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...



2. TheOldOne

Posts: 196; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

I remember, back in the day, when internet browsers had no ability to play movies at all (there was no .flv at that time). But, in their rudimentary way, they played animated gifs. Fast forward 20 years into the future, and we have discovered the "Live Photos"... are you kidding me?!

43. Acer_Predator unregistered

Why Parena apple AGAIN must be your first?? money ? apple told you to do so? Really don't understand..

46. Gavst3r unregistered

It's alphabetical. Get off your Apple hating train. Just for one stop.

56. Rafishant

Posts: 396; Member since: Oct 13, 2015

Nokia corporation was the first to come with this live images feature in 2012, but PA didn't like it that time.

3. wando77

Posts: 1168; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

How is live photo any different to a gif?

8. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

its different because its apple.. live photo > gif retinaHD > QHD iPad pro > surface pro iPencil > sPen lol

24. rihel_95

Posts: 305; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

Remember HTC's Zoe? Apple now dominating with Live Photos. Remember Moto's Fingerprint? Apple now dominating with Touch ID. I am not blaming for copying, coz copying is done by every other company now a days. But, Apple surely knows how to MARKET a product!

29. Xperia14

Posts: 1208; Member since: Sep 01, 2015

Xperia has some more ufesul features like timeshift burst, but PA doesn't want to write about that.

49. surfboarder

Posts: 168; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

Don't know why?? But sold my V3 D6616 on eBay for 400 bucks a year later, can't be that bad, it was a nice slim sharp looking device for sure!!

40. ZeroCide

Posts: 813; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

Yes they are one of the best MARKETING companies in the world. There are defiantly better phones out there than the iStuff that they sell. The can just Market it better than anyone. iCopy machine

19. Shubham412302

Posts: 578; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

MY old nokia device supported gifs as walpapers

27. shadez10

Posts: 427; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

My old nokia even uses flash as wallpaper... :)

44. Kakarot

Posts: 57; Member since: Jul 31, 2015

That was a great feature. Gif and flash. I used to keep a moving car gif from nfs most wanted or Goku charging up and many of my friends used to be in awe!

23. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

it's not much different however, Every picture you take you get a small gif and great photo. When using my phone i have to pick a setting and live without the other. When i am taking a gif, the picture loses detail because it's recording so a picture from it isn't really going look good. While i am just taking a picture, i might miss something cool example i was at the museum a few weeks ago and my kid was in this underwater glass display with fish and turtle. He kissed the glass while the turtle headbutted the glass at the sometime. Sadly i got the aftermath in a picture and missed a great moment to capture

41. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Lumia brand wouldn't have missed that. You can also modify and screen capture the video before the pic. Did just that, my friend took a pic but moved the camera for a blurry result. with live photos on my Lumia, opened the video, paused on the part that was great, screen capture and done.

4. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

3D Touch is far more sensible than Live Photos.

5. murtazarzv

Posts: 14; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Most loveable is samsung..everything is perfect

6. AlikMalix unregistered

Live Photos? that's what you Love about iPhones? Really?

7. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

This is ridiculous.

50. surfboarder

Posts: 168; Member since: Nov 17, 2015

I'm sure in the coming months all devices will have Live Photos

9. ihearlivepplz

Posts: 80; Member since: Jul 06, 2015

So the feature you liked about Apple was the one that first launched on Nokia Lumia (living images) ? Nicee :)

11. adityabnrj

Posts: 20; Member since: Nov 16, 2015

agreed...!! lumia cinemagraphy was the first to showcase live photos capabilities!!!

52. LittleMan

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 19, 2015

Welcome to Phone Arena. Another iFanboy. Also, don't forget the HTC Zoe. Shame on Phone Arena.

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.

32. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

You complain about EVERYTHING. You seriously need to go outside more.

12. combatmedic870

Posts: 984; 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

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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