As you’ve learned from our previous selfie articles, namely “10 Feature Rich iPhone Apps To Help You Take Awesome Selfies” and “The Quest For The Perfect Selfie: Essential Android Selfie Apps,” apps can make all the difference in capturing that perfect self-portrait. However, a phone’s front camera, as well as the built-in tools, can also help you look great, especially on social media.
Most phone cameras nowadays could run circles around digital cameras the existed five years ago. So much so, that the smartphone market probably killed the digital camera market. The DSLR market survives, especially for pro photography and the serious photography hobbyist. However, like pro photographer, Austin Mann has proven, the iPhone 6 Plus manages to capture stunning images that you won’t be able to tell from a DSLR shot.
Aside from the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and the recent models iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus and even the iPhone SE, which phone models take awesome selfies? We at TechNorms decided to find out.
What Makes a Great Selfie Phone
I’ve discovered early on that the best selfie shots aren’t necessarily taken from the highest-resolution models. The reason is that high-res phones tend to capture everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Every single blemish, pimples, scars, can be captured by a phone’s front cam when it can handle megapixels higher than the two-or-three-generations-removed VGA camera. A VGA camera is rated at only 0.3 megapixels, but it is sufficient for selfie snaps that are good enough.
In my experience, I preferred these to the higher-megapixel front cameras, because the blur helped to hide my face’s imperfections. I’ve also tried using an HTC One’s 2.1-megapixel front camera and found it to be good enough. In my opinion, higher-definition photography is best reserved for capturing memorable moments, beautiful scenery, and food.
However, the trend is towards creating phones with bigger, badder cameras, and I guess, for those who have blemishes to hide, the filter apps will fix that.
- 10 Feature Rich iPhone Apps To Help You Take Awesome Selfies
- The Quest For The Perfect Selfie: Essential Android Selfie Apps
But if I were to list down the best criteria for a great selfie-centric phone, here they are:
- Has technology for snapping hands-free selfies. If not, it should at least be compatible with selfie sticks.
- Has a front camera flash, if possible. If not, it should have the iPhone 6S’ screen flash technology. Else, the user can just download an app.
- The phone must be able to enhance the photo’s color balance, hues, as well as the brightness and contrast, or should at least be realistic and true-to-life.
That being said, you now know that I filtered my picks for you based on this criteria.
We begin with the top pick of the lot.
iPhones Models Perfect for the Best Selfies
Without a doubt, the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, and SE are THE phones that fit the bill, based on the criteria set. While the resolution is too high for my taste, at 5 megapixels, one thing that the iPhone 6S brought to the table is the screen flash feature. With the screen flash feature, the selfie-taker can post brightly-lit photos taken at nighttime events. This would also prove handy for indoor and dimly-lit situations.
The iPhone 6, on the other hand, sports a front camera that captures a mere 1.2 megapixels. While that’s more my speed, the on-screen flash changes the game for selfies. So if you can spring for the price difference, the iPhone 6S may be well worth the investment. Not just selfie-wise, but in terms of overall computing power and the upgradeability, as well.
And if you find the iPhone 6S’ screen size a little too bulky, go for the iPhone 6S. A compact phone will make it handier for you to snap those #selfies for Insta.
Just a note before we leave the iDevice section:
While I have heartily recommended the iPhone to friends, especially those who don’t need the advanced features, that I prefer using Android devices. One of my closest friends who got an iPad Mini 4 after I heartily recommended the iOS for its ease-of-use and its camera quality eventually told me that she was not satisfied with its camera.
We concluded that it might be because she came from a Samsung Galaxy S5, which has a pretty solid camera. As Lisa Eadicicco proved, the Samsung Galaxy S5’s camera produced brighter, more vibrant colors, versus the iPhone’s true-to-life colors with a better definition of details. Apparently, my friend prefers vibrant, colorful pics, as opposed to more accurate ones. To each his own.
I hope you will be able to consider your preference between a Samsung and an iPhone based on this tiny anecdotal factoid.
Android phones go neck to neck with the iPhone. Here are our top picks.
Best Android Smartphones for Taking Selfies
The Android ecosystem is truly an interesting one. There are as many choices there are out there, as there are models. As companies struggle to gain a foothold as a consumer favorite, they try to reinvent the wheel at times. We’ve seen models like the Oppo N1, N1 Mini, and N3, all of which have a single cam that you can rotate and use both as a primary and a front camera.
