Every year, Google is proud to see companies big and small release phones with their mobile operating system at the core. Choice is among Android’s best qualities, allowing consumers to choose exactly what they want. Android is found on high-end devices with cutting edge specifications, but it’s also powering the phones in the hands of millions in emerging markets. And, of course, mid-range devices with Android are roaming the world as well. Android is for everyone.
With so many Android devices out there, naming the best is quite the task. There really isn’t any phone that can be named the best. Why? Too many of them exist to pick just one! So each member of the team at Talk Android is going to tell you their pick for the best Android phone of 2015.
Justin Herrick – Editor In Chief
This was another year full of blockbusters for Android. It seemed like a different company was capturing the industry’s attention every other month. We started the year wondering what HTC would do to elevate the One M9 and remain competitive. Then our focus shifted to expect Samsung to finally implement premium materials with the Galaxy S6. Before you know it, we’re knee-deep into 2015 and LG puts everything and the kitchen sink into the G4 while OnePlus’ self-proclaimed “flagship killer” loomed. The OnePlus 2 ended up giving quite the chuckle and the last few months of the year were spent focusing on HTC releasing a second flagship, the One A9, to push the company through the holidays. Google, too, was busy at the tail-end of 2015 and released two Nexus devices. The Nexus 6P continued to give stock Android fans a high-end option while the Nexus 5X rekindled the line’s affordability flame. But none of those are what I view as the best phone of 2015. My pick comes from Motorola, and I’m not about to talk about the Moto X Pure Edition.
I really do believe that the Moto G, a phone that costs less than $200, is the best phone of 2015. Motorola is quietly creating phones that are affordable without sacrificing performance. And this year’s Moto G proves the company is delivering on its promise to not drain your bank account.
Despite not having high-end specifications, the Moto G runs smoothly on all fronts. The display, while not even Full HD, is clear and visible because the size is a cozy 5 inches. Motorola isn’t trying to stretch pixels across a massive display, leaving the Moto X Pure Edition to do that heavy lifting with its Quad HD resolution. Cameras, which have never been Motorola’s strongest area, are more than capable considering the phone’s price. You may not be pulling off Samsung-level shots, but you can get ones good enough to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Inside, Motorola tuned things to create a perfect match between hardware and software. The Snapdragon 410 processor from Qualcomm is powering a take on Android that is practically the way Google envisions its mobile operating system. Motorola just threw in a few of its own goodies to improve the overall experience and add value to the Moto G. Moto Assist, Moto Actions, and Moto Display are each smart improvements to the way you use your phone.
Everything that the Moto G offers is wrapped in a body that looks and feels premium. But it’s not. The Moto G costs a mere $179 to start and is nothing but rubber and plastic. There is no other company that released a phone this year with the same level of trickery as the Moto G. Motorola fooled us all.
Jared Peters – Author
HTC didn’t shake up the mobile industry with the One M9 this time around, but they cooked up something that’s arguably a better direction for the company and the mobile industry as a whole.
The One A9 doesn’t offer extremely high-end specs or any real groundbreaking features in 2015, but unless you consider Samsung’s curved screens revolutionary, no other manufacturer did, either. What HTC offered was a ‘good enough’ phone that offered a nearly flagship experience at a nearly affordable price.
It missed the mark in a few places, especially looking at battery life and the price tag, but it offered up a great camera with suitable performance for 90% of the market, with a fantastic design, excellent screen, and that elusive microSD card slot that we’re all secretly missing.
The A9 showed that we can have great, high-end phones that don’t cost upwards of $700, and it epitomizes the direction that the mobile industry is moving; good enough for most of us with a price tag most people can stomach.
Jeff Causey – Author
As I have been pondering my selection for phone of the year for 2015, I had an interesting occurrence take place. I found myself in a large crowd of people waiting for some fireworks when a group of individuals next to me started discussing what phones they had. I think the discussion was triggered by a question about photographing the fireworks. The phones that were the “lead” in the conversation included the Samsung Galaxy S6, the LG V10, and the Nexus 6P. That seemed like a pretty good short list of candidates to me, although I did want to throw in my own choice of a Motorola Moto X Pure Edition.
Even before hearing the discussion by those individuals, I had already pegged the Galaxy S6 and the Nexus 6P as contenders. In the case of the Galaxy S6, I was considering it as I think that is the device that helped Samsung reverse the dip it had been experiencing in the market. It did take the manufacturer a massive effort, including the release of the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 Edge+ along with their latest stylus flagship, the Galaxy Note 5, to reestablish a top dog position. Along with this push, the addition of Samsung Pay had a big role even if it did not actually materialize until their second release in the year. All of this effort though is rooted in the Galaxy S6, a solid device from a specification and performance standpoint and one in which Samsung seems to have finally shed some of the negativity attached to their interface.
