Our Best of Android devices, apps, OEMs and innovations of 2015: the winners are…

by: NiraveDecember 23, 2015
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Best-of-Android-Overhead-Graphic

What a year it’s been! Arguably the year that’s flown by the fastest, 2015 has seen companies expand their portfolios in a bid to capture customers at every price point imaginable.

From the ever more competitive low-end to the mid-range – which has now become the affordable flagship – and the ultra high-end, along with the devices that aim to bridge the gap between these different sections, this year has seen hundreds of Android smartphones released. But which have stood out from the rest of the crowd?

While we’ve used our Best of Android 2015 comparison to help decide which flagship smartphone is the best of the year, we also want to recognise the other smartphones, tablets, apps, games and wearables that have helped expand the mobile industry.

Introducing the first annual Android Authority Awards – it’s time to find out what’s been the Best of Android this year!

We’ve categorised the devices into several different sections and as a team, we’ve picked our winners for each of the sections along with two honourable mentions, i.e. the devices that stood out, but didn’t quite win the main prize!

Here’s the nominations and the all important winners!


best-of-android-intro

Flagship of the Year

For this, we picked six ultra-premium phones from six OEMs and conducted the Best of Android 2015 comparison! After lots of in-depth testing – which you can read the summary of here – which flagship smartphone stands out above the rest?

The nominees:

flagship of the year award

The winner is: Samsung Galaxy Note 5

As the Best of Android series showed, the Galaxy Note 5 is a very consistent performer; while other smartphones do excel in certain categories, the Note 5 comes in the top two in five out of the six categories (and it was third in the other). From a refreshed build and much improved software to an excellent camera – albeit not the best – and under-the-hood optimisations, there’s a lot to like about Samsung’s latest Noteworthy smartphone.

note-5-thumb Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review42

nexus 6p review 2 aa (15 of 30)

Honourable Mention:
Nexus 6P

Google’s flagship for 2015 certainly bought a lot to the table, with the Huawei-made handset bringing a metal build, one-touch Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor and Marshmallow OS. The 6P beat out a couple of devices to come second in our Best of Android comparison.

Nexus 6P review
All Nexus 6P articles

blackberry priv review aa (4 of 32)

Honourable Mention:
BlackBerry Priv

At the beginning of the year, you’d probably have laughed if we had said that BlackBerry would make one of the hottest Android handsets of the year, but they did, and although it’s not perfect, the BlackBerry Priv is definitely one of the most unique devices this year.

BlackBerry Priv review
All BlackBerry Priv articles

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 5!


Mid-range Smartphone of the Year

What makes a mid-range smartphone? A year ago, it would be the smartphone that aimed to offer as close an experience to the flagships as possible but at a lower price, but this year, we’ve seen the mid-range evolve so the mid-range is now the affordable flagship that offers most of the experience of the ultra-premium category without the large price tag. Here’s the phones that made the cut:

mid-range smartphone of the year 2015 - lg nexus 5x

The winner is: Nexus 5X

Google’s Nexus lineup bounced back with a bang this year and the Nexus 5X is unanimously our Affordable Flagship smartphone of the year 2015. Bringing premium specs, the Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor and the latest Marshmallow OS, the LG-made Nexus 5X aims to deliver bang for your buck and it certainly succeeds!

nexus 5x Nexus 5X review29

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Honourable Mention:
OnePlus X

OnePlus might have had limited success with its OnePlus 2, but the company’s OnePlus X was announced just this past month and offers impressive specs at a very affordable price. As far as affordable flagship’s go, this is right up there.

OnePlus X review
All OnePlus X articles

Moto-X-Play-Hands-on-review

Honourable Mention:
Moto X Play

Motorola introduced not one but four Moto X devices this year and the Moto X Play aims to bring the Moto X appeal at an affordable price, and it mostly delivers. While it’s not perfect, the Moto X Play delivers an almost-stock experience for those who don’t quite like the Nexus.

Moto X Play review
All Moto X Play articles

Buy the Nexus 5X!