Speaking of unique design sensibilities such as a rotating camera, Gionee used the same design sensibility in its Elife E7 Mini-phone, while the Huawei Honor 7i also has a rotating camera, albeit designed differently. Unique designs such as these can draw a particular niche market.
For the rest of the models available on the market, the touch screen phone form factor doesn’t stop them from taking great selfies. The only points of contention and differentiation will be the quality of selfie photos that these take.
The Top Brass
In my book, the only brands worth labeling “premium Androids” include LG, HTC, and Samsung’s flagship line. The rest have inadequate specs, feel plasticky and cheap, and perform according to the chips that power them. So for this section, we’re mentioning only the flagships from these three brands.
LG G Series
The LG G Series is the company’s flagship line. It’s their answer to Samsung’s Galaxy S Series. That’s why, for every generation of LG’s “G” models, a consumer would be assured of the top-notch hardware that goes into the models’ manufacturing.
In my opinion, any LG phone with “gesture shot technology,” similar to CamMe’s mechanism as mentioned in our article “10 Feature Rich iPhone Apps To Help You Take Awesome Selfies” article, is a phone worth every single penny. However, in TechRadar’s experience, not all the “G’s” were made equal.
TechRadar didn’t like the G4’s design, and they noted that the LG G5 could have used the LG V10’s wide angle technology for the front selfie camera. But TechRadar was quick to admit that the LG G Series has great cameras all around, LG G3 included. The only aspects that they had a beef with was the “less than premium design,” since they were comparing the models with HTC flagships. Camera-wise though, TechRadar was all praises.
Since I’ve had a chance to try an LG G4 Stylus (H540/UAE), any LG with the “gesture shot technology” is a decent selfie phone. And since LG ensures that their G Series is packed with powerful specs, it’s safe to say that if the LG model has the gesture shot technology, it’s a great option for a selfie phone.
TechRadar may have rated the LG V10’s overall score as lower than the G5, but it was certainly impressed with the model’s wide-angle selfie capabilities. Matt Swider was so impressed with the way the LG V10 managed wide-angle selfie shots, as well as how it only takes a swipe to switch from main to the front camera, that he touted these features as “better solutions” compared to Samsung’s technology. A definite plus for this phone!
On the whole, the LG V10 may be a better option for the selfie-crazy than the LG G5.
Samsung Galaxy S7 And S7 Edge
If you’re confused between getting the S7 or the S7 Edge, and you are looking at the camera as the defining feature, maybe the fact that Samsung built the same cameras with the same specs on both units should at least get the camera out of your decision process.
According to reviews of both the S7 and the S7 Edge, the two units’ front cameras have screen flash technology, as well as the “beauty mode” feature. The marvel in these two models is the main camera though since Samsung integrated the dual-pixel sensor in it. The result is clearer, more striking photos with much greater detail.
While the TechRadar reviewers weren’t crazy about Samsung’s “Beauty Mode” for selfies, the vain who hate, their blemishes may find that it’s a nifty feature. John McCann’s note about the S7’s front camera says: “Images from the front snapper are good, but lack the detail of rival offerings.” Combined with the “Beauty Mode” feature, these two points may be the most compelling reasons why I’d go for a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge as a selfie phone.
If you can’t figure out whether you should get a Samsung Galaxy S7 or an LG G5, check out this article from Android Authority to tip your decision towards either phone.
There is a consensus among Tech bloggers that the HTC One M8 had the best cameras among the HTC flagships. In fact, a lot of them commented that the Taiwanese company seemed to have “panicked” when they slapped a 20.7-megapixel camera on the One M9.
While the specs sounded impressive on paper, some reviews have stated that the output was sub-par. By contrast, HTC seemed to have decided just to go with the trends and dialed down the megapixels from 20.7 to a 12MP “Ultrapixel” sensor on the HTC 10. “Ultrapixel” meant that the sensor can capture images with detail as small as 1.55µm in pixel size.
In spite of the criticism about the HTC One series’ cameras, Trusted Reviews’ Max Parker was quick to point out: “I know I said the HTC 10’s camera is its weakest part, and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad because it really isn’t. It’s just that the competition has been ramped up so much by the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5.”
