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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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’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
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
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.