Our pick of the Top 10 Smartphones in Ghana for 2016

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The year 2016 has been an interesting one in the smartphone business. Because, as we vividly recall, LG released a phone that wears shoes, Apple finally expressed their disdain for the audio jack, Samsung sold us a grenade codenamed “Note 7”, and Blackberry joined the Android bandwagon with a DTEK50. The list is goes on..

But more good news. We have managed to round-up for you, the top 10 smartphones in Ghana for 2016. Settling on this final list was a bit tricky, as many great smartphones hit our shelves all year round. But whether or not you find your favourite brand in our ranking, we are certain you will find a couple of phones that will get you giddy with excitement. Keep your wallet closeby. You will need it!!

HTC 10

htc

Summary

This is a banger for HTC, a company that seem to have lost significant market share  in the smartphone space. With HTC 10, the company  has shaken off some dust and it is back competing aggressively and winning back sales in Japan, at least.

The company, describes the HTC 10 as the world’s first dual OIS for pro level photos front and back. According to TrustedReviews, the biggest selling point for the HTC 10 is the phone’s advanced audio qualities, a feature which makes it popular with music fans.

The HTC 10 does not make the cut as the best phone of 2016; no smartphone really does, anyway. But it is very strong in all areas. For the audiophiles and music enthusiasts, this is the only high-end smartphone you need.

Design

The HTC 10 is beautifully crafted phone no doubt. It simply has that elegant finish to it and the fact that it is aluminum-based clearly shows. On the screen the phone uses capacitive Home, Back and Recent App buttons, in place of on-screen button. The Home button doubles as a fingerprint scanner. But unlike the Samsung Galaxy S7, the button doesn’t give any buzz-like feedback when pressed.

On the right side of the phone you will find the Nano-sim tray, the volume rocker and the beveled power button. The microSD card slot is isolated on the left top side of the phone. The headphone jack is situated at the top while the USB Type-C charging port and speaker grills are situated at the underside of the phone. The underside speakers act more like the phone’s subwoofer. The phone’s earpiece doubles as a second speaker for outputting high-frequency sounds.

The back of the HTC 10 is slightly curved to make easy handling. It is also significantly chamfered on the back edges, which elicits different reactions from reviewers about its aesthetic appeal. Colour options to be had with the HTC 10 include carbon gray, topaz gold, glacier silver, and camellia red.

Display

The screen on the HTC 10 is a 5.2-inch QHD 2560×1440 pixel display. For all those fancy numbers you get a natural looking, bright, accurate, sharp, and wide-colour display. The screen is really good to look at, one of the best out there.

The viewing angles are also good although it appears slightly darker than competing brands. It has also one of the brightest screen displays. However, unlike the LG G5 and the Samsung Galaxy S7, it lacks an always-on mode.

The user interface, Sense UI, running on top of the core Android OS, is one of the cleanest on any android phone. You will not find on the phone, apps running duplicate functions out of the box. This is not so much of the case for the majority of Android phones on the market. HTC actually worked with Google to fully integrate their apps with android’s.

Even native HTC apps have android material-themed designs. A cool feature on the HTC 10 is the ability to lock any installed app. Unlocking the app will require fingerprint authentication. The Home screen, however, has a 4×4 app grid instead of the 5×5 grid found on other similar phones. In effect you get to place fewer app icons on the home screen.

Camera

The HTC 10 sports a 12-megapixel back camera as well as a 5-megapixel front camera. The camera app is pleasantly responsive and easy to navigate. It also supports RAW file format and has a pro mode where you can edit advanced camera setting like ISO. The camera captures well detailed, accurate coloured shots both indoors and outdoors. It is also great that the camera captures good bokeh shots, which give the pictures a professional-looking blurry background.

A downside to the camera is that exposed light sources in the background tend to blur over the pictures. The front camera is also impressive. It supports OIS, wide angle shots, and produces one of the best detailed selfies you can get from a smartphone.  In place of a gallery app, the HTC 10 uses the Google Photo app, which automatically backs up your photos to your google cloud storage.

Performance

The high-resolution speaker installed in the HTC 10 is the standout feature that puts it well above its smartphone peers. To fully experience the sound quality on the phone, it’s best using hi-res earphones. Thankfully, the HTC 10 is bundled with such earphones in the box.

And like most flagship phones, the HTC 10 is powered by a strong processor. In effect, whether you are playing intensive 3D games or running multiple apps concurrently, the phone responds smoothly and very quickly.

Storage

All HTC 10’s have 4GB memory installed. Internal storage options are either 32GB or 64GB. It also supports microSD cards of up to 256GB capacity.

Battery

The HTC 10 has a 3000mAh battery which lasts long when the phone is locked. But it however drains quickly when you actually start using the phone. This sounds counter-intuitive because not many people buy a phone to mainly keep it locked in sleep mode. The phone also supports quick charge technology but does not have wireless charging capabilities.

Specifications Summary

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iPhone 7 Plus

iphone

Summary

In the words of one reviewer, the iPhone 7 Plus is not revolutionary but it is a great phone to have.

From a design point of view the 7 Plus is mostly conservative, maintaining similar designs as it’s predecessor, the iPhone 6s Plus. A number of new good features are also present on this new iteration to the iPhone family series, such as the dual camera, the non-movable Home button, the powerful processor and its water-resistance capability.