Budget Smartphone of the Year

From the affordable flagship to the budget – which smartphone offers the best experience at the sub-$250 price tag? The budget range is becoming a fiercely contested market so which smartphone is the best to buy if your budget is limited? Here’s the few handsets that we nominated for this category:

budget smartphone of the year 2015 - asus zenfone 2

The winner is: Asus Zenfone 2

When it comes to looking for a smartphone on a limited budget, there’s no better place to start than the Asus Zenfone 2, which brings an impressive 5.5-inch 1080p display, 3000 mAh battery, 4GB RAM, 13MP rear-facing camera, powerful 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor and Android 5.1 Lollipop. At either $199 or $299 depending on the version, it’s certainly offers a lot of value for money and is a worth winner of our budget award.

ASUS-Zenfone-2-20 Asus Zenfone 2 review139

Moto G 2015 -24

Honourable Mention:
Moto G 2015

Motorola arguably kicked off the premium budget category with the first Moto G and this year’s edition continues that trend, offering impressive specs, customisable colours and a water resistant build at an affordable price.

Moto G 2015 review
All Moto G 2015 articles

MEIZU-M2-Note-4-(1)

Honourable Mention:
Meizu M2 Note

Chinese companies are beginning to dominate at all price points and Meizu has steadily been releasing a range of impressive affordable handsets, including the M2 Note, which improves the already-impressive M1 Note.

Meizu M2 Note review
All Meizu M2 Note articles

Buy the Asus Zenfone 2!


Wearable of the Year

From smartphones to the other smart devices that are proving to be ultra popular: this year has seen some very interesting smartwatches released. Which devices are the best for your wrist? Here’s the few wearables we think stand out from the rest:

wearable of the year 2015 - Samsung Gear S2

The winner is: Samsung Gear S2

Since the first Galaxy Gear, Samsung has released a total of 7 Gear smartwatches, but the Gear S2 is the first that really stands out. The new circular bezel combines with the custom Tizen interface to offer an unrivaled experience that’s polished and well thought-out. Android Wear should take note.

gear-s2-thumb Samsung Gear S2 review66

huawei watch review aa (16 of 33)

Honourable Mention:
Huawei Watch

It took a long time to come to market, but it was worth the wait, with the Huawei Watch offering sleek curves, timeless style and a choice of finishes to suit every discerning taste and budget.

Huawei Watch review
All Moto X Play articles

moto 360 2nd gen review aa (21 of 27)

Honourable Mention:
Moto 360 2nd Gen

How do you take one of the sexiest wearables of last year and make it better? This was Motorola’s challenge and a range of customisations coupled with design tweaks certainly deliver.

Moto 360 2nd Gen review
All Moto 360 2nd Gen articles

 

Buy the Samsung Gear S2!


App of the Year

It’s not just the hardware but also the software that makes your smartphone experience and in particular, apps play a large part of how we use our smartphones. Here’s the top apps we’ve come across this year, the ones that truly allow us to advance the overall smartphone experience:

To find out which app we’ve crowned as the best of Google Play this year, head over to our Best Apps of the Year roundup!

Check out the Best Apps of 2015 roundup!

Game of the Year

While apps help advance what we can do with our smartphones, games provide the release of actually enjoying the powerful devices we carry in our pockets. With the internals advancing at an ever-increasing rate, these portable devices can prove to be powerful gaming beasts and there’s a slew of new apps that aim to take advantage of the capabilities. Here’s our top Games of the Year:

To find out which game we’ve crowned as the best game on Google Play this year, head over to our Best Games of the Year roundup!

Check out the Best Apps of 2015 roundup!

OEM of the Year

From smartphones to the companies behind them. The OEM of the Year award is designed to recognise the company that has proven to be the most innovative this year. This award is designed to recognise the company that made the biggest improvements this year, which has built devices that have spurred innovation from others, and which OEM has generally had the most impressive year in our opinion. Here’s the shortlist:

OEM of the year 2015 - Huawei

The winner is: Huawei

What a year it’s been for Chinese company Huawei: this time last year, the company had just launched the Mate 7 and was looking forward to 2015, and one year later, the company has had an outstanding year. From its P8 flagship in April to the Mate S in September coupled with a new Honor 7 flagship, Huawei has made some outstanding devices, not least Google’s 2015 flagship, the Nexus 6P. The quality of the Nexus 6P means Huawei just edges Samsung into second place.

