So, you want to buy a new phone? If you're looking for the best smartphone of 2016, you've come to the right place. We will guide you through the hottest mobile phones of the year to save you time when you go to your local phone shop.
We continually update this best smartphones feature to reflect recent launches, recognise price changes, and ensure 2016's latest devices appear alongside the best of 2015 (and before, if applicable). All the listed devices have been fully reviewed by us.
Our best smartphones list covers all operating systems, all sizes, and prices, so you'll be armed with everything you need to consider when choosing to buy your next device.
Of course, the most important factor in buying a new device is making sure you have the best smartphone for you. The best for your budget, the features you need, the size that feels right and platform that suits you best.
Be sure to let us know what you think is the best smartphone in the comments below.
18. HTC One A9
The HTC One A9 might be best known for its closeness to the iPhone 6 in design, but there's a lot about this phone to love. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with a stripped down version of HTC Sense, resulting in a lovely overall experience, full of refinement.
The design is great, it feels lovely in the hand and surprisingly, the performance is very good for a handset that has mid-range hardware.
The AMOLED display is great and there's an improved camera that beats that of the M9, although it still struggles in low light conditions. There is also an excellent fingerprint scanner.
However, the HTC One A9 is expensive for a device at this level, priced over £400. You might get a premium body, but it's still a mid-ranger at heart and that's reflected in performance in some areas.
If you want something that's well built and a decent size, then it's definitely worth considering.
FULL REVIEW: HTC One A9 review
17. Honor 7
Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei, looking to shake things up with impressive specs paired up with competitive prices. What the Honor 7 really does is cram in a lot of the technology you'll find in the Huawei Mate S, also featured in this list. It doesn't have the premium sheen that the Mate S offers, but you do get a lot for your money.
At £250, you get a great 5.2-inch display, a good quality of build, a fingerprint scanner on the rear that's fast and packed with extra features, as well as a camera that's a good performer too.
Combine that with plenty of power and you're faced with a phone that offers plenty. The customisation of Android is a little heavy and is bettered with a little unpicking, but if you're looking to escape the mainstream familiarity that many devices offer, then Honor is worth a look.
Buy the Honor 7 to get performance at a budget price.
FULL REVIEW: Honor 7 review: Brilliance on a budget
16. Sony Xperia Z5
The Sony Xperia Z5 is a fully-fledged flagship update, wiping away the Xperia Z3+ that was released a few months previously as something of a stop gap.
The Xperia Z5 brings Sony up-to-date in terms of hardware, but really pushes changes in the camera, with a new 23-megapixel sensor. It's a good performer too, but is hampered by slow software, making the experience a little lacklustre.
There is plenty of power, as well as the water resistance that Sony is known for, although the design is pretty similar to the previous devices in the Xperia Z family and hasn't seen much change. By current standards, as a flagship, the design isn't quite as premium as you'll find elsewhere.
This is a handset packed full of tech, as well as plenty of customisation from Sony. But in a world where less is starting to feel like more, this update is overshadowed by more exciting rivals, with Sony's software being the biggest bugbear. That can be improved with app substitution, but as it is, the Z5 feels like it needs plenty of updating before it matches the upper echelons.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z5 review
15. BlackBerry Priv
BlackBerry returns to form with the Priv, its first Android handset. It's the first time for a long time that BlackBerry has been including in the list of best smartphones, but this is a serious handset worthy of serious consideration, whether you're a BlackBerry fan or an Android fan.
It is a slider handset with a huge 5.4-inch display, offering all the benefits of the latest Android devices, with a physical keyboard that BlackBerry users will find familiar.
It's blessed with BlackBerry Hub and a range of BlackBerry shortcuts and features lifted from BB handsets and reinvented for Android. The result is an innovative handset that offers some charming twists, like the pop-up widgets and battery charging indicator, which both show software nouse from BlackBerry.
It's not the fastest handset around, the camera isn't the best and it lacks a fingerprint scanner, while demanding top-draw prices for its wares at £559. However, BlackBerry continues to update the software, so some of those early complaints will likely be wiped out.
Choose the BlackBerry Priv because you want a physical keyboard and a device that's very apt at messaging.
FULL REVIEW: BlackBerry Priv review
14. Motorola Moto X Play
The Moto X has doubled up, offering two very different handsets in its latest guise. The Moto X Style is the bigger, more powerful and more expensive handset, leaving the Moto X Style to slip in at a lower price point, but also takes prize as the better handset.
The Moto X Play's attraction comes from the huge battery that Motorola has stuffed inside, meaning it offers some of the best endurance you'll find in an Android handset. Yes, this is the phone to pick if you want it to last not just through the day, but through the night and the following day too.
