It’s not even been a decade since the arrival of the iPhone, the mobile device that took “smart” phones from the hands of businessmen and gave them to the people. In the relatively short time since, the ever-growing range of smartphones has gone from being a high-priced luxury to everyday personal companions.

If you’re in the market for a smartphone, you’re spoilt for choice. Thanks largely to the open-source Android operating system, dozens of brands have been able to get in on the smartphone market at all levels, from high powered cutting-edge devices to $40 impulse-buy phones that may be slow, but still have smarts. And since 2016 was a great year for smartphone releases, we reviewed the best 10 models to give you a better idea of what to look for when purchasing a new device.

Our list here stays away from those cheaper options, which are likely to cause as much frustration as they do fun. Especially since 2017 is sure to bring exciting new models to your attention. But as you’ll see, there’s still something for every budget and every need. See which one is the right choice for you and then compare mobile plans to find the best deal to go with it.

Apple iPhone 7

Apple Iphone 7
Quick Specs
  • OS: iOS 10
  • Screen: 4.7”
  • Resolution: 1334×750
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Rear Camera: 12MP
  • Screen: 4.7”
While it’s yet another low-key generational improvement on the iPhone 6 and 6s that preceded it, Apple’s sticking to a winning formula while they bide their time until this year’s 10th anniversary of the iPhone. While trailing in innovations behind their Android competition, the iPhone arguably has the edge in terms of user interface and long-term support. New to the iPhone 7 is optical image stabilisation, a feature that was sorely missed on last year’s 6s – it ensures photos will be crisper and sharper, even in low light. The 12-megapixel camera uses a superb Sony sensor that brings with it Sony’s long-standing reputation for eye-popping colour and detail. The 4.7” IPS LCD display is a bit of a relic in today’s market, where the move has been towards OLED displays. But Apple knows what they’re doing, and the iPhone 7’s display is already being rated as one of the best on any smartphone, despite the older tech.

The non-replaceable battery’s numerically low capacity might scare some off, but thanks to power management smarts and dedicated low-power chips, the iPhone 7 beats most comers with its battery life; in standby it can last for days. The screen, as always, is the biggest power drain. The A10x CPU powering the iPhone 7 makes leaps in power over previous generations, now testing as fast as a current Macbook. Storage-wise, the base 16GB is gone, replaced by a 32GB model, then 128G and 256GB as options. What you buy is what you get – there’s no memory card slot. Apple would rather you used iCloud for long term storage.

Apple’s now removed the headphone socket on the iPhone 7 to enable a force-sensitive home button and its vibration engine. Aside from that, the 7 sports the same size and design as its predecessor. Those who don’t like super-sized phones will be very happy with this smaller widescreen option. Oh, and it’s waterproof!

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Quick Specs
  • OS: Android 6
  • Screen: 5.5”
  • Resolution: 2560×1440
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Rear Camera: 12MP
  • Front Camera: 5MP
The choice between an iOS smartphone or one running Google’s Android operating system is almost a religious one for some people, who won’t ever be swayed from their ecosystem of choice. One undeniable advantage Android has is its availability across a wide range of phone brands, but Samsung’s been leading the pack with their top-end Galaxy models for a while now – and the S7 Edge is easily one of the most remarkable model the company has ever produced. Its 5.5” Super AMOLED screen is literally curved over the side edges of the handset, as though it’s a seamless part of the phone body itself. It’s a thing of absolute beauty to behold, and the tech inside the case is just as enticing. Samsung’s provided their own custom 8-core processor to power everything, supplied 4GB of RAM to make sure apps have room to breathe, included a 12-magapixel camera that outdoes almost all competition, and powered everything with a gigantic 3300MaH battery that allows the S7 Edge to boast a talk time of 33 hours. You’ll still be charging it daily, though – the power-hungry CPU will make sure of that. On-board storage is available as either 32GB or 64GB – but is expandable by a further 200GB with an optional MicroSD card. That gives the S7 an edge over the iPhone, which has been stuck with set on-board storage sizes for years – but the question is, do you ever store enough on your phone to make extra memory card storage necessary?

There’s no question that Apple will have been watching what Samsung has been doing at the top of their Galaxy range for some time, and we’re sure to see some of the S7’s features on an iPhone next year. But for the meantime, if you’re opting for Android, the Galaxy S7 Edge is in a class of its own.

Sony Xperia X Performance

Sony Xperia X Performance
Quick Specs
  • OS: Android 6
  • Screen: 5”
  • Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Rear Camera: 23MP
  • Front Camera: 13MP
Sony describes the Xperia X Performance simply as “the masterpiece”, and it’s pretty clear from the outset that the emphasis with this latest entry to the well-regarded Xperia range is on creativity in general, and photography in particular. It’s perhaps not surprising – Sony’s dedicated digital cameras have garnered acclaim for years at all levels from consumer to pro, and the company is so skilled at creating the image sensors that capture digital images that dozens of companies don’t bother designing their own sensors at all – they just buy them from Sony. The camera in the Xperia X Performance is, not surprisingly, feature packed, with a remarkable 23-megapixel resolution on the main camera and a huge 13-megapixel front camera specifically designed for low-light “selfies”. The main camera includes what Sony claims to be the best moving-object focus on the market, too.

