Best Android Phones [July 2014]

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As July opens with few new handset releases or announcements, our monthly ranking of the best Android smartphones available begins to settle into its groove. While no new devices enter our top 5 from last month, there continues to be some slight shifts. This month that’s in no small part thanks to Google I/O and the announcement of Android L. Read on for our top picks.

Previously: June | May | April | March | February

5. Sony Xperia Z2

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A potential Verizon release for the Xperia Z2 had us feeling hopeful about this handset, which offers a truly beautiful combination of hardware performance and device design. Unfortunately it seems by the time the handset sees a proper US release (if it ever happens), the Z2 will be an afterthought. In other regions, however, Android users have been privy to Sony’s latest flagship for some time. Regardless, this stylish handset has us hopeful for the future of Sony’s Android lineup.

4. Nexus 5

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Just when we were ready to drop the Nexus 5 from our list, the handset gains some ground following last month’s Google I/O. The lack of a new Nexus handset announcement helps, but it’s the Android L developer preview that breaths a bit of life into the aging Nexus 5. Having said that, the Android L preview is just that — a preview. Still, it gives a glimpse of what to expect a few months down the road when the N5 will surely be among the first devices to receive a more polished build of the latest Android platform version, which includes a visual overhaul dubbed Material Design and plenty more. And that’s the true beauty of the Nexus 5. Despite specs that are starting to look a bit subpar in comparison to some of the other devices on our list, direct software support from Google will surely keep the handset relevant for quite some time.

3. Samsung Galaxy S5

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Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy S5 LTE-A didn’t do much to improve the standard Galaxy S5’s stock. The LTE-A edition was everything we hoped for originally, only a few months late. The good news is we can’t beat ourselves up too bad about it. The more powerful edition of the Galaxy S5 remains exclusive to Korea, meaning the majority of the world only has access to the handset that launched earlier this spring. That phone features a brilliant Super AMOLED display and enhancements that include a fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor all wrapped in a hardware and software package that is — for better or worse — quintessentially Samsung.

2. HTC One M8

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HTC’s decision to release the One M8 ahead of competing flagships from Samsung and LG may have backfired slightly as the buzz pertaining to these new device launches has over the ensuing months drowned out much of the praise initially heaped on the phone. We still continue to champion the device as one of the best Android handsets out there with its savvy hardware design and smart software implementation. The One M8 doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles as the Galaxy S5 or LG G3, but its straightforward approach is one of the device’s best assets.

1. LG G3

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While it still won’t be officially available worldwide for a few more weeks, the Korean edition of the device reviewed by Phandroid earlier this month told us all that we needed to know. The LG G3 is hands-down the Android phone to beat. While focusing on simplicity, LG put its efforts into improving core aspects of the smartphone experience. The result is a device that includes a Quad HD display, powerful processing, strong battery life, and a camera with laser-powered autofocus. Put this in a totally sleek package with an innovative hardware button arrangement and we have a winner.

Honorable Mentions

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Variety is the spice of life, they say, so why limit our options to five phones? To help you be the most informed smartphone buyer you can be, here are five more currently available handsets that just barely missed a spot among the best Android phones out there.

  1. OnePlus One — Still not the most readily available device, OnePlus has been slowly making up for a lack of initial availability that generated plenty of negative press for an otherwise great phone at an affordable price.
  2. Oppo Find 7a — While Oppo isn’t a household name their Find 7a certainly stacks up against the mainstream competition. $499 for an unlocked model is nothing to shake a stick at either.
  3. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 — As far as phablets go, the Galaxy Note 3 remains the device to beat. Stylus input offers a truly unique Android experience.
  4. Moto X — If you want a device to express your personal style the Moto X is one of the first devices to consider. Customizable design options add an individual touch to this reasonably-priced midrange phone.
  5. Huawei Ascend Mate 2 — Huawei wants to makes a splash in the US with the Ascend Mate 2, and while we found plenty of room for improvement, the Ascend Mate 2’s $299 price tag makes this phablet worth consideration.

Phones to look forward to

With the first half of the year now in the rear view mirror prepare for some big handset launches to closeout 2014. It all starts this month with the launch of a few interesting, if not all that powerful in terms of hardware, Android smartphones.

Amazon Fire Phone

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Amazon’s long-rumored Android smartphone was finally announced last month and will ship out toward the end of July. The Fire Phone is far from a traditional Android device with Amazon’s custom Fire OS, but it will have no problems running the apps and games we love. Beyond that, the Fire Phone offers several unique features including Firefly for indetifying merchandise, music, movies, and more as well as Dynamic Perspective, which bring a whole new means of interacting with information on your smartphone display. Add in deep integration with Amazon’s digital content libraries as well as hardware compatibility with Fire TV and the retailer’s line of Kind Fire tablets and the result is a device that could seriously shakeup the smartphone landscape.

