This time of year, there are only two things for a phone geek to do – wonder which was the best phone of the year and wonder what theyll announce at CES early next year. Lets focus on the first part, were sure the rumors for CES/MWC will start pouring in pretty soon.
So, which phone deserves the title Best smartphone of 2016? To make the number of choices more manageable, weve split the question into two – phones (under 5.5) and phablets (anything 5.5 and bigger). They often come in pairs – Phone and Phone Plus – anyway, but there are a few exclusively big devices.
How did Samsung do? It listened to consumer feedback from the S6 and the Galaxy S7 is downright impressive. Water resistant, long battery life, always on screen, perfected camera, expandable storage. Sure, the battery is still sealed, but thats the norm now, not the exception.
What about its chief rival, the Apple iPhone 7. Its water resistant too (a first for Apple), it finally got OIS (after being skipped over in the 6s generation), the company even bumped the storage options to a minimum of 32GB and a middle step of 128GB. Okay, it took away the headphone jack in favor of an improved taptic engine for the non-clickable Home button (love it or hate it, this will improve durability).
Google killed off the Nexus to fight the iPhone directly. The Google Pixel has big aspirations (and a price to match) and is packed to the rafters with Google tech, including the new Assistant. Still, the Pixel drew ire from Nexus fans – at this cost people expected at least some stereo speakers, water resistance, OIS, smaller bezels, no oddly-positioned glass pane on the back.
LG was ahead of the curve with the dual-camera setup on the V10 and later on the LG G5. It also tried to push a modular design (Google also believed this was the future), added Always on functionality to the main screen (not the secondary screen like the V-series). And hey, we can count the number of phones with a removable battery on this list on one finger.
Huawei is pushing harder into the West, for the Huawei P9 it roped in photography legend Leica to tune and brand the dual cameras. Instead of the wide-angle lens of the G5, the P9 opted for artistic Black & White shots with the second camera (which also has the practical benefit getting more light in the dark). It cant shoot 2160p video, though, a strange omission for a camera-centric phone.
HTC builds the Pixel phones for Google, but it still hopes people will pick its own HTC 10 over them. The phone shows off HTCs metal body know-how and features Optical Image Stabilization on both the back camera and the selfie camera. And it has dual-speakers, another thing people wish the Pixel had.
After swearing off the two flagships a year strategy, Sony went and released a flagship to surpass the Xperia X Performance. The Sony Xperia XZ brings back 5.2 screen and 2160p video capture from the Z5 and it refreshes the still new X-series design.
Another late-comer is the Xiaomi Mi 5s – a mid-season upgrade of the Mi 5. Its one of the most affordable phones with Snapdragon 821, a 12MP camera with a large sensor, a new all-metal body and a solid battery.
Go ahead, cast your votes. Over the weekend we will do a recap and ask the very same question about bigger phones.
Best flagship smartphone of 2016