What are the best mobile phones to buy in 2016? We round up the phones with the best cameras, the most powerful mobiles around, smartphones with excellent battery life and more, so you can pick the perfect phone for you. And we’ve broken them down into different budgets, from pricey flagships to affordable handsets.
Looking for a new phone to replace your old one, but not sure where to start? Still deciding between iPhone or Android? No worries, as we’ve rounded up the very best mobiles that we’ve tested in the past year, from great value budget phones to feature-packed premium handsets. No matter what you’re after, these are the best mobile phones to suit all budgets and tastes.
And if you’re after something specific, then check out the following mobile phone guides:
Best phones to buy in 2016: Best iPhones and Android phones
If you want the best of the best, look no further. These are the best full-priced flagship mobile phones that you can pick up on contract or SIM-free in 2016.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is a solid all-round smartphone that boasts the best camera out of all of the mobiles we’ve tested in 2016. You can capture brilliant shots in dim light as well as any other time of day, with no effort at all.
The Galaxy S7 also boasts strong performance, over a day of battery life between charges and a sharp Quad HD screen. As usual it’s a super-vibrant Super AMOLED display, so you can expect rich hues and colours that really pop.
Oh, and the Galaxy S7 is a real beauty too. Those gorgeous curves don’t just look amazing but make for a comfortable grip, while the glass rear adds a touch of class. And if you want a truly head-turning design and an even bigger screen to enjoy your movies and shows on the go, check out the 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 Edge.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Apple iPhone 6s
On the other side of the coin to Samsung is as ever Apple and whilst 2015 saw a more classically refined take on last year’s iPhone 6 with the 6s, it still served as an innovator and trend-setter in its own way.
Apple finally upped the camera resolution to double digits, giving you one of the fastest quality camera phones on the market with even more megapixels to play with. A new processor means it also boasts excellent 4K recording now too, not to mention blisteringly fast performance overall and a super-snappy fingerprint sensor with (Apple Pay functionality).
The 6s and 6s Plus also debuted strange new technology in the form of their 3D Touch displays, which let you push into the screen to carry out new types of interactions, something that’s completely fresh to the smartphone space.
Read the full Apple iPhone 6s review
HTC really bounced back in 2016 after a couple of lacklustre flagship phones, impressing us all with the mighty HTC 10. This is one of the best all-round smartphones of 2016, boasting a camera that’s almost as strong as the Galaxy S7’s as well as dependable performance, excellent battery life and a very funky Freestyle version of Android.
As with the other big flagship phones of 2016, the HTC 10 also boasts a supremely crisp Quad HD screen which makes for gorgeous images.
Read the full HTC 10 review
LG really tried something different with its 2016 flagship phone, the LG G5. Not content to merely pack in a beautiful Quad HD screen and powerful Snapdragon 820 processor, LG also added a modular-style expansion feature. Just pull open the bottom of the G5 and you can replace the battery with a fresh one as well as add new components.
But that’s not all, kiddies. The LG G5 also packs a funky dual-lens camera, which can snap sharp, colourful 16-megapixel shots, as well as unique 8-megapixel wide-angle photos. That’s particularly handy if you’re snapping a landscape or trying to capture a mighty group photo.
Read the full LG G5 review
Sony Xperia X
Sony’s Xperia X doesn’t boast the most powerful processor here, while the Full HD screen isn’t as sharp as the Quad HD panels found on the Galaxy S7 and other flagships here. However, you still get Sony’s impressive camera tech, with the 13-megapixel front-facing camera particularly impressing (especially in low light). Performance is still smooth and battery life is fantastic, keeping you going for close to two days.
We also love the Xperia X’s sleek design, with a metallic frame that feels hardy and really looks the business.
Read the full Sony Xperia X review
Best phones to buy in 2016: Best mid-range mobiles
If your budget is a bit tighter and you can’t afford the most premium mobile phones of 2016, then check out our pick of the best mid-range phones that we’ve tested and reviewed this year. These mobiles cost around £300 SIM-free, and can be picked up for under £30 a month on contract.
Thanks to its sexy metallic design, the OnePlus 3 is certainly a looker – and the gorgeous, colourful 5.5-inch AMOLED screen adds even more beauty. But it’s the OnePlus 3’s features and components that make it one of the best mobiles of 2016, despite the relatively low £300 asking price.
The Snapdragon 820 processor backed by 4GB of RAM makes this one of the most powerful phones of 2016. That responsive fingerprint sensor is as good as any you’ll find on a full-priced handset, and the incredibly impressive Dash Charge tech means the phone powers up to almost full battery capacity in roughly an hour.
Read our full OnePlus 3 review
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
Samsung’s mid-range Galaxy A5 is a fantastic alternative to its full-priced Galaxy S7 flagship phone. Although it costs around £200 less than the S7, you still get an attractive glass and metal handset that packs in a dependable 13-megapixel camera, smooth performance and absolutely fantastic battery life. A single charge should keep you going for two full days.
