Here's the one thing we loved about each major manufacturer in 2015

While longtime phone aficionados might argue that the mobile industry has grown stale — and we don't entirely blame them — it is also true that, every year, we see stuff come out from manufacturers' labs that we just love. No, it doesn't have to be a breathtaking new technology hitherto unseen. It doesn't even have to be a hundred percent practical. It just has to manage the nearly impossible task of putting a smile on the face of people that hang around with the latest and greatest for a living, and are, therefore, hard to surprise and intrigue.

So we sat back and thought about the things we loved in 2015, and then cut the lists for each (major) manufacturer down to just one. We'll repeat ourselves here, and mention again that our pick is, by nature, a subjective one. You might disagree. And that's okay — you're invited to share your own list and join the discussion.

Without further ado, let's get this started alphabetically.


Live Photos

We'll be the first to admit that when it came to Apple, we had a hard time picking just one new feature that we truly loved. Obviously, 3D Touch is an intriguing new concept, but it'll be a while before we know for sure if it's truly meaningful to us, and the display flash for selfies just doesn't come in handy that often. But Live Photos? Against reason, we happen to really like this new feature.

For those of you who don't know, Live Photos is on by default on your new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and works with both the front and back cameras. What it does is record a second-and-a-half worth of video (really, just frames) before and after you take a photo, stitching together an almost inexplicably compelling short clip that provides you with a lot more context. But really, we just love the goofy faces people make right before they pose for an image. And thanks to third-party apps, you can easily turn these into GIFs and share (read: make fun of) your friends.

If you have one of the new iPhones, we suggest you keep this one on for at least a month or until you've got over 100 photos taken. If you still haven't snapped a hilarious Live Photo by then, your life is boring then feel free to turn it off.


For letting go

We're sure we're bound to get some flak for this one, but with BlackBerry we have no one particular feature that made us fall in love. Instead, we thought that the company's courage to finally try something extreme — like adopting Android with the PRIV — deserves a nod of approval.

Now, we're well aware that for many BlackBerry faithfuls, BB OS is where it's at, and we should heap more praise on it. But the real world isn't fair, and in the real world BB OS is unlikely to ever reach the heights of its past. For better or worse, we now live in a two-platform world, so finally just pulling the trigger and trying with Android is something we welcomed from BlackBerry. And you know what? For a first try, it wasn't half bad. Not at all, actually. Let's just hope that the Canadian maker will keep it together long enough to iron out the imperfections of the PRIV and truly shake the market next year.


Nexus 6P's camera

Google's Nexus line of evangelist devices is still going strong some six years later, and this year was particularly productive with two new Nexi (Nexuses?). And though the Nexus 5X is a very decent all-rounder, we ended up liking the much larger, 5.7-inch Nexus 6P even more. And in particular? Its amazing camera!

In fact, in case you haven't checked it out yet, you should take a look through our very in-depth camera comparison featuring the Nexus 6P, where it landed on the top. Granted, it shares the first spot with other heavy-hitters, but if you've been keeping tabs on the Nexus line, you'll know that the camera has consistently been the weakest link in Google's value proposition. Not so this time around, and without even optical stabilization to speak of! 


Sense 7

Like BlackBerry, Taiwanese HTC also had a pretty rough year, with its stock nosediving brutally. In many ways, it's been a very confusing year for HTC, what with a score of high-end, One M9-like devices being released as part of an ever more ambiguous product line. One'd think that everything would go to hell in such a challenging situation, but HTC proved remarkably level-headed when it came to the Sense software it traditionally packs into its Android devices.

Obviously, preferences in this area are heavily influenced by everybody's taste and needs, but we generally tend to put HTC's Sense 7 skin at the top of the food chain because it doesn't throw a heap of cheap tricks at the wall, hoping that at least some of them will stick, which is more than we can say of others. As importantly, Sense continues to strike us as the grown-up in the room, with a stylish, coherent UI design that doesn't scream "I'm a nerd!". That's quite the achievement in itself.


