10 best mobile phones in the world today $599
19th Sep 2014 | 14:39
The best smartphones 2014: what phone is best for you?
Number 10: Samsung Galaxy Alpha
You want the best smartphone, right? We've whittled our constantly updated selection down to the 10 best handsets you can get your hands on right now - but after you've checked out number one, we've still got plenty of other options to feast your eyes on.
We've all got at least one mobile phone each, right? We've probably got about three or four nowadays, and that counts giving your old Nokia 3310 to your Mum a few years ago.
But while you used to be able to just bank on the new Nokia or always get the next Sony Ericsson because it had a half-decent camera, there are now so many great options out there from loads of manufacturers.
The trouble is, how do you decide which is the best one for you?
Well, this is where we make it easy: we've played with nearly every device on the market and have found the ten best you can spend your money on. It needs to be good, after all, given it will reside in your pocket for the next two years.
Our ranking of the best mobile phones available in the UK today celebrates the brilliance of the smartphone: we love handsets that add in functionality to enrich our lives in so many different ways.
We also take into account the price of the phone too - meaning a low-price handset doesn't always need to have high-spec functions to be in our top 10.
We're deep into 2014 now, and with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus here to challenge the heads of state in the smartphone world - namely the Sony Xperia Z2, the LG G3 and the HTC One M8 - we've got a real royal rumble at the top, looking at the best on the market and adding in such unknown gems as the OnePlus One.
If that still doesn't help, well, there's always our extensive mobile phone reviews pages as well - or check out our personally crafted smartphone buyer's guide:
Here are our rankings for the best mobile phones around, currently available in the UK.
10. Samsung Galaxy Alpha
Another Samsung phone enters the fray, and it's a slightly odd one: the Galaxy Alpha has a price tag that's even higher than the iPhone 6, and yet doesn't really out-spec it in many ways.
That said, it's still a premium phone. The second you hold it, you'll feel that the updated metal design really works, with clever effort made to improve the way it feels in your hand.
The 4.7-inch screen isn't as high-res as the rivals, but does the job well thanks to Super AMOLED technology making the contrast ratio and colours pop out.
And the battery is removable - bonus!
There's a lot to like about the way the Alpha looks, but there are some quibbles: why is there no microSD slot or larger capacity on offer to help out?
Why does it cost so much? Is the metal band (and, to be fair, blazingly fast internal speeds) really enough to warrant a purchase?
A really nice phone that needs a little more to be at the sharp end of this list: but if you want a premium-feeling Android phone with a strong camera, the Alpha is a great place to start.
Number 9: Nokia Lumia 930
9. Nokia Lumia 930
Hey Nokia, good to see you back in the top 10. Although we won't see you for much longer (thanks to the Microsoft buyout) it's great that the Lumia line is still pushing the power of Windows Phone.
The Lumia 930 does lack compared to the competition, but only in a couple of areas. Windows Phone is still a sub-par operating system for most people, thanks to the poorer apps and lower amount of control. But then again, for a lot of people the improved Office functionality and simple interface is a boon.
The Lumia 930 is a strong phone in both design and power, although a little last-gen on the latter element, and coupled with a very capable camera, is a phone that's easy to recommend to those looking for something different.
Windows Phone aside, there's a great deal on show here to make this a top-rated smartphone. The build quality is excellent and iconic, and the camera is powerful and results in mostly great snaps. We like that 32GB is on offer as the base model, and wireless charging built in is perfect.
The price is pretty good too, and if you're a fan of Windows Phone there is nothing better right now.
Number 8: Google Nexus 5
8. Google Nexus 5
So we've updated our review with the new phone software, and thankfully things are a lot better now. The battery is improved, the camera a little more stable, and the low cost is still in place.
You already know we like Android 4.4, the clever implementation and the £299 price tag. We love the high power CPU, the quality screen; even the rubberised outer shell.
You can get the LG G2 for around the same price now though, and that offers a far superior camera, better battery life and a huge slew of extra features - it really depends if you're a fan of the stripped-down experience.
