best flagships

It’s August, and with an ever-increasing number of notable Android OEMs reaching maturity, we’ve seen more new handsets than usual launch this summer. The summer started off strong with the Moto Z and Moto Z Force (not shipping!), and most recently Samsung finally showed us its Galaxy Note 7 after many months of leaks. But which ones are the best buys?…

Whether you like a pocket-sized phone that offers more in terms of raw features, or a phablet-sized phone that sticks to stock Android, you’re sure to find something to fit your preference when you go with Android. The platform can be found on more than 80% of smartphones on the planet, and there’s a reason for that.

After all, Google’s mantra for the platform is “Be together. Not the same.”, and that rings true in the sheer diversity of Android phones, tablets, watches, and in-car consoles. If a phone is what you’re after, though, you’ve come to the right place. Below we’ve listed the best options among the mid-to-higher-end tier as of August 2016, their ups and downs, their specifications, and the best prices you’ll find anywhere on the web.

New for August:

Samsung Galaxy Note 7


Samsung finally took the wraps off its much-leaked Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phablet this month. The phone, packing much the same internal specifications of its Samsung Galaxy S7 edge brother, is mostly differentiated by its larger size and of course the addition of the long-rumored iris scanner for unlocking the device. There’s also the S Pen that has long been available on the Note line, an dual-edged display, and Samsung’s Samsung Cloud competitor to iCloud.

As for the device’s specs, the Galaxy Note 7 will feature a 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 5, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 12 MP camera with an f/1.7 aperture (not to mention OIS and 4K video support), a 5 MP selfie cam, 64GB of onboard storage, microSD card slot, a 3,500 mAh battery, and a USB Type-C port. There’s also an iris scanner, and the device’s exact dimensions are 153.5mm x 73.9mm x 7.9mm, with a weight of 168 grams.

Galaxy Note 7 is available from all the major American carriers (Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T) on August 19th, but you can pre-order now. And as for price, the phone is going to be somewhere in the range of $770-$800 depending on which carrier you go with. You’ll be able to get the Note 7 in black, blue, and silver in the US, with a free 256GB microSD card or a Gear Fit 2 via many carriers. Samsung says that an unlocked version of the phone will be coming later in the year.

Moto Z/Moto Z Force


Announced just a couple months ago, the standard Moto Z from Lenovo/Motorola packs an incredibly svelte design that’s just 5.2 mm thin. It’s powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of storage, and features a 5.5-inch quad HD AMOLED display and a 13MP camera with laser-assist and phase detection autofocus. Its 2600mAh battery is rated at 30 hours of life.

Its brother, the Moto Z Force, is slightly less outwardly attractive at a still-respectable 7 mm thin. This added thickness does, however, buy you some additional features. The Moto Z Force has a better 21MP main camera with optical image stabilization and laser autofocus and a larger 3500mAh battery, as well as a crack-proof display. The other specs remain the same as the regular Z. Of course, both models tout compatibility with Moto Mod accessories.

Neither device has a 3.5 mm headphone jack, unfortunately, so you’ll need to use USB Type-C or Bluetooth for audio. A 3.5mm to USB-C headphone port adapter is included in the box, however. The USB port also provides Turbo Charging, with up to 15 hours of power with a 15 minute charge on the Z Force. Both devices are running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with the usual software features we’re familiar with from previous Moto devices. Read our full review for more information.

As of now, the phones are exclusive to Verizon. The Moto Z Droid is $26 per month or $624 outright, while the Moto Z Force Droid is $30 per month or $730 outright. Better deals for these phones should be right around the corner, and Lenovo says that the standard Moto Z will be available in unlocked form at some point later this year.

From earlier this year:

OnePlus 3


The OnePlus 3 is the latest handset from Chinese company OnePlus. The phone has a Snapdragon 820 with an Adreno 530 GPU, a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 4, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (sans a MicroSD slot, unfortunately), and it’s powered by a 3,000 mAh non-removable battery. You’ll charge the phone super-fast with OnePlus’ “Dash Charge” tech, and as for cameras, the OnePlus 3 has a 16MP main camera with optical image stabilization, and an 8MP camera is on the front.

Of course the phone also has many of the features you’ve come to expect from a flagship in 2016. The OnePlus 3 has a fingerprint sensor, sports a sleek design made of anodized aluminum, comes in two colors, has a 3.5 mm audio jack, and sports 4G LTE connectivity (Cat. 6), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC (which the OnePlus 2 notably went without), and more. Be sure to check out our own unboxing and impressions write-up from Dom Esposito.

The OnePlus 3 can be had from for $399.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

S7 Active vs Galaxy S7

Samsung and AT&T came out to announce the Galaxy S7 Active earlier this month, and just like last year’s Galaxy S6 Active, the phone is basically an S7 with a beefy case built in. You’ll find a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, and a 12MP rear camera. There’s also a huge 4,000 mAh battery within which AT&T says offers up to 32 hours of talk time. As with the Galaxy S7, the S7 Active sports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 and a microUSB port to charge this battery (sorry, no USB-C).

We’ve already had our hands on the device for a while now, so be sure check out our own Jeff Benjamin’s experience with the phone in video form. He says that the S7 active is much better looking than last year’s model, featuring “a simplified rear, improved front face buttons, and an overall design cohesiveness that showcases the line’s growth.”

You can purchase the phone on AT&T Next for $26.50 for 30 months or AT&T Next Every Year SM for $33.13 a month for 24 months. It is available in three colors: Sandy Gold, Titanium Gray, and Camo Green.

Sony Xperia X


The Xperia X was announced all the way back at Mobile World Congress, but it wasn’t until just last week that the phone became available to preorder for those in the United States. The new flagship from Sony has a full HD 5-inch IPS LCD display on the front, a seamless flat sheet of metal on the back, and Sony’s trademark smooth rounded metal frame all the way around the edges. Like the Z5, the X has a fingerprint sensor built in to the power button on the side.

