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images, from left to right, of the OnePlus 3, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Moto Z Droid Force, iPhone 7 Plus

Fabulous Phablets: The Best Large-Screen Smartphones

These mega-screened smartphones from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and more all get the nod from Consumer Reports' testers

Tiny houses, smart cars, and other scaled-down versions of the objects we depend on may be the current rage, but large-screen smartphones, a.k.a. phablets, are bigger than ever—especially in terms of popularity.

Industry analyst IDC says more smartphones with 5.5-inch or larger displays are being sold than ever before, accounting for 33 percent of the phones sold in the U.S. this year.

And the people who buy phablets use their phones more than consumers with smaller-screened models. After all, it's hard to beat the extra real estate of a phablet-sized display for playing games, viewing multimedia, or juggling several apps at once.

The following phablets are among the best large-screen models in Consumer Reports' ratings, and their clever features and top-notch performance make them solid choices for any smartphone buyer.

These all have screen sizes of 5.5 inches, about as large as we think you can go before compromising comfort and one-handed operation. And with the exception of the iPhone 7, all of these models support rapid charging, which can replenish a near-dead battery to about 50 percent capacity in less than a half-hour.

Check our buying guide and ratings for smartphones.

1
OnePlus 3

OnePlus 3

The OnePlus 3's matte-finished aluminum unibody is just 6 inches x 3 inches x 0.3 inch, making it one of the thinnest and sleekest smartphones we’ve seen—even after you slip on one of the company's optional realistic faux-wood protective covers. And at around $400, it's less expensive than many competitors.

The phone is sold unlocked, which means you can change your phone service as quickly and as easily as you can swap out a provider's SIM cards. The OnePlus 3 works on the GSM standard, so you can use it with AT&T, T-Mobile, and many smaller providers such as Consumer Cellular.

Best of all, its dual SIM card slots allows you to handle two phone numbers, even from different providers. That makes it an excellent option for anyone who needs a second smartphone for travel or business use but only has the budget—or pockets—for one device.

The excellent-quality 5.5-inch, high-definition (1080p) touch-screen display is easy to see in bright light, and the OxygenOS interface of this Android model provides some clever shortcuts to key apps. For instance, draw an "O" on the screen with your finger to open the camera or a "V" to switch on the flashlight. Swiping right along the home screen draws out a panel of your frequently used apps and contacts, widgets, etc., and the Alert Slider button on the side of the phone allows you to toggle between several notification profiles (do not to disturb, priority contacts, etc.) without having to take your phone out of your pocket.

    2
    LG V10

    LG V10

    The LG V10 is about to be succeeded by a new model, the V20, which adds—among other things—a second rear-facing camera for wide-angle shots. Nevertheless, this LG is still one of the smartest smartphones in our ratings, with some clever hardware and software to save you time and effort. And that means prices are dropping on the V10, which did cost around $600.

    Among the V10's nice attributes is a separate 2.1-inch screen tucked up at the top of the phone. The idea is to use it to handle settings and notifications, and to launch apps without interfering with whatever you're doing on the main 5.7-inch quad HD display, which is among the largest and sharpest we've tested.

    You can also swipe the second screen to access and launch the camera, flashlight, and more using relatively tiny icons. You can customize what you want to see on the second screen, or just turn it off.

    The performance of the main 15.9-megapixel camera, which has manual controls, is simply outstanding for both still images and videos. It also has two separate high-resolution, front-facing 4.9-megapixel cameras that allow easy standard and wide-angle self-portraits, and they can also record video at 1080p.

    All three cameras contribute to the V10's intriguing multiview mode, which lets you takes still images or videos in various views with the two into one combined project.

    Battery life is excellent, too. Plus the V10 is brimming with features found on other top LG smartphones, including one of the mobile world's best virtual keyboards.

    We have just one quibble: As with other LG models, the V10’s rear-mounted power and volume control buttons aren't for everyone.

      3
      Motorola Moto Z Droid Force

      Motorola Moto Z Droid Force

      Lenovo’s Motorola Moto Z and Moto Z Force represent the latest examples of a shift in smartphone design: modularity. The concept is to enhance the performance of the smartphone by adding or swapping in components.

      The Moto Z Force does this with attachments called Moto Mods that easily attach and detach to the back of the phone using magnets. 

      The most practical Moto Mod may be the Battery Boost, available with or without wireless charging support, which promises to provide the Z Force with up to 22 hours of additional operating time.

      A second one, JBL SoundBoost, $80, is an amplified (3W to 6W) stereo speaker that comes with a kickstand to prop up the phone.

      And the Insta-Share Projector, $300, lets you show whatever is on the phone screen on a wall; the image can be up to 70 inches wide.

      This phone is an outstanding performer all around. Its main 21.4-megapixel camera captured excellent still images, rare for a smartphone. They were ultra-sharp, the color was highly accurate, the dynamic range was excellent, and it did very well under low-light conditions.

