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Top 10 Best Android Smartphones Buyers Guide: January 2015 Edition

January 3, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

2014 has drawn to a close, or just about, but 2015 has yet to get going. In fact, as of writing, nobody has announced their next latest and greatest. We’re still waiting for Mobile World Congress, which won’t be until a little later in the year to see what Sony, Samsung and HTC have to offer. Right now though, we have a list of smartphones that many of you might have picked up towards the end of 2014, perhaps in Black Friday sales, perhaps through upgrades. Either way, here’s our pick of the best Android smartphones for January 2015.

10. Google Nexus 5

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It’s not that the Nexus 5 is a bad phone, nor is it about the device being a year old. The Nexus 5 finds itself in last place this month for a couple of key reasons; the Snapdragon 800 is an aging chip now especially with the Snapdragon 810 looming and as design goes there isn’t much of it with the Nexus 5. Now, that’s not to say the Nexus 5 isn’t a bad phone, I had one for much of 2014 and loved it. The Snapdragon 800 is still quick, and if you’re happy to forego bells and whistles for the latest version of Android, then the Nexus 5 is a great option for you. However, if you’re looking for something with a little more flare and better specs, then keep on reading.

09. OnePlus One

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OnePlus has been in the headlines again recently, this time for a falling out with Cyanogen, the company behind the phone’s software. With the launch in India being shadowed by arguably poor management on Cyanogen’s side, it seems like the OnePlus One just can’t catch a break. That doesn’t stop it from being a good phone though. It might be a little big for some at 5.5-inches, but with some good hardware, minimal design and an excellent texture to the backing of the phone, the OnePlus One is a great phone. The 1080p display and Snapdragon 801 are also great and the camera isn’t too bad at all. Our review should help you out in deciding that though.

08. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

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If large phones aren’t your thing, then sadly, the Xperia Z3 Compact is your only real option if you also want the best specs available. We say sadly, because we wish there were more phones like this. Being waterproof and featuring the same Snapdragon 801 as many other high-end flagships, and a killer 20.7-megapixel camera, which is one of the best out there, the Xperia Z3 Compact is mightier than it seems. If you’re in the market for a smaller smartphone, this is the only option you need think about, especially if you want a good-looking phone, too.

07. HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5

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Even as 2014 draws to a close, choosing between these two is like choosing between a full-spec Honda or a full-spec Ford, it comes down to what you’re comfortable with, familiar with and which is going to be best for you. The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a lot more whistles with the fingerprint sensor, water resistance and a heart-rate monitor, but the HTC One (M8) has great BoomSound speakers and a much better build. Under the hood though, we’re looking at two devices with 5-inch 1080p displays (each with their own pros and cons), the same Snapdragon 801 and 2GB of RAM. Whichever you choose though, you’re going to have a good experience.

06. Sony Xperia Z3

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With the Xperia Z3, Sony didn’t really change much – if anything apart from the exterior – of the Xperia Z2, which is a shame as this is a good-looking, high-end smartphone. However, with the same Snapdragon 801, same 20.7-megapixel camera, and the same 5.2-inch 1080p display, it’s safe to say that Sony didn’t go far enough with this. We guess that’s the trouble with Sony’s 6-month release cycle though. PS4 fans might want to consider this thanks to Remote Play working pretty well. Having said all that, this is finally available on a US carrier in a relatively timely fashion and can be had from T-Mobile, with Verizon fans looking at the Xperia Z3v.

05. Motorola Moto X 2014

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For their 2014 flagship, what Motorola did is they built on top of everything that made the Moto X great, and the Moto X (2014) is better in pretty much every way. It’s slightly bigger at 5.2-inches, there are new materials for Moto Maker and it’s powered by a Snapdragon 801 CPU and has a better camera this time around as well. We reviewed this a little while ago and thought it was a great device from a company that’s trying their best to work their way back to the top. A great all-rounder, this is a device for those that want to live with a great phone, rather than having to make compromises for the phone. Since it launched, the Moto X has since been updated with Android 5.0 Lollipop, even on Verizon, which should make it more attractive.

 04. Motorola DROID Turbo

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It’s a real shame that the DROID Turbo isn’t available on anything other than Verizon’s network. Not because their network is bad, far from it, but because it’s such a great Motorola device that we’d love everyone to get the chance to own such a great device. Of course, the Turbo isn’t for everyone, but even so it’s hard to argue with a 5.2-inch Quad HD display and a Snapdragon 805 in such a great-looking phone. If the Moto X on Verizon isn’t enough for you, then the DROID Turbo should be more than you can handle.

03. LG G3

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So you don’t mind large displays, and you want some of the absolute best specs avaailable on the market? Then you want LG’s G3. It’s a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 packing device loaded with features, and a classier build that feels good in the hand. That display is front and center with barely any bezel either side or top and bottom and it’s got some cool button action around the back. With an excellent camera that has some of the best autofocus in a smartphone, this is a great device to capture every moment and thanks to some excellent battery life you’ll be able to do just that, all day and then some. The only thing that let’s the G3 down is the Snapdragon 801 inside it, it’s a powerful chip, but compared to the Galaxy Note 4 it isn’t quite geared up to make the most of that super-dense display.

02. Google Nexus 6

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What happens when you take the 2014 model of the Moto X and make the absolute best device you can make with the latest version of Android? You get the giant, 5.9-inch Quad HD Nexus 6, complete with Snapdragon 805 and Android 5.0 Lollipop. This is easily the best Nexus smartphone there’s ever been, and while it’s a shame about the high price tag, you can’t have a quality built device cost peanuts. While there’s been some talk of slower speeds due to encryption and some leftover bugs in Lollipop, this is a still a great device. The Nexus 6 is not going to please everyone, not everyone wants a giant phone, but what the Nexsu 6 does is provide those that genuinely prefer a stock experience with great hardware to go with it. Something a lot of people have been asking for for a long time.

01. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

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Last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was one of the best devices Samsung ever produced, and it’s arguably more of a flagship than the Galaxy S5 was, but this year’s Galaxy Note 4 takes things even further. Packed with all sorts of specs, the Galaxy Note 4 has a Snapdragon 805 with 3GB of RAM under the hood, and a 2560 x 1440 5.7-inch display to boot. With the S-Pen, you can get all sorts of things done on the move, even if that’s just playing your favorite games like a boss. Proving once again, if not in a less exciting manner than last year, that Samsung know how to make large devices better than anyone else, the Galaxy Note 4 does everything.