AC Forums Best of 2016

Aquila

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In response to the blog post here: Best of 2016 | Android Central

Here's my list of the best of 2016 (some are 2015 products)

Category
Winner
Runner Up
Best Android Phone
Pixel XL
S7 Edge
Best Android Tablet
Pixel C
SHIELD K1
Most Suprisingly Good Phone
Moto Z Play
LG V20
Best Connected Home Accessory
Google WiFi
Google Home
Best VR Headset
Daydream
--
Android Accessory
Chromecast Ultra
Moto Mods
Best Chromebook
Pixel Gen 2
Acer R13
Biggest Story
ODM Spying
Note 7
Best App
Pixel Launcher
Nova Launcher
Best Game
Two Dots
Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes
Best VR App
Google Earth
Arts & Culture
Best AR Experience
Sorry I don't care
--

What are your choices?
 

D13H4RD2L1V3

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I'm focusing on phones for this one.

Best phone for audio-lovers: ZTE Axon 7 - For $400, ZTE's Axon 7 is an audio powerhouse, delivering a high-quality DAC and amp combo that delivers superb audio performance through even hard-to-drive cans, paired up with a pair of punchy dual front stereo speakers that make this almost an audiophiles dream. However, the phone does not seem to support the full 24-bit audio files, so those looking for that may want the LG V20 instead. Still, the Axon delivers a lot of kick for not a lot of dollars.

Runner ups: LG V20, HTC 10

Best budget buster: OnePlus 3/3T - The OnePlus 3 family is a perfect showcase for how much you can get without spending a lot of money. While you will undoubtedly find some compromises compared to more expensive offerings, these aren't significant to be deal breakers and what you get in return is a phenomenal piece of hardware for not a lot of cash. Add the removal of the need to have an invite and this is a pretty dang sweet deal.

Runner ups: ZTE Axon 7, Huawei Honor 8

Best small phone (like actually small): Apple iPhone SE - While some might call it too small, the iPhone SE is probably the only mini powerhouse launched in 2016, after Sony neutered the Compact line of phones. While the display isn't really "HD" and you still find some parts from the old 5s it is based on, you gain a supremely peppy A9 processor, a great 12MP camera that can shoot UHD video and speedy overall performance. Yes, it's not for everyone, but if you're looking for a proper small smartphone with serious power, the SE is probably your best bet.

Runner up: Sony XPERIA X Compact

Best big phone: Huawei Mate 9 - After the demise of the Note 7, Huawei's Mate 9 seems to be very fit to take over its crown. While you won't find an S Pen here, nor a jaw-dropping display, you'll instead find a very polished handset with a solid build, much-improved software, a supreme set of dual cameras and ultra-long battery life. While it certainly has its flaws, the Mate is my personal favorite because it isn't shy in being big and showcases Huawei's prowess really well.

Runner up: LG V20

Best small-ish phone: Galaxy S7 - Probably Samsung's best in years, the Galaxy S7 feels like one of those phones where nearly everything works well. With a great design, solid software, phenomenal camera and solid battery life, the standard Galaxy S7 also offers up some bonuses like IP68 all in a reasonably-sized 5.1-inch shell.

Runner ups: Google Pixel, HTC 10, Apple iPhone 7

Best medium-sized phone: Galaxy S7 edge - Basically the same as the S7, but add a larger battery and overall form factor. The curved display, however, won't appeal to everyone, mainly due to the more-aggressive nature of its curve compared to the now-defunct Note7.

Runner ups: Google Pixel XL, Apple iPhone 7 Plus (despite the large bezels)

Head-scratcher of the year: Sony XPERIA X Performance - When Sony unveiled the XPERIA X line, the X Performance seemed to be the new flagship, but when its launch price of $700 came out, along with it being pretty much an XPERIA X with beefier hardware (which was also pricey for what it offered), the X Performance find it hard to justify its whopping price tag, especially in an age where phones with similar hardware can be had for less.

Runner up: LG G5 and its "Friends"

Fiasco of the year: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and battery fires - Well, it had to be here. What could've been one of the very best phones of the year ended up being a costly mistake and a PR nightmare for a company that was on the verge of having a great year with the S7 lineup. Hopefully, things look up with the S8 and the next Note.

Runner up: The AC Pokémon Go period

Comeback of the year: HTC 10 - After the disappointment of the M9, both in sales and critical reviews, the HTC 10 seems to be the phone the Taiwanese company needed, and it shows with a much refined design, slick software, better performance and a much-improved camera. Sadly, it has done very little to reverse HTC's fortunes, a very sad time when you realize just how much better the 10 is over its predecessor.

Runner up: LG V20 vs the G5

Geekiest phone of the year: Motorola Moto Z line - The Moto Z is a radical departure from Moto's past flagships. With a totally new design language and high-end specs, perhaps the biggest feature is its "Motomods" modular accessory system. While some may still call it a gimmick, it has proven to be a well-executed system for adding or improving the functionality of the base device and if Motorola's commitment stays true, more ambitious mods may be on its way.

