11 best smartphones 2016: our pick of the very best phones

T3 Elite's roundup of the very best smartphones money can buy.

Welcome to T3 Elite's roundup of the very best smartphones money can buy. We only include the best phones in this list, so you can be sure you're always geting the very latest cutting edge tech.

The T3.com team has tested every handset under the sun, and this page is designed to provide you with all the key info you need so you can choose the best smartphone for you. And we've listed in order of preference too, so there's no confusion. The first is the best.

So whether you're after the best Android smartphone money can buy, an iPhone upgrade or a new Windows 10 mobile to pair with your laptop, we've seen and extensively tested them all so you don't have to.

Take a look and we guarantee you'll find the best smartphone for you, beginning with the very best phone currently available...

1. Best smartphone - iPhone 7 Plus

Apple's dual camera, big screen phone is a winner

Best Smartphone

Gorgeous water resistant design
Dual camera
Iterative design
Could be too big for some

Here we have the iPhone 7 Plus - probably the best-looking smartphone around. Some feel its sheer size does make it tricky to hold, but there's no denying Apple's beautiful 5.5-incher is a winner. If you're an iPhone user and you fancy picking up the best smartphone around, this should definitely be your first choice. Apple has chosen to stick with the iPhone 6S design, improving it with rerouted antenna lines and a more integrated camera bump. There are glorious new colours available, and to top it off, the casing is now water resistant.

Read: iPhone 7 Plus review

It's inside where the iPhone 7 Plus has received the biggest overhaul - now packing Apple's blazing fast A10 Fusion processor. The camera has also received a significant upgrade, now with two 12MP sensors capable of 2x optical zoom. To finish it off, the iPhone 7 Plus comes running iOS 10, Apple's latest and greatest mobile OS.

It is expensive, and may be too large for some, so the standard iPhone 7 with a 4.7-inch display is also worth your consideration.

2. The other best smartphone - Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Curving into the future with impressive specs

Best Smartphone

Premium design
Best camera
Fingerprint magnet
Cartoonish UI

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is so close to being the best smartphone in the world right now. It boasts the brilliant dual curved display, with the screen bending around on both sides so it looks like no other phone ever made (apart from the S6 Edge last year). Yep, this futuristic smartphone is a looker, and it'll have your friends begging for a chance to play with it.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review

That combined with industry leading power, an amazing display, decent battery life, an excellent camera and amazing performance make it not only the best-looking smartphone, but one of the top two smartphones in the universe. Of course, if you're not a fan of the curved display, the regular S7 is close to perfection as well.

3. Best large smartphone - Google Pixel XL

A brilliant phablet that shows Google's first smartphone is a hit

Best Smartphone

Great camera
Virtual Assistant
Not water resistant
Design a little uninspired

We can't tell you how close it is between the Google Pixel XL, iPhone 7 Plus and S7 Edge for the title of 'best smartphone in the world.' All three are beautiful, but the sleek design, intuitive UI, and leading ecosystem puts the iPhone 7 just in front. The Google Pixel XL is still an amazing smartphone - especially if you adore large screens and virtual assistants.

Read: Google Pixel XL review

Whether it's the excellent camera, the metal-and-glass chassis, the oodles of power involved (from Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon processor) or just the fact that the software and virtual assistant work in perfect harmony with the hardware, Google's got a lot right here and this is a brilliant phone. Of course, if you don't like large screens the 5.0-inch Pixel is also available, which is identical the XL (apart from size).

4. Best small smartphone - iPhone SE

A 4-inch wonder with flagship slaying specs

Best Smartphone

Great battery life
Old, boxy design
16GB storage base model

Notice how all of these smartphones have 5+ inch screens? What if you have small hands? You can’t reach all four corners of the screen. It’s a problem not many of us face, but the truth is -- some people just prefer smaller phones but don’t want to sacrifice high-end specs. The iPhone SE is for you. With a 4-inch screen and guts which match the iPhone 6S, including the 12MP rear camera, 2GB RAM, Apple Pay, Retina display, and Apple A9 chipset, this thing is a little pocket rocket.

Read: iPhone SE review

There are a few drawbacks - the design isn’t beautifully curvaceous like the iPhone 7 (the SE is based on the iPhone 5), the front-facing camera has fewer megapixels, and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is older and therefore slower. The best thing about it? Despite its range-topping specs, the iPhone SE is also one of the cheapest smartphones Apple has ever released. What’s not to love?

