Smartphones

The 5 best smartphones of 2016

The new iPhone SE is seen on display during an event at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California March 21, 2016. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

The new iPhone SE is seen on display during an event at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California March 21, 2016. (REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

To make the best smartphone of 2016 list, the phones must be well-built and pack top-notch tech into a slim design.

Here are five phones worth a serious look.

Google Pixel/Pixel XL: Let’s start with the newest smartphone entrant, which just debuted in October. Google actually has a pretty long history of designing and making phones, first with the co-branded Nexus phones, then with Motorola. So, Google hit the ground running with the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL. And it shows. Both phones have excellent build quality and are teeming with great tech like a review-topping camera, an AMOLED display, and one of the most advanced digital helpers, Google Assistant. And Android is silky smooth running on top of the latest Qualcomm processors. The Pixel starts at $649 (32GB), while the larger XL starts at $769.

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iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus: The iPhone 7 is still a pretty new phone, as it didn’t become widely available until October. Apple was conservative with the physical design. The 7 is hard to distinguish from the two-year-old iPhone 6 and last year’s 6s. Nevertheless, both the 7 and 7 Plus are remarkable phones, offering improvements where it counts: faster performance, a better display, excellent water resistance, and one of the best cameras on the market. As always, overall quality is top notch. The removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack is an inconvenience that’s soon forgotten. The iPhone 7 starts at $649 (32GB) and the 7 Plus at $769.

OnePlus 3T: This 5.5-inch phone consistently rates high on major review sites because it offers solid flagship features at a lower cost. OnePlus is a new Chinese smartphone maker that’s only been around since 2013 but quickly hit recommended-buy lists. The newest 3T came out only about five months after the launch of the well-received OnePlus 3. Suffice to say, the 3T checks off all of the boxes when it comes to what you’d expect in a premium phone, including a solid physical design, an AMOLED display, fingerprint sensor, a good camera, decent battery life, and and a powerful processor. The 3T starts at a compelling $439 for a 64GB option.

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Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge: The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is indisputably one of the best smartphones in the world. The 5.5-inch Edge offers an innovative curved AMOLED display, which is both nice to look at and practical, allowing for “edge” apps. And it has the best battery life yet for a Galaxy flagship phone. The S7also has, according to more than a few major review sites, the best smartphone camera going. There are nice extras too, like a microSD slot for upgrading from the standard 32GB storage. But a word of caution. Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy S8 in the March timeframe. So, you might want to wait.

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iPhone SE: While big phones are the rage now, the tiny 4-inch iPhone SE is for consumers who like eminently pocketable phones. Better yet, it's Apple’s cheapest phone to date. The processor is on par with the iPhone 6s/6s Plus. It has the same great rear-facing 12-megapixel camera, and even better battery life than the 6s. The 4-inch iPhone SE also excels at one-handed operation like thumb-scrolling and photo-taking. The icing on the cake is the price. It starts at $399 for a 16GB version and $499 for 64GB.