The Best Smartphones I’ve Reviewed in 2015


I’ve interacted with quite a number of smartphones in 2015 for review purposes. Here are the few that really impressed me in their order of importance. The first one is my favourite smartphone based not just on features but everything else as a package including the pricing.

So many other devices could’ve made it to this list since I may have used them at some point or the other. Devices like the Galaxy S6 family (S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+), the LG G4 and even the iPhone 6S among other really good ones. However, since I didn’t give them the full review treatment, I can only say so much about them. Others that I may have used and even reviewed but never made the list simply fell short of expectations.

1. Samsung Galaxy J7

It’s big but (surprisingly) not bulky. It has the best battery life on any quality mid-range smartphone you can get in the Kenyan market at the moment and the price is right. Add to it a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with LED flash that will literally brighten your selfie smiles and you have a winner. It is hands down the best mid-range smartphone I have used this year. You can read what I had to say about its entire feature range in the full review here.

2. Samsung Galaxy Note 5


This should automatically be top on this list but it had to give way for a more reasonable proposition. The Galaxy Notes are not devices for everyone. This is exhibited both by their feature set and their pricing. Kshs 85,000 is not pocket change for many and it is first and foremost a top of the range business phone. Nevertheless, that does not stop anyone from drooling at the awesome work of art that Samsung designers and engineers pieced together. The Galaxy Note 5 is one of the best smartphones to be released to the global market in 2015 and it is easily the best smartphone in the Kenyan market that I laid my hands on this year.

The best camera, best display, a working fingerprint scanner and the handy S-Pen are some of the features that make the Galaxy Note 5 tower over the rest of the competition.

Read the full review here.

3. Huawei P8


It is the lowest priced of all the premium smartphones from top device makers that is available in the Kenyan smartphone market. I had quite a great time reviewing it. Huawei eschews the pixel race and sticks with a really nice full HD display on the P8 complemented by one of the best cameras I have used on a smartphone this year (only comes second to the Galaxy Note 5’s excellent camera) and superb LTE network reception. I could go on and on telling you why the Huawei P8 is a top pick but there’s the lengthy 2,700+ word review I already penned for that and more. Find it here.

4. Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3


If you’re in the market for a mid-range smartphone and the Galaxy J7 I have already talked about is not something you’re interested in then look no further. By that I don’t mean the J7’s slightly smaller sibling, the Galaxy J5. There’s a better proposition: the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.

What sets the Idol 3 apart are several features. Its display size which, at just 4.7 inches, is considered tiny; its powerful front-facing speakers that boast of JBL audio enhancements to provide the best sound on any mid-range smartphone you will come across and the ability to use it upside down without loss in call quality, general network reception or feeling rather awkward. Oh, and there’s that award-winning general design of the device that you won’t find on the Samsung Galaxy Js.

Read the Idol 3’s full review here.

5. Snokor Rocket Z5000


This is a new smartphone from a new brand. In fact, I only reviewed it a few days ago. Yet it makes this list. There’s a reason for that. Of all low-cost smartphones I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with this year, nothing comes close. May be there are better sub-Kshs 7,000 smartphones in the Kenyan market. Since I never got to review those, this is what I have and it provides value for money. It’s cheap plastic through and through but some thought was given to it and unlike any other entry-level smartphone I’ve come across, the battery will last longer than you expected.

Care to know how long a Kshs 6,500 phone will last on a single charge? The full review is here for that. Oh and that low-end Spreadtrum processor does it a lot of justice since there are no performance issues.

Honourable Mention

Tecno Boom J7

Tecno Boom J7 2

This is what would’ve wrapped up the list if the Snokor Rocket hadn’t shown up earlier this month. But it did and it ruined a good party. Now, the Boom J7 only gets an honourable mention. That doesn’t take anything away from it though. It only serves to show how the competition is tough in the struggle to appeal to Kenyans with rock-bottom prices and feature-packed smartphones that deliver value for money.

It’s a fantastic phone. While the Snokor Rocket goes for half the price of the Boom J7, it won’t give you the music-centred experience that you get with the Boom J7 which is one of a kind and you’ll need to spend twice the asking price of the Boom J7 to get something better, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.

The Tecno Boom J7 has since fallen in the pecking order after the arrival of the Camon C5 which goes for the same price and has a much better camera but I never got to review that one so I’ll go with what I had.

Read the Tecno Boom J7 review here.