5. Best value smartphone - Nexus 6P

Huawei takes over the Nexus responsibilities

Best Smartphone

All metal design
Great price
Still pretty big
No wireless charger

The Nexus may have been superseeded by the Google Pixel, but that only makes the highly affordable Nexus 6P a steal. The phone is made by Huawei and includes a 5.7-inch 2K display, 2GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset inside. The battery life is very impressive for a phone this size but sadly there’s no wireless camera. The camera offers a 12MP sensor and there’s a fingerprint sensor on the back for the very first time.

Read: Google Nexus 6P review

The design is especially lovely this year with a metal back and a rounder design than before - but it may prove too big for some.

6. Best smartphone with removable battery - LG G5

LG's best ever phone has a modular design

Best Smartphone

Interesting dual camera
Not a luxe as rivals
Accessories are a gimmick

This phone is aimed at those who want a truly innovative, gadgety smartphone, and while it doesn't look as special as the Galaxy S7 Edge, it does have a kick-ass unique feature. This phone, you see, has a modular design, letting you add optional attachments (such as a camera grip or high-res audio). It's also the only flagship smartphone in 2016 which lets you swap the battery. Sure, it doesn't feel as premium as the Samsung or iPhone, but if you want to make a geeky statement, this is the phone for you.

Read: LG G5 review

With leading specs, an excellent screen and the latest version of Android, this is definitely LG's best smartphone ever and comes highly recommended.

7. Best smartphone for 4K - Sony Z5 Premium

Here's the first ever phone with a 4K display

Best Smartphone

Detailed camera
Battery life is bad
Sometimes overheats

Sony has just made the world's first ever 4K smartphone, but we're not exactly sure if it's necessary yet. It’s a huge 5.5-inch screen with a huge 806 pixels-per-inch as well so is perfect for any phablet lovers out there. There’s a new fingerprint sensor running along the side of the phone that works perfectly and then there's a great 23MP camera on the back of the phone.

Read: Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review

The battery life may not be perfect, but this is one of the best phones if you love to have the newest tech first.

8. Best smartphone for music - HTC 10

Boomsound sounds supreme

Best Smartphone

Great battery life and camera
Amazing sound and software
Uninspired design

The HTC 10 is a phone that takes the design heritage, DNA and all the other good bits of last year’s One M9 and, well, does them again, but better. It’s again shown the rest of the competition how to make a premium smartphone, and its camera, battery life and performance is right up there too. HTC has really worked on the criticisms of the previous generation devices, and created their best ever flagship smartphone.

Read: HTC 10 review

It would have been nice to see HTC really push the boat out in terms of design, but the minimal tweaks they've made to stock Android are amazing, making this one of our favourite smartphones in 2016.

9. Best battery life smartphone - Huawei Mate 8

A stellar phablet with solid specs and a wallet-friendly price

Best Smartphone

Outstanding battery life
Fingerprint sensor and large display
Crap UI
Misses the mark on design

If your budget can’t quite stretch to a snazzy California or South Korean-designed smartphone, you may wish to consider a Chinese brand instead. The Huawei Mate 8 is the best smartphone to hail from the People’s Republic. It has a great 6-inch display, and brilliant battery life thanks to the large 4,000 mAh unit. It’s not without its flaws though, the Emotion UI isn’t great, and the design just isn’t as sleek as its rivals.

10. Best durable smartphone - Motorola Moto X Force

Always dropping your phone? The Force is for you

Best Smartphone

Unbreakable screen
Close to stock Android
Noticeably plastic screen
Poor speaker

The Moto X Force is a refreshing phone - rather than trying to be elegant and premium - it’s durable and will survive a beating. That’s mainly down to the screen, which features a thick, toughened outer layer which won’t break - not matter how hard you try. The casing is also pretty rugged, our favourite finish being the ‘Ballistic Nylon’ back. The specs are pretty powerful, and the battery life is also impressive.

Read: Motorola Moto X-Force review

Android is left close to stock which is also good news. It’s not as cutting edge as Samsung’s or Apple’s latest efforts, but it’s a great all-rounder.

11. Best alternative brand - OnePlus 3

Unbelievable spec for an impossible price

Best Smartphone

Low price for great spec
Premium build
No MicroSD

Looking to upset dominance by the big brands is OnePlus, who took the mobile world by storm in 2014 with one goal, to be the flagship killer. It's third smartphone, imaginatively titled the OnePlus 3, has finally achieved that goal. With a price tag of £329, you’ll get all the mod-cons of much more expensive handsets, including an HD screen, fingerprint sensor, a decent camera and powerful specs. And, whereas previous OnePlus phones lacked finesse - the OnePlus 3 has a genuine premium feel and the software is rock solid.

Read: OnePlus 3 review

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