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December 27, 2016

Best of 2016

by John_A

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Every year, we review amazing tech from companies striving to outdo one another, and 2016 was no exception. This was a year that saw Samsung reach new highs and desperate lows, Google truly become a hardware company and release one of the best updates to Android ever, and Motorola reinvent its smartphone platform.

Hardware

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Best Android Phone:

Google Pixel

Understated, powerful and reliable, the Pixel manages to be the best Android phone and one of the most fun to use. — Daniel Bader

More: Google Pixel review

Runners Up: Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Huawei Mate 9

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Best Android Tablet:

Lenovo Yoga Book

Unconventional, impossibly light, and a genuine pleasure to use, Lenovo’s Yoga Book offers something truly unique to the tablet world. — Russell Holly

More: Lenovo Yoga Book review

Runner up: Google Pixel C

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Best Phone Design:

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

The Galaxy S7 edge was this year’s best-looking phone, with subtle curves, impeccable build quality and unparalleled features! — Daniel Bader

More: Galaxy S7 edge review

Runner up: HTC 10

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Most Surprisingly Good Android Phone:

OnePlus 3T

The OnePlus 3T offers EVERYTHING the spec nerds will salivate over, but is also one of the simplest and most powerful phones available for any level of user. — Andrew Martonik

More: OnePlus 3T review

Runner Up: Moto Z Play

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Best Connected Home Accessory:

Google Home

Google Assistant is still growing, but the way it ties its knowledge of your life and the world around you into a simple, unassuming gadget makes it a must-have device. — Ara Wagoner

More: Google Home review

Runner Up: Echo Dot

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Best VR Headset:

Google Daydream View

The newest VR headset by far, Google’s Daydream simplifies mobile VR in all of the best ways and already has plenty of great apps! — Russell Holly

More: Daydream View review

Runner Up: Samsung Gear VR

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Best Android Accessory:

Chromecast Ultra

No matter what phone, tablet or entertainment center setup you have, you can take advantage of the fantastic simplicity of the Chromecast Ultra! — Andrew Martonik

More: Chromecast review

Runner Up: Spigen Style Ring

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Best Chromebook:

Acer Chromebook R13

The Acer Chromebook R13 is beautiful, powerful and affordable. It’s everything Chrome has to offer, plus Android apps in the perfect 13-inch package. — Jerry Hildenbrand

More: Acer Chromebook R13 review

Runner Up: Dell Chromebook 13

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Biggest Story:

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

The hottest story of 2017 was undoubtedly Samsung’s exploding smartphone, with the flames being fanned by not one but two bungled recalls, and reports of some customers being injured in the process. It was a multi-billion dollar mistake, about which many essays and books will surely be written. RIP. — Alex Dobie

Runner Up: Pokémon Go

Apps

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Best App:

Google Photos

Google Photos solves the problem of storing and keeping track of photos across all your devices, using Google’s considerable cloud infrastructure and AI magic. Throw in delightful features like automatic animations, stylized pics and panoramas and you’ve got the best Android app of the year. — Alex Dobie

Runner Up: Pocket Casts

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Best Game:

Clash Royale

Clash Royale was an early release for 2016, but proved to have real staying power thanks to consistent updates from Supercell and a great balance of action and strategy gameplay elements. — Marc Lagace

Runner Up: Reigns

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Best VR App:

Tilt Brush

VR is for so much more than games! No experience demonstrated the incredible power of creating art in VR quite like Tilt Brush this year. — Russell Holly

Runner Up: Gunjack 2: End of Shift

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Best AR Experience:

Pokémon Go

Love it or hate it, Pokémon Go was a cultural phenomenon in 2016. For many, it was the first glimpse at what smartphone augmented reality could do. It convinced millions of people to go play outside, and in turn became one of the highest-grossing games of the all time. — Marc Lagace

Runner Up: Google Tango

Best of Google

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Best Nougat Feature:

Improved notifications

Google got serious about notifications in Nougat, giving us bundled, expandable alerts that show a ton of information and also look fantastic. Building on what was already great about Android’s notification system, Android 7.0’s notifications are part of what makes Android great for power users. — Alex Dobie

Runner Up: Night Mode

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Best New Google Service:

Google Allo

I have no friends on Allo. It’s just me and my husband for now, but it’s our preferred method of communication. I love the various sticker packs — we use them throughout the day to check in with one another — and the Google Assistant integrated into the chat. And I love the instant replies that are a big help when typing is too much of an endeavor. I hope 2017 is the year Allo finds some traction because it’s got so much potential. — Florence Ion

Runner Up: Duo

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Most Improved Google Service:

Google Photos

This year, Google Photos got a lot smarter, with more auto-generating videos, collages and other cool tricks. But it was for Pixel owners that Photos shined brightest, with unlimited full-res backups. — Harish Jonnalagadda

Runner Up: Google Play Music

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