10: OnePlus 2
Update: Two new phones have joined our list, Samsung Galaxy S7 and and Galaxy S7 Edge, and the Android pair present a major shake-up for 2016.
Knowing the best smartphone you can buy right now is more than just a hunch for us. We test out the latest and – sometimes – greatest phones in comprehensive mobile phone reviews.
To drill down to a list of our 10 favorites in the US this year, we based the updated rankings on a lot of geeked-out factors: design, performance, battery life and camera quality.
Sure, your personal preference among iOS 9, Android Marshmallow and Windows Mobile 10 could sway you to another device besides our top-ranked phone. Likewise, availability via AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile is an outlier. The best phone for AT&T may not be available on-contract on Verizon, and vice-versa.
But that’s why we have more than just a No. 1 pick, which, spoiler alert, isn’t Apple’s iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. We’re not that predictable. Before you lock into a binding contract or spring for an expensive unlocked, SIM-free smartphone, consult our best phone guide, updated regularly.
10. OnePlus 2
The ‘flagship killer’ with a fantastic price sneaks into the top ten again
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB/4GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB | Battery: 3,300mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
The OnePlus One was a brilliant phone in 2014, offering a great price for top end specs – it truly was a bargain phone.
The good news is the One Plus 2 has repeated that trick, upgrading the internals while (mostly) keeping the same low price. Its clever overlay still impresses and the little tweaks (such as audio improvement) work quite nicely.
We would have liked to see some upgrades on the screen front, or NFC for mobile payments, but on the whole the brand has managed to avoid stumbling over the ‘tricky second album’.
9: HTC One M9
9. HTC One M9
Not quite up the 5-star standard, but HTC still has the most beautiful phone around
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1080p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery:2840mAh | Rear camera: 20.7MP | Front camera: 4MP
HTC’s been used to living at the top of our charts for the last couple of years, and while it’s not quite managed it in 2015, it’s still a phone with the best build quality out there.
None of the old favorites are missing, so BoomSound enhancement still really turbocharges the audio and the Sense overlay remains one of our favourites, thanks to being sophisticated and really powerful.
The camera has been boosted to 20.7MP, although it doesn’t have the impressive snapping power of some of the other phones on the market, and the design language still means this is one of our favourite phones to stick in the pocket.
It’s a touch more expensive than before, and doesn’t take a huge leap forward from last year’s model – but then again, that was nearly perfect, so where was HTC to go?
8: Nexus 6P
8. Nexus 6P
Google goes again for a phablet, and it’s a corker
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,450mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP | Front camera: 8MP
The bigger of the two new Nexus phones is a phone that can entice you in many ways. Perhaps you’ll like the vivid QHD display, which is more compact this year to offer a sharper resolution when watching movies or browsing the web.
Or the fact it’ll get the latest version of Android first (currently the highly-rated Android Marshmallow) or the innovative placement of the fingerprint scanner on the back – which is both quick and accurate.
It’s not super-cheap like the old Nexus phones (although it’s more competitive than other phablets in the same screen size bracket), but it’s very well made, and thanks to the improved camera and battery capabilities, there’s not a lot to hate here – just make sure you fancy that extra screen size and you’re away.
7: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
7. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 1440×2560 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is one of our favourite phones around at the moment, so when we got our hands on the supersized version we were almost giddy.
And we had good reason to be: the S6 Edge+ is a phone that takes all the great camera prowess, amazing screen and beautiful lines and adds another 20% into the mix.
If you’re after a phablet that looks different from the rest (and still lets you do everything you want to on the go) then this is a winner – it’s almost perfect.
See the best Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ deals
6: iPhone 6S Plus
6. iPhone 6S Plus
Apple’s second big screen phone is another stunner
OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: around 2750mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
On one hand, this is just a larger iPhone 6S. That’s no bad thing, as that phone is one of the best around at the moment. But this second Apple phablet has a number of elements that make it a great phone in its own right.
The screen is Full HD and really packs some stunning colour reproduction. The camera on the back features optical image stabilisation, which means better low light video and photography.