It's a mid-range handset, offering Motorola's Moto Maker customisation, but it isn't the most powerful handset around. That aids the stellar battery life, but it's easy to accuse the Moto X Play of not being hugely exciting, and it lacks a fingerprint scanner, which is the biggest negative. The camera isn't great in low light either, but is a step ahead of previous generation Moto cameras in normal conditions.
It's pretty much free of bloatware, however, so if you're after a clean Android experience, with Moto's customisation and great battery life, this could be the phone for you.
FULL REVIEW: Motorola Moto X Play review
13. Huawei Mate S
The Huawei Mate S is the best Huawei device we've seen so far, with a design and build that challenges the best devices out there.
There are some points on the spec sheet that will see the Mate S pale in comparison with flagship superphones however. There's a 5.5-inch display sitting at 1920 x 1080 pixels, hardly the sharpest around, but it has a trick up its sleeve - it's pressure sensitive on the top luxury model.
This brings some individuality to this device - you can remove the Android navigation buttons in favour of hard presses for example - but it doesn't go to the depths of innovation that Apple has with 3D Touch.
Even opting for the Mate S models that lack the pressure sensitive display gives you a great smartphone experience however. There's plenty of power, the option for microSD expansion, cameras that perform very well, and a battery that while lower in capacity than some, will get you through the day.
Huawei's EMUI software skin sitting over Android takes the shine off things in some areas, but with a tweak and a swap of stock apps, you'll have a very nice big screen experience that's a third cheaper than big brand rivals. You can expect to pay from £469.
FULL REVIEW: Huawei Mate S review
12. Nexus 5X
The cheaper of the two new Nexus devices, the Nexus 5X replaces the successful Nexus 5, presenting a device that's more affordable at £339. It takes some hits on the spec sheet compared to the Nexus 6P too, but that fits with the price point, slotting this device into a sub-flagship position.
The biggest change and differentiator from flagship devices is the build, with the LG-made device having a plastic body. It feels solid enough, but it's lacking the premium feel that many of the top devices offer.
There is, however, great performance from the unsullied Android 6.0 Marshmallow software that it launches with and although it's not the greatest machine for gaming or multimedia, as a daily communicator, this the Nexus 5X offers fuss-free efficiency.
There's an excellent fingerprint scanner on the rear that's lightning fast, as well as the latest USB Type-C connection on the bottom. This isn't the most powerful phone, but it has plenty to offer for the price.
FULL REVIEW: Nexus 5X review
11. LG G5
The LG G5 didn't just succeed the G4 flagship, it totally shook up the top-end phone market when it originally launched. The device offers a module-based design that allows for additional accessory units which can be added for new features and operation.
It's a flagship that splits the crowd though. If you ignore the modules and whether or not they will actually ever be used, LG's latest smartphone has some great stand out features.
The dual-camera is something special, the Quad HD screen looks the part, and with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB RAM and QuickCharge 3.0 to boot, there's all the power you could need.
The metal body looks and feels plastic though and although it's great there is a fingerprint on board for Android Pay, it's a little small and not as foolproof as some competitors despite its clever rear positioning. The LG G5 is there for innovation and point of difference, but it may not be the smartphone for everyone.
FULL REVIEW: LG G5 review
10. Huawei Mate 8
Huawei's handsets are getting stronger and stronger. Not only has brand awareness been boosted by the Nexus 6P, but sensible refinement has resulted in a recent batch of very usable handsets, a sub-premium prices. That's the case with the Mate 8, a 6-inch handset, a snip at £429.
But this isn't only about price, because you get a lot of phone for your money. The design reflects Huawei's skills we've seen in other devices, with a high quality metal body and an excellent fingerprint scanner on the rear, fused with internal hardware that delivers plenty of performance and some of the best battery life you'll find. This is a device for the power user, make no mistake.
It's not all perfect though. Huawei continues to do its own thing with EMUI and while there's a lot of functionality added, there's a general reworking of the style, swapping of apps that's a less useful than stock Android and other niggles that let the side down. The less is more mantra applies, and Huawei seem to be ignoring that.
Specs fans might be disappointed to find only a full HD display and at this size more pixels could be used to better effect, but then that's in some way reflected in the price. A great, big phone, and a great performer.
FULL REVIEW: Huawei Mate 8 review
9. Motorola Moto G4
Motorola is back again, this time with the fourth generation of the popular Moto G, which is aptly named the Moto G4.
It's bigger and bolder than the original, with a 5.5-inch display this time round, and it's a little more expensive too, starting at £169, but you still get a lot of bang for your buck.
