2016 has been a rollercoaster ride. The sort where you go up once and then keep going down all the way until you hit the ground and several people die and there is blood everywhere and the screaming just doesn’t stop…
Anyway, 2016 has also been an interesting year for phones. Apple dropped the headphone jack. Samsung dropped a bomb. And BlackBerry dropped dead. But guess what? Nokia is coming back! Sort of.
Amidst all of this we got some pretty great phones this year. And a few duds. But let’s start with the good ones first before we get to the duds.
Best Phones of 2016
I must say I’m not a big fan of how Google totally stole HTC’s phone and told everyone that it made it. I also don’t like the fact that it then decided to get into a pissing contest with Apple by matching the price without making sure if everything else was on par. But despite that the Pixel (and the larger Pixel XL) are still good phones that I enjoyed using this year. I liked the simple design (although it seems I am in the minority on this), the display quality, the performance, and especially the camera. Being a Google phone, the software was also on point and this is easily the best that Android has ever been on any device. All in all, an excellent phone. Shame about the price, though.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 3
The phone that makes the average Indian tech blogger cum buckets any time it gets mentioned, and the one that has made my life significantly easier any time someone asks for best phone under Rs. 15,000 (which is approximately 300 times a day), the Redmi Note 3 is the phone that has had perhaps the biggest impact on the market out of any phone in this list. While Xiaomi has had a history of releasing phones with impressive phones at unbelieveable prices, the Redmi Note 3 was a real humdinger with unheard of features and performance at a price that sent its rivals into early retirement. It’s a shame that most of its buyers died of old age before the phone finally got the Marshmallow update but apart from that it’s now a criminal offense in several countries to say anything bad about this phone.
The second HTC phone on this list, which means they are clearly doing something right. HTC was in good form this year after spraying gold paint on a Hamam soap last year and asking people upwards of forty grand for it. The HTC 10 is what you get when you receive a surplus shipment of aluminum and decide to make phones out of them. The phone is built like a tank, if tanks were made from aluminum, and could be used to bludgeon many small creatures. It also had a great display, great performance, and a reasonably good camera. It’s a shame HTC’s marketing division has smaller budget than Patanjali’s, which is why no one ever hears about these things.
ASUS ZenFone 3
An ASUS phone in the best of the year list? I must be out of my mind! That’s true, but it’s also true that the ZenFone 3 was a surprisingly excellent phone that I enjoyed using and exceeded all my expectations. Mostly because I have no expectations with ASUS phones. Having said that, this phone did change that perception and while I would appreciate if ASUS didn’t greenlit every app that its team of chimpanzees came up with and installed it forcefully on the phone, the rest of the phone was rock solid, with impressive design, display, performance, camera, and battery life. It’s a shame that that this phone costs the same as the OnePlus 3 and ends up getting slapped in the face by the latter’s anodized aluminum dong when it comes to value for money, but I still had to mention it because it really was quite good.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
This could have easily been the Note7 had it not turned Jihadist shortly after launch, but the S7 edge is no slouch. After finally getting rid of all its excess plastic that it had acquired from Mattel and switching to metal and glass last year, Samsung went ahead and further refined its excellent new design that is now easily one of the best, if not the best, designs on the market right now. Add to that exceptional performance in nearly every other parameter and this thing is absolutely hands-down the best Android phone you can buy right now.
I love this phone. Had it not been for Apple’s giant, black, throbbing, waterproof slab this would have been the phone of the year for me. It’s so good and yet it costs so little money (well, comparatively). Every day I used it I expected something to go wrong and something bad to happen, because that’s what I had come to expect from OnePlus, but it didn’t. It just worked fine every single day, as any good phone should. It has so much going for it, and yet it doesn’t break your bank like Modi. It’s the phone I recommend people when they ask me. It’s the phone I recommend people even when they don’t ask me. Someone asked me directions today; I told them to buy this phone. Seriously, you really should buy this phone. Buy another if you have one already.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
That visit to Siddhivinayak Temple for Tim Cook really paid off because Ho. Lee. Shit. I know Apple says every year that it’s the best iPhone they ever made but in terms of leap over the previous model this really is the best iPhone ever made. Waterproof design, stereo speakers, improved display, improved cameras, improved performance, improved battery life, this phone really has it all. It also comes in two new colors that are so black they are now illegal tender. I specifically mentioned the 7 Plus because it gets those sick dual cameras at the back, bigger battery, higher resolution display, and more RAM over the smaller model and is generally the better phone to buy overall. Being an iPhone, it costs as much as the aforementioned temple so you really shouldn’t be buying it unless you can afford to buy, like, three of them, that too just for your dogs. But if you can this really is the complete package and by far the best phone I used all year.
Honorable mention: Mi Mix
I normally make it a point to only mention phones that were released in India and I actually got to use, but I’m making an exception for this one. The Mi Mix deserves credit for looking so damn good with that bezel-less design. Xiaomi had to eliminate external earpiece and proximity sensors to get that glass all the way to the top edge, and so came up with innovative solutions like a piezoelectric ceramic transducer to vibrate the metal frame to produce the audio for calls and an ultrasonic proximity sensor to know when you place the phone on your stupid face. Add to that a body made entirely out of ceramic and actual 18K gold accents on the higher-end model makes this something really quite special. I don’t know what the display is like or what the performance is like or how good the camera is. All I know is that it looks fucking fantastic and is groundbreaking, and it deserves a mention for that.
WORST PHONES OF 2016
Samsung Galaxy Note7
Sigh. The phone that had all the trappings of being the best Android phone of the year is now in this list. Now to be fair, despite all the explosion jokes, this Allahu Snackbar didn’t actually explode as much as smolder quietly, setting fire to anything in its vicinity, which is enough to get a lifetime ban in all the airlines. After being recalled the first time, it went back out there and did the exact same thing like some kind of pyromaniac. Samsung did eventually get its shit together but only after a lot of damage was done. It is believed the lapse in Samsung’s quality control department was due to the company trying to beat Apple to the punch in the market. What it ended up with instead is a several billion dollar hole in its pocket after the flames went out. Not to mention the loss of customer faith to some degree. Fortunately, the strategy of having two flagships in a year paid off and the S7 was there to pick up some of the slack. Honestly, though, what a clusterfuck.
Samsung Galaxy J2 (2016)
The reason this turd casserole is on this list is not just because it is a terrible phone with shitty design, shitty performance, shitty everything. Or that its biggest feature was a notification LED that was on the back of the phone. No, it’s because I had to sit and hear some Samsung head person of whatever division say to my face (well, there were other people there as well but my face was in the room) how amazing this phone is and how well it performs and how the competition is misguided with all its specifications and features and how you don’t need all that and how all you need is a neon sign LED light on the back of the fucking phone where no one can see it and the performance of a geriatric tortoise instead. Fuck this phone.
Creo Mark 1
Then there’s this asshole. If it wasn’t bad enough that the phone was a completely irredeemable waste of metal and glass that could have instead been given to poor African kids, it also sent all my details to a complete stranger. The moment I started using the phone it sent my phone number, email address, and actual physical address to the person who was previously using the phone. This despite the fact that he had completely wiped the phone before sending it over. The phone has a security feature that alerts you when someone steals it and puts their own SIM in it. It’s nothing new and has been done before. But because this phone was made by autistic mice in a lab in Bangalore, there was no way to disable this feature once you enable it so even after doing a factory reset it was still on and ended up sending my information to the previous user. Fortunately, he was a good guy and informed me immediately when he received my details but he could have just as well been an asshole. Fuck this phone too and fuck the people who made it.
And on that cheerful note, have a happy 2017.