With all that, it’s easy to forget that this is also a smartphone! Running Android 6.0 and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, the device has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space – though Sony does point out that 12GB of that is reserved for the phone’s operating system. That’s less of a problem thanks to the support for a 200GB MicroSD card to beef things up. The 5” LCD display features Sony’s acclaimed Triluminos technology, and is not curved despite marketing materials suggesting it is (only the glass in front of the display is slightly curved at the edges).

With support for high resolution audio formats as well, this is a phone for the artistic – and while it looks a bit “industrial” in its design, that’s actually part of its appeal in our book.

LG G5

LG G5
Quick Specs
  • OS: Android 6
  • Screen: 5.3”
  • Resolution: 2560×1440
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Rear Camera: 16MP
  • Front Camera: 8MP
So many smartphones come with non-removable batteries these days that it’s easy to forget that there was once a time when almost every phone had a battery you could pop out and replace. Advances in battery tech and smartphone power management have made that less necessary – and people are so used to popping their smartphone on the charger of an evening that it’s not an issue for most. But what if you do need extended battery life on your smartphone? Well, LG has the answer with the G5, which features a modular design with a removable battery – and the design magic that’s gone into making that happen has allowed LG to develop a few other accessories for the phone that you can dock into the battery space, including a larger battery, camera accessory or a high-definition audio device. The only downside to this is that you need to power the phone down to replace the battery, something LG had to make clear in its advertising.

The big 5.3” LCD screen is unsurprisingly excellent (LG is a highly regarded producer of LCD displays for many other companies) and with the latest Android 6.0 operating system on board powered by a quad-core Snapdragon CPU, it’s at the top end when it comes to performance. Storage on board is only 32GB, but that can be expanded to a remarkable 2TB with optional MicroSD cards. And if it’s photos you’re after, the dual cameras on the back of the G5 (16 and 8 megapixels) give it a much wider range of options when it comes to capturing images, rather than the default “wide angle” used by so many phone cameras.

HTC 10

HTC 10
Quick Specs
  • OS: Android 6
  • Screen: 5.2”
  • Resolution: 2560×1440
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Rear Camera: 12MP
  • Front Camera: 5MP
Taiwan’s HTC was an early frontrunner in the smartphone market, catching on extremely early to the popularity of the concept – they quietly created what’s regarded as the world’s first touch-screen smartphone all the way back in 2000, and were the first company to develop a smartphone based on Google’s then-new Android operating system, which is now ubiquitous in the industry. After seeing just how quickly users took to Apple’s then-unique iPhone, HTC ramped up their marketing and continued to innovate, and as such, the HTC 10 is the product of a vast history of knowledge about smartphones and how people use them. Powered by Android 6.0 and sporting a 5.2” LCD screen, the 10 has an unusual boast to make, one which all who have tried it agree on – this smartphone is the best-sounding device you can get your hands on today. If you listen to a lot of high quality audio on your smartphone, you’ll be doing yourself a favour by auditioning this one. The phone comes with a pair of high-quality headphones to make sure you get the best out of the tech, too.

Made of solid curved metal and built like a tank, the 10 is a little heavier than most of its competition, but oozes quality and attention to detail, and is dustproof and waterproof to boot. Its 12-megapixel rear camera might not be testing the limits of the resolution race, but takes beautiful photos – as well as 4k videos with high-definition audio. The hefty battery powers a claimed 27 hours’ talk time, and a generous helping of RAM (4GB) makes sure apps of all kinds don’t run out of room to move. While HTC doesn’t get as much attention these days as some of its younger competitors, they know how to build a great smartphone, and they’re come up with the goods here.

Google Nexus 6P

Google Nexus 6P
Quick Specs
  • OS: Android 6
  • Screen: 5.7”
  • Resolution: 2560×1440
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Rear Camera: 12.3MP
  • Front Camera: 8MP
Billed as “the ultimate Android experience” – not entirely surprising given that Google created Android in the first place – the Nexus 6P is actually built by Chinese company Huawei, who market the phone under their own brand in some countries (and yes, their brand name is on the Google-sold version as well). With a huge 5.7” “cinematic display” using AMOLED technology, it’s certainly an eye-catching phone from the second you unlock the screen – which you do via the fingerprint sensor that’s unusually positioned on the rear of the phone (it might seem like strange place to put the sensor until you hold the phone in your hand and realise it’s actually the most logical place to put it!)

Running the latest Android release, 6.0 Marshmallow, the 6P is at a slight advantage when it comes to getting hold of updated versions of Android as they arrive – because Google can deliver them straight to you, rather than you having to wait for the manufacturer to work their own modifications into the latest release before you get it. The 8-core Snapdragon CPU keeps the device running fast and efficiently, while the 3GB of RAM is supported by a choice of 32, 64 or 128GB of storage. Notably, though, there is no card slot for you to add extra storage later on – so choose wisely at the time of purchase.