All Huawei articles
Huawei Mate S review
Huawei Honor 7 review

samsung-logo-x-x-mwc-2015 (1)

Honourable Mention:
Samsung

There’s no doubt that Samsung has transformed itself this year with the company’s product portfolio last year looking significantly inferior to the quality produced this year. With devices like the Galaxy S6 Edge, Note 5, S6 and more, Samsung has produced some very impressive handsets this year and 2016 should hopefully bring more of the same.

All Samsung articles
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 Review

Galaxy S6 Edge Review

lg logo mwc 2015 3

Honourable Mention:
LG

The LG G3 was one of the highlights of last year and this year, LG aimed to keep it up with an improved handset that was certainly impressive. The real highlight this year has to be the metal-clad dual-screen wielding LG V10, which comes complete with a fingerprint scanner. Here’s hoping 2016 brings more of the same.

All LG articles
LG G4 Review

LG V10 Review


Innovation of the Year

Every so often, a device comes along that is truly innovative and the Innovation of the Year award is designed to recognise the handset that has truly shocked the market? When considering this, we’re asking which handset has inspired other OEMs and consumers at large while also attempting to push the boundaries of what is possible for smartphones as we know them.

Here’s the devices that have inspired the market and pushed the technological envelope:

innovation of the year 2015 - samsung galaxy s6 edge

The winner is: Galaxy S6 Edge / Edge+

Curved displays are certainly not new but this year, Samsung aimed to prove that they could be useful. While they certainly succeeded in some elements, the Edge screen isn’t perfect but did prove that curved displays could have a place in the market. Hence, BlackBerry used a similar curved panel in its BlackBerry Priv and showed that more than just Samsung can make a dual curved smartphone that’s functional and stylish.

editorschoice-edgeplus Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ review81

blackberry priv review aa (5 of 32)

Honourable Mention:
BlackBerry Priv

Let’s be honest – at the beginning of 2015, no-one believed that BlackBerry could make a functional, yet stylish and premium Android smartphone, yet the Priv is exactly this and more. Combining a physical QWERTY keyboard with a stylish dual curved display and impressive specs, the Priv is certainly an impressive and innovative smartphone.

BlackBerry Priv review
All BlackBerry Priv articles

huawei-honor-7-review-2

Honourable Mention:
Honor 7 / Mate S

One of the best things about last year’s Mate 7 was its fingerprint sensor and Huawei in 2015 took it up a step with the Mate S and Honor 7. The latter is arguably the best fingerprint sensor ever on a smartphone and Huawei has inspired other OEMs to use one-touch sensors. Coupled with Nexus Imprint, Huawei certainly deserves plaudits for its fingerprint sensor.

Huawei Honor 7 review
All Honor 7 articles

What a year it’s been

2015 has been truly amazing, but tech in 2016 shows no signs of letting up. With so many possible winners, picking the best devices, wearables, games, apps, OEMs and innovations was certainly a challenge, but the winners and nominees are, in our view, the best that Android had to offer this year.

What do you think of the nominees and the winners? What do you think we’ll see in 2016, which is fast approaching? Let us know your views in the comments below!

  • Armaan Modi

    Note 5,V10,6P are ALL awesome!

  • mrjayviper

    how can someone with the best flagship + best smartwatch + innovation of the year (according to your results) not win best OEM?

    • Mike Bastable

      Good point

    • Jugo

      Growth, I guess.

  • 3223

    Well, contrary to what AA would say, I’d like to think that this year was a year of compromises. In androids chipmakers desperate bid to market 64bit processing, a lot of compromises had to be made. Only exynos proved to be a worthy chipset to handle 64bit processing, while Qualcomm had to hack together off the shelf components in order to ‘boast’ 64bit, leading to plenty of controversies.

    Also, with Samsung leaving it’s faithful in search of design nirvana, plenty were left shortchanged.

