Best phone 2016
Update: The iPhone SE is a curious little phone – it packs all the power of the iPhone 6S with the teeny stylings of the older, more palm-friendly 4-inch handsets. Where has it landed in our top 10? Read on to find out!
2015 was a stellar year for smartphones, and 2016 looks to be even better. The Samsung Galaxy S7 has just been launched, and the LG G5 and the HTC One M10 are set for imminent arrival, which means the humble smartphone is destined to become faster, more powerful and even more versatile than ever before.
But even without these slick new handsets, last year’s best phones still compete for performance.
Here at techradar, we check out every phone under the sun, putting the ones that matter through our vigorous testing process to create our in-depth mobile phone reviews.
However, with so many to choose from, we’ve spent hours whittling them down to a top ten, taking into account the power, specs, design and value for money. And we’ll always point you in the direction of the latest handsets – after all, nobody wants to be carting around a phone that doesn’t get any updates in a year’s time, right?
So whether it’s one of the many slick Android handsets, the latest iPhone or one from a range of other cool operating systems, we’ve extensively tested them all so you don’t have to!
Here are our rankings for the best smartphones around, currently available in Australia.
Number 10: Google Nexus 5X
10. Nexus 5X
LG’s Nexus phone builds on the Nexus heritage
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Memory: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,700mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP | Front camera: 5MP
Fans of Google’s Nexus devices (which, frankly, should be all Android users) will be happy to know that Google has decided to bring back a Nexus handset with a smaller screen size.
While the Nexus 6P is a behemoth of specifications, Nexus partner LG has managed to cram the best bits of the bigger phone into a smaller body, without sacrificing all the things that make the 6P great.
It’s only got 2GB of memory on board, which is disappointing given the 3GB standard for other Android flagships, but otherwise this phone is a prime example of what Android’s mobile operating system can be.
Number 9: Sony Xperia Z5
9. Sony Xperia Z5
Waterproof, sleek and packed with big features
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2,900mAh | Rear camera: 23MP | Front camera: 5.1MP
Sony doesn’t half like bringing out new phones, doesn’t it? The paint’s barely dried before a new one is shooting onto shop shelves – but we don’t mind when they offer fancy new features.
The Xperia Z5 is a big update compared to the Xperia Z3+ from earlier in the year though. It features a fingerprint sensor and has a much nicer design with a frosted glass back.
It still features the latest Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM, but there are no overheating issues like before. There are less open than on previous Sony phones – but it still manages to keep its water resistant design. You can drop this in the toilet without fear, basically.
The large 5.2-inch screen looks great thanks to Bravia technology, and the camera has undergone some big changes with a 23MP sensor and new autofocus technology.
Number 8: iPhone SE
8. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
A simply brilliant palm-friendly phone
Weight: 113g | Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm | OS: iOS 9.3 | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 640 x 1136 | CPU: Apple A9 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB | Battery: 1624mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
The iPhone SE sports a tired design, has a screen that’s several years old and a display size which isn’t really big enough for today’s apps and movies on the move.
That said, it’s one of very few high-end smartphones you can get which you can use one-handed without issue. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who dislike the supersized phones of today the iPhone SE is a top performer on a miniature scale.
Remember the SE has the same power, same camera and same operating system as the top of the range iPhone 6S, but in a size you can easily pocket and at a price which isn’t going to break the bank.
Sure Sony has the Z5 Compact, but that still has a large-ish 4.6-inch display – the SE is a rare breed of small form and big power.
Number 7: Samsung Galaxy Note 5
7. Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Stunning screen, outstanding camera, and a bonus S Pen are all delivered in style
OS: Android 5.1.1 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Memory: 4GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 3,020mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
Samsung’s latest plus-sized handset continues the positive momentum that the company started with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
While the Note handsets have always been pricey, the Note 5’s beautiful glass and metal chassis is the first to feel like it’s worth the extra outlay – it has a far more premium feel than the plastic offered by the Galaxy Note 4.
The 5.7-inch screen is gorgeous, while the Note 5’s record-breaking processor and 4GB of RAM completely outpace Apple, as does its 16MP camera – we’ll be curious to see what September brings.
The lack of expandable memory (or a 128GB option) and a changeable battery may put long-time Note fans off, but this is the best smartphone with a stylus. Actually, it’s one of the best full stop.
Number 6: iPhone 6S Plus
6. Apple iPhone 6S Plus
Apple’s second big screen phone is another stunner
OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: around 2750mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
On one hand, this is just a larger iPhone 6S. That’s no bad thing, as that phone is one of the best around at the moment. But this second Apple phablet has a number of elements that make it a great phone in its own right.
The screen is Full HD and really packs some stunning colour reproduction. The camera on the back features optical image stabilisation, which means better low light video and photography.
The iPhone 6S Plus once again has something that’s eluded iPhone fans for years: a really good battery, with Apple using that extra space to cram in a few more mAh units.