Nokia X2

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Similar to the Fire Phone, the recently announced Nokia X2, an upgrade from the Nokia X announced earlier this year, offers its own twist on the Android platform. While users can expect an experience that rests somewhere between Google’s vision for their smartphone platform and Nokia’s Windows Phone offerings, it’s hard to argue with the  €99 price tag associated with the device. The Nokia X2 will go on sale later this month.

Rumor Mill

What’s on the horizon for the rest of the year and beyond? The rumor mill is always spinning, and the buzz is especially fervent around followups to a few phones that have appeared on our list in previous months. In Hollywood the sequel is hardly ever as good as the original. Will the same hold true for these smartphones?

Moto X+1

For the past several months rumors have suggested Motorola could be announcing its Moto X followup at any moment. July has arrived and nary an official word about the Moto X+1 has been uttered. We do, however, continue to see leak after leak revealing more of what to expect from the phone when it does launch. It looks to be a major upgrade over the X with a 5.2-inch display, Snapdragon 800 processor, 12MP camera, and more.

Sony Xperia Z3

While we still await the release of the Xperia Z2 in the US, the first signs of the phone’s followup have surfaced. A front display panel alleged to be from the Sony Xperia Z3 leaked last month, though we know little about the device (though its design doesn’t seem to be a huge leap from the Z2). If Sony follows its normal scrip, we might not get an official unveiling until CES 2015.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

With summer officially underway we can begin counting down the days until fall, the time of the year Samsung typically likes to show off its latest upgrades to the Galaxy Note handset line. While we still await more info to form a clearer picture of what to expect, rumors currently indicate that Samsung could be crafting a redesigned Note 4 that will feature a few drastic departures from previous entires in the series.

Amazon Best Sellers

We don’t have room on our list for every smartphone out there, and while we tend to focus on the latest and greatest there are still plenty of older Android options that come with the benefit of reduced pricing. We’ve parsed down Amazon’s Best Sellers list to include only phones that haven’t already appeared in our rankings. Here is what that left us with.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S4
  2. LG G2
  3. Samsung Galaxy Mega
  4. HTC One M7
  5. Motorola Droid MAXX
  6. HTC One Max
  7. Samsung Galaxy S3
  8. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
  9. Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX
  10. Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

What say you?

Here at Phandroid we like to think we know a thing or two about Android smartphones, but opinions will always differ. Not much changed in our rankings from June to July, but was more of a shakeup in order? What do you have for your best Android smartphones? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Danny Dodge

    I’m surprised that the note 3 is not still there despite its age, besides the nexus 5 in my opinion all of the other phones, as great as they are are inferior to the note 3… I did say in my opinion before I get comment raped about that.

    • Martin Lane

      Agreed, Note 3 is a still a great device.

      Snapdragon 800 is still pretty powerful and Samsung clocked the GPU higher in the Note 3 so it’s actually very comparable to Snapdragon 801 minus the efficiency.

      • Matthew Merrick

        Plus awesome battery life and more RAM than most phones here. Not to even mention the pen.

        • Martin Lane

          That’s true, I forgot it had 3GB of memory.

          Can’t comment on battery life though.

  • Martin Lane

    My list

    #1 LG G3
    #2 Samsung Galaxy S5
    #3 Sony Xperia Z2
    #4 Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    #5 HTC One M8

    • Lennatron

      Do you know what features the LG G3 has over the S5 other than the sick design and bigger screen? I’m buying a new phone and LOVE the G3′s design but I don’t see what features the G3 has over the S5 which has the IP67 rating, fingerprint scanner, ultra power saving mode, and downloads over both Wifi and 4G simultaneously.

      • Danny Dodge

        I think its main feature is not lagging :P the s5 is awesome I’m sure but unlike the note 3it doesn’t have enough ram to support the latest touch wiz.

        • Matthew Merrick

          Except it doesn’t even get that “feature” right. The S5 has dealt with a lot of the lag, the worst of it is in the launcher which I always recommend replacing anyways. Everyone I know I’ve installed the Google Launcher, and they consider it a huge improvement

          • Danny Dodge

            Probably true- I’d imagine that after rooting and freezing tw launcher the s5 is a beast on 2gb ram. Problem is that the average user doesn’t know to do that, so on out of the box value, 2gb ram isn’t enough for it. Dat 801 processor doe.

          • Matthew Merrick

            I haven’t rooted someone’s phone for them since the early gingerbread days, so I’m not freezing apps. Rooting for others tends not to work out so well. Sideloading an app, however, is a completely different story

          • Danny Dodge

            Though I’ve never rooted the note 3 and get no lag… I love that we can root but hate that sometimes its necessary, I don’t do it because I don’t need to but would if tw made it lag.

