What’s the best Android phone this summer? [July 2013]

I didn’t think much would change since the last time we did our monthly best phones feature, one where a lot of you disagreed (that’s the beauty of opinions), but the landscape has surprisingly changed quite a bit. Sony unveiled a new monster of a phone, some new stock Android options of 2013′s top phones are out, and there are more on the horizon.

summer

We’re officially in the summer months now, and this is typically a time where a lot of folks are looking to upgrade their smartphones. With that, we want to list some of the best smartphones that’ll be sure to get you through the summer months and beyond. Let’s get started!

5- Samsung Galaxy Note 2

galaxy-note-2-featured-BIG

The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 came in at number 4 last time, but the phone is steadily being outclassed by newer, bigger and badder offerings. That said, for a device that launched as early as October 2012 it’s still quite an impressive phone. Not lost on us is the Note 2′s quad-core Exynos 4 chipset and 2GB of RAM, as well as the S Pen that makes writing notes and multitasking a breeze.

These features were more impressive before the introduction of the Galaxy S4, but with that device’s ability to detect hovering fingers without the sue of a digitzed stylus the novelty of the S Pen is wearing off just a tad.

4 – LG Optimus G Pro

LG Optimus G Pro

Like the previous phone, the LG Optimus G Pro slides back just one spot. LG still gets a bevy of props from us, though — this is what the phablet category is all about. With a Snapdragon 600 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 13 megapixel camera and a 1080p display, this knockout could be more than enough to keep LG competitive in the mobile space for the next year.

3 – Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

This rugged take on Samsung’s 2013 flagship has already turned quite a few heads, though not many in the United States are able to get a chance to own one with AT&T’s exclusivity deal. That said, if you’re in position to buy one then this is almost certainly one of the best smartphones money can buy. It’s a Galaxy S4 with metal, that’s waterproof and is dust resistant. It’s one of the most gorgeous rugged phones we’ve ever seen, and it breaks the stereotype of rugged devices being crap for performance.

att samsung galaxy s4 active

The Galaxy S4 Active shares much of the same specs with the original, including a 5-inch 1080p display, 2GB of RAM, Qualcomm’s Snapragon 600 processor, and more. The biggest difference comes in the device’s camera sensor — it’s just 8 megapixels compared to the 13 megapixels found on the Galaxy S4. As you all know, though, megapixels aren’t the end all, be all in camera quality.

We’re still not sure if this is an older camera sensor (from the likes of the Galaxy S3 and Note 2) or if it has the same quality as the 13 megapixel shooter Samsung employs, but it should be among the best of the best in micro camera sensors either way.

1-A and 1-B: HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 Nexus Experience

It was so tough to choose between these two behemoths for the first spot last month, but with Nexus Experience versions of both devices available in the Google Play Store it’s a lot easier — it’s a toss-up. When it comes to a stock Android device with no user interface customization and updates almost as fast as Nexus devices, I can’t really put one over the other.

HTC One Google Play Edition DSC01014

 

The HTC One excels in build quality and those sweet front-facing speakers, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 has that beast-like camera and that 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED HD display. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a microSD card slot and a removable battery while the HTC One is a more comfortable experience for those who don’t want very large displays.

See what I mean? When you rip out the stuff that makes these devices unique — the software customization that makes all of the extra bells and whistles perform that much better — it all comes down to sheer hardware and specs. There’s no Zoe, BlinkFeed or programmable Beats profile on the HTC One, while there’s no S Note, AirView or Smart Stay on the Galaxy S4.

The devices are internally similar, with each boasting Snapdragon 600 processors and 2GB of RAM. The HTC One does have 32GB of internal storage compared to the Galaxy S4′s 16GB, but the well-documented storage issues with the Galaxy S4 shouldn’t be an issue now that TouchWiz isn’t hogging up all those gigabytes for itself.

