Tech Stocking Stuffers: 18 awesome gifts under $50

The Best Smartphones: Google nails it

By Julio Franco · 37 replies
Nov 14, 2016
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  1. Throughout the years we’ve reviewed dozens of smartphones and got hands on time with plenty others. The good news is that for the most part smartphones have become so good in terms of hardware and design that it’s getting harder to pick something you will truly regret. Or if you’re the glass half empty kinda person, they’ve become so good that picking the one that’s right for you can be a challenging task.

    You've likely read the reviews and have your own opinions based on the devices you owned and currently own, but with our vast access to devices, the best of smartphones feature intends to highlight the stuff that matters and make it easier for you to buy the right device.

    Read the complete feature.

  2. Hollow

    Hollow TS Rookie

    I don't know why Google Pixel XL would be the best Android device to go. With Note 7 early death, Galaxy S7 edge is the top Android phone ATM for hardware, just look up the specs. And Samsung will roll out Android N update for S7 very soon now.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
  3. Bigtruckseries

    Bigtruckseries TS Evangelist Posts: 583   +317

    iPhone 7 Plus couldn't have launched at a better time. It launched while Galaxy Note 7 was exploding and recalled.

    The last time I saw a product launch that "lucky" was the 2011 Hyundai Sonata - which launched just as Toyota was suffering unintended acceleration recalls and Toyota dealers couldn't even show you a Camry.

    These other Google Android smartphones would be completely in the shadow of the S7 and Note 7 if not for fate.

    I've noticed more LG Stylos selling to people who wanted a big Android and don't realize it's inferior to the Note 7.
  4. Technosense

    Technosense TS Member Posts: 42   +25

    I was holding out for the Pixel since last spring and I'm just not impressed enough with it to drop $800. At $500 I would be all over it. No wireless charging is a deal breaker for me anyway. All flagship phones should have this and I just can't understand how a company would move backwards from such a convenient feature...but that's just me (and ANYONE else who's ever used it).
    Isaac Atkinson likes this.
  5. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 715   +336

    Because inductive charging cannot work around other metal surfaces. This rules out metal unibodies if you want wireless charging - or really any metal in the body aside from the power receiving coil.

    I, personally, would rather a metal unibody over wireless charging. Plugging in my phone takes half a second, and I do it once a day. Metal unibodies make the phone much more durable and likely to last a few years, they also feel much nicer in your hand and help to keep the internals cool. So I save very little time, and gain a little convenience with wireless charging - or I can have a more durable phone that I am more likely to get to last the three years I try for with each phone.
    SirChocula likes this.
  6. treeski

    treeski TS Evangelist Posts: 989   +231

    I recently upgraded to the Pixel XL after having wireless charging for > four years... it was no big deal to me.
  7. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 2,957   +1,289

    When it comes to Android, hardware is barely half the story. My LG G3 has some insane (still competitive by todays standards mostly) specs but the experience has been kind of crappy because anything that utilizes its power gets heat throttled badly.

    Other manufacturers opt to ditch the stock Android experience (why is beyond me) in favor of their bloat. To each their own I guess.
  8. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,274   +786

    What if I want to go Apple and also want a headphone jack? I mean, that whole Apple section is pointless since they only have one version of the phone. Hmmm, which iPhone should I get? iPhone 7 or iPhone 7?
  9. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,270   +895

    Best from Apple category? for real?

    Moto G budget +1
  10. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Addict Posts: 171   +141

    If you're just looking at benchmarks, sure. But Google nailed the software. Samsung will roll out Nougat, but it will still be somewhat crippled by bloatware. A clean Android experience designed for a single model phone is a wonderful thing.
    OneSpeed likes this.
  11. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 7,596   +966

    I'm a Galaxy S7 owner... great phone, great hardware, you've got all the key features in a single device including waterproofing (which I personally use often), wireless charging (again, used every day) and microSD slot. So for me the Pixel XL is no drop-in replacement. I paid full price for the Galaxy S7 Edge, so at the current price point it's just as compelling many months later.

    However I see where Tim is going with his Pixel pick. The Galaxy's software is not as bloated as some may want you to believe (way down from S4 standards) and you can mostly customize it down to your likings, so right now that is not an issue for me. What is an issue is that you have to go through carriers, their bloatware, and the delay in getting updates. Samsung will want to consider cleaning up their act and carrier deals if they want to continue leading the Android pack moving forward.

    Software matters, a lot, and Google is upping the ante.

