Top 10 greatest smartphones in 2015

2016 is full of promise and excitement, and with a few notable releases just around the corner, I think it might be a good time to look back at what was. 2015 was an amazing year for smartphones, so I’ve singled out a few that really impressed critics and user alike.

I’ve managed to have hands on experience with a good portion of these listed, and for the others I’ve waded through numerous reviews to the point where I feel I know enough to make educated guesses. But as always, with any sort of ‘best of’ list, everything is very subjective, if you feel I’ve left something out, please feel free to list your top 10 in the comments section.

So, with out further ado, here’s my pick for the top smartphones of 2015 – these, I might add, are in no particular order.

Google’s Nexus 6P

Google's Nexus 6P

The Nexus is a phone that Google have released new versions of each year for a while now. This year they finally cracked it, this is the best phone Google have ever released, and if reports are to be believed, it’s one of the best Android phones, ever.

Nexus phones have occasionally fallen down in a few areas, a poor camera, or maybe a weak battery – but this one gets it all right and the build quality is as good then anything on the list here.

It doesn’t have wireless charging, or a microSD card (no Nexus ever has, or probably will) – but it’s it’s one of the cheaper phones on sale here, fast, beautiful, and ticks all the right boxes. So if you’re looking for an Android phone, give this a chance.

One of the best phones of 2015 – good work Google.

LG G4

LG G4

Firstly, if you do decide to grab this phone, get the leather bound version. If this is even a question with you, select another phone, please.

This phone is all about the little things, and as we all know, it’s those things that count, beginning with the leather back – it just feels amazing.

The interface, the brighter screen, these things stand out when you use your phone every day. Little things like the curved back and edges make is easier to pick up off a flat surface. Not that other phones are hard, it’s just those little extras that make a difference.

Like the Google phone above, this is LG’s best phone to date – it has an amazing camera, which puts most of the phones on here to shame, it includes a microSD expansion and something that’s becoming a rarity, a user-replaceable battery – hell, it even has wireless charging.

The pricing is competitive and support is great, another amazing Android phone,

Apple iPhone 6s Plus/6s

Apple iPhone 6s Plus & 6s

While trying to remain open, for me, the iPhone 6s Plus is my phone of the year. Having had hands on experience with a number of phones over the year, it’s this phone that I chose to stick with when it came time to upgrade this year.

If this were a competition simply based on hardware, I’d have to bite the bullet and admit that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 beats anything Apple has on the market at the moment. But it’s not, the sum of the iPhone’s parts seem to exceed what’s possible – and it doesn’t hurt that the iPhone 6s Plus’ battery life is outstanding (compared to past efforts).

Proactive – it’s something I’d call Apple in this market, while most of these companies are reactive, usually to the latest tech Apple has stuffed in their phones. 3D Touch, the ‘so-simple-why-didn’t-we-think-of-it-before’ front facing camera flash, Touch ID.

Quite simply, Apple has the most apps and it’s the standard the industry gauges everything by, you want a new case, of course it’s for the iPhone. The phone’s not perfect, but it’s close enough for me.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

I’ve never owned a Galaxy Note, but I’ve really liked the design changes they’ve made to the Galaxy Note 5.

From what I’ve seen, I think I would love this phone, the screen, by all accounts, looks amazing (as does the camera) – the biggest draw card for me (and something the Telstra worker wouldn’t shut up about) is the fast charge, it’s a great idea, BUT  only works with the cable Samsung provides to you when you buy it, the S Pen is also pretty cool, and I feel it’s been incorporated better then Apples latest effort.

It also doesn’t hurt that the phone feels fast, menu navigation is swift and stutter free, I feel this has an edge over the LG phone and the Galaxy Edge. For the money, I believe this to be the best phone Samsung has put out.

BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv

A BlackBerry on this list? Maybe five yours ago, I hear you think. Those funny looking phones stuck in the past, with actual physical keyboards. Well those funny looking QWERTY keyboards are back, and this time it’s an Android and it’s got a few lessons to teach the youngsters.

The BlackBerry, from my experience, was  all about email, no phone (at the time) did it better (or at all), it was huge in the corporate and government sector, it was a ‘serious’ business phone, not some gimmicky toy, sadly for BlackBerry, the toys won.

What it’s got is nice, quite nice. Aside from a nice large display that slides up to reveal the keyboard, it’s got everything you’d want, 3GB of  RAM, microSD storage, an 18mp camera, rapid & wireless charging and a whopping battery.

The only downfall is that it’s bloody expensive, Blackberry’s always have been and I can safely say that nothing has changed here, sadly.

