Best phone 2016: the 10 top smartphones we've tested

The best smartphone right now is the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

We're all about reviewing and rating all the phones here at techradar. There's nothing we like more than brewing a pot of tea and deciding where each new phone should sit in the list.

However, sometimes they don't make it into the top 10 - sad, we know, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a quick look to see if they fit your needs. After all, there are very few bad phones these days...

ZTE Axon 7

ZTE Axon 7

High end features on a stranger to the flagship game

OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1440x2560 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3250mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 8MP

This phone is about to drop into our top ten and - spoiler alert - it's looking like it's going to feature highly as it punches.

It's got dual speakers, good battery life and a whole heap of power, along with an impressive screen and a few other features folks might not expect from a brand like ZTE.

What's more, it comes with a low, low price compared to the competition - so how will it fare compared to the likes of the OnePlus 3?

Huawei Mate 8

Huawei Mate 8

Great battery life but a middling interface

OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | RAM: 3-4GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 4000mAh | Rear camera: 16MP dual | Front camera: 8MP

This is obviously more phablet than phone, but it's an intriguing one given it's lower on the price scale. There's a great, speedy fingerprint sensor on the rear, the display is still stunning despite not being the sharpest around and the battery life is much stronger than most on show here.

However, Huawei's Emotion UI is still a bit hard to master, trying to ape the best bits of both Android and iOS but not really managing either. The speaker grille doesn't look amazing, and we wish the fast charging cable came along at purchase.

Nexus 5X

Nexus 5X

Smaller, but still (almost) perfectly-formed

OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2700mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP dual | Front camera: 5MP

The Nexus 5X is a phone that offers the very latest version of Android, a decent (ish) spec list and a more hand-friendly size to plop in your pocket.

The screen is a decent resolution and really clear to boot, and the price isn't as high as you might find on other phones in this spec bracket.

The best thing is that this will be constantly updated to the latest version of Android for a good while yet, and with an improved camera it's definitely worth a look - especially if you're not a fan of the cumbersome skins Samsung and LG like to chuck on their phones.

Lumia 950

Microsoft Lumia 950

The beginning of a smartphone revolution?

OS: Windows Phone 10 | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB |Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 5MP

Maybe you're bored of the iPhone. Perhaps Android just doesn't do it for you. Maybe you're just wondering if there's something different out there? Well, Windows Phone 10 on the Lumia 950 will intrigue you. It can offer a PC-like experience by extending out to a larger monitor, and the camera is pretty strong.

However, there's one issue: apps. Or the lack thereof - and when combined with the slightly plastic design, it fails to trouble the top 10. However, it's a legitimate choice and easily one of the most impressive Windows Phones ever.

Full Review: Microsoft Lumia 950

BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry + Android = more impressive than expected

OS: Android | Screen size: 5.4-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB | Storage:32GB| Battery: 3410mAh | Rear camera: 18MP | Front camera: 2MP

BlackBerry is back - and it's taking a new direction by finally jumping into bed with Android. It's got a slide-out keyboard, a superbly sharp screen, splendidly powerful innards and some decent privacy settings too.

However, it's not cheap. At all, and the keyboard - something we all used to love - now feels a little outdated. Combined with the chunkier design (to facilitate that keyboard) and some lag in performance, this isn't top table worthy. But there's a lot of promise here, and we're glad to see BlackBerry is still swinging.

Full review: Blackberry Priv

OnePlus 2

OnePlus 2

The 'flagship killer' with a fantastic price

OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB/4GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB | Battery: 3,300mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP

The OnePlus One was a brilliant phone in 2014, offering a great price for top end specs - it truly was a bargain phone.

The good news is the One Plus 2 has repeated that trick, upgrading the internals while (mostly) keeping the same low price. Its clever overlay still impresses and the little tweaks (such as audio improvement) work quite nicely.

We would have liked to see some upgrades on the screen front, or NFC for mobile payments, but on the whole the brand has managed to avoid stumbling over the 'tricky second album' - it's not quite top ten material, but for the price it's a decimatingly good smartphone.

Full review: OnePlus 2

HTC One M9

HTC One M9

Beautiful design - as always from HTC - but not quite as good as the M8

OS: Android 6 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2,840mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 4MP

The HTC One M9 is no longer in our top list of phones, but that doesn't mean it's not a stunning device with loads of great features.

For one, it's still got some of the best construction we've ever seen on a phone - it's jewellery-grade, according to HTC, and we're largely inclined to agree.

The screen is still clear and crisp, and while the rear camera isn't as innovative as the dual-sensored One M8, the front facing affair takes some superb selfies.

Available for a lot less cash nowadays, the HTC One M9 is still a decent buy.

Z5 Compact

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

A compact beast with a splendid price

Weight: 138g | Dimensions: 127 x 65 x 8.9 mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 4.6-inch | Resolution: 720 x 1280 | CPU: Snapdragon 810 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2700mAh | Rear camera: 23MP | Front camera: 5.1MP

Compact design
Impressive camera
Still a 720p screen
No wireless charging

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact is another in the line of smaller handsets from the Japanese brand, packing in all the power into a smaller, more manageable phone.

