Best Android phones for 2014
Posted on 1 Jan 2014 at 14:00
Looking for an Android smartphone? We've picked our seven 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.
Motorola Moto G
Motorola's latest smartphone is a low-cost marvel. You can pick one up from a very reasonable £120 SIM free, or free handset monthly contracts from around £15 per month, yet it has the specifications and performance of a phone costing much more.
The 4.5in 720 x 1,280 display is excellent and it has a Gorilla Glass front to prevent scratches. Battery life 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
Google's Nexus 5 is the company's best smartphone to date. It's equipped with a big, Full HD 4.95in display, and the design now mimics that of the recent Nexus 7 tablet, with a grippy matte-black soft-touch plastic finish. It's a pleasant device to hold in the hand and use, and despite the screen size, not too heavy.
Core hardware is superb: it's 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, and all the wireless connectivity you could possibly wish for. The only weaknesses are a slightly sluggish 8mp camera and battery life that's a touch 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 start 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
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, although it has a larger screen than its predecessor (the Galaxy Note 2), the chassis is more compact.
Incredibly, Samsung has still found room for a pressure sensitive stylus, which stows away in a slot 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 impressive list of capabilities.
That's great, 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% of its battery capacity after our usual 24-hour rundown test. Most modern smartphones 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 handset.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review
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 still very good, despite being nearly a year old, 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.
Read our full HTC One review
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
2014 recommendations, 2013 comments
Why has PC Pro produced a buying guide dated 1 Jan 2014, but included comments from 9 months ago? I would have thought that current comments would have greater value, having had the benefit of more user experience time
For example, I would myself have agreed with most of the enthusiasm for the Nexus 4 9 months ago, but I am now irritated that it runs out of juice a lot faster than the two Samsung 3 Minis we bought around the same time for my wife (clunky Blackberry) and daughter (flaky iPhone). The G3 minis were a neat low cost and very good option at the time, though undoubtedly bettered now by the Motorola G.
By WilliamW on 2 Jan 2014
The Moto G can actually be found cheaper than £15 if you look around, albeit just a few quid (around £11.x/m for the 8GB and £12.50 for the 16GB model).
By tech3475 on 2 Jan 2014
Moto G Best Cost Effective Phone Ever
I read whole article and found that Moto G is the best budgeted phone ever. IT has Gorilla glass and superb battery life. this phone over takes Nokia's budgeted phone.
There is reason why you should go with Moto G
Cons of the Motorola Moto G:
1) Lack of MicroSD Card slot and limited storage options
2) The handset does not support 4G LTE, and so your mobile data transfer will be limited to 2G/3G only.
3) Though Moto G is a 4.5 inch phone it’s still 10% heavier than that of the Moto X (4.7 inch), and the Nexus 5 (4.95 inch), It is also thicker too, almost 35% more than the Nexus 4.
4) Moto G sports a 5MP rear But not in low light and a 1.3MP front facing camera.
5) After sales services
Pros of the Motorola Moto G:
1) Perfect screen size with HD resolution, as it has a 4.5 inch display with 720p resolution, and it even has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for sharp view.
2) Fast processor and plenty of RAM,it has a Snapdragon 400 Quad-core clocked at 1.2 GHz, Adreno 305 (GPU) along with 1GB of RAM.
3) The Moto X got the Android 4.4 Kitkat update before the Nexus 4!
4) More colourful, it’s available in different colours same as iPhone 5c.
5) Jaw-dropping value.
6) better battery life.
By christy85 on 4 Mar 2014
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