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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
- Samsung Galaxy S4
- LG G2
- Samsung Galaxy Mega
- HTC One M7
- Motorola Droid MAXX
- HTC One Max
- Samsung Galaxy S3
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
- Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX
- 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.