HTC 10 produces crisp, clear selfies, which you can enhance with their built-in photo editor. HTC’s photo editor starting from the HTC One/HTC One M7 is very powerful, so you’ll be sure to be able to post clear, crisp, and attractive selfies.
The bigger plus with choosing an HTC 10 is the fact that it’s the quintessential media phone: The sound is great, with Boomsound Hi-Fi Edition, Dolby Audio, and even full native Apple Airplay support. If you won’t miss the stark, vibrant colors on a Samsung Galaxy S7, or the wide angle shots on an LG G5 or LG V10, HTC 10 will give you great selfies and while having a great time listening to your playlists.
Moto X Pure Edition Or Moto X Style
Motorola was one of the most iconic brands for cell phones. After changing hands as a company several times, from Google to Lenovo, the brand itself seemed to have lost its identity.
In 2015, though, the Lenovo-owned company rolled out several models, and one of these was the Moto X Pure Edition, otherwise known as the Moto X Style.
For the serious selfie-taker, the phone has a 5-megapixel front snapper with its own LED flash. No screen flash for a future Moto X Style owner! You’ll have your very own flash, perfect for taking photos at concerts, movie premieres, dinners, or just your regular weekend clubbing.
According to Android Authority, the front camera is already powerful and capable enough that the flash isn’t necessary. Still, it may come in handy.
It’s worth noting that the Moto X Style integrates optical image stabilization (OIS), which makes for noise reduction and better low light snaps. Results should be brighter and clearer, and TechRadar’s John McCann agrees with it. In the same article, he also pointed out that the shutter speed is rather fast, which was impressive, in his POV.
As for the main camera, 21 megapixels should be enough, right? The main camera is boosted by a dual-tone LED flash, which makes for better nighttime and low-light snaps.
The phone itself is a workhorse, powered by a hexa-core Qualcomm MSM8992 Snapdragon 808 chipset and 3GB of RAM. Its chassis is also highly customizable, with textured back covers to boot. If you want a very powerful selfie phone, this is a great choice.
These are the top brass in the Android ecosystem. There are a few mid-range and entry level phones that do a great job of taking selfies and we’ve listed them next.
The Mid-rangers To The Entry-Level Phones
“Mid-range” phones mean decent specs at a more affordable price. Contrast that to entry-level or budget phones, which means “you get what you pay for”—if it’s cheap, there has to be a reason why the phone is cheap. So we won’t go there. We want the best selfies, and the best selfie phones are what you’re going to read on.
HTC Desire Eye
The HTC Desire Eye, released in October 2014, was geared for “the selfie-addicted young ‘uns who may not have the cash for an iPhone or a One M8.” Indeed, with a 13-megapixel front camera, selfies in high definition promise to be high-definition fun. Well, if you like your selfies with all the details, that is.
The main camera is also rated at 13 megapixels. So both selfies and main camera snaps will render the same HD details.
HTC’s Desire line is a truly mid-range line, which means that unlike HTC’s One flagships, the Desire models don’t come with premium metal chassis. That doesn’t mean that the Desire Eye is inferior in any way, though.
Its polycarbonate unibody case is actually waterproof, and the 5.2” display is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. According to TechRadar’s Jeff Parsons, he didn’t even feel the need to get a protective case for his Desire Eye. It’s that solid.
So if you want a great selfie phone with capable specs, a big screen, and a solid, sturdy chassis, the Desire Eye is a highly recommended option.
The Lenovo Vibe S1 makes its distinction in selfie-taking by employing not just one, but TWO whole front cameras. One front cam is set at 8 megapixels, while the other is at 2 megapixels. Lenovo’s press release says that the Vibe S1 shines at taking low-light or night shots, and coupled with the Lenovo VIBE Xtension™ plug-in selfie flash, which plugs into the headphone jack, a selfie fanatic can take up to 100 selfies in one go, and choose the best shot.
While these may sound a little excessive, hey, if one is passionate about their selfies, no judgment here.
On the other hand, Engadget raves about the Lenovo Vibe S1 Lite as a very capable selfie phone, as well. It may lack the 2-megapixel front camera on the Lenovo Vibe S1, but the 8-megapixel front snapper should still provide high-definition self-snaps. After all, the iPhone was on 8 megapixels for the longest time.