          • Danny Dodge

            Google launcher is amazing – shout out to nova too.

          • Matthew Merrick

            I actually use Nova myself, but most people I know would have no idea what to do with all the settings of Nova.

          • Durin123

            Most people are quite indifferent. It’s pretty sad, unfortunately.

      • Martin Lane

        Mainly the high resolution display, better design, cleaner and faster interface.

  • Scharel Browns

    Waiting for the lg3 to come to the Americas and att!!!

  • solidpig

    I forgot the Oneplus One existed until I saw it under the honourable mentions. Man, I remember being so hyped for it.

  • Jerry Rich

    I’d put the S5 at #1 over the LG3 at #2 because of the IP67 rating, fingerprint scanner and finally I can see and read a phone screen in very bright sunlight.

    • barondebxl

      I’ll put it ahead of the G3 but the finger scanner is absolute garbage. I’ll put it at number one cause of the display, battery life, camera, ip67 rating and features.

      • xjedinerdx

        From what I seen and hands with the S5, the finger scanner works great

    • toomuchgame441

      That’s funny, I’d put it at #5 because of Touchwiz

  • Medion

    Moto X is still number one in my book. Call it midrange all you want, it outperforms every handset released in 2013 in terms of real world performance, and I’ve done the side by side to prove it.

    • barondebxl

      What? The nexus 5 DESTROYS The moto x in terms of performance. So does the M7, Note 3 and G2. What in the world are u talking about.

      • Medion

        No, they don’t. But I understand why people think this.

        • barondebxl

          Its a fact, not an opinion. Its an absolute fact that the nexus outperforms the moto x. I know cause I owned both. The moto x is better in speakers, battery life, features. The nexus 5 outperforms ihe motox in speed (honestly is not even close), display and camera.

          • Medion

            You’re wrong. I could link to benchmarks, videos, testimonials, etc. I could explain in technical details. But you’ve already made up your mind. The fact that you claim to have owned both when it’s obvious that you haven’t just shows your ignorance.

            I don’t own a Nexus 5. I got my Moto X less than two weeks ago. Prior to that I had been using a Galaxy S4 GPE since launch last July. I have daily access to a Nexus 5, an LG G2, and a Z1s that aren’t mine. The Moto X exceeds then all, albeit marginally.

          • barondebxl

            What!!!! Oh my God LMAO. OK first of all, and please be honest, how do you know whether I have owned the moto x or not? Let me tell you and you can look up my name on XDA, I think it is safe to say that I have owned at leat 50 different android devices. I owned the moto x twice, one was white, the other was through moto maker crimson and black with yellow accent. And the nexus was both black , one 32 GB and one 16 gig. I have owned them and I can assure you that the performance is not in the same level, the nexus 5 SMOKES it in every single category when it comes to speed. You shouldn’t be upset about it cause the nexus packs the much more powerful SoC. So its normal. But its not just the nexus but the Note 3, G2 and all. I think you don’t like hearing that your phone is outperformed by another.

          • Medion

            I can tell that you’re lying because you’re citing the specs as the reason those phones beat the Moto X. You don’t understand hardware. And your last argument? I had the S4 GPE (slightly more powerful than the One M7 you cited) and opted to get rid of it in favor of the Moto X. I was initially apprehensive about the X. I knew that, due to technical reason, the Moto X’s performance should be comparable if not slightly better. But the spec whore in me just expected it to be worse than my quad-core S4. But I was relieved to see the Moto X beat the S4 in most everyday usage scenarios. Granted, there were exceptions. I have the transformation rounds in my Keepass database cranked up to tax even my desktop. This opens noticeably slower on the Moto X. But in everyday use? The X wins, hands down.

            Again, you can say “I’ve owned 50 bajillion phones” all you want. I do phone testing as a hobby, and have done it freelance (paid) for a few websites. When you’re telling me “LOLZ phone A is moar fasterer than phone B” when I know that to not be true, you lose credibility.

            Now, you could have phrased your question better, such as, “Could you provide examples of how the Moto X is faster than (insert phone here)?” But no, your first comment was “What in the world are u talking about.” [sic], followed by “Its a fact, not an opinion.”, and then, “What!!!! Oh my God LMAO.” So yea, you don’t have any credibility with me.

          • barondebxl

            I’m not even going to waste my time responding to you. Your agenda is to defend your purchase by any means necessary and that is very pitiful. I know the moto x and nexus 5 very well cause I owned both…twice. The nexus 5 is just the better performer. I don’t know why you can’t admit that because its not even a debatable thing. Anyone who had a chance to play with those 2 phones knows that for a fact. But you want to defend your purchase and I can’t reason with you in that level. At the end of the day you can say what you want but facts remain facts: Nexus is speedier and performs better than the moto x, that’s a fact. If you don’t like it you’re entitled to your opinion but its not true. Cheers.