We're glad to put this smartphone higher up in the rankings, as it's one of the cheapest out there in terms of bang for buck.
It's a great phone that hits the marks well - it lacks something in terms of innovation, but that's not a problem for those that want to be able to run all manner of apps and games at a decent price. It doesn't come in at the same price point as previous Nexii, but it's still jolly cheap.
Number 7: Samsung Galaxy S5
7. Samsung Galaxy S5
2014 is turning out to be a stellar year for the prospective smartphone user, as the HTC One (M8) was joined by the Samsung Galaxy S5 in our 'best smartphone' list, and with the Xperia Z2, LG G3 and more entering the fray things just keep getting better.
There was a lot of hype around the new Galaxy, and rightly so: it's by far the best phone Samsung has ever produced, with a blazing fast core, a strong result in the benchmarks and a larger 5.1-inch screen.
Then there's the fact that with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU the Galaxy S5 is one of the best phones on the market when it comes to battery life, besting the already impressive One M8 in the power stakes.
Samsung has also dropped the 'innovation' of the air gestures from last year (well, they are in there but not the main focus) and improved the hardware with a better camera, fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor too.
The last addition is pretty pointless... but hey, it's fun for down the pub.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a good phone, apart from the design. It's something that needs to be updated sorely, and while it doesn't have to be an all-metal shell, it needs to evolve.
The S5 has a clear UI, powerful innards and is also waterproof... it's by far not the best phone on the market any more, but it's still a mean device that's now getting a much tastier price off contract.
Number 6: OnePlus One
6. OnePlus One
You've probably never heard of OnePlus... but if you have, you'll know why this unknown brand is suddenly sitting at number four of our list of best smartphones in the world.
The reason is simple: it's a phone that has all the power, specs and functionality of the top dogs, adds in super-customisable software and does it at nearly half the price. We're talking big savings on cost (£229 for the 16GB version and £269 for the 64GB variant) without much in the way of compromise.
In fact, the only things it's really missing are a microSD slot and removable battery, and those are elements more for the purists that absolutely necessary.
If we're being super picky, it's not got the greatest camera set up and the design is a bit... efficient, but at this price point it really doesn't matter. And given the target audience is those that care about raw power over style, it makes sense that this is where the costs could be saved.
We love the fact that a new contender can maintain such a high place in the ranking of the best phones in the world - it means that it's not just a case of 'big budget means best phone'.
We were debating whether the OnePlus could even have gone higher, but there's one big problem that you'll have if you want to get your hands on one: they're impossible to find. Numbers won't ramp up for a while, and probably never to the level of availability of the better-known names.
But if you want a phone that offers supreme power at a really low cost: the OnePlus One is it. It's what the Nexus range used to be, and if Google ditches that program, then thankfully the likes of OnePlus have shown there will be brands to pick up the slack.
Number 5: iPhone 6 Plus
5. iPhone 6 Plus
Coming in at number five: it's the first Apple phablet.
The iPhone 6 Plus takes all the best bits of the iPhone 6 - design, beautiful UI, strong camera performance - and improves upon them by packing an even better camera, a Full HD screen and much larger battery.
The only problem is that it's a little harder to hold in one hand thanks to being a little too wide - but with the same internal power, great graphical performance and access to Apple's amazing media / app library, this tablet-phone hybrid is perfect for those that can't decide between the two formats.
While the ergonomics of this phone aren't brilliant, there's another reason it's below the LG G3 and others: the price. It's very, very expensive and you'll have to really be up for a phone of this calibre, and really want the extra space to merit a purchase.
Of course, if you're an Apple fan and want a bigger iPhone, then you should shut your laptop immediately and run down to buy one of these (providing you can afford it, of course). It's a great phone made larger, and improved along the way too.
Number 4: LG G3
4. LG G3
The LG G3 needed to be good, as it was based on the hard work of the G2, which was a strong, well-made phone that didn't cost a huge amount of money.
