Best smartphones 2016: Picks from the critics

Rate this post
Rate this post

Apple’s iPhone 7 is among the hotly anticipated new smartphones for 2016, but there is a large range of top handsets available to buy right now. Here are some of the most popular among tech critics:

iPhone 6S

Launched in September 2015, the handset features a host of new features over the iPhone 6, including a force-sensitive touchscreen, upgraded 12-megapixel rear-facing and front-facing cameras and a faster processor, in the form of Apple’s A9 chip.

It may look similar to its predecessor, writes Macworld’s Lewis Painter, but its 3D Touch will “change how you interact with your iPhone”.

Cnet calls the feature “a touch of the future”, while The Verge is unequivocal in saying the 6S is “right now the best phone on the market”.

If the 4.7ins screen isn’t quite good enough, the 6S Plus model boasting a 5.5ins display is also available.

The 6S may be one of the best and most popular smartphones for sale right now but it will be replaced by the iPhone 7 in September, so its stay at the top will only live on for a few months more.

The introduction of the iPhone 7 is hotly anticipated.

Samsung Galaxy S7

The handset many tip as the main rival to the iPhone, Samsung’s newest flagship smartphone is the “most capable smartphone on the market today”, says Alphr.

In terms of features, the Galaxy S7 steps forward in a number of ways compared to the S6, while bringing back some old favourites. For instance, the camera hardware is entirely new – it’s a 12-megapixel setup, a smaller count than on the Galaxy S6, but mated to optimised hardware and software additions.

A MicroSD card slot is useful for upping the standard 32GB memory and the phone is rated IP68 water and dustproof.

Samsung’s phones have always been renowned for their displays and the S7 is no different. On the standard phone is a 5.1ins OLED panel which, according to DisplayMate, delivers “absolutely stunning and beautiful images”.

An Edge version of the phone uses a 5.5ins screen curved at the edges.

The S7 is also a good choice for power users.


The LG G5 is an Android flagship likely to tempt people looking for something a bit different. It’s a modular smartphone which users can really dig their teeth into and customise by unbuttoning parts and panels and attaching accessories.

The “modular expansion system” allows users to drop the battery out and load a new one, or use it to attach the likes of additional camera hardware.

The screen is a 5.3ins QHD display – slightly smaller than the LG G4’s screen, which measured 5.5ins – and offers a pixel density of 544ppi and a resolution of 2560×1440. A dual camera sits on the back, with a 16-megapixel sensor joined by an eight-megapixel camera with ultra-wide viewing angle capabilities. Powering the G5 is a Snapdragon 820, mated to 4GB RAM.

Google Nexus 6P

PC Advisor is full of praise for the Nexus 6P, saying it is “arguably the best Android phone to buy at the moment” and while it may not be on par with rivals such as the Galaxy S7 or iPhone 6S, the competitive price makes it a compelling choice.

It’s an all metal case, made of CNC-machined aluminium, with a 5.7ins OLED display with Gorilla Glass 4 fitted flush within it. The resolution is 2K, nothing out of the ordinary but “it looks gorgeous, with eye-popping colours and detail”.

Inside is a Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor mated to 3GB RAM, so compared to rival flagships, it’s down on power. Most users won’t notice, but PC Advisor did come across moments of hesitation when launching apps.

Camera hardware is a 12.3-megapixel Sony sensor, capable of most flagship handset tricks, such as recording 4K video playback as well as 240fps slow-motion capture. It’s a camera which performs “admirably”.

Alphr was even more effusive in its praise of what it describes as “one stunning handset”.

“The Nexus 6P delivers style, practicality and most of the features you need in a phone in one affordable package,” says the tech website.

Describing Google’s closest rival as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, the website claims that “although it isn’t as good looking as that handset, in every other respect, it matches it blow-for-blow.

The Nexus gets five stars, with Alphr concluding: “If you’re looking for a handset with a big screen, at a price that won’t make a huge hole in your bank balance, this is what you want to buy.”

