What’s the smart buy for a smartphone this summer? The choices are better than ever.
As smartphone shipment growth ebbs, sales of large models— the so-called phablets— are expected to be brisk, seeing double-digit growth over the next several years, according to market researcher IDC. Not surprisingly, topping our list is a large smartphone. Here’s a brief roundup of the hottest smartphones to consider this summer.
1. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge: Best premier smartphone
This is the high-end smartphone to beat this summer. If it was strictly a design race between Samsung and Apple, Samsung would be the easy winner. The South Korean giant’s Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) 5.5-inch display has curves on two sides, resulting in a stunning design. It has a practical side too: the wrap-around display delivers added real estate for “edge” apps. The S7 Edge also has one of the best cameras going and the best battery life yet for a high-end Galaxy model. A blow-by-blow comparison with iPhone 6s Plus yields a bunch of upsides, including 4GB of RAM (vs 2GB on the iPhone), a sharper “QHD” display, wireless charging, and a microSD slot for upgrading the standard 32GB storage with, for instance, a 128GB microSD card that can also be configured with dual SIM cards. The only downsides are fingerprint smears and Samsung’s user interface – but the latter is vastly improved over previous versions. Retail pricing typically starts at between $750 and $790 at major carriers.
The 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus is a close runner-up for the best premier smartphone. It has Apple’s very-high-quality build, a great camera, good performance, and, most importantly, the iOS operating system with all of those apps. It starts at $749.
2. iPhone 6s: Best mainstream phone
Apple still has a lock on the mid-range, mainstream smartphone. The 4.7-inch iPhone 6s has a stiffer chassis than the iPhone 6, excellent front and rear cameras, a novel “3D Touch” pressure-sensitive display for previewing messages, photos, and related links, and the new A9 processor makes everything very snappy. But let’s face the facts: While Apple makes great, high-quality hardware, many consumers choose iPhones primarily because they know they’re buying into probably the greatest selection of apps in the world. It starts at $649.
3. Nexus 6P: Best pure Android phone
The Nexus brand has a following that, while a lot smaller, is not that unlike the iPhone’s following. That’s because Nexus phones maintain high standards, are designed in conjunction with Google, and made by world-class phone suppliers. Huawei— the third-largest global smartphone manufacturer behind Samsung and Apple according to IDC— now makes the best Nexus phone. What the Nexus 6P does really well is deliver high-end specifications at a relatively low price. Those specs include an excellent (and extra-large) 5.7-inch very-high-resolution AMOLED display, a good 12-megapixel camera, 3GB of RAM, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor. The only notable downsides are a sometimes less-than-snappy camera experience and unneeded bulk in the chassis. But the best part is the cost, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $499. But the 6P can often be found for under $450 at retailers and even under $400 at some stores.
4. LG G5: Best modular phone
Though overshadowed by Samsung, the smaller South Korean phone supplier has come up with a pretty radical smartphone. The killer feature for the 5.3-inch phone is modularity. By pressing a button, the bottom of the phone slides out, which allows you to not only swap in a fresh battery but add upgrade modules too. And the camera is different too. The LG G5 has both 8- and 16-megapixel sensors on the back, located on either side of the LED flash. The secondary 8MP sensor allows wide-angle shots. At retail, it ranges between $575 and $625.
5. iPhone SE: Best small phone
The 4-inch SE is the best deal Apple has ever offered on a new iPhone: It’s not only the cheapest iPhone, but has cutting-edge internals. This is a more advanced phone internally than the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, and is on par with the iPhone 6s/6s Plus. And it has the same great rear-facing 12-megapixel camera of the 6s, with better battery life than both the 6 and 6s. The iPhone SE also excels at one-handed operation. It’s a cinch to do all sorts of things: thumb-scrolling, photo-taking, typing. The SE is also more pocketable than, let’s say, the large 5.5-inch 6s Plus. The icing on the cake is the price: it starts at $399 for a 16GB version and $499 for 64GB.