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10 smartphones that absolutely, totally won 2016

India Today logo India Today 28-12-2016

Every year here at India Today Tech we get tens of phones. Some of them are good, some not so much and some are outright bad. Most of them, however, tend to fall somewhere in the middle. It is mostly the bell curve, as the HR professionals call it. There are very few phones that are exceptional, and very few that are truly, spectacularly bad. Now, that the year is ending we think it is time to put it all behind us. This also means forgetting all the lemons we got and celebrating the truly bright ones that dazzled the geeks within the India Today Tech Team.

No, not all of these phones are a recommended buy. But, at the same time, we are also a little partial towards these phones because we enjoyed using them (so much). Some of theme are lacking some features, may even have a rough edge here and there. But when we used them, we loved them to the core. The experience these phones offered was truly exemplary. At the end of the review, these were the phones from which we did not want to take out our SIM cards. We wanted to keep using them, day after day even as there was another new phone that was waiting to be reviewed.

So, what are these phones? Here they are. But before you read more about them, just a word of caution on their order in this list -- there is no difference between the number 1 and the number 10 here. Because all of them truly delighted the team here at India Today Tech.

OnePlus 3T

© India today Both the OnePlus 3T and the OnePlus wowed us . Day after day as we used them and got familiarised with their speed, quality of build, screen and the camera that is capable of clicking some brilliant phones, we wondered how OnePlus could sell these two phones at such a low price. And yet, sell it did. OnePlus 3 and the OnePlus 3T are two phones are truly, absolutely the tag of "killer deal" applies. These are the phones that match the ones that sell for almost double in each and almost every aspect. And no, it's not just about the hardware. The OnePlus 3T and the OnePlus 3 are great phones because they are great to use. If you hold them, they often wow people with their sleek and distinct design. These two phones have great screens, absolutely blazing fast performance, and a camera that delights every time you use it. But at the same time, the best and most loved feature of the OnePlus 3T and the OnePlus 3, is the dash charging. It brought a smile on our faces everytime we used it.

Google Pixel XL

© India today Google's Pixel XL is a phone that in many ways game-changer . The good bit is that it is also one of the best phones when it comes to giving consumers a delightful experience. And that is all because of two things: that sweet sweet Android Nougat software and a camera that absolutely pushes the limit of what a phone camera can do. The software on the Pixel XL -- and its little brother Pixel -- makes it the smartest phone out there. That alone is worth considering it. But then there is this camera inside the Pixel XL. With a large image sensor behind that camera, the Pixel XL clicks photos with rich colours and lot of detail. It is indeed one sharp shooter.

Samsung Galaxy S7

© India today This is the sexiest phone of the year 2016 . Period. With metal and glass body, subtle and expertly carved curves and those rounded edges, the Galaxy S7 looks like a jewel. The great bit about the phone, however, is that it is also a very capable phone. It's camera is fantastic, especially in low light and its screen made us go wow every time we watched high-quality FullHD content on it. The Galaxy S7, except its software that still has room for improvement, is kind of perfect phone. It's hardware is really good and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Then, it even has features like dual-SIM card support and waterproof body, something that is missing in phones like the Google Pixel.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

© India today The iPhone 7 Plus may seem like an iteration of last year's iPhone 6 Plus . But actually it is a bigger deal and despite some of its flaws -- the design can be little unwieldy, the software could have been better -- the iPhone 7 Plus is a the kind of phone that delights users if they can make peace with the iOS 10. The one reason why the iPhone 7 Plus is akin to the perfect phone for many is its second camera. For anyone who is into photographer, the iPhone 7 Plus is a phone that offers, even in limited ways, the brilliance of a 50mm lens. It just slicks photos that are more personal, intimate and striking because of the bigger focal length. We suspect that in 2017 many more phones will have the similar feature but for now the iPhone 7 Plus is winning the hearts of everyone who is into photography.

Huawei Honor 8

© India today The Honor 8 is like a poor man's Galaxy S7 . This one from Huawei too is a stunner and if it wasn't for the software, this phone too is one of those devices that you can call the total package. It's that good in terms of its performance, screen and overall experience. And it also packs in a very capable camera with two lenses. Although its image quality is not something that can put the Honor 8 in the league of Pixel or the iPhone 7 Plus, it is good enough, even in challenging conditions. But more pleasant aspect of the Honor 8 camera is its speed. It is one of those rare phone cameras that are fast enough to have a chance of clicking decent photo of moving pets. Compared head-on with similarly priced OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T, the Honor 8 loses. But that is more to do with just how good the OnePlus phones are. If not for them, the Honor 8 could have been the category leader this year.

