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Top 14 Best Smartphones in 2016

The year is coming to an end and there’s one thing we can all agree on: it’s been a blast! This year, we started Techthelead as a place where people could discover magic. Not in a Harry Potter fashion but in a realistic, palpable way. We discovered hundreds of gadgets, deciphered dozens of launches and covered the tech events of 2016 so that in the end, we’d be left with “la creme de la creme”. In this case, the best smartphones of the year #mobilemagic

It’s easy to guess the top 3 smartphones of this year after controversy, media appreciation and sales. But what about the rest of the mobile phones that grabbed our attention and that are in your pockets now or on the list for next year? It’s those we want you to remember these final weeks of December.

Without question, in the top 3 best smartphones of the year we see…

Google Pixel XL

Google’s first branded devices – Pixel and Pixel XL – have exceeded all expectations. These handsets managed to impress most skeptics, with a combination of great hardware, OS and camera power, of course. Pixel XL, if you recall, comes with Snapdragon 821 chip, the latest product from Qualcomm, for smooth and fast processing. It’s got a nice 4GB of RAM, great battery life at 3,450mAh granting 32 hours of talk time.

That said, we certainly put it in the top 3 for operating system and camera. The fact that it ships with Android’s latest version Nougat 7.1 (with Google Assistant from the get-go) and that it has a kick-ass camera (as explained here) that rivals that of industry-darling iPhone 7 Plus, is what makes it so great.

iPhone 7 Plus

Apple’s September event revealed the best smartphones from them yet, as well as a controversial pair of wireless earphones. While Huawei P9 was the first to introduce the dual camera, iPhone 7 Plus really took the cake with two 12MP cameras – one wide-angle, the second telephoto -, OIS (finally!) and  optical zoom up to 10x. The most talked-about camera feature was the fake bokeh feature (seen here), usually seen on professional cameras. Plus, it upped the performance (it’s one of the fastest phones out there), battery life and storage (256GB option) and is waterproof.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

This phone is the jewel in Samsung’s crown. With Galaxy Note 7 out of the picture (check our initial review here), S7 Edge remains their best smartphone yet. The device comes with Snapdragon 820 chip, Always On screen, 4GB RAM with a minimum of 32GB of storage plus microSD card option. The camera is 12MP with f/1.7 aperture and has an IP68 waterproof rating. It looks good and works great – a great choice for Android fans for whom Samsung is not a stranger. See it in detail here.

While not in the top 3, all of the smartphones below deserve a shout-out:

OnePlus 3T for a combination of great hardware, camera and looks: latest Snapdragon 821 chip, 16MP camera,  3400mAh battery. That’s not all; here are the rest of the features.

OnePlus 3T

Xiaomi Mi MIX for the element of surprise; it launched with (almost) edge-to-edge display, meaning an insane 91.3% screen-to-body ratio! While this was their big selling point, the Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4 GB RAM,  4400 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 didn’t hurt either. Plus, there’s a Pro model, too.


Huawei P9 for sporting the first dual rear camera system in partnership with Leica. Until fall, when Google Pixel and iPhone 7 Plus arrived, it was considered the smartphone with the best camera module in town. Read more about it here.

Axon 7 (and Axon 7 Max) for best sound a phone can offer. Its dual speakers and microphones, HiFi recording, Dolby Digital Surround mix can make you feel the music as if you’re in the concert hall. It was also appreciated for the Google Daydream capability, FotoNation panorama technology, as well as beautification abilities , plus price – just $400. Axon 7 Max was announced later on, as the first phone with Secure Live Finger Detection Technology – find out more about it here.


HTC 10 for the first camera module with dual OIS for pro level photos front and back, 12 Ultrapixel camera,  f/1.8 aperture with a DxOMark ratings – 88*. See it in detail here. 

LeEco LePro 3 for great price for value. The smartphone presented at LeEco US Event  comes with the latest Snapdragon processor,  4GB RAM, 4,070 mAh battery and 16MP camera with an aperture of f/2.0 for just $399.

Kodak Ektra for unexpected design, meant to showcase their camera module. Its case is covered in dark leather, just as a vintage camera would have, sports a physical shutter button and has a huge space on the back for the camera lens. It features a 21MP Sony sensor (IMX230) with f/2.0 aperture and has various camera modes. See it “in person” here.

Kodak Ektra

Solarin for the security it offers. This smartphone launched with military-grade encryption and a physical “security switch” that shields the phone from peeping strangers. We also loved the design, decided by none other than Karim Rashid.

Samsung Flip Phone for sparking controversy online. Your reactions to the idea of an $2900 Android dual-screen flip phone with good specs but not extraordinary, reflected more or less our own.

Samsung Flip Phone

Finally, in the rugged category, we take our hats off to CAT S60 for its built-in thermal cam and waterproof capabilities  and Kyocera DuraForce Pro TripleThreat camera, shock, dust, water, temperature resistance and more. 

What’s the smartphone you bought this year or are planning to buy after the holidays?

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Top 14 Best Smartphones in 2016
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