Best Phones of 2016

We’re now at the point where most smartphones are good, but it’s not necessarily easy to find a phone that’s good for your specific needs. Maybe you’re into photography and want your pictures to get the most likes, or you’re trying to be more productive away from the office and want to leave your laptop behind. Or maybe you just want an affordable phone you can feel confident giving to your child. Tom’s Guide has handpicked the very best handsets for all types of shoppers based on our extensive testing.

Check out our top picks in multiple categories, plus the latest rumors on what’s coming next.

How We Rate Phones

We rate smartphones using a combination of subjective criteria (including design and ease of use); our own benchmarks (e.g., our battery, audio and display tests); and synthetic benchmarks (Geekbench for speed, 3DMark for graphics). We also take photos in different lighting conditions and compare the results.

After we've conducted all of our testing, we rate each device based on its features, performance and overall value. Only the very best devices make our Best list.

Smartphone Rumors

Galaxy S7 (Feb. 21st) - The Galaxy S7 is expected to launch at Mobile World Congress and will likely go on sale in March. Possible improvements include a pressure-sensitive screen, much better photos in low light and a waterproof design. Get all the latest info in our Galaxy S7 rumor roundup.

LG G5 (Feb. 21st) - LG's G5 is on the horizon, as the company is expected to announce its new phone at Mobile World Congress. The device could pack a powerful Snapdragon 820 processor and a quad HD or even 4K display. The reported accessory slot could be the most compelling feature, allowing you to slip in a battery and other "cartridges."

4-Inch iPhone (March) - Apple is rumored to be prepping a 4-inch iPhone for a March release as a lower-priced option to its current flagship phones.

iPhone 7 (Fall 2016) - The iPhone 7 is further down the road and likely won't launch until September or October, so if you’re an iOS fan, the current iPhone 6s or bigger iPhone 6s Plus will serve you well. According to reports, Apple may ditch the 3.5 headphone jack in favor of the Lightning connector and Bluetooth. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus could also sport a new waterproof design and possibly an OLED display.

The iPhone 6s is the best phone for most people because it’s the most well-rounded. Its A9 chip offers fast performance for games and juggling multiple open apps, and the 4.7-inch screen is bright and colorful without being too big to use with one hand. The iPhone 6s also boasts an excellent 12-megapixel camera that takes fun Live Photos (think short GIFs), although the iPhone 6s Plus is even better in low light because of its optical image stabilization. Add in a growing selection of apps that support the 3D Touch display, which enables shortcuts and other new features, and you have the best overall smartphone.

MORE: Apple iPhone 6s Full Review

The best phone for the money is the Huawei Honor 5X, an unlocked Android phone that works with AT&T, T-Mobile and other GSM networks. At just $199, this device delivers everything practically everything you could want in a sleek metal design, including a sharp 5.5-inch 1080p display, handy fingerprint sensor and capable 13-MP and 5-MP rear and front cameras. The battery life is particularly impressive, as the 5X lasted a very long 9 hours and 22 minutes on our 4G web surfing test. Although Huawei’s software skin on top of Android isn’t for everyone, this is the budget phone to beat.

MORE: Huawei Honor 5X Full Review

If you're the type of person whose skin crawls when you see a software skin over Android like Samsung's TouchWiz, the Google Nexus 6P is for you. You get a lean and clean install of Android Marshmallow in an elegant metal design, plus a great 12.3-MP camera that did really well in our flagship shootout. The best part of this phone is its endurance, as it lasted nearly 12.5 hours on the Tom's Guide battery test. That's more than 3 hours longer than the smartphone average. The display is on the dim side, but if you're looking for an unlocked phone with nothing to hold you back, this is it.

MORE: Nexus 6P Full Review

Get the iPhone 6s Plus if you want to take the best pictures and have a blast playing games. Its 12-megapixel iSight camera phone beat out all the other flagship devices in our shootout, including the Nexus 6P and Galaxy Note 5. The iPhone 6s Plus consistently delivered good clarity, vibrant and accurate colors and excellent low-light performance (thanks to its optical image stabilization). Into gaming? The iPhone 6s Plus also benefits from the best selection of titles available from Apple’s App Store, including games that take advantage of its 3D Touch display for a more immersive experience when you deep press.

MORE: Apple iPhone 6s Plus Full Review

The Moto G is a good choice for kids because it’s very affordable at just $179, yet it has everything your child needs to stay connected and have fun. It offers a bright 5-inch HD display, solid performance for the price and long battery life. Plus, when you pair the Moto G with a good parental control app, you’ll be able to keep tabs on how Junior is using the phone and also set usage time limits. The iPhone doesn’t let you do that.

MORE: Motorola Moto G (2015) Full Review

Those looking to be more productive should snatch up the Galaxy Note 5. Its S Pen makes it easy to take notes or sketch, and you don’t even have to turn the phone on to start scribbling. The 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440-pixel display gives you plenty of room to scan your inbox and review documents, as well as binge-watch video on long flights. Add in fast performance and a high-quality 16-MP camera and you have a work partner you can count on. Just don’t expect expandable storage.

MORE: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Full Review

You’ll like the sound of the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, thanks to a bottom-mounted speaker that fills the room with music. But the real magic for music lovers happens when you plug in a pair of headphones to Samsung’s curvy phone. Built-in UHQ Upscaler technology restores the details that can lost in compression. The S6 Edge Plus can produce 24-bit, 192-kHz quality music from the likes of YouTube and Pandora for punchier MP3s and brighter-sounding songs. Throw in a gorgeous 5.7-inch screen for those times you want to take a break from music to watch a video or play a game, and you’ve got a phone that’s a multimedia marvel.

MORE: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Full Review

If you’re looking for a workout companion, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Active offers both the features and durability to keep up with your demanding routine. A dedicated button launches Activity Zone, which gives you at-a-glance access to the weather report, streaming radio stations tailored for particular workouts, a stopwatch and Samsung’s S activity-tracking Health App. And don’t worry that your workout will leave your phone any worse for wear: The Galaxy S6 Active has a shatter-resistant screen in a durable frame that can withstand drops. It’s also water-resistant for up to 30 minutes in 1.5 meters of water, in case your phone takes an unexpected dip.

MORE: Samsung Galaxy S6 Active Full Review

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  • Good selection of phones. Im a bit intrigued as to why the Samsung S6 wasnt in your list
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  • Where are the Windows Phones?
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  • Done on the spot test with friends who have iphone 6s and they agree samsung galaxy s6 is faster, better screen, camera and video but would not swap due to prestige of Apple but all agreed mob factory phone was better except for snob factor
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  • In spite of those who say that Windows Phones are very good phones, they ARE very, very good phones.
    Noted by their absence.
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  • Why do you have the Apple 6S Plus priced at $299?
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  • Clearly whoever has compiled this LIST is on APPLE'S pay-rolls. How can you have Samsung Galaxy Note 5 as the best Phablet & iPhone 6s Plus as the Best Overall phone. In a feeble attempt to appear fair & impartial this Reviewer has shown his true colors.

    Also surprised to find no mention of Samsung Galaxy S6 in any of the categories. SO much for blind Apple worship.
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  • I can't speak for the reviewer's thoughts, but one of the main reasons to get a phablet is arguably a stylus. The 6S+ doesn't have a stylus so is questionably good as a phablet - but might still do well as a general phone.
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  • A very nice selection of phones, but I do indeed think you should check out the OnePlus phones, they haven't been around long, but they make some seriously high-quality devices. They currently have 3 phones in stock, the OnePlus X, OnePlus 1, and the OnePlus 2. They are all great phones and you should check out their specs at OnePlus.net
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