The iPhone won the best premium smartphone category this year, but over 80% of the market still belongs to Android smartphones.
Android is indeed the dominant platform and it can’t be ignored. It’s the OS that caters to all kinds of buyers, hits all price segments, and is the most talked about.
Even as the performance difference between phones in different price ranges blurs, in the Android market, the consumer is spoilt for choice. On the one hand, that’s a very good thing, but it also confuses the hell out of you.
Apart from the Snapdragon 820, our favourite SoCs this year were the Snapdragon 650 and 652. While the 820 is obviously fast and incredibly powerful, we loved the enormous performance boost that the 650 and 652 gave to more budget devices. For Android, 2016 has been a year of reducing fragmentation. Software got more refined, while hardware became faster, and more specialised.
So, without further ado, here are the best in the Android smartphone segment.
Zero1 Winner: Google Pixel/Pixel XL
The Pixel phones are fast, fluid and have perhaps the best camera amongst Android smartphones today. In fact, some would find the camera better than an iPhone 7 Plus. And that’s saying something.
They run on the Snapdragon 821 SoC from Qualcomm, but are tied to the same clock speeds as the Snapdragon 820. In fact, our tests show that the peak clock speeds are never achieved on a Pixel phone. Yet, the performance is smoother than any Android smartphone we’ve tested.
Their AnTuTu numbers are in the high hundred thousands, while the single core and multi-core speeds are also incredibly high. A Geekbench 4 Multi-Core score of 4128 is amongst the highest ever on our tests. Needless to say, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are the benchmarks for Android performance right now.
In real world terms, one needs only to look at the Google Assistant to realise how fast the Pixel phones are. Remember the short lag when you clicked the Google Now icon? Yeah, that’s gone.
There’s a lot happening under the hood that’s aimed at reducing hardware/software fragmentation, and Google has come closer to perfection than any Android OEM. Watch out Samsung!
Runner Up: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
The Galaxy Note 7 blew things out of proportion a little (we did it again!), but up until the Pixel phones were launched, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge was the best Android phone you could buy. The Edge display doesn’t offer much functionality, but it makes for one unique looking smartphone. In addition, even with the Exynos 8890 (which is the one India got), the phone is incredibly powerful.
The Galaxy S7 Edge is VR-ready, and offers only about 10% slower performance than the Google Pixel XL, and that’s still more power than most of us need right now. All this is aided by the fact that Samsung offers what many would consider the best low-light camera amongst smartphones today.
Best Buy: OnePlus 3
Have you always been a Nexus fan? Then the OnePlus 3 is the android smartphone for you. For more, go read the mid-ranged flagships section. The OnePlus 3 is the most value for money smartphone today. Period.