If they awarded Oscars for smartphones: The 10 best handsets 2006-2016

Celebrating a decade of reviewing mobile devices for ZDNet, Matthew Miller hosts a tour of the best smartphones in each of the last 10 years. And the winners are...
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Image: CNET/CBSi

This weekend we will see the 88th Academy Awards show announce the Oscars for the best in the movie business. This celebration of the latest movies -- and the fact that I am nearing my 10th anniversary here at ZDNet --prompted me to think about the best smartphones in each of the past 10 years.

I've tested hundreds of smartphones over the past decade and spent a couple hours reading through past articles and thinking about which device I could give an award to as the best for each of these ten years. Here's my list and summary thoughts:

  • 2006 - Nokia E61: There were lots of QWERTY smartphones released in 2006 as the Treo and BlacakBerry line continued strong growth. My personal favorite was the Nokia E61 that offered a better email and QWERTY experience than the BlackBerry while having a rock solid form factor.
  • 2007 - Nokia N95: While Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, it was missing things found on other smartphones at that time. The Nokia N95 was an amazing device with a high end camera, excellent audio performance, and more. It ended up being one of the best Nokia devices ever.
  • 2008 - T-Mobile G1: The T-Mobile G1 (aka HTC Dream) was the first Google Android device, manufactured by HTC. It had a QWERTY keyboard available when the display slid up in landscape and ran Android quite well back in the day.
  • 2009 - Apple iPhone 3GS: Apple's new iPhone is now two years old in 2009 and has been significantly improved with apps, 3G support, and more. Unfortunately, it was still an exclusive to AT&T back in 2009 so there was limits on who could own one.
  • 2010 - HTC HD2: I was always a fan of Microsoft's mobile operating systems and HTC pushed the limits with the HTC HD2 back in 2010. HTC provided a capacitive display before Microsoft even fully supported it. The community then took the HD2 beyond its original intent, with the ability to flash and run Windows Phone 7, various versions of Android, Ubuntu, and MeeGo.
  • 2011 - Samsung Galaxy Nexus: While the first Nexus was one of my favorites, it was surpassed by the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in late 2011. I particularly enjoyed having the pentaband 3G radio that supported all US carriers.
  • 2012 - Samsung Galaxy Note II: I didn't spend much time with the first Samsung Galaxy Note, but the second one grabbed my attention and impressed me with its range of software to go with the big hardwared.
  • 2013 - HTC One M7 : I absolutely loved the HTC One M7, calling it the best smartphone I ever used back in 2013. I still have mine and find it to be a classic device from HTC.
  • 2014 - Apple iPhone 6 Plus: The big screen and long battery life of the iPhone 6 Plus kept it in my collection for a full year. It was a fantastic iPhone and finally one that I held onto longer than three months.
  • 2015 - Samsung Galaxy Note 5: My SIM card is currently in the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and its tough to beat. Samsung slimmed down the Note form factor while adding in one of the best camera available and a S Pen that has serious functionality.
  • Image gallery for 10 best smartphones over each of the last 10 years

    Do you have any favorites that stood out over the last 10 years?

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