Sexiest Phones of the Year
An old adage tells us not to judge a book by its cover, but when it's something like a smartphone that you look at and touch hundreds of times of day, it’s impossible not to take a phone's appearance into account. More than a few of the phones that hit our labls this year caught our eye.
Here are the phones that looked their best in 2016. Sorry, iPhone 7, you didn't make the cut.
Samsung S7 Edge - Doing curved edges right
Samsung got the whole curved-edged phone thing started with the Galaxy S6 Edge in 2015. A year later, Samsung is still the curved-phone leader with its S7 Edge. By rounding off some of the corners and softening the metal band that runs around the outside of the phone, the S7 Edge is even better-looking and more pleasing to hold than its predecessor. With IP-67 water resistance, it's pretty durable, too.
Huawei Mate 9 - The power of Porsche
Huawei really should have make the Porsche Design edition of the Mate 9 the standard version. That's because by adding subtle rounded edges to its display and a menacing, all-black paint job, the Porsche Design Mate 9 has personality oozing out its seams — a quality the standard Mate 9 could really use. If I were in the market for a badass big-screen phone, this is the one I'd choose — that is, if it were actually available in the U.S.
Xiaomi Mi Mix - Where the future of smartphones is going
The Mi Mix isn't the first phone we've seen with three bezelless edges (check out the Sharp Aquos Crystal for that), but it is the most beautiful. The back features a gorgeous mirror finish and the body is made from a superhard ceramic. When you hold the phone up to take a picture and its display blends into the surrounding background, it's one of the few times that a device actually looks and feels like the future.
Huawei Nova - This beauty is what the Pixel should have been
The 5-inch Huawei nova is an exquisitely good-looking phone that saddens us for a number of reasons. It gets its classy looks because of its refined, more precise take on the design from last year's Huawei-built Nexus 6P; its smaller, almost delicate camera visor, which sits flush on the phone's back; its diamond-cut chamfered edges around the sides; and a subtle red highlight on its power button.
But the tragedy is not just that the Nova isn't available in the U.S., but if rumors are true, it's also that Google was originally working with Huawei, not HTC, to make the Pixel. This means that Google's first phone could have looked like this instead of the clunky, slapdash body we got with the Pixel. We also want to give a quick shoutout to Huawei's Honor 8, which does an impressive job with glass construction for a phone that costs under $400. And in blue, it's really something else.
Moto Z Series - Making mods stylish and manageable
Google's Project Ara is dead. The LG G5 fell flat on its face. But Lenovo's Moto Z lineup — the standard Moto Z, along with the Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play — pack the flexibility of easy-to-use mods and stylish glass bodies that look good with or without the stylish wood-grain cover that comes in the box. At just 0.2 inches thick, the standard Moto Z is also one of the thinnest phones on the market, and in your hand, it feels even thinner. And with subtle pins positioned on its back, the Moto Z offers the flexibility of mods without becoming a hassle or ruining the look of its sleek glass-and-aluminum design.
Nextbit Robin — Welcome matte
Who says all smartphones look the same? Even though the Nextbit Robin is at heart just a rectangle with a screen, you'll never get it confused with another handset. Its flat-matte paint job (especially in mint) is a refreshing change from the overly shiny facade you get on a lot of other handsets. In addition, the phone comes with helpful design cues, like the little cloud icon on the back that has an embedded indicator light so you know when it’s transferring data back and forth from the cloud, which helps maximize onboard storage. The Robin may have been announced in 2015, but it didn’t arrive until 2016, qualifying it for this list.
ZTE Axon 7 and Axon 7 mini - Great looks, with sound to match
Simply put, the $400 Axon 7 — and especially the $300 Axon 7 Mini — are the best-looking phones for the money. Despite their midrange price tags, they both deliver a very premium feel, thanks to smooth, brushed-aluminum bodies, smooth, rounded edges and slick polished highlights. Unlike a lot of other phones that don't care about delivering a subpar audio experience, the Axon 7 features dual front-facing speakers that sound as good as they look.
HP Elite x3 - Surprisingly stylish for business
It might be time for HP to get into the smartphone game for real, because frankly, the stylish Elite x3 is wasted on the bores in the business world who usually settle for a brick that can send emails and open a spreadsheet or two. The x3 comes in a handsome black-and-silver two-toned finish with a stylishly asymmetrical, laser-cut speaker grille on bottom, a giant 6-inch QHD screen in front and HP's slick new minimalist logo in back. Despite its productivity-oriented origins, this business-minded phone looks better than 75 percent of the consumer handsets we saw this year, and along with stunning systems like the Spectre and Spectre x360, it feels like the HP design team has really started to hit its stride.
HTC 10 - Big, bold redesign from a brand that needed it
After years of rehashing the same design with its flagship phones, HTC took a different tack with the HTC 10 by giving it a signature look that features a solid aluminum body with bold, sharp edges and a well-balanced, symmetrical design. The HTC 10 — which is especially striking in Camellia Red — was a strong move for a company that is trying to recapture some of its former glory. It’s a perfect example of reinventing your style without forgetting where you came from.
Freetel Musashi - The Stylish smartphone samurai
With two screens, two cameras and a physical T9 keyboard, the Freetel Musashi simultaneously keeps one foot in the past and the other in the future. And while the phone is a bit thick, it still manages to look slick and sophisticated, even with all that tech. Finding this wild-looking gem hidden among the thousands of phones at MWC this year was like a breath of fresh air.
What missed the mark
Even with all these attractive phones from 2016, we thought that a few might seem like they’re missing in action. We’ve already mentioned the Pixel and its bland looks, but we’d be remiss not to note the been-there, done-that look of the iPhone 7, which skipped its every-other-year overhaul to repeat the design of the iPhone 6s. There's also the HTC Desire 530, which was one of the ugliest phones we have reviewed all year, and pretty much everything from LG, which produced some of the most drab and tired-looking handsets yet.