Best UK smartphones of 2016: These are the best mobile phones to buy right now


Choosing a phone in 2016 — let’s not beat about the bush here — is enough to give anyone a stress-related disorder. Not only do you have to contend with the fact that there are already a vast number of awesome smartphones on the market, but the choice is growing inexorably bigger all the time. Don’t worry, though, Alphr is here to help.

This is the only guide you need to uncover the best mobile phones of 2016. From budget marvels to the finest flagship smartphones, you’re guaranteed to find the device you’ve been searching for – at a price you can afford, and with all the features you need.

If you just want to start shopping right now, then scroll down to read the review of our current favourite smartphone, and below you’ll find links to all the other top-notch smartphones which have made the cut. On each page, you’ll find quick summaries of our in-depth reviews, as well as all the key specifications you need to help you make a buying decision. 

If you’re not sure what kind of smartphone is right for you, then have a read of our buyer’s guide. This will help you decide between Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and run you through all the key specifications you need to look out for when buying a new phone. If you can’t be bothered to click the menu above, you can click here instead.

Best smartphones of 2016:

1. OnePlus 3 / OnePlus 3T

OnePlus 3 camera
Screen Camera Processor Storage Battery
5.5in
1,920 x 1,080
16MP
8MP
Snapdragon 820
6GB RAM
64GB
No microSD
3,000mAh
Non-removable

Price when reviewed: 64GB SIM-free, £309 inc VAT

Buy the OnePlus 3 now

The OnePlus 3 swept all before it when it launched in June 2016, and the reason? From its smoothly finished, gloriously fabulous chassis, to its super-sensitive and reliable fingerprint reader, the OnePlus 3 was a superb phone. And yet at £329 it cost much less than any other phone in its class. It’s reign, however, is coming to an end just five months after its first introduction, and it’s now being replaced by the OnePlus 3T, which is faster and more refined, but also costs significantly more money. The OnePlus 3T is £399 for the 64GB version and £439 for the new 128GB variant.

“OnePlus has squeezed in a monster roster of components that sees it stretch out a huge lead over its rivals”

That’s still a low price considering how much OnePlus has squeezed in here. Its Snapdragon 821 processor, huge 6GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of storage remain unmatched at this price, its 16-megapixel rear camera isn’t half-bad either and the new phone also throws in a 16-megapixel front-facing snapper and a slightly bigger battery than before.

Despite the improvements, it’s the OnePlus 3 that remains the best deal on the market right now, but that’s only while stocks last. OnePlus has already sold out, but if you’re fast you can still get one through O2. Don’t be too disappointed if you do miss out, though. The OnePlus 3T is still a cracking smartphone. 

Click here to read our full OnePlus 3 review 

Click here to read our full OnePlus 3T review

2. Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7 review: Main shot
Screen Camera Processor Storage Battery
5.1in
1,440 x 2,560
12MP
5MP
Exynos 8890
4GB RAM
32GB
microSD
3,000mAh
Non-removable

Price: 32GB SIM-free, around £569 inc VAT

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is the most capable smartphone on the market today, with great performance, the best camera in the business and a polished design that no other handset can match. It’s a brilliant phone, especially now Samsung has brought back storage expansion via microSD and water and dust resistance.

There’s really very little it does wrong. Samsung’s 5.1in Super AMOLED screen is simply divine, and the screen technology allows for the clever always-on capability – you can set the Galaxy S7 to display the time and basic notifications all the time, and without adversely affecting battery life.

“The clincher is the S7’s performance – and it’s battery life.”

It’s little surprise to find a superb camera in the S7. It might look like a downgrade at first sight – it’s dropped from 16 to 12 megapixels – but Samsung has taken the opportunity to enlarge the camera sensor’s pixels and increase the lens aperture to maximise the camera’s light-gathering abilities. The phase-detect autofocus, a feature more commonly found on DSLRs, has been improved, too, now locking onto subjects super-quickly. In short, it’s a great camera.

The clincher is the S7’s performance – and it’s battery life. The octa-core processor absolutely hammers through benchmarksand games, and it makes for a gorgeously silky experience in everyday use. Astonishingly, battery life is best in class, too, with the Galaxy S7 outlasting all of its rivals in our video-rundown tests. 

So, why isn’t it number one? Simple: the only reason it doesn’t swing top spot is that it’s significantly more expensive than the OnePlus 3, and for our money, isn’t quite as good value. 

Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy S7 review 

If you can’t quite afford the S7, though, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is still a great phone and significantly cheaper, so make sure you check out our review of that handset, too.

3. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge always on screen from another angle
Screen Camera Processor Storage Battery
5.5in
1,440 x 2,560
12MP
5MP
Octa-core Exynos 8890
4GB RAM
32GB
microSD
3,600mAh
Non-removable

Price: 32GB SIM-free, around £569 inc VAT

Just like its stablemate, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is pretty much as good as it gets. It’s not a huge upgrade on last year’s model, but with improvements all round – a better camera, bigger screen, better Edge screen functions, the all-important return of the much-missed microSD slot, weather-proofing and superb battery life – it’s a big enough update to maintain Samsung’s position at the top of the smartphone tree.

It certainly helps that it looks bloody gorgeous, too. The glossy glass finish spreads across a glittering metallic base, while the 5.5in screen curves quickly away to reveal the dainty, softly curved edges. It really is something special.

