Best smartphones of 2016: The 25 best mobile phones you can buy today – Alphr

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Best Smartphones of 2015
There’s such an enormous breadth of choice in today’s smartphone market that deciding which to choose can be confusing. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best mobile phones of 2016. From budget bargains to the finest flagship smartphones, you’re bound to find something here that will hit the spot.
If you want the full lowdown on any of the individual handsets, you can click through to our in-depth reviews, and if you’re not sure what kind of smartphone is right for you, then help is at hand: use the dropdown menu above to click through to our detailed buyer’s guide. Or just click here – it’s entirely up to you.
Know what you’re looking for? Great. Scroll down to check out all the best flagship phones, both new and old. Or, if you’re after a more affordable option, click here to peruse the best budget handsets.
Whatever it is you’re looking for, we research and update the prices regularly so you can get a good idea of how much they’re selling for right now.
Price when reviewed: £449 inc VAT, 16GB; from free on a £27.50/mth, 24mth contract
A stylish, speedy phone with a pair of superb cameras, great software, impressive battery life and a big, sharp, colourful display, the Google Nexus 6P is our new favourite smartphone, knocking the Samsung Galaxy S6 off its perch after more than six months at the top. Why is it so good? Simple – because this 5.7in handset gets pretty much everything right, and wraps it up in a picture perfect package that doesn’t cost a huge amount of money. It’s a recipe its rivals are going to find it very hard to beat. Click here to read our Google Nexus 6P review
Price: 32GB, around £569 inc VAT
Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Main shot
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is the most capable smartphone on the market today, with great performance, the best camera in the business and a polished design that no other handset can match. It’s a brilliant phone, especially now Samsung has brought back storage expansion via microSD care and water and dust resistance; the only reason it doesn’t swing top spot is that it’s significantly more expensive than the Nexus 6P, and for our money, isn’t quite as good value. Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy S7 review 
If you can’t quite afford the S7, though, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is still a great phone and significantly cheaper, so make sure you check out our review of that handset, too.

Price: 32GB, around £340 inc VAT (for the plastic-backed edition)
Last year’s LG G3 was a top smartphone – and still is – but the LG G4 is a different beast entirely: it has a camera to match the Samsung Galaxy S6, fast internals and a fantastic 5.5in Quad HD display. It isn’t as slim, sleek or outright delicious as the Samsung Galaxy S6, but the leather-backed options are surprisingly attractive. Unlike Samsung’s leading light, the G4 boasts a removable 3,000mAh battery, so you can carry a spare for emergencies or replace a failing battery a year or two down the track; and it also has a microSD slot, so you’re not stuck with the 32GB stock storage allocation. Plus, it’s a touch cheaper than the S6. It isn’t quite as quick as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and battery life isn’t as good, but it’s a very, very close-run thing. Click here to read our LG G4 review
Price: 16GB, £239 inc VAT; 64GB, £289 inc VAT

It used to be the case that you could only buy a OnePlus 2 if an existing owner invited you, but now that’s changed, and the company has put the 64GB edition of the phone on general sale. The 16GB version is no longer available, but a price drop of £40 to £249 on the 64GB model makes up for that and represents fabulous value for money. Coupled with great looks, a solid feel, a very good camera, decent screen and a top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, it’s fabulously good value; by any definition, a bargain of epic proportions. Click here to read our OnePlus 2 review
The OnePlus X is even cheaper, and gets a mention on Page 2, where we look at the best cheap smartphones of 2016.
Price when reviewed: £329 inc VAT, 16GB SIM free; £379, 32GB
Google’s 2015 Nexus 5X may not be able to compete with the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact for looks (see below), but it’s a bigger bargain for those looking to save a bit on their next smartphone purchase. For your money, you get one of the best mobile phone cameras in the business, slick performance and – most important of all – pure Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s a class act. Click here to read our Google Nexus 5X review
Price: 32GB, around £400 inc VAT
Bigger isn’t necessarily better. If you’re against the trend towards giant handsets and almost-tablet-sized screens, then the Xperia Z5 Compact is going to set you fumbling for a credit card. Its 4.6in screen is lovely and bright; the 20 megapixel camera is fantastic; and battery life is excellent for such a a compact handset. Factor in the reasonable price, reassuringly sturdy build and IP68 water resistance, and the Z5 Compact is something of a pint-sized superstar. Click here to read our Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review
Price: 16GB, £539 inc VAT
Apple iPhone 6s review:
The iPhone 6s is a great smartphone – fast, reliable and with an excellent camera – and with its new 3D Touch (Force Touch) display, 12-megapixel camera and faster A9 processor it’s the best iPhone yet. Battery life hasn’t made great strides forward, but it’s all-round a better phone than the iPhone 6 and as such replaces it in our list of best smartphones. Click here to read our Apple iPhone 6s review
Price: £619 inc VAT, 16GB; £699, 64GB; £789, 128GB
If you like your phones big, you’re going to love the iPhone 6s Plus. Equipped with a huge 5.5in Full HD display and ingenious pressure-sensitive touchscreen tech, it’s Apple’s biggest and fastest smartphone yet. Although it’s largely identical internally to the 4.7in iPhone 6s, it is superior in some respects: it has longer battery life and the camera’s optical image stabilisation (OIS) gives it the edge for low-light photography. Its high price will put many off, but make no mistake, the iPhone 6s Plus is one fabulous smartphone. Click here to read our Apple iPhone 6s Plus review
Price: £500 inc VAT SIM free