Bringing sexy back

LG has been remarkably resistant to change as far as the used materials with even its highest of high-ends. Thankfully, 2015 finally marked a switch in strategy: First, with the G4 and its stylish (if unpractical) vegetable-tanned leather back, and just recently with the V10 and its stainless steel "Dura Guard" frame. Yes, LG isn't quite there yet in relation to other major manufacturers, but we sure hope that 2015 will prove a turning point when looking back some years from now.

Fully metal? Metal-on-glass sandwich? Or something completely new? What's your money on for LG's G5?


Display Dock

Microsoft was pretty quiet for the most of 2015, probably being busy writing off the Nokia investment and preparing for Windows 10. Up until the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL were announced at the beginning of October, it had been a year and a half since we last saw an update to the flagship Windows Phone line.

As we now know, our patience paid off. Or so we're hoping — we haven't actually had the opportunity to review the two new high-ends, though that time is near. For whatever it's worth, we're currently most interested in checking out the Display Dock hub that will supposedly get us one step closer to complete convergence. With it, you can hook up your Lumia 950 or 950 XL to a computer monitor and run Windows 10 at 1080p and 60FPS. That's pretty impressive, especially considering that your 950/950 XL will continue working normally.



Motorola often strikes us as one of the more sensible, and quite practical, makers competing on the market right now. From near stock-like Android overlays that are quick to be brought up to speed, down to the large (if not always as efficient) cells it packs into its phones, the now Lenovo-owned subsidiary likes to remind us that it's looking to solve the really tough problems.

And just two and a half weeks ago, it solved a pretty big one: shattered screens. That's right, thanks to its multi-layered Moto ShatterShield display stack, the display is guaranteed not to crack even if you drop it face on. In fact, Motorola is so sure of its solution that it offers a four-year guarantee on the screen. That's reassuring enough for us, and a good reason to really like Moto right now.


Bold new design

While we commend LG for its efforts to deliver high-ends with a premium spin to them, at the same time Samsung wasn't at all playing and delivered a thoroughly redesigned flagship vision. Both the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, and their derivatives — the Note 5 and S6 edge+ — are a fundamental departure from the design language of old. Instead of plastic (or metal on the sides at best) we now have very stylish-looking, glass-on-metal Samsung high-ends, all of which we like much better than their predecessors.

Of course, on the road to more compelling design, Samsung did make certain concessions, the most noteworthy being the removal of the microSD card slot and the barring of users from accessing the battery.

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Hybrid Autofocus

While the 23-megapixel rear camera on the Xperia Z5 didn't exactly impress us, we can't deny Sony's achievement with its lightning-fast Hybrid Autofocus system. 

To be fair, Sony boasted that it can focus in as little as 0.03 seconds (which really means instantly), while Strategy Anayltics — the company Sony regularly hires to verify its claims — noted a 0.2 second average for the Xperia Z5, but we still can't complain. In our time with the flagship, its focus times really were incredibly low. And we love it for that. Now, if only Sony would move away from its current camera software and start over...



47. surfboarder

Posts: 168; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

I like my note 5 but the bb priv looks impressive!! Glad to see bb back on the map!! Great job bb been a while

45. gazmatic

Posts: 822; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

I literally lol'd at live photos.. hahaha

34. TBomb

Posts: 1753; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

If LivePhotos is the favorite part of Apple for 2015.... It's a flippin' video for cryin' out loud. All a video is is a bunch of pictures strung together fast enough we don't notice the changes... Live Photos is just a couple of pictures strung together slow enough so we do notice the changes.

35. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

The great thing about Live Photo is that it's just there whenever you take a shot, with essentially no drawback worth speaking of. If you actually had used it, you might think otherwise. It's extremely cool and all kinds of fun to troll people with.

37. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

I've used it and it's lame as hell. I couldn't imagine it ever being cool short of you getting some really funny moment that makes it like a gif. Otherwise, like he said, it's a very short movie with no sound.

54. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Ah, so you haven't actually tried it out, because you'd know it does have sound! And I already have a dozen or so hilarious GIFs by doing nothing other than taking images I would normally take. Anyways, it's a subjective pick, you're free to disagree. :)

38. TBomb

Posts: 1753; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Very true. I have never used it. Maybe you can shed some light on it because I don't get the purpose of it. I am also confused on what you mean by "it's just there whenever you take a shot, with essentially no drawback worth speaking of."

55. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Basically, it's like a setting with an on/off switch within the camera. When it's on, every time you take a photo, the camera will record about 1.5 seconds before and after the shot, and then stitch it together to give you more context. By "essentially no drawback worth speaking of", I mean that it takes more space on the drive. Whatever Apple's idea was here, it worked out great, as I constantly end up with hilarious Live Photos that I then just export with a third-party app to share with friends and proceed to make fun of.

39. true1984

Posts: 871; Member since: May 23, 2012

i liked it better when it was called htc zoe...

48. surfboarder

Posts: 168; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

I gave up on Apple no affence Chris but I'm glad to see the bb priv and bb back in force, my 6s plus was a nightmare but did take great photos and videos it's just the iOS 9 I'm not excited about, but it's all preference right!! Just got my LG V10 that's the bomb and removable battery again is nice!!

53. iusshpandeh

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

Oh! If it was really such ground breaking tech, why didn't you guys buzzed about it when it first came on HTC and then was perfected on Lumia with Cinemagraph and Living images?

57. surfboarder

Posts: 168; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

Not much for htc and camera quality sucks ... My opinion LG, Samsung, Apple are best from hands on experience

31. ThePython

Posts: 902; Member since: May 08, 2013

"Chinese companies: Nothing, we hate them all."

28. iusshpandeh

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

Live Photos is GIF that is "Made For iSheeps"

26. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

More like... Every other OEM: one thing Apple: everything

21. SonyOwner unregistered

Really? You really need to address that you are not impressed with the Z5 camera? How poor you are? I mean do you need some donor of neurons Chris P? Give us a live camera comparison by your iphone since apple is your patron. Post it on youtube. I dont want the cut version or the edited one. I cant believe that you eat with the money that apple and samsung pay for you.

33. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Sony once again failed with the algorithms on the Z5... And before someone says look at DxO, I've seem samples and used the phone. Better, but not the best.

36. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

Stop crying and fist yourself.

51. surfboarder

Posts: 168; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

My friends Z3 takes great pics n videos too, t mobile no Z5 yet ??

17. Phonedingo

Posts: 399; Member since: Aug 16, 2014

Looks like a fan girl wrote this.

15. chenski

Posts: 792; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Still waiting for that one phone to rule them all...

14. iphonexus

Posts: 130; Member since: Jan 04, 2015

Are u joking pa most loveable feature of iphone is 3d touch most new way to interact nd imo most loveable nd most innovative company is sammy ...

12. combatmedic870

Posts: 987; Member since: Sep 02, 2015

It's Nexii Btw Google just push a chrome update that fixed force closure with the iPhone! Had to to with third party keyboards. Haven't had a force close since the update!!!

20. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

And PA hasn't report the google chrome exploit that leaves all chrome android vunerable to complete control of the phone

42. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Thanks for the link, I couldn't find it in search

10. Kumar123 unregistered

I thought LG's back is the most hideous looking back on the smartphone of 2015. It looks really ugly to me. To me LG G4 is the ugliest looking smartphone of 2015.

13. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

I think the leather back added class to the package. But I agree, overall it wasn't the prettiest thing on the market. Anyway, the pick, as noted, is subjective. It's okay to disagree. You can use the opportunity to let us know what you'd pick instead.

16. Kumar123 unregistered

Leather is not the problem the problem is how the leather look on LG G4. The stitch in the middle is unsightly and its the stitch that makes the phone looks ugly. I saw moto's devices with leather back, they look pretty to me. The best thing I like about LG G4 is their camera app. I think they have the most comprehensive camera app in all android ecosystem.


Posts: 68; Member since: Feb 16, 2015

Not ugly but after a few months of useing the phone, the leather back gets so worn out. Then you have to replace the back cover.

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