Not for everyone, but if you are/were a BlackBerry fan, this might be the model to get you back into the groove.

Google’s Nexus 5X

Google's Nexus 5X

This is the second of Googles Nexus phones to be launched last year, it reminds me a lot of how Apple released the 6s and the 6s Plus, this is smaller in every way, screen size, battery life and power – but this makes it no lessor of a phone…

What you’re about to read may make you wonder why I’ve included this phone here, but bare with me, please. This phone is missing the sexy rubber finish of the model before it. The speaker quality really is awful (you’ll be using headphones for everything), no wireless charging, the camera seems to be lacking.

So why is it here? To begin with, it has everything you need in a smartphone, glass front, plastic back (which although not as nice as the rubber version, still feels great to pick up. It’s got fingerprint biometrics and it fits in your pocket very easily, while being kind to your wallet at the same time.

If you want an all singing, all dancing phone, go else where. If you want a smartphone that is well built and has the essentials, for a smart price, then look no further.

Microsoft Lumia 950/950XL

Microsoft Lumia 950/950XL

Now that Microsoft bought Nokia, the Lumia is now the first phone to run on Windows 10. Windows for mobile phones has been around for about five years now, and this is the first time they seem to have served up a serious competitor to the Android and iOS phones.

Being Windows, it’ll come as no surprise that it has problems… Rough I think is a fair description, but it seems to be getting regular updates (like the desktop Windows 10), and, in time, it could be a forced to be reckoned with. Probably the biggest issue is the lack of support, when compared to the apps available for Android and iOS.

So, operating system aside, what makes this phone worthy of this list? It ticks a lot of boxes, it has a great display, the camera is pretty great and the battery life is better then most smartphones here (it also has fast charging, which is always great), it also has an iris scanner, which for me is exciting, an iris scanner just screams future technology, and I can’t wait for this to be included in more phones.

Windows Continuum – I didn’t know what this was at first, so after doing some home work, this is what I found. Windows Continuum allows you to connect your Lumia phone to a Microsoft Display Dock, which is essentially a hub, and from this hub you can connect a monitor, keyboard etc. Essentially making a computer using your phone as the engine. This is an amazing feature, probably not something I’d buy the phone for, but the fact you have this option is great, I’d like to see what Microsoft do with this feature over the coming revisions. Love it or hate it, Microsoft want to be a player – this is an impressive start.

Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge/S6 Edge+

Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge/S6 Edge+

Samsung’s S6/S6 Edge & S6 Edge+ are, for the most part, essentially the same phone, but in three slightly different flavours, it’s all down to what you like.

The Edge part of the last two phones is how the (truly amazing) screen curves around to the edges of the phone, the ‘+’ element is just slightly larger model.

They all have the same RAM, the same processor, internal storage, camera and wireless charging, which is nice. Gone are microSD storage, removable batteries and the ‘waterproof’ design, not so nice – why can’t they include ALL these cool things in one phone? Oh yeah, sales.

You’ll know already if this is the phone for you, the curved display is a little gimmicky, but hey, what a gimmick, it looks amazing, and if your case doesn’t block the edges, really practical for tons of stuff.

If you’re a Samsung fan, or a Galaxy fan, this is the phone you need.

HTC One A9

HTC One A9

The HTC’s have always been sexy phones, that aluminium construction, the front facing speakers, the curved backs – lovely phone to look at, sadly they didn’t always work in practice, and they were a touch pricey.

So what’s changed… quite a bit it would seem. The price is the first thing that was slashed, following that the phone isn’t running on the latest processor, it has a smaller battery, but back is flat while the edges are rounded and it has a fingerprint scanner – in fact, it looks a lot like an iPhone 6 (which isn’t a bad thing, I guess).

Now, some might find the last paragraph to be a knock, but the smaller size fits nice in the hand, the Snapdragon processor runs fine, and with it being a mid-level entry, the battery life is still good, despite the reduced size.

It’s an Android phone of course, running Marshmallow, the bio metric scanner works fine and this HTC probably has the best camera yet.

So if you like the iPhone 6, but want it to run Android, you could do worse than this (plus it’s a LOT cheaper).

Moto X Pure Edition

Moto X Pure Edition

The Motorola Moto X was a popular phone when it was released three years ago, if a little under powered at the time, but it was a neat phone – jump forward a few years and we were presented with a new version.