Motorola’s Moto X Force is an Android phone with a difference. It’s ruggedised to the point at which the screen is guaranteed for four years against accidental breakage – so no matter what stupidity you subject the phone to, you can be sure you won’t have to put up with a cracked screen. Aside from that, it’s a very decent smartphone, with excellent battery life and cracking performance. And although the camera isn’t the best it still produces passable stills and video. Click here to read our Motorola Moto X Force review
Price: around £510 inc VAT

Well, hello – you handsome 5.2in handset, you. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the Xperia Z5, and Sony has done a cracking job of bringing the big-screened Xperia bang up to date. The camera has received an impressive upgrade, and performance and battery life are excellent. The only problem is that the competition has got that much tougher – the Apple iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S6 have markedly superior hardware, and the LG G4 is nearly as good while costing almost half the price. It’s still a lovely, lovely phone, though. Click here to read our Sony Xperia Z5 review
Price when reviewed: around £430 inc VAT

It isn’t officially available in the UK, so we can’t give it the full double thumbs-up, but if you’re willing to forgo the official manufacturer warranty it is an amazing smartphone. It’s as fast as the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge+, has a glorious 5.7in AMOLED display, looks gorgeous, and best of all, has a pressure sensitive stylus built in, so you can jot down notes onscreen and sketch away to your heart’s content. It’s an all-round good egg, and great value, too. Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review.
Price: £300 inc VAT, from Carphone Warehouse

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo is, essentially, a remaking of the two-year-old Galaxy S5. It looks the same, and most of the specifications are the same, but the price is far lower than the once flagship used to command. The only major difference is the processor, which gets an upgrade in the Neo over the older S5. The result? A cracking smartphone that’s quick, light, slim, takes great photos and video, and is an all-round pleasure to use. At only £300 it’s among the best deals around at the moment. Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy S5 Neo review
Price: around £285 inc VAT
If you’re not willing to risk an unofficial import, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is still available and still a great handset. The Quad HD AMOLED display is fabulous, the battery life brilliant, and Samsung matches this with great features and performance across the board. It’s no longer the king of smartphones that it once was, but it’s very good for the money. Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

Price: £530 inc VAT

Neither of Microsoft’s debut Windows 10 phones is good enough to be recommended above the rival Android flagships or iPhones, but for fans of the Windows ecosystem, they do represent a step forward from the previous best Windows handsets. That’s why the Lumia 950 XL sits in our selection of best smartphones. Of the two launched at the end of 2015 it’s the one we’d recommend to Windows Phone fans, and from a hardware point of view, it’s mostly ship shape. The camera is excellent, the screen very good, it has a replaceable battery and storage expansion via microSD. Plus, via its USB Type-C socket and Microsoft’s Continuum feature, you can connect it to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and use it like a desktop PC. One caveat: it’s very expensive, but Windows Phone fans with money to burn need look no further. Click here to read our Microsoft Lumia 950 XL review
Price: around £400 inc VAT
HTC One M9 review
HTC took the One M8’s design and refined it for 2015, creating a truly stunning smartphone. The internals have been upgraded as well: Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 810 SoC; the camera goes from the M8’s 4-megapixel snapper to 20 megapixels; and HTC has added a host of features to its Sense Android launcher software. It’s a beautifully crafted and highly competent smartphone, just like last year’s HTC One M8. But it’s only a small improvement on its predecessor. Click here to read our HTC One M9 review
Price: 16GB, around £260 inc VAT