The iPhone 6S Plus once again has something that’s eluded iPhone fans for years: a really good battery, with Apple using that extra space to cram in a few more mAh units.
It’s one of the most expensive phones around, and is bettered on spec by a few other phablets – but if you’re an Apple fan looking for a ‘bigger’ experience, this is the phone for you.
See the best iPhone 6S Plus deals
5: LG G4
5. LG G4
Luxury leather on a smartphone that tries to please everyone
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: removable 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 8MP
LG has tried to focus on what everyone actually wants out of a smartphone, a great looking design, colour rich display and the great camera for photos – but it doesn’t quite deliver as impressively as we’d hoped.
Don’t let that put you off though. There’s a lot going on with the LG G4, and for the most part it’s rather positive indeed. The leather back is much nicer than the plastic option, and it will make your phone stand out among the swath of glass and metal offerings.
Its large, expansive screen is one of the best on the market, the 16MP laser auto-focus camera takes some cracking shots and the rear buttons are easier to hit on a handset this size.
As usual, LG has offered us a phone that’s got a brilliant spec list at a phenomenally low unlocked price – if you’re after something a bit different, this is a great choice.
4: Samsung Galaxy Note 5
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 5
As slick as its glass back
OS: Android 5.1.1 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 1440p | Memory: 4GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
Take note of this high-ranking Samsung phablet, because it’s the best phone we’ve tested with a spacious 5.7-inch display. It has the best display on any platform right now.
It ditches the plastic casing and back everyone, but it did make a few key sacrifices along the way. The battery life is no longer swappable, and the microSD card slot is missing.
While some long-time fans are vocal about these two missing features, the Galaxy Note 5 still splitscreen mode and the best camera (tied with the Samsung Galaxy S6 that has the same module).
It’s more expensive than other phones, but the inches you get in return may be worth the price you pay for most trusted monitor.
3: iPhone 6S
3. iPhone 6S
Bigger, better, sleeker and faster than the iPhone 6
OS: iOS 9.2 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334 x 750 | RAM: 2GB | Storage:16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1,715mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
What can you say about any new iPhone? Most people are already decided about whether they’re going to buy the new model before it’s even announced – but that hasn’t stopped us giving it a thoroughly good going over.
The good points are the same as usual: a hugely powerful phone, a great camera and the new 3D Touch interface is genuinely useful, and will only continue to get better as time goes on.
The chassis is identical to the previous iPhone 6, which will irk some and might force them to wait for the iPhone 7, but it’s still well-designed. The battery life is actually a little shorter (to fit in the motor for the 3D Touch method) and is the the biggest issue with the phone.
That said, it’s still a brilliant iPhone, the phone that loads of users are desperate to get their hands on, and Apple’s not done any harm at all with this upgraded model.
2: Samsung Galaxy S7
2. Samsung Galaxy S7
One of two five star phones from Samsung
OS: Android 6.0.1 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 4GB |Storage: 32GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a phone that initially looks just like the S6 from last year – but pick it up and you’ll see there’s a world of difference.
Firstly, the rear of the phone feels much nicer thanks to a curved back (through a process called 3D Thermo Forming), it’s now water resistant and a microSD slot is a welcome feature to return, after it was dropped last year.
The camera is just brilliant – it’s lower in megapixels but improved in quality. You’ll get brilliant pictures time and again, and you’ll want to keep trying it in different scenarios. It’s a great phone that you’ll be happy to pull out of your pocket.
Also consider: An easy one: go for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge if you can afford it. It’s a compact phone with the screen size of a phablet, and offers all the same features with a more attractive design.
See today’s best deals
1: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
1. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
The best smartphone in the world – it’s a work of art
OS: Android 6.0.1 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 3,600mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP
While last year’s Galaxy S5 was nothing special, this year Samsung’s started from the ground up to make a truly wonderful smartphone.
The camera is superb, the audio and video quality brilliant and the QHD display crammed into the 5.1-inch screen is the sharpest on the market – although it does suck down the battery rather a lot.
