 SoC and 4 GB RAM, the Snapdragon 450 SoC in the Moto G6 should do well for day-to-day use. The Moto G6 gets the basics right — you get a bright display, options for using two SIMs and a microSD card at once, a decent dual camera setup, and good call quality. The 3,000 mAh battery offers good battery life and the power-efficient SoC plays its part in seeing you through a typical workday. The Moto G6 is available as an Amazon Prime Exclusive and you get the usual assortment of Amazon apps pre-installed. Amazon Alexa is also available to complement the built-in Google Assistant. 

In our tests, we found the WLAN range to be a bit disappointing and the built-in modem supports only up to LTE Cat. 4. Also, do note that bootloader unlock codes are not available for Prime Exclusive phones. That said, the Moto G6 offers good value for money for an unlocked phone and a mostly stock Android experience as long as you can tolerate the smorgasbord of pre-installed Amazon apps.

Buy the Motorola Moto G6 on Amazon.

Pricecompare

Samsung Galaxy S9

The Samsung Galaxy S9 offers a true flagship experience in the US$500 range.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 offers a true flagship experience in the US$500 range.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 received a very good 91% rating in our review, and between the S9 Plus and the S9 we would favor the latter considering you get the same overall experience at a more reasonable price. The Galaxy S9 has everything one expects from an Android flagship in 2018. The Exynos 9810 SoC offers fast processing and enhanced AI capabilities while the single rear camera produces great shots. Build quality is great and the IP68 rating ensures adequate dust and water protection (do note that the IP68 protection comes with caveats). Samsung's default Experience UI is not something many take a liking to but Samsung has begun rolling out One UI to the Galaxy S9 series and it seems to have garnered favorable reviews.

The Galaxy S9 is no doubt a great device but there is still scope for improvement. For one, we would have liked a bigger battery and a longer runtime for 4K 60 fps video recording. Also, the dual-SIM version does not offer dual VoLTE support. Of course, these are definitely addressable to an extent via software updates so here's hoping that One UI turns out to be a great package. If you've been on the fence about treating yourself to the latest Samsung Galaxy flagship, now is probably the best time to take the plunge. 

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S9 on Amazon

LG Stylo 4

The LG Stylo 4 can be thought of as the poor man's Galaxy Note 9.
The LG Stylo 4 can be thought of as the poor man's Galaxy Note 9.

The LG Stylo 4 is another Amazon Prime Exclusive phone and features the same SoC as the Motorola Moto G6. The Stylo 4 has lower RAM and battery capacity than the Moto G6 but makes up with a slightly larger screen and a bundled stylus, similar to the LG Q Stylus. The phone features decent aesthetics and the display is fairly accurate and bright enough for daily use. The stylus is not an active pen but its inclusion does come in handy with apps designed to take advantage of it. The SoC seems a little underpowered for LG's overlay over Android 8.1 Oreo, but it gets the job done nevertheless as long as you refrain from running too many apps in the background. Camera performance is good for a US$250 phone and you will encounter no problems with either photos or video. 

Being an Amazon Prime Exclusive phone, the LG Stylo 4 is not without its share of quirks. Like the Moto G6, unlocking the bootloader is not possible and you will have to adjust to having a plethora of Amazon apps pre-installed even if you aren't too much into the Amazon ecosystem. The overall experience can be a bit more fluid and LG's tryst with software updates is not the best we've come across so expect the Android Pie rollout to take forever. Still, the Stylo 4 can be dubbed as a poor man's Galaxy Note 9, and it offers a lot of the latter's functionality for far less dough.  

Buy the LG Stylo 4 on Amazon.

Pricecompare

Huawei Mate SE

The Huawei Mate SE is an excellent all-rounder.
The Huawei Mate SE is an excellent all-rounder.

Huawei phones haven't exactly been able to make a mark for themselves in the US market given the many restrictions in place, but that hasn't stopped the Chinese smartphone major from shipping a record number of phones in 2018. Powered by the HiSilicon Kirin 659 and sporting 4 GB of RAM with 64 GB of storage, the Huawei Mate SE offers a great mid-range smartphone experience. The Mate SE is an all-rounder and does well on both the software and hardware side of things. The 16 MP + 2 MP rear camera setup is surprisingly good and selfies with the 8 MP front-facing camera come out with enough detail and sharpness. Although the phone shipped with EMUI 5.1 layered on top of Android 7 Nougat, Huawei has recently pushed out the Android 8.0 Oreo-based EMUI 8.0. 

