The great Android phone selfie shootout

Reward your narcissism by bringing home the best Android phone for snapping selfies.

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I’m a millennial. I grew up snapping a ton of photos of myself. I’d snap one to post to my MySpace profile, or to remember a fun day out with my friends, or just to commemorate a good hair day. I’ve never been shy about it.

Don’t act like you don’t do it too! We’ve all shot a selfie at least once in our lives, and when you shoot a selfie with a crappy camera, people catch on quickly. Frankly, no one cares to look at a selfie that they can’t see clearly it because it was shot in a dimly lit bar. You shouldn’t have to turn the phone around the use the rear-facing camera sensor because the front-facing one is subpar, either.

Thankfully, as front-facing cameras have become standard additions to smartphones over the years, they’ve also gotten nearly just as good as their rear-facing counterparts. I took five of the best Android selfie shooters into a lab test of my own: the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4, HTC One M9, Nexus 6, and the second-generation Moto X. I thought up some scenarios where a selfie would come in handy and pitted the five phones against one another to see which of them work best in any of those situations.

The head shot selfie

Sometimes you’re desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. In this case, you have to submit a head shot for an ID card or a profile photo, but you don’t have a recent one handy. The smartphone camera in your pocket should be able to get the job done, right? Depends on the phone.

headshotselfies Florence Ion

I was surprised at how bad the Moto X headshot turned out. 

The LG G4’s 8-megapixel front-facing camera took the best head shots. The end result was consistently clear, and because of the angle of the photo you can’t really tell that I’m snapping it with my arm held out. My only complaint is that, by default, the G4 shoots selfies in mirrored mode, so you’ll have to disable that from the settings if you don’t want backwards photos. It worked in my favor in this case, though—my face is a little uneven, and I prefer my bangs to lay on the left side rather than the right.

I liked the end result of both the Galaxy S6 Edge’s 5-megapixel front-facing camera and the HTC One M9’s Ultra-pixel camera sensor, though the GS6’s 120-degree wide-angle lens isn’t ideal for taking photos alone because of all the white space it produces around you. Nothing’s as bad as the Moto X, however; its 2-megapixel front-facing camera sensor produced a blown out photo that not even a little photo editing could save. I still have no idea why it did that. 

Winner: LG G4

The “beauty” selfie

I admit that I am a fan of the “beautify” feature that comes standard with some phones. Sometimes I’m feeling icky, or a zit pops up on my face in the middle of the day. We live in a society that expects perfection from every photo published to the Internet, so I’m inclined to oblige by softening the hell out of my face.

In this particular test, only three of the five phones I tested actually come with a beautify feature built into the native camera application: the G4, Galaxy S6 Edge, and One M9. I tested all three with the beautify feature on and off to see which was the best at airbrushing without making me look like an alien.

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The Galaxy S6 Edge took out my droopy under eyes and even lightened up my face a bit, but it’s just a little too soft. I actually prefer the original photo. 

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Again, the G4’s mirrored image worked in my favor here. Its beautify feature is really intense as maximum volume, however. 

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I didn’t like the HTC One’s beautify feature at all. First, the colors are bad in both the before and after photo. And in the final photo, I look fake. 

At maximum beauty levels, the Galaxy S6 blurred out my face so much that it’s almost too obvious I did something to my face. The wide-angle lens also made my face look rounder than it actually is. The One M9 isn’t any better: not only are my makeup colors a little off, but it’s too obvious that I ran over my pores with an airbrush tool. The G4’s end result is just as soft, but of all three it’s the most passable.

Winner: LG G4

The friend selfie 

Friends and significant others are nice—they remind us that we’re not alone in this world. I like to commemorate my relationships with a duo selfie once in a while and then post them to social media to let the world know that there is someone out there who can stand me, regardless of the fact that I watch way too much reality television. 

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You can’t see this one to well, but I’ll try to walk you through it. Click to enlarge.

The Moto X and Nexus 6’s 2-megapixel front-facing cameras produced surprisingly passable selfies with friends and loved ones, though I much preferred the softer look of the Galaxy S6 and G4’s front-facing cameras. Out of all five phones, however, I preferred the Galaxy S6’s end result. Its wide-angle lens comes in handy when you’re snapping a photo with a friend because you can easily fit them in without much strain. That photo also had the least blow-out effect from the sun, and the surrounding colors appear just a tad more vibrant than the G4’s end result.  

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6

The group selfie

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Can’t fit all your friends in one photo? Take a panoramic selfie! 

The Galaxy S6 is the pioneer of the group selfie: not only does it feature a very wide-angle camera lens on the front camera, but it also comes with a mode that takes a front-facing panorama to fit in more than a few close friends. To that end, Samsung’s flagship take the crown for this one because you don’t have to compromise how many people you can fit into one photo. You can easily fit them all!

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Grouphies! With pals!

I snapped selfies with all the other phones just for comparison. The Galaxy S6 was the only one that could fit in all of my pals. The other devices cut off some of their faces, despite the fact that we were all snuggled in pretty tightly.

I will say that I now understand why people resort to selfie sticks. It’s the easiest way to fit in a bunch of people in a photo when your arm just isn’t long enough. Too bad they’re banning them from most theme parks, though.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S6 

The bar selfie

I don’t go out as often I used to, but when I do, I try to commemorate it with a photo. The end result is typically a dozen shots of me and my pals at the bar, in a restaurant, or at our favorite concert venue. The lighting is usually unsatisfactory in those situations, though.

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I was surprised that the Moto X managed to capture anything at all after the way it performed with the head shot selfie and the group selfie, but it managed pretty well in this particular low-light situation. The One M9 struggled in this low-light shot, but at least it was trying. The Nexus 6 was the worst of the bunch, while the G4 had the best dimly-lit bar selfie of all: it’s perfectly lit without the aid of flash and you can actually see some detail on our faces. 

Winner: LG G4

In the lab

If I’m crowning the phone king of selfies, I might as well do so somewhat scientifically. I put all five phones through the same lab test we do for every phone and tablet’s rear-facing camera sensor. I wanted to see if my experience out in the field translated to a controlled environment like our photography lab.

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Let’s start with the high light lab tests. 

In the high light tests, the LG G4 performed the best. The end result wasn’t as blown-out as the One M9’s, for one, and it didn’t produce as much empty space as the Galaxy S6. I had to crop out quite a bit for that one in the first photo.

The Moto X and Nexus 6 are passable in high light situations, which is why it performed relatively well in scenarios with lots of sunlight. However, I liked the softer color composition of the G4 the best. 

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Like any other camera review, the low-light lab tests will immediately pinpoint which front-facing camera is truly the best.

Our low light lab test uses nothing but a dim living room lamp. In this case, the lab test simply reinforced what I experienced snapping selfies at the bar. The LG G4 took the most well-rounded shots and the Galaxy S6 followed along in second place. The Moto X wasn’t too bad either, while the One M9’s color palette skewed red for whatever reason. Of all five phones, the Nexus 6 performed the worst.

Winner: LG G4

The best selfie camera is …

If you’re an Android user and the front-facing camera is important to you, you’ll want to consider the LG G4. Its 8-megapixel front-facing camera sensor is perfect for both low light and sunlight selfies, not to mention that the camera app is quick to launch and great at virtually “beautifying” your skin. 

But if you’re not too keen on the G4’s plastic-and-leather body, there’s always the Galaxy S6, which is the runner up in this selfie shootout. Its wide-angle lens comes in handy when you’re trying to fit a bunch of people into one photo, and if the massive white space bothers you, you can always get around that with a little cropping via a third-party app.

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