Last year had a ton of great devices, here are the best Android phones from 2016 in ascending order of awesomeness.
The absolute best: Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
Why, oh why, has the latest Galaxy S flagship claimed our number one spot again? Look, it’s not that we want it to be this way, it just is this way.
The Galaxy S7 delivers in so many categories. It combines looks and performance like no other smartphone currently does. And the big three, the triangle of vital criteria – camera, display and battery – are all of the highest standard.
For the first time in a number of years, we have struggled to find serious faults in a Galaxy S phone and No matter what your needs, the S7 will please.
The fastest Android phone: OnePlus 3T
Many people want the coolest design, others want the most impressive camera, and some just want the king of speed. After reviewing all of the major 2016 flagships, it’s the OnePlus 3T’s performance that has impressed us the most. Thanks to a Snapdragon 821 processor (an upgrade from the OnePlus 3’s 820) and 6 GB of RAM, OnePlus’s 2016 flagship killer has earned the title of fastest Android smartphone on the market, edging out its predecessor the OnePlus 3.
We subjected the OnePlus 3T to various benchmarks and tests in our review and the results matched our expectations that this is indeed at the very top end of the performance spectrum. AnTuTu corroborated this about the 3T’s predecessor the OnePlus 3 in a blog post, revealing that the OnePlus 3 achieved an average score of 140,288 in its user tests – the highest smartphone average in the first half of 2016. For comparison’s sake, the undoubtedly speedy Galaxy S7 Edge averaged 134,599.
Best price/performance ratio: Honor 8
We’ve had plenty of low-cost devices this year that have been really impressive performers and the Honor 8 is no exception. Despite being in the sub-$400 price range, it looks and performs like a $700 flagship. Huawei, the parent company behind Honor, knows how to put together a nice-looking phone in any price range.
The Honor 8 is a well-designed device. It delivers a bunch of premium features, including a glass and aluminum body, a strong performance and excellent battery life. Add to the dual 12 MP camera system with an optical image stabilizer, double pixel technology and rapid focus and you can see why this is such a great value.
Best for battery life: Huawei Mate 9
Huawei’s latest phabet has a battery life which should inspire the whole market. The Mate 9 can go 48 hours without charging. Even better, Huawei has developed a system to detect which apps drain the battery the most to optimize resource management.
The other aspects of the phone make it the full package, with performance specs capable of handling anything you can throw at it. Despite having such a large screen at 5.9 inches, it is pleasant to hold and use. The design is traditional, yet modern and attractive. The Mate 9 is scheduled to receive Android Nougat, as well.
Best for photography: Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 provides the best camera available in any Android device. Lightning fast autofocus, 23 MP, rock steady image stabilization and superb definition combine to make it an incomparable phone for photography.
Though the Z5 has now been succeeded by the Sony Xperia X Performance, it remains the better model as far as pictures are concerned. Check out the quality of its snaps in our gallery at the link below.
Best under $300: OnePlus 2
The sub-$300 price bracket is hotly contested, and in 2016 it’s included a plethora of awesome phones. But it’s the OnePlus 2 that still claims this spot, as last year’s flagship comes in at half the price of most current flagships. Sure, you will miss out on NFC, fast-charging and wireless charging, but that’s about all the OnePlus 2 lacks.
It was one of the most hyped phones of all time, and that naturally comes with a little backlash when the phone is actually released. But the reality is that the OnePlus 2 is a very accomplished phone that hits almost all the targets it set out to hit, and is still a solid choice this year.
Best under $200: Honor 5X
The Huawei sub-brand appears on our list once more with the best Android phone available for less than $200. Following the Honor 7’s success, Honor launched the equally elegant 5X at an even better price point. Arriving with a brushed aluminum body and superb finish, the Honor 5X is immediately eye-catching, but it delivers on internal hardware, too.
The Honor 5X provides lengthy standby times thanks to its 3,000 mAh battery; a bright, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) display; dual-SIM card support – or SIM plus microSD card – and a fingerprint scanner: and it just got even better thanks to a recent update to Android Marshmallow.
Though it doesn’t offer an amazing photography experience, the Honor 5X still delivers an incredible package for those who don’t want to spend a fortune.
Best small handset: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
Not everyone likes a 5.5-inch phone in their pocket. For some, a sub 5-inch display is a requirement. The only problem is that pickings are pretty slim. Most Android phones with a display smaller than 5 inches are rare. Even Samsung and HTC seem to have given up on that particular niche.
Fortunately, Sony offers the Xperia Z5 Compact. The company took a different approach to the small phone concept – where other manufacturers watered down their flagship specs for their mini devices, Sony simply put flagship components into a smaller body. It’s proven to be a winning formula and it means that the Z5 Compact isn’t just ‘good for a small handset’ – it’s a great Android phone all around.