We reveal the winner of the Recombu Award for best mobile phone of 2016, as well as the full shortlist of celebrated nominees.
There’s no denying that 2016 has been a crazy year across the board, with some of the insanity reaching as far as the world of smartphones – Samsung’s infamous exploding Note 7 debacle being one such example. But even with all the fire and brimstone, throughout this year we’ve also seen some brilliant (and less combustible) offerings from the best and brightest mobile manufacturers around.
Here’s our pick for the best mobile phone of 2016, as well as all of the excellent nominees that also come highly recommended.
To see the rest of the Recombu Awards 2016 nominees and winners, in categories such as Best Luxury Car and Best On-Demand TV Service, check out our Recombu Awards hub.
Best mobile phone of the year – winner: OnePlus 3T
The OnePlus 3 has been our go-to recommendation when talking about top-notch flagship smartphone alternatives in 2016, but to keep things feeling fresh the company just launched the updated OnePlus 3T, which swaps in Qualcomm’s latest and greatest processor, an improved camera, better battery life and wraps it all up in an aluminium unibody coloured in a new hue. What’s more, it retains the best fast-charging technology on the market, Dash Charge and still undercuts almost every other phone on this list.
You can grab the OnePlus 3T exclusively from O2 in the UK, from £31 per month.
Best mobile phone of the year: Apple iPhone 7
The iPhone 7 might not look like a massive departure from its predecessors, but Apple’s made some notable tweaks and improvements that ensure this is a seriously competitive handset amongst its many rivals. Dropping the headphone jack was a questionable decision in the eyes of many, but you can’t deny the phone’s killer camera, new water resistance and quad-core A10 Fusion processor.
Best mobile phone of the year: Google Pixel XL
Google put together a recipe of powerful hardware and intelligent software in the hopes of striking fear into rivals like Apple and Samsung with the Pixel and Pixel XL this year. The latter isn’t just bigger than its Android 7.1-powered sibling but boasts better battery life and a more expansive, sharper display. What’s more, the XL is VR-ready out-the-box, serving as the debut device for Google’s new Daydream platform and boasts one of the best smartphone cameras around.
Best mobile phone of the year: Honor 8
Honor’s known for making great affordable smartphones, but the Honor 8 is more in line with the current flagship crop than anything we were expecting from the Chinese manufacturer this year. Whilst it’s been able to retain a comparatively low price tag for a flagship phone, the 8 boasts a distinctive dual-camera arrangement like the one found on its sister company’s top handset, the Huawei P9, a glass and metal body as well made as anything you’d expect from the likes of Apple or Samsung and a refined software experience that the company developed using feedback from fans and users alike.
Best mobile phone of the year: HTC 10
The HTC 10 boasts the best camera on one of the company’s phones in years, a unique Android experience with customisable Freestyle themes and some seriously upgraded specs compared with the One M9. The all-metal build is attractive and hard wearing whilst on the inside you’ll find plenty of grunt, including top-notch audio hardware, fast-charging goodness and plenty of room for expandability.
Best mobile phone of the year: Huawei Mate 9
Whilst you could argue that Huawei made a bigger fanfare of the P9 and P9 Plus earlier in the year, the Mate 9 brings a wealth of innovation to the table and serves as one of the only great phablets left on the market. It packs the second-generation of the company’s dual-lens camera tech, built in partnership with Leica, intelligent software that aims to slow performance erosion and a huge battery, all wrapped up in a premium unibody design.
Best mobile phone of the year: LG G5
LG finally made the jump to more premium materials when designing 2016’s G5 flagship, but the company didn’t just stop at adding metal bodywork, opting for a modular design that lets you quickly change out the battery, add a camera grip or even a loudspeaker built in partnership with B&O Play. Beyond the novelty of these detachable accessories, the G5 also impresses with its dual 8/16-megapixel camera arrangement and stunning 5.3-inch always-on 2K display.
Best mobile phone of the year: Moto Z
The US might have had a considerable head start, but the arrival of the Moto Z in Europe was worth the wait. It beat Apple to the punch by nixing its headphone jack in order to achieve a near paper-thin profile and the range of Moto Mods modular accessories already outpaces and holds traction better than LG’s attempts with the LG G5. It also offers a beautiful metal design, respectable battery life, a killer pair of cameras and a smart skew of Android. Google Daydream support is also rumoured to be incoming.
Best mobile phone of the year: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Samsung may not have had the best year, but there’s no denying that it creates incredible smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge launched ahead of beefier offerings like Google’s Pixels, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s still a stellar handset. Nowhere else will you find a 5.5-inch dual-curve 2K AMOLED display, great performance, one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, fast charging, wireless charging, fast wireless charging, water resistance and microSD expandability all in one device.
Best mobile phone of the year: Sony Xperia XZ
2016 saw the introduction of Sony’s new Xperia X family and at the head of that table (in the UK at least) sits the Xperia XZ. Aside from bringing the company’s new Alkaleido metal finish into the mix, the XZ is an all-round stellar smartphone, with a stunning display, intelligent battery tech, great software, lightning-fast hardware and an incredibly versatile camera experience thanks to a unique 23-megapixel RGBC-IR sensor.