A slew of new smartphones have been ushered in, once again, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, with the biggest announcements coming by way of the Samsung Galaxy S7, the LG G5 and the Sony Xperia X.
The most notable absentee was, of course, Apple—which tends to do its own thing for iPhone launches each year in September—while Google and HTC also failed to make an appearance at the trade show.
So which is the best Android smartphone of 2016? Or, at least, the best Android smartphone until Google’s Nexus offering later this year and the HTC M10? Newsweek takes a look at the Galaxy S7, the LG G5 and the Xperia X to find out.
Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5 vs. Sony Xperia X: Design and Special Features
In terms of design, all three phones are fairly unremarkable. None differs much from its predecessor, and at a distance they’re almost indistinguishable from each other. They follow the same tried-and-tested rectangular design language that is ubiquitous across smartphones, no matter what the budget. If you had to pick a winner here it would be the Sony because, well, it’s James Bond’s phone.
Smartphone features that would have been something to boast about a couple of years ago have become standard, for example: fingerprint sensors (featured on all of the phones) and waterproof capabilities (featured on the Samsung and Sony).
There are no major leaps except for one very notable one. While Sony and Samsung have decided to focus on incremental improvements on existing features, LG has opted to try something completely different by making the phone modular.
The LG G5 is neither the first modular phone, nor the most modular phone—it’s beaten on both counts by the Fairphone 2. However, it is the only major smartphone manufacturer to take the leap into what Google claims to be the future of electronics. The modularity allows you to remove the base of the phone in order to replace the battery or switch between a module that improves the camera and a module that improves the audio capabilities.
Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5 vs. Sony Xperia X: Camera
If you were to judge the cameras by megapixel count alone, the Sony would be head and shoulders above the competition. At 23 megapixels, the Xperia X dwarfs the 12 megapixels of the Galaxy S7 and the 16 megapixels of the G5. Samsung might argue that despite only having almost half the number of megapixels compared to Sony, larger pixels go some way towards making up for this by improving low-light photos.
LG has brought the dual camera idea from previous smartphones to the G5, bolstering the 16-megapixel camera with an 8-megapixel camera that has a much wider field of view. By merging images from both cameras, the LG can come up with some interesting effects. The attachable camera grip module also gives it the feel of a real camera.
Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5 vs. Sony Xperia X: Display and Battery
Screen resolution is an area where Apple’s premium smartphone, the iPhone 6S, significantly lags behind its Android counterparts. The 326 pixels per inch (ppi) of the iPhone compares to the 441 ppi of the Xperia X, the 554 ppi of the G5 and the 577 ppi of the Galaxy S7.
Judging by the battery capacity alone, the Samsung wins out over its rivals. Without conducting tests, however, it’s impossible to tell if this will translate to a better battery life in the real world. The more powerful hardware of the Samsung and LG would suggest they’ll eat through their batteries quicker than the Sony, which typically has an excellent track record when it comes to battery. The LG’s camera grip module mentioned previously also comes with an extra battery boost, while the battery itself is removable, making it possible to switch to a fresh one after the original inevitably wears out.
Samsung Galaxy S7 vs. LG G5 vs. Sony Xperia X: Cost and Conclusion
The Samsung is going on sale for $800 in March, and while Sony and LG are yet to announce their prices, you can expect them to be in that ballpark.
It’s safe to say that all three phones currently represent the best of what Android has to offer. It also wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say each of the phones would come out favorably in a head-to-head against the best of what Apple has to offer—the five-month-old iPhone 6S.
Each has its individual merits, though in terms of both outstanding specs and originality it’s hard to look past the LG G5. Smartphones these days are getting more and more the same—you only have to look at the Samsung Galaxy S7 alongside the iPhone 6S to see this. To bring modularity to the mainstream is a bold step but one that has paid off, particularly when you consider the potential for new modules to be added in the future.