          • Medion

            “I’m not even going to waste my time responding to you.” Then you proceed to respond to me. This is code for “I want to have the last word.” Good for you. I promise that this will be my last post, so please respond so that you can get your last word. In the meantime, I want to clarify – you do not understand the difference between performance and horsepower. A 600hp engine will outperform a 300hp engine, unless that 300hp is inside a small car while the 600HP engine is inside a large truck towing a large trailer. At that point, the car with the 300hp engine will likely win the race.

            I never said that the Moto X was more powerful than any of those devices. You specifically mentioned the HTC One M7, the Nexus 5, and the LG G2. The Moto X outperforms the One M7, significantly, in general tasks. The X ever so slightly edges the Nexus 5 and the LG G2. This is due to lower system overhead caused by thermal throttling and a lower resolution display that pushes less than half the pixels.

            Anyway, feel free to read this, and ask questions if you have any. But as I promised, this is my last post in THIS thread. Have a good one.

            http://androidforums.com/android-lounge/856243-when-high-specs-attack-why-you-should-aim-sweet-spot.html#post6626937

          • Orlando R Santos

            barondebxl…It’s Not even worth arguing with people that assume they know things. I sell phones and have owned probably as many as you and still get people that think they know more than me. People like medion don’t know anything and pretend to just to comment on the board

          • barondebxl

            You’re right. He is defending is purchase hard and says that I’m lying about owning both phones. That’s how I know he is a clown really.

          • hoz590

            What speed are you talking about? A millisecond for an app to open which is virtually undetectable to most people.

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

        Agreed. Sometimes it’s scary how fast the Nexus 5 is. Even more so after the Android L preview.

      • Martin Lane

        The Nexus 5 is faster than the Moto X.

        However due to the display resolution there will be circumstances where the Moto X scores slightly better in graphics benchmarks. But it’s only a few frames, not something anyone would notice.

        But the Nexus 5 has a clear advantage when it comes to CPU performance.

    • Paul Monroe, Jr.

      I’m not even using the Android L preview, but I just switched from Davlik to ART and my Nexus is blowing the moto x out the water…

      • wright585

        I did the same. It’s amazing how much faster it is.

    • Martin Lane

      That’s only because of the lower screen resolution, also the updated delvik and bionic libraries helped it score well in benchmarks. Most devices have received these now and they only improve performance in certain circumstances.

      I can install these on my Nexus 7 and watch the quadrant score almost double, but I won’t see that kind of increase outside of benchmarks.

  • http://www.sybreed.com Chris McKeever

    lol @ Huawei being good.

  • CGS

    Why are either of those phones under “Phones to look forward to”. They should be under a list called “Phones to avoid”

  • CGS

    The G3 is tempting but I’m too in love with my M8 to seriously consider taking advantage of Jump (assuming TMo is even getting it)

  • domatau

    If note 3 is on the list with snapdragon 800 then the g2 should also be present as well

  • duke69111

    I would of made the lg g2 number 2 on that list.

    • TheJunkie

      I’d just pay a lot less for a nexus 5. As nice as it is, I wouldn’t put it in top 5 unless you are just filthy rich. I’m not, so there:)

  • Kyle Lelli

    I own a Moto X and have since it came out. I love the phone. I have only played with a Nexus 5 for a short time period (10 mins). @medion:disqus and @martinlane:disqus what is the speed that you’re arguing over? Is this speed with opening apps? New tabs in Chrome? Playing a game? Swiping? I ask (not sarcastically) because my Moto X seems extremely quick (sub 1 second to open apps, etc.). How much quicker can it get? I mean, even if it’s .5 seconds quicker? Is it that noticeable?

    I can’t comment for anyone else, but the always-on screen feature, the always-on voice control and the shake to open camera get used constantly. These three features are so unbelievable, I cannot imagine going to a phone without them. Does the speed with the Nexus 5, Galaxy Note 3, G3, M7 or S5 make up for not having these features? Am I missing something that’s so great with these phones? I have played with them in-store and they really seem like huge disappointments from a UX perspective (except for Nexus 5). Aside from having a slightly larger screen, what are the true benefits aside from saying you have a “Snapdragon XYZ” chip in your phone?

    Again, I’m asking these questions literally, not sarcastically. I’m curious if I’m missing out on anything worth taking a look at.

  • toomuchgame441

    List is pretty accurate to me… M8 and G3 ftw!

  • feztheforeigner

    Ummm…. Where the hell is the G2??