The Fall is upon us and with it has come a nice batch of fresh Android smartphones, with Sony, Samsung and Motorola leading the way. Throughout most of 2014, we’ve seen the major Android names refine existing designs and iterate on top of their previous models. This hasn’t been the most exciting year for smartphones and if anything it just goes to make your choice that little bit more difficult, but how those companies have refined their best and which tweaks and changes made the cut has determined which devices are the best of the best right now.
10. Moto G (2014)
Last year’s Moto G was practically the only budget-minded handset to recommend to the discerning smartphone user, and this year’s doesn’t seem to break that mold. The Moto G (2014) is a device that’s packed full of specs, which are pretty much the same as last year’s, as well as stereo speakers and a larger, 5-inch display. Sure, on the inside, the Moto G is the same as it was last year, but it now offers a larger display, better sound quality and it’s still available at the same sort of price, which is commendable, considering the Moto G is easily the best value for money available on the market today. We recently reviewed the 2014 model and we were just as impressed as we were last year.
09. Sony Xperia Z2
The Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact might be inching their way to shelves as we speak, but that doesn’t mean that the Xperia Z2 is no longer relevant, far from it. In fact, if you were looking for a comparable experience without spending quite as much money, the Xperia Z2 is a pretty safe bet. I, personally, just bought one myself and I am very happy with it as my daily driver. Of course, it’s not perfect, it might feature the same Snapdragon 801, 5.2-inch display and 3GB of RAM that the Xperia Z3 featurs, but it is a little on the large side with bulky bezels. It’s also a lot more angular, and digital in its design. If you don’t mind that, then there’s little reason to go for the Z3 over this. If money’s not a problem though, then Sony’s Xperia Z2 isn’t your best bet. An unsung hero from the first half of 2014, the Xperia Z2 is a great deal right now, especially for a traditionally expensive device.
08. Google Nexus 5
Soon to be replaced by a giant goliath dubbed Shamu (or at least, that’s what we’re hearing) the Nexus 5 has held its own this year, and for the money it’s still an excellent device. With a Snapdragon 800 and a 5-inch 1080p display, the KitKat-powered Nexus 5 is your best bet to get your hands on the latest version of Android as it hits, and while the hardware is certainly uninspiring, it’s refreshingly simple. The soft touch is nice and means that the Nexus 5 doesn’t slip out of your hands and if you’re not a big fan of massive devices, but still wouldn’t mind a large display, then this is also a nice touch, but if you won’t a new Nexus, it might be worth waiting just a little longer.
07. OnePlus One
For OnePlus and their first smartphone, it’s been a rough time, with an invite system nobody cares for, issues with the display, touchscreen issues and now the cancellation of the styleswap covers. Still, all of that needn’t sour a great device, which the OnePlus One undeniably is. If you’re in the market for something genuinely different, that also has a 5.5-inch display, a Snapdragon 801 and some nice, minimal design cues then the OnePlus One is a great choice. It’s also fairly cheap, too. That is of course, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on an invite, which actually isn’t all that difficult these days.
06. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
So, you’re happy with the size of your current phone that you’ve had for say a year and a half or more, but you want to upgrade. You want faster processors and you want a better camera and so on and so forth. Yet you want all of this in a smaller device, something that you can actually use in one hand without having to shuffle it around and fear dropping it. Then you want the Xperia Z3 Compact, with the same 20.7-megapixel camera as its bigger brother, the same Snapdragon 801 and 3GB of RAM with the same water resistance. The only real change here is that the Xperia Z3 Compact doesn’t feature a 1080p display and instead opts for a 4.6-inch 720p panel. Of course, if that doesn’t both you then this is the best small Android smartphone available.
05. HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5
We’ve been saying this for a long time now, and these two are basically two sides of the same coin. 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 speakers and a much better build. Under the hood though, we’re looking at two devices with 5-inch 1080p displays (each with their pros and cons), the same Snapdragon 801 and 2GB of RAM. Whichever you choose though, you’re going to have a good experience.
04. Sony Xperia Z3
As is common with Sony, Sepetember’s IFA conference gave us yet another flagship for the second half of 2014, and the Sony Xperia Z3 is a nice evolution of what was introduced with the Xperia Z2. If you like what Sony did with the software on the Z2, but didn’t enjoy the harsh, angular design of the Xperia Z2 then you’ll enjoy the softer, curved sides to the Z3 and the reduced bezels and overall form factor. With a Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.5 Ghz, 3GB of RAM and a stunning IPS 5.2-inch display, this is a well-built, powerful device that you can even use to play PS4 games with a DualShock 4 controller.
03. Motorola Moto X (2014)
Last year the Moto X 2013 was an excellent device for those that didn’t really care about having the best of the best, however it did fall short on a few things. The display was a little uninspiring, and it didn’t quite have the same impact as the other flagships from 2013. This time around though, the Motorola Moto X 2014 no longer asks you to compromise. At 5.2-inches it’s grown a little, but it’s easy to grip in the hand thanks to a curved back and the Snapdragon 801, 2GB of RAM and more under the hood make this a real performer, too. With the same simplistic software we all loved only getting better, the Moto X 2014 model has the experience you wanted, with the specs you wish you had. Oh, and Moto Maker has not only made a return, but it’s better, too. With the leather options giving your phone grip, as well as unique pattern. Overall, there’s little to complain about here.
02. LG G3
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.
01. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
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. If you want a single device to do everything all day long, then the Galaxy Note 4 is that device, and thanks to the aluminium frame used here, it’ll last a lot longer this time around as well.