“The S7 Edge pairs ridiculous, high-end performance with the best battery life.”

Turn it on, meanwhile, and Samsung’s expertise with Super AMOLED technology shows: the screen delivers class-leading levels of brightness, colour accuracy and contrast. It’s really quite stupendous, and it shares the clever always-on technology of the standard S7, which allows the time and basic notifications to be displayed permanently, and without hammering the battery.

And talking of battery, the S7 Edge has an enviable ability to pair ridiculous, high-end performance with the best battery life Alphr has ever seen. Meanwhile, a clever feature allows you to limit the frame rate in games to squeeze even more battery life out of the S7 Edge. It’s just a great smartphone. 

Click here to read our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review 

4. Google Pixel phone and Google Pixel XL

Price: £599 inc VAT, 32GB (Pixel); £719, 32GB (Pixel XL)

Screen Camera Processor Storage Battery
5/5.5in
1,080 x 1,920 /
1,440 x 2,560
12MP
8MP
Snapdragon 821
4GB RAM
32/128GB
microSD
2,770/3,450mAh
Non-removable

The Google Pixel phones set a new standard in the Android smartphone space when they launched in October 2016. Replacing the much-loved Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, both phones are incredibly quick, well-designed, have decent battery life and — most important of all — an incredible camera. The Pixel phones’ 12-megapixel camera is, in fact, the best smartphone snapper we’ve ever tested.

The only reason the Pixel and Pixel XL haven’t shot right at the top of our chart, though, is we’re not too keen on the price. Where Google’s Nexus phones used to combine top performance with mid-market prices, the new Pixels are going toe-to-toe with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus on price, costing £599 for the 32GB, 5in Google Pixel and £719 for the 32GB 5.5in Google Pixel XL.

That leaves the OnePlus 3 as our best all-round smartphone buy, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge as the top all-round premium handsets, as they’re availabe to purchase for slightly less and have better battery life.

Still, if you have the money to spend, you certainly won’t be disappointed with either of Google’s latest smartphones. They’re a cracking pair of phones.

Click here to read our Google Pixel phone and Google Pixel XL review 

5. Apple iPhone 7

Screen Camera Processor Storage Battery
4.7in
750 x 1,334
12MP
7MP
Apple A10 Fusion
2GB RAM
32/128/256GB
No microSD
Non-removable

Price: 32GB SIM-free, £599 inc VAT

The iPhone 7 is a great smartphone and despite the controversy surrounding the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, it’s an improvement all-round over the iPhone 6s.

Our favourite feature is the Force Touch home button, which mimics the feel of a physical button, without the inherent unreliability of a mechanical buttons. It feels brilliant, and in conjunction with Apple’s 3D Touch display, lends the iPhone 7 a futuristic feel that no other smartphone can match.

The camera is also an improvement over last year’s, with a wider, brighter aperture of f/1.8, an improved lens and quad-LED flash, and better performance in low light.

“Everything else about the iPhone 7 just screams quality.”

Everything else about the iPhone 7 screams quality. The luxurious feel and design will be enough to loosen most wallets, but that’s just part of the phone’s appeal.

The Apple A10 Fusion processor is incredibly fast, and this year it’s more efficient than ever, gaining extra battery life by running less demanding tasks its lower power cores. The battery life still isn’t up there with the Android competition, but it’s getting better, and that can only be a good thing. 

Nevertheless, the iPhone 7 is all round a better phone than the iPhone 6s – and if you buy one, you’re very unlikely to come away disappointed. 

Click here to read our Apple iPhone 7 review

6. Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Screen Camera Processor Storage Battery
5.5in
1,080 x 1,920
12MP
7MP
Apple A10 Fusion
3GB RAM
16/64/128GB
No microSD
2,900mAh
Non-removable

Price: 32GB, £719 inc VAT; 128GB, £819 inc VAT; 256GB, £919 inc VAT (all SIM-free)

Apple’s big smartphone is extra special this year. Instead of one camera on the rear, it has two, with the extra snapper allowing you to get twice as close to your subject as the standard snapper.

“The iPhone 7 Plus is extra special this year”

There are other reasons to choose this over the 4.7in iPhone 7, though, despite the fact that internally it’s largely the same.

It has a bigger battery, which in turn is larger than in last year’s iPhone 6s Plus, and a bigger screen, although 5.5in has become a common screen size these days.

The 5.5in screen is still “only” Full HD – which might not sound like much compared to the Quad HD displays on rival Android phones – but with that many pixels crammed into such a small space, it still looks fantastically sharp. And with Apple’s new “Wide color” technology in place, it looks better than ever, with colour more vibrant and lush than ever before, but without sacrificing colour accuracy or overall quality. 

The Apple A10 Fusion processor still delivers fantastic performance in everything from Safari to games, but it’s the combination of its two extra low-power cores and that bigger battery that makes the difference here, pushing battery life well beyond the single day of most smartphones.

The downside is that, thanks to the weak pound, the iPhone 7 Plus is more expensive than ever, and that’s likely to put it out of reach for many, but make no mistake, the iPhone 7 Plus is one fabulous smartphone. 

Click here to read our Apple iPhone 7 Plus review

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