This is it: our selection of this year’s best smartphones!
We debated for hours on what we believe are the absolute best handsets released in 2016. Each of us have our GadgetMatch just like you, so all nominations were valid.
Let’s get down to it.
Must we say more? With a price that undercuts every other flagship out there and specs that continue to shine, we can affirm that this is truly OnePlus’ flagship killer.
And it’s not just the price and features that we fell in love with. The way it was designed — from the sleek metal build to the squeaky clean Android interface — instantly won us over.
Sure, the updated OnePlus 3T already came out, but we’ll stay loyal to the one that kept us company since last June.
Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
We’re sort of cheating by giving two slots to the same brand, but Apple’s simultaneously launched flagships once again deserve a pair of spotlights.
Although the upgrades are incremental and all the talk is about next year’s super-duper tenth-anniversary iPhone, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are so powerful and so refined that they continue to make most Androids look like rocks in a sea of pearls.
And even if next year’s iPhones turn out to be drastic revolutions, there’s no shame in having what are currently the best Apple smartphones ever.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
Still, Samsung hit two homeruns at once with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. Released way back in February, these phones continue to overshadow most handsets launched since then.
Powerful processors built by Samsung, gorgeous AMOLED displays with equally beautiful glass and metal frames, plus the best cameras in the business — we love using our Galaxy S7 pair to this day.
There you have it; those were our top choices for smartphones of 2016. But with so many incredible gadgets this year, we just had to include a few honorable mentions. Let’s break them down into their respective awards.
Best software in a smartphone: Google Pixel
Even though it didn’t make the cut, Google’s very own Pixel phone shines with its optimized take on stock Android, which effectively replaced the Nexus brand we all had to say good bye to. The software is so good, it makes every shot taken with the Pixel’s camera look that more alluring. And we can’t forget about Assistant; Google’s intelligent AI outperforms the likes of Siri and Cortana with lots of humor behind its mostly accurate answers.
Best premium compact smartphone: Apple iPhone SE
Now that Sony is no longer investing in premium compacts like the well-received Xperia Z5 Compact, the award for best phone that actually fits in your hand and pocket is the iPhone SE. It’s nearly identical to the iPhone 5s before it, but speedier components and new colors make it a significant upgrade for those wanting a phone well below five inches in screen size.
Best modular smartphone: Moto Z
Not much competition here. With the demise of Google’s Project Ara and the clunkiness of LG’s execution on its G5 flagship, the Moto Z is the clear winner for best phone with modularity. The simple magnetic strip at the back is your gateway to a host of varied Moto Mods that’ll grow in number next year. We’re excited!
Best smartphones below $300
How can we have the best smartphones of 2016 without mentioning some of the more budget-friendly products? Well, we covered five of them in a recent list which we also debated over for hours. The list still holds strong now, no matter how fascinating the phones above are.
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Do you strongly believe we’re missing out on your favorite phone? Is there anything else we could have added? Please let us know by commenting below.
GadgetMatch Awards: Best Smartphones of 2018
Handpicked by the GadgetMatch team
Like it or not, there’s no best smartphone this year — or any year for that matter. Rather, there are great smartphones for different users and different needs.
In this set of GadgetMatch Awards, we look at the best of the best by category, from the most practical to the somewhat shallow. We’re sure you have your own winners, so let us know in the comments what you think.
Here we go:
Best Battery Life — Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Rarely do we think: When will this phone finally die? In fact, we often ask for more juice out of our smartphones, something that the Mate 20 Pro effortlessly delivers for us. On top of its class-leading performance and stellar looks, this smartphone can easily last for two days on a single charge — wow!
Best Selfies — Vivo NEX S
This pop-up camera is no gimmick; it takes awesome selfies, as well! From the moment it appears to the time it snaps our HDR-licious selfies, taking self portraits with the NEX S is both a spectacle and a pleasure.
