It’s that funny time of the year right now with new devices like the Galaxy S5, the new HTC One and the Xperia Z2 still waiting to get into official distribution channels it begs the question “What are the best phones of 2013 this far into a new year?” Hopefully, this is something we can answer with this edition of our Monthly Buyers Guide. We’re a firm believer in only listing smartphones that you can head out and buy right here and now, so you won’t see the latest and greatest here just yet. However, with these new devices looming, now is a very good time to get your hands on a bargain, or at least pay a reasonable price for a device that will last you at least another year. With that said, welcome to this month’s Buyer’s Guide.
10. HTC One Max
The new HTC One is just days away from being announced at the time of writing, but for those that are looking for something on the larger side of things, the HTC One Max might be a decent device to go with. Unfortunately, HTC’s XL effort wasn’t the best “phablet” of 2013, but with the BoomSound speakers, it was one of the better devices to enjoy media on. The Snapdragon 600 pales in comparison to the newer 801 hitting shelves this spring, but it’s still a capable CPU and it’ll continue to hold up nicely for quite some time. We reviewed the HTC One Max, so you can take a look at what we thought here.
- 5.9-inch Full HD Display
- Quad-Core Snapdragon 600 at 1.7 Ghz
- 2GB of RAM
- 16 or 32GB of Storage with support for microSD cards up to 64GB
- BoomSound Speakers, Fingerprint Scanner and an UltraPixel Camera
- Android 4.3 with Sense 5.5
- 3,300 mAh – non-removable
The HTC One Max is available from Amazon.
09. Motorola DROID Ultra and DROID MAXX
These Droids might not be the ones you’re looking for unless of course, you’re on Verizon. In which case they’re among the best devices you can get on the network. of course, there’s also the more petite Moto X to consider, which has mostly the same innards. The Droid MAXX however, offers a good-looking design that’s well-built with some of the best battery life you’re going to find walking the Android path. It is a shame that the 2013 line of Droid devices are fading quickly, but if you’re on Verizon and you’re looking for a decent device for a fair price, these aren’t bad options but, the MAXX is definitely the better of the two.
- 5-inch 1280 x 720 AMOLED Display
- 1.7 GHz Dual Core with Quad-Core Graphics, attention hub, & 2GB of RAM
- 16GB storage
- 2GB RAM
- 2,130 mAh in the Ultra, 3,500 mAh in the MAXX
- Usage: Up to 28 hours or 48 hours with the MAXX
- 10MP RGBC camera with quick capture
- 2MP Full HD Recording Front Facing Camera
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE +EDR,
- Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
08. Motorola Moto G
The little guy that could, the Moto G has changed our perception of a “cheap smartphone” for good. Essentially an affordable version of the Moto X, not a “mini” or a “lite”, just more of the same for those without deep pockets. Coming in at under $200 for a completely unlocked device running stock Android, great hardware and the very latest version – Android 4.4.2 as of writing – the Moto G is the best value out there, plain and simple. When comparing to other, higher-end devices I was surprised at how well the Moto G held its own even next to Google’s favorite son, the Snapdragon 800 powered Nexus 5. I was mightily impressed with the Moto G when I reviewed it and chances are you will be as well.
- 4.5-inch 1280 x 720
- Snapdragon 400 Quad-Core CPU at 1.2GHz
- 1GB of RAM
- 8GB/16GB of Internal Storage
- 5MP rear-facing camera and 1.2MP front-facing camera
- FM Radio built-in, guaranteed update to Android 4.4
- Google Drive – 50GB of FREE Storage
- Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
- 2,070 mAh with 14-hour estimate from Motorola
07. Sony Xperia Z1 S
The Xperia Z1 S is a good smartphone, a great one in fact. However, it’s been a victim of a bizarre campaign from Sony, as well as being shcakled to one carrier here in the US. Sure, that carrier is the reasonably priced T-Mobile, but one carrier simply isn’t good enough these days. As we discovered when we reviewed the device, its hardware isn’t too great, either. With the screen still leaving a lot to be desired and not much apart from internals having changed from the Xperia Z. Sony have decided to usurp the Xperia Z1 with the Z2, a much better device overall with an IPS display, a Snapdragon 801 and 3GB of RAM. Why Sony chose to release something so soon after is unknown to us, but it doesn’t help potential buyers thinking of picking this guy up.
- 5-inch 1080p Triluminos Display
- Water/dust/scratch/shatter resistant rated IP55/IP58
- One-piece aluminum frame
- 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor
- Adreno 330 graphics processor
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB internal storage with microSD card slot
- 3,000mAh battery with Sony’s STAMINA mode
- 20.7 megapixel 1/2.3-inch Exmor RSCMOS image sensor
- Sony G-Lens at 27mm with F2.0 aperture
06. Moto X
On paper, the Moto X still leaves people scratching their heads, but when they think about it a little bit harder the Moto X makes a lot of sense. It’s a device that doesn’t need to show off its specs, rather its experience is what Motorola has been selling and it’s one hell of an experience. The ability to check notifications on your display without having to go into everything, the voice commands and more. It’s all well worth it and the fact that you choose to design whatever Moto X you want is just one more thing in a long list of positives and reasons why you shouldn’t dismiss the Moto X.