Runner ups: Lenovo PHAB 2 Pro, LG G5 (even though it flopped, the idea was geeky. Motorola just did it way better)

Surprise of the year: Huawei Honor 8 - The Honor 8 came out of nowhere for many folks. Essentially a glass-backed Huawei P9 with extra RAM and goodies on board, the Honor 8 proved to be a great entry into the $400 market, offering a near-flagship experience for midrange money, being a solid competitor to the OnePlus 3.

Runner up: The death of the Nexus brand, Moto Z Play battery life

Phone of the year: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - This is probably the phone that defined the year for me. The S7 edge was the first phone from Samsung that I genuinely wanted in a long while. While I got its ill-fated sibling, the Note 7 instead and while I now use a Moto Z, the Edge still stands its own as my personal best phone of 2016 because it does a lot of things surprisingly well and manages to resolve many issues I've had with past Samsungs. Add in surprisingly timely security patch rollouts and it's the one phone that I still wish I had.

Runner-ups: Apple iPhone 7 Plus, OnePlus 3T, Google Pixel XL, Huawei Mate 9, Motorola Moto Z, HTC 10, LG V20
 

LeoRex

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Best Phone:

Pixel line (both). Yeah, obvious choice. From a hardware perspective, its a wash since top end phones are pretty homogenous now. What pushes the Pixel to the top is its software and how its software enhances the experience. The camera leans heavily on Google's trick HDR+ processing as well as their novel video stabilization. Google Assistant, buried in the home previously occupied by Now and On Tap has expanded to encompass the entire phone. Sum is great... Runner up would go to the S7 Edge... There are a few upstarts, but that phone still had the best overall package of anything early in 2016

Most surprisingly good phone: I am going to go out on a limb here and say the ZTE Zmax Pro. This sub-$200 6" monster of a phone surprised me. I had to pick up two phones for my kids for Christmas and on the advice of some of my volunteer buds here, I picked up a couple of the big ZMax's. The sub-$200 category has stepped up its game lately and this phone is a perfect example of that. Feature and hardware wise, it gives up nothing to much higher priced phones... little things, like sensors... nice big screen, smooth UI... I can honestly say that I don't think I could pick up a phone as good or better for the price I paid ($100 per).

Best Android Accessory : Chromecast Ultra. I have the 1st gen Chromecast, of which the Ultra is a natural progression. Many other accessories come at a higher premium, but few can match the Chromecast's utility, ease of use and value.

Biggest Story... The Note 7 debacle, hands down. The modern smartphone industry has been around for only a decade, and up until the Note 7 recall, we had yet to run into that massive, 'GM ignition' style disaster that kicks a company in the nay-nays. The story made world-wide news, and not just during that silly 5 minute "Technology" segment that runs at 2AM on CNN9. Android's most popular OEM took one right on the chin and a phone that was arguably the best phone ever made became the most epic fail in the mobile industry's history.

Runner-up story is the rise of Huawei. Up until the launch of the Huawei-made Nexus 6P, Huawei was pretty much unknown in the US market, a market that Huawei desperately needs in order to reach their goal; to become the world's leading mobile device manufacturer. A couple of years ago, this would have resulted in laughter as few people could see Samsung losing their grip. Now? It is an entirely different story. Between Huawei (and its sub-brand Honor) beginning to make inroads in the United States, their continued growth globally, and the unmitigated disaster that was the Note 7, 2017 stands to be a year where Huawei could quickly rise to prominence.

Best VR App - Google Earth (free) . I am not a huge fan of VR... I see it as a bit of a niche tech that falls into the "kinda cool" category. But Google Earth allows a person that has never been on a plane to walk around the Pyramids at Giza, the Taj Mahal, or see the Eiffel Tower close up. There is something visceral in seeing something in three dimensions and looking around that a photo or video can't come close to replicating. I'd love to see a teacher in front of a class of VR goggle-wearing students as they tour the ruins at Machu Picchu, or walk the beaches of Normandy, etc.

Best AR App. Conversely, I think AR has MUCH more usefulness than VR can have, because it takes all of the tech of VR and ties it into the real world in a way that seems much more a product of the future. And while Tango might seem to be the choice, I think that's a tech that has yet to see its day.. maybe next year. So I'll pick an app that I've been using and whose subject holds a special place in my heart. Skyview (free w/ $1.99 premium version) is a great astronomy app that utilizes AR to overlay a detailed astronomy map over what your camera sees. Whenever my kids ask "What is that star?" or "Where is Jupiter?" I can show them any time of the day... and it helps them see that 'up' isn't always 'up' and the universe is all around us.
 

Morty2264

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I'm focusing on phones for this one.

Best phone for audio-lovers: ZTE Axon 7 - For $400, ZTE's Axon 7 is an audio powerhouse, delivering a high-quality DAC and amp combo that delivers superb audio performance through even hard-to-drive cans, paired up with a pair of punchy dual front stereo speakers that make this almost an audiophiles dream. However, the phone does not seem to support the full 24-bit audio files, so those looking for that may want the LG V20 instead. Still, the Axon delivers a lot of kick for not a lot of dollars.