So far as you can look beyond the “controversial” omission of the headphone jack as well as the expensive price tag, the iPhone 7 Plus is a must-have for all iPhone fans as well as new users seeking a high-quality smartphone experience.

Design

The iPhone 7 Plus is almost identical in design and dimension with its predecessor, the iPhone 6s Plus. One of the differences you may notice is that Apple has removed the antenna bands found at the back of the 6s Plus, giving the new phone a more minimalistic look. The 7 Plus is also 4 grams lighter than its successor. Another welcome addition found at the back of the phone is its dual camera but more on that later.

The big news am sure most of you have heard about the iPhone 7’s design is that it has no 3.5mm headphone jack. As controversial as this announcement was when the Apple made this known to world, we will also conveniently sidestep trying to justify whether it was a good decision or not. However, the iPhone is not the first smartphone in recent history to ditch the headphone jack. Motorola and other chinese manufacturers excluded the audio jack in some of their models as early as July 2012. Apple is the first major player in the smartphone space to do so in its high-demand model. It will not be surprising to see many other smartphone manufacturers following suit.

As a remedy for pairing a 3.5mm headphone, the iPhone 7 Plus is packaged with a lightning-to-audio adapter: one end of this cable goes into the charging port of the phone while the other connects the headphone. Another problem still remains: the iPhone has only one lightning port which can’t be used for a headphone and for charging the battery at the same time. This situation will most likely increase the demand for wireless-connectivity audio gadgets, for lightning-equipped headphones, and for other multi-cable adapters.

Another new feature on the 7 Plus is that the Home button is unmovable. The physical button has been replaced with Apple’s haptic technology-enabled Home button, similar to the MacBook’s trackpad. Any Home button presses simulate a “buzz” or rumble-like feedback. The feedback may feel odd especially if you are used to the Home button found on previous iPhones. But it doesn’t take long getting used to this new one.

It is also welcome news that the iPhone is finally water-resistant. With an IP67 rating, this means that the 7 Plus can be submerged up to 30 mins in 1 meter depth of water. On colour finishing, the iPhone 7 Plus has 5 variants: silver, gold, rose gold, black and jet black. Macworld calls the jet black the bragger’s choice: it is only available in the more expensive 128GB or 256GB options. But be ready to treat the jet black option with kid gloves as it is more scratch and fingerprint friendly.

Display

The screen size of the 7 Plus is 5.5 inches with a 1920×1080 screen resolution and 401 pixel density per inch. You may find the phone a handful especially if you try reaching across the height of the phone single-handedly. Thankfully, Apple has a software implementation which remedies this problem. This feature, called Reachability, squeezes the screen downwards when you the tap the home button twice. That aside, screen is brighter than its predecessor, the 6s plus, and it has one of the widest colour range found on any smartphone currently.

Camera

The iPhone 7 Plus has joined the likes of LG’s G5 and Huawei’s P9 to become one of the first smartphones spotting dual back cameras. Although new apps will mostly likely be developed to take advantage of this, the takeaway features of the dual camera are the 2x optical zoom functionality and the Portrait Mode feature.

The 7 Plus actually has 10x zoom capability, but an optical zoom of 2x means that beyond 2 times the enlargement, the camera switches from the optical to the digital zoom lens when setting up a shot. The digital zoom lens make images look noisier and more pixelated. As reported on Macworld, some speculate that there are elements of digital zoom in the 2x optical mode on the iPhone. This regardless, 2x zoom on the iPhone 7s Plus is much better than on the 6s Plus.

Portrait mode is a post-launch feature added to the 7 Plus in Apple’s iOS 10.1 update. It creates a bokeh photographic effect, which is a blurry or hazy background effect. To increase the chances of getting good portrait mode pictures all the time, the subject needs to be about 2 meter away from the phone and the camera lens should be receiving a fair amount of light. By default, the phone will also save a conventional copy of a picture taken in portrait mode.

On picture quality, the iPhone 7 Plus camera is one of the best found on a smartphone, producing high-quality film images and capturing wide colour ranges. Videos can be captured at 4K resolution and also saved in slow-motion. The noticeable change on the front-facing camera is that it is now 7-megapixel capable instead of the 5-megapixel found on the 6s Plus. Both the 7 Plus and its younger brother, the iPhone 7 now have optical image stabilizers.

Performance

The iPhone 7 Plus is one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. Its new A10 Fusion processor is also more power efficient. The processor uses two low-efficiency cores for low power applications and two high-efficiency cores for power hungry apps. Running apps on the new iPhone is smoother and more lag-free than ever on any previous iPhone.

Storage

The iPhone 7 Plus has 3GB ram, the biggest found on any previous iPhone and also 1GB bigger than the memory on the iPhone 7. The internal storage options on the 7 Plus is either 32GB, 128GB or 256GB.

Battery

The iPhone 7 Plus battery has been upgraded to 2900 mAh, 150 mAh more than what the 6s Plus has. In terms of performance, the 7 Plus can stay for about 14 hours of unplugged web surfing, as against 12 hours on the 6s Plus. The battery lasts longer not only because of the bigger battery but also because the new A10 processor has better power-saving modes.

Specifications Summary

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

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Summary

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge has a lot of new as well as returning features to get excited about.