It's got all the same power credentials as the Xperia Z5 and Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, but has the added bonus of being a lot more pocketable.

The main reason you'd go for this phone is that it's a dinkier device, with a 4.6-inch screen combined with the strong camera, waterproofed chassis and allows you to hear all your audio in beautiful upscaled sound quality.

Battery life could be better, but it's no worse than a lot on this list - and Sony certainly has a unique design that plenty like to fondle.

Read the full review: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

Also consider: If you're not a fan of the size of this phone, the Sony Xperia Z5 'normal' packs the same great camera, waterproofing and Hi-Res Audio as the larger version, but in a more easy-to-handle frame.

See the best Sony Xperia Z5 Compact deals

Nexus 6P

The best phone for those that like a simple interface

Weight: 178g | Dimensions: 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm | OS: Android Marshmallow | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 2560 x 1440 | CPU: Snapdragon 810 | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 3450mAh | Rear camera: 12.3MP | Front camera: 8MP

Great specs for the price
Front-facing stereo speakers
Ugly rear camera bulge
No wireless charging

The Nexus 6P is a larger phone, but that means it comes with some upgraded specs too. There's a vivid QHD display, which is much sharper than many other smartphone around, but Huawei (the brand making the Google Nexus phablet) has tried hard to make it more palm-friendly.

You'll always get the latest version of Android first with Nexus phones (currently the highly-rated Android Marshmallow) and there's the innovative placement of the fingerprint scanner on the back - which is both quick and accurate, while being much safer than a PIN.

It's not super-cheap like the old Nexus phones (although it's more competitive than other phablets in the same screen size bracket), but it's very well made, and thanks to the improved camera and battery capabilities you'll likely be very impressed with what Huawei has made here.

Read the full review: Nexus 6P

Also consider: If you're after a Nexus phone, you're thinking about getting the latest version of Android in a smartphone - and you can get that in the Nexus 5X too. It's cheaper, and not as powerful in some ways, but it's cheaper and more palm-friendly.

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iPhone 6S Plus

The best phablet you can buy

Weight: 192g | Dimensions: 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm | OS: iOS 9.3 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | CPU: Apple A9 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2750mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

3D Touch has exciting potential
Bright, vibrant display
Big and heavy
Expensive

Apple on the slide! Regular visitors to our best phones ranking will note that Apple's duo of flagship phones have taken a tumble down the order of late. Why? Well while the Android army has been busy in 2016 launching their latest and greatest, the Cupertino firm has been patiently biding its time.

That's not to say the iPhone 6S Plus has gone backwards - it's still a great handset - it's just that the competition has moved on since its launch in September 2015. Of course, we could see the Apple brand leap back up the chart later this year with the arrival of the iPhone 7 Plus, but that will all depend on whether it's actually a decent upgrade.

If you're OK with a larger iPhone, then you're in for a treat with the iPhone 6S Plus. It packs all the same upgrades as the smaller 6S - namely the innovative 3D Touch screen and upgraded camera - and fixes some of the flaws we all hate.

The battery is larger, and while the screen is Full HD (with a really great ability to show colours) this is easily the longer-lasting of the two iPhones, meaning you won't have to reach for the charger as often.

The camera is actually better than on the iPhone 6S, with optical image stabilisation providing sharper and brighter images thanks to mechanical help.

If you're an Apple fan looking for a 'bigger' experience, this is the phone for you.

Read the full review: iPhone 6S Plus

Also consider: You'll obviously want to look at the iPhone 6S as the smaller option here - the reason to go smaller would be if you're not a fan of the phablet and want the lower cost. In the interest of fairness the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ has to be mentioned here as another brilliant phablet, but Apple fans will consider that sacrilege.

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iPhone 6S

The best iPhone Apple's ever made

Weight: 143g | Dimensions: 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm | OS: iOS 9.3 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334 x 750 | CPU: Apple A9 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1715mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

Great design
3D Touch impresses
Battery life low
Price high for a low-res screen

Apple tumble! Like the 6S Plus, the iPhone 6S Plus has also dropped in the rankings. Fear not, for it's still a great handset, it's just that the competition has moved on since its September 2015 launch. We may see Apple leap back up the chart later this year with the arrival of the iPhone 7, but that will depend on whether it's a decent upgrade.

The iPhone 6S might look the same as 2014's model, but peer below the hood and there are a number of interesting upgrades.

The camera is enhanced, the processor is once again more powerful to let you play ever-better apps and games with speed, and the 3D Touch display is proving innovative.

The new touch system lets you press harder into the screen to open quick shortcuts - so taking a selfie is merely a hard push and swipe of the camera icon away.

It's still a brilliant iPhone, the phone that loads of users are desperate to get their hands on, and Apple's not done any harm at all with this upgraded model.

Read the full review: iPhone 6S

Also consider: The obvious move is to the iPhone 6S Plus, as it's got a sharper screen and longer-lasting battery - the price is higher and it's a bit harder to hold, but you'll likely get used to it pretty quickly.

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