- 4.7â€³ AMOLED Display at 720p
- Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System
- 2GB of RAM
- 10 Megapixel Rear-Facing Camera with “Clearpixel” technology; 2 Megapixel front-facing camera
- 16 and 32GB Storage options with 50 GB free with Google Drive
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE + EDR
- WiFi 802.11a/g/b/n/ac (dual band capable), mobile hotspot
- 4G LTE
- Android 4.2.2
- 2,200 mAh battery
You can buy the Moto X from Amazon.
05. Samsung Galaxy S4
Even though the Galaxy S5 might look much the same, the Galaxy S4 has been surpassed quite a bit. Which makes last year’s Galaxy S device a bit of a sitting duck, it’s going to be relevant for some time certainly, but when the Galaxy S5 hits the scene and the Galaxy S4 starts to look even more aged, its position in this list will start to slip. A decent effort from Samsung, one of the best Android phones out there is still a decent purchase today, Samsung continue to keep their phones supported for years after their launch, but don’t go thinking this is as close to the Galaxy S5 as the Galaxy S III was to this, because the S5 is one serious upgrade, despite what the naysayers have been saying.
- 5-inch 1080p displayHD Super AMOLED Display 440PPI
- 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600/Exynos 5 Octa for the International Version
- 2GB of RAM
- 16GB/32GB/64GB internal storage; Expandable via MicroSD card up to 64GB
- 13MP camera on the back, 2MP on the front
- Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
- IR LED (remote control like in the HTC One)
- MHL 2.0
- 2600mAh battery
- Android 4.4.2
The Galaxy S4 is available from Amazon, too.
04. HTC One
The “old” HTC One is still a decent device by today’s standards and while it took HTC a while to get Android 4.4.2 KitKat to the device, it is available there and the BoomSound, UltraPixel features are still fairly unique today, as is the design. The all new One is likely to be more an improvement than a complete redesign, which makes the HTC One a compelling purchase right now. If you don’t need the latest and greatest smartphone right now, then the HTC One is a decent choice to go with, just bare in mind that HTC have had issues with updates in the past, so support for this might not be the best out there. We reviewed the HTC One this time last year and we still love it.
- 4.7-inch 1080p display giving it a 468ppi
- 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor
- 2GB of RAM
- 32/64GB internal storage; No microSD card slot
- Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, GPS and GLONASS
- 2,300mAh battery
- Android 4.4.2
- Sense 5.0
- IR Reciever allowing you to use the HTC One as a TV remote
The HTC One is available from Amazon.
03. LG G2
LG’s G2 is still a great device in 2014, and while the G Pro 2 is slowly but surely heading to shelves, the G2 still holds up nicely. The display is great, the rear-mounted buttons are an intersting touch and KitKat has finally come to the G2, making it one of the better devices to buy if you’re not interested in the latest and greatest that’s available. It’s got a great camera, as we found out and it’s available on all the major carriers, a big plus for LG.
- 5.2-inch Full HD IPS Panel
- Quad-Core Snapdragon 800 at 2.26 Ghz
- 2GB of RAM
- 16 or 32GB of Storage
- A 13MP rear-facing camera with full OIS and a 2.1MP front-facing camera
- Android 4.4.2
- Support for 24 bit “HiFi Quality” Playback
- 3,000 mAh battery
You can buy the LG G2 on Amazon.
02. Google Nexus 5
Much like the Moto X, the Nexus 5 leaves people wondering just what all the fuss is about. Which is a simple question to answer; it’s longevity and value for money make it so compelling. It’s a Google device, and as such will see the latest version of Android far beyond most smartphones in this list and it costs much less to buy, unlocked at that. Which is great as it features a good screen, a scorching Snapdragon 800, 2GB of RAM and an okay camera. Some of its individual features aren’t amazing, like the poor speaker and mediocre camera, but putting all the good things and the bad together and you come out with a very strong device that anyone would be happy with.
- 4.95-inch True HD Plus 1920 x 1080 IPS Display (445 ppi)
- Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 for Protection
- Qualcomm Snadragon 800 at 2.3 Ghz (MSM8974)
- 2GB of RAM
- A choice of 16 or 32GB of Storage with no expandability
- 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera with 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with OIS
- WiFi a/b/g/ac (both 2.4 Ghz and 5.0 Ghz), Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
- Ceramic Power and Volume Buttons
The Nexus 5 is available from the Google Play Store.
01. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Larger phones have become the norm these days and one of the few devices to make that larger size make sense is the Galaxy Note 3. The S Pen here has been greatly improved upon and it’s a great display to do anything with, let alone taking notes or playing Fruit Ninja better than your iPhone “friends”. Samsung’s Snapdragon 800 powered Note 3 will keep chugging on throughout 2014 and beyond as Samsung leave no man behind when it comes to updates. Available on every major carrier, the Galaxy Note 3 is one of the best devices Samsung has ever shipped.
- 5.7-inch display, Full HD Super AMOLED (1920—1080)
- Processor: Snapdragon 800 quad-core clocked at 2.3GHz, or Exynos 5 Octa octa-core processor clocked at 1.9GHz
- 3GB of RAM
- 32GB or 64GB of internal storage
- 13MP rear-facing Camera with 2MP front-facing
- 3,200mAh battery
- Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 is available from Amazon.