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.
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.
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’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).
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
And if that isn’t doing anything for you, perhaps our hands-on time with the device will.
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.
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.
- 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.)
- Samsung Galaxy S4 — The Galaxy S4 has slowly crept further down the list each month, but it still deserves your attention.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- HTC One Mini
- Samsung Galaxy S3
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
- Samsung Galaxy Note 2
- Casio G’zOne Commando
- HTC EVO 4G LTE
- Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro
- Motorola DROID Mini
- 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!