The top 10 phones for Christmas
There are so many great smartphones out there that picking which one is right for you, or for a loved one, can be a nightmare. The trick is to ask yourself exactly what you need your phone to do – and which features you simply must have, and which you can do without – to help you narrow your choice.
To help you, we've compiled our pick of the best handsets in five different categories – flagship, budget phone, phablet, luxury phone/watch combo and camera phone. We've also suggested alternatives if our top choices don't take your fancy.
- Looking for more top tech gift ideas? Check out xmasradar
Best flagship: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
After a couple of years of no one really understanding how to make curved screens that are anything beyond a gimmick (looking at you, LG), this year Samsung overshadowed its flagship Galaxy S6 with that phone's curvier sibling: the Galaxy S6 Edge.
The phone's screen has curved edges on both the left and right, which make the handset look both ultra-modern and elegant. Crucially though, the phone also delivers in terms of what's under the hood.
The 5.1-inch screen packs a 2K resolution, plus there's 3GB of RAM and a 16MP camera. It's arguably the best Android handset you can currently buy.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review
Alternative flagship: Google Nexus 6P
Unlike most Android phones the Nexus 6P gives you the full, undiluted Android experience, with the OS behaving exactly as Google intended it. Sure, you might not get the latest bleeding-edge features like a curved screen or 3D Touch, but it does mean you get a really solid performer of a phone.
Google prides itself on a consistent 'material' design, and running Android Marshmallow without any bolt-ons is the only way to maintain this consistency.
And, because the phone runs pure Android, you're also guaranteed to get the latest updates (such as next year's 'Android N', as well as security patches) as soon as they are released, meaning your phone will be more up to date, and arguably more secure, than competitors' devices.
- Read our Nexus 6P review
Best budget: Moto G (2015)
Motorola has earned itself a bit of a reputation for putting out surprisingly excellent budget phones, and the third-generation Moto G continues in that vein, outshining its middleweight competitors.
Stand-out features include the 13MP camera and the full waterproofing, and the Moto G 2015 also keeps the manufacturer bloatware to a minimum, providing the purest Android experience this side of a Nexus handset.
Add to this the fact that the phone is available SIM-free for less than £135, and you'll be laughing all the way to the Christmas tree.
- Read our Motorola Moto G review
Alternative budget: OnePlus X
If you're looking for a little more style in your sub-£200 handset then the OnePlus X may take your fancy. It's a great-looking and great-feeling phone considering its price, plus it packs in a 5-inch full HD display, 13MP rear camera, 8MP front snapper and a hearty 3GB of RAM.
There are a couple of minor niggles, though. The first is getting hold of one of the 'invites' you need in order to buy the phone, as it's not currently on general sale – if you can find someone who's already got their hands on a OnePlus X they'll be able to hook you up.
Second, the phone is running a rather old Snapdragon 800 chip – it's far from terrible, but we do fear a little for its longevity. At this price, however, it's difficult to complain.
- Read our OnePlus X review
Best phablet: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
So you already know that we like the Galaxy S6 Edge. But Samsung didn't stop there, asking itself "How can we make people like this phone even more?" The answer, of course, was to make it bigger.
The Edge+ jacks up the screen to a 5.7-inch display, adds an extra GB of RAM (pushing it up to 4GB) and adds a bigger 3000mAh battery; that larger power pack is especially useful, as it means your phone will last even longer on standby.
Other than that it stays pretty faithful to the styling and specs of the S6 Edge – which is what you want when you're on to a winner.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ review
Alternative phablet: LG G4
With its commanding 5.5-inch QHD display and real leather rear, the LG G4 imbues the phablet experience with little touches of class.
Its gently curved design means it fits nicely against your face when you're on a call, while its laser auto-focusing 16MP rear camera can snap crystal-clear shots.
And, while the G4 was always a decent buy, since its launch earlier this year the phone has come down in price, meaning it's become a bit of a steal.
- Read our LG G4 review
Best luxury: iPhone 6S Plus + Apple Watch
When it comes to luxury devices, there's no escaping it: the iPhone 6S Plus wins hands down. Though Android's pretenders to the luxury crown offer a decent challenge, ultimately they can't match the elegant design and premium feel of an Apple device.
Perhaps it's all just alchemy, and clever manipulation of consumers with its branding, but Apple is still the choice of smartphone elitists.
So if you want to join the jet-set you'll need a 128GB 6S Plus, and an Apple Watch to go with it. The two work beautifully in combination – and thanks to your notifications and messages arriving on your wrist, you'll never miss drinks at the Polo club again.
Alternative: Xperia Z5 Premium + Tag Heuer
Don't fancy Apple's vision of the high life? Then perhaps this Android combo can coax every last penny from your wallet.
Pair the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium – the world's first 4K smartphone – with the Android Wear-toting Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch and you'll be looking at an outlay of over £1,600.
You'll be the talk of the town as you flaunt that 4K display, backed by plenty of power under the hood and a stand-out camera, while your designer smartwatch glints in the sun.
Best camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung's crop of S6-branded handsets all sport fantastic cameras, and the flagship Galaxy S6 boasts one of the best snappers on the market.
Its 16MP sensor and behind-the-scenes image processing smarts enable you to take some stonking photos – and they also look great on the bright, vibrant QHD AMOLED display.
There are a selection of useful photo modes, but Samsung has killed off some of the more gimmicky offerings found in previous iterations, honing its camera app for a more professional look and feel.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 review
Alternative camera phone: iPhone 6S
Photographers will tell you that "megapixel's aren't everything" – and that's the mantra employed by Apple in its fleet of iPhones.
The 12MP snapper on the iPhone 6S may pale in comparison to its Android rivals size-wise, but Apple's done something very clever with those 12 million pixels, producing one of the best smartphone cameras on the market.
When Apple announced this year's devices back in September its executives spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of the iPhone 6S camera. And there's one feature we particularly like, and which no Android device has so far been able to match: video shooting at 240fps.
Shooting at this speed enables you to produce super-slow-motion footage, making the phone great for capturing leaps, dives and runs – after shooting the latter, simply dub in the Chariots of Fire theme for the full effect.
- Read our iPhone 6S review