These are the best smartphones we reviewed in the first half of 2016

These are the best smartphones we reviewed in the first half of 2016
While the likes of Samsung and Apple didn't disappoint in 2015, it's probably fair to dub last year as rather underwhelming in terms of the smartphones makers came up with. The reasons for that ranged from poor battery, through problematic performance, down to simply uninspired design and decision making. In comparison, we tend to feel much better about our choices this year.

Some 30 or so smartphones have come and gone through our offices since the beginning of the year, and those we've pitted against each other a dozen times to determine how they compare deathmatch style. For the curious at heart, here are our best picks of the first half of 2016, in ascending order:


A 9.4 out of 10 for the LG G2. A 9.2 out of 10 for the LG G3. A 9 out of 10 for the LG G4. And an 8.3 out of 10 for the LG G5. Notice the trend?

We've always liked LG's work, that much is made obvious by the above summary going back to the truly excellent LG G2. But ever since then, LG's been increasingly pressured by ever improving competitors, not to mention errors on its part. For example, in the rush to a Quad HD display, LG released the G3 with an otherwise great processor that was simply not powerful enough to drive as many pixels. The G4 improved upon that, and the G5 is even better, but despite its semi-modularity, we just couldn't rate it as highly as competing solutions.

Samsung Galaxy S7 active

For years now, Samsung has been releasing bulky, rubberized versions of its flagship Galaxy S line, lately as an AT&T exclusive. 2016 and the Galaxy S7 series were no exception.

Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S7 active is all that the Galaxy S7 is, but much tougher and better lasting. But this year, it's less of a 'rugged' upgrade, as the standard S7 and S7 edge are both dust-tight and water-proof (formerly a great pro of the 'active' line), and this rugged beast comes at a $100 premium over the standard model. Throw in the continuing, but unfortunate AT&T exclusivity, and we just couldn't rate it as highly as we did the Galaxy S6 Active from last year.

OnePlus 3

Up to its third flagship since its conception, OnePlus has, unlike last year, delivered. The OnePlus 3 is not only affordable (despite being more expensive than ever before), but actually delivers in most key areas. Sure, the display is concerning (but supposedly being taken care of through a future update) and battery life is underwhelming, but considering you're otherwise getting flagship-level hardware—and as importantly, performance—for a fraction of what you'd be paying otherwise, this is one deal worth your consideration.

Best of all? Invites are no more!

Apple iPhone SE

For the longest time, Apple held onto a philosophy of designing smartphones that one could utilize single-handedly without straining himself. But eventually, market pressure became too great, and Apple had to adapt, releasing a larger 'smaller' iPhone 6 (and 6s), alongside the giant iPhone 6 and 6s Plus. Not one to give up on its loyal customers who preferred the smaller footprint of its older devices, however, Apple eventually bent again and released the 4-inch iPhone SE.

On the inside, the iPhone SE is a no-compromise device, mimicking the spec sheet of the powerful iPhone 6s with a few exceptions. On the outside, however, it comes in a very familiar package—that of the iPhone 5/5s. That, more than anything, is what weighed heavily into our final score. Still excellent, sure, but we would've appreciated it if Apple didn't re-use its old design.

HTC 10

It's been a while since HTC last had a winner on its hands, and it needed one badly, what with its stock prices reaching record lows in 2015. Thankfully, the HTC 10 proved the break the Android pioneer hoped for, and we rank it among the very best of the first half of 2016.

With the 10, HTC did something we've been hoping for for a while now: great execution of the oft-overlooked basic building blocks of a smartphone, with little to no attempts to woo us with 'extra features' that, more often than not, turn out to be silly and inconsequential gimmicks, not to mention distractions from what's important. The HTC 10 is rock solid because it skips over just that.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

If anyone still had any doubt about Samsung's lasting investment in its 'edge' line of devices, the Galaxy S7 edge ought to have put those worries to rest. Unlike last year, however, instead of splitting its edge line into two with the Galaxy S6 edge and S7 edge+, the company this around has opted for the latter, with the S7 edge sporting a large, 5.5-inch display that curves to the sides.

