While 2016 wasn't a stellar year for many people, it was actually quite a good year for phones.
As major technology companies sought to distinguish their smartphones from competitors, we saw attempts to make devices stand out through new innovations.
So who was successful?
Here's our list of our favourite phones which we personally reviewed in 2016.
1. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Samsung's S7 Edge flagship phone was hands down my favourite phone for the year.
With the S6 range, Samsung had excluded features like water resistance and expandable storage - which many fans critiqued.
But with the S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung listened to fans and returned these features - along with great performance, an exceptional design and extended battery life.
It seems lately most high end phones compromise in some aspect - be it camera quality, battery life, performance or design.
However I feel that Samsung hit a home run with the S7 Edge - and still managed to price it below some of its competitors.
The gaming performance was exceptional - handling the most graphically intense mobile games I could find with ease.
The 12MP main camera meanwhile, equipped with a Dual Pixel Sensor, continued with Samsung's tradition of high quality photo capturing.
Then there was the design - with the curved edges making it a gorgeous piece of tech.
To rate phones, I have a measure that I like to call 'quality density' - the amount of features and quality a phonemaker has managed to include divided by the price of the phone.
In terms of the S7 Edge, despite its high price at the time of release (an RRP of R15 399), a serious amount of quality was packed into the phone.
In fact, the only criticism I had of the phone during my review period was that it seems like the screen could break easily if dropped. But then again, Samsung has a free screen repair included in the phone's warranty.
Find out more about the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge here.
2. The Xiaomi Mi 5
Remember that quality density I mentioned before? Well, when it comes to the Mi 5, that density is really high considering the price.
Now this isn't a 'well it's good for a mid-range phone' verdict. Rather, the Mi 5 performs amazingly compared to phones with higher price tags than it - only being beaten by the ultimate high end smartphones.
To put it in perspective, I would say the Mi 5 easily performs on par with, if not better than, the Samsung S6 (my own phone), the iPhone 6 and the Huawei Mate 8.
The difference is that while the Samsung S6 and iPhone 6 still cost over R11 000 (looking at iStore and Takealot, although Takealot now has a sale on) over a year after their release, the Mi 5 is only R7 999.
You might be thinking "But those are 2015 phones, while the Mi 5 is a 2016 phone" - and you're right, so how does the Mi 5 stack up to other 2016 models?
In Q1 of 2016, the Mi 5 was the top of Antutu's Benchmark rankings - beating even the Galaxy S7 Edge. When taking all of 2016's releases into account - it lands in 12th place (outperforming the likes of the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7 Edge).
Another aspect in which the Mi 5 excelled was in photography, capturing bright, colorful and sharp images that I would say look better than photos from even some of the most recent handsets.
My only criticism of the Mi 5 is its lack of expandable storage - but I've dealt with the same factor on my S6 for almost two years now so it doesn't bother me much.
Fingerprint recognition was also exceptionally fast - beating many of the high end phones I've tried in this regard.
Find out more about the Mi 5 here.
3. The LG V20
LG's earlier 2016 release, the G5, didn't do so well with critics, but they've made up for that with their latest flagship - the V20.
The V20 has the best aspects of other LG phones released in 2016 - including a dual camera with a wide angle lens and sleek design - but combined it with lasting battery power, great picture capturing and superior audio recording.
It also has the notable exception of the first phone to come preloaded with Android Nougat - and all the perks that come with the new OS.
The phone came at an RRP of R10 999 at the time of release - putting it among the cheaper flagship phones of 2016.
I was impressed by the phone's main camera - which took great pictures with vivid detail. The wide angle lens is useful, but I wouldn't put it as the main selling point of the phone.
Rather other aspects stand out like the HD Audio Recording which makes the phone great for recording concerts, interviews and other audio you want to capture.
It's 'second screen' was basically a quickbar to help you access certain apps and features more quickly - and this functionality was actually extremely well executed, making multitasking smoother and easier. Along with the fact that your name appears in the top right corner of the screen, the phone makes you feel like it is geared towards delivering you a personalized experience.