Performance-wise, there is nothing to grumble about but the Kirin 659 has its limitations. There is also no wireless-AC support so you will have to rely on 2.5 GHz routers. However, the 3,340 mAh battery should last easily for a typical workday. As a complimentary mid-range device or for gifting someone in the family, the Huawei Mate SE is an easy recommendation in the US$200 range.

Buy the Huawei Mate SE on Amazon.

Pricecompare

BLU Vivo XL4

The BLU Vivo XL4 offers decent mid-range performance at a reasonable price. (Source: Amazon)
The BLU Vivo XL4 offers decent mid-range performance at a reasonable price. (Source: Amazon)

What if you desire to have most features offered by 2018 mid-range phones without the overhead of bloatware at a price less than US$130? The BLU Vivo XL4 has you covered in this aspect. The Vivo XL4 is powered by the MediaTek Helio P22 SoC, which goes neck and neck against the highly popular Qualcomm Snapdragon 625. The smartphone features a 6.2-inch HD+ display, which is probably the biggest disappointment when a lot of phones have moved on to offering FHD+ resolution as a bare minimum. The Vivo XL4 offers a very generous 4,000 mAh battery that delivers a long runtime and the power-efficient SoC and low-resolution display help in this regard as well. BLU hasn't tinkered much with the software and you get a fairly stock Android 8.1 Oreo experience. The 13 MP + 2 MP  dual camera isn't too shabby either.

The BLU Vivo XL4 has everything going for it when it comes to a solid budget offering. There have been some user reviews on Amazon that have been critical of BLU's after-sales support and some bugs in the software, but the majority opinion seems highly favorable. We think that BLU has managed to offer a good balance of features and affordability with the Vivo XL4 and its position in the bestsellers list reflects this as well.

Buy the BLU Vivo XL4 on Amazon

BLU Advance 5.2 HD

The BLU Advance 5.2 HD makes for a great backup phone. (Source: Amazon)
The BLU Advance 5.2 HD makes for a great backup phone. (Source: Amazon)

If your budget is highly restrictive or if you only require a phone as a backup that gets the basics right, the BLU Advance 5.2 HD might be a very tempting choice. At just under US$70, the Advance 5.2 HD offers a dual-SIM and a microSD card slot along with an 8 MP primary camera and a 5 MP selfie camera. The phone is powered by a MediaTek 6580 SoC complemented by 1 GB of RAM. It's not much but BLU is wise enough to include the Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition that is specifically tailored to such low-end configurations. The Advance 5.2 HD is compatible with all US GSM carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, Metro PCS, Straight Talk, and more. 

The BLU Advance 5.2 HD has managed to garner fairly good ratings on Amazon, which explains it being a bestselling phone. That said, we advise that you keep your expectations tempered when it comes to the display, audio, and camera quality.

Buy the BLU Advance 5.2 HD on Amazon

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus sports a variable aperture main camera.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus sports a variable aperture main camera.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is more of a fine tuning of last year's Galaxy S8 Plus so if you're already rocking the latter model, you might not have much of an incentive to upgrade. Nevertheless, the now reduced price for the unlocked variant might seem enticing to some. The Galaxy S9 Plus offers an upgraded SoC, more RAM, and a variable aperture camera. The display is easily the best out there and the USB 3.1 Type-C port can connect to DisplayPort, HDMI, or other OTG devices. The fast Exynos 9810 SoC lends itself to a great gaming experience and you'll hardly come across any lag in day-to-day use. As mentioned earlier, the Galaxy S9 Plus has started receiving the Android 9.0 Pie-based One UI update so operation should be even more fluid and responsive. 

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is not without flaws, though. In our review, we found the battery runtime disappointing and the QuickCharge feature didn't help much either. We also noticed the SoC throttling under load, but it is rare to really push it that far in daily use. If an excellent smartphone experience is what you are looking for, then the Galaxy S9 Plus has little competition. 