For those features which fans loved about the Galaxy S5, the microSD slot and the water damage resistance, they get to have them back on this new addition in the Galaxy Series. New cool features to be had on the S7 Edge include an Always-on display, a compact handy feel, a great camera and a beautiful smooth display.

If money is not an object then please hurry, dash to your nearest local shop and get grap one. You will love it.

Design

The Galaxy S7 Edge has a great design. Compared to the iPhone 7 Plus, it is narrower, shorter, thinner, and lighter even though both have the same screen size. Its roundness also makes it fit well in the palm. The S7 Edge is also curvier at the front than the S6 Edge+ and back curves well into the side of the phone. The back camera also protrudes less. Alongside the primary camera, the back also features the flash camera sensor and the heart rate monitor. A single bay for housing the sim card and the microSD slot is positioned at the top of the phone along with a microphone. At the bottom you find the headphone jack.

A welcome return feature, from the Galaxy S5, found on the S7 Edge is that it is water resistant. It has an IP68 rating which mean it can stay submerged in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Techradar however observed that the phone will refuse to charge if the port is too wet. Thus you need to be weary about how extensively you expose the phone to liquids.

Colour finishes on the Galaxy S7 Edge are in 3 variants, namely silver, black and gold. In deciding which colour to choose, androidcentral gave these useful tip: gold fits people with a flashy style preference but the gold colouring appears different based on your lighting conditions; the silver colour is unique to the Galaxy S7 Edge as it is not a colour option on the Galaxy S7, and like the gold colour appears different based on your lighting conditions; black fits most users and makes the screen content stand out more but is more prone to pick up fingerprints and scratches.

Display

The Galaxy S7 Edge has QHD resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixel and 534 pixels per inch. This gives the phone a pin sharp display, being one of the best displays you will see on any phone on the market. The phone also uses Samsung’s popular super AMOLED display technology. The advantage with AMOLED is seen featured in the phone’s ‘Always-on Display’ mode.

With Always-on mode the phone always displays a feature like the clock, a calendar, a message, and the battery status on the screen even when the phone is in sleep mode. As at now the Always-on display mode displays messages for a limited number of apps but this could improve in the future. AMOLED, unlike other screen technologies, can light up individual screen pixel instead of the whole screen.

The Galaxy S7 Edge’s side display is more fun to use and also more customisable. For instance, you can specify to see news headline stories, your favorite contacts or a combination of these and other phone settings, anytime you swipe along the left or right edge of the phone screen.

Camera

Despite the back camera resolution on the Galaxy S7 Edge has dropped from 16 megapixels (on the Galaxy S6 Edge+) to 12 megapixels, the S7 Edge camera, as reported on trustedreviews and techradar, autofocuses faster, creates much better images in low light settings, produces accurate colours in macro shots, and it doesn’t compromise on picture detail even at the lower megapixel count. It is simply one of the best cameras you can find on a phone at the moment.

Images shot on the phone can be saved in RAW format to enable further editing. As a shortcut, you can double-tap the home button to open the camera app. The camera speed also impressive. Despite the camera app having a ton of options it is easy to use. A “Pro” mode enables you to edit more advanced camera options like the ISO and white balance settings. Videos can also be shot at 4k resolution but lower resolution like 1080p have richer added video features.

The front camera is 5-megapixel capable, just like on the Galaxy S6 Edge+. However it is a wide-angle lens camera. This means it can cram in more faces in a selfie shot. It doesn’t have a front camera flash. However, phone’s screen is used as a substitute flash.

Performance

This phone has two processor variants. The Snapdragon-based model is made available in the US as it can handle LTE bands. The rest of the world uses Samsung’s Exynos processor. Nonetheless, the Galaxy S7 Edge is a smooth phone with very crisp display. It has one of the best mobile screens for watching movies, and it handle games cleanly and without giving you annoying lags. There has however been complaints about users experiencing odd lags when using Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. Samsung has also added a cool new app called Game launcher.

Game launcher gives a better gaming experience, such as recording in-game videos, although it can be disabled altogether. Try it out. Another cool new feature is that the Galaxy S7 has a water-cooling functionality built-in. This is Samsung’s bid to get temperatures low on the phone as possible. The phone stays cool most of the time but runs hot when fast-charging or during periods of high activity on the phone.

Storage

Galaxy S7 Edge models all have 4GB of memory. Internal storage can be had in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB variants. The other big news is the MicroSD slots makes its return since we last saw it on the Galaxy S5. It support up to 256GB storage space. A word of caution. The phone may suffer performance lags if you do not use a higher-performance sd card.

Battery

It is welcome news that the battery has been upgraded from 3000mAh, as found on the S6 Edge+ to 3600mAh on the Galaxy S7 Edge. The battery can now last a whole day of average to mildly heavy usage and still have about 15-25% of charge left. The phone also supports fast charging which can add about 40-50% of battery life in half-and-hour. It also supports wireless charging.

This phone also has the usual power saving mode which can be set to trigger at any point from 25% of remaining battery. The ultra power saving mode works fine and is good for emergency power saving situations. Now, the Always-on Display mode of the Galaxy S7 Edge consumes close to 1% in an hour of battery use. It cannot be turned off unless you switch the phone off. But it can be switched to night mode. Night mode displays minimal information on the side of the phone and uses less battery power. Overall the battery power is good enough.

