​Best phone of the year 2016

We list the best 5 phones, smartphones, smartfones, SIM-free phones, Android phones, iPhones, mobile phones and phablets of 2016
  • Nick Ross (PC World)
  • 01 December, 2016 16:20
There were many great phones launched this year, but which one stood the test of time?

There were many great phones launched this year, but which one stood the test of time?

We’ve reviewed many phones this year. Usually the later models are better than the older ones, but which ones had the most impact and which ones stood the test of time? Here are the contenders for our Phone of the Year 2016 award.

Joint Runners Up

Google Pixel XL
Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel XL | Powerful Android flagship

Google moved from providing cheap Nexus phones (to attract developers) to the premium, power-packed Pixel range in order to show off new technologies. The Google Assistant, with its amazing voice recognition and AI smarts makes the likes of Siri and Cortana look as bright as a vacuum cleaner, while the partnered Daydream VR headset did things we thought were only possible on powerful PC rigs. The phone itself had a great camera, good screen and was very fast thanks to the latest processor. But it was hugely expensive and not attractive. Furthermore it scuffs very easily and the glass design element on the back is very brittle. It’s a worthy Android standard bearer, but just misses out on the top award.

Apple iPhone 7
Apple iPhone 7

iPhone 7 | Access Apple’s accessories, apps and ecosystem

We had to have an iPhone in the list and the choice wasn’t great. We thought the iPhone 7 Plus would be brilliant but, well, it wasn’t really. Who actually wants a zoom camera? So we plumped for the cheaper 7. Getting rid of the headphone jack and replacing it with the Taptic-feedback sensor to make scrolling and screen-pressing more interactive is just plain arrogant and misguided in our view. But it’s a good phone with a decent camera and, more importantly, gives access to the whole Apple ecosystem of apps, services and accessories.

Huawei P9
Huawei P9

Huawei P9 | Best camera phone of all

We haven’t enjoyed using a phone this much in ages. The dual Leica cameras on the rear are absolutely brilliant and still the best on the market. Add to that a great screen and the fastest fingerprint unlock we’d seen to that point and you’ve got a real winner. What stopped it getting the top award? It’s very very fragile. Even cases struggle to protect this shatter-friendly phone. Love it, but be very very careful with it.

Huawei Mate 8
Huawei Mate 8

Huawei Mate 8 | phabulous all-rounder

This phone pretty much does it all and while the big boys are charging silly money for their phones, the Huawei flagship come in at hundreds of dollars less. It’s fast, fits a six-inch screen in a relatively-small body, has a huge 4,000mAh battery, decent camera and was one of the first to have a fast fingerprint reader unlock on the rear. Why isn’t it our phone of the year? Huawei keeps launching these phones late in Australia and this actually came out overseas in November last year. But this is still a great phone.

Next: And the Winner is…

Page Break

The best phone of 2016 is...

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7 | Feature packed and almost flawless

No not the S7 Edge with it’s silly, curved bezel-less screen, the smaller S7 model which didn’t get much of a spotlight. This little gem does it all – it has all the power and the features of the edge in a smart-looking, very robust and waterproof case. It has a fantastic AMOLED UHD screen and one of the best cameras on the market. Add to that features like three-tap distress message and the MyKnox secure area for apps and files – all at a reasonable price, and you’ve got a phone that’s borderline flawless. Sure the battery could last longer but at least it charges quickly. We went back to this phone every time we finished with a review unit. It’s still worth buying. A worthy winner of our phone of the year.

Where were they?

Moto Z and Moto Z Play | Modular madness?

These phones were really very impressive but we’re yet to be convinced that modular phones aren’t a gimmick. Sales figures could prove us wrong, but we don’t have any.

LG V20 | Where is it?

This phone has been impressing everyone who’s seen it. Which doesn’t include us in Australia who seem to be at the back of the queue. Same goes for the Huawei Mate 9.

Alcatel Idol 4S | Impressive and innovative

We were impressed with what Alcatel squeezed into a mid-range priced phone – including an AMOLED screen and a VR headset! But the final price pushed it too near to Huawei’s top phones to make the shortlist.

Sony | What happened?

A poor showing from Sony this year thanks to the massively-disappointing Sony Xperia Performance which was a downgrade over its predecessor. THis was then followed up by the middling, confusingly-branded Sony Xperia XZ. Let's hope for better things from Sony in 2017.

Related: Samsung Galaxy S8 review