As mentioned, the Oppo N1, N1 Mini, and the N3 have an odd “motorized” rotating camera rated at 16 megapixels. It has a Schneider Kreznauch lens that makes for taking great shots of sceneries and travel when aimed at the “outside world,” then high-definition selfies when aimed at oneself. At 16 megapixels, surely, one’s selfies would all be at high def.
It’s quirky, curious, and based on the TechRadar review of the Oppo N3’s camera, it won’t disappoint.
There are advanced editing tools and settings available, and there’s a built-in feature that allows a user to save their photos as a collage. Funnily, TechRadar’s Ben Stinson felt the need to point out that when the camera is swiveled, it automatically sets the image right-side up. Well, sometimes details can be missed on the design and engineering stage, and it’s a good thing Oppo thought to include correcting the image orientation in its software design.
In an article for Android Authority, Joshua Vergara and his team approached random people in LA to try the Oppo N3, especially the selfie feature. One thing that stands out, according to his article, is that the Oppo N3’s shots zeroed-in on the photo’s focus, while retaining a lot of detail in the background.
Most of the people he asked to try the Oppo N3 were happy with the results of their selfies. Furthermore, they compared the Oppo N3 to other flagships on the market, and their conclusion was that it “could more than keep up with the competition.” So if you’re in for a little uniqueness and standing out, the Oppo N3 is a great choice.
Huawei Honor 7i
The Huawei Honor 7i was compared to the Oppo N3 because of its singular camera good for main and front snaps. There is a major difference in its mechanism, though: Only the camera module rotates for the Honor 7i, unlike in the Oppo N3 where a whole top panel rotates.
Also, the camera flips up from the phone body itself. It’s a curious design that caters to the demographic that craves uniqueness, though The Verge was quick to point out that the odd flip or twist camera operation hasn’t really picked up on the market.
On paper, the camera is set at 13 megapixels, with an SLR-grade image signal processor. This should produce better low light pictures, white balance, and capture less noise. On paper.
If we base the Honor 7i’s camera quality on TechRadar’s review of the Huawei Honor 7’s 20-megapixel camera, the verdict would be that the 7i is a capable selfie-shooter. Matt Hanson noted that the Huawei Honor 7 produced photos with accurate colors, were sharp enough to not pixelate when zoomed in, and image noise was at a minimum. Take note that the Huawei Honor 7 had an 8-megapixel front camera, aside from its 20-megapixel front shooter.
Phone Arena, on the other hand, provided a series of photo samples from the Huawei Honor 7i, which showed that the selfie mode was very capable, and produced great photos even in low light and at nighttime. There’s also no shortage of filters and possibilities on Huawei’s built-in beauty mode, with the usual image retouching functions to prettify one’s selfies. If you don’t want to clutter up your phone with filter and beauty-enhancing apps, Huawei already integrated those functions for you.
The Huawei Honor 7i is priced at only around $250 in China, so if you can find one on eBay, it’s still a good buy for great high-definition selfies.
Truth be told, I would like to apologize to fans of Asus and Xiaomi handsets. I was really partial to LG, Samsung, and HTC for the selfie-centric phones I picked. I have a friend who had an Asus Zenfone 5, and I didn’t like its camera snaps, at all. Whether it was the front or the selfie cam, the results were the same: Dim, not a lot of definition, and the image quality was nowhere near the pixel size it advertised on paper.
As for Xiaomi phones, I have a tendency to think that “China Phones” always come with cameras that are “not quite there” yet. There are some models which manage to integrate good cameras, but finding that is like finding a needle in a haystack. When I find a Xiaomi phone with photo output quality that I’m impressed with, I will definitely write about it.
As for the selfie-targeted Oppo F1, TechRadar’s shootout showed that the results were “meh” at best. In fact, that camera shootout video showed a surprising result: The Xperia Z5 Premium took some of the worst photos. Sony Xperia was always known for their cameras, as Sony manufactures lenses. However, apparently, the Z5 Premium just isn’t up to scratch. And as I saw from the results, neither is Oppo F1.
Since selfies are now an indelible part of culture, so much so that Oxford named “Selfie” as the “Word of the Year” for 2013, it’s safe to say that the quality of a phone’s front camera would be a crucial feature to consider for those who are on the lookout for a new smartphone.
I hope you find my picks sensible, and if you happened to pick out one of the models on this list, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and share your experience with us and everybody else who is eager to get a perfect selfie phone.