LG’s implementation is much better than that of Samsung in just about every way. It uses less battery, about 12% a day (8am to midnight) as opposed to the Galaxy S7’s 15%. The LG G5’s always-on screen also displays all your notifications, including those from WhatsApp and Gmail. This makes it far more useful than the S7, which pushes alerts from only a limited selection of apps.

The display on the G5 is less customisable, however, and since it isn’t AMOLED, it lights up every pixel rather than just the clock. This means it’s far more noticeable, and more distracting, in low light.

Specifications Summary

LG G5

lg

Summary

With the G5, LG probably beat Google’s Ara Project to release the first “modular” phone, but can it stave off the competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung, as they also unveil new exciting models?

The G5 has a beautiful screen display, a powerful processor, an interesting camera, and of course fun replaceable modules. It however has a weaker battery, a body that mak

es it feel cheaper than it really is, and a relatively steep price. The modules released with the G5 are also not cheap.

And even though it is touted as the modular phone around, the available modules aren’t exciting and varied enough, yet, to get many people on the bandwagon. Time will tell if the G5 is able to carve a niche of loyalists for itself.

Design

The first thing to note about the LG G5 is it has ditched the inward-curved screen, found on the G4, for a conventional flat screen surface. Yet, the screen is not all-completely flat, as it slopes down at the top and bottom of the phone. It has also ditched the plastics found on the G4 for an all-metal body. But they slapped so much paint on it that it makes it feel cheaper than Samsung or Apple’s flagship phones. Regardless, the phone feels smooth to handle. On colours, the LG G5 has four options, which are silver, dark gray, gold, and pink.

On button placements, the power switch is located at the back, below the camera sensors. The button also seconds as a fingerprint scanner. Techradar cautions that the power button is small so be sure to test how comfortable you are using them. The volume button is on the left side of the G5 and a tray for housing the sim and sd cards is located on the right. The audio jack is found at the top and at the bottom is the speaker and charging port.

The standout design feature on the G5 is its modular design. You simply pry the bottom of the phone off and replace it with different modules, or “Friends”, as LG calls them. The module release button is located on the lower left side of the phone. Removing the bottom for the first time will reveal the replaceable battery. At the time of release, LG released just two “Friends”, the Cam Plus and the Hi-Fi Plus. The Cam Plus gives the phone point-and-shoot camera-like features, like a zooming wheel and a shutter button, as well as extra battery power. The Hi-Fi Plus boosts the audio playback quality of the phone; audiophiles should definitely give this a shot.

Lastly, LG made some headlines when they initially announced that they were excluding the app drawer software interface, which is found on many android phones, for a more iOS like interface, where all installed apps are available on the Home screen. This decision was reversed by LG, somewhat, with a rather different solution called EasyHome. In effect, you get to choose between disabling the app drawer altogether or using the EasyHome theme, which uses a large non-adjustable font size. Cnet made the observation that neither of the options are ideal. Look out for some other third-party solutions or further updates from LG, if you are of the same opinion.

Display

The LG G5 has a quad-HD 2560 x 1440 screen resolution and a 5.3-inch screen size capable of displaying 554 pixels per inch. Trustedreviews found the screen “ridiculously sharp” and “far more true-to-life and softer than the Galaxy S7 display”. However, it boils down to user preference in choosing which of the two phones has a better display. Viewing angles, screen brightness levels and picture contrasts have also been upgraded on the G5 as compared to it’s predecessor, the G4.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S7, the LG also has Always-on display, although the implementation is quite different. The LG uses an IPS LCD screen instead of the AMOLED screen found on the Galaxy S7. As a result, the Always-on display lights up every pixel on the screen of the G5, as opposed to lighting up only the needed individual pixels using AMOLED screens. Unlike the Galaxy S7, also, the LG shows all notification, like Whatsapp messages, but the notifications are less visible in bright lights.

Camera

LG has equipped the G5 with two independent back cameras. The default camera is 16 megapixels. It produces sharp brightly coloured pictures and performs well in low light settings too. Videos can be shot up to 4k resolution. The second camera is a wide angle camera. While most default phone cameras capture about a 75-degree field of vision, this wide-angle camera captures about 135 degrees viewing angle. It is an 8-megapixel camera so it is not the best camera for taking close-up shot. Nonetheless, pictu

re quality good.

Switching between either back cameras is easy through the default camera interface but most third party apps may use the 16-megapixel camera as default. The camera app can also be quickly fired-up when the phone is in sleep mode by double tapping the volume down button. At the front is an 8-megapixel camera which also has wide angle view in order to cram in more faces in a selfie shot.

Performance

The Processor found in the G5 is powerful so you should expect to have a smooth and mostly lag-free all-round experience. Its performance is mostly at par with the processor found in the Samsung Galaxy S7. So whether watching high definition movies or playing high-graphics video games, the G5 will give you a great experience.

Storage

Memory on this phone is 4GB. Unfortunately internal storage option on G5 is only 32GB. Also, the G5 doesn’t feature adoptable storage. Adoptable storage enables you to use an SD card as an internal storage. This is a feature available on Android OS 6.0 (Marshmallow) devices and newer.

