Best Android phones for 2013
Posted on 20 Mar 2013 at 11:00
Looking for an Android smartphone? We've picked our six favourite devices
The Android smartphone market is huge and varied. Dozens of manufacturers have released devices ranging from budget smartphones that you can pick up for free with a mobile contract, to premium "phablet" devices with 5in screens.
Here we've picked a selection of our favourite Android handsets of varying sizes and abilities.
HTC has never made a more important phone than the HTC One, and it shows: the One’s aluminium construction looks stunning and its build quality is as strong as any other phone on the market. It has a 4.7in 1080p screen, and it’s a class-leading panel, with fantastic brightness and colour accuracy.
Its benchmark scores are the fastest we’ve ever recorded, and that means smooth operation throughout: the OS is silky, and graphically intensive games didn’t struggle. We like the new version of Sense, too: BlinkFeed is a slick way to browse news stories, there’s an app to control your TV, and the rest of the software is sensible and unobtrusive.
The camera captures sharp detail and bright colours, it’s got a good low-light mode. The speakers are surprisingly punchy, and the One even has decent battery life. It’s a phone with very few weaknesses, and that’s why it’s our A-List champion.
Samsung Galaxy S III
The Galaxy S III sat atop our A-List for almost a year. It's been deposed by the HTC One, but there's still plenty to like thanks to its stunning 720 x 1,280 screen, superb 8-megapixel camera and host of software extras.
A recent upgrade to Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) has made the S III even more alluring, now including a new Multi-Window mode that allows two apps to run simultaneously in a split-screen view.
The build quality is something we're hoping Samsung can improve on with the S4: the lightweight plastic casing lacks the premium feel of rival top-end smartphones. Nevertheless, it's still one of the best general purpose Android smartphones on the market.
The Google Nexus 4 has been in short supply ever since it was launched in the middle of November. If you can lay your hands on one, though, you won't be disappointed by this affordable handset, which is available for free on £26 per month contracts and costs only £239 SIM-free.
Running the latest Android 4.2 operating system, which includes quirky features such as 360-degree panoramic camera mode, the Nexus 4 is no low-budget pot boiler. It's sturdily built, yet only a sliver thicker than the Galaxy S III, although there's no microSD slot to expand on the 8GB or 16GB of internal storage.
The combination of of Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, Adreno 320 graphics core and 2GB of RAM mean you won't suffer from any slowdown in demanding games, either.
Samsung Galaxy Note II
We abhor the word "phablet" - the shorthand vernacular for a hybrid of phone and tablet - but that's exactly what Samsung's 5.5in device is.
This supersized Galaxy S III comes with its own capacitive stylus for jotting notes and taking advantage of other specialist apps. The phone even beeps if you walk away without your stylus.
On the inside it has all the power this Goliath-sized device needs: a quad-core Exynos processor with 2GB of RAM, which deliver a magnificently smooth experience. It isn't cheap, but it is brilliant.
The Nexus 4 should be the A-List smartphone.
I looked hard at getting a proper smartphone and concluded that the Nexus 4 was the one for me.
£279 on the Google play store for the 16gb version with a £12 pm Gigffgaff sim works out far cheaper than contract. I disagree that most people get phones on contract with this phone around. It'll change the game.
The greedy retailers have already whacked a £100 surcharge on top compared to the Google Play Store.
Only a fool would get tired down to a 24 month contract now.
24 months x £26 a month = £624
Buy the phone outright sim free from Google play:
+ £12 month Giffgaff sim over 2 years = £567
The maths speaks for itself.
Root it and unlock it. Flash a custom ROM and it's better than new.
Time is up for the greedy fat cat retailers and mobile telecom providers with this phone and a cheap pay-as-you-go sim.
On the O2 site which is who I was with, the phone is £399 on pay & go.
On contract it's £21.50 pm + £104.99 to buy the phone and the deal still isn't as good, as I get unlimited data from Giffgaff and O2 don't do that so I've based it on the number of minutes.
£104.99 + (£21.50 pm * 24 months) = £620.99.
I pity the fool who gets a contract now.
Best phone ever and it's made my life so much better for it.
By finn1974 on 15 Feb 2013
The RAZR i is certainly one of my favourites. Compare it to the phone below (the P1) - both have similar screen size, but the RAZRi is in a much smaller case due to the thinner bezel around the edge of the screen. Very rugged too. The only (current) bummer is the lack of iPlayer because the BBC only supports ARM processors. Except in the BBC News app where the video works perfectly, so they obviously have the technology to do it.
But that's a BBC problem, not a Motorola one.
By PaulOckenden on 15 Feb 2013
I also agree with finn1974
I've dumped my contract now due to the price of the Nexus 4 and gone for that.
That along with a 3 SIM that you can get for £6.90 it's an absolute bargain.
The phone is brilliant - well built with a good battery life (compared to the GS2 I had before). I also like the fact that it's an untarnished build of Android too, getting updates quickly without having to wait for the manufacturer to put their own front-end on it.
By artiss on 15 Feb 2013
Nexus 4 costs
Agree with finn1974, but I got a 1-month rolling contract with another mobile company for £7 a month. I don't get a huge amount of minutes or texts, but do a reasonable data amount, and 2 years at £140, plus around £290 for the 16GB Nexus (there's a P&P cost) makes it a easy decision.
