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The 8 best phones of 2015

We CNET phone reviewers put our heads together to come up with our favorite personal phones of the year, for all budgets.


"What's your favorite phone right now?"

We get asked this question all the time, and with good reason. Between us, our team reviews the most important and interesting phones on the planet.

We've handled the clunkers, the middle-of-the-roaders and the phones that are truly something special. And now we've laid out our standouts for you, the devices that were the best we saw all year (in no particular order).

Feel free to share your own top phone of 2015 in the comments below.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Sarah Tew/CNET

Announced: March 2015

Ok, so it's the more expensive, curvy-sided version of Samsung's first all-metal-and-glass flagship phone, but what Samsung did with the Galaxy S6 Edge goes beyond taking an S6 and bending its sides. It manages to be far more elegant-looking and more immersive than any other phone out there, a realization that comes when you hold the Edge in your hands. The fact that nobody else has made anything like it proves that Samsung has something to offer besides routinely checking features off a list.

You certainly don't need the Edge's curved screen or mostly-gimmicky software extras, but among the year's hypnotically same-same phones, this one felt truly different -- in a way that actually worked.

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

Announced: March 2015

From the first moment we saw it, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 intrigued us. It continues to be one of the best value phones of the year, with a camera, design and operating speeds that swing well above its price point. A few software additions, and better-than-normal audio speakers help the 5.5- and (slightly different) 4.7-inch versions exceed expectations.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

Announced: September 2015

Using most flagship Android phones means also training your thumbs to stretch out across increasingly gargantuan screens. Not so with the Xperia Z5 Compact. This guy squashes some of the best tech around into a body that's much more comfortable to handle. It's the only "mini" version of a flagship that doesn't force you to accept middling specs, just because you want something smaller to slip into your pocket.

iPhone 6S Plus

Announced: September 2015

Sure, the larger-screen iPhone 6S Plus doesn't look much different to the previous model, but it's what's inside that counts, and Apple has boosted every main feature of what was already a superb mobile. The camera can take some astonishingly good shots, the processor simply tears through games and the new 3D Touch display is already being put to creative use by app and game developers.

It might not look like a radical overhaul, but the iPhone 6S Plus has maintained its position as one of the best big phones money can buy.

Motorola Moto G (Late 2015)

Announced: July 2015

As a mid-tier device, the most recent Moto G may not be the fastest or most powerful handset available. But with an unlocked price starting at $179.99, £179.99 and AU$369, it's one of the best and most affordable smartphones of the year. All in all, it raises the bar on what we should expect from an ultra-budget handset.

The device features a 5-inch display, a 13-megapixel camera and a water-resistant construction combine for a satisfying experience, and swappable rear covers come in bright, bold colors that add an extra bit of flair to your phone. (US customers can go a strep further and design their own faces and accent colors.)

Josh Miller/CNET

Google Nexus 6P

Announced: September 2015

We're always excited for a new Google Nexus phone, especially those of us a little more dedicated to the Android operating system. Forget your user interface overlays like Samsung's Touchwiz or HTC's Sense: on a Nexus you get the purest form of Android that you can. This year Google took some bold steps, releasing two models of Nexus with the flagship 6P coming from brand new hardware partner Huawei.

The gamble paid off. It's a beautifully designed phone, with a glorious 5.7-inch screen and killer camera. Everything about it screams quality and we're pretty excited for how Google will top it next year.

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro

Announced: May 2015

While Xiaomi is generally known for its high-quality low-cost phones, its flagship devices also tend to outshine competitor offerings with similar high-end specs but incredibly low retail prices. The Mi Note Pro is no different -- it features a Snapdragon 810 processor, a 2K 5.7-inch display and 4GB of RAM -- specs that definitely rival other flagships.

It's a shame then, you won't see this phone being sold outside of China (Xiaomi can be a tad shy with its higher-end devices.) But if you're willing to fork out a bit more through online resellers, this gorgeous glass-clad smartphone could be yours.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Announced: August 2015

For fans of big-screen phones -- and please, let's leave the term "phablet" back in 2013 where it belongs -- then Samsung's Note range has always been a popular choice. With the Note 5, Samsung has delivered something smoother and sleeker than ever before, and given that all-important stylus even more to do. Sure, it doesn't have a fancy curved edge, but the Note is 5.7-inches of super high-res screen in a surprisingly slim and stylish package. Definitely worth the extra pocket real estate required.

This article also appears in Spanish. Read: Samsung, Apple e incluso Xiaomi entre los mejores teléfonos de 2015