Best smartphone 2016 - buying guide & top mobile phone picks
Our smartphone is one of the most important devices we use on a daily basis, but picking the right one for your needs and budget can be tricky when there are so many different handsets lining the shelves. To help you make the right choice, we've sifted through all our reviews to bring you the definitive shortlist of the best handsets currently available and which ones are the best value for money.
Every smartphone on this list has been tested and benchmarked in full, but we'll be updating this list regularly with new entries as and when they come in for review. Be sure to also check out our handy buying guide on page two to help narrow down your choice even further. We explain everything from which operating system you should go for to screen quality, battery life and performance, and how much storage you'll need. We also explain whether you need 4G and the best ways to buy your new handset.
New entry: OnePlus 3
If you thought the OnePlus 2 was great value for money, think again, as it's just been replaced by the even more astounding OnePlus 3. Even better, you don't need an invite in order to buy one, as OnePlus has finally ditched its restrictive invite system and made the OnePlus 3 available to all right from day one.
It's more expensive than the OnePlus 2, but what you get for another £60 is definitely worth paying extra for. With a Snapdragon 820 and a huge 6GB of RAM, the OnePlus 3 is one of the fastest smartphones around, rivalling the LG G5 (also listed below) and HTC 10, and it's almost as fast as Samsung's Galaxy S7 as well. Combine that with 64GB of storage as standard and a stunning aluminium chassis, and this £309 smartphone has plenty of ammunition to compete in the smartphone big leagues.
It does have a few downsides - namely no microSD slot and a slightly oversaturated display, but on the whole, it's incredible value for money. The Nexus 5X still has a better camera in our eyes, but it simply can't compete with the OnePlus 3's blistering speed or brilliant battery life. If you want something a little more upmarket than the Moto G4, the OnePlus 3 is the smartphone to buy. For more details, see our OnePlus 3 review.
Price when reviewed: £309 SIM free. Buy the OnePlus 3 now from OnePlus
Processor: Quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Screen Size: 5.5in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 16 megapixels, Storage (free): 64GB (52.6GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 153x75x7.3mm, Weight: 158g,Operating system: OxygenOS (Android 6.0.1)
1. Samsung Galaxy S7
On the outside, Samsung's brand-new Galaxy S7 doesn't look that much different from the Galaxy S6, but the number of improvements it's received inside make it by far the best Android smartphone we've ever seen. Its battery life is incredible, its speed is unprecedented, and, more importantly, it's nowhere near as expensive as the S6 was when it first launched this time last year.
It also rectifies lots of the problems we had with the S6, as the S7 now has a microSD slot to expand the phone's storage up to 200GB, and it's also dustproof and waterproof up to a depth of 1.5m for 30 minutes, making it more practical. The curvy S7 Edge is arguably more attractive than flat S7, but this year it's also much larger, making the the regular S7 a better fit for those who want something a little more hand and pocket friendly. For more details, see our full Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Price when reviewed: £569 SIM free. See all of the best Samsung Galaxy S7 deals on uSwitch
Processor: Octa-core 2.3GHz Samsung Exynos 8890 Screen Size: 5.1in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 12 megapixels, Storage: 32GB / 64GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 142x70x7.9mm, Weight: 152g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1
2. LG G5
LG's done the impossible with the LG G5, as it's managed to combine a full metal unibody and an interchangeable battery. How has it achieved this feat of technical wizardry? By making the phone modular. It may not be the prettiest phone in this list, but the ability to tap a button and simply slide out the battery gives it a huge advantage over its fixed rivals.
It's also incredibly quick, and its graphics performance even surpasses the Samsung Galaxy S7 below. Its 5.3in display is superb as well, and its rear dual cameras give it plenty of flexibility when taking photos. The main 16-megapixel camera is excellent, but its wide-angle 8-megapixel lens is also a really fun addition, giving creative types plenty to get stuck in with. For more details, see our full LG G5 review.
Price when reviewed: £500 SIM free. See all of the best LG G5 deals on uSwitch
Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Screen Size: 5.3in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 16 + 8 megapixels, Storage: 32GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 149x74x7.7mm, Weight: 159g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1
3. Motorola Moto X Force
The Motorola Moto X Force is truly the king of all smartphones. With its incredible shatterproof display, you never need to worry about breaking your phone's screen ever again. We've hit it with a baseball bat, chucked it on the floor (concrete or otherwise) and it's come out completely unscathed.