By Donkey on 15 Feb 2013
All the same
I find myself disappointed that none of the manufacturers have come up with an innovative design. In the past we have had the Razor Maxx, and the Desire Z, but now we only have the Note's stylus. Maybe we are homing in on the perfect design, but it doesn't feel like it.
On a more positive note the HTC Mini is a great idea.
By tirons1 on 15 Feb 2013
What a phone !! Nexus 4.
I realised that my first post was a bit of a moan at the greedy mobile phone system. This one will be about the phone.
Any of the phones in this article are more than suitable as everyday smartphones. And what phones they are.
I choose the Nexus 4 because it ticks all the boxes of a smartphone that I need and the bonus was the price.
I've unlocked the bootloader, rooted it and installed a custom rom (& kernel) from CyanongenMod, version 10.1.
The battery lasts longer, the screen is clear even in bright light, the camera is good, not the best but a good try. It hasn't lagged or slowed down when I've several apps open or on a call. It's not to bulky. I did have to buy a rubber cover for it.
16gb is enough for me. I can't see why someone would want more. Oh, to store their thousands of songs on they don't listen too !!
It's from Google so you get the updates first like Andriod 4.2.2 which is just out.
Down side, well it likes to track and trace everything you do by default unless you untick and stop syncing. You have to register it with Google and they love to keep your info. A bit big brother-ish and a bit scary as the whole point of pay as you go was to get away from being tired down.
Phone wise the camera isn't great and most pics I take aren't in focus as the slightest move and it wobbles. There is one major fault and it's the shell. Made of glass and it breaks very easily according to other owners. So I did buy a case for it.
Overall it's the best phone I've every had and it's a real threat to other manufactures.
By finn1974 on 17 Feb 2013
I have to agree that the nexus 4 is the best value handset by a mile at the moment. But despite being a powerful piece of kit, it's just another horrible plastic android phone on the outside. Construction wise, I long for my old HTC Desire, or my HTC touch pro. They felt so much better to hold. That's why the HTC one looks so good to me, it's built like an iphone.
By profet79 on 21 Feb 2013
I tend to shun contracts in any case - not only is a Nexus 4 *cheaper* not on contract, but even if the price were the same, you get the extra flexibility - if a better deal becomes available, you can switch. If you move house or job and want to change network to get better reception, you can.
But surely it would be madness to start a 24 month contract now, of all times - at least on a non-LTE (4G) phone? I want to buy something - paying upfront - and the Nexus 4 would be great - but I'm not willing to shell out several hundred for a phone which can't do LTE. (Contract or not, I'd expect to keep a phone for 2-3 years, maybe longer; although LTE is currently niche, in 24 months time it won't be).
By JimmyN on 21 Feb 2013
Another vote for the economics of the Nexus 4 - that's certainly what made me jump from the iphone world at the end of my last contract, however, just do be aware that its fragility is a huge flaw. I dropped my old iphone 100s of times it cracked once and cost about 15 quid to fix. My nexus 4 slid off it's charging mat when I got a txt, and dropped 2 foot. Smashed first time. 80 quid repair. Needs a bumper! Outstanding that aside.
By Captivator on 21 Feb 2013
All these phones are huge! Which is fine if you can't afford a phone AND a tablet. But what about Tablet users who want a compact - but not crippled - smartphone? The Galaxy S3 Mini is a good idea, but it has too many compromises and cutbacks, and no competition at all.
By Wilbert3 on 25 Feb 2013
Nexus not plastic!
The Nexus is Gorilla glass back & front, not plastic. I got mine a very cheap bumper-style case from Ebay.
It's the first time I've paid for a top-end phone and I'm delighted with it. It has the work SIM card in, and I finally put wifi in at home so I can use it for surfing etc. all over the house.
There is an uneven-ness about the various apps - for example some have the 'menu' icon at the top of the screen and some at the bottom - there can be a bewildering set of apps for a particular task - and I've found a bug in the contacts but in general I find it does everything I want very well.
By cats_five on 27 Feb 2013
Nexus 4 Hugely Disappointed, Sent it Back after 4 Days
OK this was my first Android device and I found the whole experience hugely unsatisfactory.
Firstly the battery life was very poor, then I wanted to install my Memory Map OS Maps, and I couldn't get it to work at all.
Then there was the question of the apps quality for instance a WiFi discovery app that rated 5 stars kept dropping my own network, then there was the question of privacy with many apps requiring my consent to use my location etc EVEN when I wasn't using the app, perhaps that helps explain the poor battery life.
Honestly it was like being immersed in a Windows 98 experience again, also there was no intelligent power management like an option to disable the entire OS and just allow phone calls and sms when the battery goes below a certain level, so it just stops working and I have no comms at all.
Most of all though it was the terms and conditions requiring me to sign away my privacy to completely unknown people in unknown countries. I also particularly looked forward to having a sky map(stars and planets)but using the Google app, it was quite unusable juddering and shaking in a wholly undamped manner.
Taking everything into consideration I have to say it has been my worst IT experience ever.
Which just goes to show one man's meat is another man's poison.
It also seems that the only support I can get is by ringing Google, funny I thought they were an IT based business, perhaps like me they also don't trust Gmail.
PS another thing that got me was there was a pre-installed app that gave me news headlines which was great, but the pages didn't zoom at all.
A very unpleasant and inconsistent experience.
Would I have better security with Apple or are they also hard wired into the CIA and hoovering up my data(Google Earth started as a CIA project)
By stokegabriel on 26 Mar 2013
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