Shopping for a smartphone can be an intimidating process. After all, you’ll likely spend the next two years with whichever digital companion you buy, so you’d better choose wisely.
If you’re an Apple fan, you’re getting an iPhone. You know it, I know it, your goldfish Steve knows it.
But if you’re looking for an Android phone, then oh boy do you have choices. The newest big-name Android handsets are Samsung’s Galaxy S7, HTC’s 10, and LG’s G5. Each one has impressive features, but only one is the best.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Samsung’s Galaxy S7 looks a lot like its predecessor, the Galaxy S6. It features a metal frame ensconced by front and back glass panels. Everything about the phone’s design is nearly perfect.
Adding to that is the fact that the S7 is waterproof. You can drop the handset in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes and it will keep working, no problem. Unfortunately, thanks to its smooth glass body, the S7 is also a fingerprint magnet, which takes away from its luster.
HTC 10: The HTC 10 comes completely wrapped in a metal body with exaggerated chamfered edges that cause light to delicately reflect off of the handset.
Up front, an edge-to-edge glass panel makes the 10 feel as luxurious as any phone on the market. It is, however, a bit on the bulky side.
LG G5: Like the S7 and 10, the LG G5 sports a metal body. But the G5 is unique in that the handset has no physical home button on its front panel. Instead, LG has placed the home button on the back of the phone within easy reach of your pointer finger.
The G5 has been designed as a modular handset, which means you can remove the bottom of the phone to do things like change its removable battery or add a camera or speaker extensions.
The takeaway: Each of these phones is well-designed and attractive, but the fact that the S7 is waterproof is incredibly appealing. Sure the LG G5 allows you to swap out your battery, but I’d rather have to recharge my phone than worry about it being ruined after falling in a puddle.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Packing a 5.1-inch display, the Galaxy S7’s Super AMOLED (active matrix of organic light-emitting diodes) display is among the brightest and most vibrant you’ll find on a smartphone. Colors explode off the screen, and blacks are incredibly deep.
The only downside: Colors can look exaggerated at times, causing things like blue skies to look a bit unnatural.
HTC 10: HTC equipped the 10 with a 5.2-inch Super LCD 5 display that when viewed head-on looks clear and crisp. The problem is that the 10’s screen is incredibly dim.
By itself its screen seems plenty bright, but place it next to the S7, and it’s a completely different story.
LG G5: HTC’s 10 isn’t the only phone with a dim display. In fact, the LG G5’s 5.3-inch panel is even dimmer than the 10’s. Like the 10, text and images viewed on the G5 look clean and sharp, but the screen just isn’t bright enough even when viewed inside under normal lights. Trying to view the screen in bright sunlight is almost uncomfortable.
The takeaway: There’s no contest here, the Galaxy S7 has the brightest, most colorful display of the group.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Samsung made a big deal about the S7’s new 12-megapixel camera — and for good reason. It takes some of the best shots you’ll get with a smartphone.
Colors look fantastic, and details are razor sharp. What’s more, the S7 is an absolute beast when it comes to taking pictures in low-light situations. That said, Samsung’s cameras tend to exaggerate certain colors.
HTC 10: The HTC 10’s 12-megapixel rear camera is one of the most capable shooters HTC has produced. Images come out clear, and low-light photos are reasonably clean. If this was your everyday shooter, you’d have little to complain about.
That said, the 10’s camera doesn’t offer as much color as the S7’s. Instead, some scenes can look a bit washed out. You’ll also see some pixelation in your low-light shots. And taking pictures with too much movement while in low-light situations causes a good deal of blurring.
LG G5: The G5 is unique in that it has two separate lenses for different shooting situations. One lens is used for your standard close-up shots and captures 16-megapixel images, while the other is designed for large panoramic pictures and captures 8-megapixel images. In reality, though, you’ll more than likely end up using the phone’s standard 16-megapixel camera.
Photos taken with the G5’s 16-megapixel shooter were clear and artifact-free. In terms of color, the G5’s shots fell between the HTC 10 and Galaxy S7. They weren’t washed out or were they overly saturated. Low-light shots were clear, though not as bright as the Galaxy S7’s pictures.
The takeaway: None of these three phones takes bad photos, but between the three, I lean toward the Galaxy S7’s camera, as I’m a fan of its exaggerated colors and its low-light photo capabilities.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Powered by a quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM, the S7 is an incredibly powerful handset. I’ve been using the phone since it came out and haven’t seen any signs of slowdown or lag. I’m also continually impressed by how fast the S7’s fingerprint reader unlocks the handset.
The S7 comes with 32GB of onboard storage. And if you run through all of that, you can always throw in your own microSD card to increase the S7’s storage capacity.
The S7’s battery will last all day on a single charge, and thanks to its fast-charging capabilities, you can get a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes.
HTC 10: The HTC 10 comes with the same quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM as the S7, so you’re not going to see a huge difference between the two handsets in terms of performance. Also like the S7, the 10 comes with 32GB of storage that can be expanded using the phone’s microSD card slot.
Like the Galaxy S7, the 10 will also charge to 50 percent in 30 minutes.
LG G5: It’s déjà vu all over again, folks. The LG G5, like the HTC 10 and S7, has the same processor and 4GB of RAM. In other words, these phones are all fast. You’ll also get 32GB of onboard storage that can be expanded with a microSD card.
The LG G5 does, however, have a slightly smaller battery than the S7 and HTC 10. Still, you can remove and replace the G5’s power plant when it’s running low on juice, something you can’t do with the S7 or HTC 10.
The takeaway: You’re not going to see any major differences in terms of performance between these three phones, but the LG G5’s removable battery sets it apart from the pack.
Samsung Galaxy S7: Samsung’s Galaxy S7 runs on the Google’s Android 6.0 operating system, but augments the software with its own TouchWiz interface. TouchWiz basically changes Android’s home screen, icon designs, and notifications menu to give it a more Samsung-centric look.
Normally I dislike it when smartphone makers mess with Google’s Android, and Samsung used to be the No. 1 offender when it came to screwing with the software. But in recent years, the company has eased up on its changes. Its new version of TouchWiz is less intrusive than previous iterations and easier to navigate. It’s still not pure Android, though.
HTC 10: This is as close to running an untouched version of Google’s Android 6.0 software as you can get short of buying one of Google’s own Nexus phones. HTC has only made slight changes to Google’s Android interface, and the user experience is better for it. On top of that, HTC has done away with its own apps that essentially mirror existing Google apps, so you don’t have to deal with having two photo gallery apps or two Web browsers.
LG G5: LG also runs Google’s Android 6.0 operating system, but unfortunately the OS is completely covered by LG’s confusing user interface. See, like Samsung, LG puts its own stamp on Android by changing the operating system’s icons and notification menu.
But the notifications menu is such an odd bright green and white color scheme, that it’s almost hard to read. And LG’s decision to not give people a standard Android apps page and instead put every app on the phone’s various home screens like the iPhone is annoying.
Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan.
The takeaway: While Samsung has toned down its TouchWiz interface, I’ve got to give this round to HTC for going with what already works — straight-up Android.
And the winner is …
After five rounds, the Samsung Galaxy S7 came out head and shoulders above its competitors. If you’re in the market for an Android phone, the S7 is easily the best option available.
That said, if the ability to replace your phone’s battery is of the utmost importance, you should grab LG’s G5. Similarly, if you’re interested in an Android phone that doesn’t cover up the Android interface with a silly skin, the HTC 10 is worth checking out.
But overall, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the best Android phone you can buy.