Xiaomi Redmi 3S Prime

© India today Xiaomi has remained shy from launching way too many phones in the market, ever since it entered India. It has stuck to its 'one flagship phone every year' strategy and plans to continue with it for some more. The Mi 5 did not do too well for it this year. The Redmi Note 3 was a little better. But, Xiaomi had one ace up its sleeve: the Redmi 3S Prime, which is without a doubt, its greatest hit for 2016 .The phone comes with a 5-inch premium all-metal body with a rear mounted fingerprint scanner. It feels really good. It also has a pretty neat (720p) display, dependable performance, good-enough cameras and a killer battery life. More importantly, it's super cheap and costs just Rs 8,999. There's an even cheaper option in the standard Redmi 3S. You'll get lesser RAM (2GB), lesser storage (16GB) and no fingerprint scanner. But then, it also costs just Rs 6,999. Not bad, not bad at all.

Asus ZenFone 3 5.2-inch (ZE520KL)

© India today As always, Asus launched many ZenFones this year. But unlike in the past, this year's ZenFones were different. The third-generation of ZenFones were all about premium looks, premium hardware and premium pricing, Of the many ZenFones launched in 2016, the ZenFone 3 5.2-inch (ZE520KL) made the most sense . The phone comes with a 5.2-inch FullHD Super IPS+ display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 gigs of RAM under the hood and a 2,650mAh battery. At Rs 21,899 the ZenFone 3 5.2-inch (ZE520KL) offers a premium all glass and metal build, a neat display, good performance and good battery life. But its main USP is its camera. The 16-megapixel camera on-board the phone (assisted with f/2.0 aperture, laser auto-focus, 4-axis Optical Image Stabilisation and dual-LED (real tone) flash) is an absolute steal at its price point.

Motorola Moto Z

© India today The Moto Z is a modular smartphone, it's a modular smartphone done right. Lenovo's take on modularity is different from a certain Google or LG in that it sticks to the basics. It is undeniably the most premium Moto phone ever: an all-metal phone with 16 magnetic connector pins on the rear. The phone supports several modules that Lenovo calls Moto Mods which snap on to its back via these connector pins. Lenovo has a total of four modules for the Moto Z: one that turns the phone into a Pico projector, one that acts as a portable power pack, and one that adds an extra JBL stereo speaker to it and a true zoom mod, made by Hasselblad that allows for up to 10 X optical zoom on the Moto Z.

In addition, Lenovo has a whole batch of custom rear skin modules for the Moto Z. Price for the Moto Mods starts at Rs 6,999 and goes all the way to Rs 19,999. The phone itself costs Rs 39,999. Take the Mods away, and the Moto Z is still a very capable smartphone. It could have done with a better camera and a bigger battery, but then looking at the innovation that it brings to the table, you can't help but overlook some of its shortcomings. The Moto Z is not the best smartphone in the market but it does everything that it sets out to do well enough. It is in fact, the most underrated smartphone of 2016 .

HTC 10

© India today The HTC 10 is, without a doubt, the best phone that HTC has built in forever . It is the kind of phone that long-term HTC fans have always wanted and long-term HTC fans have always deserved. The phone has all the bells and whistles of a high-end flagship, and it's safe to say that it delivers on almost every front as well. It has premium build quality, a sharp display with good viewing angles, a fantastic front-facing camera with OIS, flagship-class performance and decent battery life. The star of the show however has to be the phone's bloat-free Sense UI and its Hi-Res Audio prowess. No other phone comes even close to the HTC 10 in this regard. If you're willing to give the HTC 10's hit and a miss rear camera the benefit of doubt, there's no compelling reason why you shouldn't go for it, even at a (launch) price as high as Rs 52,990.

Nubia Z11

© India today The Nubia Z11 is the new flagship killer in town . The Z11, with its almost no-bezel screen is a smartphone straight out of the future. The OnePlus 3 (and now the OnePlus 3T) has become the gold standard to beat at around Rs 30,000. This is because the OnePlus 3 commands a ridiculously cool spec-sheet at a ridiculously sensible price tag. The Z11 comes very close. If it were not for its wonky software (and the lack of a Dash charging-equivalent) the Z11 could easily have outsmarted the OnePlus 3 in almost every sense of the word. The phone is exceptionally well-built and looks better than the OnePlus 3. It has a fantastic display, good overall performance, top-notch camera capabilities (even in tricky light situations) and a battery life that won't keep you asking for more. At Rs 29,999 the Z11 has all the ingredients that make a flagship, but comes at half the cost. It won't necessarily kill the OnePlus 3. But, it could be a viable alternative.

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