With the untimely demise of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 series phones it seems fitting to highlight some of our favorites and alternatives to Samsung’s fiery flagship. Seven such phones came to
mind when discussing this article all with unique strengths and all flagship devices in their own right. They do have a single glaring omission compared to the Note 7, however, as none of these devices include a stylus. We covered styli back in 2014 but we have some new review samples coming in to cover alternatives to this missing feature if it was critical for you.
|Model||HTC10||Pixel XL||V20||S7||S7 Edge||Moto Z||iPhone 7 Plus|
|Android Version(at launch)||6.0.1||7.1||7||6||6||6.0.1||IOS10.0.1|
|Screen Type||IPS LCD||Amoled||IPS LCD||Amoled||Amoled||Amoled||IPS LCD|
|SOC||Snapdragon 820||Snapdragon 821||Snapdragon 820||Snapdragon 820||Snapdragon 820||Snapdragon 820||A10 Fusion|
|USB||Type-c 3.0||Type-c 3.0||Type-c 3.0||Micro 2.0||Micro 2.0||Type-c 3.0||Lightning|
|Extra stuff||Tunable sound output with 1w amplifier||Google assistant, free google photos uncompressed storage||Gear VR compatabilitiy||Gear VR compatabilitiy||Moto Mods|
First on our list of devices is the often looked over HTC10, It combines top of the line hardware and modern features with a comfortable in hand feel, We have talked about it previously in depth several times (4 20 and 40 days after having it in hand) and have nothing but good things to say about the 2016 flagship from HTC in fact it’s greatest weakness has been HTC’s poor marketing leading to delayed reviews, even on launch day there was little in a retail store to tell me there was a new phone available but if it is available from your carrier it is a choice that won’t disappoint with a best of approach to the included apps and a camera that will make amateurs and professionals happy alongside a well thought out set of audio enhancements, something HTC has carried forward every generation.
Announced as the first true Google phone designed and built by Google the Pixel XL is the first android 7.1 device and an impressive phone in it’s own right. Showing its heritage clearly it shares much of it’s design language and capabilities with phones from Google’s ODM of choice (HTC) as well as carrying forward design choices from previous nexus devices (no microSD, rear mounted fingerprint reader). The result of this is a device that is with the exception of the missing microSD card capabilities likely the best of both worlds and has been called the pinnacle of android devices for 2016, Touting HTC’s excellent camera with refinements to go from trading punches with, to outright beating Samsung’s S7 series phones and free Google drive storage for photos and videos for the lifetime of the phone this devices only real weaknesses are fixed internal storage (although you can use type flash drives like the ones we’ve reviewed here and here) and it’s limited direct availability being a Verizon exclusive in the US unless you purchase from Google directly.
LG’s monster for 2016 is their V20, this is a mammoth is the largest device we have in this roundup at 5.7 inches (the only one to actually equal the Note 7 in screen size) and was the first device to ship with android 7.0 although this feat was somewhat upstaged by the launch of the Pixel devices by Google. As the only device in our roundup with a removable backplate it appeals to power users with it’s swappable batteries and offers an interested dual camera standard+wide angle array in the back similar to the one used on the G5. Combined with high end audio touting a quad dac and 24 bit flac recording natively the V20 is a productivity dream, if it had packed in a stylus this would have been a no contest replacement for the Note 7.
Samsung Galaxy S7 & Galaxy Edge 7
The logical choices for those invested in Samsung’s ecosystem (Gear watches and the Gear VR both come to mind) Samsung 2016 flagship devices, neither of these has (fortunately) had any reports of combustion that we are aware of and users who like Samsung’s touchwiz interface will feel at home. The galaxy series did show the smallest changes this generation with most of the adjustments (outside of the return of the microSD card) being invisible from the outside. Unfortunately these incremental changes left the galaxy series a bit lacking in the connectivity department missing out on the type-c connectivity offered by all of the non apple flagships in our roundup, however they do have wireless charging something missing from some of the competition. Their cameras are different than the HTC 10/Pixel XL trading some image quality for an astounding focus speed.
Motorola Moto Z
The Moto Z is Lenovo’s latest Moto flagship, replacing the Moto X line. It’s a popular choice for those that are interested in a more “vanilla” Android without too much OEM customization but with some very thoughtful additions. The big advancement this year for Moto is on the hardware side. Yes, it’s running on a Snapdragon 820 with 4GB RAM with a fingerprint reader and expandable storage. All of the expected features (minus a headphone jack) for a 2016 flagship are there. But the major new hardware features are the Moto Mods. Moto Mods are hardware add-ons that magnetically attach to the back of the Moto Z line and extend the functionality of the base phone. There are battery pack extensions, upgraded camera mods, JBL speakers, or just plain back covers available. The Moto Z is also the thinnest premium smartphone in the world, coming in at a shade over 5 millimeters. It’s available in Verizon and unlocked variants. This device has turned around Moto’s fortunes in the premium market with both solid reviews and sales figures. It’s worth a long look.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
The latest iteration of Apple’s iphone lineup needs little introduction and will no doubt be the choice of many people due to it’s size and complete ecosystem of accessories, people jumping to the 7 Plus however will have a few surprises to contend with, the lack of a headphone jack jumps out right away and will certainly dissuade some audiophiles (who may be more interested in the HTC 10 or LG V20) but with the plethora of bluetooth audio devices on the market this isn’t such a dire situation as it could be. The 7 Plus packs apple’s best across the board with a dual camera system reminiscent of the HTC M8’s adjustable focus (with better sensors) and abilities beyond most of the android competitors in regards to 4k video in addition to adding in an extra dose of memory compared to it’s smaller sibling. The 7 Plus should be a serious consideration for anyone who’s already a mac user as their whole ecosystem “just works” and the phone packs some serious capabilities for content creation.