The Moto G4 might load apps a little slower than the flagships on this list, but its octa-core processor and graphics are capable of handling most goes without stuttering and the battery life survives throughout the day.
The Moto G4 is yet again the king of the budget handsets and although there is the G4 Plus with its improved camera and fingerprint sensor sitting in the wings, the Moto G4 is a phone that can't be ignored.
FULL REVIEW: Motorola Moto G4 review
8. Apple iPhone 6S Plus
Apple's larger model has had a chance to find its feet, updated in the iPhone 6S Plus to mirror the updates brought to the regular iPhone 6S. That brings you the advantage of a 3D Touch display, with more methods of interaction, a faster Touch ID experience, backed by faster hardware.
If you're looking for a larger iPhone, then the 6S Plus is where you need to look. Some might say that by the time you reach 5.5-inches, the Full HD display isn't as sharp as some rivals. That's the case with the 6S too, but here there's the slight feeling that Apple isn't offering more features through that large display, as you might find in a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, for example.
You do get a new camera experience, however, and this model also sports optical image stabilisation, along with new 4K video capture and Live Photos, making for one of the slickest camera experiences around.
But in the process of updating the 6 Plus to the 6S Plus, this larger than life iPhone has piled on an extra 20g in weight. It's pushing the scales a little, and could be too weighty for some. It's also expensive at £619.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone 6S Plus review
7. Nexus 6P
The Nexus 6P was launched alongside the Nexus 5X, a premium counterpoint to its more affordable LG-built rival. The Nexus 6P is manufactured by Huawei, the first time this Chinese company has been involved with the Nexus programme. It's also the most accomplished Nexus handset to date and for many will be the default choice for Android superphone.
It has a full metal body and although the design perhaps doesn't challenge the interest in the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 edge, it's certainly something that will appeal to those looking for that premium sheen. Nexus is no longer just about affordability, now it's about desirability too.
There's plenty of power in this 5.5-inch device and a display that's full of detail and pop, dripping in vibrancy with deep inky blacks. The fingerprint scanner on the rear is incredibly fast too, and there's USB Type-C on the bottom for simple connection to your charger.
There's a camera that's capable of some great shots in all conditions, with the hardware outperforming the software in this instance. The HDR mode (auto) is a little slow, even if it gets great results.
This is a pure Android handset, debuting Android 6.0 Marshmallow and again makes a case for how consumer friendly this software is without all the additions you'll get elsewhere. Priced at £449, it undercuts most flagships. It might lack a few flourishes and additions, but it's a wonderful Android handset.
FULL REVIEW: Nexus 6P review
6. Apple iPhone SE
At first glance you might be tempted to say that the iPhone SE fails to bring anything new in the design stakes. That's true, this is a recycled design, but it's a high quality design, once the preserve of the top-tier iPhone. Glass meets metal in a device that's now carrying some retro charm, and still has plenty of fans.
Fulfilling the requirements of those looking for a smaller iPhone - and replacing the iPhone 5S - this iPhone is about as budget as Apple is going. Starting at £359, the iPhone SE punches into the mid-range or sub flagship tier of Android, but the only thing mid-range about this phone is the display size.
The iPhone SE has all the power of the iPhone 6S, giving you speed and power that smaller phones often fail to give you. That's what really brings the iPhone SE into contention: it might be a smaller handset, it might be an older design, but it's a full-bore iPhone experience.
That's pared with an excellent camera experience, offering the consistency you expect from Apple. The front camera is a little lacking, but the core experience is what matters here. With smaller smartphones not getting much love recently, the iPhone SE is a breath of fresh air.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone SE review
5. OnePlus 3
OnePlus has consistently pitched its devices as "flagship killers", offering great specs for a low price point. Its latest handset saw a slightly more subdued launch, but the OnePlus 3 is one of the best smartphones on the market this year, especially at its £309 price point.
As with its predecessors, the OnePlus 3 offers incredible value for money. It has many of the same features and specifications as smartphones twice its price and there is a lot to be said for that.
The all-metal finish of the third generation flagship killer is sleek and sturdy, making it feel like a genuinely premium device that is a far cry from the plastic-backed OnePlus devices that have come before it.
The display is fantastic too, even if it isn't Quad HD resolution like many of its competitors. The company may have shied away from the "flagship killer" branding this year, but the OnePlus 3 lays down the marker for what you can get for £300.
FULL REVIEW: OnePlus 3 review
4. HTC 10
The HTC 10 marks a return to form for HTC. Leaving no stone unturned, the HTC 10 addresses many of the criticisms of the HTC One M9, focusing on the things that matter in a smartphone, and ditching many of the distractions.
