As we approach the end of the year, we look back over the year that was. We’ve seen some great phones this year, and we’ve seen some real stinkers. We’ve even had a phone that started as one and turned into the other. As we’re not expecting any major product announcements between now and the new year, it’s time to look at what’s come out this year and work out what’s been the best in a number of categories, but before we start down that path, it’s worth making one note.
This year, we won’t be talking about a best tablet, because the Android tablet market really hasn’t moved a lot this year. In fact, there’s barely even been an Android tablet market in 2016. Google’s Pixel C was released in Australia early in 2016, and while our review was positive, there really hasn’t been anything released since as a tablet that’s really made us sit up and take notice. Rather, we’ve seen the increasing quality and quantity of convertible devices like the Pixel C; devices which are essentially tablets, but which readily become laptops with the addition of a keyboard. This market is still growing, though, and I think next year we’ll see a lot more of them.
So, without further ado, here’s Ausdroid’s best smartphone of 2016. We’ll be doing “Best Of” in other categories too, coming soon.
Ausdroid’s Best Smartphones of 2016
There probably shouldn’t be much surprise in this, but we all basically agree — Google’s Pixel is probably the best phone we’ve seen this year. The hardware is superb, the software sublime, and the execution wonderful. Probably the only criticism we can agree on is that the design is a little bland, but this is a phone where design really doesn’t matter so much as what it can do, and how well it does it.
At Ausdroid, we use a lot of phones, probably more than fifty a year between us, and we get a good feel for what’s good, and what isn’t.
The year started strong, with two very capable top-shelf handsets coming out of Mobile World Congress — Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and LG’s G5. However, the LG G5 was far from a commercial success, with its technical capability overlooked because of its janky module system and somewhat less polished construction.
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 was undoubtedly the commercial success of the year, and found renewed success in the latter half of the year after the Note 7 fiasco, when Samsung was suddenly left without its second flagship release of the year, and a renewed focus on advertising and marketing the Galaxy S7 kicked off.
But it was the Pixel, with the latest Android software, and extremely powerful hardware, that took the crown for the best smartphone of 2016.
It’s worth a brief mention of Samsung’s Note 7 here. This was, without doubt, a contender for best phone of the year, even with the Pixel on the market. However, with its well publicised issues, the Note 7 simply cannot be considered; the best phone of the year cannot be one with faulty batteries that cause fire hazards. Had it not been for this, the Note 7 may well have won.
Best runner-up phones
However, the Pixel suffers from one major let-down. It has a very steep asking price, and it’s beyond the realm of affordability for many. At this end of the year, some of the phones from earlier in the year have dropped in price quite significantly, and this means there’s some excellent phones at excellent pricing.
In 2016, we have two runner ups for best phone of the year. The venerable Galaxy S7, which has well and truly earned its stripes this year, and Huawei’s flagship contender named simply the Huawei P9. Both reviewed extremely well, and I think we all agree that absent the Pixel, it would be these two phones fighting for the title.
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is probably the better phone over all, but it is slightly more expensive. Huawei’s P9, on the other hand, has an incredible camera and great battery life, let down slightly by a less than ideal software experience, but it’s easily tolerable considering the very affordable price.