It's an astonishing feat of engineering, and to make things even better, Motorola has also equipped it with a gorgeous 5.4in 2,560x1,440 AMOLED panel, a super fast octa-core processor, a fantastic camera and one of the largest batteries we've seen this year. Even if you've never dropped a smartphone in your life, you never know when that dreaded day might arrive. With the Moto X Force, you can just keep on rolling with the punches, making it our top smartphone of 2015. For more information, see our full Motorola Moto X Force review
Price when reviewed: £480 SIM free. Buy the Motorola Moto X Force now from Mobile Fun
Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Screen Size: 5.4in, Screen resolution: 2,560x1,440, Rear camera: 21 megapixels, Storage: 32GB / 64GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 150x78x7.6mm, Weight: 169g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
4. Apple iPhone 6
It took Apple a while, but it finally increased screen size with the iPhone 6 range. Now with a 4.7in display, a fast processor, improved battery life and iOS 8.1, the iPhone 6 is an improvement in every way on the iPhone 5S. We also think that it strikes the perfect balance between screen size and physical size, making it the best iPhone for most people. For more details, see our full iPhone 6 review
Price when reviewed: £619 SIM free. See all of the best iPhone 6 deals on uSwitch
Processor: Dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A8, Screen Size: 4.7in, Screen resolution: 1,334x750, Rear camera: 8 megapixels, Storage: 16GB / 64GB / 128GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 138x67x6.9mm, Weight: 129g, Operating system: iOS 8
5. Moto G4 2016
Step aside, budget smartphones, you've just been made obsolete by the brand-new Moto G4 2016. If you thought the 3rd Gen Moto G was a great smartphone, then prepare to get your socks blown off by the Moto G4, as this packs in even more power for just £10 more than the original launch price of the 3rd Gen model. It's truly astonishing what Motorola's managed to achieve with the G4, as its specs rival that of several smartphones that are twice as expensive.
With an octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chip at its disposal, it's faster than anything else in its price range, and its 3,000mAh battery also gives it buckets of stamina. It's admittedly a little bigger than previous Moto Gs, as its 5.5in display puts it firmly into phablet territory. As a result, it's probably a good idea to try and get it in your hand before you buy just to make sure you're okay with the size, but even if you're used to smaller handsets, it really doesn't take that long to get used to.
Provided you're not put off by the size, though, the Moto G4 is an absolute masterpiece and a more than a worthy upgrade over the existing 3rd Gen Moto G. If you want the best phone money can buy for little more than £150, it doesn't get any better than the Moto G4. For more details, see our Moto G4 2016 review.
Price when reviewed: £169 SIM free. Buy the Moto G4 now from Motorola
Processor: Octa-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617, Screen Size: 5.5in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage (free): 16GB (10.8GB) / 32GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 153x77x7.9mm, Weight: 155g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1
6. Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen, 2015)
The 3rd Gen Moto G may have now been replaced by the Moto G4 (see above), but it's still a great smartphone in its own right, especially now the price has come down to around £130 SIM-free. In terms of overall value, the Moto G4 is streets ahead of the 3rd Gen model, but if you don't fancy the idea of having a 5.5in smartphone in your pocket, then I'd still recommend going for the 3rd Gen Moto G instead. Its large 5in HD screen looks great, it has a fantastic 13-megapixel camera, and its battery life is excellent. For more details, see our full Moto G 3rd Gen 2015 review
Price when reviewed: £159 SIM-free. See all of the best 3rd Gen Moto G deals on uSwitch
Processor: Quad-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage: 8GB / 16GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 142x72x6.1mm, Weight: 155g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
7. Nexus 5X
After last year's disappointing Nexus 6, the 5X is a breath of fresh air. It may not be the most attractive phone you've ever seen, but its fast internals and excellent screen make it great value for money. It's also got one of the best cameras we've seen in recent months, too, making it a fantastic all-round package.
The Nexus 5X isn't the only Nexus phone this year, though, as Google has also launched the super-sized Nexus 6P, which is made by Huawei. The 6P is equally good value for those after a big screen phablet, but for us, the Nexus 5X has the greater long-term appeal. It's cheaper, it's slightly easier to hold and it's generally a bit more practical. For more details, see our full Nexus 5X review
Price when reviewed: £339 SIM free. See all of the best Nexus 5X deals on uSwitch
Processor: Hexa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 Screen Size: 5.2in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 12.3 megapixels, Storage: 16GB / 32GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 147x73x7.9mm, Weight: 136g, Operating system: Android 6.0
8. Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 has the most colour accurate LCD display I've ever seen, delivering bright, punchy colours that outshine almost every other smartphone display I've tested. If that wasn't enough, it's one of the fastest Android phones around, too, with blistering web browsing speeds and exceptional gaming performance. Topping it all off is Sony's brand-new chassis, which has a gorgeous frosted glass finish that dramatically improves the phone's grip and comfort, and a handy fingerprint sensor built straight into the power button, making it easier than ever before to keep your phone secure. For more details, see our full Sony Xperia Z5 review
Price when reviewed: £549 SIM free. See all of the best Sony Xperia Z5 deals on uSwitch
Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Screen Size: 5.2in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 23 megapixels, Storage: 32GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 146x72x7.3mm, Weight: 154g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
9. Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
If the Z5 is just a little bit too big for your pocket, the Z5 Compact is the phone for you. While its screen only has a 720p resolution rather than Full HD, the Z5 Compact is just as fast as its big brother and has exactly the same camera sensor, making it excellent value for a miniature flagship smartphone. It's also got a fantastic display and a beautiful design, borrowing the same frosted glass finish as the Z5. For more details, see our full Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review
Price when reviewed: £429 SIM free. See all of the best Sony Xperia Z5 Compact deals on uSwitch
Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Screen Size: 4.6in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 23 megapixels, Storage: 32GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 127x65x8.9mm, Weight: 138g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
10. Samsung Galaxy J5
The Samsung Galaxy J5 is an incredible budget handset. Not only does it have a gorgeous Super AMOLED display - a real rarity at this end of the market - but in our tests, its battery life even surpasses that of the significantly more expensive Galaxy S7. That's a pretty impressive feat for a phone that doesn't cost more than £200 SIM-free, and it shows you don't have to spend a lot on a top-flight flagship handset to get the best a phone can offer.
