Monday 19 February 2018

The best mobile phones of 2016

With dozens of different handsets battling for our attention, there is more choice when it comes to buying a new smartphone than ever.

Here is the pick of the best handsets, from the budget to the high end of the market.

10. Nexus 5X


Screen: 5.2 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 20 hours

We're eagerly awaiting the release of Google's own Pixel phones, but their predecessors, the Nexus 5X and 6P, still hold up very well. The smaller 5X, made by LG, is a highly-capable phone at what is now a very appealing price. The Nexus line is stocked with Google's clean version of Android, which many see as the best experience of the software, and is the first to get updates to the operating system.

For a mid-range phone, the 5X is a perfectly capable device, although even just a year on it is starting to show its age in terms of performance and battery life. Nonetheless, with a very good camera and the guarantee of future Android upgrades it's worth considering.

Pros: Runs Google's unskinned Android, good value

Cons: Battery life isn't exceptional, no SD card

9. OnePlus 3


Screen: 5.5 inches
Camera: 16MP
Battery (talk time): N/A

Previously seen as the budget option that didn't quite live up to the big boys, OnePlus's latest handset is not quite so budget, but also a significant improvement on recent years. Its design and quality is excellent and it comes with useful features like NFC and fast charging.

While it isn't world-beating in any one area, at its price range the OnePlus 3 is a truly excellent phone that can live up to its far more expensive rivals.

Pros: Brilliant value, premium design

Cons: Battery life can be iffy

8. HTC 10


Screen: 5.2 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 27 hours

The HTC 10 sports what the company claims to be one of the most advanced smartphone cameras available, with a 5MP front-facing lens and 12MP rear-facing one, both of which have optical image stabilisation. Its biggest selling point is perhaps its advertised two-day battery life, although tests have shown this isn't always the case.

Apart from that, its best properties are its sleek metal design, usable version of Android and great audio, especially when playing through the phone's speakers. It ticks almost all the boxes, but it is still difficult to recommend it above rival offerings from Samsung.

Pros: Battery life, fantastic audio

Cons: Camera doesn't quite match up to best

7. iPhone SE


Screen: 4 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 14 hours

Apple's smaller iPhone, unveiled in March, doesn't have many of the newest features of the 7 or even 6s: 3D Touch, for example, is missing, and there's no water resistance (although yes, there is a headphone jack).

There are two reasons you might choose it, though: At 4 inches, the smaller-handed may well prefer its screen, and at £379 it is significantly cheaper.

Pros: The best value iPhone on the market, best small-screen phone you can get

Cons: Lacks some of the recent iPhones' features

6. Nexus 6P


Screen: 5.7 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 23 hours

The first of Google's Nexus line designed by Huawei, the phablet-sized 6P released last year is still among the best Android phones out there today, even if it will soon be rendered obsolete by the upcoming Pixel phone.

In hardware terms, the 6P fits an excellent 5.7-inch screen into a handset that isn't overwhelmingly large, and has a vastly-improved camera on previous Nexus models, although it lags a little behind Samsung. It also lacks some of the bells and whistles of 2016's Android phones such as wireless charging and water resistance.

Pros: Decent price for a premium product, great all-rounder

Cons: Specs and features are just a little behind the top competitors

Price: £449

5. Moto G4


Screen: 5.5 inches
Camera: 13MP
Battery (talk time): N/A

The Moto G4 is solidly at the budget end of the market, but you get a lot of phone for your outlay. The screen, camera and processor are all worthy of a phone well above the £169 RRP, and it is certainly enough for many people out there.

Of course, at that price there are some compromises. Not everyone appreciates the design and the phone looks a little outdated compared to some of the best high-end handsets, but at its price it really is spectacular value.

Pros: Unbelievable price

Cons: Design is not everyone's cup of tea

4. iPhone 7


Screen: 4.7 inches 
Camera: 12MP 
Battery (talk time): 14 hours

Many people hold Apple responsible for the modern smartphone and it continues to make some of the world's best handsets. The combination of elegant design and its iOS software, as well as compatibility with the Mac, iPad and Apple Watch put the iPhone consistently at the top of best-buy guides.

2016's iPhone 7 is no exception. With water resistance, an upgraded camera and stereo speakers, it's also a worthy upgrade to last year's 6s. However, it hasn't been universally popular - the headphone jack is gone, and users have complained about battery life.

Pros: Water resistant, improved camera, jet black design

Cons: No headphone jack, battery life is not the best

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 7


Screen: 5.7 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 26 hours

You're almost certainly aware of Samsung's well-publicised problems with exploding Note 7 phones. The company had to issue a major recall after they first went on sale, and has been plagued by the issue ever since, although supposedly safe ones are now on sale.

The incident was a shame, because battery fires aside, the Note 7 is a truly excellent phone. It is probably the best looking device you can buy today and comes with a host of smart new features as well as a fantastic big screen in what is a very svelte design. Of course, it is also mind-bogglingly expensive.

Pros: Great design, world-beating specs

Cons: Expensive, inevitable explosion jokes

2. iPhone 7 Plus


Screen: 5.5 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 21 hours

For the last two years, the "Plus" model of Apple's iPhone has simply been a bigger version with a 5.5-inch screen, as opposed to the 4.7 inches of the standard handset. With the iPhone 7 Plus, though, the differences are starker: there's more RAM, and most significantly, a new dual-lens camera.

The camera allows greatly-improved zoomed in photos, as well as a new portrait mode, that blurs the background of photos while focusing on the subject. While the effect is already being hotly debated in photography circles, the dual camera as well as the Plus's bigger battery, makes it a clear winner over the smaller iPhone 7 for those who can deal with big handsets.

Pros: Outstanding camera, better battery than iPhone 7

Cons: Too big for many, no headphone jack

1. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge


Screen: 5.5 inches
Camera: 12MP
Battery (talk time): 27 hours

After its predecessor, the Galaxy S6, proved a disappointment in sales terms, Samsung returned this year with the S7 as well as its curved-screen sibling the S7 Edge. The phones are widely regarded as some of the finest Samsung has built, bringing back the SD card and improving the battery life.

The S7 Edge is the pick of the two, with a curved design that really stands out and an excellent camera, although it is more expensive. On the other hand, it is pricey and, per Samsung, comes with its usual array of unwanted extra software.

Pros: Great design, water resistance

Cons: Loaded with unnecessary Samsung apps

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