About halfway through the year, we were convinced that Samsung’s Galaxy S6 would rule the category of best smartphone for the year, but things quickly turned once the Nexus 6P came onto the scene.
The Huawei-made Nexus 6P is our pick for best Android device of the year. It sports a thin, aluminum frame, and its rear-facing fingerprint sensor is one of the fastest and most accurate we’ve ever used. The Nexus 6P also boasts a Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, a beautiful 5.7-inch display, USB Type-C, amplified stereo speakers, and a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera sensor with impressive low light abilities.
Now, the Nexus 6P isn’t entirely perfect. It’s missing a few flagship features, like wireless charging and OIS, but this is the phone to get if you’re looking for a pure, premium Android experience. And for about $200 less than the current crop of high-end phones, you’re getting a phone directly from Google that works on any cellular network and receives software updates weeks or months ahead of others.
The Moto X Pure Edition is a high-end device at a mid-range price. It comes with a Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, and stereo streakers, all wrapped in a package that you can customize to your liking, starting at $400.
Motorola doesn’t pack its phones with a ton of bloatware, either. Its version of Android sticks close to the stock design, but adds helpful features and software add-ons, like Moto Display and Moto Voice. The Moto X Pure Edition may not be as powerful or as polished as some other flagship devices, but if offers a whole lot at a fraction of the price.
Previously, Motorola’s Moto G managed to fulfill the criteria for the category of best bang for your buck, but this year we like the OnePlus X a little more.
The OnePlus X is a 5-inch phone with last year’s hardware at this year’s budget price. For $250, you get a 1080p AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 2,535 mAh battery pack, and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera that’s finicky, but capable. OnePlus also kept its version of Android, dubbed Oxygen OS, close to Google’s, with just a few added extras.
The only drawback of this stylish little device is that it’s missing support for two of T-Mobile and AT&T’s LTE bands, so you’ll be somewhat limited if you’re using this phone in the U.S. It also doesn’t work on Sprint or Verizon Wireless. But as a world phone, or traveling companion, it’s a pretty good deal.
The LG V10 is the best camera phone, period. Its rear-facing, 16-megapixel camera offers full manual controls, and since you can shoot in RAW mode, you can take the original photo file into Adobe Lightroom or a similar editing program and spruce it up.
The V10 also offers the best low-light performance out of all the flagship devices this year, manual controls for recording video, and dual front-facing cameras, so you can choose between a standard 80-degree selfie, or a wide-angle 120-degree group selfie. It’s nice to have options.
The V10 is a solid smartphone, too. It comes equipped with a Snapdragon 808 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 3,000 mAh battery pack, and a 5.7-inch QuadHD display. It also has NFC, a fingerprint scanner on the back, and an expansion slot, so you can easily store all those large photo files on a MicroSD card.
Bigger phones are still the best phones for some situations, and though most smartphone manufacturers have shifted towards making phablet-sized devices, they’re not equipped with useful software the way Samsung’s are.
The Galaxy Note 5 is the best phablet device that Samsung’s ever produced. It boasts a beautiful 5.7-inch display, powerful innards, including an octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM, and a suite of helpful productivity apps that take advantage of its dockable stylus, the S-Pen. It’s also got a killer 16-megapixel camera with a ton of neat features, including granular manual controls and live YouTube broadcasting. This phone-tablet hybrid puts even its smaller sibling, the Galaxy S6, to shame.
Even with Google’s Pixel C just hitting the market, and running circles around most Android tablets in its benchmark scores, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 is still the best Android tablet available—Touchwiz and all.
The Galaxy Tab S2 doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s for Android users who want something a little more premium than Google’s Nexus offerings, but don’t particularly care about whether or not it runs stock Android. It runs on an 1.9GHz octa-core Exynos 5433 processor and 3GB of RAM, features a stunning Super AMOLED display, and comes in two very thin, very comfortable-to-hold sizes. Both tablets also have expansion slots, so you can pop in a MicroSD card for more storage space.
If you want an Android Wear smartwatch with a great experience inside and out, look no further than Motorola’s second-generation Moto 360. This year’s model features a Snapdragon 400 processor with much better battery life. Better yet, the Moto 360 now comes in three different styles and two sizes—including one for the ladies—all of which are completely customizable.