Smartphones in 2016 had an interesting journey (that is, if they made it to the finish line and didn’t blow up on the way). the headphone jack began its long-winded journey to extinction with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Google got into the smartphone game big time with the Pixel and Pixel XL, OnePlus delivered what is probably the best smartphone to buy out there with the OnePlus 3/3T, Samsung, as we all know, created a new class of explosive smartphones and modular smartphones, after beginning the year on a hopeful note with the LG G5 and Project Ara, fizzled out completely (Moto Z tried hard to keep them afloat, though). In all of this, there were three smartphones that impressed me the most and are, I believe, the best smartphones that 2016 gave us at the lower-end, mid-range and high-end areas of the smartphone industry.
Best budget smartphone – Moto G4/G4 Plus
At INR 12.5k (USD 180) (available at Amazon for a discount of INR 1.5k these days), the Moto G4 and it’s more powerful sibling, the G4 Plus, pack in specs which would put a INR 20k phone to shame.
Motorola Lenovo started this trend of giving people phones which had high-end specs at low-end prices with the first Moto G. The Moto G2 was a step in the right direction and even though the Moto G3 faltered a bit, Lenovo made up for it with this year’s Moto G4. A solid build (hard plastic, though) housing decent specs, great battery life, a camera which even a lot of mid-range phones can’t match and Moto’s superb less-is-more Android skin (which makes it the second fastest line of smartphones to get new Android updates, behind the Pixels and the Nexuses), the Moto G4 gives its users more than bang for the buck they spend on it. I wanted to buy an Android phone this year to use it as my secondary phone and also use Android more so that I could write more about the platform and while researching which phone I should buy, the Moto G4 was the obvious choice. I have been using it for 3 months now and can recommend it whole heartedly.
Honorable mention – HTC Desire 630
Best mid-range smartphone – OnePlus 3/3T
The smartphone that created a life crisis for high-end phones, the OnePlus 3/3T finally delivered on the Chinese startup’s promises of delivering a phone that never settles. With design, internals and a camera to match the costliest flagships around, the OnePlus 3 and its mid-year successor, the OnePlus 3T, are the best smartphones to buy for most of the people out there looking to buy a great smartphone. The icing on the cake has to be the price, though. At INR 30k (USD 400), the OnePlus 3/3T has made companies like HTC and Sony take a hard, long look at their offerings (the HTC 10, while one of the best flagships around, didn’t do well when it comes to sales). While Apple, Samsung and Google might still be able to sell their flagships well, the OnePlus 3 made it very difficult for other manufacturers to succeed at a price higher than its.
Honorable mention – Moto Z Play
Best high-end smartphone – iPhone 7 Plus/Google Pixel XL
The iPhone 7 Plus, of course, is the best high-end phone of 2016. It has been a no brainer since 2009, when the iPhone 3GS was released. That said, 2016 was a bit tough of the de-facto winner in this category (the best smartphone camera, performance to put laptops to shame, superb battery life and a beautiful refined design – shoutout to matte black – notwithstanding). In addition to catching flak for not outing a more radical redesign and removing the 100 year old headphone jack, the iPhone 7 Plus’s crown was challenged by Google’s biggest (literally) push into making its own hardware yet, the Pixel XL. A camera to match the greatness of the iPhone’s, great performance (because Google controls both hardware and software and can optimize the hell out of it) and Google’s vision of what Android should be, the Pixel XL is the phone to buy for those who want iPhone’s looks and Android’s smarts (and don’t care about spending money on it, because it is as costly as the iPhone). I would buy a Pixel just for the unlimited Google Photos storage that Google throws in with it.
Honorable mention – Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
These 3 are my picks for the best smartphones that 2016 gave us. What are yours?