The 8 Best Smartphones to Buy in 2016

Buy the top smartphones for design, gaming, battery life and more

It’s difficult to say, with confidence, which of the many smartphones available on the market is the absolute, all-around best. And that’s only because of the polarizing differences between iOS and Android— not to mention all the other preferences to choose from (camera, gaming, budget and screen size). Sometimes, taste is as arbitrary as Coke vs. Pepsi. You don’t know why you like it — you just do.

That said, there are some clear winners in each category — winners that, we think, boast the right specs, design elements and features to satisfy the general public. So read on to see which smartphones made the cut for the best of 2016.

Best iOS Smartphone: Apple iPhone 7

iPhone 7
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With Apple's iPhone 7, you will find an improved battery, a better camera, water resistance and, for better or worse depending on who you ask, no headphone jack. On top of that, the introduction of the A10 Fusion chipset offers a nice performance bump. It's available in four colors, including jet black (which looks fantastic, but is prone to fingerprint marks and scratches).

The iPhone is the same size as its predecessors, but it has IP67 water-resistance standards. You can keep your iPhone up to a meter of water for 30 minutes without worrying about it getting fried. The Taptic-home button will take some getting used to, but it’s a welcome change as the physical button had to go to make way for water resistance protection. The 4.7” Retina HD screen remains top-notch and is more vivid than the 6S, especially when it comes to viewing in direct sunlight.

The inclusion of a f/1.8 sensor on the rear 12-megapixel TrueTone camera, as well as the addition of optical image stabilization are definite upgrades as well. Low-light photography has improved, too, thanks to four smart LEDs built into the camera that 50 percent more light than the previous iPhones.

The quad-core A10 chip is fantastic and allows for faster launching of apps and multitasking. Battery life on the iPhone 7 is much improved over the 6S, adding an additional two hours of talk time, thanks to the new processor and 14 percent larger battery. The lack of a headphone jack has caused quite a bit of negative chatter, but this is easily remedied with an adapter. Overall, the iPhone 7 is easily the best smartphone on the marker today. Buy from Amazon »

Best Android Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7
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It doesn’t get much better than this. Samsung’s latest flagship phone is meant to compete directly with the Apple iPhone — and maybe even surpass it. Like the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the Galaxy S7 has a sister model in the beefier S7 Edge. The difference between the two mostly comes down to preference: How big do you like your screen?

The standard S7 offers higher resolution (Super AMOLED; 2,560 x 1,440; 534 ppi); a more robust, high-contrast camera; a larger screen (5.5 inches vs the 6S’s 4.7 inches) and a significantly longer-lasting battery. It’s also got a quad-core processor with a 4 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage space (expandable to 200 GB). But because it costs around the same price, these specs aren’t necessarily going to convert any Apple addicts. Then again, Android diehards aren’t lining up for the iPhone 7 either. But the prominence of these two flagship phones highlight the intense competition between the two companies, and the clear supremacy the two of them have over the market. Buy from Amazon »

Best Phablet or Large-Screen Smartphone: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 7 Plus
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When push comes to shove, choosing between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus generally comes down to screen size. Fortunately, both displays are fantastic but the 1920 x 1080 LCD on the iPhone 7 Plus really shines. Fantastic display aside, let’s talk about Apple’s new A10 Fusion quad-core processor – it's the fastest chip yet, which means app-loading will be a breeze. The A10 is also more power efficient, which helps offer an additional 60 minutes of battery life over the 6S Plus (this is also thanks in part to the five percent larger battery). And the inclusion of 3GB of RAM with  this model gives it a little extra “oomph” over the 7.

Like the iPhone 7, the Taptic home button might take some getting used to, but this means that the phone now meets IP67 water resistant standards and can stay in up to one meter of water for a maximum of 30 minutes. There’s no question the removal of the headphone jack is worth noting here as well, but this is easily fixed if you buy an adapter.

The 12-megapixel camera on the rear of the device is arguably the best part of the iPhone 7 Plus and likely the best smartphone shooter on the market. The inclusion of optical image stabilization, f/1.8 aperture, and the brand new dual camera setup sets the 7 Plus apart from the pack. Essentially, Apple has made it so you can tap between 1x and 2x zoom modes or drag your finger along a half-circle for more precise control. Apple added digital zoom up to 10x, but realistically, anything beyond 2x and you’ll start to see the noisier, grainy images that are associated with digital zoom. The secondary telephoto camera (that’s the “dual” camera part) has a wider f/2.8 aperture that allows photo junkies to play more with depth of field. In short, if you're a fan of phablets and are looking for one of the most powerful ones on the market, this is it. Buy from Amazon »