    Sony also churned out derivative handsets with a half-assed 4k ‘feature’ limited to only a few instances.

    And don’t get me started on HTC…. Sigh…

    Honestly, I feel like this year proved to be a year full of misses, and for those using last year’s flagships, this year, for the first time, proved to be a year where last year’s flagships are still good enough.

    • Anantha Krishna

      unfortunately I have to agree with you. That was the case indeed.

    • Darren Burnett

      Every year will be full of misses. Every year will be full of hits. If you’re looking for a perfect year you’ll miss out. What we did hit this year is an overall improvement in budget/mid range smartphones. While for people like us some of the sacrifices you mentioned are true the “design nirvana” which doesn’t mean much to you means much to a lot more people who would happily sacrifice the extra processing power. They don’t need it for Calls, texts and facebook and would happily have the sleeker body instead. They can’t make everybody happy but they’ve been more focused on us and ignoring the style aspect. They spent some time shooting for a market they missed out in the past, and a big one at that.

      • 3223

        True, but remember, for the past generations of phones, changes were leaps and bounds above the earlier ones. I remember how Qualcomm used the custom krait architecture for the earlier snapdragons making them perform superbly. Sadly the 810 was not one of those chipsets.

        You can call me jaded, but I guess it seems to me as though Innovation is reaching a plateau, and performance is reaching the point of diminishing returns.

        This year is much more apparent that the flagships were not that compelling to warrant an upgrade if you are using last year’s flagship. It would however be compelling if you’re using a flagship from 2 years ago, though.

        I just wish that style won’t have to be at the sacrifice of substance. I’m currently using an HTC one m8. Yes it is designed really well and fits great in hand. And sure it doesn’t have a replaceable battery, but it does have an SD card slot. Which adds a certain degree of usability. :)

        On a separate note, I do agree that budget sets are treading on premium territory already, but I find it weird that tech reviewers are now considering snapdragon 400/410 sets as midrange. Err…

    • thereasoner

      I stopped buying a new phone each year after my HTC ONE M7 in 2013, the first phone I’ve ever kept for over a year. I found that yearly upgrades weren’t worth it even back then as the tech has really matured .

      That said, this year did bring us more premium designs, more higher quality fast launching cameras, more wireless charging convenience and much faster charging as well. We also saw new USB type C start to take hold, better screens for VR, new super fast flash storage, always listening voice controls, new Google Now features and a new mobile payment service not handcuffed to NFC among others.

      All in all a good year to upgrade imo.

  • Abhijeet

    Nexus 5X, OnePlus X, Moto X, …. Had Samsung released an ‘X’ phone they would have the ‘best’ mid range-r as well.

  • Christian Ferrer

    Great results. :)

  • Guest

    Just poimtimg out, the Asus ZenFone 2 still runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop and not 5.1a Marshmallow update is due though.

  • Robert Johnson

    Completely disagree with choices of Innovation of the year. The Motorola Moto Shattershield should have been selected.

  • saksham

    completely agree :D this year we had some mouth watering devices

    • saksham

      very good written article nirave ( sorry for my bad english )

      • mobilemann

        no bad english:D but i disagree. the year of the 810

  • HotelQuebec

    Fully agree with the choices except BubbleUPnP is better than Kodi.

    • mobilemann

      learn how to share media child.

  • Rohit Raja

    Asus Zenfone is on the list for budget device. Had all the features of a flagship at the start of this year.

  • Anon

    i hope huawei makes it big next year, just to foster more competition in the android market. samsung’s dominating too comfortably within the android market.

  • mobilemann

    what a joke this article is, easily the worst year for android in the last 5.

  • Smokingaces

    See, as I said, Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is going to win the Smartphone of the year award.
    Also, for the innovation of the year, that award clearly belongs to Blackberry Priv for bringing back Physical Keyboard and entering android world so gracefully.

    • Daggett Beaver

      The Note 5 deserves the win. It’s not even close.

      I laugh at the Nexus fanboy sites who ranked the 6P over the Note 5. Whether or not you love the 6P, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the Note 5.

  • osm

    S*** year for those of us who value battery life!