It is the very end of the year, and while we’re in the mood for celebrations and joy, we’ll have to get somewhat nostalgic right now, because we need to look back at 2016 and name our favorite products. Across a number of categories, it was actually surprisingly easy for the team to converge around a very reasonable selection of devices that we think deserve to win an award for being on top of their game this whole year.
The categories we’ll hand out awards in are the following: Value for money, Best wearable, Best tablet, Biggest flops and disappointments (anti-award), and Best smartphone.
Best value-for-money smartphones of 2016
In this cutthroat market, it's not that hard to find some great propositions that don't compromise much in specs, but come at very reasonable costs. The phones in this category don't necessarily have the best camera, or display, or processor, but they sure are exceptional at being affordable yet powerful and full-featured. If you're looking for a great bargain in smartphone land, look no further.
Starting at $439, the OnePlus 3T is once again an offer hard to refuse. The phone doesn't have any worrisome issues, and it comes with superb, non-compromising tech such as latest and greatest Snapdragon processor, generous amounts of memory, a surprisingly capable camera and even fast charging! What's not to like? Even though OnePlus' motto is "Never Settle", it'd be really hard to fault you, should you decide to settle on this one.
Moto Z Play Droid
Unlike the OnePlus 3T, the Moto Z Play's hardware is what you'd actually expect from a mid-range handset, but hear this: the Z Play is remarkable in two very big ways. First, it has a spectacular battery life (almost 14 hours on our battery test!
), and second, it's compatible with Moto Mods. Sold separately, these snap-on attachments can quickly alter the looks of your phone to suit your mood, or add new functionality like a powerful speaker, or a bigger battery, or even a portable projector!
Best wearables of 2016
What happened in the world of smart wearables this year? Well, even though the category is having some trouble truly taking off, there was still quite a bit to be seen in 2016. In the gallery below, you can explore our top picks both for smartwatches and fitness bands.
1. Samsung Gear S3
After the breakthrough that the Gear S2 was, we were expecting a strong successor this year, and even though the Gear S3 didn't end up being as revolutionary as its predecessor, it's still easily one of the very best smartwatches you can buy right now. There are two Gear S3 models, classic and frontier, which both look quite convincing, although decidedly masculine, if we have to be honest. Aside from this drawback, however, both models offer great features like bright displays, water resistance, standard 22mm bands, and Samsung Pay.REVIEW
2. Apple Watch Series 2
The other smartwatch worth looking at from 2016 is Apple's Watch Series 2 – the logical continuation of last year's model. The Series 2 is fast, functional and, if you can afford to spend a small fortune, may even look good on your wrist, provided you go for one of the snazzier finishes and a stylish band.REVIEW
3. Misfit Ray
The arguably less exciting but more widespread category of fitness bands saw some very cool new propositions as well. The Misfit Ray is easily the stylish fitness band to beat right now, not least because it offers incredible 6-month battery life, as well as an assortment of band styles and colors.
4. Fitbit Charge 2
For the fitness buffs out there, though, we reckon something even more specialized may be desired, and in this case, we can highlight the Fitbit Charge 2 – a band that you'll need to charge much more often, but also one that's richer in fitness features, including a built-in heart-rate meter.
5. Withings Activite Steel
Hybrid watches are slowly but surely becoming a thing. Coupling real watch design with essential fitness tracking features, these watches routinely offer superb battery life (think months and months), classy aesthetics and all the fitness functionality that most people would need, like step and calorie counting, as well as sleep and exercise tracking. In this category, we want to highlight the Withings Activite Steel for being a great looking hybrid watch at an affordable price (starts at $150).
Best tablet of 2016
Nope, tablets are far from dead, but as you know, they aren't the most exciting market either these days. Still, we managed to track down two suitable candidates for an award, which honestly wasn't that hard, considering they were the most obvious choices.
Apple iPad Pro 9.7
Taking all that was great about the big iPad Pro and squeezing it into a 9.7" form factor probably wasn't an easy task, but Apple managed to do just that. As a result, we now have a powerful and
portable tablet that has a breathtaking screen, incredible performance and is compatible with the Apple Pencil.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
The Galaxy TabPro S by Samsung is another "pro" tablet, but this one is much closer to being a real workhorse, considering it has a humongous 12" display, laptop-class Core M processor and runs full-blown Windows 10. The best part is the TabPro S comes with a full keyboard accessory that also has a trackpad built-in: a complete package for working on the go!
Biggest disappointments of 2016
There is, of course, a difference between a flop and a disappointment, but either way, it's used to denote a device that we generally ended up being unhappy with, for one reason or another. Let's see who the winners of our anti-award are this time!
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Surprise, surprise. Samsung's juggernaut crashed and burned, right after scoring some quite favorable reviews from tech critics. While we still don't know the exact reason why the Galaxy Note 7 was prone to go off, rumors have already painted the picture of an overly ambitious Samsung who just wanted to seize every opportunity and stuff every possible feature and technology inside this Note. It was a great effort, indeed, but unfortunately, it ended up in a tragic way for the company. Let's hope Samsung is going to learn its lessons are surprise us pleasantly in 2017.
Super Mario Run
Just a couple of weeks ago came a game many of us looked forward to, but ended up seriously disappointed by. Even though we should have seen it coming, it still felt bad as we tap-tap-tapped our way through Super Mario Run with just a single finger and knowing that it could have been something much bigger and more meaningful. Oh well, it wasn't much of a game, but maybe that's just what Nintendo wanted it to be – a noise-maker whose main purpose was to directed some attention back to the Japanese company.
Best smartphones of 2016
And here we are, at our most valuable and momentous award. Three phones! That's all we're going to feature here, but boy are they the cream of the crop. By a huge margin, these handsets managed to outplay the competition and provide users with the best of the best user experiences. You probably have a feeling which models these are, but let's see if you guesses are correct.
1. Apple iPhone 7
Talk about the best example of refinement in smartphones and you need to look no further than the iPhone 7 (and 7 Plus). Trying to not be too distracted with side projects, Apple's focus remains super-sharp and directed at improving its most popular and successful product further and further. While the iPhone 6s brought a bunch of cool new tricks like 3D Touch and Live Photos, the iPhone 7 upgrades the core aspects of the experience, like the display quality, camera, and system performance. It also brings stereo speakers and water resistance, making for an amazing overall package.SPECS
2. Google Pixel
Google's Pixel and Pixel XL phones were among the biggest surprises in 2016, and good ones at that. Almost everyone from the team immediately liked them for their fast and fluid performance, as well as great all around capabilities. The aesthetics may still be a little rough around the edges, but for a first try, Google's Pixel smartphones do surprisingly well.SPECS
3. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
The Note 7 may be the disappointment of the year, but the Galaxy S7 edge was one of the finest smartphones money could buy in 2016. Many would actually say that this is the Android phone to buy right now, and it'd be hard to disagree: with a wonderful styling, cutting edge performance and an extensive list of features and goodies, this is a great phone for both normal consumers and tinkerers alike.SPECS