The iPhones were released, the elections are over, and Christmas music is starting to play in department stores. It’s been an eventful year for Android smartphones, with a few huge surprises along the way—whether it’s Google’s first smartphone or the Galaxy Note 7’s exploding batteries.
But now that all of the major smartphone manufacturers have released its smartphones, it’s a great time to take a look at the best Android smartphones you can buy right now. With the exception of the LG V20, which we’ve still yet to get a full review of, here’s our ranking of the best of the best:
10. Nexbit Robin
Every year, the cheap flagship Android smartphone space gets tighter and tighter. The brand new manufacturer Nextbit just released its first phone, the Robin, with a very particular problem it was looking to solve: storage. Using its seamless cloud storage, you’ll never have to worry about filling up your limited storage with photos, videos, and apps.
Aside from the great storage solution, the Robin also has a pretty unique look, as you can see in the photo. The $399 pricetag is also attractive, but you should know that the camera and display won’t be competing with the Galaxy S7 or G5 anytime soon. Even with that in mind though, the Robin is a great cheap Android smartphone alternative that doesn’t feel cheap at all and stands up pretty good against phones like the OnePlus X, Honor 5x, and Nexus 5X.—Luke Larsen
9. Nexus 5X
At just $349, you’d think the Nexus 5X would be as cheap as a good Android phone gets, but in this day and age, even competition for that price level is stiff. The Nexus 5X is a modest phone in pretty much every way, which makes it ideal for a lot of people. Especially if you are someone looking for a smaller device (this one’s got a 5.2-inch display) that is also clean and fully functional, the Nexus 5X really is a good way to go.—LL
8. OnePlus X
The definition of the “budget phone” has changed significantly in the past few years. Where midrange phones from LG, Samsung, and Motorola used to rule this market, the recent influx of excellent smartphones at a highly discounted price (under $400) from smaller companies has completely upended the market.
Our winner for best small, budget phone is the OnePlus X, an impressive 5.0-inch device made up entirely of metal and glass. The device can be bought unlocked from OnePlus for only $249—a staggering price that completely reframes the category of budget phone.—LL
7. LG G5
For years, LG lagged behind its counterpart Samsung. But with last year’s G4, the company really found away to pare down the design to a point that really separated it from the competition. With the new G5, LG took a big gamble by veering off course with its new accessory ecosystem. With the ability to swap out different modules like an extended battery or camera accessory, the G5 can be customized to the way you use your phone. This could be pretty cool down the line if LG really goes all-in on it and gets the pricing down, but for now it’ll probably confuse more users than anything else.
While the upgrades are notable, the experimentation makes an otherwise top-tier phone come across as a bit imperfect. Yet still, if you’re in the market for a current-generation smartphone, the LG G5 deserves a recommendation. The competition is stiff in Android with options like the Galaxy S7 and the Nexus 6P, but the G5 still holds up as a more refined version of what was already one of the best smartphone lines on the market.—Stephen Clark
6. Galaxy S7 / S7 edge
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Karlis Dambrans
Samsung’s “other” phone. Though it’s now over six months old, the Galaxy S7 is the smartphone Samsung would much rather have you talk about at this point. You won’t find the Galaxy Note 7 on this list, which is a phone we can no longer recommend.
With the S7, Samsung reintroduced waterproofing and expandable storage, which pleased many Android users. Most importantly, Samsung pulled in these features without having to compromise the great design and build quality that it introduced last year. Oh yeah—and then there’s that incredible OLED display, which you have to see in person to truly appreciate. The S8 is that far away, but the S7 is still a fantastic smartphone.—LL
5. HTC 10
The newest hotness from HTC isn’t exactly the most standout device. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the company in 2016, which means it might not be the savior of this smartphone manufacturer that it needs to be. But when you just look at the phone itself, it’s hard to find much to complain about.
The device feels great in the hand and it’s a design that has been iterated upon over the years quite well. It’s a bit clunkier than what you’ll get with a phone from Apple or Samsung, but there’s also no questioning this thing’s durability and some people are going to love the idea of going caseless with the HTC 10. What’s more, the HTC 10 feels a step further than the Galaxy S7 or LG G5 on the software end of things, not overly relying on the company’s proprietary Android skin much at all. Instead, you get a light, responsive, and clean interface that makes the new HTC 10 one of the very best options for Android smartphones out there right now.—LL
4. Moto Z
After Lenovo acquired Motorola, the entire tech world knew the longstanding Chicago telecommunications company was in for a shakeup. Google Motorola and Lenovo Motorola were going to offer the world very different products.
That has rung true with the Moto Z. It is an entirely different animal to the Moto X, but one with a similarly great experience and its own set of quirks that make it distinct from the rest of the smartphone market. If, and this is a massive if, the modular idea catches on, it could change how people look at smartphones. Instead of seeing a device they’ll hope lasts them two years, consumers might look at the Z and see it as a phone that will be great when they buy it, and maybe even better in the future.—Eric Walters
3. Nexus 6P
Here at Paste, when we put the iPhone up against stock Android, we tend to choose stock Android. Despite the fact that we’ve got fresh new phones from LG, Samsung, and HTC, last year’s Nexus 6P tops all of them. The stock Android phone from Huawei and Google from last year was our phone of the year and it’s still a phone that is worth every dollar of its $499 pricetag.
The Nexus 6P edges out over the HTC 10 thanks to our love of stock Android software. The Galaxy S7 might have a nicer camera and the HTC 10 might be a little more durable, but the Nexus 6P is still the Android device that we want to use more on a day-to-day basis. What’s more, the Nexus 6P is cheaper off contract than those other flagship options as well.—LL
2. OnePlus 3
If the OnePlus 3 costed as much as the Nexus 6P and HTC 10, it still would have been the best Android phone you could buy. It’s got an impressive camera, a great display, fast performance, and the best feel in the hand out there. When you throw in the $400 pricetag, it makes me have very few reasons to recommend a different Android smartphone that isn’t made directly by Google.—LL
1. Google Pixel
The Google Pixel is the most important phone of 2016. It may not be the one most remembered, thanks to the explosive tendencies of the Note 7, or the best, thanks to the stacked field of 2016, but it’s the device that will have the most impact on the industry moving forward. After years of dancing around the idea, Google finally released a phone designed entirely in Mountain View. If it performs well, it could end the Apple-Samsung duopoly that has dominated the market for nearly a decade. That’s a big deal.
But it can’t be a big deal if the phone doesn’t live up to expectations. Google clearly learned from the Nexus program, and its other hardware ventures like the Chromebook Pixel and Pixel C, because its first smartphone is rock solid. The design may not impress, but the experience of using the phone certainly does. From a hardware perspective, even if it echoes the iPhone too much, it’s a well built machine that lives up to the standards set by other premium smartphones. On the software side, Google is showing real innovation with the Google Assistant which, while not perfect, is clearly the company’s idea of the future.
If you’re an Android user, the experience doesn’t get better than Pixel. Google’s smartphones, under the Nexus moniker, always provided the best user experience on the platform, and the Pixel ups it several notches with a bevy of features.—EW