Squeezed between the Moto G and the Moto X Style, the Motorola Moto X Play is a more-than-decent mid-range smartphone with excellent battery life; if you can’t get an invite for the OnePlus 2, it’s an excellent alternative. Click here to read our Moto X Play review
Can’t afford to spend a fortune on your smartphone? Want an inexpensive first smartphone for your kids? Then you have plenty to choose from. These days you can buy some cracking handsets for well under £200, and get a decent smartphone for £100 if you know where to look. 
You don’t have to confine yourself to budget smartphones necessarily, though. It’s always worth keeping an eye out for the flagship, top-end phones from a few years back, as these often tumble in price, and can offer even better value than the more recent budget models. And you can find them going for a song second-hand, then this may also be another route to getting a high-end smartphone for a low-end price.
We’ve collected our eight favourite budget phones below, and with prices starting from £90, there’s something here for even modest budgets.
Price: 8GB, around £155 inc VAT

Motorola claims top spot in the race for best budget smarphone for the third year in a row with the third generation Moto G. It sports a new look, Moto Maker customisation and faster internals, alongside beefed up waterproofing and an excellent 13-megapixel rear camera. All-in-all, the Moto G 3 is the best budget smartphone money can buy. If you can’t stretch your budget to a flagship phone, this is the next best thing. Click here to read our Motorola Moto G 3 (2015) review 
Price: £199 inc VAT
The OnePlus X shrinks the screen size down to a (relatively) compact 5in, and combines high-end hardware from 2014 with a lovely AMOLED display and elegant glass and aluminium chassis. For £199, this is probably all most people need to know, but now that OnePlus has made the OnePlus X invite free there’s one more reason to buy one. Click here to read the OnePlus X review
Price: 8GB, around £100 inc VAT
Motorola Moto E (2015) Review - camera close
Motorola has a knack for creating impressive budget phones, and the second-generation Motorola Moto E is no different. With a faster processor and the welcome arrival of 4G support, Motorola is onto another budget winner in 2016. Click here to read our Motorola Moto E review
Price: £190 inc VAT

We don’t particularly like the Honor’s Emotion UI Android skin, but everything else about the Honor 5X is more than decent. It’s the only handset below £200 we’ve come across with a fingerprint reader, and its metal body and 5.5in Full HD display make it – despite slightly laggy performance – a very tempting buy. Click here to read our Honor 5X review
Price: 8GB, around £180

Sony’s mid-range smartphone may be at the higher end of the budget price range, but its slim, stylish, metal-and-glass design makes it look a lot more attractive than most of its slightly cheaper rivals. Combine this with the same level of water resistance as the Xperia Z3+, an HD display, a 13-megapixel camera and an octa-core processor and you have a powerful handset at a reasonable price. Click here to read the Sony M4 Aqua review over at our sister site, Expert Reviews
Price: 16GB, around £125 inc VAT

British smartphone manufacturer Wileyfox has ambitions similar to those of the hugely successful Chinese startup OnePlus. Its debut handset squeezes style out of a rather simplistic design and crams a load of features into a phone that costs very little. The biggest plus, however, is that it comes loaded with the flexible and frequently updated Cyanogen OS Android-based OS. Click here to read our Wileyfox Swift review
Price: 8GB, around £180

If you’re in the market for a budget phablet, you won’t go too far wrong with the Lumia 640 XL and its 5.7in display. It’s a Windows phone, which means you don’t get access to the same choice of apps as you would with an Android handset, but as a starter smartphone it’s a good choice. As an extra tempter, it comes with a year’s free subscription to Office 365. Click here to read our Nokia 640XL review
Price: 8GB, around £130 inc VAT