As you’d expect from Sony, this phone packs a fantastic 23MP camera on the back. Our own Cam Bunton said earlier this year that it can “focus within the blink of an eye, has PDAF and 1080p video recording.” There’s also an impressive 13MP front facing camera. The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with a “relatively light” Sony skin on top and is powered by a Snapdragon 650 processor, which is paired with 3GB RAM and a 2,620mAh battery.

The Xperia X is currently $523.99 shipped to at Amazon.

Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 edge


Likely the most notable members of this list, Samsung launched a pair of absolutely stunning flagship phones this year. Building on the formula that was started with the Galaxy S6 — featuring an all-glass front and back, minimal bezels, and an overall premium feel — the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge might just be the best Android phones that you can buy right now. They still feature Samsung’s long-hated TouchWiz Android skin, but — whether you get the Snapdragon variant or the Exynos variant — they’re definitely powerful, smooth, and polished.

The regular S7 has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel and its Quad HD (2560 x 1440) resolution gives the screen a pixel density of 575 PPI. The US, Japan, and China will be getting the 2.2GHz quad-core, Snapdragon 820-powered chips while other markets are set to get the 2.4GHz octa-core Exynos-equipped versions. The S7 features a 3000 mAh battery, and the S7 Edge has a much-praised 3,600 mah battery. Unfortunately, Samsung decided not to go with USB-C, instead opting for microUSB. 32GB and 64GB models available.

Check out our full review of the Galaxy S7 edge.

The Galaxy S7 is currently $555 shipped on Amazon, but we’ve seen it as low as $500 shipped.

The Galaxy S7 Edge is currently $649 shipped on Amazon.

Moto X Pure Edition


Moto X Pure Edition (also known as Moto X style internationally) was unveiled by Motorola in July of 2015, becoming its top-of-the-line offering for those looking for a good-looking powerhouse. The company also unveiled a second Moto X called the Moto X Play (later to be known as the Droid Maxx 2 in the US), which is more rugged and offers better battery, but is less powerful in terms of tech specs.

The Moto X Pure Edition, which still holds its own against 2016 Android phones, packs a 5.7-inch Quad HD display and the Snapdragon 808 running at 1.8 GHz, 3GB of RAM, 4G LTE, and storage tiers at 16, 32, and 64GB. The phone has a beastly 21MP main camera with a f/2.0 aperture and 4K video capture, a dual-tone flash, a 5-megapixel front cam, and a front-facing flash as well. As for the battery, the Pure Edition sits at 3,000 mAh.

Check out our full review of the Moto X Pure Edition.

The Moto X Pure Edition is customizable via Moto Maker just like its predecessors, and introduced a new silicon rubber material as a new back cover option.

The Moto X Pure Edition is currently $290 shipped from Amazon, but we recently saw it at $240.

HTC 10

HTC 10 Rear

HTC has had a rough few years, and this phone may not save the day, but the HTC 10 is at least on par with the competition. It’s a solid all-metal bodied smartphone with the latest specs some huge chamfered edges on the rear, a great camera, and the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI. There’s nothing that really stands out about the HTC 10, but so far reviews are positive and we think that it might be the perfect option for those looking for a phone closer to the 5-inch range.

As for the HTC 10’s all-important specs, (it should easily compete with the likes of the LG G5 and Galaxy S7 series phones), it’s equipped with a 5.2-inch Quad HD SuperLCD5 display with a pixel density of 546ppi. Additionally, the latest in HTC’s lineup is powered by a current-gen Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB RAM. The phone’s 32GB internal storage is expandable via microSD card all the way up to 200GB, but HTC says that it will be compatible with 1TB cards in future.

Check out our full review of the HTC 10.

The HTC 10 available from a reputable seller on eBay for $588 shipped.

Nexus 6P


From a design standpoint, this is the most premium-looking Nexus we’ve seen since the original Nexus. Huawei’s taste for metal unibody phones shines with this handset, with the 6P sporting an incredibly elegant design despite its large size. The aluminum chassis will come with a choice four different anodized finishes: Aluminum, Graphite, Frost, and Gold. The only part which isn’t metal on the back is the slightly protruding camera “visor”. It’s big, but it’s smaller in every dimension than the previous-generation Nexus 6.

The 12.3MP rear camera is housed in a large pill-shaped glass panel along with a dual-LED flash. It’s also equipped with optical image stabilization and 4K video recording, along with an f/2.0 aperture to ensure low light pictures look as good as they can from a sensor this small. On the inside of the Nexus 6P, you’ll find a 5.7 inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) AMOLED display at 518 ppi, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 3GB of RAM, and a 3450 mAh battery.

Check out our full review of the Nexus 6P.

The 32GB Nexus 6P is currently $399 shipped from Amazon.

Huawei P9


Huawei has been getting more and more attention since it launched the excellent Nexus 6P, and recently the company launched yet another stunning flagship. The Huawei P9 is a larger phone like many of the others on this list, but it’s also a great phone. This handset features a dual camera that the Chinese company launched in conjunction with LEICA, which takes some great shots in both color and grayscale.

Spec-wise, the device has a full HD 5.2-inch display, a Huawei in-house HiSilicon Kirin 955 processor with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. If you need more space and RAM, there’s also a 4GB/64GB storage model. It has a 3,000 mAh battery and rapid charging support, and Huawei claims I’ll get through a day’s use without even trying. As mentioned there’s a dual camera set up, and it features a dual LED flash and laser autofocus.

Check out our full review of the Huawei P9.

The Huawei P9 isn’t available in the US, but you can grab it from Carphone Warehouse for £439.99.

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About the Author

Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.