The year 2016 has been a great one for gadgets and gizmos. From high-end smartphones to beautiful, mid-range Bluetooth speakers, from smart headsets to innovative fitness bands, there were a number of new devices that gave us something to smile and think about. Nandagopal Rajan & Shruti Dhapola list the best-performing and most desirable gadgets that 2016 had to offer.
It’s all about performance
iPhone 7 Plus
Sure, Cupertino has not changed the design drastically for this one but when it comes to performance, the iPhone 7 Plus is right on top, be it in benchmark tests or real world usage.
If you are looking for a reliable flagship device that won’t let you down for the next two years, the iPhone 7 Plus is your best bet. Its water and dust-resistant design is another advantage. More importantly, this one comes with a dual-rear camera system, unlike anything else we’ve seen before. The ‘bokeh-style’ effects, thanks to the combination of a wide-angle and telephoto lens, results in some truly stunning smartphone photography for users. Apple iPhone 7 Plus also comes with 2X optical zoom and 10x digital zoom.
Additionally, Apple has also made OIS common on the both the iPhone 7 Plus and the smaller iPhone 7, which gives another boost to smartphone photography.
This year, Google turned into a smart-phone player with its own Pixel series. The Pixel and Pixel XL were launched in October 2016 and came with a premium price tag, one that put them in direct competition with the Samsung Galaxy S flagships and the Apple iPhone.
Pixel and Pixel XL are meant to showcase the best of Google; features include Google Assistant, a camera where soft-ware is king, unlimited storage for photos, and ability to transfer all data from your previous device, including an iPhone.
Pixel really shone in the camera department where it matched both the iPhone 7 series and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Google’s software wizardry has given this phone a great camera; be it shots in the bright outdoors or low-light settings, the Pixel doesn’t disappoint. Design-wise, it is still a work in motion, but Google says it is here for the long haul. But as the first Google-only smartphone, there’s no doubt that Pixel beats all the other Android phones in the market.
OnePlus is a brand that has become synonymous with the motto ‘Never Settle’ and wants its phones to be known as flagship killers.
While flagships still have the edge, OnePlus 3 has certainly emerged as an affordable option with top-notch performance. If one considers the pricing (which is half of what most flagships cost) and the overall performance, OnePlus 3 is definitely a winner. This smartphone impressed us with camera, overall performance and battery life. OnePlus 3 proved you don’t need to pay a bomb to get a flagship-like performance. We are going with the OnePlus 3, and not the 3T, simply because the earlier phone was available for most of 2016, while the latter has just debuted in India.
Also, both phones are similar in terms of performance and specifications, and 3T is technically a mid-cycle upgrade.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Samsung got off to a great start in 2016 with the Galaxy S7 Edge which helped the its smartphone division get back into profit. The glass and metal design of the Galaxy S7 Edge along with the curved edge display makes this a premium flagship phone unlike any other. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge delivers on performa-nce; it also has a great battery life, which is another key feature in a flagship. The S7 Edge with its dual-pixel 12MP rear camera was one of the best when it launched in the early part of 2016. The low-light performance of the S7 Edge is only bested by the iPhone 7 Plus. However, for Samsung, 2016 remains a terrible year thanks to the Galaxy Note 7 battery fiasco.
Wireless music, Powerful sound
B&O Beoplay A1
If there was one audio device that left us stunned this year, it was this little discuss-shaped Bluetooth speaker from B&O. It is very near audio perfection, especially given its size and the depth it is able to offer. If you can afford it, look no further.
LG X Boom OM7550D Home Audio System
This is not exactly a standalone Bluetooth speaker; it is a replacement for whatever audio system you used to have at home. It is really versatile and can cater to all your needs, even a few outlandish ones like disco lights when you party.
Sennheiser PXC 550
It is tough to take on Bose in the noise cancelling headphones space. However, Sennheiser has offered a good challenger in the form of the PXC 550. This Bluetooth headphone offers more features than the Bose rivals at the moment with top-notch audio quality.
Sony MDR 1000X
Bose had competition from Sony, too, in the form of MDR 1000x which added more value for the user by offering hi-fi audio despite being wireless. It also gave easy access to controls with a touch sensitive ear cup with swipe action.
OnePlus might have emerged as the go-to option in the R30,000 price range, but we expect more options to emerge in this price category next year. Nubia Z11 is another mid-range phone that launched in India in December but impressed us with performance.
Nubia Z11 is one of the most stylish phones and has a bezel-less design, something you won’t get at this price in India. The phone also delivers on performance, and camera department, just like the OnePlus 3. The only struggle will be for Nubia to establish itself as a brand in India.
This was also supposed to be the year of phones with modular design, and if there was one company which got it right it was Motorola. Moto Z sports an extra-slim form factor, and the Mods or extra modules can just be slapped onto the phone, thanks to the 16 magnetic pins on the back of the device. Be it extra battery, or a Hasselblad Zoom lens, or a projector or the JBL speaker, Mods are a simple yet innovative feature from Motorola.
Sure, there’s the extra cost involved for the Mods but Moto Z is still cheaper compared to other flagships in India. In our review, we’ve loved the overall design, performance of the phone, but battery remains a concern. For 2017, it will be interesting to see how this series evolves and what the next Moto Z and range of Mods end up offering.
This is not a top-of-the-line device like the ones listed above, but the S-50 offers quite a lot at its very affordable price point. While it gave you the choice to stream from a phone, play from an SD card or just listen to radio, if also offered a timepiece and phone charge by your bedside. Talk about value for money.
Apple Watch Series 2
Given the build quality and sheer usability, the Apple Watch 2 is now the best smartwatch out there. It is also way ahead of the competition when it comes to popularity. If there is one problem with the device—it is that it has too many features, most of which a lot of people never use.
Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Charge 2 is the best fitness band in the market for people who need a little bit of push to put their lives in order. While it is better for people who are already active, it does well motivating everyone to achieve better goals and gradually reduce stress.
Samsung Gear S2 Classic
The Gear S2 Classic is a full-fledged smartwatch but not as expensive as the Apple Watch. It is fast, has health tracking that is comprehensive, looks good and is easy to interact with. The Samsung Gear S2 does a lot for a smartwatch and does not disappoint watch lovers.