Google Play Edition HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4

For some, these devices are less tasty without all those custom bits, and we get that. But stock Android is beautiful, fast, sleek and clean, and we just can’t get over the fact that they’ll get updates to the latest versions of Android much sooner than their custom counterparts. Take your pick in the Google Play Store (HTC One | Samsung Galaxy S4).

Runner-ups

Of course, there are a lot more devices which deserve your attention. These are the top five runner-ups that you should have your eye on if you’re in the market for a smartphone at some point within the next few months.

  1. HTC One — No surprise here: this would still be our best smartphone if not for the Nexus Experience version.
  2. Samsung Galaxy S4 — See above. If you’re on the fence, hop over.
  3. Nexus 4 — It’s still quite affordable and powerful, and it’s still a Nexus. Need I say more?
  4. Oppo Find 5 – Oppo does it again. If only the smartphone were more widely available.
  5. Huawei Ascend P6 — Fresh off the manufacturing presses, this is easily Huawei’s best, most beautiful phone yet, and it was enough to crack our top ten.

Phones to look forward to

These phones aren’t available yet, but we know they’re on their way and we know we’re anticipating them a great deal. Said to be out at some point this summer, let’s take a look at two of  the most exciting devices on the horizon.

Sony Xperia Ultra Z

11_Xperia_Z_Ultra

Sony announced this phone at the Mobile Asia Expo a couple of weeks ago. This 6.3-inch phablet is huge, both in magnitude and physical stature. Sony’s pulling out all of the steps to convince people to go Xperia, with its Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2GB of RAM and full HD display. Perhaps most impressive is that this is the first phablet that is waterproof, so you can take  quick dive with it if you want without having to worry. Another innovative, unique quality is its ability to take stylus input from nearly anything — even a lead pencil. This device will be out at some point in Q3, which engulfs all of July, August and September.

Motorola Moto X

motorola moto x phone sprint

We still don’t know much about the Moto X — all we know, officially, is that it exists. The rumored specs for this device are a bit more underwhelming than we originally anticipated, with the latest suggesting it’ll come with a dual-core Snapdragon S4, 2GB of RAM, a 720p display (probably between 4.7 and 5 inches), 16GB of internal storage, a 10 megapixel camera and will ship with Android 4.2.2.

That said, the device is said to be coming with a very attractive price tag, which would explain the lack of quad-core silicon or a full HD display. With Motorola, “a Google company,” being backed by the very folks who make Android, we imagine its updates will come through the pipe just as fast as they do for Nexus phones. We’re expecting an early August unveiling and a mid-late August or early September release, so hold onto your pocketbooks until then if you want to wait and see what this thing is all about.

Amazon’s Best Sellers

These phones are selling like hot cakes on Amazon. Note that these aren’t necessarily Amazon’s true best-sellers, but best sellers out of the ones we haven’t already mentioned. Take a look and see if some of these other hot phones are worth your time and money:

  1. Samsung Galaxy S3 (All)
  2. HTC DROID DNA (Verizon)
  3. HTC EVO 4G LTE (Sprint)
  4. Motorola DROID RAZR HD (Verizon)
  5. Motorola DROID RAZR M (Verizon)
  6. LG Optimus G (Sprint)
  7. Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Sprint
  8. LG Mach (Sprint)
  9. Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro (AT&T)
  10. Samsung Galaxy Victory (Sprint)

What say you?

And now, it’s time for our favorite part — the open discussion! Let’s take this conversation (or debate) to the comments section below and let us know if you agree or disagree. We also wouldn’t mind hearing your plans for summer smartphone purchases if you’re indeed planning on grabbing something new. Remember, keep it clean, and whatever you think remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Have at it!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/madmikeX3 Michael Parks

    I love my HTC one. Every one who sees it and plays with it fall in love with it as well.

    • whirly89

      The same can be said for my Note 2, once they get over the surprise of the size

      • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

        Same can be said for my…. nevermind. O_o

        #TWSS

        • whirly89

          I knew I was going to leave my comment open to this, but seriously there’s no girls on this site, no reason to lie about your package size :-P

          • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

            ….I know ._.

          • http://www.harddrivehousecalls.com/ GadgetMomma

            I don’t care about your package–but there are a couple of us “girls” on here. :-)

          • jodytamar

            agreed. we may be out numbered, but we still don’t care about your package ;)

      • Anthony McKay

        That’s what she said!

    • No_Nickname90

      I love showing off the Zoe feature to people. That actually comes in handy at parties and stuff. People ALWAYS wants me to send the videos. LoL!!

      • http://twitter.com/gamercore Chris Chavez

        Zoes are awesome except when they flood my gallery app with 10 of nearly the same photos. I can’t handle it.

        Before I flashed to the GPE ROM, I’d use the Highlight feature using a series of short video clips, then combine them all. Works fantastic :)

        • No_Nickname90

          They don’t do that. I don’t see the individual Zoe’s. I did, however, had to turn of auto upload of my pictures. I was wondering why DropBox was taking a LONG time to upload my short Zoe and few pictures.

          That’s when I found out that Zoe made individual shots as well. LoL!! But like I said, in my gallery, I don’t see the individual Zoe shots, however, if I view the images on my computer I can see them. Hmm… Am I suppose to be able to see them? I rather not and like it that way. LoL!!

  • rahlquist

    I love my S4 but wife needs one the size of S4 Mini thats not crippled by tiny flash (8gb wtf her nexus S has 16gb and is 3 years old that’s a dumb phone) and avail for T-mobile.

    • Tony Lai

      So what did she choose instead on T-Mobile? hTC ONE?

    • godrilla

      I have the same dilemma.

  • Doan

    GS4 or HTC One. Take your pick; they’re basically the same device.

  • Oleg Ostrovskiy

    Note 2 S-Pen can hover over stuff in the web browser just like a mouse on a computer.
    S4 fingers cannot.

    • http://www.phandroid.com Quentyn Kennemer

      Not sure about the browser, but the S4 does have AirView for several of its apps.

      • Oleg Ostrovskiy

        S4 Air View does not work with any browser. I wish it did, I’d get the Active.

  • No_Nickname90

    Loving the HTC One. Where’s that HTC One Max at, though? I would love to get my hands on that.

    I hope HTC keeps their stereo speaker design with their next year model phones.

  • simpleas

    I think after the dust settled, Note 2 stands as the most practical and feature filled phone. Until Note 3.

    • Jeff72

      What if there was a Nexus 5.5 at 5.5″ though? That’s what I really want. Still with my Galaxy Nexus GSM for now. If I had to choose a new phone right now it would either be a Galaxy S4 Play Store version, Nexus 4, or LG Optimus G Pro. Content for now, patiently waiting on future Nexus devices…

  • Isaac Parker

    I’d love to hear a review on the Oppo Find 5. From its website it looks absolute stunning, but I’m curious as to how it performs in real life.

  • Jordan Caviness

    5, 4, 3, __, 1A & 1B…ummm not trying to start anything but where is 2?

    • Tony Lai

      Because listing either hTC ONE or Samsung S4 on 2 would start an endless debate/hate/arguement on the comment section.

    • http://www.phandroid.com Quentyn Kennemer

      Think of 1A and 1B as 1 and 2, but interchangeable.

      • Jordan Caviness

        Thanx Q.

      • Dean Politis

        Doesn’t 1A imply that the HTC One is the better device? Just saying. A is better than B.

        • http://www.phandroid.com Quentyn Kennemer

          Lol it does, but we’re really just using the letters for differentiation.

          • Dean Politis

            Polls usually place both as just “1″ when there is a tie and order them alphabetically.

    • Jonno Wade

      A tie at #1 would mean the next one is #3.

  • Tony Lai

    I am not too sure using Amazon’s best seller helps as it changes very frequently.

  • Anthony McKay

    I’ve played with most of these devices quite a bit, but hands down it’s the Nexus 4 and if anyone says/thinks otherwise.. Then oh it’s on like Genghis Khan wearing Sean John in Bhutan!!!!

    • Sean

      Totally agree.

    • Jeff72

      Just don’t drop it 2″ ;-)

    • PhoenixPath

      otherwise. ;-)

  • deh2002

    I’ve been using an sgs4 and an HTC one that’s converted to the ge one.
    Love both for different reasons.

  • Christopher Robert

    Note2 is still best. I don’t know why you guys keep putting the LG Optimus G ahead of it.

  • tom-e

    HTC will never have my loyalty again. I have owned the G1, Nexus 1, Thunderbolt and convinced my gf to buy the Rezound. The build quality went down with each device… I now own the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and this phone has been so rock solid that I havent even had the urge to upgrade yet. Saving me a ton of money and a perfect Android experience. A lot of it has to do with the processor and software… But this is the phone that saved me from jumping to Apple. And I think it’s curved glass still makes it the sexiest phone out there. Now if Sony gets me Vanilla Android on Verizon then all bets are off…

    • Chad Vincent

      I’ve had the G1, G2 (Desire Z type), Sensation, and now One. Build quality has gone up or stayed about the same.

      Not sure what happened with the Rezound, but it sounds like a lot of the Thunderbolt problems are “bleeding edge” issues being their first LTE phone, on top of Verizon update issues.

      • guitarist5122

        I must agree that HTC has had build quality slip over the years, but you know that has changed as the future of the company was riding on the One. Very very beautifully made phone. Always love handling my coworker’s One.

  • Dan

    Still happy with my Note 2, none of these phones has tempted me yet. I’ll be waiting to see what the Note 3 brings to the table.

  • Sean

    Anything over around 5 inches is too big for most people, though phablets are kind of cool as a novelty. Definitely the Optimus G pro is better than the Note 2 in every way. But one thing right off the bat: ANY phone that does not receive updates nearly immediately, preferably directly from google like nexus phones, are out of the running. Also, any similar powered phones that don’t have stock android lose out to phones that do. Stock android is just plain better than any skin, period. 99.9% of extra features built into skins are useless gimmicks. Premium feel is important as well, and plastic phones just plain rate last compared to glass and metal. Nexus 4 and HTC One GE are the top 2, however the One loses out in the end due to 1: its terrible button configuration (virtual on screen buttons are just plain superior) and 2: the fact HTC idiotically didn’t include the right radios to run on T-Mobiles HSPA+ 42 network. So if you use them, and live in an area where T-Mobile does not have lte, which is a lot of areas, you have edge speeds. WTF HTC? So in the end the Nexus 4 still rules. Until Nexus 5.

    • guitarist5122

      You obviously have not had more than 2 minutes with the Note 2 or you would not make such a statement. And let’s see in two years how the hardware of each phone is holding up and what software version each is on.

      • Sean

        Why do the Samsung fanboys always act so shocked when someone doesn’t just drool over Samsung? Believe it or not some people think touchwiz is the worst ui in the industry. Hardware and OS version mean little when a phone is completely unpleasant to use.

  • CryptoNoel

    I got my Nexus 4 last week after a lot of debate, and I have to say, I’m glad I chose the Google Experience phone. I’m super content! :)

  • Dean Politis

    Really? HTC One is not better than Samsung Galaxy S4 for the Google Experience Devices? I find that hard to believe. The HTC One is a thing of beauty. Hardware wise, it is absolutely the best phone I’ve ever owned. I know the S4 is a great device too, but its build quality is not the same. I have always loved the build quality of HTC. I have owned both HTC and Samsung devices, but Sumsung phones always seem to be a bit more delicate and don’t have the same feel in the hand.

    • simpleas

      build quality and build material are two different things… samsung has great quality. i do agree they could do a different plastic finish. or maybe even carbon fiber like they were saying lol.

  • iTzKPanda

    I’d say the Note 3 and the HTC One Mega(?) should be phones to look foward too as well.

  • Morris

    GIVE. ME. NOTE. 3!

    • guitarist5122

      Or give you death?

