Let’s get down to brass tacks here – I used to write a “Top 5 Android smartphones” list every quarter, except, for a little bit there, everything started to feel awfully similar. We got into a very iterative stage of smartphones and, sure, there’s still the argument that we’re still fighting our way through it. But I think there’s enough differentiation out there to qualify a list again. Plus, a bunch of great smartphones have come out recently, and a few others are on the horizon, so it’s a good time to sit and think about the position right now.
Let’s dive in, and, hey, for the commenters who never read this far anyway, these aren’t in any particular order. Think of it like 5 phones tied for first place.
1. Galaxy S7 / Galaxy S7 Edge
This is easy, obviously Samsung’s flagship is going to make it on the list this year. The design is incredible — though I admit the phone feels a bit sticky in this muggy heat we’re getting on the east coast — the camera and display are among the best on the market, and Samsung finally delivered expandable storage, which is exactly what I’d been clamoring for. (It’s not Adoptable, which is a downside in my opinion, but I digress.) It’s up to you to pick between the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge. I prefer the larger battery and curved screen on the latter, but I know plenty of folks who prefer the more pocketable design of the Galaxy S7. Fast charging, an IP68 water/dust rating and wireless charging are just the cherries on top of this delicious sundae.
2. OnePlus 3
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the OnePlus 3 is one badass phone, and a force to be reckoned with. It’s still my daily driver (I personally own a few devices on this list and bought the OnePlus 3, contrary to popular belief among the commenters). I love the metal body, though I keep it in the fantastic Sandstone case most of the time, Dash charge is unbelievable in how quickly it juices me up (about 60% in 30 minutes even with the display on), and the phone whizzes through apps. Most of the time, in my own personal use, it feels faster than the Galaxy S7. I know, I know, it doesn’t use all the RAM out of the box, but you need to play with this thing to feel how fast it is. A great camera, solid display and the stellar $400 price tag all make this a top contender. Plus, it’s unlocked and has space for two SIM cards – perfect for the frequent world travelers out there.
3. Nexus 6P
Here’s another one I keep coming back to. My latest venture back to the Nexus 6P was just to try out Android N (now officially named Nougat), and I always remember why I love this phone so much. It’s my daily driver with my Project Fi SIM (though, admittedly, the selection of phones with support for Project Fi is slim). I love that it’s one of the few phones on the market that still has front-facing speakers, and the gold hue I have always seems to turn a few heads when I take it out. You might want to hold off on buying one of these new, since it seems like a fresh Nexus is over the horizon with Android Nougat’s debut coming, but it still deserves a spot on this list.
4. HTC 10
Jon picked it over the Galaxy S7, and it’s easy to see why so many people love it. The HTC 10 is HTC’s best launch in years, and not just because it’s an obvious upgrade over the HTC One M9. It packs all of the latest hardware, finally has the Quad HD display fans wanted, and includes excellent features like expandable (and Adoptable) microSD card storage. That means you can format the microSD card to work as your primary storage, an option other manufacturers, with the exception of LG, aren’t taking much advantage of here in the U.S. The audio is great, particularly through headphones, and performance is first-class, as is typically the case with HTC. Plus, you’ll get Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support, which means you’ll be juiced up in no-time.
5. LG G5
The LG G5 actually flew a bit under the radar this year. I think that a lot of people shrugged it off a bit because LG went very aggressive with the modules, which, I admit, aren’t really for me. It also launched against some steep competition, which you see on this list. But tough competition doesn’t make a phone bad, and the LG G5 device is an excellent smartphone, hands down. Folks still get expandable storage and, for a lot of people out there who still want removable batteries, you can still do that here, too. LG included an IR sensor as well, so you can still control your TV, air conditioner or any other number of gadgets its supports. If you like LG’s products, I also suggest checking out the LG V10 or, if you have time, waiting to see if LG updates that smartphone soon – I think it might.
Honorable Mentions – Nextbit Robin, Huawei P9, BlackBerry Priv, Galaxy Note 5
There are so many great phones out there it’s hard to include them all. Given I’m mostly covering devices in the U.S., too, I can’t even start to tap into devices that are popular but which I haven’t used (Xiaomi phones, for example.) I think unlocked smartphone fans should check out the Huawei P9, a fantastic smartphone, as well as the Nextbit Robin, which has a great design and a unique take on storage. Plus you can’t go wrong at the Robin’s $299 price point.
The BlackBerry Priv is still a personal favorite of mine, too. And to address Galaxy Note 5 fans – great phone, but the Galaxy Note 7 (yea, skipping Galaxy Note 6 it seems) is probably just over the horizon, so I personally wouldn’t buy it new right now. I didn’t forget about Motorola, either; the Moto Z looks awesome, but we haven’t had a chance to play with it much outside of a hands-on opportunity, yet. So look for more coverage, soon.
Funny – I felt like I had to extend this part of my list because there are so many great phones you can buy right now. It’s hard to go wrong, and you can get flagship quality and design from around $300 all the way up the ladder to very expensive phones.
I may have missed some other gems, but these are my personal favorite Android smartphones right now. Sound off with yours below.