HTC 10

While most of the specs on Taiwanese brand HTC’s latest release are what you’d expect on a flagship android handset – 4GB RAM, Snapdragon 820, removable MicroSD card slot – the HTC 10 is the best smartphone the company “has made in years” thanks to significant camera revisions, says Alphr.

The 12-megapixel sensor with a wide f/1.8 aperture, laser autofocus and optical image stabilisation (OIS) moves the game on considerably from the HTC One M9. The front-facing camera is a big improvement, too, a five-megapixel sensor also boasting OIS which HTC calls an “ultraselfie” camera.

The phone gets a 3,000mAh battery with quick charging capabilities, a MicroSD card slot so the 32GB internal memory can be upped easily and it can record in 24-bit audio for high quality sound.

Trusted Reviews declares it to be the android phone to beat in 2016.

“From the lovely screen to the speedy performance to the fantastic representation of Android, the HTC 10 ticks all the boxes,” it says.

“It might not be the best in every area, but it’s strong in pretty much all of them.”


Sony Xperia Z5

While not perfect, the Xperia Z5 moves the game on from the Xperia Z3+ significantly, with a great new design and some much needed hardware additions, says TechRadar.

“After the mess of the Xperia Z3+ it’s good to see some real change”, adds the site. Design wise, it’s a fairly flat slab, now with a frosted glass backplate and far subtler branding, while some buttons have been re-positioned. It comes in four colours – green, white, gold and black. It appears to be a tidy, flush handset, but Sony warns is isn’t waterproof.

As for the display, it’s a 5.2ins LCD job with full 1080p HD resolution. That’s behind the 2K OLED panels offered on rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S7, but those hungry for pixels could always upgrade to the Xperia Z5 Premium – it has a 4K display measuring 5.5ins.

Camera hardware comes in the form of a 23-megapixel sensor mated to a new autofocus system which combats shaky hands to give clear shots when other smartphone cameras would come out blurry.

A fingerprint scanner finds its way onto the side of the device while inside sits a Snapdragon 810 mated to 3GB RAM.

iPhone SE

While most eyes will be on Apple’s iPhone 7 launch in September, the firm has already revealed a new smartphone this year in the form of the entry level iPhone SE.

Design wise, bar the rose-gold colour option, the SE isn’t new at all. It uses the same casing as the iPhone 5S released back in 2013, but with good reason: Apple’s most recent flagship devices moved away from four-inch displays in favour of larger screens, reaching phablet sizes with the Plus versions of the iPhone 6 and 6S. The SE is for those who stuck around on Apple’s older, smaller platforms.

Though smaller and cheaper than the iPhone 6S, the SE is almost as powerful, using the same A9 processor chip mated to 2GB RAM.

There’s a spate of other new additions, too, the camera hardware being a particular coup. The little SE gets a 12-megapixel iSight main camera like the big 6S and so is able to record video in 4K with Live Photos support. Users also get Apple Pay as a near field communications chip is installed.

Huawei P9

Huawei’s latest flagship is a smartphone sporting a dual camera setup, created in collaboration with camera makers Leica. As a result, it’s one to consider if taking photographs with your smartphone is a big deal.

The dual camera system used on the P9 splits the two sensors between one capturing RGB data and the other taking Monochrome shots, merging the two captures together into one high quality snapshot. There’s also a suite of editing features and capture modes, plus an 8 megapixel front facing camera too.

Design wise, it’s a full aluminium unibody casing, with a slightly curved edge either side of the display, topped off with a fingerprint scanner.

PC Advisor says that “performance is excellent”. The standard P9 uses an octa-core Kirin 955 chipset mated to 3GB RAM, and has 32GB storage, though a more powerful version of the handset with a bigger memory, as well as one or two other hardware additions is available.

