It's been an interesting year for Android smartphones during 2015, while there have been a few surprises, there's been a constant disappointment in the latest processors. Offering little in the way of upgrades over last year's performance, many of this year's smartphones were just as fast as last year's. Instead, the Samsung's and LG's of the mobile world turned to better hardware design, better cameras and other important areas of the overall experience. With fresh designs, more colors to choose from and a surge of quality devices from China, 2015 has seen oodles of Android smartphones hit shelves. Not all of these are equal however, and there have been some clear winners throughout the year. These are our winners of the Best Android Smartphone Award for 2015!
3rd Place - LG G4
LG's G4 suffered a pretty substantial leak before it was even announced, leaving little to the imagination. Once we got the chance to review it however, we discovered that LG absolutely had what it took to surprise us. Last year's G3 was ahead of the times and with the G4 everything has been improved. The 5.5-inch Quad HD display is brighter, easier to read and much improved. Design wise, LG gave the G4 a slightly curved display and offered users genuine leather backs in a variety of colors, while keeping both expandable storage as well as a removable battery. The camera is where the G4 really stood out however, offering some of the quickest and easiest to use camera software while also offering some advanced shooting features. With laser autofocus, a color spectrum sensor and a great hardware flash the G4 was a good all-round smartphone, but the camera was a high point. With some questionable software and inconsistent battery life holding back an otherwise great experience, the G4 wasn't without is faults. The Snapdragon 808 under-the-hood would often stutter and start to slow after heavy use and overall it felt as though LG had a little more to give than they ultimately delivered with the G4.
2nd Place - Google Nexus 6P
Each year, Google unveils a new smartphone to show off the latest version of Android, and with last year's Nexus 6 they finally entered the world of big phones. This year, they offered up the 5X and 6P to appease those looking for little and large. The larger of the two, Huawei's first Nexus, the 6P, is easily the best Nexus that Google has ever sold. Integrating the new fingerprint sensor effortlessly, while offering a clean and click hardware design that nods to older models, while also offering some freshness. With a 5.7-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, the Nexus 6P is a joy to browse the web with, catch up on videos and whatever else you want to look at. With a Snapdragon 810 on the inside, as well as 3GB of RAM this is one of the most powerful smartphones available. Android 6.0 Marshmallow made its debut with Huawei's hardware, and Google carefully chose a new camera sensor from Sony to deliver the best camera experience we've seen from a Nexus to date. Still, of all this comes in a package that some might find a little "basic". Stock Android is a great blank canvas for tinkering and installing whatever apps you want, but at the end of the day not everyone wants a blank canvas that costs as much as the Nexus 6P does.
Winner - Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge
For years now, Samsung has offered up bucket loads of software features, great hardware features and performance in packages that, while not cheap, left a lot to be desired compared to competition from HTC and others. 2015 saw Samsung adopt a new design language and kick plastic to the kerb in favor of metal and glass, while also finding a mainstream use of their flexible display technology. With edges on both sides that feel as if the screen just keeps going off the side of either edge, the Galaxy S6 Edge finally offered a Samsung smartphone that felt different, and felt good with no ifs or buts. Sadly, this new design language meant there was no room for the removable batteries or expandable storage many had come to expect from Samsung, but they made up for this in other areas.
Thos other areas would be one of the simplest cameras to use on a smartphone and end up with good results. Samsung did an excellent job of making this one of the most useable cameras in low-light situations through a combination of a larger sensor and a very capable LED flash. Under that glass build Samsung used their own silicon, using the Exynos 7420 instead of the disappointing Snapdragon 810 that appeared in most other devices at this level. For those not too keen on their processors, this allowed Samsung to offer a cooler, more efficient beating heart in the Galaxy S6 line and also allowed them to better optimize their own software. Speaking of which the skin on top of Android on the Galaxy S6 was drastically improved upon compared to last year's offerings and it's a lot more accessible and toned down compared to previous generations. In our review, we found that Samsung had created one of the best all-round Android smartphones. With a combination of good looks, good software, a great camera and great performance the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge are smartphones that you could hand over to anyone and they'd be happy with either one of them.