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Best smartphones for 2014

Posted on 26 Dec 2013 at 12:20

Choose the best smartphone for 2014 with our reviews of nine top models

With high-quality smartphones from Samsung, Apple and Google, and other big names including Nokia, HTC and Motorola also in the running, choosing the right handset isn't easy.

We’ve rounded up the best smartphones to help you choose which one to buy. Whether you’re after a top-of-the-range handset or a mid-range option, we’ve got you covered.

Read our feature: Mobile data: how much do you need?

Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia Lumia 1520

There are big phones, and there are BIG phones and the Nokia Lumia 1520 most certainly falls into the latter category. With its 6in Full HD screen it's even larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and heavier, too. If you can cope with the size and weight, though, it's an excellent smartphone.

As with the rest of the Lumia range, it's beautifully made - slender, with a silky matte finish to its brightly-coloured plastic body. It's the most powerful Windows Phone 8 handset we've come across, featuring a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC and 2GB of RAM. It has a great camera - a 20-megapixel PureView unit - and good battery life too. All-round, it's a superb piece of kit.

Read our full Nokia Lumia 1520 review

Motorola Moto G

Motorola Moto G

It's all about the price tag with Motorola's latest Android smartphone. You can pick one up from a very reasonable £120 SIM free, yet it has the specifications and performance of a phone costing much more. The 4.5in 720 x 1,280 display is top notch, and it's topped with a Gorilla Glass front to prevent scratches.

Battery life is superb, and the whole thing is treated with a special coating that makes it water resistant. In short, the Motorola Moto G is a top notch budget smartphone, and it takes over from the Nokia Lumia 520 as our favourite budget model.

Read our full Motorola Moto G review

Nexus 5

Nexus 5

Google's Nexus 4 has been a huge success since it launched a year ago, but we think the Nexus 5 is going to be even bigger. It's equipped with a larger, Full HD 4.95in display, and the design now mimics that of the Nexus 7 tablet, with a grippy matte-black soft-touch plastic finish. We prefer it.

It's also equipped with a super-fast, 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU – the same as in the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – and performance is lightning quick. In addition, there's the latest version of Android – KitKat – on board, all the wireless connectivity you could possibly wish for, and the only weaknesses are a slightly sluggish 8mp camera and battery life that's a little below average.

The most enticing thing about the Nexus 5, though, is the price, which is a mere £300 SIM free, with free phone contracts starting at around £22 per month. It's not hard to see why Nexus 5 replaces the HTC One as our A-List smartphone.

Read our full Nexus 5 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

With a huge 5.7in AMOLED display, you might think the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 would be too unwieldy to be practical, but that's far from the case. In fact, Samsung has managed to trim the fat to such a degree that, even though it has a larger screen than its predecessor (the Note 2), the chassis is thinner and narrower.

Incredibly, though, Samsung has still found room for a pressure sensitive stylus, which stows in the phone's bottom right-hand corner. This adds accurate photo editing, note-taking sketch scribbling and handwriting recognition to the Note 3's already broad spectrum of capabilities.

That's all very impressive, but it's nothing next to the Note 3's superb all-round performance and battery life. This is the fastest Android smartphone we've reviewed to date, and it retained 70% on the battery gauge after our usual 24-hour rundown test. Most modern smartphones can only manage 60% or 50%.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 isn't the cheapeast smartphone around, but we absolutely love it. It's an outstanding device.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020

It's all about the camera with Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone 8 handset, the Nokia Lumia 1020. Boasting a 41-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilisation, full manual control and a Xenon flash, it blows every other smartphone’s camera away with its image quality.

It couples that stunning image quality with equally attractive design. The 1020 boasts a solid, high quality plastic body with a silky matte finish and a 4.5in Gorilla Glass 3 screen that’s gently curved at the edges. And as a smartphone it works well, too. Windows Phone 8 feels as slick as ever, and although the Windows Phone app store can’t match its Apple and Android rivals in terms of the variety of apps on offer, the array of software that comes bundled with the 1020 is second to none.

The Nexus 5, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 all remain more accomplished all-rounders than the Nokia Lumia 1020, but if you’re after the best quality photos and video, this is the phone you want.

Read our full Nokia Lumia 1020 review

Apple iPhone 5s

Apple iPhone 5s

Apple didn’t change much physically when it updated the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 5s, but boy did it do a good job upgrading the internals. The new iPhone is super fast, outstripping even the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 with its new 64-bit Apple A7 processor.