The design is finally something we’re pleased to hold in our hand, rather than the plastic cheapness of last year, and the refined TouchWiz overlay is a lot nicer to use.
It’s actually extended its lead at the top thanks to some amazing price drops – so you can now get the best phone on the market for an incredibly low price these days. A no-brainer.
Also consider: Like the phone above, this is an easy decision: go for theSamsung Galaxy S7 if you’re not feeling the cost and price of the Edge. It’s got all the power, but it’s more compact and costs a little less. The LG G5 is nearly here too though – that could be a dark horse in the mix.
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Smaller, but still (almost) perfectly-formed
OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2700mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP dual | Front camera: 5MP
The Nexus 5X is a phone that offers the very latest version of Android, a decent (ish) spec list and a more hand-friendly size to plop in your pocket.
The screen is a decent resolution and really clear to boot, and the price isn’t as high as you might find on other phones in this spec bracket.
The best thing is that this will be constantly updated to the latest version of Android for a good while yet, and with an improved camera it’s definitely worth a look – especially if you’re not a fan of the cumbersome skins Samsung and LG like to chuck on their phones.
Microsoft Lumia 950
The beginning of a smartphone revolution?
OS: Windows Phone | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2,420mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Maybe you’re bored of the iPhone. Perhaps Android just doesn’t do it for you. Maybe you’re just wondering if there’s something different out there? Well, Windows Phone 10 on the Lumia 950 will intrigue you. It can offer a PC-like experience by extending out to a larger monitor, and the camera is pretty strong.
However, there’s one issue: apps. Or the lack thereof – and when combined with the slightly plastic design, it fails to trouble the top 10. However, it’s a legitimate choice and easily one of the most impressive Windows Phones ever.
Perfect for fans of the smaller screen size
OS: iOS 9.2 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 750 x 1334 | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1810 mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
After the iPhone 6S launched, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the iPhone 6 even exists. But it’s right there – looking identical to the 6S and still packing loads of tech that makes iPhones, well, iPhones.
It’s still a bit expensive, but that said it’s sucked down the iOS 9.1 software pretty well, and is still pushing on as a decent option for a cheaper iPhone, especially if you’re not bothered about tricks like the 3D Touch screen.
Plus, you can use it with the Apple Watch and pay for things on the go using the cunningly named Apple Pay – and with improved camera optics and a better battery compared to the predecessor, this is still one hell of a nifty phone.
BlackBerry + Android = more impressive than expected
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.4-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB| Battery: 3410mAh | Rear camera: 18MP | Front camera: 2MP
BlackBerry is back – and it’s taking a new direction by finally jumping into bed with Android. It’s got a slide-out keyboard, a superbly sharp screen, splendidly powerful innards and some decent privacy settings too.
However, it’s not cheap. At all, and the keyboard – something we all used to love – now feels a little outdated. Combined with the chunkier design (to facilitate that keyboard) and some lag in performance, this isn’t top table worthy. But there’s a lot of promise here, and we’re glad to see BlackBerry is still swinging.
HTC One M8
A stunning phone with very few flaws
OS: Android | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,600mAh | Rear camera: 4MP dual | Front camera: 5MP
The HTC One M8 has tumbled dramatically out of the top 10 after holding onto top spot for the best part of a year, so why the demise? Well it’s now pretty old compared to the handsets making up the top ten, and there’s a new kid on the block in the shape of the One M9.
It’s still the same perfectly design handset though, with impressive BoomSound speakers and the short-live, yet innovative Duo Camera on the year – but the One M9 is almost identical, and just a bit better all round.
There’s been a small price drop too since the arrival of the One M9, and you certainly won’t be getting a poor phone if you choose to pick it up – but for just a bit more you can have its up to date successor. Your call.
Samsung Galaxy S5
A year old, but still very capable
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 2MP
Sure it doesn’t have the same premium design as the current generation, but the plastic body means it’s dust and water resistant as well as giving you a removable battery and microSD slot – all things not available on the S6 range.
The drop in price also makes the Galaxy S5 more attractive and it’s stuffed full of tech and sports a fantastic screen to ensure you still have an enjoyable mobile experience.