Best Special Edition — Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS
How do you make an already-premium phone even more special? By slapping on some leather and the logo of a luxury automaker! Yes, the Porsche Edition Huawei Mate 20 RS is by far the hottest-looking smartphone of the year.
Best Design — OPPO Find X
There were tons of jaw-dropping smartphone designs in 2018, but none have wowed us as much as the OPPO Find X’s. The automatic sliding action continues to impress us to this day, and we can’t get enough of the borderless look in front.
Best Charging Technology — SuperVOOC
In terms of new technology, 2018 became the year of faster charging. That said, OPPO’s SuperVOOC tech stands above all with its insane speed. We can’t wait to see it in more smartphones come 2019!
Best Portrait Shooter — Apple iPhone XR
Portrait photography has become a standard feature across all smartphones, but the iPhone XR does it best with a single rear camera. We love how it cuts out the subject and applies the perfect amount of bokeh to our photos.
Best Beauty Mode — OPPO R17 Pro
OPPO has done it once again with a beauty mode we’re proud to use. The advanced post-shot customization and application of artificial intelligence have been taken to another level, and we love ’em!
Best Special Feature — Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
Slide up, slide down — rinse and repeat. No smartphone feature got us more pumped than the Mi Mix 3’s manual sliding form factor, which combines the best of nostalgia and practical application.
Best Display — ASUS ROG Phone
A 6-inch notch-less AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate? We’re sold! The ROG Phone may be a gaming smartphone at its core, but it’s also a perfect multimedia companion thanks to its gorgeous screen.
Best Speakers — Razer Phone 2
Great speakers are such an underrated feature on smartphones these days. Fortunately, we have the Razer Phone 2 to remind us how it should be done. Two powerful speakers facing the user form the best combination we’ve seen all year.
Best Video Shooter — LG V40 ThinQ
LG has yet again brought professional-grade videography to the masses with the V40 ThinQ. While other manufacturers focus purely on photography, this little powerhouse offers a slew of video-recording features that we absolutely adore.
Best Productivity — BlackBerry KEY2
Let’s face it: As much as we’ve gotten used to touchscreen displays, nothing beats the no-look convenience a physical keyboard offers. BlackBerry executed this to perfection with the KEY2, and we’re so glad they did.
MediaTek Helio P90 arrives with next-level AI and processing performance
Coming soon to midrange phones everywhere
As previously reported, MediaTek’s latest midrange system on a chip (SoC) is here, and it brings next-generation AI performance to the segment.
Even though the Helio P70 came out only a couple of months ago, MediaTek felt that the P90 is needed to push midrange phones to the next level. On top of better AI processing, it offers improvements across the board, from boosts in camera features and wireless connectivity to better overall performance.
Let’s begin with the most important part: artificial intelligence. It’s what makes the P90 stand out, considering that it’s made for midrange smartphones. It owns an AI engine that houses a dual-core APU (application processing unit) with an AIA (artificial intelligence accelerator), which essentially place it ahead in its class.
These translate to numerous applications in real life, such deep-learning facial detection for quicker logins, real-time beautification and scene recognition for the cameras, and faster processing for augmented and mixed reality apps. Even better: Google Lens is already supported by this SoC.
Speaking of cameras, that’s another highlight here. The Helio P90 can handle up to a supersized 48-megapixel unit or dual cameras split into 24 and 16 megapixels. 4K video recording at 30 frames per second is possible, as well as 1080p at 120 frames per second.
On the connectivity side, it has support for the Cat-12/13 4G LTE bands, and more importantly, 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 — bringing it on par with more premium chipsets.
Everything is powered by a 12nm octa-core system consisting of two Cortex-A75 processors at 2.2GHz and six Cortex-A55 processors at 2GHz. A PowerVR GM9446 GPU running at 970MHz handles all graphics duties. In addition, CorePilot tech makes sure that everything operates efficiently.
We’re still waiting for word from partner brands on which phones we can expect to pack this new SoC. With CES and MWC coming up in the next few months, we’re sure to hear more about the Helio P90 soon.
