When it comes to deciding on buying a new smartphone, your choices can be really confusing. Even thoroughly prepared buyers can be dazzled by all of today's amazing choices.
This past year we've measured, tested and lived with the newest models and have tabulated our results into a list of favorites.
Some recommendations are easy -- the latest Apple (AAPL) iPhones, Google (GOOGL) Nexus and a number of Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy products, for instance. But not everyone is swayed by the onslaught of expertly produced TV commercials. And many buyers don't want to shell out piles of cash for the most expensive models. So, we've made sure to include some interesting lower cost options.
Here are the 11 the best smartphones of the year.
Apple iPhone 6s/6s Plus
In addition to the iOS 9 upgrade, more powerful processors, better cameras plus faster Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, there's also the new 3D Touch display. It senses not only where, but also how hard you press down on the screen, allowing users a better way to use more options. The 6s comes with a 4.7-inch display and the 6s Plus has a 5.5-inch screen. Both are dazzling to look at.
Google Nexus 5X/6P
Google also has two designs to choose from: the Nexus 5X, made by LG and the larger Nexus 6P, made by Huawei. The new models are follow-ups to the last two Nexus phone releases, the 5 (also an LG design) and the 6 (from Motorola).
Both new phones feature top-of-the-line specs, including powerful Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm (QCOM) and vastly improved cameras. They're the first to run the latest Android operating system version 6, codenamed Marshmallow. The best new feature of the new OS is improved battery life -- important as phones get larger and more sophisticated.
The 5.2-inch Nexus 5X starts at $379 with 16 GB of storage, or $429 for the 32 GB phone. The 5.7-inch 6P starts at $499 for 32 GB, $540 for 64 GB or $649 for 128 GB of internal storage.
Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge+
The Galaxy S6 comes with a beautiful 5.1-inch touchscreen and 3 GB of RAM. The S6 edge + has a double-curve on the sides (5.7 inches) and 4 GB of RAM. Both use Samsung processors and have a new 16 megapixel camera on the back and a 5 MP shooter up front. Both turn out to be terrific smartphones, although the edge +'s screen is captivating when you see it in person.
Prices for both models vary greatly, but you should be able to find them available from all U.S. cellular carriers at lowered prices this holiday season.
Samsung Galaxy Note5
The Note5 is the latest in Samsung's powerhouse phablet with a stylus design.
In its latest iteration, the Note 5 offers a terrific, flat (no curves on either edge) 5.7-inch AMOLED display mated to 4 GB of RAM and Samsung's latest 16 MP and 5 MP cameras. As with all Note smartphones that have preceded it, the Note5 also comes with a stylus as an extra input method. The newest S Pen also allows you to write short notes while the screen is in standby mode. It's a neat feature and turns out to be quite useful.
The Galaxy Note5 is available in a number of different configurations from U.S. carriers. Check for the latest holiday season pricing.
The new V10 is LG's best smartphone to date.
It's large, at 5.7 inches, and is packed with 4 GB of RAM and some of the best (16 MP and 5 MP) cameras you can find on a smartphone today. The V10 also excels at shooting and editing videos as well as enhanced audio. In our brief tests, we found the cameras and the overall phone to be terrific.
This level of performance doesn't come cheap. A 64 GB V10 could set you back more than $700, but expect to find carrier sales and rebates during the holidays.
Moto G (2015)
The third-generation Moto G is not Motorola's top-of-the-line Android smartphone model. Nor is it the company's least expensive. The G is right in the middle.
Featuring a 5-inch IPS touchscreen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, up to 2 GB of RAM and 13 MP and 5 MP cameras, the latest Moto G offers amazing performance from a mid-tier GSM device.
Its best feature is the price. With 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage, a Moto G will set you back a total of $180. Doubling the specs to 2 GB of RAM 16 GB of storage adds only $40 additional. You can design and buy one online on the Motomaker Web site.
We recommended the first smartphone from OnePlus and can now add this year's OnePlus Two to our list.
The Two comes loaded: 5.5-inch touchscreen, the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 3 GB to 4 GB of RAM (depending on configuration) and greatly improved 13 MP and 5 MP cameras. The OnePlus Two can run on both AT&T (T) and T-Mobile's network in the U.S.
This year's model runs on Android 5.1, but the software comes with a new look called OxygenOS, which allows users a larger degree of customizing screen views and styles while sticking closely to the stock Android OS.
The phone is currently available online only.
We highly recommend the OnePlus Two with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, which sells for $389.
Yes, there's the new BlackBerry (BBRY) PRIV that runs on Android, but real BlackBerry fans believe BlackBerry phones should run the BlackBerry 10 operating system. And, when it comes to those devices, our favorite is still the BlackBerry Passport.
The Passport is more square than oblong and has a real, hardware keyboard on the bottom. Once you get in the habit of using a real keyboard again, your fingers fly on the Passport.
The year-old design sports what was then the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage (along with MicroSD card expansion). The screen measures 4.5 inches square and there are 13 MP and 2 MP cameras back and front. Passport features BlackBerry's excellent email and messaging system and can also run a number of Android apps that comes from the Amazon (AMZN) app store.
Prices for an unlocked, GSM-only, BlackBerry Passport currently hover between $400 and $500.