      This Moto is also smart about interpreting simple gestures: For instance, reach for it to display the time, just twist your wrist twice quickly to launch the camera, or chop twice to turn on/off the flashlight, even when the screen is off. 

      Like the new iPhone 7 smartphones, there's one thing the Z Force doesn't have: a 3.5mm headphone jack. But the phone does come with an adapter that lets you plug a standard headset into its USB Type-C port. Eventually, we expect that many wired headphones will be designed to plug into USB Type-C connectors.

        4
        Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

        Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

        The hubbub behind the recently recalled Galaxy Note7 may have put you off any Samsung smartphone, but otherwise its sibling, the Galaxy S7 edge, is worth a long, hard look. Its brilliant, 5.5-inch display curves away at both sides to form the phone's distinctive tapered edges. The edges themselves are there for more than just looks. Swiping them calls up a rotating panel of frequently used apps, tasks, and contacts, as well as news bites from Yahoo news, sports, and other content.

        The panels have smaller icons that can be customized and turned on or off. There's also a night clock feature that shows the time along the edge of the screen when the screen is off and the phone is flat on its back.

        This phone's Multi Window feature provides a mind-numbing number of multitasking options. You can choose how to access select applications with full, split, or pop-up screens, and you can change the size and positioning of apps. For instance, in a split-screen view, you can watch a video while checking and replying to emails. While preparing a text message, you can attach a photo or two by simply dragging them in from the gallery app.   

        Our tests confirmed that the Galaxy S7 edge can handle immersion for up to 30 minutes in up to about 5 feet of water—even though it lacks a physical cover for the USB port.

        The main 12.2-megapixel camera is among the best we've tested, producing excellent image quality and very good 1080p video quality. The stills are ultra-sharp with highly accurate colors, even when shot under low-light conditions.

        In terms of battery life, the S7 edge is near-immortal. Its 3,500 mAh gave us more than 24 hours of talk time.

        And it's hard to beat this phone when it comes to charging options. It took us only about 30 minutes to bring the battery to roughly 40 percent capacity using the included charger and cable. It also supports both Qi and Powermat wireless charging pads out of the box—a convenience for households that use a mix of smartphones.

          5
          Apple iPhone 7 Plus

          Apple iPhone 7 Plus

          Our tests confirmed that the iPhone 7 Plus is the best of Apple’s large-screen models yet, though not by much.

          One welcome advance for many butterfingered iPhone users: This model can survive a dunk in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes.

          Also new are the dual cameras on the back, one of them with a unique 2x optical zoom. The optical zoom is a step up from the digital zoom on the old model's camera.

          The front-facing selfie camera received an upgrade, as well. The higher-resolution sensor (7.2 megapixels vs. 5 megapixels on the 6s) allows you to record videos at full 1080p resolution. On the 6s, video recording is limited to 720P.

          As with all late-model iPhones, the 7s Plus' display earned high marks for color accuracy and contrast, and it's also easy to see in bright light.

          The phone’s stereo speakers, a first for iPhones, sound a bit louder than the single speaker on the iPhone 6s Plus, though according to our engineers, the audio is somewhat thin and tinny.

          Apple got a lot of attention—and some flack—for removing the headphone jack from its new iPhones. Our testers found that it did not harm the audio performance. The sound quality of the new Lightning EarPods appears to be no better or worse than that of the headphones that came with the 6s phones.

          One thing to keep in mind: There are apparently two versions of the iPhone 7 Plus sold in the U.S., and one of them gives you broader options if you ever want to switch cell-phone providers.

          The one sold by Verizon and Sprint (Model A1661) offers the most cell-provider choices. It has the hardware needed to work with both GSM and CDMA networks, so it will work on any of the four major carriers: Verizon and Sprint (CDMA), as well as AT&T and T-Mobile (GSM). It will also work with the many smaller cell providers, such as Consumer Cellular, that piggyback on carrier networks.

          The iPhone 7 Plus sold to AT&T and T-Mobile customers (Model A1784), however, is a slightly stripped-down version, at least regarding network compatibility. It works only on GSM networks, so customers will be out of luck should they want later to switch their carrier and use the same iPhone with Verizon or Sprint, or Credo, or NetZero, or Boost, or any of the many other carriers that use CDMA networks.

          Our advice: Customers of GSM providers such as AT&T and T-Mobile should consider going online or into an Apple store and just buying the unlocked version of this phone, then take it to any carrier.

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            Mike Gikas

            I'm a smartphone junkie who's always playing with the latest and greatest mobile gadgets, which helps me help you. Because like many of you, nothing pushes my buttons more than quirky smartphones, overpriced cell plans, and underwhelming wireless service. When I'm not staring at a mobile screen or twiddling with a device's settings, you'll find me quoting obscure movie dialogue and watching sci-fi movies from all eras.