Best Android Phones of 2016

The Google Pixel is the best Android Phone you can buy today. Whether it’s the straight-from-Google Android software, top-notch performance or better-than-expected camera, the Pixel — in either size — does it all.

Best overall

Google Pixel

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The Google Pixel does almost everything right. Its metal body is well-built and easy to grip — in either the 5-inch or 5.5-inch size — and its spec sheet is top-notch, featuring a Snapdragon 821 and 4GB of RAM.

But Google’s Pixel, available in two sizes and screen resolutions, really makes the case for Google owning the hardware and the software. Android has come a long way, but even the best manufacturers can’t achieve what Google has with its first-party powerhouse.

Android 7.1 flies through every task, and the small software additions add up to something larger. Then there’s the camera, which is one of the best in the business, helped along by Google’s exemplary electronic stabilization schemes.

Bottom line: It may cost more than the Nexus line, but Google handily competes with Samsung’s best.

One more thing: The Pixel is available unlocked through Google’s store in most countries, but if you’re in the U.S. may we suggest getting it through Google Fi.

Why the Google Pixel is the best

Google could have built another Nexus phone with a partner like Huawei, LG or even HTC, but with the Pixel it decided to go it mostly alone. Tapping HTC for the manufacturing, Google’s first “real” Android phone hits all the right marks.

In either size, the design is familiar but striking, with a plain front in either black or white and a dual-toned rear finish in silver/white, silver/black, or blue/blue. The larger of the two models, the Pixel XL, is the true enthusiast phone, boasting a large 3,450mAh battery and 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display, but both devices have largely the same internals and camera setup.

To that end, the Pixel flies: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 chip, coupled with Google’s own take on Android 7.1 Nougat, is the fastest Android experience we’ve had to date.

Alex Dobie, in his review, explained it this way:

The chassis is attractive, though some may say it’s not as bold as Samsung’s glass and metal designs. The software is fast and mostly good-looking. It’s always going to be up-to-date with the latest Android software, and exclusive tricks from a new and highly ambitious AI-focused Google. The battery easily lasts a day, and charges quickly. The camera matches the Galaxy S7.

While the phone lacks waterproofing and expandable storage, Samsung’s Galaxy S7, our former recommendation, is still two major Android revisions behind, and its software can’t match the effortless polish of the Pixel.

And then there’s the camera. The cornerstone of any flagship, if the Pixel’s camera wasn’t as good as the S7’s, it probably wouldn’t have topped our list — but it is. Despite lacking optical image stabilization, the Pixel’s camera takes amazing photos in almost every condition.

Best for features

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

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The Galaxy S7 rocks a beautiful metal-and-glass design that’s waterproof while also holding a solid battery, top-end internals and a microSD card expansion slot. Around front you’ll find an industry-leading 5.1-inch QHD SuperAMOLED display that’s beautiful in every situation, and around back you can capture fantastic photos with the 12MP camera. It’s also rated IP68 water resistant, which is helpful in many situations, unforeseen and otherwise.

The software may take some getting used to if you haven’t used a Samsung phone before, but that’s hardly a reason to look away from all of the fantastic features that the Galaxy S7 has to offer. It’s compact, powerful, easy to use and takes wonderful photos — it really is one of the most complete packages in the Android world.

Bottom line: The Galaxy S7 has the best hardware in Android, but its software keeps it behind the Pixel.

One more thing: If you don’t want to buy from a carrier, Samsung offers a U.S. unlocked model of the Galaxy S7 for a cleaner experience.

Best “big phone”

LG V20

LG V20

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The LG V20 has taken a long road to get to market, but now that it’s finally available we’re incredibly pleased with the results. Running Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, LG’s combination of enthusiast hardware — removable battery, expandable storage — and approachable software is a win-win, but the phone’s large footprint and cost may limit its broad appeal.

Still, the V20 is perfect for anyone that wants a big phone. It boasts a unique Second Screen — a permanent “ticker” of sorts that sits above the main LCD panel — along with two rear cameras, one wide-angle and one regular, and a host of manual camera controls for both stills and video.

Running a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, plus 64GB storage standard, the V20 is definitely a lot of computer.

Bottom line: The LG V20 is the best phone for someone who is looking for a big phone, or for the avid camera enthusiast.

One more thing: LG is trying to incentivize the V20 to consumers through bundles, including a high-end set of B&O earbuds with every purchase, for a limited time.

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Best for a budget

OnePlus 3

See at OnePlus

After releasing a few phones that were tantalizing but not quite complete products, OnePlus has really hit the mark with the OnePlus 3. This high-end device checks just about every box you’re looking for, from top-end specs to a great screen, solid camera, fast software and long battery life.

Best of all, it’ll only set you back $ 399, which is easily $ 200 less than the other flagships out there. You don’t get a few of the nice-to-have features like waterproofing, and its screen is a few notches below the Galaxy S7, but for the whole experience it’s hard to get something nicer than what the OnePlus 3 offers — especially at this price.

Bottom-line: Though it doesn’t have some of the fringe features you’ll find elsewhere, the OnePlus 3 offers the best value in a high-end Android phone today.

One more thing: The OnePlus 3’s Dash Charge fast charging solution isn’t compatible with any other quick charging standards, so you’ll need to invest in new chargers if you want to top up quickly.

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Conclusion

The best overall Android experience right now can be obtained by either the Google Pixel or Pixel XL. Regardless of which size Pixel, you’re getting a great design, excellent build quality, incredible performance, and one of the best cameras on the market. That, combined with Google’s simple-but-beautiful interpretation of Android 7.1 Nougat, and always-first updates, makes the Pixel the best option for most people right now.

Best overall

Google Pixel

See at Google See at Verizon

The Google Pixel does almost everything right. Its metal body is well-built and easy to grip — in either the 5-inch or 5.5-inch size — and its spec sheet is top-notch, featuring a Snapdragon 821 and 4GB of RAM.

But Google’s Pixel, available in two sizes and screen resolutions, really makes the case for Google owning the hardware and the software. Android has come a long way, but even the best manufacturers can’t achieve what Google has with its first-party powerhouse.

Android 7.1 flies through every task, and the small software additions add up to something larger. Then there’s the camera, which is one of the best in the business, helped along by Google’s exemplary electronic stabilization schemes.

Bottom line: It may cost more than the Nexus line, but Google handily competes with Samsung’s best.

One more thing: The Pixel is available unlocked through Google’s store in most countries, but if you’re in the U.S. may we suggest getting it through Google Fi.

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