So what did we get, and why is it here? It’s bigger this time, sticking with the trend (remember when the thing was to have the smallest phone on the market?). Now, this launched before Android Marshmallow came out, so this runs on Lollipop (god these names are stupid), and it’s still a really cheap alternative to the market leaders (although for some reason, it’s one of the few phones released in 2015 that doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner).

At the moment (and this may/may have changed by now) this is a Vodaphone exclusive. So if you really need your Motorola fix, you’ll have to grab a Vodaphone deal.

Roll On 2016

With so much just around the corner this year already, my heads spinning, new iPhone’s, new Galaxy’s. Something for everyone, and we’re moving into some really amazing design features with these phones, waterproof, unbreakable screens (hopefully not 100% true…) and iris scanners – we truly are in for an incredible year. So hang on and make sure you let us know your favourite phones of last year.

Cheers

 

 

Did someone say Samsung Galaxy S7 ?!

Samsung Galaxy S7

S Club 7

The release of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 isn’t too far away now, in fact it’s just a month or so away, and because of this ‘fact’, it’s the talk of the town. This will be Samsung’s response to the iPhone 6S.

Samsung and Apple have exchanged blows over the years, in some cases ending in lawsuits, so it’s no surprise that it’s expected that the Samsung Galaxy S7 will be applying pressure again.
Actually pressure is the right word. Samsung are including a 3D touch style display, a better camera, a faster processor and something that grabbed me was Samsung’s answer to apple’s biometrics – an iris scanner.

I see you

It’s no secret that Samsung has sunk a lot of man hours into its iris scanner, and ever since we’ve seen government agents in films get their eyes scanned – we’ve wanted it. Now this won’t be a replacement for the current fingerprint biometric, but will be a secondary level of security, which on paper, will made this the ‘Fort Knox’ of phones.

The new tech uses the front facing camera to read the users iris patterns and should cover all aspects of security, so not only will you be able to unlock your phone with a look, but confirm PayPal payments literally, in the blink of an eye.

Stick it in

Now not all the updates are going to have a huge wow factor attached, in fact one of the more important new features is something that’s going to filter down through the Samsung line (and Apple if rumours are to be believed) for quite some time.

USB Type-C

You may have heard of it, if you haven’t, take note now, it’s set to become the new industry standard, and Samsung are replacing their old micro USB ports it currently uses for its charging port. Speaking of charging, expect to see a wireless charging as well as a return of the microSD expansion capabilities. Yay!

Under the hood

The question on many people’s lips at the moment is what processor is going to power this new smart phone? Samsung parted ways with Qualcomm for the Galaxy S6 – a move that certainly didn’t cause them any harm, but word on the street is that they may be returning to the house of Snapdragon.

Qualcomm themselves have released details of its new Snapdragon 820 processor. 64 bit (of course) it has the horsepower to turn heads and Qualcomm have gone out of their way to talk about its “impressive battery management abilities”.

Now, with all this being said, in the same breath, and on different sets of lips, ‘people’ are saying that Samsung’s own Exynos processor, the one used in the S6, will be updated to run the S7. So what’s to be believed? Truth be told, no one will know until the day, but… Samsung had success with the move to the Exynos, so to ignore that would be… foolish, maybe – we will see.

One thing that we can more confidently predict is the new OS. Almost across the board everyone is saying that the Samsung Galaxy S7 will ship with Android M.

I’ve not been following the Android M rumours/updates, but it’s expected to be more of an ‘update’ then a huge overhaul (think IOS9) and as usual they are promising battery boosts (which OS doesn’t) along with better Google Now support with ‘advanced app permissions’, whatever that might mean.

Screen Fixed Brisbane – this is the bit we worry about

If it’s one thing that Samsung does better than its strongest competitor (Apple of course), is displays. And having a bit of a play with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (honestly, what a mouthful) and its curved display, I was quite impressed. It was the little things that got me, like being able to see a text on the ‘edge’ part of the phone – neat.

Well apparently Samsung agree (and why shouldn’t they, I’m nearly always right) and rumours are flying around suggesting that maybe the Galaxy S7 will be curved as standard. I don’t know if they are ready for a leap like that, I know these companies like to give people options, but Samsung do like to follow Apples lead, and perhaps they are trying to squeeze everything together, giving them a smaller but better range.

Samsung has been developing a 4K display for its smartphones (honestly it’s a pointless task, the screens are too small, but that’s an argument for another time), in fact I think most of the current smart phone companies are dabbling in those waters, Apple of course being one of them. At the moment Samsung use its Super AMOLED display tech, and it IS super, it really runs rings around every phone on the market, and I expect nothing less from the S7.