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus on Amazon

Pricecompare

Samsung Galaxy S8

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is still a great option to consider in 2018.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is still a great option to consider in 2018.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 still holds its ground as a flagship phone even towards the end of 2018, and at a price of just US$478 it makes for a compelling purchase. The experience is largely non-different from the newer Galaxy S9, and therefore you won't be compromising much. The Galaxy S8 offers a dense 2960x1440p 568 PPI Super AMOLED display that brings images to life thanks to support for Mobile HDR. The Exynos 8895 Octa is a competent SoC but we've seen it throttling heavily under load. The main gripe with the Galaxy S8 is that all SKUs aren't globally available and there is no dual-SIM variant — something that the new S9 offers. 

The Samsung Galaxy S8 works with all major US carriers including Verizon. However, many buyers on Amazon have cautioned about the warranty not being valid in the US so make sure you are purchasing the US-specific version via the link below.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S8 on Amazon

Pricecompare

Apple iPhone 6

The Apple iPhone 6 is still available but we'd advise thinking twice before getting one.
The Apple iPhone 6 is still available but we'd advise thinking twice before getting one.

The Apple iPhone 6 is about four years old now but if you aren't inclined to spend much on a new phone or just want to try out Apple's ecosystem, then the iPhone 6 might be an option to consider. The refurbished variant sells for about US$165 and is not a bad choice given the fact that the latest iOS 12 update is compatible with the device. This particular variant is compatible with all US GSM carriers but not with CDMA ones such as Sprint and Verizon. For an aging device, the iPhone 6 has good build quality and a great display. In our review, we did notice that the camera performance could have been better and demanding apps could easily use up the paltry 1 GB of RAM. Therefore, don't expect it to play well with modern apps designed for more-powerful devices such as the iPhone XS

User reviews on Amazon aren't particularly encouraging so we would suggest looking for more modern options from the bestseller list. You should only go for this only if you are new to Apple and want to test the waters before exhausting your savings on the latest phones the company has to offer. 

Buy the Apple iPhone 6 on Amazon (Refurbished).

Pricecompare

Nokia 6.1 (2018)

The Nokia 6.1 (2018) will please many Nokia fans.
The Nokia 6.1 (2018) will please many Nokia fans.

The Nokia 6.1 (2018) is an updated version of last year's Nokia 6 and continues HMD Global's tradition of offering a great Android One experience. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 SoC in the Nokia 6.1 offers a vastly improved performance over the Snapdragon 430 in last year's model. However, the Nokia 6.1 continues to offer a single 16 MP at the rear, which could be a let down for many users. While the hardware is in line with most mid-rangers of 2018, the stock Android experience with zero bloatware and Google's commitment of up to two years of regular security and major OS updates tilts the scales in its favor.

The Nokia 6.1 (2018) has all the hallmarks of a classic Nokia experience. Running most modern apps poses no hurdles and the overall build quality ensures that it can take quite a beating. Go for it if you are a Nokia fan and aren't too finicky about the specs. 

Buy the Nokia 6.1 (2018) on Amazon.

Pricecompare

Conclusion

The Amazon bestsellers list for smartphones shows that unlocked phones are in great demand despite US carriers offering the latest flagships at subsidized prices. We see that the latest Samsung Galaxy devices feature prominently in this list thanks to recent price cuts, which have brought them within a reasonable budget range. We also see a couple of BLU phones that don't promise the sky but still deliver when it comes to the absolute basics. Phones from Motorola and LG are available as Amazon Prime Exclusives, which can be a boon or bane depending on how entrenched you are in Amazon's services. It was quite surprising to see the older Apple iPhone 6 featuring in the list of top 10 bestselling smartphones four years after its launch.

Overall, we see a healthy mix of mid-rangers and flagship phones in the Amazon bestsellers list. A good mix of features and prompt customer service is key to gaining customer acceptance and we hope to see newer and more powerful smartphones occupy the top 10 positions in this list in the coming months.

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Vaidyanathan Subramaniam (Update: 2018-12-28)