With regard to the Nexus 6P, I think the device and to some extent its brethren, the Nexus 5X, have helped to put Google back in the mix in the eyes of consumers. Part of this success has been the advertising campaign for the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, which has been much more visible than I remember past marketing efforts being. Google has been aided by the solid features and specifications of the device which help attract buyers outside that subset looking for an unsullied Android experience.
My own choice of phone to purchase during the year was a Moto X Pure Edition, which replaced an LG G3. Although I paid some nominal attention to the hardware specs, the main selling factors for me included the customization options, the mostly “clean” Android experience, and the low price point for the device. None of this is new as Motorola has mostly positioned their flagship device as a slightly cheaper, almost on par alternative to top devices from other manufacturers, targeting consumers looking for bang for the buck. Part of their success has been achieved by including the few small things as apps that users seemed to want from their operating system to make it more effective. The one thing Motorola did work on was addressing shortcomings of previous releases, so this year got some much needed attention in the camera department.
Finally, the LG V10 was a bit of a surprise to me. LG has traditionally used their G series of devices as the flagship for the company and the LG G4 update this year seemed to carry on that trend. However, while there were lots of people snapping up the LG G4, it seemed to be more an iterative release and never really generated much buzz. Meanwhile, in relatively quiet terms, the LG V10 was released later in the year using a position similar to Motorola’s – a device that is capable enough while providing good value. Interestingly, the device got big attention from consumers and even Android phone fans who saw the LG V10 as the flagship device that should have been.
The verdict. In terms of a smartphone purchase, any of these Android devices should keep a consumer happy along with several others on the market. We hear about the North American and European markets being “mature” and part of this seems to be reflected in the fact that no great leaps in hardware specs rule the roost as in some past years. Instead, consumers seem to focus more on devices that just work and are easy to get their hands on. In the end though, I’m going with the Galaxy S6 for 2015 Phone of the Year. This is mainly based on the role it played in helping Samsung get things righted with the company and for better or for worse, how Samsung performs has a huge impact on the market for Android phones from other manufacturers as well.
Brent D’Alessandro – Author
My pick for the best phone of 2015 has got to be the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Unlike many others, I am not one to run out and purchase the latest and greatest gadgets just to be the first. I normally wait until others buy them, read many reviews around the web to see if the device is truly good or not, then decide if it’s worth getting. However, the second I saw the Galaxy S6 Edge, I was blown away. The curved screen, full metal and glass body, and the various amazing color choices made me want it right away.
I really liked the Emerald Green color, but unfortunately it wasn’t available in my home country of Canada. I also really liked the Gold Platinum and was still happy getting it. I called around and found out that this color was delayed a month and I was forced to wait anxiously until it arrived. I loved the look of this phone so much I almost caved and got it in another color. Finally a month went by and I would be able to pick one up. Again, I called around to see who had one in stock. Literally everywhere I called was sold out right away. At this point I didn’t want to wait much longer and seriously felt like a junkie craving for the device. After a few more days of searching, I finally found a carrier who would sell me the phone unlocked. I immediately ran over and bought it.
I also applied as a theme designer at Samsung at least a month before and ironically got an email about five minutes after purchasing the Galaxy S6 Edge saying I was approved. Talk about best day ever. There hasn’t been a day yet that I haven’t been in love with the phone. It’s super fast, has the best camera, has a spectacular screen, has many peripherals like the Gear S2 and Gear VR, and — let’s be honest — looks better than any phone ever made.
I would say the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is the best phone of them all, but I think the normal version comes out ahead by just a bit because it’s easier to hold in one hand and has an IR blaster.
Doug Demagistris – Author
2015 included the largest range of devices to date. There was truly a smartphone for everyone. With that said, it was very hard to arrive at one phone. When it comes down to it, I think that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 gives the majority what they want in a phone.
The Galaxy Note 5’s refreshed design is as premium as it gets. The metal frame and glass back make for a durable and premium device. Additionally, the rearrangement of the speaker grill brings an audio experience that is far superior than its predecessor. And its super thin profile and lightweight body feel great in the hand and makes me want to show it off to my friends and family.
This year, Samsung took a big step forward improving TouchWiz. It’s now more fluent and cleaner than ever before. Colors and design elements now make sense and everything is much more organized. On top of that, the S Pen features provide an added level of productivity and some cool nifty tricks that make life easier and more fun. Samsung Pay is groundbreaking for the industry and sets this phone apart from the rest. Camera quality is also no slouch and is simply stunning in just about all aspects, and fast wireless charging is great to have. The Quad HD Super AMOLED display is remarkable, perhaps the best I’ve ever seen on a phone. Battery life is above average and Samsung’s own Exynos processor can handle all I want to do. Unlike others, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 doesn’t leave any key features behind such as NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, DLNA, power saving modes, and a fingerprint scanner that is accurate, fast and easy to use. The Galaxy Note 5 has it all.
There’s really not much to complain about with the Galaxy Note 5. Samsung finally hit a home run by creating an all around solid device that people want. It puts important aspects first, and focuses less on features that aren’t so important. If you can get over the large screen size, the Galaxy Note 5 is what you want.
Ryan Rabea – Author
My dad has never been a technology guy. He doesn’t need to be on the bleeding edge and has been fine using hand-me-down phones for the last few years. Every time I upgraded, he would get my used phone, with his latest phone being the Samsung Galaxy S III from 2012. Imagine the reaction when I received a call at college from my dad asking me to order him the new Nexus 5X. I couldn’t believe he knew what the phone was, let alone actually wanting to purchase it. I ordered him a Nexus 5X with Nexus Protect and absolutely couldn’t wait to get home for Thanksgiving to give it a test run.
With the release of the LG-made Nexus 5X, Google is claiming that the all-around champ is back. I really couldn’t agree more. While it may not have the flashiest internals, the highest pixel density, or the premium construction of some other phones released this year, for the money you are spending I really don’t believe there is a better phone on the market. Google’s newest release of Android, Marshmallow, runs like a dream on this thing and the peace of mind that comes with knowing the phone will be up to date for at least two more years, makes the purchase that much easier.
I considered many phones to write about for this, but I just can’t look past how much my dad loves the phone. The fact that Google was able to make a phone that he truly loves and can use like an Android pro really stands out to me. This is the phone that anyone can use, Android vet, first-time smartphone owner, and even the iPhone convert, Google really has made a truly outstanding phone. It may be plastic but I enjoy the build quality, the screen is great, performance snappy, and the camera is so good it has turned my dad into a photo buff. Seriously, he sends me awesome pictures he takes while at work, he never used to do that. The fact that it only costs a little over $320 unlocked only makes this marshmallow treat even more delicious.
Brad Ward – Author
As a true Motorola fanboy, the Moto X Pure Edition is the best smartphone of 2015. It doesn’t have high-end specifications like the Galaxy S6 Edge+ or the Nexus 6P, but it doesn’t need to have all of those bells and whistles. Motorola made the Moto X Pure Edition great by making the experience great.
Not only can you customize this smartphone in almost anyway possible via the Moto Maker, but Motorola took the experience to the next level with opening a storefront in Chicago. They’ve truly made the Moto X Pure Edition not just another smartphone, but an experience from the time you’re ready to purchase to opening the box, and even in using the smartphone months later.
Motorola truly understands that a smartphone isn’t necessarily about the hardware, but the whole experience. And they continue to employ that joyful experience with most of their products in the Moto Maker and at the Motorola storefront in Chicago.
Looking forward to next year’s refresh!
Tom Morgan – Author
When I was asked to name my top phone of the year, my mind instantly wandered to the newest members of the Nexus family and the gorgeous leather-flaunting LG G4.
Many people won’t have the luxury of picking up a ‘premium’ gadget, though, which is why my pick for 2015 goes to the OnePlus 2.
Perhaps if the infamous OnePlus invite system was still in place, I’d be less willing to highlight the OnePlus 2 as my top mobile of the year. Thankfully, invites are no longer needed and the smartphone, which offers a very solid range of specs considering the price, is on general sale.
You can pick up the 64GB model for $389, which will give you 4GB of RAM, a stock-like experience with OxygenOS, a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and a nippy fingerprint sensor. Buyers are also treated to a 13MP rear-facing camera, and all of this arrives at a price that isn’t going to make your wallet too sad this Christmas.
Whilst the look of the OnePlus 2 is clearly inspired by Apple’s iPhone, I’m not considering that a bad thing. The optional StyleSwap covers deserve a mention, and you can’t deny that the Rosewood back is a thing of beauty.
For me, the OnePlus 2 is the best affordable smartphone of the year. If you don’t want to spend big bucks, this is certainly worth considering.
What’s your pick for the best phone of 2015? Let us know!