The Lumia 640 is a huge step up from its predecessor, the Lumia 630, and a great small-screened alternative to the larger Lumia 640 XL. It has a great-looking screen, snappy performance and 4G. For those who enjoy having Windows 8.1 on their phone, you’d struggle to find better at this super-low price. Click here to read our Nokia Lumia 640 review
Price: 8GB, around £145 inc VAT
Honor 4x review: It isn't pretty, but the Honor 4x is practical and very cheap
The 4X has good battery life, a decent camera and reasonable performance. Add a large, bright 5.5in display and a price lower than £150 and you have a winning recipe. Some might not get on with the Huawei Emotion UI Android overlay, or the lack of Android Lollipop, but if that doesn’t bother you, the 4x offers a lot for very little cash. Click here to read our Honor 4x review
Jump to:
The number-one question to tackle is which platform to buy into. Now that BlackBerry has all but left the phone game, you have iOS, Android and Windows Phone from which to choose.
iOS means iPhones, and you probably already know whether or not you’d like to own an iPhone. They’re great devices, with a wealth of apps and games on offer, but they’re not cheap. That said, for anyone looking to buy a high-end phone, Apple’s iPhones deserve a place on the shortlist.
If you definitely don’t want an iPhone, then Windows Phone and Android handsets are available in a number of shapes, sizes and prices.
Windows guarantees you a certain level of gloss right down to the super-budget models, and the top-end Windows Phone handsets are pretty impressive. Performance is sprightly, though, even on the lower-end models, thanks to the minimal demands of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS – these phones just don’t need high-end processors and gigabytes of RAM to perform.
The downside of Windows Phone (and the forthcoming Windows 10 Mobile, too) is that its selection of apps and games isn’t anywhere near as healthy as that of Android or iOS. If you want to play a new game every week, and want the best entertainment and travel apps out there, it probably isn’t for you.
For many, though, Android is the right choice. Most phones use it, and nowadays it offers a good balance of apps, games and general performance. Aside from the iPhone, all the most high-profile phones use Android, including the LG G4, the HTC One M9 and the Samsung Galaxy S6. And with Google’s OS constantly improving, the Android smartphones and phablets out there are only going to become more attractive.
Nexus 6P review: The camera bulge looks rather good up close
Once you’ve made your choice of platform, you need to pick a size. This in part will be determined by how much you want to spend, but as long as you’re willing to fork out £150 or more, there’s quite a range available to you.
Most of the higher-end phones are quite large these days; if you’re not used to a bigger phone, we recommend trying one out in a high-street shop before buying. Most people can generally get accustomed to phones up to 5in in screen size, but anything larger than that becomes a bit of a struggle for people with smaller hands.
Have huge hands? Want a big screen? In the past couple of years, the phone-tablet hybrid market has exploded, and there are several phones that offer 5.7-6.1in screens – truly massive displays for a phone.
For any phones of 5in or larger, we recommend a 1080p screen, which will get you sharp images. Many manufacturers are squeezing Quad HD screens with 1,440 x 2,560 pixels into their larger-screened phones, and some are beginning to move into the realms of 4K, but despite the hype you’ll likely struggle to tell the difference between 1080p and Quad HD at these sorts of screen sizes.
Even around the £100 mark it’s possible to get hold of handsets with super-sharp screens, such as the Motorola Moto G. Whatever you decide, we recommend opting for screen quality over whether it has wireless technology extras such as NFC or an IR transmitter.
One wireless technology that does matter, though, is 4G. Once reserved for expensive phones, this superfast mobile internet standard is now available in fairly low-cost models too.
Although performance can vary depending on where you live and the network you subscribe to, 4G can get you around ten times the speed of a normal 3G network. While a 3G network might provide 2Mbits/sec downloads, you’ll often get 16-20Mbits/sec from a 4G network in a big city. That may well be faster than your home broadband.
Most contracts are subject to quite limited data allowances, however, so make sure you do your research before getting too excited about 4G hardware. The speeds vary dramatically depending on which mobile network you’re on and where you are in the UK, however – you’d be wise to check out RootMetrics brilliant speed and coverage reports to see which network is quickest in your area before splashing out. 
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The one other bit of hardware that’s important to consider is the camera. If you’re looking at a phone costing £200 or more, you’re almost guaranteed a reasonably good camera, but if you’re a budget buyer then you’ll find most models make compromises.
Low-end phones often leave out the front camera and the flash. Some don’t even have autofocus. If a phone leaves out any such features, it cuts hugely into the photographic flexibility of a smartphone.
At the higher end of the scale, look out for optical image stabilisation. This moves the lens and/or sensor to compensate for the effect of shaky hands. It allows the phone to use longer exposures, enabling more light onto the sensor, which leads to cleaner, less noisy photos when shooting in low light.
Another thing that will help you capture better photographs in difficult conditions is a larger aperture. This is the “F-number” you’ll see on the spec sheet, and the lower the number the better. 
It’s also worth looking out for advanced, secondary-focus systems. Samsung, Apple and LG all use phase-detect systems that allow faster, more accurate focussing than most phones, which rely on contrast detect autofocus.
How much do you need to spend to get a good phone? Great mobiles start at around £80, with models such as the Motorola Moto E. It’s currently about as cheap a phone as you can get without having to give up too much in the way of looks or build quality.
High-end phones start at around £270, with slightly older flagship mobiles providing most of what you get from a more expensive phone at a less scary price. Shop around, and you may be able to grab yourself a bargain.
If nothing but the best will do, the very latest flagship phones from companies such as Samsung, LG, Sony and Apple cost between £400-700. On a contract, that normally equates to at least £30+ a month, unless you’re a better haggler than we are.
Read more: Click here to check out our guide to the best smartphones coming out later in 2016 
Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.
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