The year is coming to an end, and we are looking back at the best phones that 2016 had to offer. Sure, smartphone design has gotten a tad boring, but that doesn’t mean the phones are disappointing. On the contrary, 2016 showed that if you’re looking to buy a smartphone, a device with great specifications and performance is available at every budget.
So here are our smartphone awards for 2016, and we are starting with the best devices, the flagships that set the benchmark. The price range for most of these phones is above Rs 25,000. All our lists will be based only on the phones that we have reviewed for this year. We’ll have a separate one for mid-range pricing phones and more budget friendly options coming up as well.
WATCH | Best Smartphones Of 2016: The Flagships
Best smartphone of 2016
Winner: iPhone 7 Plus
Why: Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus is the winner for our smartphone of the year award for 2016. Sure, Cupertino has not changed the design drastically for this one, but where performance goes the iPhone 7 Plus is right on top, be it in benchmark tests or real world usage. If you’re looking for a reliable flagship device that won’t let you down for the next two years, the iPhone 7 Plus is your best bet.
iPhone 7 Plus’ water and dust-resistant design is another advantage. More importantly, this one comes with a dual-rear camera system, unlike anything else we’ve seen before. The ‘bokeh-style’ effects thanks to the combination of a wide-angle and telephoto lens resulted in some truly stunning smartphone photography for us during the review period. Apple iPhone 7 Plus also comes with 2X optical zoom and 10x digital zoom.
Additionally, Apple has also made OIS common on the both the iPhone 7 Plus and the smaller iPhone 7, which gives another boost to smartphone photography. Based on all the phones we’ve reviewed, there’s no doubt in our minds: iPhone 7 Plus is on top.
Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Why: Samsung got off to a great start for 2016 with the Galaxy S7 edge, which helped the company’s smartphone division get back into profit. The glass and metal design of the Galaxy S7 edge, along with the curved edge display make this a premium flagship phone unlike any other.
In our review, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge delivered on performance, though the iPhone 7 Plus beat it quite easily later on. It’s also got a great battery life, which is another key feature in a flagship.
The S7 edge with its dual-pixel 12MP rear camera was one of the best when it launched in the early part of 2016. The low-light performance of the S7 edge is only bested by the iPhone 7 Plus, which is why this device ends up being the runner-up. However, for Samsung 2016 remains a terrible year, thanks to the Galaxy Note 7 battery fiasco. If that phone was still in the running perhaps it could have beaten the iPhone 7 Plus. For those asking why we did not choose Google Pixel here, this is a far more stable phone.
Best Android Phone: Google Pixel
Why: This year, Google turned into a smartphone player with its own Pixel series. The Pixel and Pixel XL were launched in October 2016 and come with a premium pricing, one that puts them in direct competition with the Samsung Galaxy S flagships, and yes the Apple iPhone.
Pixel and Pixel XL’s are meant to highlight and showcase the best of Google; features include the Google Assistant which is exclusive to these phones for now, a superior camera where software is king, unlimited storage for photos, and the ability to transfer all data from your previous device, including an iPhone to the new Pixel.
But where Pixel really shone for us was in the camera department where it easily matched both the iPhone 7 series and the S7 edge. Google’s software wizardry has given this phone a great camera; be it shots in the bright outdoors or low-light settings, the Pixel doesn’t disappoint.
Design-wise, the Pixel is still a work in motion, but Google says it is in for the long run with these smartphones. But as the first Google-only smartphone, there’s no doubt that Pixel ends up beating all the other Android phones in the market.
Runner Up: OnePlus 3
Why: OnePlus is a brand that has become synonymous with the motto ‘Never Settle’ and wants its phones to be known as flagship killers. While flagships still have the edge, OnePlus 3 has certainly emerged as an affordable option with top-notch performance. If one considers the pricing (which is half of what most flagships cost) and the overall performance, OnePlus 3 is definitely a winner.
This phone impressed us with camera, overall performance and battery life. This smartphone proved you don’t need to pay a bomb to get a flagship-like performance. We’re going with the OnePlus 3, and not the 3T, simply because the earlier phone was available for most of 2016, while the latter has just launched in India. Also, both phones are similar in terms of performance and specifications, and 3T is technically a mid-cycle upgrade.
This was also supposed to be the year of phones with modular design, and if one company got it right it was Motorola. Moto Z sports an extra-slim form factor, and the Mods or extra modules can just be slapped onto phone, thanks to the 16 magnetic pins on the back of the phone. Be it extra battery, or a Hasselblad Zoom lens, or a projector or the JBL speaker, Mods are a simple yet innovative feature from Motorola.
Sure there’s the extra cost involved for the Mods, but Moto Z is still cheaper compared to other flagships in India. In our review, we’ve loved the overall design, performance of the phone, but battery remains a concern. For 2017, it will be interesting to see how this series evolves and what the next Moto Z and range of Mods end up offering.
OnePlus might have emerged as the go-to option in the Rs 30,000 price range, but we expect more options to emerge in this price category next year. Nubia Z11 is another mid-range phone that launched in India just in December, but impressed us with performance.
Nubia Z11 is one of the most stylish phones and has a bezel-less design, something you won’t get at this price in India. The phone also delivers on performance and camera department, just like the OnePlus 3. The only struggle will be for Nubia to establish itself as a brand in India.