Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
The Galaxy S7 edge is the total package. The phone features a stunning metal-and-glass exterior backed by an excellent 5.5-inch display. The dual curved display is easily one of the best you'll find on a phone, and differentiates the S7 edge from the pack. The handset is powered by Qualcomm's beastly Snapdragon 820 SoC, and offers 4GB of RAM along with 32GB storage. The 12MP camera is outstanding, and the 3600mAh battery ensures you get at least a day's worth of usage from a full charge.
Best of all, Samsung re-introduced the microSD slot after leaving it out on the Galaxy S6 series. The phone accommodates microSD cards up to 256GB, which should be more than sufficient for all your movie or music needs. If all that isn't enough, the S7 edge is water resistant with an IP68 rating.
Bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is one of the best smartphones you can currently buy.
One more thing: If you don't want to be tied down to a contract, Samsung has started selling the S7 edge unlocked in the U.S. The unlocked model has global LTE bands, making it compatible with several carriers overseas.
With Adoptable Storage
HTC hasn't fared well in the high-end segment over the last two years, but the HTC 10 represents a return to form. The phone sports a gorgeous aluminum unibody design with a beveled chamfer that circles the back. The curved back ensures that the phone fits comfortably in your hand, and the 5.2-inch screen size allows for one-handed use. From a design standpoint, the HTC 10 is one of the best phones you can buy today.
The phone offers the latest internals. You'll find a Snapdragon 820 SoC under the hood, and there's 4GB of RAM and 32GB on-board storage. The 12MP camera is one of the best fielded by the company to date, and there's a 3000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 that gives you a full day on a charge. The handset has a great DAC if you like listening to Hi-Fi audio from your phone. Coming to the software side of things, Sense 8 is one of the best manufacturer skins around. HTC has committed to rolling out the Nougat update to the HTC 10 in Q4 2016.
The HTC 10 also comes with a dedicated microSD slot that can accommodate SD cards up to 256GB. Unlike the S7 edge, the HTC 10 supports Marshmallow's Adoptable Storage, which allows you to reformat the external SD card storage and mount it as a part of the internal system storage. You'll be able to use the entire storage — 32GB internal and a possible 256GB with the SD card — as a unified volume, but the downside is that you won't be able to remove the SD card and use it for anything else.
Bottom line: The HTC 10 is the strongest competitor to the Galaxy S7 edge.
One more thing: If you buy the phone direct from HTC, you get 12 months of HTC's Uh Oh Protection for free, which covers screen cracks, water damage, and switching carriers.
The mid-range option
ZTE Axon 7
The ZTE Axon 7 is a standout phone in the mid-range segment. Available for $399, the phone offers a great 5.5-inch QHD display with minimal bezels, resulting in a compact size. You also get stereo speakers at the front, a 20MP ISOCELL camera and a fingerprint sensor at the back, and a 3250mAh battery that runs a day and a half. There's a decent DAC onboard as well if you're looking to listen to high-fidelity tunes on your phone.
Under the hood, the Axon 7 is running the Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, and a microSD slot that works with Adoptable Storage. The microSD slot can accommodate a 256GB card. On the software front, you get Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with several ZTE customizations on top.
Bottom line: The Axon 7 is a compelling device in the mid-tier segment, and is worthy of your consideration.
One more thing: The Axon 7 comes with ZTE's Passport 2.0 protection plan in the U.S., which offers a two-year warranty against hardware defects.
Best budget pick
Moto G4 Plus
This year's Moto G4 Plus offers a lot of firsts. The phone fields a 5.5-inch Full HD display for the first time, and there's a fingerprint sensor at the front as well. Also a first for the Moto G series is a 16MP camera, which is one of the best in the budget segment. The $199 option offers 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage, and there's a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage that costs $299.
All phones in the Moto G4 series come with a microSD slot that can accommodate a 128GB SD card. The Moto G4 Plus is powered by a Snapdragon 617 SoC, and on the software side of things the phone is running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Motorola proprietary software features like Moto Display and Moto Actions are included, allowing you to quickly glance at unread notifications even when the screen is off and launch the camera with a double twist motion.
Bottom line: The Moto G4 Plus is a great $200 option if you're looking for a budget phone with expandable storage.
One more thing: The phone is sold unlocked on Amazon, and has the requisite LTE bands for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.
Best $100 phone
BLU R1 HD
If you're looking for a handset with expandable storage that costs less than $150, look no further than the BLU R1 HD. The phone is sold unlocked on Amazon, and the variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage comes in at just $109. For that amount, you're getting a 5-inch 720p display, MediaTek MT6735 SoC, 8MP camera, 5MP front shooter with an LED flash, and a 2500mAh battery.
The phone has a dedicated microSD slot with support for up to 64GB of expandable storage. The 5-inch display is backed by Gorilla Glass 3, and the metal trim offers an upmarket feel. Overall, a very decent phone for the asking price.
Bottom line: For $109, the BLU R1 HD offers a lot of value.
One more thing: The phone works on AT&T and T-Mobile, but is incompatible with Verizon and Sprint.