Apr, 01 2014

best-phones

It’s April, don’t be the fool that buys some joke of an Android phone. As manufacturers push their major spring handset launches, the question of which is best takes on a whole new level of relevancy. New contenders have emerged, causing a significant shakeup over last month, but we’ve reviewed the competition and parsed out the best from the rest.

5 — Motorola Moto X

Moto X Touchless Control DSC00742

The Moto X hangs on to a spot in our top five for mostly one reason: last month, Motorola (soon to be a Lenovo company) introduced a new set of color options to its Moto Maker platform, breathing some life into a handset that is near due a true upgrade. The Moto X was never in the top of its class in regards to specs, but it brings up the rear based on a combination of other factors — the aforementioned customization options, an attractive price point, and enhanced notification and voice recognitions capabilities.

4 — Nexus 5 by LG

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For the Android purist, there is no doubt a Nexus-branded handset with direct support from Google is the way to go, and the Nexus 5 is a testament to this fact. It remains a strong contender even as Google Play Editions of handsets like the HTC One M8 put pressure on the N5, which simply can’t hold pace on a pure spec-to-spec comparison. Similar to the Moto X, the Nexus 5 is an appealing option when it comes to price and pure Android performance, but an onslaught of new handsets makes it hard to justify a higher position on our list.

3 — Samsung Galaxy Note 3

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The Galaxy Note 3 has the goods to carry the banner of best Android phone, but it slips in no small part due to the recent release of several flagship releases from Samsung’s competitors. The Note 3, however, holds a unique position as one of the few Android-based handsets to feature dedicated stylus input via Samsung’s S Pen, a must-have for multitasking power users. Combined with numerous enhancements by way of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, the Note 3 easily dominates the “phablet” category.

2 — LG G Pro 2

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When we said the Galaxy Note 3 easily dominates the “phablet” category, it comes with one caveat: the LG G Pro 2. This overachiever lacks dedicated stylus input but makes up for it in sheer performance. It features a big, beautiful display; bleeding-edge processing; and a strong camera. If there is one drawback to the G Pro 2, it is its currently limited availability, which at the moment only includes select regions in Asia. US users might need to plop down full price for an import or cross their fingers for a local carrier release.

1 — HTC One M8

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Announced at the end of March and available for purchase immediately, there is no question that the HTC One M8, for now at least, deserves its rank as the top Android phone. The 2014 edition of the popular One franchise features a gorgeous brushed-aluminum design paired with powerful hardware and a refined take on HTC’s Sense software. More impressive still is the One M8’s innovative camera design, which features two lenses that can be creatively used to alter an image’s focus and depth-of-field after the fact.

Runner-ups…

  1. LG G2 — Bumped from the main list by the new G Pro 2, the more readily available G2 remains one of the best all-around Android devices on the market.
  2. HTC One (2013) — We’re looking at the original One with new eyes after the release of the One M8, and it still looks pretty darn good. Buyers of this older edition are sure to benefit from close-out sales.
  3. Samsung Galaxy S4 — Similar to the One, the launch of the Galaxy S5 later this month has the S4 looking a little down and out. We’d hold off for now, but look for this one to see serious price drops, as well.
  4. Sony Xperia Z1s — Sony style, durability, and a powerful camera make it worthy of consideration, but a lack of KitKat and the looming launch of the Z2 have our attention shifted elsewhere.
  5. Motorola DROID Maxx — Not the focus of Motorola’s latest advertising efforts, but we’re still paying attention. Their next-best phone and a top choice for Verizon subscribers.

Phones to look forward to

Not on the market just yet, but, oh, they will be soon. Here are the phones to look forward to this month and beyond.

Samsung Galaxy S5

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Missing our main list by a matter of days, the Galaxy S5 will launch globally later this month (it’s up for preorder in most places already), bringing Samsung’s 2014 flagship into the Best Phones fold. Our initial impressions see this phone fighting for a top spot, but overall feedback has been mixed. It’s specs line up with the HTC One M8 and others of that class, but Samsung could have taken more risks in designing a phone that truly surpasses the Galaxy S4 it will replace. An iterative upgrade? Maybe. It’s at least worth holding off any immediate phone purchase in order to get a more adequate impression of the S5 upon its release.

Sony Xperia Z2

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A standout from February’s Mobile World Congress, the Sony Xperia Z2 was recently delayed until May. It’s all good, however. That just gives us more time to lust over its refined style and impressive hardware compliment. The Z2 improves everything we loved from older Z series releases (water resistance, superb camera, and sharp lines) without feeling like a rehash. Here’s hoping it gets a wider release than the Sony handsets we are used to.

Oppo Find 7

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Oppo might not be the most recognizable brand, but they sure know how to get fanboys excited. Their Find 7 goes up for international preorder in a matter of days, and Android lovers are eager to get their hands on the device, which is outfitted with the sort of hardware that could make even Samsung or HTC nervous. That includes a large 1080p display, Snapdragon processor, and 13MP camera. A premium version will also be offered sporting a faster processor and more RAM.

OnePlus One

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Some consider the OnePlus One vaporware (vapor hardware?), but it’s safe to say this one is no longer churning through the rumor mill. While an official unveiling will come later this month, rumored specs include the latest in Snapdragon processing, a Full HD display, and more. The best part? It could launch for less than $400.

Rumor Mill

LG G3

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As attention has turned to the release of the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, and LG’s own G Pro 2, talk of the G3 has quieted a little in recent weeks. Most recently, the phone was tipped for a June unveiling. This followup to last year’s G2 (pictured) could include a 2K display, octa-core processing, and a 16MP camera. We just hope they stick with the rear-mounted volume rocker introduced with the G2.

Moto X2

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There is very little to go off of, but there is no doubt that Motorola is cooking up a successor to their Moto X. The original X introduced several novel concepts, most notably the ability to customize various aspects of the handset’s build. Expect the Moto X2 to follow this formula when it launches with updated specs and hardware, most likely during the second half of the year.

Amazon Best Sellers

So we’ve covered most of our bases, but if you’re looking for more ideas yet here is a selection of top devices from Amazon’s Best Sellers list. Note that this ranking excludes devices we have mentioned above and does not take into account carrier variants as well as color options.

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
  2. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
  3. Samsung Galaxy Mega
  4. HTC One Max
  5. Samsung Galaxy S3
  6. LG G Flex
  7. Casio G’zOne Commando
  8. HTC One Mini
  9. LG Optimus G Pro
  10. Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro

What say you?

That’s our opinion, but what’s yours? With so many major releases landing in stores in the wake of CES and Mobile World Congress, debate over which Android phone to buy will reach a fever pitch this month. Is it the HTC One? The Samsung Galaxy S5? Or something else entirely? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!