This year has been nothing short of amazing in terms of the smartphone releases. From Samsung to Apple and everyone in between, the companies behind the phones have come out swinging, with each one hoping to claim the throne of best smartphone of 2016.
With the year rapidly coming to a close and a slew of phones on the market, it's about time we compiled a list of what we feel are the best phones for 2016. This list is based on phones we reviewed, and the consensus opinion of other phones.
This list may change as the year progresses, as at the time of this writing we are still expecting some high profile phones to release such as the iPhone 7 and the Moto Z Play.
Kicking off our list is the curious little device Sony delivered this year. Hoping to mark their notch in the top charts for this year, the Xperia X Performance boasts a monstrous 23MP camera, a sleek and strong metal body, and powerful internal workings. What ultimately holds the phone back though is its weak battery and price point. Five hours of continuous use left the phone drained, which is unacceptable in today's phone market. Throw in a $700 price tag, and you may want to consider looking elsewhere.
Despite this, everything else about the phone is reasonably fine, earning it a spot on the list.
Coming to us from the other side of the world is the Super from Chinese phone company UMI. Stepping away from the high-end side, into the mid-range market, we find a lot of interesting choices for phones this year, and this is one of them.
A 5.5 inch Gorilla Glass screen, an aircraft grade aluminium body, and a 4,000 mAh battery will make you think you've gotten your hands on an expensive phone, but that's the best part. You're only going to be paying just over $200 for the Super.
While this does seem like a too-good-to-be-true deal, it features it's fair share of drawbacks. The audio capability under performs, there's no NFC, and the camera produces poor quality shots despite being 13MP.
The Super does pack great value and some serious hardware, but the setbacks are what keep it down to this position on the list.
iPhone 7 Plus
Launching in September 2016, the 7 Plus has had it's fair share of competition this year from Android, who have dominated the 2016 market. Having been just launched this year, the iPhone 7 Plus keeps up with the features fans know and love such as a fantastic camera, crisp bright screen and a tried and tested design. They have opted to remove the headphone jack this generation, but have made up for that by offering a dongle that legacy headphone users can use to connect to their shiny new smartphone.
Think of the 7 Plus as just a larger version of the iPhone 7. The battery is larger, it lasts longer, and the camera is reportedly better, now with a dual lens system. The durability also reported to be upgraded, with the phone feeling premium.
If you're not a fan of heavy or bulky phones, this may not be the one for you. Considering it still holds a high price tag, if you're a fan of Apple products then it's certainly the best you'll get from them.
Motorola have a pretty impressive lineup of smartphones for 2016, with the coming of the Moto Z Play. They also took a stab at the mid-range market, and produced a heck of a phone to boot.
The G4 Plus works like a higher-end phone but at half the price. It's built tough, holds a beautiful 5.5 inch screen, and a 16MP camera that produces some incredible shots. This is all kept running by a 3,000 mAh battery, which is seen in most high-end phones.
The internals are that up to par, though. It holds a Snapdragon 617 processor, and only 2GB of RAM. The version with an internal memory of 64GB does have 4GB of RAM. If you're in the market for a mid-range phone, this is definitely one to consider.
China finds itself on the list once again. They've taken notice of how big the smartphone market is, and decided to step in the ring. Enter the Axon 7 from ZTE.
Despite being a Chinese company, the phone was designed in the US. What we get is an impressive metal design, 2K display, and amazing front-facing speakers. ZTE have also been generous on the storage, with 64GB of memory packed inside. This is all anchored by a reasonable price of around $399 USD.
On display is a 5.5 inch screen, which fits nearly edge-to-edge on the phone for maximum use of real estate. There are couple of minor gripes though. While the glass is Gorilla Glass 4, a stronger version does exist, and the fingerprint scanner is also located on the back, which shouldn't be too much trouble for some.
Another decent mid-range phone.
Reaching the mid-way point of this list is LG's latest device for the high-end markets: the G5.
Featuring a full-metal body design, the G5 holds a 5.3 inch screen with incredible quad-HD display, all while packing some serious hardware. On the back we find two cameras: the 16MP main camera, and an 8MP wide-angle sensor that can shoot with a 135° field-of-view.