And of course, as I mentioned earlier, if you dip under that fantastic display you’ll find the largest change… how do we put this? ‘Inspired’ by the iPhone 6S and it’s under-used (and when I say under-used, I mean never – as an owner of a 6S+, I’d forgotten about that aspect until the other day) 3D Touch display. I hope with more phones adopting this tech, as time goes on, more apps will find constructive uses for this fantastic tech.

Cheers!

In a strange change of circumstance the camera was the only element of this phone that could be confirmed, I emphasise, was.

July’s press release spoke of the “industry’s first 1.0μm pixel-based 16-megapixel CMOS image sensor for use in advanced mobile devices”, it’s a long and technical press release, most of which I didn’t understand, but it was news about ‘industry firsts’ and that’s always impressive.

Also a draw card for this new sensor is that it’s dramatically thinner, this might enable Samsung to shave that bump off the back of the phone where the camera sticks out (like the current iPhone).

Then other rumours started to surface, rumours stating that Samsung wants Sony’s 23 megapixel sensor from the Xperia Z5. I find it hard to find any truth in the Sony rumour simply because of the fact they have the press release still on the Samsung website – but in this wild cut-throat world of phones, who knows what will happen day to day.

But with an iris scanner, you can count on the front facing camera getting a decent boost, possible incorporating a forward facing light source for low light scanning.

Judge a book by its cover?

So we know (kind of) what’s going into making this new smart phone from Samsung. What’s it going to look like?

As they do, ‘early renders’ have popped up on the web, are they real or are they fake, again, who knows – but going on past experience, and only a small hop, skip and a jump away from the release date, my fake-dar is pointing to real.

So what might we be getting? Something pretty close to what we got with the Samsung Galaxy S6 – which I might add, is no reason to frown, why reinvent the wheel? Apple has moved through its last few updates with little or no change and as ugly people say all the time, it’s what’s inside that counts.

It’s expected that as a response to the two sizes of iPhone and the current S6 line, we will see a 5.2 inch and a 5.7 inch version. The positioning of the front facing camera seems to have been pushed further to the right, while the fingerprint scanner/home button has taken on a slimmer shape.

And something I’ve just started hearing about is a new type of glass Samsung is working on – moving past the popular ‘Gorilla Glass’, Samsung are developing something called Tortoise Glass – will we ever get the promise of an unbreakable screen – we here at Screen Fix certainly hope not.

Now we wait

And that’s about it for now. Better camera, 3D touch, a tough screen a possible return to snapdragon, a nice new OS all wrapped up in that curvy goodness, oh and I almost forgot the most important (for me, anyway) part, iris scanning biometrics!

It seems that Samsung is going to return Apples serve with gusto, and with the iPhone 7 a mere 8 months away, I’m waiting to see what sort of topspin Apple can apply.

The best thing about this game is that no matter who wins, we as a consumer will win, faster, slimmer and more powerful phones, roll on 2016.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Vs S5 – The Great Face off!!

Well after a whole lot of buzz and anticipation, Samsung finally presented the newest models of its flagship Galaxy S line at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona. While the S3, S4, and S5 were incredibly popular among the public when they first came out, the Galaxy line has fallen off its pedestal somewhat as of late. Still, it looks like Samsung is taking a stand against naysayers with its new S6. What people want to know, however, is what differences the new model has from its predecessor, the S5. Our Screen Fix Brisbane office examined both devices to provide you with information on how the Samsung Galaxy S6 has improved since last year’s phone.

The Design

samsung-s6

The aesthetics of both models don’t differ quite that much, especially in the front. Like the S5, the S6 has a tactile home button with capacitive back and recent app keys next to it. The volume rocker and power button are on their respective sides as well. The main difference found in the S6, however, is the position of certain ports. The previous model has an audio jack at the top of the phone and a microUSB charging port at the bottom, while the S6 has placed both ports at the bottom. The new model also has no waterproofing flap that covers the charging port.

The Display

samsung-s6-s5

Multimedia enthusiasts will love that Samsung has kept the same 5.1” Super AMOLED display, and will be even happier with the resolution change. The S6 has now been improved from the Full HD to a Quad HD resolution, which means the pixel density has risen from 432 to 577 ppi.

The S6’s Super AMOLED display offers the same amazing view angles, colors, and deep blacks as any Galaxy phone provides. Users will just experience an even more attractive high definition resolution. While some might say a Quad HD isn’t necessary for such a small display, Samsung begs to differ. The high quality resolution will indeed offer a visible improvement, especially for people who use their phones for multimedia entertainment.