Alongside the P9 is the P9 Plus – a larger version of the already large P9. It gets 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage, and its 5.5ins display moves up from the 5.2ins one seen on the standard P9, both in terms of size and quality, being OLED over LCD.

Google Nexus 5X

This is a 5.2ins smartphone born of a partnership between Google and LG. It was designed to be “a flagship smartphone at a budget price”, The Guardian says, and features a lightweight design, an excellent camera and Google’s latest fingerprint scanner.

The Nexus 5X is part of a new breed of phone that “sits neatly between the low-cost Moto Gs and the flagship iPhones of this world”, says tech site Alphr. It’s “no supermodel” but “unless you’re the shallow type with more money to throw around than I have, I’d advise you consider the Nexus 5X as a serious option for your next smartphone”, the site adds.

It isn’t the best-looking phone, agrees Expert Reviews, nor is it the fastest. Its screen isn’t the most outstanding on the market neither.

OnePlus 3

Chinese firm OnePlus has become renowned for delivering handsets boasting flagship specs at a significantly lower price than rivals Samsung and Apple.

This year sees the release of its fourth phone – the OnePlus 3, a 5.5ins phablet that, on paper, can compete against some of the best on the market.

It gets an AMOLED display, although the full HD 1080p resolution can’t compete with the quad HD displays you’ll find the likes of the Galaxy S7. However, the 16-megapixel camera, as well as the eight-megapixel selfie sensor, are more than adequate and the powerful internal specs are definitely on par with some of the most expensive phones around.

The OnePlus 3 gets Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chipset, mated to 6GB RAM so in theory it’s a more powerful device than many and multitasking should be a doddle. There’s no expandable memory, but it comes with a very adequate 64GB storage.

The OnePlus 3 runs a modified version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow called Oxygen OS.

Lenovo Moto Z

Lenovo-owned Motorola’s next Moto smartphone will be the Moto Z – a new flagship handset boasting a seriously thin design alongside some huge modular features.

The Moto Z is a mere 0.2ins thick – noticeably slimmer than big names such as the iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7. It’s tiny frame means there’s no headphone jack, but the phone makes up for it with a number of interesting, transformative features.

“Moto Mods”, a range of modular backplates that can clip onto the handset, enable a range of new features. Third-party accessories will eventually be available but for now, the phone will have a powerful speaker module made in collaboration with JBL, as well as a mini-projector capable of broadcasting a 70ins picture and a simple battery-boosting backplate.

Display size comes in at a phablet-rivalling 5.5ins and it’s a Quad HD AMOLED panel. The phone uses a Snapdragon 820 chipset mated to 4GB RAM, and runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. A 13-megapixel main camera tops off what is likely to be one of the most interesting new phones of 2016.

Coming later: Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung is tipped to skip over the “6” name and christen its next flagship phablet the Galaxy Note 7.

It’s expected to have one or two big changes over the Note 5. For starters, it’s believed to pack a large 5.8ins AMOLED display with a pixel density of 506ppi, although with a crucial twist – rumours have it the phablet will feature a display with curved edges, much like the one seen on the Galaxy S7 Edge.

As for the other changes, Pocket-Lint lists rumours including a 16-megapixel main camera combined with a five-megapixel selfie snapper. As for power, the as-yet-unreleased Snapdragon 823 chipset could feature, mated to 6GB RAM for a seriously powerful smartphone. A reveal is expected this August.

Coming later: iPhone 7

Apple will release its iPhone 7 later this year, with a September reveal widely expected.

At present, rumours centre on a handset not too different from the iPhone 6S – yet still controversial.

The overall design and form factor is not expected to change significantly, with the exception of some changes to the antenna bands and how the cameras are fitted. But the possible omission of the headphone jack that is making waves.

While the same 4.7ins and 5.5ins LCD displays are expected, the iPhone 7 Plus could gain some exclusive features. A dual-camera setup is tipped to be on its way and it’s also possible that the Smart Connector from the iPad Pro, which connects accessories such as keyboards, could feature.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *