Best of 2016

Every year, we review amazing tech from companies striving to outdo one another, and 2016 was no exception. This was a year that saw Samsung reach new highs and desperate lows, Google truly become a hardware company and release one of the best updates to Android ever, and Motorola reinvent its smartphone platform.


Why you can trust Android Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best Android Phone:

Google Pixel (opens in new tab)

Understated, powerful and reliable, the Pixel manages to be the best Android phone and one of the most fun to use.

— Daniel Bader

More: Google Pixel review

Runners Up: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Huawei Mate 9

Best Android Tablet:

Lenovo Yoga Book (opens in new tab)

Unconventional, impossibly light, and a genuine pleasure to use, Lenovo's Yoga Book offers something truly unique to the tablet world.

— Russell Holly

More: Lenovo Yoga Book review

Runner up: Google Pixel C

Best Phone Design:

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (opens in new tab)

The Galaxy S7 edge was this year's best-looking phone, with subtle curves, impeccable build quality and unparalleled features!

— Daniel Bader

More: Galaxy S7 edge review

Runner up: HTC 10

Most Surprisingly Good Android Phone:

OnePlus 3T (opens in new tab)

The OnePlus 3T offers EVERYTHING the spec nerds will salivate over, but is also one of the simplest and most powerful phones available for any level of user.

— Andrew Martonik

More: OnePlus 3T review

Runner Up: Moto Z Play

Best Connected Home Accessory:

Google Home (opens in new tab)

Google Assistant is still growing, but the way it ties its knowledge of your life and the world around you into a simple, unassuming gadget makes it a must-have device.

— Ara Wagoner

More: Google Home review

Runner Up: Echo Dot

Best VR Headset:

Google Daydream View (opens in new tab)

The newest VR headset by far, Google's Daydream simplifies mobile VR in all of the best ways and already has plenty of great apps!

— Russell Holly

More: Daydream View review

Runner Up: Samsung Gear VR

Best Android Accessory:

Chromecast Ultra (opens in new tab)

No matter what phone, tablet or entertainment center setup you have, you can take advantage of the fantastic simplicity of the Chromecast Ultra!

— Andrew Martonik

More: Chromecast review

Runner Up: Spigen Style Ring

Best Chromebook:

Acer Chromebook R13 (opens in new tab)

The Acer Chromebook R13 is beautiful, powerful and affordable. It's everything Chrome has to offer, plus Android apps in the perfect 13-inch package.

— Jerry Hildenbrand

More: Acer Chromebook R13 review

Runner Up: Dell Chromebook 13

Biggest Story:

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

The hottest story of 2017 was undoubtedly Samsung's exploding smartphone, with the flames being fanned by not one but two bungled recalls, and reports of some customers being injured in the process. It was a multi-billion dollar mistake, about which many essays and books will surely be written. RIP.

— Alex Dobie

Runner Up: Pokémon Go


Best App:

Google Photos

Google Photos solves the problem of storing and keeping track of photos across all your devices, using Google's considerable cloud infrastructure and AI magic. Throw in delightful features like automatic animations, stylized pics and panoramas and you've got the best Android app of the year.

— Alex Dobie

Runner Up: Pocket Casts (opens in new tab)

Best Game:

Clash Royale

Clash Royale was an early release for 2016, but proved to have real staying power thanks to consistent updates from Supercell and a great balance of action and strategy gameplay elements.

— Marc Lagace

Runner Up: Reigns

Best VR App:

Tilt Brush

VR is for so much more than games! No experience demonstrated the incredible power of creating art in VR quite like Tilt Brush this year.

— Russell Holly

Runner Up: Gunjack 2: End of Shift (opens in new tab)

Best AR Experience:

Pokémon Go

Love it or hate it, Pokémon Go was a cultural phenomenon in 2016. For many, it was the first glimpse at what smartphone augmented reality could do. It convinced millions of people to go play outside, and in turn became one of the highest-grossing games of the all time.

— Marc Lagace

Runner Up: Google Tango

Best of Google

Best Nougat Feature:

Improved notifications

Google got serious about notifications in Nougat, giving us bundled, expandable alerts that show a ton of information and also look fantastic. Building on what was already great about Android's notification system, Android 7.0's notifications are part of what makes Android great for power users.

— Alex Dobie

Runner Up: Night Mode

Best New Google Service:

Google Allo

I have no friends on Allo. It's just me and my husband for now, but it's our preferred method of communication. I love the various sticker packs — we use them throughout the day to check in with one another — and the Google Assistant integrated into the chat. And I love the instant replies that are a big help when typing is too much of an endeavor. I hope 2017 is the year Allo finds some traction because it's got so much potential.

— Florence Ion

Runner Up: Duo (opens in new tab)

Most Improved Google Service:

Google Photos

This year, Google Photos got a lot smarter, with more auto-generating videos, collages and other cool tricks. But it was for Pixel owners that Photos shined brightest, with unlimited full-res backups.

— Harish Jonnalagadda

Runner Up: Google Play Music

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

  • Best New Google Service: Google Allo Really? I uninstalled it a few days after installing it because nobody else wanted to use it and feels half-baked.
  • Agreed. Plus the echo dot IMHO is a better value and is further along then Google's offering. But can't go wrong w either one.
  • Agreed Allo is half baked at best. I wouldn't say it is a mature app by any means and certainly lacks functionality for a "best in class" messaging app. My friends, family installed it, ran it and then uninstalled it. Simply not made for the US; or someone who uses SMS for texting.., For SMS there are other options like Textra, invi and Pulse to name a few...
  • I still have it and still use it.
  • I love Google Allo. I have everyone in my family using it, even the iPhone users. Duo is awesome too, but I use it a lot less than Allo.
  • I am also confused as to the love of Allo. Even if you could communicate with other messaging apps the features are just not there.
  • I love using allo, it's great especially with Google Assistant.
  • No Fi sms support = worthless
  • I'd throw Google WiFi up there. Talking to some nerd friends about this post and I disagree with all of the winners except AR and VR, but can see how they all got there.
  • Honorable mention: The Honor 8? Just picked up this device. Fantastic phone.
  • I've seen a lot of love for that phone but haven't gotten a chance to play with one. Thumbs up!
  • Yeah people thought kirin chipsets were crap while recognising it performed really smoothly, then geekbench updated their benchmark (in a way xda and everyone else said was much better), and the cpu was performing above the SD820, just with a poor gpu. I'm surprised by how much even I am seeing Huawei phones in a much better light just because of a benchmark.
  • Forums version for anyone who wants to weigh in with their own rankings:
  • I would def say Pixel C is best tablet!
  • But it wasn't released in 2016
  • It says it was a runner up. Regardless of release date. It was still the best of 2016.
  • You're right. And runner up is SHEILD K1
  • So much google love. Shocker.
  • LMAO... Yep.
  • Could be worse.... iMore Best of 2016 Awards
    Best new phone: iPhone 7
    Best phone design: iPhone 7
    Most surprisingly good phone: iPhone 7
    Biggest story: iPhone 7
  • They're a good group here and I do thoroughly enjoy their comments and podcasts... I don't have to agree with them to enjoy their articles - sometimes it's just good for thought type of deal on the articles and podcasts.
  • Even if some of them can't grow a beard... Just saying... LOL
  • It's been easier for me to get people to download Duo.
  • Duo is a very well done app and it's not really redundant to most users.
  • What was the best renamed Google product or service?
  • Best smartphone of the year : Google Pixel.
    I knew there was some Google bias on here, but you managed to surpass all my expectations. ^^
  • Or maybe it's just a good phone? I like when people disagree with an article like this it's obviously because the website is biased and not the user.
  • Bias? That's funny.
  • AC weren't alone when making claims that the pixel line were the best Android offering this year. Get around a little. It's hard to claim someone is biased when they have plenty of company in their argument.
  • interesting AC says the Yoga is the best tablet of the year, and Engadget calls it one of the worst devices of 2016
  • I don't really like the yoga book, but Engadget is probably the worst review site I've been to. They usually have no idea what they are talking about.
  • I doubt they're worse than The Verge.
  • Care to elaborate why? Just curious anyways.
  • Because The Verge would pick the iPhone 7 as the Best Android Device of 2016 if they had that category.
  • You guys drink the Google kool-aid too much... The Google pixel was lackluster
  • Yes, I know, there's no wireless charging or waterproofing, but the phones that have that don't have what the Pixel has - peerless performance. That's far more valuable. I would never own a Pixel myself, but that doesn't prevent me from admitting that it's the best Android phone for the vast majority of users. Pokegate: 07/14/16 - Never Forget...
  • Honestly I think my next phone will be the 2nd generation Pixel phone. I truly like the fast updates etc... Currently I have the 7 Edge, which is a very good phone. It will be a hard decision, if the Samsung 8 Edge has all the bells and whistles, I might go with Samsung again... When it's time to get my next phone... It just might be a coin toss....
  • Good god, I cannot wait until the 2017 phones come out so the Android bloggers will quit drinking on the teat of Google. The Pixel line of phones was terrible and they're definitely not worth the premium price tag. The OnePlus 3T is a better phone and it's half the price of the Pixels.
  • Said the contrarian speaking out of his ass in opposition. Maybe use something before commenting.
  • Thanks for sharing your valueless opinion.
  • You honestly think a midrange device is better than the best phones out there? Or merely a better value? Because you seem to have written the first, which would be delusional.
  • I really think that the V20 deserves a spot up there
  • I had a V20 after returning my Note 7 (easily the best phone of the year). I returned the V20 and went back to a Note 5. The V20 is a perfectly decent phone but there's not really anything GREAT about it, imo. Liked it a lot. Didn't love it. Probably would have kept it if it weren't for being spoiled with the Note 7. My thinking is that if I kept it beyond the return window, I'd be losing out because I for sure will buy the Note 8 so why not just suffer a bit with the 5 (not really a hardship) til the 8 gets released rather than lose the 800?
  • Having a pixel after returning my note 7 as well the only I miss is the water resistance. That thing still bogged down multiple times a day and while doing the same thing on the pixel I've gotten to stutter once. ONCE. I'll take every day fluidity over the rare benefit of weather resistance every time. The tendency for the note 7 exploding was a blessing.
  • Good content
  • I think the HTC 10 is the best phone
  • Because that's the phone you have?
  • I noticed a few typos in this. Google released a new update, not release a new update and you guys said 2017 instead of 2016 for the Galaxy Note 7 as Biggest Story. Other than that, great writeup! :)
  • Feel better about yourself now?
  • Black and blue text on a dark green background, I can't even read this article.
  • I got a few paragraphs in and quit due to the color scheme. Just because you can mix up up text and background colors doesn't mean you should.
  • Yeah same here crazy eyes reading that.
  • Favoritism for Google? Uh...yeah. But this also proves how anticlimactic 2016 was. Hopefully, we can be wowed again in next coming couple of years.
  • Google bias on an Android site. You guys should be detectives.
  • I wanted the Pixel pretty bad, so I can respect their pick here. However, based on the price I think the S7 edge had a much better offering. The pixel's best feature is how consistent it is. Maybe the camera, depending on the user. But they were simply missing too many things for it to be worth the asking price. It's a shame, too, because I really wanted one.
  • I own a lg v20 and it should have been mentioned somewhere in the article, it's a great phone but reviews are opinions, considered the pixel but no expandable storage / removable battery. Had to jump on the LG train, first time passenger and loving it. BTW the LG skin is not really that bad
  • Interesting article!   I liked many of your picks, but I just couldn't get behind Google Home over the Amazon Dot and/or Echo!  In time I'm sure Home will have the level of support that Amazon Echo has but currently it's not even close!
  • Seems like your editors and writers pick phones as favorites or "best" in a category and that's it, done. In May I decided to get rid of my Note 4 and there was so much hype over the Galaxy S7 Edge so I got one. Great phone but it didn't really stand out so much. Soon after that I became disgruntled with my service provider AT&T so I decided to go unlocked, great decision. For reasons I can't explain I had to use another phone to port my number to so after reading several articles and looking at phones I decided on a ZTE Axon 7. Love this phone! Eventually I paid AT&T and unlocked the S7 Edge but I continued to use the ZTE until I read this article so I moved the sim card back to the S7 Edge but this morning I'm going back to the ZTE. It has a better display (I think so and if I can't really tell then it's at least as good) , is definitely quicker and really snappy, better sound with our without headphones and it doesn't have those irritating edges for my palm or fingers to accidentally touch to start some app. Here is the real dilemma. Money is not an issue and again because of all the hype I want to buy an unlocked Google Pixel XL.So now I have to wonder if it's just hype or if the articles are written objectively? For now I'll stick with the ZTE, it is the best phone I have owned since my iPhone One but that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.
  • Too bad the domain name is owned by Google... ;)
    But seriously, this list is a joke, and during 2016 you've become real Google fanatics. Used to be my favorite Android site but that's changed now.