  • PaulMonroeJr

    any man thats on this thread talking about the note 2 is too big probably has little hands. with that being said I love my note 2. It is a awesome phone, and I for one am very glad that the small phone trendhas stopped. My brother has bigger hands than me but was carrying around a phone with maybe a 3 inch screen?

  • Kyle Cordiano

    Nexus 4. Great IPS Screen, who cares if it’s only 720p. Speedy updates with no n/s about delays, quad core processor with 2GB of ram which is future proof. Only negative thing is LTE, but if you buy this phone, you accept that.

    • stucrmnx120fshwf

      I care that it’s not 1080p, and doesn’t have the new high end graphics, but it is sweet price performance and RAM.

  • Evil_Bonsai

    I’d still be using by Note LTE if it weren’t for 1. the screen I cracked last winter, though it works fine (just lots of cracks in glass; 2 pieces of 3m tape covering the worst of it) 2. ATT’s 50% of sale they just had. Bought a new SGS4 Active. Still new enough to feel weird holding it. Feels very ‘skinny’ compared to my Note. Now I just need to make sure not to drop this one.

  • Christopher Covell

    I just got the Lg Optimus G(old by tech standards) but must say i’m. impresse. The quad core .processor, beefy amount of ram, and 32 gb of combined storage are all top drawer specs, and the ui seems lightweight and un-obtrusive.

  • guitarist5122

    Again, the Note 2 is underrated. Should be 4 or 3 on this list for 3 reasons:
    1 LG phones suck on so many levels
    2 Other than being rugged, the S4 Active doesn’t do enough to outshine the Note 2
    3 The Note 2′s spen and associated touchwiz features are top notch.

    I know my Note 2 is a great phone when all my coworkers with S4s and Ones, while happy with their phone, are eyeing my phone for its unique features. Just today a coworker needed to create a digital wet signature and didn’t have access to a scanner. So I came to his rescue by allowing him to sign his signature using my spen and then emailing it to him.
    And what other phone allows you to browse and hover like with a mouse on a pc? And don’t get me started on the many uses of split screen. So many points to be brought up, too little time. Clearly the Note 2 is better than 5th.

  • Raff

    No love for the Xperia Z or ZL?

  • godrilla

    wow my note 2 made the list, I love this phone.

  • irishrally

    GS4 Google Edition for me. Larger screen, smaller bezel with screen dominated front face, removable battery, wireless charging, sd card slot, better camera for the way I’ll use it. Just wish there was a black version.

  • ifranckd

    Waiting for the Xperia Honami or LG Optimus G2 :)
    Considering current released phones, none has grabbed my attention enough….

  • jake

    Droid dna???? In my opinion it’s the best of both worlds of 1a and 1b. Same processor, beats audio, 1080p resolution, wireless charging. Runs any and all games I’ve ran perfect, that goes for emulators too: psp, gamecube, n64, gba, snes, ps1…. Not a single problem. Y u no put on list?? O.o

  • Shawn_Locke

    I can’t believe the Galaxy Nexus is still being sold on Sprint. I’m hoping mine, on Verizon, will see Key Lime Pie.

  • phinn

    Galaxy S4 is the top Android phone imo. HTC One is a close second but I can’t get over the large bezel and lack of centered home button.

    That been said I still hate the bloated and gimicky Touchwiz and would only want it if I can be bootloader unlocked and CyanogenMod installed.

    My opinion will probably change when Key Lime Pie finally hits and the only phone to get it is the Nexus.

  • napes22

    I bought a Galaxy Note 2 off of Craigslist and couldn’t be happier. It was a much welcomed upgrade from my Galaxy Nexus.

  • Ian

    I think the Sony ZL is gonna be the phone to have more so than the HTC One in the not too distant future. At the moment it has firmware issues, hopefully 4.2.2 will fix them and it will be an awsome phone. The build quality of Sony phone compared to Samsung or HTC is up a level of two.

  • bluegreen343

    Droid DNA is a boss and I love mine. it slaughters