Battery

With a battery capacity of 2800mAh, the G5 is short against the options offered in major flagships like the Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7. As a result, the battery barely lasts a whole of medium to slightly heavy usage. But unlike most flagship phones being released in recent times, the battery is replaceable. The G5 also support wireless charging which adds about 60% battery power in half-an-hour and a full charge in an hour. It is worth taking note that the G5 charging port is USB Type-C and not micro USB. Although the Type-C is the newer and more improved port, not many devices support it at the moment. Thus, you may need to keep the charging cable for the G5 closeby. The battery also requires some force before it can be separated from its modular base.

Specifications Summary

Huawei Mate 8

hauwei

Summary

This expansive gadget from Huawei, the Mate 8, has a number of features to get excited about. The looks, definitely, is one of them. Beautifully crafted, easy to handle, and a lot of screen to gaze on without needing you to squint as often as you would have, on a smaller-sized phone.

The Mate 8 is also fast so you need not tear your hair out waiting for resource hungry apps to open and run. Battery life is really great. However, the interface software is unimpressive while the camera’s performance has a few odd quirks. Finally, even though it is not as expensive as major flagship phones, it pays to take a look at what similar phones have to offer before splashing your cash.

Design

By all accounts the Mate 8 is simply a gorgeous phone to look at. There are four colour variants to appeal to different tastes and preferences: Champagne Gold, Moonlight Silver, Space Gray, Mocha Brown. It is a tad shorter than the iPhone 7 Plus but it is much wider making it quite a handful. However, Huawei did a good job of reducing the bezel on the side in order to not make the phone feel too big.

On other physical characteristic, the power and volume buttons are located on the right side while the fingerprint scanner is situated at the back below the camera. The sim and sd card tray is on the left side of the phone. At the top and bottom of the phone you will find the audio jack and the charging port, respectively. The speaker grills are also located at the bottom. The back of the phone is slightly curved to make easier handling and it weighs just 185 grams. The Mate 8 is prone to pick up scratches but thankfully Huawei provides a free phone case in the box.

Display

The Mate 8 screen size is 6 inches but the screen resolution is 1080p with 368 pixels per inch. Even though other top flagship phones are offering higher screen resolution and more pixel densities, the display on the Mate 8 should not be underestimated. As observed by techradar, the screen looks gorgeous when on full brightness. It is both sharp and has great viewing angles. Watching movies with the Mate 8 is a great exprerience.

Camera

The Huawei has a 16-megapixel back camera as well as an 8-megapixel front camera. Shots taken on the phone look good even in low light setting. But watch out, some pictures tend to look overexposed especially when the camera is exposed to some light sources. Videos recording is 1080p, unlike the 4k resolution you get in similar high-end phone. But this is not surprising as the Mate 8’s screen is only 1080p capable.

The camera app looks a lot like what you will find on the iOS. It has a couple of modes for you to play with as well as an option to change setting like ISO and white balance manually. But the camera app tends to randomly slow down from time to time.

Performance

Well the bad news first. Huawei has redesigned the Android user interface (UI) quite substantially, replacing it with its Emotion UI. The end result is an Android-iOS like hybrid interface and customised icons which doesn’t look as polished as Android’s Marshmallow or Apple’s iOS.

That aside the performance on the Mate 8 impressive. The interface is snappy. Apps open quickly and high-graphic games play mostly stutter-free. The fingerprint scanner is also very fast, being able to unlock the phone under a second.

Storage

There are two main storage options on the Mate 8. The 32GB internal storage option has 3GB of memory while the 64GB internal storage option has 4GB of memory. You also get to add up to 256GB of microSD storage.

Battery

At 4000 mAh, the battery on the Huawei Mate lasts longer than what you get on other high-end phones. You are most likely to get some battery power left at the close of your day, any where between 49-10%, so far as you do not use the phone over-intensively. Thankfully the phone also supports fast charging.

The battery app on the phone is a constant reminder to alert you which apps are using the battery and recommend that you shut some down. There are also several power saving options to choose from in the battery manager app. Choosing the ultra mode can take you two full days on battery.

Specifications Summary

Google Pixel XL

google-pixel

Summary

With the first release of the Pixel XL, Google has achieved the feat the Nexus program failed to clearly nip in the bud, which was to break the Galaxy-iPhone hegemony into a three-way warfare.

On the plus side, this smartphone is really quick too use, takes one of the best camera shots, has a rich minimalistic display and uses the best voice assistant found on any smartphone at the moment. On the downside, it isn’t water-resistant and hasn’t got a few features we are accustomed with seeing on the other high-end phones.

Priced equivalent to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, this phone has earned it’s spot in that class. A choice between the Pixel and the other two smartphones is however a matter of user preference.

Design

First impression. The body of the Pixel XL looks look more like the iPhone 7 Plus than the Galaxy S7 Edge. It is also smaller than the iPhone but bigger than the Galaxy even though they are all 5.5-inch phones. Like the iPhone, Google failed to shave as much bezel from the side of the Pixel XL as Samsung did with the S7. From the front the Pixel is not the prettiest compared with Samsung and Apple’s offering and it is also more boxie round the corners.

