Every couple of years, consumers are faced with one of their biggest decisions: which smartphone to buy next? No matter how well one keeps up with technology, one can never be too informed. Smartphones seem to be a revolving door of options, and it won’t be slowing down any time soon. In order to maximize your experience, it is imperative to choose a phone that is not only one of the best on the market, but one that suits you in the best way possible. Here is an in depth look at the top 5 Android phones of 2016:
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
The Note 5 has a newer design that resembles the Galaxy S line, pulling it much closer to the mainstream smartphone market. The improved look is sleek and gives it a unique feel that makes the phone seem as if it’s not as big at it truly is. Although some may argue that was the crux of the Note series, that it was more tablet-like than a phone, it may end up benefiting it rather than doing harm, and definitely helps drawing in users who were originally skeptical of the bulkiness of the Note’s predecessors.
However, users who are looking for a more affordable option may go elsewhere. The Note 5 also doesn’t include a removable SD card or battery like the previous versions. For users that want the experience of the Note 5 but want to expand storage or swap batteries, this is a major let down.
Overall, the incredible screen, fresh glass, and metal design have complemented the phone like never before. Even though the phone tends to feel slightly slippery, iPhone users have a much worse time with rounded corners and an aluminum cover. A proper case can easily solve this is users tend to find an issue with it. The S pen is one of, if not the best, stylus pen on the market, and allows users to have a unique "phablet" experience. The Note 5 is lighter and more portable than it has ever been before, which was a common critique of the series. The 16-megapixel camera now includes optical image stabilization (OIS) which makes it one of the most efficient low-light shooters on the market.
HTC has been attempting to create a flagship phone to dominate the smartphone market for years now, and the HTC 10 is its best shot. The curved back and aluminum unibody make for a very comfortable hold. HTC got rid of the two front facing speakers and instead replaced it with “BoomSound Hi-Fi." This consists of a treble speaker that is front facing, while the other speaker is a bottom-facing subwoofer. The volume reaches a very high maximum, more so than expected, and has a great sounding bass. Headphones also allow it to flaunt its HD audio certification by supporting 24-bit audio.
For the most part, the 5.2-inch screen is great looking, but users have experience problems with the way the screen is displayed in sunlight, as the screen appears to be more reflective. The HTC10 has arguably the best fingerprint scanner on Android phones, although it fails to be as quick as TouchID iPhones. But once again, that is not something that should deter you from the phone, and most users would hardly notice it.
In terms of software, the phone is very Google-friendly, but also uses its own apps for certain features. It looks much more like a Nexus device while still giving you that HTC feel. If anyone is familiar with HTC devices, they have most likely been disappointed with its camera, but the HTC 10 has bounced back with a camera that is much stronger than ever before. The rear camera is a 12-megapixel “Ultrapizel 2” setup. On the front, it is a 5 megapixel selfie machine, and the first smartphone that I’m aware of that contains OIS. The device can also shoot 4k resolution video.
The LG v10 is a tank of a phone that provides an extraordinary feeling with its buttons on the back. Most smartphones today seem to be following a similar build: thinner and lighter. The LG v10 has questioned that with its enormous size and heavier weight. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; plenty of consumers are looking for this sort of experience. The camera is easily the highlight of this phone and allows the user to truly utilize capturing moments. The camera includes manual focus in both photographs and in videos and has a dual 80-degree and 120-degree front facing camera for those who love taking selfies. Multi-mode allows users to switch lenses and views that produce pictures that no other phone can take.
A risky feature the LG v10 has is the second screen. Atop the main display is a smaller mini screen that shows notifications and apps that the user chooses to place there. It adds a cleaner method to switch back and forth from apps or view notifications. It is also more interactive, so for example, if you receive a call, you can swipe to answer or ignore without having the main screen disturbed. The always-on feature is a nice touch because when the main display is off, the second screen displays information you may want to see, such as text or email notifications, and time, date, as well as battery level. While many would find a problem with keeping a screen on at all times, it has a sensor that detects the light. If the phone is in your pocket it will dim, and if out in the open, it will display regularly. For those unpleased by this convenient feature, you have the option of turning it off entirely.