In fact, it's a pretty close run race between this and Motorola's 3rd Gen Moto G for our favourite best budget handset, and a large part of it will come down to whether you prefer to use plain Android (as on the Moto G) or are happy with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. The Moto G has the edge when it comes to camera performance, but the J5 is still a highly accomplished smartphone for its price, and is easily one of Samsung's best budget handsets to date. For more information, see our full Samsung Galaxy J5 review
Price when reviewed: £160 SIM-free. Buy the Samsung Galaxy J5 now from Carphone Warehouse
Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 142x72x7.9mm, Weight: 146g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
11. Samsung Galaxy A3 2016
If you've been waiting for a Galaxy S6 Mini, look no further. While technically part of Samsung's new metal-edged A series for 2016, the 4.7in Galaxy A3 is, to all intents and purposes, a miniature S6 in disguise. It's definitely one of the most attractive smartphones you can buy for under £300, even if its specs aren't quite as powerful as its other mid-range competitors.
That said, the A3 has something that most other Android phones could only ever dream of at this price, and that's a gorgeous Super AMOLED display. It's also got one of the best battery lives I've ever seen on a mid-range handset, and its 13-megapixel camera isn't half bad, either. For more details, read our full Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 review
Price when reviewed: £269 SIM free. Buy the Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 now from Mobile Fun
Processor: Quad-core 1.5GHz Exynos Octa 7580, Screen Size: 4.7in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 13 megapixels, Storage: 16GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 135x65x7.3mm, Weight: 132g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
12. Vodafone Smart Prime 7
Most handsets under £100 are pretty awful, but the £75 Vodafone Smart Prime 7 shows other cut-price smartphones how it's done. While the 2nd Gen Moto E is still my favourite current sub-£100 smartphone, the Smart Prime 7 comes a very close second. It not only looks great, but its 5in, 1280x720 display is arguably even better than the slightly more upmarket 3rd Gen Moto G. It's not the faster smartphone in the world, but it's still got plenty of oomph for everyday tasks.
It's also a good pick if you're buying this as someone's very first smartphone, too. It not only has a great optional tutorial available, but its various Vodafone apps are also extremely useful for looking after your bill and data allowance. You can even set it up to receive calls and texts in a web browser, which is great news if you happen to have particularly poor signal where you live. Just don't buy it on contract, as you can get the same entry-level 250MB data deal for almost half the price if you opt for one of Vodafone's SIM-only plans instead. For more information, see our full Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review
Price when reviewed: £75 (PAYG). Buy the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 now from Vodafone
Processor: Quad-core 1.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 8 megapixels, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 144x72x7.9mm, Weight: 128g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1
13. Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen, 2015)
If you're looking for extremely low-cost Android phone that you can buy outright, the 2015 edition of the Motorola Moto E should be top of your list. Available for just £109, it's extremely good value. Its 960x540 screen is a little low-res, but its quality is very good. Performance is also respectable, and its battery life of 13h 30m in our video playback test is also extremely good for a budget handset. It even runs the latest version of Android, Lollipop. For more information, see our full Motorola Moto E (2015) review
Price when reviewed: £109 SIM-free. Buy Now from Amazon
Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410,Screen Size: 4.5in, Screen resolution: 960x540, Rear camera: 5 megapixels, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G,Size: 130x67x12.3mm, Weight: 145g, Operating system: Android 5.0.2
14. Vodafone Smart Speed 6
Motorola's budget phones are excellent, but for those that don't want to pay £90 for the 2nd Gen Moto E (listed below), the £50 Vodafone Smart Speed 6 is a truly excellent alternative. You'll need to join Vodafone to get one, as it's only available on Pay as You Go, but if that doesn't bother you, then this compact smartphone is easily the best in its price range. It's just as fast as the Moto E, has great battery life, and runs stock Android, too, making it very simple and easy to use. For more information, see our full Vodafone Smart Speed 6 review
Price when reviewed: £50 PAYG. Buy the Vodafone Smart Speed 6 now from Vodafone
Processor: Quad-core 1.0GHz MediaTek MT6735M Screen Size: 4.5in, Screen resolution: 854x480, Rear camera: 5 megapixels, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 132x65x9.9mm, Weight: 146g, Operating system: Android 5.1