Funny enough the back of the Pixel XL looks quite exciting. The top third of the back is overlaid with glass, Gorilla Glass 4, covering the camera and the fingerprint sensors. Below the glass, the back is bare, except for a big inscribed “G” letter. The contrast between the glass and the non-glass portion of the phone looks pleasant although other users may have a different opinion. The body of the Pixel XL is polished anodized aluminum.

Sadly, the Pixel lacks certain features found on other major flagship phones, like water-resistance, stereo speakers and expansion slots. The body of the phone is not so scratch-resistant while the glass portion on the back can be a fingerprint magnet.

Other design characteristics on the Pixel XL include no physical navigation (they show on screen instead), power plus volume buttons on the right, the sim tray on the left, audio jack at the top and the speakers plus the USB Type-C port at the bottom.

On colours, the three colour variants are quite black, very silver, really Blue. To help you choose which colour may best suit you, we gathered some tip from the guys at androidcentral. So basically, the quite black colour option is unique in the sense that the other colours have a white finish on the front. This one has a black front finish. It is a great choice as it works with just about any case and doesn’t reflect light.

The very silver option is the least flashy. The colour is more elegant and timeless. The blue colour option is the boldest and most standout option. You will hardly not get noticed carrying it around. Google has slapped a limited edition tag on it so it may be less available than the other colours.

Display

What you get on the Pixel XL is a 5.5-inch display at a resolution of 2650×1440. It uses an AMOLED screen so it is not surprising the screen looks as good as what you find on the Galaxy S7. Trustedreviews sums the screen as having “richer colours and deeper blacks”. You won’t be disappointed with screen clarity. It however lacks a rise-to-wake or always-on screen. To wake up the phone you either have to press the power button on the right side or use the fingerprint scanner located at the back.

Camera

Double tapping on the camera app opens the speedy camera app found on the Pixel XL. The camera lacks an optical image stabilizer but uses an electronic one instead. The camera app, too, is minimalistic in features compared to what the competition is offering. But the app is really snappy in operation. The pictures look very sharp and good even in bright light settings. The camera also supports HDR+ on both the front and back cameras. The 8-megapixel front camera also takes one of the best selfies. The picture quality is simply great.

Performance

The Pixel XL is probably the fastest phone out there at the moment. Navigating the user interface feels silky smooth and high-end games run without a hiccup. The Pixel XL is also the first to introduce two great softwares, the Android 7.1 Nougat OS and the Google Assistant. There is also the likelihood that Pixel phones may get Android updates faster than non-Pixel ones.

Google Assistant is also the best personal assistant found on a smartphone, leaving the competition (Siri, Cortana and Google Now) to share the spoils. Voice communication with Google assistant is two-way and it is able to understand contextual follow-up questions. The phone’s interface is also very minimalist and devoid of bloatware, which is welcome news too.

Storage

The Pixel Xl has no expansion slot. Memory is 4GB and you get to choose between a 32GB or a 128GB option. However, extra storage capacity is available on the Pixel XL via the Google Photos app. Google Photos is an unlimited cloud storage app to help free up space occupied by your media files on your physical drive. Even all photos and 4k video recordings done on the Pixel get free cloud backup.

Battery

The 3450 mAh battery in the Pixel XL can give you about a day and a quarter of juice, which isn’t bad at all. It supports quick charging and uses a USB Type-C port. As USB Type-C is still catching on with the world, you need to plan carrying your charging cable with you as often as possible. Quick charging speed on the Pixel XL is not so great as it takes close to two hours to complete a full charge.

Specifications Summary

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5)

alcatel

Summary

The Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) just might be the smartphone you are looking for. It is a budget phone that has an acceptable overall performance and also runs one of Android’s most recent OS updates, Marshmallow.

Definitely, it doesn’t have the sheer capacity to compete with top-tier smartphones of 2016. But at 5-inches large and with a “cheap” price tag slapped on it on, it can serve the purposes of all who are looking to get a good modern smartphone experience on a tight budget.

Design

The Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) is a plastic build, unlike the aluminium body you find on some premium phones. But the build quality feels durable and the finish isn’t crude. It weighs 168 grams, which is also decent.

Other physical features include a LED flash light and capacitive navigation buttons on the front, power plus volume rocker on the right side, audio jack at the top edge and a micro-USB port at the bottom. Sadly, the  navigation buttons are not back-lit.

On the back of the phone is the camera and the removable back cover. The sim and memory card slots are accessible behind the back cover. The design characteristics are thus very familiar. Alcatel has also made available four colour options to choose from, which are metal silver, metal gold, volcano black, sharp blue.

Display

This model under review has a 5-inch screen but the Pixi 4 is also available in 3.5-inch, 4-inch, 5.5-inch sizes. The screen resolution, being 480 x 854 pixels, is low compared to premium priced phones so do not expect to get the sharpest looking screen. The display is however decent. Viewing angle are also quite limited.

Camera

The Pixi 4 (5) has an 8-megapixel primary camera and a 5-megapixel front facing camera. Again these specs are pretty much what you get on a budget phone. The camera app is simple and the pictures are decent. The highest video recording quality of the Pixi 4 (5) is 720p.

Performance

Performance on the Pixi 4 (5) is not very fast per modern standards, but it is also not slow enough to make you tear your hair out. You may experience lags and stutters when opening resource-intensive apps and playing video games. The phone doesn’t also seem to heat up much. Operation temperatures are acceptable.

