There’s a clear reason to buy the Moto X Force: the shatter-proof screen. Whether you’re accident prone, or simply need a phone that’s not going to break on you at a critical moment, the X Force should be a compelling choice. It’s a great phone in its own right, too. Powerful and with a top-quality screen and decent (if imperfect) cameras, you can’t ask for much more at this price. Except, perhaps, a fingerprint scanner and use of the second SIM slot for those that want it. Battery life is good, if not quite as long as Motorola claims, and it charges speedily with the included adaptor. Ultimately, the Moto X Force is a little on the expensive side for what you get, but the unique mix of additions to Android and the tough screen will make it worth it for some people.
For anyone looking for a smartphone with a large screen, the Honor 6 Plus is absolutely worth considering. It has great specs, a good-looking and sleek design and a cool camera, all at a surprisingly low price.
The mid-range smartphone market is always tricky, especially with budget devices getting so good. If you are looking for something around this price, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a solid choice although the Honor 6 is worth a look for extra features. It offers flagship-like design, a great camera and a user-friendly Android Lollipop.
With various upgrades including a waterproof design, great cameras and stock Android, the new Moto G 2015 is a great affordable phone. The device is still a bit chunky and it’s a shame to see the stereo speakers gone. It’s worth opting for the model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM and when you customise the device with Moto Maker the price is a not so attractive £209. The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 is worth a look at just £125 with its Full HD display.
The OnePlus X is the best value smartphone of the year. We love the premium design in a smaller form factor to the firm’s other phones. Software is a strong point and you get a gorgeous screen. However, cuts had to be made somewhere and the X is lacking features such as NFC, 11ac and Wi-Fi. It also is missing the fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port found on the OnePlus 2. Battery life isn’t great and cameras aren’t best in class but this is a great phone for the price.
With more memory and excellent battery life the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is a powerful phone and a great choice if you want a large screen. However, it’s expensive, unwieldy and Samsung has dropped the IR blaster and hardly added anything to the edge screen. With the regular S6 available for less than £340 it’s a no brainer.
Overall, the Moto X Play is a decent mid-range phone. But, it’s not the great upgrade which Moto X owners were looking for. The camera is good, as is the screen, but performance could be better – as could battery life. Had Motorola offered the dual-SIM version in the UK and made the phone waterproof, it would have had enough to be a decent alternative to the OnePlus 2. For many, this more powerful rival will be more appealing. It’s also cheaper and has optical stabilisation and the option to shoot 4K video. Yet, if you like the idea of creating your own custom phone and don’t want the hassle of getting an invite to buy a OnePlus 2, it’s really not a bad deal at all.
Those looking to upgrade from a Nexus 5 will be happy and sad in almost equal measure. The 5X is a fantastic phone overall, with excellent cameras, a good turn of speed and an excellent screen. But it’s noticeably bigger than its predecessor despite the small increase in screen size, it has limited storage compared to the Nexus 6P and it lacks a couple of camera features due to the slower processor. The absence of wireless charging is another blow for some, but additions such as the fingerprint scanner will make it a great upgrade for others.
Honor has once again impressed us with a flagship smartphone at an outrageous price. For under £250 you get a lot of phone for your money. Performance is good with the main camera and fingerprint sensors being the highlights on the hardware side. Emotion UI isn’t our favourite Android skin but it’s perfectly usable and you can always change it if you like.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is a beautiful smartphone, one of the most attractive but the design has flaws such as sharp edges. While a non-removable battery is an inevitable outcome, we’re surprised about the lack of waterproofing and a microSD card slot. Hardware is strong with a gorgeous screen, fast processor and great all-round camera. The key point here is that while dual edge display sounds like an amazing innovation it has very limited in functionality so simply isn’t worth the extra money compared to the regular Galaxy S6.
If you’re looking for a big screen phone, the Moto X Style is a great choice. It’s got great specs across the board and it cheaper than rivals like the Nexus 6P and Galaxy S6 Edge+. We love the screen, stock Android and cameras. However, it really comes stands out when using the Moto Maker to customise it which costs more. With a screen only slightly smaller and a fingerprint scanner the OnePlus 2 is the spanner in the works here at £289 for the 64GB model.
The lack of NFC, a microSD card slot, a removable battery, and quick- and wireless charging means the OnePlus 2 is not a flagship killer. It does have some killer new features though, including USB Type-C, 4G dual-SIM support and some powerful hardware. At £289 (we don’t recommend the 16GB OP2), it’s an unrivalled deal if you can get hold of one.