So what does LG do with the G3? Goes and sticks the world's sharpest display on there. It's a QHD screen, which means it's got four times the pixels of some phones on this list, and it also comes with a number of other enhancements too - although with those extra pixels packed in, the display is a tiny bit darker than others on the market.
Laser-based auto-focus? Check. Improved design? Check. Overhauled and simplified UI? Double check. It's going to be a little bit too big for some hands, as it's packing in a 5.5-inch screen, so we're verging on phablet territory.
But don't let that take away from a terrific phone, one that has a sleek, refined air about it and adds in fan favourite features like a removable battery and memory card slot, where both were missing on the predecessor.
The screen on the LG G3, when used properly to display high-resolution content, is immense… LG knew that, and has been rightly making a big deal about it.
The overall design of the phone is vastly improved too, with the faux-metal cover not necessarily feeling great but certainly looks the part when laid on a table.
The camera is powerful too, leading to some great snaps and won't let you down when you need to just capture the moment here and there.
In short, it's a necessary step on LG's quest to make the ultimate smartphone... if you want the best display out there with a good enough battery and strong camera, this is your next phone.
Number 3: iPhone 6
3. iPhone 6
The iPhone 6 - a real step forward for Apple and a phone that's a real joy to use, hold and feel.
It's got all the same ingredients that make iPhones special: while it doesn't excel in any given part of the smartphone recipe (except perhaps when it comes to the interface, which with iOS 8 is probably the best out there with it's clever mix of intuition and simplicity) it just works.
The camera is lower-res but fast and bright and easy to use. The screen is too low-res compared to the two above it, but pops and fizzes with colour and brightness.
And that design - we have to keep coming back to it as it feels beautiful in the hand.
Why is the iPhone not number one? Simple: price, combined with a lower-res screen. The phone that does everything well in a great package is brilliant, but not significantly more than anything out there, which means you can't justify the higher tag.
And if you are paying that much, we'd expect it to be a brilliant, top-spec phone, which it isn't when it comes to the display.
But don't let that put you off: if you're in the market for an iPhone, or just been tempted by one in the past: buy this one. It's excellent, a pure joy to use.
Number 2: Sony Xperia Z2
2. Sony Xperia Z2
Sony has something of a slump last year, following up the impressive Xperia Z with the lacklustre Xperia Z1 just a few months later.
The camera, which was supposed to be the headline feature, didn't impress as much as we'd hoped, and the screen was still lacking the IPS clout that the Xperia Z Ultra managed - meaning muted colours and poor viewing angles.
Anyway, enough about last year - Sony's back in 2014 and comes with an excellent phone in the shape of the Xperia Z2.
And the good news is it's impressive. Really impressive. The industrial design is a little chunky but oozes premium quality in a way that Samsung's plastic shell doesn't, and it's a little more robust than its Galactical rival thanks to being IP58 rated.
Great battery life, strong power and a good camera all are present and correct with most phones in this list, but Sony stays in the top three simply by being a great all-rounder.
It doesn't have the polish of the HTC One M8, nor the more functional UI, but it does what's asked with top-end specs. That's what we like. And with a cheeky price drop ahead of the Xperia Z3 launching, it's getting a quick moment in second place before the new model gets a chance to shine...
What did Sony need to do to impress? Not a lot, but that screen and camera needed a fix as well as adding in some other features.
Front facing speakers, a new screen with better colour reproduction, 4K video recording and inbuilt noise cancellation all make a great device that should be right on your possible upgrade list.
Make sure you check it out in-store before purchase, as some won't like the larger build, but for a good all-round experience the Xperia Z2 excels.
Number 1: HTC One M8
1. HTC One M8
What to say about the HTC One M8? They often say the second album is the hardest, but the follow up to the all-conquering HTC One takes the best of that phone and yet still re-invents things enough to make it a massive recommendation over the old model.
We love the speed of the camera, the Duo Camera is smart as a tack, the Boomsound upgrade is impressive and the design... well, you have to hold it.