Best Smartphone for Taking Photos: LG V10

LG V10
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The LG V10 is the smartphone for people who can’t stop snapping selfies and photos of their surroundings. Really, this thing is stunning. It features a 1/2.6" sensor with 16MP Ultra HD resolution camera, optical image stabilization, RAW shooting, laser-assisted autofocus and unrivaled low-light performance. It also includes a slew of manual controls, allowing you to adjust the ISO, white balance, shutter speed and frame rate. On the video end, the V10 offers 4K shooting at 30fps; 1080p at 60fps; and slow motion 720p at 120 fps. Clearly, LG designed this phone with the camera in mind. It’s hands-down the best you can buy in a smartphone package. Buy from Amazon »

Best Budget Smartphone: Motorola Moto G

Motorola Moto G
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The Motorola Moto G can be found for less than $200, and it’s probably the best all-around budget smartphone on the market. It packs surprisingly high-quality 720p resolution into a slim five-inch display, and it includes a quad-core processor that can be upgraded to the latest version of Android. If that weren’t enough, the Moto G features NFC technology (for mobile payments), an impressive 2470mAh battery (easily two full days of moderate use) and a large 13MP camera (bigger than most flagship phone cameras). The 2 GB RAM and 8 GB of storage is rather middling, but you have to expect a few sacrifices from such a low-cost device. Still, these are some mighty impressive specs for a phone that costs one third the asking price of an iPhone 6S or Galaxy S7. Buy from Amazon »

Best Smartphone for Battery Life and Gaming: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
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Hands-down, the best smartphone for battery life is the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Its 3,600 mAh battery is larger than most phones an ensures at least two days of moderate usage, and maybe a full day of intensive, video-heavy power consumption. Of course, the S7 Edge’s sizable screen hogs a good deal of all that power, so you can expect the slightly smaller Galaxy S7 to operate with similar efficiency, even if its 3000 mAh battery is less powerful. When it comes to sheer specs, though, the S7 Edge wins out — at least when it comes to flagship, mainstream phones.

In addition to having great battery life (and turning heads left and right), the Galaxy S7 Edge is probably the best gaming smartphone in the market right now. So, what sort of features should you expect from it? How about a high-quality display with sharp resolution? Check. The Galaxy S7 Edge has a 5.5-inch, Quad HD (2560 x 1440) Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 534 ppi. And what about a fast processor? Check. The S7 Edge has a quad-core, 64-bit processor running Snapdragon 820 with a 4 GB RAM. Buy from Amazon »

Runner-Up, Best iOS Smartphone: Apple iPhone 6S

Apple iPhone 6S
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Apple’s latest iPhone is, of course, it’s best iPhone. It improves only slightly upon its predecessor, the iPhone 6, but some of those improvements are worth noting: The new, 64-chip A9 processor is a powerhouse, even by Android standards (which tend to pack a bit more punch in the hardware department). Most iPhone users probably won’t notice the improved processing speeds, but hardcore users certainly will. The 12-MP camera is a whole four megapixels bigger than the previous iPhone 6. The iPhone 6S also has three entirely new features in 3D Touch, 4K video and Live Photos.

And Android fanboys, just admit it: You love Apple design. Say what you want about hardware specs, bloatware, microSD, open source, and other proprietary headaches—iPhones look awesome. And the latest iPhone 6S is the best looking smartphone to date. It features a uniform aluminum body in a variety of pastel metallic tones that scream Apple: gray, silver, gold and rose gold. Apple has always placed a heavy importance on design, and considering how your smartphone is essentially an extension of yourself, it makes sense that you’d want it to reflect your own aesthetics. Or not. Design is subjective, and so is one’s concern for it. Buy from Amazon »

Runner-Up, Best Phablet or Large-Screen Smartphone: Google Nexus 6P

Google Nexus 6P
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The Google Nexus 6P is definitely for people have committed fully to the big-screen, “phablet” bandwagon. The 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display alone is enough to separate it from the pack, but when you add in the 2560 x 1440 (Wide Quad HD) resolution, 518 ppi density and the 3D curved glass screen, the whole thing becomes a near-overkill expression of phablet ideals. Just don’t expect to fit this thing into the pockets of your skinny jeans.

But it’s not just the generous display that makes the Nexus 6P a great phone. It’s also got an eight-core, Snapdragon 810 processor, a 3 GB RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a 12.3MP f/2.0 camera sensor made by Sony, which can record video in 4K at 30 fps. It’s absolutely one of the best all-around phone cameras on the market. And the 8MP front-facing camera really drives the point home and seals the ideal for selfie fanatics. Buy from Amazon »


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