Further setting the S7 edge apart from the standard S7 is the larger battery, which ensures better battery life, not to mention that Samsung has further added value to the edge screen through a new, more useful UI for it. This makes the $100 premium on top of the cost of the S7 more stomachable. 

Samsung Galaxy S7

Whatever Samsung's shortcomings as far as smartphones go, at the very least you could never complain that the South Korean giant is being complacent, and the Galaxy S7 proves that yet again. In comparison with its predecessor, the S7 offers water resistance, a better fingerprint scanner, larger battery, and an incredible camera. Performance, too, is better than ever overall.



1. LeSerpentVincent

Posts: 66; Member since: May 30, 2016

iPHONE SE the only legit phone period!! Haters gonna hate!!

2. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

French name with Brits flag avatar... I will never understand the beauty of democracy smh

11. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

He's a Chinese.

15. Kumar123 unregistered

LeSerpentVincent and HugoBarraCyanogenmod is the same person. He is so lonely that he creates multiple accounts to talk to himself and upvote his own comment. LOL.

5. maple_mak

Posts: 953; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

Oh really? Does everyone like small screen? You're outdated.

13. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

But it's a "glamorous" screen. lol

12. sissy246

Posts: 7120; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

LOL What ever You mean the iphone 5s+

19. jellmoo

Posts: 2599; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

What does that even mean? The only legit phone? The other devices aren't phones? What are they? Alligators? Bananas?

22. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Bananas! They're definitely bananas!

23. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

.... and by "They're", I'm referencing the individuals who claim that the iPhone is the only legit phone. lol

25. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

"We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant." -Larry Page. This year the majority of Apple's big announcements for iOS 10 were for features that have been common place on Android for some time now or simply updates to various stock Apps, and a majority of those announcements were for their messenger app. I cannot in good judgment even call the iPhone a "smart" phone because it's always behind the curve with what is being done on competing platforms. The original iPhone was such a success because it had dared to do what no one else had ever done.... somewhere down the road, Apple lost that.

33. QWERTYphone

Posts: 654; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

PhoneArena has become a pathetic joke with no credibility. The LG G5 is the best phone of 2016, and the only phone for intelligent professionals who can think for themselves.

34. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

LOL, didn't your account get restricted for a week because you were posting stupid stuff? I see you still haven't learned your lesson.

3. lamseunyau

Posts: 38; Member since: Apr 27, 2015

Wow the HTC 10 Review is almost at 10/10.

4. Bankz

Posts: 2548; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Its funny how the htc 10 has the highest user rating when its not even close to being the best phone. It has nothing on the gs7 and S7E tbh.. I don't even see how its better than the op3 and the moto z will probably eat it alive when it comes out (if not for their useless launch strategy) This just shows that most people (including me) are just too emotionally attached to htc.. Its great no doubt with probably one of the best industrial designs, capable camera and a fantastic audio experience, but then again, thats a pretty low bar to set in the growingly stale smartphone world these days.. The 10 is just another run of the mill basic highend flagship, nothing special.

18. Schmao

Posts: 365; Member since: Jul 05, 2009

You say it has nothing on the gs7, but you mentioned the audio which is better on the 10. I also think the 10 feels more durable and I like the design better. The gs7 is water proof and has a better camera. Seems pretty even to me.

20. jellmoo

Posts: 2599; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Explain. How is it not even close to the S7 and S7edge? I have an S7edge, which is a great phone, but it isn't some sort of miracle machine that completely demolishes the HTC 10.