The Snapdragon 801 processor has boosted battery dramatically compared to the 600 of last year, and that means that photos also process much more quickly as well - even the front-facing camera is much better.
Gaming, movies, photography, browsing all work really well, and in a phone that that's easily going to destroy whatever anyone else can design. LG ran it close with the G3, and unless Apple has got some dark sorcery up its sleeves when the iPhone 6 appears later in the year, HTC has got 2014 sewn up.
If we were to criticise the One M8, it would be the camera's lack of a megapixel upgrade, which means pictures are a little less sharp than they might otherwise be.
That said, it's a minor point in a phone that has barely any flaws. The lower megapixel camera means faster shutter speeds, and if you don't want to zoom in a lot, most will enjoy the depth perception and background de-focus ability to make some pro-looking snaps.
We urge you to hold this phone for a few seconds and try not to feel at least a small flicker of smartphone attraction. It's got great specs, a splendid design and some clever hardware innovation where the competition is relying on software to do the same thing.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z2 failed to take the top spot, and we honestly don't know if the iPhone 6 will be good enough to head straight to the top of the pile when it appears? It looks like you're going to be spoilt for choice in 2014.
You might also like...
If a phone isn't in the top 10 best phones in the world list, that doesn't mean it's not worth giving two hoots about.
Here's a few handsets you might want to think about should none of the above tickle your fancy... although you're clearly VERY hard to please:
Wait, an LG phone in the top rankings? Believe it people; LG has made a phone that not only impressed us but ran the HTC One very, very close for the top spot in 2013 - and holds a strong place into 2014 too.
We don't know where to start in terms of extolling the virtues of this new handset from the South Korean firm: it's got an insanely good screen, quality camera, the best audio pumping out from its speakers and headphone jack... the list goes on.
We even came to tolerate, then love, the power and volume buttons being placed on the rear. These aren't ideal, but the ability to knock on the screen makes it really easy to interact with this impressive device.
The LG G3 is here now, and is going to blow this out of the water in terms of price and power (it's even got a next-gen QHD screen) but given the lower cost the G2 is still an excellent choice.
There's so much on offer here that we can't help but recommend it to anyone looking for a cheaper smartphone powerhouse.
The only things that we dislike are the cluttered UI (pull down the notifications bar and you'll see why) and the plastic casing, which drops the premium feel of the phone a lot, especially compared to the handset that sits one place above.
But launching at £400 on PAYG (and even cheaper with a few third party retailers), along with comparable contracts older phones, is a really nice touch from LG, and we reckon it's going to pay dividends.
It's quite a tumble from the top spot for the HTC One, especially given it was our top smartphone for so long. However unless you're desperate to pay a little less per month, the newer One M8 does everything the original did, but so much better.
It's nothing to do with the quality of the One – which is still one of the outstanding phones on the market – but more the fact that if you like Boomsound, and Ultrapixel camera, a sharp and bright screen or a powerful processor, the M8 has improved in every way there.
But let's not forget what made this phone so great: the supreme aluminium chassis, the Full HD screen and the simplified version of Sense 5.0 sitting now on top of Android KitKat means it's still a pleasure to use and recommend this handset - but again, only if price is your main driver and you simply must have a One.
The innovations are also more than just marketing gimmicks; Zoe functionality allows the creation of delightful video highlight reels, and the Ultrapixel camera means you've got a much wider range of shots available thanks to being stunning in low light - and none of that is diminished with time.
With power, poise and beauty all combined in this innovative phone, HTC has proved it can more than still cut it with the big boys when it comes to bringing out a lust-worthy flagship smartphone - and the One deserves to stay in the top ten.
However, remember that this has one year fewer in terms of HTC promising to keep it upgraded, so if you pick it up now you might not get the newer versions of the software in 12 months time. The battery is also not as strong as on the One M8 - but it's still got a lot to offer.
Motorola's back, and it's kicking off its global smartphone revival with the keenly priced Moto G handset. A mid-range handset with a low-end price tag - we're talking around £100 in some stores.