It’s one of the most expensive phones around, and is bettered on spec by a few other phablets – but if you’re an Apple fan looking for a ‘bigger’ experience, this is the phone for you.
Number 5: LG G4
5. LG G4
Luxury leather on a smartphone that tries to please everyone
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: removable 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 8MP
LG has tried to focus on what everyone actually wants out of a smartphone, a great looking design, colour rich display and the great camera for photos – but it doesn’t quite deliver as impressively as we’d hoped.
Don’t let that put you off though. There’s a lot going on with the LG G4, and for the most part it’s rather positive indeed. The leather back is much nicer than the plastic option, and it will make your phone stand out among the swath of glass and metal offerings.
Its large, expansive screen is one of the best on the market, the 16MP laser auto-focus camera takes some cracking shots and the rear buttons are easier to hit on a handset this size.
As a complete package, it offers more than the Xperia Z3 and One M9, but it doesn’t quite match the slickness and design of the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
Number 4: Nexus 6P
4. Nexus 6P
Google partners with Huawei for a special device
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,450mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP | Front camera: 8MP
Google’s Nexus platform has always been about partnering with different manufacturers to deliver the best possible handset for the time, and for the Nexus 6P, Huawei has stepped up to the plate.
With Android Marshmallow singing on the device’s 5.7-inch screen, and the included rear-fingerprint scanner set to help Android deliver unified mobile payments a reality, this truly is the best Nexus handset ever made.
Incredible battery life and quick charging make up for the handset’s lack of optical image stabilisation, but the fact remains that both front and rear cameras excel even without it.
Number 3: iPhone 6S
3. iPhone 6S
Bigger, better, sleeker and faster than the iPhone 6
OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334 x 750 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1,715mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
What can you say about any new iPhone? Most people are already decided about whether they’re going to buy the new model before it’s even announced – but that hasn’t stopped us giving it a thoroughly good going over.
The good points are the same as usual: a hugely powerful phone, a great camera and the new 3D Touch interface is genuinely useful, and will only continue to get better as time goes on.
The chassis is identical to the previous iPhone 6, which will irk some and might force them to wait for the iPhone 7, but it’s still well-designed. The battery life is actually a little shorter (to fit in the motor for the 3D Touch method) and is the the biggest issue with the phone.
That said, it’s still a brilliant iPhone, the phone that loads of users are desperate to get their hands on, and Apple’s not done any harm at all with this upgraded model.
Number 2: Samsung Galaxy S7
2. Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung doubles down with two 5-star handsets this year
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a phone that initially looks just like the S6 from last year – but pick it up and you’ll see there’s a world of difference.
Firstly, the rear of the phone feels much nicer thanks to a curved back (through a process called 3D Thermo Forming), it’s now water resistant and a microSD slot is a welcome feature to return, after it was dropped last year.
The camera is just brilliant – it’s lower in megapixels but improved in quality. You’ll get brilliant pictures time and again, and you’ll want to keep trying it in different scenarios. It’s a great phone that you’ll be happy to pull out of your pocket.
Number 1: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
2. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
The best smartphone in the world – it’s a work of art
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB |Battery: 2550mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
Last year’s Galaxy S6 Edge was a good phone, but not brilliant. It was the same as the Samsung Galaxy S6, but had a curved screen – and that was it. It was the same size, power and camera, and that wasn’t enough.
Fast forward to today and the S7 Edge takes all the great looks of the S6 Edge, makes the phone even curvier and combines it with the superb power and feature set of the S7.
The camera is just brilliant, the mix of metal and glass is really nice to hold, and even the Touchwiz overlay is turning into something more usable than before. Battery life improvements are hugely welcomed, and while the price is higher, it’s now affixed to a phone that offers simply the best in nearly every department, so many will be happy with the outlay.
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We’re all about reviewing and rating all the phones here at techradar. There’s nothing we like more than brewing a pot of tea and deciding where each new phone should sit in the list.
However, sometimes they don’t make it into the top 10 – sad, we know, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a quick look to see if they fit your needs. After all, there are very few bad phones these days…
Samsung Galaxy S6
A true return to form from the Korean manufacturer
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | Memory: 3GB |Storage:32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2550mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
When it comes down to it, the Galaxy S5 was a disappointment. Fortunately, Samsung learnt from its mistakes and come out with the incredible Galaxy S6.
While it’s been replaced by the Galaxy S7, with a wonderful camera and brilliant video recording capabilities, the S6 also manages to compliment the recording by including a stunning 5.1-inch QHD screen in the phone.
Possibly the biggest improvement in this model is the build quality, which shuns the plastic of the S5 for a refined glass and metal enclosure that feels as premium as the specs.
It did have a pretty big price tag, but now that the S7 variants are out in the wild, you could pick up this impressive device at a bargain.
