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Top five smartphones of 2016

While low-end and mid-range smartphones enjoyed their moment in the sun, the glory was duly grabbed by the premium phones, even if the consumer response might have been a little lacklustre at times. Here's our pick of 2016.

In many ways, 2016 turned out to be the year of consolidation and catching up for smartphone manufacturers and consumers. Consolidation because smartphones hit some notable milestones, like overtaking feature phones in sales for a quarter for the first time, consumers finally shifting to a Smartphone or the smarter smartphone due to some compelling reasons, demonetisation probably counting as one of the biggest ones. Finally, manufacturers also seem to have moved to a new ‘normal’, with some features seemingly discarded for good, like the sub 1 GB smartphone, a rear camera level of 5 Megapixels or less, and much more. Having said that, here are the 5 phones that set the pace to follow, and remain high on the must have or aspirational list for most smartphone fans.

Samsung Galaxy S7 (32GB) – Rs 43,400
top five handset
After the Note 7 literally flamed out, the Galaxy S7 was the best smartphone Samsung had to offer in the year 2016. And luckily for the firm, it packs quite a punch. Building on the legacy created by the Galaxy S6, the Galaxy S7 comes with a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display which is wrapped around a premium looking design sporting glass panels on both front and back with a metal frame on the sides. Underneath the hood, the device comes with a 2.3GHz Octa-Core Exynos 8890 chipset with Mali-T880 MP12 GPU. The smartphone offers 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage which is further expandable up to 200GB via microSD card. Coming to the camera which is one of the USP of this device, the Galaxy S7 sports a 12-megapixel rear-facing shooter with f/1.7 aperture, PDAF, OIS and LED flash. At the front, there is a 5-megapixel front facing camera with f/1.7 aperture with HDR. The device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow with TouchWiz UI on top but it won’t be long until Samsung pushes out Android Nougat to it. There is a 3000 mAh battery powering the device with connectivity options such as built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, microUSB v2.0 apart from a fingerprint scanner and other-bunch of sensors given in the device.

Buy this smartphone for – Camera, Design, Display

Huawei P9 (32GB) – Rs 39,999
top five handset
This might come as a surprise for you but we feel that Huawei did a great job of making a camera-centric smartphone with much more than a great camera. Coming from one of the most underrated brands in India, the phone is a solid device delivering virtually all it promises and more. In other words, the Huawei P9 is a pretty impressive device irrespective of its high class Leica-powered camera sensors. Starting with the design, the Huawei P9 resembles a lot to last year’s Nexus 6P and boasts a beautiful aluminium shell with glass panel up top where the dual-camera set-up sits. This is further complemented with an almost bezel-less 5.2 inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) IPS-NEO LCD display. Going inside, the Huawei P9 sports an Octa-Core HiSilicon Kirin 955 processor which is divided into two Quad-Core chipsets clocked at 2.5 GHz with Cortex A72 and 1.8 GHz with Cortex A53 architecture. Apart from this, we get Mali-T880 MP4 GPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage which is further expandable up to 128GB via microSD card. Keeping these figures aside, the device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box but is expected to get Android Nougat update by Q1 2017. Moving on to the device’s focus point, i.e. the camera, the Huawei P9 features two 12-megapixel f/2.2 sensors at the back of which one is a monochrome sensor. Both the sensors are from Leica and the setup also comes with features like PDAF, dual-tone LED flash etc. Sadly, this dual-camera setup cannot record in 4K. On the other side of the device is an 8-megapixel front facing camera with f/2.4 aperture. For connectivity, there is built-in Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, USB Type-C and there is a 3000 mAh battery powering the entire device. In India, the device is available in Mystic Silver, Prestige Gold and Titanium colour variants and not forget there is a fingerprint scanner at the back of the device as well.

Buy this smartphone for – Camera, Compact Design, dependability.

