Date:31 May 2017
Here are your mid-2017 smartphone awards! You already know how this ends: with a shameless plug for the iPhone SE and an admission that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the overall best phone on the market right now. But that’s only half the story. The rest is a tale of different tastes and approaches to making a great smartphone. It’s the halfway point in 2017, all the major players have pieces on the board, let’s get into it from left to right…
Mid-2017 smartphone awards: The best phone you can buy right now
Samsung Galaxy S8
It’s the obvious choice for a reason. Samsung put its soul in the S8, throwing massive marketing budgets and an insane feature set at the dwindling sales figures problem. You want to know why Apple had record iPhone sales even after removing the headphone jack? Because the Note 7 was a disaster for Android. To many people Android isn’t even a brand, Samsung is. The company knows this, that’s why it never mentioned Android at the S8 launch event. Great camera, desirable design, unmatched feature set… it’s all here and the market is gobbling it up. Add the convenience of fast wireless charging (a grossly underrated feature), Gear VR compatibility and the versatility of the DeX dock and you have an unbeatable ecosystem It’s the only phone outside of the iPhone that matters right now. Period.
Mid-2017 smartphone awards: The best phone for photography
Huawei P10 Plus
This would be my pick for best Android phone on the market if it wasn’t for the dramatic shift to tall screens with minimal bezels like on the LG G6 and Galaxy S8 and inconsistent battery performance. When it comes to mobile photography, though, nothing comes close to that Leica dual camera unit for options. it really is like having a photo studio in your pocket, all you need do is add lighting. The locally available 128 GB storage and 6 GB RAM hardware configuration alongside the Kirin 960 chipset also elevate it to the status of most powerful handset on the market. It deserves your attention.
Bonus fact: the Huawei P10 and Mate 9 are the only phones I’ve tested that allow for photography while recording audio, an indispensable asset for content creation.
Mid-2017 smartphone awards: The smartphone you should get, but probably won’t
All the core functionality (mostly the 18:9 screen) of the S8 in a far more durable body, but running on last year’s processor. LG then upped the anti with a select list of MIL-STD-810G compliance including resistance to salt fog exposure and impact shock. In an accidental drop from pocket height to concrete, similar to one that incapacitated a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, the naked G6 survived with some cosmetic damage to the metal frame. The wide angle lens is also a versatile addition to the top tier 13 MP standard rear camera, a better option than the current telephoto craze. In all the LG G6 is an exceptional handset that most people who can’t comfortably afford the Galaxy S8 price tag should opt for. It also, to me, makes better use out of the new screen proportions.
Mid-2017 smartphone awards: The best phone for great battery life
Motorola Moto Z Play
No, this isn’t a flagship by any definition, but it will keep going long after those flagships have cried out for a charger. Yes you’ll mistake the fingerprint sensor for a home key, but it’s a small price to pay for modular capabilities that allow you to instantly upgrade your device with an entirely different camera from Hasselblad, or a battery pack from Incipio that will transform the already ample 3 510 mAh built-in battery into a weekend warrior. The power efficiency is mainly due to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset and further enhanced by a very lightly tweaked version of stock Android which will receive timely updates. Images from the 16 MP main camera aren’t bad.
Mid-2017 smartphone awards: The best phone for most people
I’m still to meet someone who isn’t an Android enthusiast who has moved from Android to iOS and had a bad experience. Smartphones should be easy to use, should handle your private data responsibly and receive regular software updates as new features are developed or to patch security flaws. Most people should be on an iPhone. And the SE delivers the full iPhone experience at a reasonable price. It’s also the last iPhone to come with a headphone jack. I own one which I consider more as a tool than a leisure device (I have a tablet for that). And that’s an important differentiation. If you want a pure communication tool that has plenty of capacity to tackle any task you throw at it and don’t want to spend above R10 000, this is the phone you get. If you want a smartphone as your primary media consumption and creation tool, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
[Editor’s note: all phones were tested as the reviewer’s primary every day carry for a minimum of 14 days. The review process has some standardised testing elements for camera and battery evaluation, but is mostly based on real world, anecdotal experience.]
[Disclaimer: The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Huawei P10 Plus were both gifts received at the launch events.]