32. latestone

Posts: 7; Member since: Feb 02, 2016

Owning both phones I love them both equally but.. I just can't go back to my S7 Edge. I tried using it all day and having to fight with volume levels and being so accustomed to the zippiness of the 10 (even with animations set to zero) TouchWiz is just a cluttered mess compared to Sense 8. It's just such a beautiful phone (not to take from the 10 being nice as well) and AMOLED is just so nice... but the software.. now I can see what pure Android enthusiasts hate about Touchwiz.

24. Loveneesh

Posts: 439; Member since: Jul 14, 2015

HTC 10 is not better than OP3!!!! can you tell us how GS7 is better than OP3!!!!

28. Bankz

Posts: 2548; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

The gs7 has a miles better screen, miles better camera, better battery life, miles better build quality, dual window, SD slot, waterproof, should I go on?

6. latestone

Posts: 7; Member since: Feb 02, 2016

Yes i would say the best in this quarter is iPhone SE and not all samsung phones I can support but the one that is samsung s7 edge is more of robust features, and with budget phones MI note 3 will best among this 2016. Nice article with good stuff.

7. AlirezaMatrian1

Posts: 12; Member since: Jun 24, 2016

i think oneplus was a true winner this year...

14. Scott93274

Posts: 6038; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

Personally I'd take last year's Nexus 6P over any phone released thus far this year.

27. justrt

Posts: 446; Member since: Jul 10, 2014

That's what I did. Anyway, I think the HTC 10 is decent.

8. Bankz

Posts: 2548; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Notice the backward trend LG has been taking since the G2.. WHAT A FALL!! They always like to rush features to have bragging rights for being the first to do 'x' or 'y' and end up with half baked and almost unusable features everywhere.. They rushed QHD with the G3 and ended up being a worse than Fhd screens. Even over working the battery and processor along with it. Probably the worse QHd screen I've ever seeing tbh.. They rushed out modularity with the G5 and ended up being bitch slapped, destroyed, and choke slammed by the Moto Z, after being made a laughing stock by their terrible implementation They rushed out an always on display on a freaking LCD screen that ended up being unusable (both LG's and samsungs are both useless, I know). I mean, What were they thinking? Couldn't they have taken a leaf from Motorola at least? They also rushed out a UX without an app drawer and ended up as douche bags thinking google were going in that direction so as to be the first major flagship to ship without it. And what happened? They ended up laughing stocks as per usual.. Let's not even mention bad decisions everywhere from bad build quality to aweful software to crappy displays to undercooked modularity among boot loop issues etc LG, such a knock job.. I don't think they will ever leave samsungs shadow at this rate. Now the G5 is probably the worse flagship out right now (ok, except the xperia x performance off course)

10. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

I agree with you, I reckon the SE is better value.

16. sgodsell

Posts: 7383; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The SE is a tiny phone, and it doesn't even come with a HD display. The LG G5 at least comes with a Quad HD display. It has 32 gb of storage which is expandable. Not to mention you get 100gb of free Google drive storage for 2 years which is worth $50. You also get the latest SD 820 SoC with 4gb of ddr4 ram. A dual camera setup with OIS (16mp and a wide 8mp). There was no mention of the IR blaster or built in Universal remote. Plus there is hardly any mention of the G5's USB-C port that is really fast. It even supports a USB-C VR headset. All other USB-C devices support USB 2.0 speed. Yet the G5 supports USB 3.0 speed. I also like the camera grip module which comes with an extra 1200 mha battery.

17. sgodsell

Posts: 7383; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Also bankz went on about the app drawer being missing, but forgets to add that they also gave you an option to put it back if you want. Besides that, this is Android which allows users to install different launchers that can give you an app drawer or change up the UI.

9. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

what about best smartphone for mid-ranger and low-end? oh wait, all mid-ranger and low-end just trash this year, no one get score above 7.5/10

21. jellmoo

Posts: 2599; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I thought to myself that this couldn't be right, so I checked. For a mid-range device I had to go back to the Nexus 5X which has an 8.5. Between then and now pretty much nothing. That's kind of depressing.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.