The phone is also future-proof, allowing up to 2TB of expandable storage, a Quad HD screen resolution, a USB Type-C charging port, and Quick Charge 3.0.
All this high tech also comes with a simple addition we rarely see in flagship phones nowadays - a removable battery.
The main drawback is that it is not waterproof, something which many of the top phonemakers are now implementing.
Find out more about the LG V20 here.
4. The iPhone 7
I'll be honest from the beginning - I've never been a fan of Apple, I've been wholeheartedly invested in the Android OS since my first smartphone.
The things that put me off include the high price tags for products, the closed eco-system (which some consider a plus) and the excessive hype from Apple fans.
But setting my biases aside, how good of a phone is the iPhone 7?
It's actually a great phone - it performs amazingly, it looks beautiful and its camera is among the best when it comes to smartphone cameras.
The great thing about the new iPhone 7 is that it takes the practical concerns of users into account - with the addition of waterproofing, dust resistance and a longer battery life.
The battery life of the new iPhone is not on par with some of the Android heavyweights, but it is a significant improvement from previous Apple products - only being beaten by the iPhone 7 Plus.
In terms of new innovations, its home button/fingerprint sensor now provides haptic feedback.
Then there is the controversial removal of a headphone jack. I'm not a fan of this particular aspect, but the reason behind Apple's decision is what's important. The whole idea is to get users to use wireless earphones to speak to Siri and to interact with their phone - and it's a nice touch for those who like to use earphones while running and working out.
The main drawbacks of the iPhone 7 for me are the price and the fact that the phone doesn't have the dual camera of the iPhone 7 Plus. It's the iPhone 7 Plus which I believe is the real star of Apple's flagship range, but I have unfortunately been unable to get my hands on a review unit.
Despite this, the iPhone 7 is the biggest step Apple's taken in a while to make their product more durable and practical for users. It comes with the fancy features that Apple users love, but also the practicality that Apple has often missed before.
Find out more about the iPhone 7 here.
I will have a more in-depth review of the phone in the coming weeks.
All the phones I've included in the above list are ones I've been able to personally review, but due to realities in the tech journalism world (such as a shortage of review units), there are some phones I was unable to experience first-hand.
I've decided to give these phones an honorable mention. These phones are namely ones that have received praise, but I've been unable to confirm the experiences myself.
The OnePlus 3, while available in South Africa, hasn't reached the attention of many consumers just due to the current market saturation and dominance of certain phonemakers. It's also exclusively available through Takealot.
However the OnePlus 3 has impressed critics with its capabilities. Rather than having one feature as a selling point, its overall performance is what woos fans. It is among the Top 10 Performance Smartphones of 2016 in Antutu's rankings, and is the fourth best performing Android phone for 2016 according to the site.
iPhone 7 Plus
As I said previously, the iPhone 7 Plus is the true heavyweight of Apple's 2016 flagships. It has an extra camera lens, more battery power and better performance - it is actually named the top performing smartphone of 2016 by Antutu.
However that extra power comes at a significant price hike.
There's a lot of hype surrounding the Google Pixel, but few people have gotten their hands on the device.
A great selling point is that it's the only phone that comes with Google Assistant built in - and I would love to try the AI assistant at its full capacity. Google also claims that the phone comes with the best smartphone camera ever, but that may just be marketing talk.
A moment of silence
The biggest misfortune for the phone industry this year was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle.
The phone was expected to be the best phone of the year by many of my tech journalist peers - and it would have been if not for the battery fault.
While this has dented some people's trust in the Samsung brand, I do think that now that the fault has been learnt from, we're only going to be getting bigger and better things from the smartphone maker.
Maybe the biggest credit to the phone is that many owners didn't want to return theirs in the recall. Rather Samsung had to resort to patching the phones so that would no longer charge because too many people were still using theirs.
The phone must have been truly something if the risk of it catching fire wasn't enough to deter hundreds of customers.