Storage

Storage on the Pixi 4 is fixed at 1GB of memory and 8GB of internal storage. This kind of storage is just in enough for basic everyday task. Avoid installing too many apps and running several background apps concurrently to avoid slowing down the phone. Expandable storage is also up to 32GB.

Battery

Just like many other features on the Pixi 4 (5), the battery is also decent. It has a capacity of 2000mAh and could last you a whole day of average usage. Battery standby is also good.

Specifications Summary

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)

samsung-j5

Summary

For the fans out there, the Samsung J5 (2016) is arguably the big-screen smartphone to get if you want to purchase a great Galaxy smartphone experience without needing to break the bank.

This upgrade to the previous Galaxy J5 released mid-2015, has an impressively beautiful screen display and a longer lasting battery than most Galaxy phones. It also sports a new front camera flash and performs at par with similarly-priced budget builds on the market.

On the down side, it is a budget phone so it doesn’t have high-end performance hardware. The camera too is generally good but not comparable to the level of detail to be had on premium flagship phones. Seriously, there are very few issues to be had with the Galaxy J5 so far you can live with its performance limits.

Design

The body on the Samsung J5 (2016) has unmistakable Galaxy-like looks. It is made of plastic and not aluminium. It has a physical home button below the front screen, which is flanked by the two familiar capacitive keys found on most Galaxy phones, the “Menu” and “Back” keys. The Home button doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor.

Probably what you might find “new” on the front of the phone is the LED flash light located on top-right of the screen, parallel to the front-facing camera. The charging port as well as the audio jack are both located at the underside of the phone. Colour options are in four variants, namely white, black, gold, rose gold.

Display

The Galaxy J5 (2016) has a 720×1280 resolution 5.2-inch screen. The screen looks sharp and displays colours accurately. This level of display quality is all thanks to the Super AMOLED screen technology the Galaxy J5 uses. The screen however doesn’t have the brightness levels found on premium smartphones.

Camera

As a shortcut, the camera app on the Galaxy J5 can be opened by double tapping the home button. The camera itself is 5 megapixels at the front and 13 megapixels at the back. The picture quality is generally good, combining a blend of rich colour combinations and picture sharpness. However, pictures taken indoors, where lighting is poorer, look blurry and badly exposed. Videos can be captured at 1080p although they sometimes appear to be rather dark. Overall camera performance is acceptable.

Performance

Performance on the Galaxy J5 is also good so far as you stay away from the latest high-performance games and other resource-hungry apps. It is not the smoothest budget phone out there though. This could be attributable to the bloatware and modifications Samsung has made to the base Android OS. Nonetheless, the interface feels smooth and at par with most good budget builds on the market.

Daily temperatures on the phone is generally acceptable although the lower areas of the phone tend to stay cooler than the upper part. High temperatures do not typically cause significant performance dips on the phone.

Storage

On storage, this phone has 2GB  of memory and an averagely good internal storage size of 16GB. It also has expandable storage capacity of up to 128GB. Pairing the Galaxy J5 with a speedy memory card should then enable you to get plenty more storage space for apps and media files with virtually no compromise in the phone’s performance.

Battery

The 3100mAh battery found in the Galaxy J5 gives it enough juice to make it one of the longer lasting Galaxy phones around, even beating the Galaxy S7 in battery tests. It can last almost 7 hours under heavy “load”. It also takes over two hours to fully get a full charge.

Specifications Summary

Huawei P9

huawei-p9

Summary

Arguably the best-looking smartphone Huawei has made to date, the P9 has a lot more than looks to make it one of the best out of 2016.

Its premium quality Leica-based camera has one of the best picture-taking sensors on a smartphone. The screen display on the P9 is really good while the processor packs a punch. Thus, you get a pretty sharp display atop a fast processor.

The least pleasing feature on the P9 is, of course, the user interface. And while the battery is not too bad, it is unimpressive. Nonetheless, the Huawei P9 is a premium-built, premium-looking smartphone with a not so premium price tag. Get one when you have the chance.

Design

The Huawei P9 is a beautifully crafted smartphone, having a unibody aluminium frame, thin front bezels, and a quick-response fingerprint scanner situated below the dual-featured back cameras. The fingerprint scanner can also be used to input certain navigational commands such as to scroll through pictures.

On the right-side of the phone you will find the volume rocker with a textured power button situated just below it. The sim and microSD tray is situated on the opposite side ,and at the base of phone you will find the USB Type-C charging port, the audio jack and the speaker grills. The navigation Home, Menu and Back buttons are visible on-screen.

Although the metal body of the P9 feels solid, it prone to pick up scratches. It is also not as comfortable to hold as other flagship smartphones. With it’s thin flat design it is likely to drop from your hands if you are clumsy. Colour choices for the P9 are quite a handful. They include ceramic white, haze gold, rose gold, titanium grey, mystic silver, prestige gold, red, and blue. Maybe Huawei are trying to appeal to the smartphone colour-obsessive communities out there.

Display

The P9 has a full HD resolution of 1080×1920. If we are to play the numbers game, this does not match up to competing brands like the Pixel XL or the Galaxy S7 which have higher resolutions. However, the P9 screen is simply great with deep blacks and colours that pop. Viewing angles are also great.

