So, you want to buy a new phone? If you’re looking for the best smartphone of 2016, you’ve come to the right place. We will guide you through the hottest mobile phones of the year to save you time when you go to your local phone shop.
We continually update this best smartphones feature to reflect recent launches, recognise price changes, and ensure 2016’s latest devices appear alongside the best of 2015 (and before, if applicable). All the listed devices have been fully reviewed by us.
Our best smartphones list covers all operating systems, all sizes, and prices, so you’ll be armed with everything you need to consider when choosing to buy your next device.
Of course, the most important factor in buying a new device is making sure you have the best smartphone for you. The best for your budget, the features you need, the size that feels right and platform that suits you best.
17. Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 is Sony’s 2015 flagship and the last model of the Z series, replaced by the X series in February 2016. When it launched, it pushed changes in the camera, offering a new 23-megapixel sensor that is now seen in the newer Xperia X models. It’s a good performer, but it is hampered by slow software, making the experience a little lacklustre – but in many ways, better than Sony’s more recent phones.
There is plenty of power in the Z5, the water resistance that Sony is known for and it’s a handset packed full of tech, as well as plenty of customisation from Sony. The design isn’t quite as premium as you’ll find elsewhere however, meaning the Xperia Z5 is overshadowed by more exciting rivals, and Sony’s software is the biggest bugbear.
16. BlackBerry Priv
BlackBerry’s Priv was the company’s first Android handset and it is a serious phone worthy of serious consideration, whether you’re a BlackBerry fan or an Android fan. The slider handset with its huge 5.4-inch display, offers all the benefits of the latest Android devices, with a physical keyboard that BlackBerry users will find familiar.
It’s blessed with BlackBerry Hub and a range of BlackBerry shortcuts and features reinvented for Android. It’s not the fastest handset around, the camera isn’t the best and it lacks a fingerprint scanner, but it is an innovative handset that offers some charming twists. The Priv is also now available for £425, so it’s pretty cheap too – and although it’s the only Android phone around with a keyboard, it is getting old.
- BlackBerry Priv review: A sweet BlackBerry and Android pie
- Buy for £367 from Amazon UK, $349 from Amazon US
15. Motorola Moto X Play
The Moto X Play’s attraction comes from the huge battery, meaning it offers some of the best endurance you’ll find in an Android handset. Yes, this is the phone to pick if you want it to last not just through the day, but through the night and the following day too.
It’s a mid-range handset, offering Motorola’s Moto Maker customisation, but it isn’t the most powerful or exciting handset around. You miss out on a fingerprint scanner and the camera isn’t great in low light either but for those of you after a clean Android experience, Moto’s customisation and a great battery life, this could be the phone for you, although it is getting a little old.
14. LG G5
The LG G5 offers a modular-based design that allows for additional accessory units which can be added for new features and operation. The dual-camera is something special, the Quad HD screen looks the part, and with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB RAM and QuickCharge 3.0 to boot, there’s all the power you could need.
The metal body looks and feels plastic though and while it’s great there is a fingerprint sensor on board, it’s a little small and not as foolproof as some competitors despite its clever rear positioning. The LG G5 is there for innovation and point of difference, but it may not be the smartphone for everyone.
13. Huawei Mate 9
The Huawei Mate 9 goes big on that Huawei experience, pushing out to 5.9-inches. The quality of build now fits what we expect from Huawei, fused here with a twin camera arrangement, once again with Leica branding. There’s power and incredible battery life, which really makes the Mate 9 appeal.
At the same time, Huawei’s software isn’t as clean and refined as it should be and the Mate 9 also suffers from letting the price creep up. Set at €699, it’s still much cheaper than many rivals, but availability might be limited, so
12. Motorola Moto G4
Motorola’s Moto G4 is the fourth generation of the popular Moto G and it’s bigger and bolder than the original. A 5.5-inch display is seen this time round, and it’s a little more expensive too, starting at £169, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck.
The Moto G4 might not be as fast as the flagships on this list, but its octa-core processor and graphics are capable of handling most tasks and battery life is good. The Moto G4 is the king of the budget handsets and although there is the option of the G4 Plus with its improved camera and fingerprint sensor, the Moto G4 is a phone that shouldn’t be ignored.
- Motorola Moto G4 review: Budget phone king goes large, remains in charge
- Buy for £149 from Amazon UK, $199.99 from Amazon US
11. Honor 8
For a mid-level device, the Honor 8 lays down some solid specification benchmarks for its £370 price. As a day-to-day phone, the design and ability of this mid-ranger are considerable. It’s an upgrade over the previous model that will give plenty of competitors a run for their money.
The battery life could be better, the processor performance lags a little at times and it doesn’t offer the perfect graphics for gaming. That said, there is plenty of merit in the Honor 8, and its biggest problem isn’t actually itself, but the competition it is up against, such as the OnePlus 3T that is only £30 more.
- Honor 8 review: A different take on the premium mid-range market
- Buy for £369 from Amazon UK, $299.99 from Amazon US
10. Huawei P9
The Huawei P9 is a step above and beyond last year’s P8. It has cleaner software, ample power, decent cameras, the best fingerprint scanner on the market, and a variety of features that successfully place it in among the flagship runnings.
There’s still some questionable software additions though, the cameras are over-reaching in terms of software and the battery life still isn’t that great. The P9 delivers solid innings, but its £449 starting price puts it very close to its competition and the P9 lacks those design nuances that set the flagship contenders apart.
9. Apple iPhone 6S
The Apple iPhone 6S might have been succeeded by the iPhone 7, but it’s still a great iPhone, especially at its slightly reduced starting price of £499. It doesn’t offer waterproofing like the latest model, but it delivers a slick, fast experience and its 12-megapixel rear camera continues to produce some excellent results.