The fingerprint reader under the home button works rather well, and the camera has also seen an upgrade, delivering better low light performance and digital image stabilisation than before, plus a nifty slow motion video mode, which shoots 720p clips at 120fps, and a dual-tone flash that produces more natural-looking indoor snaps.

The iPhone 5s’ 4in screen remain unchanged from the last version – it’s still a super bright, top quality display – but it does look a little old-fashioned next to larger devices. Nevertheless, this is still a superb, if rather pricey, all-rounder.

Read our full Apple iPhone 5s review

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User comments

BB10

Have you had a chance to look at BB10 dev handsets or had a sneak peek at the finished article? With the launch at the end of January it would be interesting to know how it holds up against these.

By JamesD29 on 30 Dec 2012

Appreciate the round up.

My iPhone4 contract is now up but really undecided about what to go for now so will wait a bit.

The iPhone5 doesn't really excite me tbh, its greatest quality would be ease of transition from old to new phone.

I was keen on Samsung Galaxy Note II, but tried one in Tesco and it seemed a little slow and the Stylus Pen slightly unresponsive. But then a Tesco display counter probably isn't the best place to test drive it.

Pondering waiting to see what Samsung Galaxy S 4 might offer but that means waiting till maybe second half of 2013!

Will wait a few months anyway.

By stormN on 30 Dec 2012

@stormN

If the iPhone 4 is still working, why upgrade?

By big_D on 31 Dec 2012

@stormN

I have a Lumia 920 (which I love) but the missus has a Note 2, and I am, at times, a little jealous! Don't worry about the Tesco lag, all their Android display models do that. Her's is buttery smooth and never slows down, it's really quite impressive. If you like it, then go for it, because it is a great phone.

By rushandy on 7 Feb 2013

iPhone 5

and the next to come iPhone 5S is the winner im sure.
you can read more about it on my blog at www.imacintech.com

By iMaciNTech on 22 Mar 2013

Samrtphones

I actually did quite a bit of research on these cell phone trade in programs, and www.smartphonecashin.com is definitely the highest paying site. They are also very straightforward and easy to use.

By rony4377 on 8 May 2013

top of the list

found site wrote Galaxy note 2 in on top-of the market and some are telling otherwise. Hope the ranking in not inspired by OS-hyped writers

By hailMe on 10 May 2013

Mobile Development India

I have got the good information about best smartphone for 2013 from this post that provide me great information about each smartphone features which might be very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing this information.

By ChrishTucker on 22 May 2013

Where is the Xperia Z?

??

By bet1001 on 24 May 2013

Where is the Xperia Z?

??

By bet1001 on 24 May 2013

what a joke!

This was written just days ago yet you have not listed the LG G2?! Its probably THE best android device right now PERIOD.. you have a freaking galaxy zoom that no one buys yet you do not mention the G2? What a friggin pathetic article.

By lordinfamous666 on 19 Nov 2013

Wake up PC Pro - something wrong here!

Why are there postings from long before when this "feature" was published on your site (eg December 2012?
I put a comment on here earlier today pointing this out and it has been deleted. What is going on?

By WilliamW on 2 Jan 2014

Omission of G2

I also think the G2 is an outstanding smartphone and is an extraordinary omission from this article. In fact, with the G2 and Nexus 5, I think LG have produced the two best smartphones this year.

By Mark_Lawrence on 4 Jan 2014

Nexus 5 Camera

The 4.4.1 / 4.4.2 updates improved the Nexus 5 camera enormously. While previously the camera produced bland and unremarkable images, shots are now very sharp and colours are impressively accurate. The camera app is now fast and responsive and the HDR+ mode is superb. It's a shame that the camera was so unimpressive on launch that most people do not know that things have changed.

By Mark_Lawrence on 4 Jan 2014

Unbelievable. Look to Japanese waterproof phones.

There are some amazing phones in Japan compared to that old bunch of drowners.
Just check out the specs of phones like the ARROWS NX F-01F or the Xperia TM Z1 f SO-02F or the AQUOS PHONE ZETA SH-01F.

By rogerthat1945 on 28 Feb 2014

Guide for buying smartphone from China

I have written a guide for buying smartphone from China. There are Chinese smartphones which have really good quality and performance. In my guide I am explaining how to pick the right. Check it out on: http://geekify.tk/buy-chinese-smartphone/

By geekify on 18 Mar 2014

Guide for buying smartphone from China

I have written a guide for buying smartphone from China. There are Chinese smartphones which have really good quality and performance. In my guide I am explaining how to pick the right. Check it out on: http://geekify.tk/buy-chinese-smartphone/

By geekify on 18 Mar 2014

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For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk

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