Picking the right smartphone can be tough. With Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC and plenty of other manufacturers releasing handsets at a steady clip, it can be difficult to keep up with each and every launch. We use our smartphones for work, play and everything in between, so it’s important to settle on the right blend of hardware, operating system and price tag that makes sense for you.
After all, you’re likely going to be spending anywhere from 18 months to two years of your life with your new handset, unless your budget allows you to upgrade on whim. Deciding between so many candidates can be a bit of a struggle, but we’re here to help with our guide to the best smartphones around.
Article prices are based on the RRP, but more up-to-date listings can be found in the buyers guide widget below.
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 6 isn’t as much of an incremental update as some were expecting. The 6s is more powerful and carries a pressure-sensitive display, not to mention significant improvements in the camera department. As well as simply being another easy-to-use iOS device, new features include the “3D Touch” panel, which lets you “peek” inside apps, surfacing information and actions without opening the app fully. The upgraded 12-megapixel camera has a few tricks of its own, too, like the new 4K video mode and animated “Live Photos.” New Rose Gold option aside, though, the iPhone 6s is practically identical in looks to its predecessor. It’s not cheap either, so iPhone 6 owners might find it hard to justify an upgrade.
In a sentence: Apple’s iPhone 6s is a great phone and safe bet, especially for anyone moving from an older 5 or 5s.
Price: £539 and up
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 takes everything that made the S6 great and improves upon it. The outcome is a flagship with a gorgeous Quad HD display, outstanding performance and subtle design tweaks that make the marriage of metal and glass that bit more appealing. Those already leaning in Samsung’s direction will be thankful for the return of expandable storage, with cards of up to 200GB capacity finding a microSD slot to call home. An IP68 water- and dust-resistant rating only sweetens the proposition. Only minor progress has been made in the imaging department, but the S7 has a capable and versatile camera nonetheless. A steep price is one of the only downsides of the device, but you’re paying for premium.
In a sentence: Easily one of the best Android smartphones available.
Motorola’s made a name for itself putting out great devices at reasonable prices, and the Moto X Style is a perfect example of that philosophy. A fondness for larger displays is a must. If that’s the case you’ll get a pleasing 5.7-inch Quad HD display to poke at, and Moto Maker means you can customise an already expedient design with whatever colour and texture combination you see fit. Purists in particular will enjoy the vanilla Android build with a light drizzle of Motorola chocolate sauce on top. The Moto X Style has a great camera, too, even if it isn’t quite as good as those on some rival devices. Similarly, the handset offers flagship performance, but it’s not the most powerful device around. There are compromises, but none that should tempt you to overlook the Moto X Style considering its relatively low price.
In a sentence: An expert lesson in striking the balance between user experience and price.
Price: £369 and up
Apple iPhone SE
Many people felt left behind by Apple’s turn to bigger-screened iPhones, and the SE is an attempt to regain their favour. The 4-inch form factor feels both familiar and fresh in its design — like an iPhone 5s with softer curves — and the SE benefits from the inclusion of the same internals found in the iPhone 6s, meaning it’s lightning fast. The two also share the same, excellent camera, though the iPhone SE lacks “3D Touch” functionality and possesses an older, slower Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Still, it offers fantastic battery life and happens to be the cheapest iPhone Apple’s ever sold. Oh, and lest we forget: Rose Gold.
In a sentence: A no-brainer for champions of the 4-inch form factor wanting to upgrade from an older iPhone.
Price: £359 and up
The HTC 10 marks the end of a few uneventful years at the company, defined by a series of unremarkable flagships. But what a return to form. The HTC 10’s sleek, all-metal design packages a 5.2-inch Quad HD display and internals that are almost unmatched in their performance. While its competent 12-UltraPixel camera isn’t the best on the market and battery life is distinctly average, HTC has cleaned up its Android skin and included a few attractive extras like hi-res audio support and AirPlay compatibility. HTC has again created a flagship handset that can hang with the best of ’em, but that means you’re looking at premium pricing to match.
