The smartphone industry is set to grow by 10 percent in 2016 with more than 1.5 billion phones sold ( source ), but only one of those sales is important to you. We help you choose your new smartphone, with our guide to the 20 best phones you can buy in the UK in 2016. Also see: Best new phones coming in 2016 and 2017.
When we review smartphones we take into account their build quality and design, ease of use, features, performance and value, although the latter isn’t always such a big deal when it comes to a phone you are most likely to buy on a contract. Generally speaking a flagship phone will cost between £500- and £600, or between £40- and £50 per month on a contract. If you are buying SIM-free then you should also check out our best SIM-only deals.
Value becomes more important when you consider older-generation phones. For example, we still think the Samsung Galaxy S6 is better than many of the phones in this chart, especially when you consider that it’s now available under £400 SIM-free. However, we move all older-generation smartphones to our best old phones chart , and you’ll now find the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge sitting at the top of this best phones chart. We also have a best budget phones round-up if you’re looking to minimise costs. Also see: Best kids’ phones 2016
Note that we have removed the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 from our smartphone chart due to the ongoing battery issues which, in some cases, are catching on fire. Samsung has now discontinued the phone so you should stop using it and return it for a refund.
There are multiple mobile phone operating systems, but really only two worth talking about: Android and iOS. Windows phones account for around 1 percent of all phones sold, so it makes more sense to go with Android or an iPhone. If you do have your heart set on Windows, also see our list of the best Windows phones 2016. (Similarly, for purely Android choices see Best Android phones .)
The vast majority of phones available run the Android operating system, with Marshmallow the latest version. While Apple’s iOS platform has a much lower market share, developers always release their apps on iOS so it has one of the best app stores you’ll find. For more, see Android vs iPhone.
Also, for a more in-depth look at each OS see our Android Marshmallow review , iOS 10 review and Windows 10 Mobile review .
If you have an Android phone or and iPhone and want to move to the other type of phone, it’s fair easy move your contacts and other data from one to the other. See How to move from Android to iPhone and How to move from iPhone to Android. What you can’t move is paid-for apps, so keep this in mind if you’re considering a change of platform.
An unlocked phone is one which is not tied to any particular mobile operator, such as Vodafone or EE. Buying unlocked usually means buying the phone outright without a SIM. The most important point is that an unlocked phone is almost always a better deal than buying a phone on contract. The only real exception to this are Apple’s iPhones – because of their traditional popularity, operators do often subsidise the cost of buying an iPhone in order to lock you into a lucrative long-term deal. Generally speaking, however, if you can afford the upfront cost of the handset, you will pay less over the life of your phone by buying unlocked.
More importantly, you are not locked in. If you want a new handset at any time, you can buy one without having to up-purchase your way out of a contract, or commit to another two years.
One thing to be sure of when purchasing an unlocked or ‘SIM-free’ phone is that not all SIM-free handsets are unlocked. The excellent Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is a classic example of this. It is SIM-free, but if you want to use it for any network other than Vodafone you have to first use it for a month with a Voda SIM, and then pay £20 to get it unlocked.
EE’s own branded phones are similar. In both cases it may well still be better to buy network branded phones and go through the pain of getting them unlocked, than to buy on contract. But you should do your research before you take the plunge. We can help with that with our feature: ‘How to unlock any phone ‘.
One other thing to consider is the size and shape of the SIM required for your phone. Make sure you get a nano-SIM if a nano-SIM is what your phone requires. If you get that wrong it is easily solvable – every network will gladly send over a different-sized SIM. SIM cards tend to come in all three sizes – you simply pop out the one you need. But that’s assuming you are getting a new SIM, and if you’re looking for a SIM-free phone or unlocked phone you probably already have one. You can buy adaptors that let you fit a Nano-SIM or Micro-SIM in a Micro-SIM or full-size SIM slot for a very small charge.
More important is to make sure that if you want 4G you get a 4G-enabled phone and SIM.
and later this year we are expecting to see new Google Nexus phones (running all new Android N ), the Samsung Galaxy Note 6 , the OnePlus 3 , and Apple’s new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus .
Every single phone in our top 20 is here because we think it is an excellent device, with which few people will be disappointed. All are plenty fast for general tasks and gaming (see our benchmark results in our What’s the fastest phone? chart), have nice screens and decent photography capabilities. However, subtle differences mark them out in a fiercely competitive market. You can read the full, in-depth review of each of the 20 reviews below by clicking on the link.
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