The iPhone 6S also introduced 3D Touch, Apple’s version of a pressure sensitive display that is also found on the newer model. It’s not unique, but the depth to which Apple has empowered this new feature stands it aside. It might not be the flagship iPhone anymore, but the iPhone 6S still offers the premium Apple experience.
8. Apple iPhone SE
Fulfilling the requirements of those looking for a smaller iPhone, the iPhone SE is about as budget as Apple gets. Starting at £359, the iPhone SE punches into the mid-range, but the only thing mid-range about this phone is the display size.
The iPhone SE has all the power of the iPhone 6S, giving you speed and power that smaller phones often fail to give you. It’s a full-bore iPhone experience that’s pared with an excellent camera, offering the consistency you expect from Apple. For those after the Apple experience without the hole in their pocket, the iPhone SE is an excellent choice. It’s also one of the best selling iPhones out there.
- Apple iPhone SE review: Great things can come in small packages
- Buy for £384 from Amazon UK, $429.95 from Amazon US
7. HTC 10
The HTC 10 addresses many of the criticisms of the HTC One M9, focusing on the things that matter in a smartphone, and ditching many of the distractions. The HTC 10 is built to the high quality standard you expect from HTC, and it’s a handset that solid and serious.
The 5.2-inch display packs a Quad HD resolution, power comes from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset and 4GB of RAM, while there is OIS on both the front and back cameras. The result is power, performance, great design and camera performance, held together with fuss-free software that’s slick, fast and free from bloat.
6. Apple iPhone 7 Plus
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus offers more new features to the iPhone party than its smaller sibling, but they come at a price, which is why this device sits a little lower down our list. Like the smaller device, the design sees refinement rather than overhaul, with Apple removing the headphone jack, hiding the antenna bars and adding waterproofing. The novelty comes in the form of a zoomed camera and the option for digital bokeh effects, but they might just be that – novelties.
It’s a worthy upgrade from the iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6S Plus, with excellent and improved camera capabilities, along with power and battery performance. The iPhone 7 Plus is big and heavy, as the range always has been, but it is incredibly well-built, capable and well-rounded. It’s just well expensive too with a starting price of £719.
- Apple iPhone 7 Plus review: Big changes from the big iPhone
- Buy for £856 from Amazon UK, $929 from Amazon US
5. Samsung Galaxy S7
The Samsung Galaxy S7 takes what the SGS6 started and refines it. It tweaks the design slightly, adds IP68 water and dust protection and brings the microSD card back. Internally, there’s plenty of power for a slick performance from the Exynos or Qualcomm chipset and 4GB of RAM, alongside a wonderfully vibrant Quad HD AMOLED display.
A wide range of functionality is offered through Samsung’s TouchWiz beautifully optimised reworking of Android, while improved battery performance and a consistent and dependable camera give you the recipe for one of the most compelling smartphones on the market. It’s out shined by the SGS7 edge version, but it’s a solid performer none the less.
4. OnePlus 3T
The OnePlus 3T is one of the best smartphones on the market this year, especially at its £399 price point. As with its predecessors, the OnePlus 3T offers incredible value for money. It has many of the same features and specifications as smartphones twice its price and its recent launch sees it as one of the most powerful handsets available.
The all-metal finish is sleek and sturdy, making it feel like a genuinely premium device and the display is fantastic too, even if it isn’t Quad HD resolution. The company may have shied away from the “flagship killer” branding this year, but the OnePlus 3T lays down the marker for what you can get for just under £400.
- OnePlus 3T review: The best mid-price phone money can buy
- Buy from Amazon UK, $433 from Amazon US
3. Apple iPhone 7
The Apple iPhone 7 doesn’t offer the overhaul in design that we are used to getting every two years, but there are enough developments to keep fans happy. The new flagship iPhone is more refined, offering the removal of the headphone jack in favour of stereo speakers, along with better hidden antennas and waterproofing.
It offers subtle changes to the iPhone 6S, such as a new Home button and glossy or matte black finish options, along with faster and slicker performance, as you would expect. Ultimately, the iPhone 7 is the company’s best iPhone yet, as Tim Cook claimed, but the best is only slightly better than the iPhone 6S, which is why we’ve kept the older model in this list too.
- Apple iPhone 7 review: Refining the design rather than ripping it up and starting again
- Buy for £617 from Amazon UK, $715 from Amazon US
2. Google Pixel
Google comes out all guns blazing with two new phones, the Pixel and the larger Pixel XL. Both devices offer the same specs, performance and experience with one difference: screen size. The regular Pixel has a 5-inch Full HD display, while the Pixel XL has a larger 5.5-inch Quad HD display.
Launching with a number of exclusive features, but otherwise a clean version of Android, the Pixel phones have a solid build and a fast and smooth experience. The cameras are superb and the battery life is good, leading to a premium Android experience. The price is a little high, however, and they lack microSD or waterproofing. They even have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Google Pixel review, Google Pixel XL review
- Buy Pixel for £699 from Amazon UK, $705 from Amazon US
- Buy Pixel XL for £793 from Amazon UK, $989 from Amazon US
1. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
The flat SGS7 handset is certainly one of the most appealing devices out there, but the S7 edge pips it to the post, taking pole position as the most desirable handset around. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge fuses power with performance, offering a 5.5-inch display with a Quad HD resolution and plenty of punch, but differentiating itself with those curved edges.
The build quality matches the best of the handsets out there and the addition of a microSD card slot makes this handset all the more practical, while the bigger size over the SGS7 gives more space for battery. It’s slick and fast and every inch the flagship experience, topped-off with a slick fingerprint scanner and a camera to deliver the whole smartphone package.