An interesting concept of the phone are the modulars, or "Friends" system as LG calls it. These are pieces of tech that can swap on to the phone by pulling out the bottom, or attach separate from the phone. These mods are not needed, and their 360 VR headset is downright horrible anyway, but I still like the concept and I hope to see it expanded upon further.
The G5 more than makes its mark at the number five spot for smartphones.
Huawei Honor 8
Huawei have produced what many are saying is "what many have wanted from an affordable flagship," and we agree.
The Honor 8, at $400, is a definite bang-for-your buck. The premium appeal has been compared to that of the Samsung Galaxy S7, and the rear light-refracting glass gives it a unique look. A 5.2 inch 1080p display hold down the front end, but the colour calibration is said to be "very cool" temperature wise.
An in-house Kirin 950 processor powers the phone, which is said to be comparable to the Snapdragon 820. In both US models, you'll also find 4GB of RAM, giving you more than enough performance power. As with the Axon, we find the finger print scanner on the back, but the Honor's is a little different. You can actually program different shortcuts to the key, such as flashlight or voice recording.
The battery, despite being 3,000 mAh, is said to perform rather poorly, however. Despite that, it's a damn fine piece of tech.
The last Chinese phone on our list comes courtesy of Xiaomi, who definitely hold a near top-spot in the mid-range smartphone market with the Redmi Note 3 Pro.
Featuring an all metal matte finish body, we described it as being reminiscent of the first iPhone. A 5.5 inch Full HD screen, powered by a Snapdragon 650 SoC processor and 3GB of RAM, make this a decently powerful phone. When you take in to account its $300 plus price tag, it becomes more than worth it.
Two models of the phone exist: one with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and the more powerful version we reviewed with the 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage option. Gaming is also not an issue for this phone. It never seemed to have any trouble with the games we threw at it.
Multimedia is a slight issue though. The speakers located on the back, so sound can often be muffled. Plugging in headphones, we found no problems at all. The audio was clear and balanced very well.
Having a mid-range phone this far up compared against other phones this year might be disconcerting, but it's a welcome sign and I hope to see it continued.
Coming in at a close second is HTC's latest and greatest, the HTC 10.
This monster of a phone more than earns it's place, and if it wasn't for what else came out this year, it probably would have been number one. This is a very tough and durable phone, built with an aluminium body and clean front. This also helps make it one of the most beautiful phones of this year.
Beauty isn't all it brings to the table, though. A 5.2 inch screen barely kisses the sides of the phone, and the HD display is powered by a Snapdragon 820 with 4GB of RAM. Add to that the option of either 32GB or 64GB of storage, and you begin to understand why this phone ranks up so high. Alongside the headphone amp is a dedicated DAC, with HTC further boasts as the 10's amp being twice as powerful as competing phones.
There are a couple things that hold this phone back from the top spot. The battery life is slightly deteriorated, and the camera under performs due to Ultrapixel tech. It instructs the camera to capture more light and bigger pixels, but it's reportedly been working a little too well. Photos are being washed out by flare effects, even in modest light settings. Their camera app is still one of the best out there.
As I said, it came in at a close second, and probably would have taken the top spot. That honour must go to another phone, though.
You know it all too well, and everyone else is saying it. Samsung aimed for the top of the smartphone market this year and weren't too eager to give up that spot. That's why the concocted a monster in their labs, and produced the S7 Edge.
This phone is master craftsmanship in physical form. Everything from the design to the hardware just speaks volumes about what Samsung have delivered, and hopefully got the attention of other phone companies.
It is an expensive phone yes, but it's a premiere flagship with top-of-the-line features. A 5.5 inch quad-HD display, 4GB of RAM, and a 3600 mAh battery are just a few of the wonderful toys jammed into this device. It also looks the part too, with the interesting Edge design of the screen that we saw on the S6 previously, but the S7 is definitely the better version.
The best part about this phone though is its camera. A 12MP sensor is our main tool, which features an f/1.7 aperture. Some new tech was also implemented known as Dual Pixels. This improves the auto-focus of the camera by doubling the photobodies of each pixel, allowing for lightning fast focus. This comes in very handy if something were moving in the picture.
This list may be updated as the year closes out and some more high-profile phones become available to us. For now, this list should serve as a pretty reasonable guide if you're currently in the market.