For photos, there’s a 12.3-megapixel camera on the rear and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies. The 6P can shoot 4k video, too, and it looks quite amazing playing back on the huge screen.

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL

Microsoft Lumia 950 XL
Quick Specs
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Screen: 5.7”
  • Resolution: 2560×1440
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Rear Camera: 20MP
  • Front Camera: 5MP
Just when you thought that the smartphone contest was between Apple’s iOS phones and everyone else’s Android devices, Microsoft arrives to remind you that Windows 10, their latest desktop and notebook operating system, also runs on smartphones – most notably, phones sold by Microsoft themselves. Windows on a smartphone actually offers several very real advantages if you’re also a Windows user on the PC, including universal apps that run on both devices, integration with everything from Outlook email and calendar to Office productivity apps, to games, music and movies that you have access to whether you’re at home our out and about with your phone.

The Lumia 950 XL sports impressive technical specs, including an 8-core Snapdragon CPU, a 5.7” AMOLED display, a hefty battery that’s actually replaceable, and 32GB of system storage supplemented by a MicroSD card slot for an additional 200GB if needed.

Camera-wise, there’s a 20-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel “selfie” camera on the front, with 4k video recording supported and four separate microphones to capture every detail of the audio. Optical image stabilisation is standard, too, making sure photos stay crisp and videos stay smooth.

The best part about the Lumia 950 XL has to be the price – at just $499 direct from Microsoft, this is possibly one of the best smartphone bargains on the market – just as long as you can accept that the majority of apps your friends use will likely never have a corresponding Windows version.

OnePlus 3

OnePlus 3
Quick Specs
  • OS: OxygenOS 2
  • Screen: 5.5”
  • Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Memory: 6GB
  • Rear Camera: 16MP
  • Front Camera: 8MP
A budget smartphone from a Chinese company that’s been shaking things up quite a bit with its feature-packed, low-price devices, this latest release is still a little hard to come by in Australia – it’s most easily purchased online – and deviates from the norm a little by sporting an operating system known as OxygenOS. As it turns out, that’s actually a heavily customised version of Android created by OnePlus themselves, so don’t let the unfamiliar name put you off – this smartphone will run all the popular Android apps, with the OS based on 6.0 Marshmallow, the latest Android version.

Under the hood, a quad-core Snapdragon CPU powers the phone’s clean and elegant (and highly configurable) interface, with a gargantuan 6GB of RAM making sure you’ll never find yourself struggling to multitask several apps at once.

The 5.5” AMOLED display is crisp and clear, while the 16-megapixel rear camera sports a high quality Sony sensor for the best possible photos and video, with optical image stabilisation as standard. For an asking price of just a little over $500 in Australia, it’s no surprise that the OnePLus 3 has found itself a legion of eager fans.

iPhone SE

Apple iPhone SE
Quick Specs
  • OS: iOS 10
  • Screen: 4”
  • Resolution: 640×1136
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Rear Camera: 12MP
  • Front Camera: 1.2MP
Apple’s “budget” entry-level iPhone is actually one created in response to demand from people who find the ever-increasing screen sizes on smartphones to be just a little too much to handle – especially for single-handed use. Realising that many iPhone users were desperately hanging on to their iPhone 5s – the last model to use a smaller 4” screen – Apple went back to the drawing board to give that phone a refresh, and the result has proven to be hugely popular. The iPhone SE essentially is an iPhone 5s, but with the engine room under the hood replaced by the same hardware that powers the iPhone 6s – and that means blazingly fast speed and raw power.

Using Apple’s proven A9 CPU is a boon not only for speed, but for battery life as well – it comes with the M9 motion co-processor on board, a low-power-usage chip that handles all the base-level information gathering for the phone, from location services to fitness tracking, as well as hands-free “hey Siri” activation. Battery life actually betters the 6s thanks to the lower power usage of the smaller screen, the 12-megapixel camera delivers superb photos, and the 2GB of RAM is supported by storage of either 16 or 64GB.

Motorola Moto G4 Plus

Motorola Moto G4 Plus
Quick Specs
  • OS: Android 6
  • Screen: 5.5”
  • Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Rear Camera: 16MP
  • Front Camera: 5MP
One of the earliest brand names seen on mobile phones back in the days before they were smart, Motorola has engineered a solid budget smartphone with the G4 Plus, with a 5.5” HD display that’s surprisingly rich and detailed at the budget price point. A fully featured device powered by Android 6, it manages to squeeze an 8-core Snapdragon processor into its innocuous case, with 32GB of storage augmented by a MicroSD slot that supports cards up to to 128GB.

The 16-megapixel front camera features laser auto-focus and a colour-balancing dual-LED flash for more natural pictures in challenging light conditions, and photo enthusiasts will be pleased to find that the phone comes with two years of free Google Photos storage at original quality.

It’s certainly not the flashiest smartphone ever made, but for those on a budget it delivers a full suite of features and quality components at a price substantially lower than the top-end competition.

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