Wednesday , December 12 2018 Ausdroid » Hardware » Mobiles » Ausdroid’s Best of 2016 — Smartphones

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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

pixel-pic

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.

Chris Rowland   Chief Executive

Chris Rowland

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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dani
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dani

Does that include the 5 inch Google Pixel or just the XL? I’ve read the battery life isn’t great on the smaller one but I have small hands so tossing up between the Pixel (not XL) and S7 (not Edge), don’t think I could deal with the P9 software issues. Thanks!

Duncan_J
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Duncan_J

Hey Dani,

we’ve found that while the XL has slightly longer battery life the Pixel 5.0″ still has an impressive battery.

aaricku
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aaricku

sigh.. note 7 would have won this as it was the perfect phone, except for it blowing up. Wish Samsung fix the issue and bring it back to market!
Not a fan of pixel. Missing waterproofing and micro SD. And looks too much like a fruit phone.

Manoj Bhandari
Ausdroid Reader

My exact thoughts.

Pumpino
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Pumpino

The HTC 10 doesn’t rate a mention? What about the OnePlus 3, ZTE Axon (the best audio of any smartphone) and the Xiaomi Mi Note 2?

I always like reading Ausdroid’s reviews, but I feel like you’re not including a major segment of the market that all the other android sites cover. It would be interesting to hear the comparisons if you could get your hands on other devices. For example, Dean from ZTE Australia is on Whirlpool; maybe you could approach him for an Axon to review. 🙂

aaricku
Guest
aaricku

Agreed. What about the MI Mix?

Chris
Guest

We’re working on a best mid-range smartphone piece as well, coming Sunday. HTC 10 doesn’t rate a mention. It was a good phone, but was it the best or a runner up? Not this year.

Dano3333
Guest
Dano3333

I’ve used the P9 and Htc 10 and the 10 is hands down the better phone. The P9 is fast and nice in the hand but Huawei’s skin is horrible and the camera isn’t close either. Dxomark agrees on the camera score.

Htc 10 – 88
P9 – 80

Chris
Guest

Dunno, I’ve used them both too. The P9 edges ahead because from what we understand it’s done better at retail than the HTC 10, the camera feels like it produces better photos, and it’s also quite a bit cheaper.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Chris – What happened to the mid range review?

My Nexus 5 is starting to act up and I need something closer to $500 than $1000

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