The HTC 10 is built to the high quality standard you expect from HTC, and it's executed with aplomb. But this isn't a showy handset, it's a handset that solid and serious, and that's a good thing.
There's an increase to 5.2-inches on the display, this time packing a Quad HD resolution, and power comes from the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, with 4GB of RAM. There's also microSD for storage expansion.
But the real interest will be in the camera. Taking no chances, there's a 12-megapixel rear camera with large pixels to absorb more light, along with optical image stabilisation. The front camera also offers OIS and autofocus, a rare thing indeed and giving great photos.
The result is power, performance, great design and camera performance, held together with fuss-free software that's slick, fast and free from bloat. The battery life isn't the best and the display could be better, but there's no doubting that BoomSound Hi-Fi is the best in the business.
FULL REVIEW: HTC 10 review
3. Apple iPhone 6S
The iPhone 6S takes a strong design and supercharges Apple's smartphone. The iPhone 6S might be an "incremental" model, with no changes to the exterior design, but under the skin there's a lot that's new in the iPhone 6S.
A natural starting point is the display. Although it isn't the highest resolution handset out there, Apple has introduced pressure sensitivity to the new iPhone and called it 3D Touch. It's not unique, but the depth to which Apple has empowered this new feature stands it aside. Being able to trigger alternative actions, peek into apps and then pop them open, changes navigation around the phone.
This is a more powerful handset than previously, so things are slicker and faster, but there's also been a refresh to the camera, the first update in a long time. A new 12-megapixel sensor powers proceedings, with new features, including 4K video capture. You can now take Live Photos, bringing movement to stills, as well as an improved selfie experience, with the display firing as a flash.
The result is an iPhone in which it looks like not much has changed, but in reality, it has. It's a better, faster, more engaging experience than it was the last time around. It is, however, still one of the most expensive smartphones around at £539, and although it offers a premium experience, some will see that the iPhone is behind the curve in some areas, such as display resolution.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone 6S review
2. Samsung Galaxy S7
Following a strong showing from the SGS6, some might have been surprised by how little changed in the Samsung Galaxy S7. Launched alongside a larger S7 edge model, the SGS7 takes what the SGS6 started and refines it. It tweaks the design slightly bringing better aesthetics, reducing the camera bump on the rear and adding curves to the back edges for a nicer feel. It's more natural and less slab like.
Visually, that's about the only difference you'll see, but the SGS7 brings with it a whole lot more. It adds IP68 protection against water and dust and importantly, it brings the microSD card back, so you have more storage options.
Internally there's plenty of power for a slick performance from the Exynos or Qualcomm chipset and 4GB of RAM, and a wonderfully vibrant Quad HD AMOLED display. The S7 edge is more impactful in the display, larger at 5.5-inches, but both offer plenty of punch.
There's a hugely wide range of functionality offered through Samsung's TouchWiz reworking of Andorid Marshmallow, and although this perhaps throws up more features than you'll ever use, the important point is that it's beautifully optimised, so it doesn't feel like it's ever slowing the phone down.
Pair that will improved batter performance and a camera that's consistent and dependable and you have the recipe for the most compelling smartphone on the market. The regular SGS7 is the smaller, with a 5.1-inch display, but is also cheaper at £569. However, the S7 edge is likely to be the more popular device, despite the £639 asking price.
This was the best handset of 2015 and it looks like a repeat performance in 2016.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S7 review
1. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Taking the top three places might be a little excessive for Samsung, but that's an indication of the triumph that the company's 2016 smartphones are. While the flat handset is certainly one of the most appealing devices out there, the S7 edge pips it and the larger Note 7 to the post, taking pole position as the most desirable handset around.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 fuses power with performance, offering a 5.5-inch display with a Quad HD resolution and plenty of punch, but differentiating itself with those curved edges. The edge functions may be little more than novelty, but from a design point of view, the SGS7 edge is unique and distinctive.
The increase in size over the smaller handset brings appeal. There's more space to play, but without this handset getting too large. The build quality now matches the best of the handsets out there and the addition of a microSD card slot makes this handset all the more practical.
But the bigger size also gives more space for battery, meaning that you'll get plenty of life out of this handset too. The software has a heavy Samsung TouchWiz treatment to it, but importantly, although offering more options than you'll ever need, the software doesn't get in the way of performance. It's slick and fast and every inch the flagship experience.
This is topped-off with a slick fingerprint scanner and a camera the matches or betters the best out there, delivering the whole package. The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge offers the whole package.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge