What’s the best Android phone to buy as of February 2014?

We’re in 2014, and a lot has changed in the Android landscape since the last time we ran down the best Android phones (as well as the best phones for all of last year, which you guys voted on!). Our list for February 2014 has changed quite a bit, with several new players entering the arena and entering our hearts. We’re going to take a look at the standings and see which smartphones deserve your money (and attention) more than any other.

5 – Motorola Moto X

Motorola jumps back one spot since the last time we revisited this list. It has absolutely nothing to do with news that Google sold Motorola to Lenovo. Scout’s honor. It’s just that more impressive devices have started trickling into the market, and it’s increasingly tough to see the Moto X lasting much longer in the top 5.

moto-x-featured-LARGE

The phone has lasted this long thanks to a great bang for buck proposition, though, especially with Motorola giving us some sweet deals on its off-contract price every now and then (the phone has gotten as cheap as $350 a couple of different times). The reserved spec sheet might not look sweet up against other phones with its 720p display and a dual-core processor. Still, the phone runs like a champ, it has some very useful software features, and, well, it has KitKat already.

4 – Nexus 5 by LG

Pure Android and price alone are no longer enough to give the Nexus 5 an automatic number one spot on our list. They held that spot for quite some time, but improved user experiences alongside stellar specs from other devices have made us loosen our grip on love.

Nexus-5-featured-LARGE

You still can’t beat the Nexus 5 when it comes to price/performance ratio, but we’re still a bit sour about several facets of the overall user experience. Namely, battery life, unimpressive sound and a camera that’s only slightly above average (even after the camera-fixing update) are all pretty big negative points. It still isn’t enough to keep the Nexus 5 out of the top 5, though, and you definitely should seriously consider making this your next smartphone if you’re in the market.

3 – LG G2

The LG G2 is still a fascinating device. While the G Flex might currently be the talk of the town thanks to its willingness to bend without breaking, it doesn’t quite have the same “oomph” that the G2 still provides.

lg-g2-featured-LARGE

LG’s software isn’t the most thrilling to behold, but it’s gotten clean and useful enough that it doesn’t do much to hurt the overall Android experience. In fact, Q-Slide has grown on us a tad, and the lightweight coat of paint makes for a device that doesn’t feel any more bloaty than the next guy.

2 – Sony Xperia Z1s

The Sony Xperia Z1s, sold exclusively by T-Mobile here in the United States, almost literally charmed the pants off of us. No, really, it makes us want to take our pants off and jump into a swimming pool with it (it being waterproof and all).

Sony-Xperia-Z1s

But waterproof circuitry isn’t what impresses us. The overall beauty of the Z1s combined with an impressive spec sheet and Sony’s soothing user experience all come together to make this a phone worth keeping an eye on. Take a look:

  • 5.0-inch 1080p HD display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 32GB of internal storage
  • 20.7 megapixel camera
  • 3,000 mAh battery
  • 4G LTE
  • MHL, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and WiFi
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • 5.74 x 2.91 x 0.34 inches
  • 5.71 ounces
  • Waterproof

And if that isn’t doing anything for you, perhaps our hands-on time with the device will.

1 – Samsung Galaxy Note 3

We’ve been a bit down on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 the past few months, but our qualms were rather overstated. In truth, this device deserves to be number one right now. There aren’t many other devices out giving us 3GB of RAM, USB 3.0, advanced Wacom-enabled stylus technology, and more. Wait, I take that back. There aren’t any other devices giving us all of that in the same package right now.

note3-screen-featured-LARGE

That’s not to say we don’t think the Note 3 deserves some criticism. Samsung could get a move on cleaning up one of the most undesirable user interfaces in mobile. But when it comes down to it, TouchWiz isn’t so bad that we would steer clear of the Note 3 when it comes time to pull the trigger on a new device purchase.

Runner-ups:

  1. HTC One — It’s sad to say, but the HTC One is no longer the bee’s knees. (But we have a feeling the sequel will be.)
  2. Samsung Galaxy S4 — The Galaxy S4 has slowly crept further down the list each month, but it still deserves your attention.
  3. Motorola DROID Maxx — A slightly bigger version of the Moto X with a bigger battery and more storage. Verizon exclusive means it won’t get very high on this list, though.
  4. LG G Flex — Snapdragon 800 processor with a 13 megapixel cam are nothing to sneeze at, but a 6-inch display with just 720p resolution is. Sorry!
  5. Sony Xperia Z1 — Handily outclassed by the Z1s, but it’d still be a fine purchase if the Z1s isn’t an option.

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.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

We fell in love with this phone for one very good reason: there simply aren’t enough Android phones at this size with the beast-like specs it has. We’re talking about a Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 720p resolution, a 20.7 megapixel camera and more inside a phone that’s just 4.3 inches in size. Now that’s what you call a powerful “mini” smartphone.

sony-xperia-z1-compact

Too often do we assume smaller phones are weaker, so it’s refreshing to get a phone that goes against every stereotype in the book. Let’s just hope one of these carriers have the sense of a dull doorknob to launch it at some point in the near future. Hands-on is right here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo

On paper, this thing almost reads just like a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, so why did Samsung feel the need to make the Note 3 Neo? Well, it’ll come in at a cheaper price point than the Note 3, yet stands to offer the same user experience that the Note 3 provides in terms of advanced S Pen features. The hexacore processor configuration and advanced LTE radios also give Samsung good reason to release a device that doesn’t offer much else over what’s already out in the market.

Rumor Mill

These phones aren’t yet official, but it can’t hurt to get excited about what could be. These rumored devices have our interests piqued, and for good reason. Take a gander!

HTC M8

Said to be the successor to the HTC One, the HTC M8 is expected to best that smartphone in every way. A large 5.0-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 805 processor, 2GB of RAM and more are expected to bring a solid sequel to HTC’s best phone yet.

Concept Render

Concept Render

The phone is also said to be coming with a fingerprint scanner, and will be the first HTC phone to ditch hardware buttons in favor of software buttons. HTC is expected to make the announcement late February (let’s just say you should keep an eye out on Mobile World Congress) so we’ll be looking on with sheer excitement.

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 will be a major addition in this long-running series. Whereas many folks thought the jump from the Galaxy S3 to the Galaxy S4 was quite uneventful, we’re expecting Samsung to pull out all the stops for the Galaxy S5.

They’ll likely do that with a beefier processor first and foremost, but we could be seeing a lot of the same goodies that the Note 3 enjoyed, such as 3GB of RAM and USB 3.0. Rumors are also going around that Samsung will look to follow the fingerprint scanner trend, but the jury is still out on that. We expect to hear more this March at a dedicated launch event.

Nokia Normandy / Nokia X

A Nokia Android phone? No, really. This is happening. Said to be part of the Asha lineup,  the Nokia Normandy (also known as the Nokia X) will be the company’s first Android handset. Don’t expect anything that’s going to blow the industry away, though — this thing is specced out to be an affordable entry-level handset for developing markets.

nokia normandy

If a 4-inch WVGA display, 512MB of RAM and more don’t do enough to tell you that, then I don’t know what will. It’s pretty obvious that Microsoft-owned Nokia won’t want to make an Android-based product that outshines anything from their Windows-based Lumia line.

Nokia is said to be employing a heavily skinned version of Android that might not even have access to the Google Play Store or Google Apps. We’ll have to wait until March at the earliest, with a possible announcement being prepped for Mobile World Congress later this month.

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. HTC One Mini
  2. Samsung Galaxy S3
  3. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
  4. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
  5. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
  6. Casio G’zOne Commando
  7. HTC EVO 4G LTE
  8. Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro
  9. Motorola DROID Mini
  10. Samsung Galaxy Mega

What say you?

So that’s how the first roundup for 2014 lays. Some interesting shakeups have kicked the new year off, and there’s only more to be made once these companies start trotting out their first-half flagships in the weeks and months to come. Let us know your thoughts (don’t worry, we can take any lashing you may dish at us if you disagree with this list) in the comments section below. We’d love to hear how your list would look!

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  • Red Colored Glasses

    ITs really a matter of preference. I prefer the Moto X mainly because of its size (smaller than my Droid Razr Max but screen is bigger) and the moto customizations.

  • billpittser

    I have the note 3 and Hate it worse than any phone I have ever owned. I had the note 2 and thought it was the best phone I had ever owned. The note 3 has poor wifi and celular radios in it. In fact so bad my 2 year old HTC thunderbolt gets better reception on both wifi and cellular. Using edge to upgrade to the moto x this week.

    • jnt

      whoa… a thunderbolt reference… that can’t be good

    • bmg314

      Wish you were on att… I’d offer to buy it from you..

    • schlanz

      probably defective. warranty it out.

    • JFK06

      Certainly a defective device. I personally have none of those issues. Neither do my father nor my coworker. How long have you had that problem and what carrier are you on? I would have had that thing sent back on day one.

  • OMFCody

    I have used the Moto G, G2, S4, and Nexus 5 but have always went back to the One. Not trying to be a HTC fanboy or anything but IMO from the hardware to the software it is still an amazing phone. It’s funny too, because I usually upgrade monthly and I’ve been using the One since April and I still can’t let go of it.

    • JointhePredacons

      It really is an awesome phone. I wonder if the downvotes were from people that deep throating moto and dont like that you got a moto and then returned it because its the “most awesome thing ever”

    • Darren

      I have to agree. I’m sure the above list is full of great phones and I don’t knock anyone who chooses one of them, but the HTC One has been my favorite phone ever since the day I got it. I had a Samsung prior to this and this has been a lot less buggy and a solid performer. Shame HTC can’t make better sales numbers with such a great device. I hope the M8 helps them out.

      • toomuchgame441

        I know right… even though I moved from my HTC One to the G2, a part of me still wants to buy back an HTC One, I loved that phone, my only gripes was that its screen was slightly too small. G2 is just right screen wise without having to get a phablet. But I’ll be all over the M8 when its released.

    • Sean Royce

      You upgrade monthly? That’s a complete waste of money. I upgrade at least once or twice a year, but not every month. That’s ridiculous.

      • OMFCody

        How is it a waste of money? My outgoing models are always mint and I rarely ever suffer a loss. Actually I break even and even make money usually. Also, I can find new cheap broken phones for nothing and make a nice profit usually.

        • Sean Royce

          That’s still absolutely ridiculous. No one needs to upgrade every month.

  • J Cav the Great

    The Xperia Z1s is the phone I want right now!! but my upgrade is not until December who knows what they will have by then….

  • CerealFTW

    idk why 3gb ram is so impressive when it has touchwiz canceling out the performance boost. and I’m confused as to why the n5 is number 4 when its half the price of a lot of those top 3 devices

    • malcmilli

      I would assume camera and battery life.

      • CerealFTW

        I’ve heard that n5 front facing camera is better than the g2. I can understand battery life. but the cleanliness and smoother OS should have bumped up the n5 to spot #2 or maybe #3. I think the g2 deserves #1 over the note 3.

    • shooter50

      because 2 of the top 3devices, note 3 and G2are twice as good as the Nexus 5

      • setspeed

        Nice sarcasm! And if it’s not, then pass me the crackpipe ;)

    • schlanz

      its a best phone list not a best value list

      • CerealFTW

        Ok then, forget the price. The moto x got a boost on the list because of cleaner/better software. So why is this an exception to the nexus 5? It has a much cleaner/faster Ui over the g2 and note 3 easily.

  • Hrethgir

    I would LOVE to see the Nokia Android phone far outsell the entire Lumia lineup, that would be funny right there!

    • Tojen1981

      As much as I agree with you, it won’t happen. MS/nokia will make sure its neutered to the hilt.

  • Michael Tran

    You’ve got the sony listed at 5.5″ for screen size. You also forgot to mention it has a microSD slot.

  • AbbyZFresh

    It used to be the Moto X for me until last week once the deal was made. Now i’m trying to get back to the N5 once this snow comes out tomorrow.

  • Joelo661

    I absolutely agree with this article. My Note 3 is by far the best phone I’ve had. I just upgraded to the Note 3 from the Nexus 5 and this phone has it all. I think it comes down to personal preference but honestly, the Note 3 is the complete package in my opinion. Also has 4K recording which is pretty awesome.

    • John Burg

      I have a nexus 5 and I want a note 3 but ima try too wait till the note 4. But do you miss the on screen buttons?

      • Joelo661

        Not really, it’s just a matter of getting use to the capacitive buttons. I’ve had all the Nexus devices which I really like and the Note has been one of my few non nexus device. But I’m really satisfied with the Note 3.

  • Defenestratus

    Do what I did with the Note 3. Put the GEL on it, Root it and disable about half of Samsung’s crapware. I’ve basically got a huge Nexus 5 with full stylus support. Its pretty awesome actually.

  • Wayne Peterkin

    Don’t buy the Xperia z1s. I have it and the touch screen is faulty on every unit. The same issue persists on the international variant as well.

  • Philly Jim

    I’ve had my Note since day one and its absolutely the best phone I’ve owned, I switch between my Note and my N5 weekly, I’ve also owned the HTC One, the best Design and sound on a phone, but at the end of the day my Note running CM11 , forget about Touch wiz…… Is the fastest smoothest phone I’ve ever used……

  • CGS

    I’m excited to see HTC and Samsung announce the next One and the S5, my next phone will very likely be one of those. (If HTC adds the SD slot back that will make my decision even harder.) Out of these phones, I considered getting the G2, but as much as I love it there’s too much that it’s lacking (that I personally just prefer) and I even went back to a GS3 from the GS4 because I didn’t like the redesign or the storage flaws. The Note 3? Yeah if I was Godzilla maybe.

  • idongacha

    The Note 3 is the Lebron of all android phones at this time. Just give me the option to use another launcher with a combination of some stylus support without me rooting my device. I’m still waiting on my KitKat dessert. looking at you T-Mobile. Also to rebuff a previous comment, my note 3 gets excellent WiFi on my dual band router and we have a total of 12 devices connected in the house. No problems whatsoever. Also cellular service gets enhanced for me when I combine WiFi calling.

  • Matthew Toomey

    TW is that bad. Its crazy to think that you would need to root it, unlock it and put some type of AOSP on the Note 3 to make it not look like puke.

  • Jarl

    i still prefer my HTC Butterfly s over any of the devices listed in this article

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    For the money it is Nexus 5. If someone wanted to spend $700 then I would Note 3.

    • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

      The Note 3 only went for ~$700 when it was first released in October; now you can buy it for $600 new, or ~$500 used.

  • steveb944

    You guys change your mind a lot on the best devices list.

  • shooter50

    wow, are you posting from Colorado? the z1 wasnt even on your radar, yet it gets released on tmo and all of a sudden its number 2? its a nice device, but not one feature that bests the G2.

  • Brian

    I think you guys should perhaps have a different top 5 list by region and/or carrier.
    That is more relevant for people locked into coverage needs or a large family plan (4+ phones)

  • Fel Pe

    Note 3 indeed. That until the Note 4 comes out, of course.

  • axlaxl

    that just proves that Note 3 has been best phone every month!

  • http://davidgoemans.com/ David Goemans

    The Z1s and the Z1 are basically the same phone, the one’s just rebranded for the US. So, you might want to correct that. And as one reader mentioned, the Z1 ( and the s ) both have an issue with the screen, which doesn’t annoy everyone, but is there on almost all units.

  • Sharky

    Would be pretty crazy to buy any flagship right now with MWC coming up and new flagships from Samsung and HTC. If my phone broke now I’d probably just get a cheap Moto G to keep me going.

  • schlanz

    wow you guys finally got it right.

    well mostly. I still say Droid Maxx > Moto X.

  • jfrov11

    I completely agree. I absolutely love the Note 3. This thing will probably be in my pocket for years. And I can upgrade every 6 months.

  • NardVa

    No love for the G Pro or the G Pro 2.

  • wmurch3

    It’d take my HTC One up against any phone today. The only thing really needing upgrade on it is the camera which is still perfectly capable for most smartphone users. The Note 3’s size makes it a non-starter for a LOT of people so putting that at the top isn’t really fair.

    I’ve also seen an LG G2 in person and it feels exceptionally plasticky and cheap. The HTC One on the other hand feels like something God himself etched from some heavenly other-world materials. Not only that, it still has the brains to match the braun. The front facing speakers are still better than all on the market and the S600 chip can still hold its own. Lag is not an issue either.

    Durability has been excellent too. I’ve been caseless for some time and haven’t acquired so much as a scratch or dent. I’ve dropped in a handful of times on accident too.

  • Alu Zeros

    Still think galaxy s4 best phone and nexus 5 best phone for stock android experience

  • Craig Armstrong

    Just got the LG G2 this past weekend, rooted first night and am running Paranoid Android with KitKat and am loving it. This thing is an absolute beast and I love the sleek sides. I could get used to this buttons on the back business. I will say, it would be nice to have the headphone jack and micro usb on the top of the phone instead of the bottom.

    If only we could get an update to android that would allow always listening to all devices that can support it, ie Snapdragon 800 chipsets.

  • Jay

    Finally Phandroid gets it right. The Note 3 is the only device deserving of the number 1 spot.

    …. and it’s not even close.

  • supremekizzle

    I love everyone praising the Note 3. Wait until you trip Knox and Samsung laughs at you when you need a warrantee repair.

  • setspeed

    Dafuq? How (in your opinion) has the Note 3 mysteriously frogleaped past the N5 and G2 since a couple months ago? Unless you’re just admitting you were wrong in the first place, which I can see a case for.

  • arocx

    Not sure how you can ding the Motorola DROID Maxx for only being available through Verizon and choose to ignore the fact that the Sony Xperia Z1s is only available from T-Mobile.

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  • earth

    There higher resolution on GS5 will probably eat much of the 3GB RAM on GS5 unless it has its own VRAM.

  • chris_johns

    the notes not a phone…its a phablet…shouldnt be here…if i asked to use someones phone n they gave me a note 3 id laugh at them

  • chris_johns

    and if sony can do something about that bezel…thad be one sexy phone

  • Rhino”

    no lg g3? thats rumoured to be announced very soon as well.