Runner ups: LG V20, HTC 10

Best budget buster: OnePlus 3/3T - The OnePlus 3 family is a perfect showcase for how much you can get without spending a lot of money. While you will undoubtedly find some compromises compared to more expensive offerings, these aren't significant to be deal breakers and what you get in return is a phenomenal piece of hardware for not a lot of cash. Add the removal of the need to have an invite and this is a pretty dang sweet deal.

Runner ups: ZTE Axon 7, Huawei Honor 8

Best small phone (like actually small): Apple iPhone SE - While some might call it too small, the iPhone SE is probably the only mini powerhouse launched in 2016, after Sony neutered the Compact line of phones. While the display isn't really "HD" and you still find some parts from the old 5s it is based on, you gain a supremely peppy A9 processor, a great 12MP camera that can shoot UHD video and speedy overall performance. Yes, it's not for everyone, but if you're looking for a proper small smartphone with serious power, the SE is probably your best bet.

Runner up: Sony XPERIA X Compact

Best big phone: Huawei Mate 9 - After the demise of the Note 7, Huawei's Mate 9 seems to be very fit to take over its crown. While you won't find an S Pen here, nor a jaw-dropping display, you'll instead find a very polished handset with a solid build, much-improved software, a supreme set of dual cameras and ultra-long battery life. While it certainly has its flaws, the Mate is my personal favorite because it isn't shy in being big and showcases Huawei's prowess really well.

Runner up: LG V20

Best small-ish phone: Galaxy S7 - Probably Samsung's best in years, the Galaxy S7 feels like one of those phones where nearly everything works well. With a great design, solid software, phenomenal camera and solid battery life, the standard Galaxy S7 also offers up some bonuses like IP68 all in a reasonably-sized 5.1-inch shell.

Runner ups: Google Pixel, HTC 10, Apple iPhone 7

Best medium-sized phone: Galaxy S7 edge - Basically the same as the S7, but add a larger battery and overall form factor. The curved display, however, won't appeal to everyone, mainly due to the more-aggressive nature of its curve compared to the now-defunct Note7.

Runner ups: Google Pixel XL, Apple iPhone 7 Plus (despite the large bezels)

Head-scratcher of the year: Sony XPERIA X Performance - When Sony unveiled the XPERIA X line, the X Performance seemed to be the new flagship, but when its launch price of $700 came out, along with it being pretty much an XPERIA X with beefier hardware (which was also pricey for what it offered), the X Performance find it hard to justify its whopping price tag, especially in an age where phones with similar hardware can be had for less.

Runner up: LG G5 and its "Friends"

Fiasco of the year: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and battery fires - Well, it had to be here. What could've been one of the very best phones of the year ended up being a costly mistake and a PR nightmare for a company that was on the verge of having a great year with the S7 lineup. Hopefully, things look up with the S8 and the next Note.

Runner up: The AC Pokémon Go period

Comeback of the year: HTC 10 - After the disappointment of the M9, both in sales and critical reviews, the HTC 10 seems to be the phone the Taiwanese company needed, and it shows with a much refined design, slick software, better performance and a much-improved camera. Sadly, it has done very little to reverse HTC's fortunes, a very sad time when you realize just how much better the 10 is over its predecessor.

Runner up: LG V20 vs the G5

Geekiest phone of the year: Motorola Moto Z line - The Moto Z is a radical departure from Moto's past flagships. With a totally new design language and high-end specs, perhaps the biggest feature is its "Motomods" modular accessory system. While some may still call it a gimmick, it has proven to be a well-executed system for adding or improving the functionality of the base device and if Motorola's commitment stays true, more ambitious mods may be on its way.

Runner ups: Lenovo PHAB 2 Pro, LG G5 (even though it flopped, the idea was geeky. Motorola just did it way better)

Surprise of the year: Huawei Honor 8 - The Honor 8 came out of nowhere for many folks. Essentially a glass-backed Huawei P9 with extra RAM and goodies on board, the Honor 8 proved to be a great entry into the $400 market, offering a near-flagship experience for midrange money, being a solid competitor to the OnePlus 3.

Runner up: The death of the Nexus brand, Moto Z Play battery life

Phone of the year: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge - This is probably the phone that defined the year for me. The S7 edge was the first phone from Samsung that I genuinely wanted in a long while. While I got its ill-fated sibling, the Note 7 instead and while I now use a Moto Z, the Edge still stands its own as my personal best phone of 2016 because it does a lot of things surprisingly well and manages to resolve many issues I've had with past Samsungs. Add in surprisingly timely security patch rollouts and it's the one phone that I still wish I had.

Runner-ups: Apple iPhone 7 Plus, OnePlus 3T, Google Pixel XL, Huawei Mate 9, Motorola Moto Z, HTC 10, LG V20

Definitely agree with a lot of these choices! Awesome post!
 

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