Overall, the phone has a wide range of features that many find to love. There are a few software problems consisting of the LG based apps cluttering up space that could be used for other purposes. Most will never use these apps, but if you’re someone who does, than that’s even better, but it shouldn’t be an issue that deters someone from the LG v10.
Google’s second-generation phablet is much more comfortable in your hand and pocket than its predecessor, the Nexus 6. It is also much less expensive than the Nexus 6 and other phablets which make it very appealing and able to compete well in a seemingly overcrowded phablet market. The metal unibody design is certainly an upgrade from the plastic Nexus 5X. The charging port that sits at the bottom is a reversible USB-C port which charges faster than the traditional micro USB. Front-facing speakers make for a great fit and magnified audio projection.
One of the features I found most interesting on the Nexus 6P was the fingerprint sensor on center of the back of the phone. This is similar to the LG G series and the v10 buttons, except the scanner is simply static and acts as nothing else other than to unlock your phone. Also, the USB-C port may charge your phone more quickly, but do you have any USB-C devices yet? As it's a newer standard, this most certainly means carrying around a new charger everywhere you go, simply because you have no other means of keeping your mobile device alive. However, be mindful that Apple has already done this with its Lightning standard, and companies will continue to do this, so I don’t see it as a deterrent from buying the phone because the benefits outweigh the cons in this case. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is a strong mobile operating system that the Nexus 6P uses like the other Android devices. But with the Nexus 6P, it has utilized Google in a way competitors haven’t been able to match. For example, holding down the on screen home buttons bring up Google Now on Tap. Anything you are watching hearing or reading will be processed and the phone will then try to educate you on the topic.
Phones have increased camera capabilities and it’s almost impossible to keep up with which phone has the most efficient camera. Google’s Nexus 6P has a 12.3 megapixel rear camera that captures more pixels and light. Indoor low light photos look incredible and blow older Nexus phones out of the water, but still lack the OIS to fully compete with some of the other phones I have talked about. Samsung devices have also done a better job at utilizing a variety of camera modes, and that’s where Google has failed. The phone's big battery life has a strong and lengthy life, but doesn’t include any wireless charging capabilities like Samsung devices.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge
The Galaxy series for years now has been champion of the Android smartphone market and the S7 and S7 edge live up to the previous versions. The screen is slightly bigger but doesn’t feel that way at all, and the phone is very comfortable to hold. A huge win for many consumers and myself is that the phone is waterproof. The battery in the S7 and S7 edge has also improved since S6. The look of this phone alone is what is truly appealing. A new always-on feature is another noteworthy change. We’ve seen this in other phones, but it’s still a feature I find useful. My only problem is that I am an avid Gmail user and it only presents email notifications of Samsung’s client app.
Fingerprint scanners have taken over smartphones and the S7 and S7 edge have a very efficient scanner that meets all necessary needs. Both are also compatible with the growing virtual reality market and make the Gear VR experience even stronger. This is a major strength for me and presumably many others who are intrigued and want to delve into the new world of virtual reality.
The camera now uses a 12-megapixel model instead of the previous 16, but it captures more pixels--a fair trade off. This is a shift seen in many phones today, to maximize its light capture capability in low-light scenarios. There are also plenty of fun camera modes to play around with that make your photo taking experience more unique.
Overall, these are really two great smartphones that are perfect for your everyday use. There are plenty of cool features and ways to make it unique so I would say it rivals the iPhone well.
In the end, choosing a phone is a big decision but these are some of the best Android phones out there today. Make a choice that suits you best personally. Just because someone else has a great experience doesn’t mean you will. Smartphones have become devices we put our whole lives into--scary I know--but these devices remain to be an intimate experience for us for a few years and choosing something that reflects you and your needs is all the more important.