On paper the Moto G looks like an excellent handset for the price, and in practice it lives up to the billing.
As the Nexus 4 did with the mid-range market, the Moto G has turned the budget end on its head with features found on handsets double its cost.
It exceeds its rivals in several key areas, from the well defined 4.5-inch display to its 1.2GHz quad-core processor and the early Android 4.4 KitKat update. There's a lot to love about the Moto G for its price.
And now the Moto G has been given a 4G variant, and it comes with a microSD slot now - all for the price of just £149. It might not have the power or precision of its smartphone compatriots, but it's still a good phone indeed.
Motorola must have cut some corners to get the price of the Moto G so low, and the camera is one area which has seen the compromise, but that's one of the only gripes.
So here's the upshot: Motorola is back folks, it's official. It may not be the return we would have predicted - there's no flagship phone stuffed full of the latest tech - but arguably what the now Google-owned firm has done is even better.
The Moto G is a top notch, low cost smartphone and we wholeheartedly recommend this as the best budget mobile currently on the market.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung managed to hold off HTC at the top in 2012, but in 2013 the supreme stylings of the HTC One proved too strong against a phone that's a slightly-better-version of its predecessor, especially when you consider the design.
There's a lot, a lot, to love with the Samsung Galaxy S4 though: whether it's a powerful camera, a brilliant screen, a long-lasting battery or just a fluid experience, there's a lot you could want in a smartphone right here.
The cost is a tad higher than on other smartphones, but still cheaper than iPhone level and is descending as the S5 appears. If only it was made out of something a little more premium...
LG, Sony and Google have come out with some attractive propositions and overtaken the best the South Koreans can manage, but that hasn't stopped this being one of the most popular phones of 2013 and the price is ever lower.
There's no doubt that, despite the design criticism, this is one of the best smartphones ever made - it's clear, powerful and does everything we'd expect a flagship phone from Samsung to do.
It's just a shame that the perceived 'innovation' doesn't really add anything: motion gestures, smart scroll and it's other non-contact bedfellows didn't take smartphones to the next level, which is what we needed in the face of Ultrapixels and BoomSound.
Make no mistake though: you'll love the Samsung Galaxy S4 if you choose to go for it, as it's a decent phone with some really cutting-edge features - but remember there's something better thanks to the Galaxy S5.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 breathes yet more life into a mobile form factor many thought would be dead on arrival, ramping up the specs and the size to give us a new monolith of mobile.
It may be big, but the 5.7-inch display is fantastic and the Full HD Super AMOLED technology makes everything pop from websites to movies.
You're able to fit a lot more on screen at a time and that means less scrolling in messages, on websites and down your long contact list and that can only be a good thing.
What really impressed us with the Galaxy Note 3 though was its battery life and sheer speed under the finger. We're used to a day at best when hardcore using the device, but we got far past that without breaking a sweat throughout our tests.
The speed of the Snapdragon 800 quad core processor, combined with 3GB of RAM, means this is the least-slouchy phone we've encountered in a while.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a great phone and if you were to own one you wouldn't be disappointed. It provides a great onscreen experience - as long as your hands are big enough to reach across it - and its stuffed so full of tech to almost warrant its lofty price tag - which refuses to tumble much.
Its size will be a real stumbling point for many and we'd recommend going into a store and just holding the Note 3 for a while to see if it's something you can cope with - in short, we want all this but in a form that we can hold easily, at a lower price and without the S Pen.
If that's you, then just go ahead and buy the Galaxy S5.
Nokia Lumia 520
The Nokia Lumia 520, much like its big brother the Nokia Lumia 620, is a jack of all trades and a master of none - although it really manages to make a good fist of everything it tries, for the low, low price tag it carries.
It looks good, it's got a decent screen both in terms of size and resolution, it rarely stutters or slows down, it's great for calls and messaging, reasonable for media and okay for photos.