The Brains and Hardware

Samsung prides itself on developing their Galaxy phones with only the best and lately processors, and this stands true with the new S6 as well. The new model is packed with a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 (Exynos 5 Octa in certain regions) and 2 GB of RAM.

Qualcomm isn’t included in the most recent device, but Samsung has instead combined 3 GB of RAM with the in-house octa-core Exynos 7420 chip. This change, along with Samsung’s TouchWiz, allows the phone to perform at its peak.

As with the previous Galaxy S models, the S6 will be offered in 32 or 64 GB. However, the lack of an extra microSD slot can be managed with an alternative 128 GB option. Users who are disappointed in not being able to add extra space can enjoy this choice. Another bonus Samsung offers (included in the touch-based S6 version, not the swipe-based model) is a fingerprint scanner for extra security.

As previously mentioned, the S6 doesn’t have the removable battery with an IP67 rating for dust and water. However, we anticipate a future release of a more robust S6 model that gives you this ability.

Some might find the Galaxy S6’s battery worrying, as it has gone down from 2800 mAh to 2600. Combined with the higher resolution Samsung has installed in the S6, this could mean a shorter battery life. Still, Samsung has claiming that the Exynos 7420 utilizes less power than the processors in the previous Galaxy S models, so you may not feel any diminished capability. We’ll just have to wait and see whether this statement stays true.

The ‘Specs’

Model Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S6
Display 5.1-inch Super AMOLED
1920 x 1080 resolution, 432 ppi
5.1-inch Super AMOLED
2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
Processor 2.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Adreno 330 GPU
Exynos 7420
RAM 2 GB 3 GB
Storage 16/32 GB, expandable 32/64/128 GB
Camera 16 MP ISOCELL camera
2 MP front-facing camera
16 MP rear camera with OIS
5 MP front-facing camera with 90 degree wide angle lens
Connectivity WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS+GLONASS
WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS+GLONASS
Networks 3G/4G LTE LTE cat 6 300/50
Battery 2,800 mAh 2,550 mAh
Fast charging
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
Software Android 4.4 Kitkat (upgradeable to Lollipop) Android 5.0 Lollipop
Dimensions 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm
145 grams
143.4 x 70.5 x 6.8 mm
138 grams
Colors Black, white, gold, blue Black, white, gold, blue

The Camera

samsung-s6-camer-s5-camera

While the S5 has a 16 MP ISOCELL camera in the rear that provides amazing colors and detailed images, Samsung has turned to the Galaxy Note 4 this time. The S6 now includes the Note 4’s 16 MP rear camera, along with the many camera apps Note users have enjoyed. The new camera is meant to be a vastly improved version of the S5’s. There’s no need to worry about using a new version, because the S6 will include the many modes and features the S5 also offers.

Shortcuts and new abilities have been added to the Galaxy S6, including a 0.7 second camera launch by double tapping the home button. The rear facing camera will provide a “tracking autofocus,” allowing users to focus on any moving objects when taking pictures. There is also an Auto HDR Mode that will turn on whenever the camera requires the added quality.

The Software

samsung-s5-samsung-s6

Galaxy S5 users enjoy Samsung’s TouchWiz and Android 4.4 Kitkat operating system, or a Lollipop upgrade. The OS is indeed quite smooth and capable, but does include quite a lot of miscellaneous features that many users might find overbearing. This includes the new S Health app (with heartrate monitoring), MyMagazine, multi-window, and numerous gesture controls. Apart from the notifications menu and Recent Apps screen, the S5’s UI wasn’t changed quite that much from the previous models.

The Galaxy S6, on the other hand, will run the Android 5.0 Lollipop and TouchWiz while containing a considerably lower number of pre-installed apps. Samsung seeks to provide users with a sleeker and lighter smartphone experience, all the while making sure avid Galaxy users will find the physical UI quite familiar. While it’s a bit too early to claim the S6’s TouchWiz is as good as or even better than its predecessor, we are hopeful that Samsung has utilized the slimmed down OS to improve the overall user experience.

Our Thoughts..

There was a lot of disappointment surrounding the release of the S5, considering how similar it was to the S4. The people who said this will be pleasantly surprised at how Samsung has changed and improved its new Galaxy S model. It has the same recognizable Galaxy S look with highly enhanced features and build. While our Galaxy screen repair team personally believes that the S5 is an amazing smartphone that can satisfy any user, the S6 is just so much more. Still, people might love to hear that they can grab the S5 at discounted prices once the S6 is released worldwide.