Camera

At launch Huawei touted the P9’s camera as being the best. In many ways the camera is really good. Just that with so many heavyweight smartphones released in 2016, it couldn’t quite clinch the title of being the overall best. The dual back cameras sports a striking 12-megapixel sensor each. One of the cameras is a colour camera while the other is monochrome.

Pictures taken in good light settings look stunning while low-light setting pictures look good but not as great as what you get on the best smartphone. It also has about a dozen fun shooting modes to play with such as panorama, beauty mode, and bokeh mode. To get the best out of the the P9’s camera, you need to spend time setting the advanced camera options, like ISO and exposure, properly. The front facing camera has 8-megapixel sensors and also take one of the best selfies you can get on a smartphone.

Performance

The Huawei in-house built Kirin 955 processor has stunning performance. Tests show it’s multitasking capabilities are close to the performance you get on the Galaxy S7. Playing 3D intensive games is also smooth although performance degrades after prolonged game playing.

The phone’s interface is built on Huawei’s Emotion UI interface. Emotion UI is the big let down for many P9 reviewers. The interface is so heavily modified and takes the shine out of the Android OS version it is built on.

The app drawer has also been removed from the interface. In place is an iOS-like design where all apps are placed on the desktop. The only way to organise your files is put place them in folders. The interface also adds a number of bloatware which perform duplicate functions as native installed Android apps, thus using up more storage space right out of the box.

Storage

The Huawei P9 has two main storage options: a 3GB memory option with a 32GB internal storage and a 4GB memory option with a 64GB internal storage. It also supports up to 256GB of memory card storage. But Android adoptable storage has been disabled on the P9 so you won’t be able to use your memory card as internal storage, unless you root your android device.

Battery

The battery in the P9 has a 3000mAh capacity. Tests show it’s slightly worse than the battery on the Galaxy S7 and will barely take you through the whole day without needing a recharge. The battery also supports fast-charging but it doesn’t have wireless charging features.

Specifications Summary

Infinix Note 2

infinix-note-2

Summary

The Infinix Note 2 simply has all whistles to make any budget phablet lover drooling all over. There is a lot to like about it.

It has an expansive 6-inch screen, a nice display, a sufficient enough storage space, a good camera, a smooth interface, a highly impressive battery, and guess what, you can also use it as a powerbank.

Unless you need a top-notch mobile device or will find it difficult carrying the phone around, then you will love owning this budget phone from Infinix.

Design

The Infinix Note is a mammoth plastic build. You literally have to be Goliath before you can easily manipulate it single-handedly, especially if you have it in a protective case. And talking about cases, the phone’s screen glass has no screen protection technology like Gorilla Glass 4, etc. So it’s a good idea to secure it in case and screen protector as soon as you can.

The back cover has a shine to it and is also curved to make easier handling. On the back you will also find the 13-megapixel camera as well as the LED flash. Turning attention to the front, you will notice that the screen bezel is acceptably thin and the usual Home, Menu and Back buttons are found on screen when the phone is switched on. The volume rocker as well as the power buttons are on the right-hand side.

At the base of the phone is the headphone jack and the micro USB charging port. The back cover of the Note 2 is detachable even though the battery is not removable. Underneath the cover you get access to two micro-SIM slot and a microSD card slot. The colour choices for the Note 2 are dark grey, gold, blue, copper and white.

Display

The 5.9 inch screen on the Note 2 has a screen resolution of 720×1280 pixels and a screen density of 320 pixels per inch. Definitely these numbers are significantly lower than the specs you get on premium flagship phones. A visual inspection of the display quality reveals that the screen quality is good although a bit pixelated. Viewing angles are great and the display is bright and clear.

Camera

The Infinix Hot 2 has a 13-megapixel back camera and a two-megapixel front camera. It doesn’t support optical image stabilization (OIS) technology so the camera will not compensate for shaky picture shots.

Overall, both the front and back cameras takes pretty decent shot. Low light picture shot can look a bit noisey but it is an improvement over its predecessor, the Infinix Note. The front camera can take wide angle shots to enable squeezing in more faces in a group selfie shot. The camera app also has a quick response, which is a welcome feature.

Performance

The Note 2 runs on Infinix’s custom-built user interface, the XUI. It is a responsive design and comes with a number of custom preloaded apps which, thankfully, can be uninstalled. On lock screen, the phone also supports hand gesture commands which unlocks and fire up specific apps. For instance, a “M” gesture opens the music app while a “C” gesture opens the camera app. A double tap wakes the phone from sleep.

The performance of the Note 2 is also good. Being a budget device the performance is, expectedly, not as powerful as the best smartphones out there but it doesn’t perform bad either. It multitasks well, and plays 3D video games with acceptable performance.

Storage

Out of the box, from the installed 2GB memory, you get access to about 1.1GB of usable memory. The remaining memory is used by the OS and other running apps. Also, from the installed 16GB internal storage, you get access to close to 10GB of usable space.

Uninstalling some preloaded apps can help retrieve more usable space but it is also helpful to install a memory card. The phone supports up to a 32GB capacity memory card.

Battery

The 4040mAh battery on the Infinix is simply great. It can take the average user a day-and-half to completely exhaust the power. It also support fast charging and the phone can be used like a powerbank to charge other devices.

Specifications Summary

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