To achieve a lower price point the 520 has had to strip away a few things - there's no NFC, compass, camera flash or front facing camera here.
But on the other hand it's also got a bigger screen, a larger battery, a sleeker, slimmer, lighter build and the same processor and RAM as the Nokia Lumia 620, so in many ways it's actually better.
Combine that with a lower price tag and we reckon that this just might be the best entry level Windows Phone 8 handset that you can buy and certainly the best value.
The Nokia Lumia 520 certainly isn't an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy beater - but it's a superb Windows Phone device that you can pick up for under £100. If you're a fan of a simple interface with some quality add-ons, then you should definitely look at Nokia's latest attempt to win over the smartphone naysayers.
Samsung Galaxy S3
With the Samsung Galaxy S4 AND Galaxy S5 now launched, the S3 has predictably fallen out of focus somewhat.
But don't worry: the S3 is still a strong phone: it's got a good slug of decent features we want and more, and knows what it's doing with processor speed and media management too.
Would we recommend you buy one if you're hankering for a spot of Samsung? Yes, but only if you're trying to save a lot of money, as it's really ageing now.
Price isn't the only reason the Samsung Galaxy S3 is worthy of consideration though. Smart Stay, Super AMOLED HD screen, up to 128GB storage, Music Hub, removable battery, quick camera; for the price, this phone still delivers in ways that many others on the market can't.
If you're after a decent slab of Samsung tech, the Galaxy S3 is an OK choice. Samsung faced an almost impossible task in trying to create a worthy sequel to the Galaxy S2, and while this is an older model, it's still worth a look.
What's this? A new iPhone not making it into the top five? Wait... not even the top ten?
Well, you can't really blame us. This isn't a new iPhone - it's last year's device in brand new package with more colours to choose from.
There are more LTE bands to choose from too, which is important to UK buyers as it means it can give superfast speeds from all the networks.
It's still a really rather good phone, with the Retina display still giving market-leading colour reproduction, a strong camera and the best App Store around.
We'll be honest: this is the section the iPhone 5 would have lived in, as the iPhone 5C is just a tweaked version of 2012's model, the same phone with a new skin.
There will be loads of people looking to buy it simply because the iPhone now comes in pink or green, and to those we say: look at the Lumia range. Nokia's been doing the same thing for years and at a much, much cheaper price point.
The iPhone 5C is the same as a every phone from Apple: too expensive for what it is, but if you're desperate for such a device from the Cupertino brand then this is still a strong handset to plump for - but beware of getting the 8GB option as it can fill up with apps or media very quickly.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
The Galaxy S4 Mini takes the design language of the full-fat S4, and does well to shrink it down without losing the same 'atmosphere'.
A vibrant screen, bright and clear enough, added to the fact it's only 4.3-inches large, mean the S4 Mini is a lot easier to hold in the hand, and the camera is as powerful as we'd expect on a phone of this size and price point.
What you get with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is a far better trade off of price and features than you got with the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, and a phone that sits very comfortably within the S4 range.
It's got a lot of the S4 power at a lower price point, and while the S3 to S3 Mini divide was just too great in our eyes, the S4 Mini is a lot closer to its bigger brother.
Nokia Lumia 1520
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a trailblazing 6-inch smartphone that forges a path for Windows Phone 8 into true high-end territory. And what a swathe this oversized phablet cuts - it's huge.
Its 6-inch 1080p display is a thing of beauty, and is a great way to watch videos and view photos on the go.
Nokia has produced another excellent camera phone here, learning lessons from the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Nokia Lumia 925 to produce a very well balanced snapper.
However, there's also no denying that this is a ridiculously large phone, and whipping one out in public will be as embarrassing as it is tricky to wield for those who appreciate a little subtly and mobility from their phones.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 is an absolute beast of a phone that we suspect only the large-handed and generous pocketed will be able to live with day to day.
Those who accept the challenge will find the most capable Windows Phone 8 device yet, with top-of-the-range specs that include a stunning 1080p display and a superb 20-megapixel camera.