Who wouldn’t like to receive a new phone as a Christmas gift? If you’re shopping for someone who hasn’t upgraded in a few years, a lot has changed. Technology and design have continued to march forward and this year’s crop of smartphones is better than ever. And, while there are dozens of options, choosing the best smartphone for the gift recipient is the key to making that special someone’s day.
So, how do you know which one to pick?
We’ve done the hard work for you by sorting through hundreds of reviews, hands-on demos and calling on personal experience to put together a list of five of the best smartphones for this gift guide.
Once you’ve picked a model, make sure to shop both carriers and manufacturers. Prices on smartphones can vary wildly depending on where you shop, whether you buy them unlocked or whether you sign up for a plan.
Holiday Gift Guide 2016 (The Best Smartphones): Apple iPhone 7 Plus
In terms of design, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) didn’t switch things up very much with the iPhone 7 series.
However, under the skin, the new iPhones are a big leap forward, especially the iPhone 7 Plus. If there’s someone on your holiday shopping list who’s hoping for a new phone –and they’re a fan of iOS — the iPhone 7 Plus is a great choice.
Apple incorporated the usual performance updates, but it also upped the base storage to 32GB, made the new iPhones water-resistant (finally!) and the display is much brighter as well. And, the iPhone 7 Plus has a unique dual camera with 2x optical telephoto lens, which is great for photographers.
If the recipient is a music lover, you’d better check out our gift guide 2016 Bluetooth headphones edition, because there’s no headphone jack on this phone.
For more details about Apple’s latest flagship smartphone, read our review.
Holiday Gift Guide 2016 (The Best Smartphones): Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
For Samsung Electronic (OTCMKTS:SSNLF), 2016 will be remembered as the year the Galaxy Note 7 blew up.
But, 2016 started out looking much more promising. In particular, the Galaxy S7 Edge is one of the best looking smartphones of the year — if not ever.
It’s also water resistant, has a great camera and supports wireless charging. Oh, and Samsung brought back the ability to cheaply expand storage using inexpensive microSD cards.
Besides offering stellar performance, the Galaxy S7 Edge sports the curved OLED display that Apple is rumored to be hoping for with the iPhone 8. But, if you gift someone with a Galaxy S7 Edge, they not only get a top-notch Android smartphone, they get the look that Apple is coveting a year before Apple fans get a shot at it.
Holiday Gift Guide 2016 (The Best Smartphones): LG G5
LG Display Co Ltd. (NYSE:LPL) has built a reputation for designing high-quality Android smartphones that tend to fly under the radar.
For power Android users who aren’t stuck on Samsung, the LG G5 is one of the best smartphones of 2016. It’s definitely one of the more high-tech models, too.
Like the iPhone 7 Plus, LG went with a dual-camera system on the G5. But, while Apple made one of its cameras a telephoto zoom, LG went in the other direction by making one a wide-angle lens. That makes the G5 great for taking photos of outdoors scenery and sprawling cities.
The other cool thing about the G5 is its semi-modular design. You can’t upgrade key components, but you can swap out the bottom bezel for different accessories such as the Cam Plus (camera grip with extra battery) or Hi-Fi Plus (a DAC for superior audio). Gadget geeks will love this one…
Holiday Gift Guide 2016 (The Best Smartphones): Google Pixel Phone
The newest flagship smartphone to hit the market is also one of the hottest. And, it’s already topping many “best smartphone” lists for 2016.
Premium metal and glass design, a high resolution display and a camera that rivals — and potentially bests — the iPhone 7 are among the Pixel’s highlights. Of course, being a Google Phone it ships with the latest Android operating system (Nougat) and will get priority updates going forward.
The Pixel Phone also gets exclusive access to Google Assistant, the latest and greatest AI-powered virtual assistant.
The only real downside to this smartphone is its lack of water resistance. So, if you pick one up for a special someone, you might want to consider slipping a waterproof case into their stocking.
Holiday Gift Guide 2016 (The Best Smartphones): Moto Z
The Moto Z could be one of the best smartphones of 2016, no matter how you cut it. It’s fast, packs a nice camera with optical image stabilization, a Quad HD display and all-day battery life with 8-hour quick charge in just 15 minutes.
Like the iPhone 7, it lacks a headphone jack (so consider Bluetooth headphones as an accompanying gift) and like the LG G5, it offers some modular upgrades. In this case, you could add a 10x optimal zoom camera or a projector.
But, what really grabs people’s attention when they pick up the Moto Z is how thin it is. The aluminum case is razor-thin at just 0.2 inches, making it the world’s thinnest smartphone.
And, for someone who wants the sleekest Android smartphone out there, combined with modular upgradability — the Moto Z is, perhaps, the ultimate Christmas gift.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.