The 10 best smartphones of 2016 so far

The shiny slabs of handheld goodness that have won our hearts this year

Do words such as 'megapixels', 'RAM' and ‘unibody aluminium’ make you feel all fuzzy inside? Then this is the corner of the internet for you.

Below you'll find our pick of the best phones we've reviewed so far this year, celebrating everything from gorgeous displays to bonkers innovation and everything in-between. Before we dive into the smartphone rabbit hole, though, we’d like to make it clear that this isn’t our Top 10 smartphone list; that’s the place you want to go to if you’re after a new smartphone and want some expert advice. Indeed, some of the phones below aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ around.

But what they do all do is offer something different enough to make them stand out, and that's why we're shining our spotlight on them. So, on with the show.

Additional text by Elissa Loi

Most desirable: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is pretty much as perfect a smartphone as we’ve ever laid eyes (or indeed, hands) on. For starters, it’s bloomin’ gorgeous. The second you pick it up, you’ll be drawn in by the tantalising bends of its curved screen and lovely solid metal and glass build.

It’s not just a pretty face though - it’s packing some serious, serious power beneath the hood, with a Samsung-made Exynos processor and 4GB RAM providing a smartphone experience that’s slicker than a greased up cheetah on an ice slide. Throw in the best smartphone camera we’ve ever tested, and you’ve got yourself a pocket wonder.

Best for the planet: Fairphone 2

The Fairphone 2 is, in many ways, the worst phone on this list. Its camera, while offering decent, if unspectacular snaps in regular conditions, will throw up fuzzy noise in a dim bar. It’s running Android 5.1 as opposed to the newer 6.0 Marshmallow (albeit with a few nice software tweaks). Its rear speakers are pretty terrible, and it’s also really, really fat, measuring up at around 11mm thick - practically obese by today’s smartphone standards. Oh, and it’s also made of plastic.

So why is it in our list? Well, first off, it’s modular - even more so than the LG G5, in that you can order replacement cameras and even screens, swapping them out yourself should you find anything broken after a sambuca-fuelled dancefloor backflip.

More important, however, is what the Fairphone 2 stands for. Namely, fairness. Obviously. It’s produced ethically, using components, minerals and raw materials that aren’t mined in dubious human right-violating ways, and its workers aren’t subjected to the long hours and poor conditions that still sadly plague our world. For that alone, it’s earned itself a well-deserved place on our list.

Most innovative: LG G5

LG looked around at all the other smartphones this year and stuck its middle finger up at them all by magically creating the G5: an all-metal phone with a removable battery and microSD card slot - the twin pillars of the holy grail of Android power users worldwide.

The secret lies in the G5’s crazy ability to dislocate its lower jaw, revealing a hidden battery compartment. This same trick also lets it play nice with various LG modules, including a camera grip - the LG Cam Plus - and a rather excellent DAC (the LG Hi-Fi Plus), which supercharges your music while you’re out and about.

Its photography game is on point too, with two excellent rear cameras - one of which is solely designed for super-wide shots, cramming more into each single photo. More innovation like this please, everyone.


Best small phone: Apple iPhone SE

Silly name aside, we have to give Apple credit for its 2016 not-flagship iPhone. While the iPhone 7 has yet to fully reveal itself (you’ll have to wait till September for that like the rest of us), the iPhone SE graced us with its miniature presence in March, going against the grain by cramming in the same internals as the iPhone 6s into what is essentially an iPhone 5s’ body.

The end result is a powerful phone with a very manageable 4in screen, offering smaller-handed gadgeteers a taste of the flagship life, at a reasonable (for Apple) RM1949.