Looking for a new smartphone? There are dozens upon dozens of great options on the market today, but finding the best of the best can be a bit difficult. We’ve seen some great launches through the year and more should be coming soon too, so let’s take a look at the best Android smartphones you can buy as of January 2017.
The best gifts for Android users
NEW FOR JANUARY:
Huawei Mate 9 (US Release)
As expected, Huawei launched the Mate 9 in the US market at CES 2017 for the pretty reasonable price of $599. Packed inside of its gorgeous aluminum design, the Mate 9 has Huawei’s in-house Kirin 960 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a dual-camera system, a 5.9-inch 1080p display, and Android Nougat. Alongside Google’s latest OS, Huawei has also included latest version of its EMUI software skin, and it’s finally pretty good.
The Mate 9 will also be updated in the coming weeks to include Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant in place of the Pixel-locked Google Assistant. We’ll be revisiting the device soon, but in the meantime, you can read our full review here and buy the phone from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo, Jet.com, or Newegg for $599 unlocked. It works on any GSM carrier including T-Mobile and AT&T.
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Announced toward the end of 2016, the OnePlus 3T is the “successor” to the OnePlus 3, although it’s really just a slight refresh. Compared to the OnePlus 3 the 3T brings the updated Snapdragon 821 chipset, a larger 3,400 mAh battery, a new color variant, and an updated 16MP front facing camera sensor.
Aside from that, the OnePlus 3T is the same as the OnePlus 3, bringing Dash Charge fast charging, a 5.5-inch 1080p Optic AMOLED display, 6GB of RAM, and USB-C — all wrapped up in that aluminum chassis. Starting at $439, it’s slightly more expensive than the OnePlus 3 was, but not without reason. The phone is available now from OnePlus’ website.
If you want a big, feature-rich phone that doesn’t explode, the LG V20 might be your best bet. Packing a 5.7-inch Quad HD IPS display, Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,200 mAh removable battery, the V20 is a power user’s phone without question. That’s only emphasized with the dual-camera system on the back which can take standard and wide-angle pictures as well as bringing enhanced stabilization in video. Entertainment only gets better with the built-in 32-bit HiFi DAC which makes listening to music a joy.
The LG V20 is one of the best smartphones we’ve used this year, but the most surprising thing about it is the price. While a compared option from Samsung, Apple, or Google could cost you well upwards of $800, the V20 averages out at about $770. Pricing varies by carrier, landing at $672 on Verizon at its lowest point and $830 on AT&T and its highest. Monthly pricing across all major carriers lands at around $28 a month and the phone is available via Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Sprint. You can also pick it up unlocked.
Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge
Samsung also launched a pair of impressive Android flagships earlier this year, and despite their age, they’re still some of the best options on the market today. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge offer Quad HD SuperAMOLED displays at 5.1-inches and 5.5-inches respectively. The larger Edge variant also brings dual-curved edges on either side.
Under the hood, both devices pack the Snapdragon 820 chipset in the US, and one from Samsung in international regions. The smaller Galaxy S7 packs a 3,000 mAh battery where the S7 Edge brings a 3,600 mAh battery. Both bring fast charging, wireless charging, and fast wireless charging along with the Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, IP68 water resistance, and fingerprint sensors. The 12MP camera on the rear is also nothing short of impressive and the glass/metal bodies scream premium.
Moto Z/Moto Z Force
From Motorola/Lenovo, one, or rather two, of the best options you can pick up come in the form of the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force. Both devices pack 5.5-inch AMOLED displays, the Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and Motorola’s thin software layer on top of Android. The Moto Z brings a 2,600 mAh battery, 13MP camera, and comes in at just 5.2mm thin. The Moto Z Force, on the other hand, brings a 3,500 mAh battery, 21MP rear camera, and is 7mm thin. It also brings a “ShatterShield” display which won’t break. Unfortunately, that model is exclusive to Verizon Wireless.
Both devices run on top of Android Nougat, and lack headphone jacks. However, they do include USB-C adapters in the box. That port also includes Turbo Charging which promises up to 15 hours of power with a 15-minute charge. Both are also compatible with Google’s Daydream VR platform. The big story, though, is without a doubt the compatibility with Moto Mods, a method of expanding the phone’s capabilities with “modules” such as battery packs, speakers, and even a camera.
Sony Xperia XZ
One option we’ve been hesitant to recommend this year due to price is, well, basically anything Sony offers. While they are all fantastic devices, pricing was always extremely high. However, Sony has finally learned its lesson and adjusted prices to make its phones a much better value, and that includes the flagship Sony Xperia XZ.
Priced at $649 unlocked, the Xperia XZ offers a Snapdragon 820 chipset, 3GB of RAM, a 23MP camera, IP68 water/dust resistance, and a 5.2-inch 1080p display. It’s not the “top-of-the-line” compared to some other options, but with Android Nougat now available and a fantastic overall package, the Xperia XZ is easily the best Sony smartphone you can buy today. It’s available online through Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, and Fry’s.
Another great option from early this year comes from HTC. Despite the company not having great success over the past few years, the HTC 10 is a smartphone that just about anyone can love. Bringing an all-metal aluminum body, Snapdragon 820 chipset, 4GB of RAM, a fantastic 5.2-inch LCD display, 32GB of storage, and Android Marshmallow out of the box, it’s a smartphone that hits all the important notes. The 3,000 mAh battery will keep most users powered through a full day, the fingerprint sensor is quick and reliable, and the 24-bit DAC in the headphone jack is great for listening to music.
Pricing on the HTC 10 varies as well. Retail lands at $699, but we’ve seen it as low as about $500. Currently, HTC is offering the device for $499 brand new. Verizon also offers the phone in stores. You can learn more in our full review.
ZTE Axon 7
If you want a flagship experience, but at a slightly lower price point, the ZTE Axon 7 is an option worth considering. Starting at just $399, the Axon 7 packs a 5.5-inch AMOLED display, all-metal design, front facing speakers, and premium specifications including the top of the line Snapdragon 820 chipset. It also packs an insane 6GB of RAM and support for Google Daydream when Android Nougat arrives soon.
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