Realme C1 Hands-on: Redefining entry-level devices
The new king of budget smartphones?
No, this is not another OPPO hands-on, but we can’t blame you for thinking that it is. Realme, the offspring of OPPO, has just opened up to more Asian markets and they’re pushing their own entry-level device to penetrate the smartphone market.
This is the Realme C1, the identical twin of OPPO A3s. Side by side, it’s hard to tell them apart aside from the brand logos. Is the Realme C1 any different? Let’s find out.
It has a 6.2-inch HD+ display
The power/lock button is on the right side
The volume buttons are on the left…
… along with the triple-card slot
The bottom is packed with the micro-USB and audio ports
The phone’s back is pretty boring
There’s nothing special about it
To be honest, the Realme C1 felt plain when I first saw it in its box. It’s probably because I got spoiled by all the special patterns and gradients on other phones. The unit I mainly used is the blue one, but I’d suggest the black model more because of its understated look. The black bezels kind of ruin the blue hue for me.
Since the display just has an HD+ resolution, it’s not as sharp as other pricier phones. Good thing the panel is bright enough to be used outdoors; it also produces lively colors and has Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The notch on top is unnecessarily wider than usual, but no one should expect a sexy phone in this segment.
What I find to be so-so is the phone’s loudspeaker. It sounds tinny and doesn’t get loud even when I’m alone in a small room.
Overall, the phone looks and feels pretty basic, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With all the attractive phones coming out, it’s nice to have a no-frills budget option. That being said, there’s nothing much to write home about the Realme C1’s design aside from that it has a shiny plastic exterior.
Limited memory is a bottleneck
The big question about budget phones is how well they perform. With a Snapdragon 450 processor at the helm, the Realme C1 is able to run the latest apps. The loading times are a bit slower than I’m used to, but there are no general performance issues.
It can’t keep apps always running in the background, though. The phone only has 2GB of memory which is already a minimal amount for Android. The 16GB internal storage gets filled up easily too, so be sure to put in a microSD card.
Of course, ColorOS 5.2 still mimics the look and feel of iOS even though it’s just based on Android Oreo. Personally, I have some issues with ColorOS’ tweaks mainly in the notification system. It takes away the good elements of Android instead of improving it, which is what others are doing.
Gaming-wise, the Realme C1 is capable of running any game I play, but not in their best graphics settings. Asphalt 9: Legends, for example, runs okay but its visual quality is toned down. PUBG Mobile and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang are definitely playable, albeit in low to medium settings.
Decent photos for a budget phone
When buying a cheap phone, one shouldn’t expect its cameras to excel. Well, the Realme C1’s shooters are not great, but they are surprisingly okay. Equipped with a 13-megapixel f/2.2 rear camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor, this phone can take decent pictures in daylight. It also has a 5-megapixel selfie camera with an AI beautification feature.
Check out these samples:
I can’t say that it has the best camera in its class, but the quality of the photos taken by the Realme C1 are worthy enough to be used for your social accounts. You can always enhance them using popular photo editing apps from the Play Store.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Realme C1 is not a perfect smartphone. It’s not meant to compete with the best of the bunch, but it’s made to entice people looking for a cheap phone. Also, this is basically an OPPO A3s offered at an even cheaper price.
For someone who is looking to upgrade from a feature phone or in need of a secondary device for work-related use, the Realme C1 is a great choice. It practically sits next to the Xiaomi Redmi 5A as the best budget phone around.
The Realme C1 is currently available in select markets in Asia for around US$ 110 when converted. You can get it in India for INR 8,990, PhP 5,990 in the Philippines, IDR 1,499,000 in Indonesia, THB 3,990 in Thailand, VND 2,490,000 in Vietnam, and MYR 449 in Malaysia.
Realme is new to the market and they’re pretty aggressive in offering discounts through their official online channels, so you might even get it cheaper during sale events.
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