    Precisely, that's why we have a "Best from Apple" category. iPhones are great phones, and we recommend them. However if you are an Apple lover, and don't want to look beyond their yearly offerings, guess what, they have made those decisions for you. If you want the best iPhone, get the iPhone 7 Plus, but there is no choosing what features you want.
    gusticles41 likes this.
  12. OneSpeed

    OneSpeed TS Addict Posts: 285   +90

    I think the only prob with Samsung is the bloatware and the time it takes for updates. I'm thinking of getting a Pixel for the pure Android experience.
    Hollow likes this.
  13. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,270   +895

    When I talked about the Apple category, was not actually bashing Apple but they make their normal phones and then the high end iPhones, so the best is the latest with the most letters =P
  14. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Maniac Posts: 460   +239

    The Pixel launched with Nougat and will have any update out faster than Samsung.
  15. lazer

    lazer TS Booster Posts: 106   +24

    It never fails to amaze me that the reviews for cell phones never ever include one important consideration: sound reproduction for calls in and out.

    I am hearing impaired and for me a phone with high resolution, fast processor and great camera, plenty of GB storage is important, but for me, the main thing is sound reproduction.

    Not all phones have quality sound reproduction and I am NOT talking about how loud the sound is but the quality of being faithful to the original sound that is being reproduced for us to hear.

    How about giving us hearing impaired people a bit of consideration and include sound ratings too?
    misor likes this.
  16. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Addict Posts: 171   +141

    You bring up an interesting point. Modern phones are straying far from their originally intended design. I suppose sound quality isn't a very fun metric to benchmark, and it'd be difficult to give it an in-depth review.
  17. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 7,596   +966

    Not an excuse but then there is carrier and reception as variables as well. The last five phones or so I've used have been "ok" for call quality, then again I use my phones less and less for making calls :eek:
  18. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Maniac Posts: 460   +239

    When I switched to T-Mo the clarity of calling between other T-Mo customers, both on LTE, was night and day different than my last carrier. This was on 2 cheap ZTE handsets. It might have something to do with "HD voice."

    If that's the case voice calls through a fast data connection and a VOIP service (like Skype) might be a better alternative since HD voice has to be supported on both carriers, lines, and handsets of each caller offering widely varying results.
  19. Makson

    Makson TS Booster Posts: 115   +26

    Now for reality. After all the hype, the best 'phone/mini computer varies among users, as seen by the variety of comments, although it doesn't mean much to test and/or users to comment on the 'Latest And Greatest' because in a short space of time millions of people around the world will be sleeping on pavements all night outside a store, waiting to buy the 'Latest And Greatest' device which adds to the growing number of people partly turning into zombies with Nomophobia, Autophobia, Graphophobia and Isolophobia.
  20. fktech

    fktech TS Addict Posts: 215   +55

    So the Google Pixel is "better" than the Samsung Galaxy S7... I don't think so!
  21. Hollow

    Hollow TS Rookie

    Well I understand, but now the bloatware isn't that bad, make a folder, put every thing in it and forget it. Also Samsung launcher is the best one I found and I am super picky. I love the always on display. And finally I am not disapointed with the update rate, I've seen many improvements and features added. I really like "pure" stuff too but the difference in hardware is just too bin, also the S7 is mature and getting nougat very soon.
  22. Hollow

    Hollow TS Rookie

    If it's all that matters to you I understand. Could also get Motorola they are cheaper and have better performance /price value. They update fast too.
  23. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,270   +895

    I think whatever the sound quality playback it is, you will be always better off with a special headset/headphones/earplugs that will suit your needs.

    Please don't take it the wrong way, for people with average hearing the device speaker quality is irrelevant, a single speaker can't do much on this end.
  24. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Maniac Posts: 460   +239

    It's not all that matters to me; the speed at which a device receives OS updates and security patches on Android is an objective measure. In this case the Pixel XL will always receive them quicker than the Galaxy S7 Edge (unless Google skips one for some reason).

    Also since Lenovo purchased Motorola they've announced that they will not be keeping the same pace as when Google owned Moto:

    So while the S7 Edge may have a "specs advantage" the Pixel will always have the software/features advantage from Google. That's the interpretation I go from the author's position that the Pixel is slightly better and the S7 Edge is another "fantastic option."
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
  25. Hollow

    Hollow TS Rookie

    Yes I understand, I own the S7 edge too. Nougat bêta started 2 or more days ago in Angland so release should be soon. I didn't know they left moto, now I'm just not impressionnant with google phone spec which are a lot worse than a 8 month old phone, it's just going to be destroyed very quickly with the S8.

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