OnePlus 3/OnePlus 3T – Rs 27,999/ Rs 29,999
top five handset
We are pretty sure, this one will make it to everybody’s list this year. The best value for money award holder for this year, OnePlus 3 or the 3T comes with beastly specs at a price of Rs 27,999 for the 3 and Rs 29,999 for the 3T. Focusing on the 3T, the device comes with a 5.5-inch 1080p Optic-AMOLED display wrapped around a conventional aluminium unibody design with the only down-side being a camera hump at the back. There is also an ‘Alert Slider’ on the left that comes really handy to shuffle between ringing profiles. Inside, the device is powered by a 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset with Adreno 530 GPU, whopping 6GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of internal storage which is not expandable. The device runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow but will soon get Android 7.0 Nougat update. Nevertheless, the OxygenOS built on Android is pretty identical to stock Android with just the right amount of customizations. Coming to the camera, the OnePlus 3T features 16-megapixel sensors on both sides with both of them coming with f/2.0 aperture. The rear camera can shoot videos in 4K as well as in slow-motion in 720p at 120fps. Juicing up the OnePlus 3T is a 3400 mAh non-removable battery with connectivity options that include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, USB Type-C v2.0 and there is also a fingerprint scanner embedded in the home button. (OnePlus 3 Speck Link) (OnePlus 3 vs 3T comparison link)

Buy this smartphone for – Performance, Value for Money, Multi-tasking

iPhone 7 Plus – Rs 72,000 (starting)

Though Apple disappointed us with no major design upgrade this year, still the Apple iPhone 7 or the 7 Plus offer great performance and surprisingly a dual-camera setup on the Plus variant. So picking up the Plus variant here, the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a similar design to the iPhone 6S with minor upgrades like antenna bands shifting to the top and bottom edges giving it a cleaner look. Apple also introduced a couple of new colour variants – the Black and the Jet Black. That aside, the iPhone 7 Plus is a beast of a smartphone with 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display. Further, the new iPhone boasts Apple’s A10 Fusion Quad-Core chip clocked at 2.23 GHz. The device comes with 3GB of RAM and 32/64/128GB of internal storage. In the camera department, where the things actually get interesting, the iPhone 7 Plus features a Dual 12-megapixel camera setup at the back of the device one with f/1.8 aperture and the other with f/2.8 aperture along with phase detection autofocus (PDAF), 2x optical zoom, OIS, quad-LED (dual tone) flash. At the front, we get a 7-megapixel front-facing camera with HDR. For the juice, iPhone 7 Plus is powered by a 2900 mAh battery and include connectivity options like Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS-A GPS, USB v2.0 (lightning connector).If something more compact is your type of phone, then the iPhone 7 is the way to go. However, you do lose on dual-cameras. Both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus run on iOS 10 which brings in a bunch of much-needed customizations.
top five handset
Buy this smartphone for – Camera, iOS, Performance, Display (for others!)

Google Pixel/Pixel XL – Rs 57,000 (starting)

Google gambled big this year by dumping its beloved Nexus lineup with a new premium Pixel series of smartphones. The device came with a big price tag but Google seems to have managed to convince, hence, Google Pixel made it to our top five smartphones of the year. Starting with the design, Google Pixel is not the most good looking device in our opinion but it’s not the worst as well. The combination of glass and metal at the back is liked by some and not by others. Up front, we get a 5-inch 1080p High Definition AMOLED display panel with a fingerprint scanner at the back of the device. On the inside, there is a 2.15 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB RAM and 32GB/128GB of internal storage which is not expandable here as well. Probably the best camera in any smartphone currently, Google Pixel features a 12.3-megapixel sensor at the back with f/2.0 aperture, EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)(gyro), phase detection & laser autofocus and dual-LED (dual tone) flash. At the front, there is an 8-megapixel shooter with f/2.4 aperture. There is a 2770 mAh battery inside and the device comes with all the connectivity options including Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, USB Type-C v3.0 etc.
top five handset
The Google Pixel XL is essentially the same device except a 5.5 inch Quad HD display and a bigger 3450 mAh battery. Both the smartphones run on latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat and will continue to get the latest Android updates in future as well. Further, Google also introduced Google Assistant in these devices, which is Google’s own AI (Artificial Intelligence) powered voice assistant.

Buy this smartphone for – Camera, Performance, Android updates

Special Mentions-

Moto Z

Lenovo-owned Motorola’s Moto Z was a decent smartphone in our opinion except for the battery life. Further, it brought the new modular concept through a 16-pin mechanism which did turn heads. The device comes with 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, Snapdragon 820, 4GB RAM. However, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack. ()

LG V20

Though launched much later in India, the LG V20 is a pretty rare breed as a flagship. The device comes with a 3200 mAh removable battery, expandable storage, a secondary display and a dual-camera set up at the back with full manual video recording mode as well.

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