Samsung has also found room for a fingerprint sensor, so you can unlock the Galaxy A5 quickly and securely. In fact, the only problem is the old verison of Android that comes pre-installed.
Check out our full Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 review
Moto G4 Plus
Another 5.5-inch phone like the OnePlus 3, the Moto G4 Plus offers incredible value for money. Just £199 gets you slick performance, impressive battery life, an accurate fingerprint sensor, Full HD visuals and a pleasingly vanilla version of Android.
If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can also customise the design of your Moto G4 Plus online, using Motorola’s Moto Maker service. Pick your colours and even print your own slogan on the back cover.
Read our full Moto G4 Plus review
Best phones to buy in 2016: Best mobiles from 2015
If you can’t afford one of the latest flagship phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 or LG G5, then there’s another option besides buying a mid-range mobile. You can also get some great deals on some of the biggest and best phones from 2015. Handsets that used to cost £500 SIM-free a year ago can now be picked up for half the price, or quite cheap on contract.
Here’s our selection of the best mobiles from 2015 that you can buy for less in 2016.
Samsung Galaxy S6
We couldn’t make this list without including Samsung’s top dog from last year, the Galaxy S6. We awarded it Phone of the Year at the 2015 Recombu Awards and it’s easy to see why.
Samsung scrapped the plastic band-aid aesthetic 2014’s S5 and in its place we were met with a thin sliver of finely milled metal and glass that packed one of the sharpest, most colourful screens in the business, tons of power and a killer camera experience.
We also commended Samsung for squeezing fast and wireless charging into the S6’s recipe, as well as continuing its commitment to mobile virtual reality with the Samsung Gear VR experience that felt better than ever on the S6.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S6 review
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
The Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6s both sport excellent cameras, but Sony’s Xperia Z5 family take the cake, with a new 20.3-megapixel sensor that really is in a league of its own.
We favour the smaller Z5 Compact as along with the same killer camera and excellent performance of the standard Z5, the more compact form and lower demands of the display give you epic battery life. We consistently managed over two days per charge, without even going near a wall plug – a feat few other smartphones can manage right now.
It’s also worth mentioning that Sony continues its streak as being the only top smartphone maker with waterproofing built into its top handsets and the user experience on the Z5 Compact is now more refined than ever, so it feels consistently fast and fluid.
Read our full Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review
Vodafone Smart Ultra 6
Another Recombu Awards winner, the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 blew us away with the price/performance balance it managed to strike.
If you can overlook the vanilla design aesthetic, you’ve got a 5.5-inch 4G-ready Android smartphone with respectable performance, battery life and an astoundingly good 13-megapixel camera for the price.
The Ultra 6 is also one of a select group of handsets that retains a microSD slot for memory expansion and the whole package can be had for just £125. It’s just a shame it’s a carrier exclusive.
Read our full Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 review
Motorola Moto G (3rd gen)
Luckily for those who aren’t with Vodafone, the new Moto G is a great affordable alternative that takes customisability to the next level.
Previous iterations of Motorola’s Moto G made waves for being able to offer more for less in the smartphone space and as the company wasn’t willing to let a rival produce a ‘Moto G-killer’ to knock the 2014 model off the top spot, it decided to make its own, in the third-generation, 2015 incarnation.
The latest Moto G features the same 13-megapixel camera from the Nexus 6, great battery life, respectable performance and interestingly, water resistance. The kicker though is Moto Maker, which lets you customise your handset before purchase.
Everything from the colours of the device’s external elements to the startup message and wallpapers can be personalised to your specifications to make a truly individual device and practically nobody else out there can offer such a unique feature in the same vein.
Read our full Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) review
We’re as surprised as you are, but there’s no denying that BlackBerry has earned the five star reviews it landed with the new Priv.
The name still needs work (short for both ‘privacy’ and ‘privilege’ apparently), but the hardware is unquestionably solid and the transition from BlackBerry OS to Android feels like the smartest move the company’s made in recent memory.
The Priv handles like a dream and has internals powerful enough to go toe to toe with many other top smartphones. What’s more, BlackBerry has made useful, meaningful customisation to the stock experience and managed to elegantly interweave its secure apps and services in there without issue too.
Read our full BlackBerry Priv review
Google Nexus 6P
Whilst Google’s reasoning behind continuing the Nexus program in its current incarnation is unclear, we can’t fault either of the offerings we were given in 2015, especially the Nexus 6P.
Not only is it Chinese smartphone maker-Huawei’s first foray into Nexus land, but it’s a beautiful blend of clean, clear stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow and premium hardware, both from a design and a performance perspective.
Huawei’s 6P puts the best camera on a Nexus device, a killer 2K screen and some of the slickest performance around, all in one place.
Read our full Google Nexus 6P review
Best phones to buy in 2016: Best value phones
If you’re on a really tight budget then you’ll be looking to spend no more than £50 to £150 on a SIM-free phone, or probably £20 or less on a monthly contract.
If that’s the case then check out our guide to the very best budget phones that you can buy in 2016.