HTC One M9
A stunning phone, even if it does feel like a slight step backwards
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920×1080 | Memory: 3GB |Storage: 32GB | Battery:2840mAh | Rear camera: 20.7MP | Front camera: 4MP
For two long years, the HTC One and its follow up, the One (M8) topped the techradar charts for the best phone money could buy. But while the most recent version has been overtaken by its competitors, it’s still one of the best devices on the market.
With the same exceptional build quality that made previous One handsets stand apart from the crowd, and the incredible Boomsound front-facing speakers, there’s plenty to love about this phone.
The 20.7MP camera may be better specced than previous iterations, but it still falls short against some of the higher-placed competitors here.
The price at launch was a bit too high for what you actually got, but given we’re soon to meet the HTC One M10, you can grab the M9 at a pretty good price. For the quality of the hardware and software, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Huawei Mate 8
Great battery life but a middling interface
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | RAM: 3-4GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 4000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP dual | Front camera: 8MP
This is obviously more phablet than phone, but it’s an intriguing one given it’s lower on the price scale. There’s a great, speedy fingerprint sensor on the rear, the display is still stunning despite not being the sharpest around and the battery life is much stronger than most on show here.
However, Huawei’s Emotion UI is still a bit hard to master, trying to ape the best bits of both Android and iOS but not really managing either. The speaker grille doesn’t look amazing, and we wish the fast charging cable came along at purchase.
Microsoft Lumia 950
The beginning of a smartphone revolution?
OS: Windows Phone 10 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 5MP
Maybe you’re bored of the iPhone. Perhaps Android just doesn’t do it for you. Maybe you’re just wondering if there’s something different out there? Well, Windows Phone 10 on the Lumia 950 will intrigue you. It can offer a PC-like experience by extending out to a larger monitor, and the camera is pretty strong.
However, there’s one issue: apps. Or the lack thereof – and when combined with the slightly plastic design, it fails to trouble the top 10. However, it’s a legitimate choice and easily one of the most impressive Windows Phones ever.
Full Review: Microsoft Lumia 950
BlackBerry + Android = more impressive than expected
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.4-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 3410mAh | Rear camera: 18MP | Front camera: 2MP
BlackBerry is back – and it’s taking a new direction by finally jumping into bed with Android. It’s got a slide-out keyboard, a superbly sharp screen, splendidly powerful innards and some decent privacy settings too.
However, it’s not cheap. At all, and the keyboard – something we all used to love – now feels a little outdated. Combined with the chunkier design (to facilitate that keyboard) and some lag in performance, this isn’t top table worthy. But there’s a lot of promise here, and we’re glad to see BlackBerry is still swinging.
Full review: Blackberry Priv
The ‘flagship killer’ with a fantastic price
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB/4GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB | Battery: 3,300mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
The OnePlus One was a brilliant phone in 2014, offering a great price for top end specs – it truly was a bargain phone.
The good news is the One Plus 2 has repeated that trick, upgrading the internals while (mostly) keeping the same low price. Its clever overlay still impresses and the little tweaks (such as audio improvement) work quite nicely.
We would have liked to see some upgrades on the screen front, or NFC for mobile payments, but on the whole the brand has managed to avoid stumbling over the ‘tricky second album’ – it’s not quite top ten material, but for the price it’s a really good smartphone.
Full review: OnePlus 2
HTC One M8
A stunning phone with very few flaws
OS: Android | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,600mAh | Rear camera: 4MP dual | Front camera: 5MP
The HTC One M8 has tumbled dramatically out of the top 10 after holding onto top spot for the best part of a year, so why the demise? Well it’s now pretty old compared to the handsets making up the top ten, and there’s a new kid on the block in the shape of the One M9.
It’s still the same perfectly design handset though, with impressive BoomSound speakers and the short-live, yet innovative Duo Camera on the year – but the One M9 is almost identical, and just a bit better all round.
There’s been a price drop too since the arrival of the One M9, and you certainly won’t be getting a poor phone if you choose to pick it up – but for just a bit more you can have its up to date successor. Your call.
Samsung Galaxy S5
Two years old, but still very capable
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 2MP
Sure it doesn’t have the same premium design as the current generation, but the plastic body means it’s dust and water resistant as well as giving you a removable battery and microSD slot – all things not available on the S6 range.
The drop in price also makes the Galaxy S5 more attractive and it’s stuffed full of tech and sports a fantastic screen to ensure you still have an enjoyable mobile experience.
Perfect for fans of the smaller screen size
OS: iOS 9.1 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 750 x 1334 | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1810 mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
After the iPhone 6S launched, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the iPhone 6 even exists. But it’s right there – looking identical to the 6S and still packing loads of tech that makes iPhones, well, iPhones.
It’s still a bit expensive, but that said it’s sucked down the iOS 9.1 software pretty well, and is still pushing on as a decent option for a cheaper iPhone, especially if you’re not bothered about tricks like the 3D Touch screen.
Plus, you can use it with the Apple Watch and pay for things on the go using the cunningly named Apple Pay – and with improved camera optics and a better battery compared to the predecessor, this is still one hell of a nifty phone.
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