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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- HTC One — No surprise here: this would still be our best smartphone if not for the Nexus Experience version.
- Samsung Galaxy S4 — See above. If you’re on the fence, hop over.
- Nexus 4 — It’s still quite affordable and powerful, and it’s still a Nexus. Need I say more?
- Oppo Find 5 – Oppo does it again. If only the smartphone were more widely available.
- 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
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.
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.
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:
- Samsung Galaxy S3 (All)
- HTC DROID DNA (Verizon)
- HTC EVO 4G LTE (Sprint)
- Motorola DROID RAZR HD (Verizon)
- Motorola DROID RAZR M (Verizon)
- LG Optimus G (Sprint)
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Sprint
- LG Mach (Sprint)
- Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro (AT&T)
- 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!