In a sentence: On the podium as one of the top Android smartphones on the market.
Google Nexus 6P
The Nexus 6P is another device for those who prefer a larger-than-average screen. The 5.7-inch, Wide Quad HD display isn’t all the handset has to offer, though, with an abundance of processing power and impressive battery life. Being a Google device, the Nexus 6P also receives Android updates as soon as they become available, so you’ll always be on the latest version. Combine all these features with a solid camera, and you get a large-screen smartphone at a pretty competitive price. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the Nexus 6P lacks a microSD slot to expand storage, and its all-metal design is like the smartphone equivalent of Marmite.
In a sentence: A great option for people who like a larger screen that also benefits from the most up-to-date Android software.
Price: £449 and up.
When Motorola launched the first Moto G a few years ago, it immediately stood out as offering unparalleled value for money. Now in its third generation, the Moto G is still one of the best all-round smartphones for anyone on a budget, or those that would rather not pay for bells and whistles they’ll get little use out of. While it doesn’t excel in any one area and ignores flagship-grade components to keep costs down, there are no particularly uninviting compromises either. The Moto G’s outward appearance can also be heavily personalised using Moto Maker, at which point avid mobile gamers and users of more demanding apps might want to pay a little extra for more RAM and internal storage.
In a sentence: A decent, affordable Android smartphone that makes minimal sacrifices to hit its low price point.
Price: £149 and up.
OnePlus is in the business of making serious smartphones and selling them for a fraction of the price of competitors. Case in point: the OnePlus 2. It has all the guts and performance of a market-leading flagship, with style and build quality being far from an afterthought. Those features alone make the price tag easy to justify, and that’s without mentioning the versatile 13-megapixel camera. OnePlus has held back in a couple of areas, understandably, such as opting for a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a Quad HD panel. Other compromises include a lack of expandable storage and NFC, which are likely to be either deal-breakers or features you can easily live without.
In a sentence: A inexpensive, near-flagship device that prioritises performance and price.
LG has released some excellent flagship smartphones in the past, but this year the company has skipped an incremental upgrade in favour of something much more adventurous. Top-tier performance and fun, flexible dual-camera array aside, the bottom bezel of the device is completely removable, making space for a couple of modular accessories LG calls “Friends.” These include a hi-res audio attachment and a camera grip that also extends battery life, which is pretty average otherwise. At this point, however, you have look beyond the few accessories currently available and hope others will explore the potential of the modular design even further.
In a sentence: A powerful Android smartphone that dares to be different
Sony Xperia Z5
The Xperia Z5 is either another of Sony’s beautiful, polished products, or a slightly lazy attempt to tweak its tired “Omnibalance” design. Regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, you can’t dispute the build quality and high waterproof rating. The Xperia Z5 offers the kind of performance you’d expect from a genuine flagship, but pairs that with a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Gorgeous it might be, but it does fall short of competitors’ higher-resolution screens. What your money is primarily going towards is the 23-megapixel rear camera, which happens to be one of the best on the market. The Xperia Z5 isn’t cheap, but it won’t disappoint serious smartphone photographers.
In a sentence: Another lovingly built Sony smartphone with one of the best cameras around.
Fledgling British brand Wileyfox has made an extremely good first impression with the Swift. Like the Moto G, the Swift is all about crafting a low-cost smartphone that still provides an excellent user experience. With a relatively charming, all-plastic design, a bright 5-inch, 720p display and easily customisable Cyanogen software, there’s plenty to like. You also get a decent amount of processing power for an affordable device, though the 13-megapixel camera leaves quite a lot to be desired. However, aside from its underwhelming camera, the Swift deserves serious consideration if you’re after a good smartphone that doesn’t weigh heavily on your wallet.
In a sentence: An affordable Android smartphone that represents excellent value for money.