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Best Android phones of 2016

Update: End-of-the year final picks included

It's time to buy a new phone and you need to know where to place your cash. What are your criteria? Do you want the latest and greatest phone on the market? Are you looking for something small and sleek? Or do you just want the device which offers the best value? Below are our picks for the best Android phones in the world today.

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, of all the devices that we have seen come through the office doors, it’s the phone which most staff at AndroidPIT have the least trouble recommending. No matter what your needs, the S7 will please.

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The Galaxy S7 combines old and new to become Samsung's best handset yet. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Samsung Galaxy S7

Best price

We know it's a little naughty to have two devices occupying the first spot, but they are too similar to divide: how could we recommend one and leave the other off the list? If you want a bigger display and battery, the S7 Edge has the goods. If you want something smaller and wish to save 50 bucks, our recommendation goes to the S7 standard.

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The Galaxy S7 Edge: Samsung's new curved display flagship. / © AndroidPIT

 

Lowest price: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Best price

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. 

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The OnePlus 3 is the Ferrari F12 of Android. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: OnePlus 3T

Best price

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.

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The Honor 8 is a well-designed and powerful smartphone. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Honor 8

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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.

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The Mate 9 will attract those who want a long-lasting smartphone. / © AndroidPIT

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.

Lowest price: Huawei Mate 9

Best price

Best for photography: Sony Xperia Z5

According to you, the readers, as well as us here at AndroidPIT, 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.

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The Sony Xperia Z5 offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to photography. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Sony Xperia Z5

Best price

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. 

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Put the hype aside and the OnePlus is a really great phone. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: OnePlus 2

Best price

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.

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The Honor 5X delivers far more than you'd expect from a sub-$200 phone. / © AndroidPIT

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.

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For a small phone that delivers big performance, you can't beat the Xperia Z5 Compact. / © AndroidPIT

What is your pick for best Android phone of 2016? Are there any you think we should have included in our list? Let us know!

This article has been rewritten since its first publication, so some comments may no longer be applicable.

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  • I personally love the Axon 7 by ZTE. I haven't looked back since I've gotten it.

  • I've now tried several games including asphalt 8, plants v zombies 2, fifa mobile, song pop and there is no lag. Loading times are fairly brisk. The specs of one plus 3t sound good though. I chose s7 as I like slightly smaller phone. I did own one plus x and it felt like a project half finished. The auto brightness was forever adjusting itself, speaker was horrid lag was bad despite components being fine. I think poor software optimisation was to blame and rooting it nearly fixed it. One plus wanted owners to mention problems on forums so they could gradually fix them. I just wanted something that worked on purchase and sold it. I think one plus has come a long way since then.

  • As you might have gathered the s6 struggled with ram management and wasn't great for games. The s7 seems to not have this problem. What sort of games do you like? I fancy downloading some to test out how good the s7 is at these. It scores highly in benchmarks but so did the s6.

    • I play games that probably wouldn't be your style like Dragonvale and Dragonvale World. Games where u can pay for extra content and u need friends via FB. I've played Dragonvale (the original) for over 5 yrs since it was released but World is newer and supposedly 3D, I played as a beta tester before official release and now as they get bigger lag is bad and it takes time for buildings to load from square boxes. Plus I need more speed in an area where speed means success or failure when buying items in a world market. When it comes to other games I have kept all the consoles I ever bought and the games and prefer these to online gaming. I get motion sickness from 3D and discovered this back when Doom was the game to play.

  • I'm looking for an upgrade from a Samsung Galaxy S6. I need a gaming phone, the S7 has 4G ram but OnePlus 3T has 6G ram. I don't know enough about specs to choose wisely but have always used Samsung. Can anyone tell me what would be the phone to choose for best gaming experience without the lag?

  • I have an s7. Camera is amazing. It beat my compact system camera (csc) for twilight pictures and pictures zoomed out in good light. In low light it loses to my csc but beats my compact camera. Impressive. Battery life is reasonable. Usually makes a day. I have been using it lots. Performance is very good although there is still a little lag and stutter for which I blame marshmallow. I haven't used android that doesn't have this issue. It's miles better than my old z3 plus. Speaker could be better but that's it for negatives. Screen is superb and it feels nice in the hand. The fire issue concerned only the note 7 not the s7 edge. One plus 3 looks tempting but a bit big for me and also not available on O2 refresh upgrade. The new Google pixel might beat the Samsung with less bloat ware and even better camera if it didn't have no expandable memory. What were they thinking.

  • I have a Galaxy J7 (2016) and it's amazing. Under $200, fast (it runs Marshmallow 6.0), battery lasts and pics are great.

  • I have the Motorola droid turbo 2 and absolutely love it. I'm running 6.0.1 and it gives me a lot of options that other phones would need root to do, pretty good cam, excellent battery life and rapid charge. Damn good processing, the ONLY thing I hate is the bootloader is locked tight and there still isn't a solid exploit to get root! If you're worried about security Motorola has it! It's a real difficult phone to crack

  • The Moto Z Play unlocked is inexpensive, and I can talk to it while it is lying by my bed, to set an alarm, call someone, whatever. Don't even have to reach for it. The camera is terrific and battery life is usually at least 2 days of moderate use.
    Mac E Pooh

  • I can not open play store

    • I hope this helps you & anyone who's having trouble with apps (including Play store & Services and system functions) closing, crashing etc even after a factory reset. An APK mirror (read the info regarding what it is & does if you're not familiar) I've never had to use the others but the Play Services and it saved me when I couldn't even get to factory reset because of the continual closing of my phone's system functions. Just follow the 3 step instructions from the developers (check the # of your version, download and install) Let me know if it helped, if you do it!

    • Login to your google account.

  • i think one plus 3 is the real winner when compared to price and specs

  • Think everyone that buys an Samsung S7 should be supplied with a free fire extinguisher!

  • farhan 4 months ago Link to comment

    Galaxy S7 edge, amazing smartphone by Samsung. I have never seen a smartphone like this.

  • David J. 4 months ago Link to comment

    I Like the APPLE IPHONE 6S

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