The Xperia Z5 Compact is the best small phone around, but then there’s not much competition in this area anymore and there are a number of phones offering decent specs for a lot less. Those looking for Z5 design and specs in a smaller frame will be pleased but it’s a shame about the chunky design with the sharp edges. The fingerprint scanner is a great addition and the Snapdragon 810 with almost stock Android provides slick performance. However, the camera isn’t as good as Sony makes it out to be.
The HTC One M9 is a genuinely desirable smartphone with the best design and build available in Android land, even with Samsung upping the ante. It’s good to see the powerful Snapdragon 810 and more memory, however, some key hardware remains the same meaning M8 users are unlikely to be tempted to upgrade – and the old model is now an attractive buy at around £350. The fact the Galaxy S6 is the same price with more impressive specs is also not a good thing for HTC.
There’s no doubt that the Xperia Z5 is a solid flagship smartphone from Sony and an improvement on the Z3+. We certainly like the new frosted glass rear cover and the addition of a fingerprint scanner in that slim power button. Once again, the camera is great but it’s tough competition out there and arriving late in 2015 means rivals are now available for a decent chunk less. Once the price drops, which it will, this will be a great option for those of you looking for a waterproof flagship with a Micro-SD card slot but we’d like the Full HD screen to be Quad HD and the design just isn’t as nice in the hand compared to rivals.
LG has gone down an unexpected route with leather models which we like apart from a couple of colours. The so called ceramic model will be cheaper but feels cheap and plasticky. On the whole, hardware is once again strong – particularly the camera – but not massively different from the G3 and has tough competition. We feel build quality could be better with a metal frame and dimensions going down, not the reverse. This is the flagship to go for if you want a removable battery and expandable storage but it’s a shame to see features like wireless charging dropped. (Remember the G3 is now a steal at under £300 SIM-free and the OnePlus 2 is now here)
So, what do we think of the Galaxy Note 5? We’re very fond of just about every aspect of the Galaxy Note 5, from its curved and sleek design to its vibrant display and high-resolution camera. It can handle almost anything you can throw at it thanks to its CPU, GPU and 4GB of RAM and we experienced no lag during our testing. The only bad point is that the Note 5 would sometimes falsely detect the S Pen detaching – and to point out such a minor fault says a lot about the quality of the handset. With this being said, we’re both surprised and sad that the Galaxy Note 5 won’t be heading to UK shores any time soon.
The iPhone 6S Plus is a remarkable phone, and it’s without doubt the best iPhone Apple has ever made. Just don’t buy the 16GB model which doesn’t have nearly enough storage. Few other phones are launching with screens under 5in which – if anything – makes the iPhone 6S look too small and the ‘giant’ 6S Plus normal. 3D Touch can sound gimmicky, but it’s absolutely not. It requires effort to force yourself to use it to begin with, but it quickly becomes second nature and it will be fascinating to see how app developers put it to use in apps and games. If you’ve already got an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus it’s hard to justify the upgrade for 3D Touch and the improved cameras. But for anyone with an iPhone 5S or earlier, there’s a world of difference and it’s a thoroughly worthwhile purchase.
Originally, Nexus phones stood out for being excellent value at a price that was low, but not the lowest. They weren’t an alternative to flagship phones, but they had the advantage of running stock Android and getting the next version more quickly. The 6P, though, is not only a flagship, but is arguably the best Android phone to buy at the moment. It won’t suit everyone due to its size, nor those looking for a phone with dual-SIM slots or a removable battery. There’s no support for wireless charging either. But the excellent screen, front-firing speakers, quick charging, great cameras, speedy performance and Android Marshmallow add up to make this a phone that’s a pleasure to use. And yes, it’s also cheaper than its rivals, so unless you think it’s worth shelling out extra on the Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+ or iPhone 6S Plus, the Nexus 6P is the one to buy.
Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is the best Android phone of 2015 so far, although we’ve yet to see what’s to come from the LG G4 and Sony Xperia Z4. It’s fast, it’s well built, it has a gorgeous screen and the software isn’t overly intrusive. The fingerprint scanner is vastly improved, the heart-rate scanner a potential draw for some users, and the wireless- and fast charging welcome inclusions. We’d like to see the price come down (which we are sure it will) and it’s a shame we’ve lost the removable battery, waterproofing and microSD support, but these are all things we can live with.