Best Android phone - which should you buy? $599

31st Jul 2014 | 11:10

Best Android phone - which should you buy?

The top Android phones compared

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

The Galaxy S4 is sleeker, the iPhone is, well, Apple-ier, and the Nexus 5 is cheaper. But for the overall package of smartphone design and functionality, the HTC One stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Like:

Great design; Sleek Sense; Innovative camera

Dislike:

No memory card slot; Zoes fill up storage; Alarm too simple;

Best Android phone: 10 - 6

Our verdict on the best Android phones - constantly updated

There's one key way in which Android is massively different from its Apple-branded smartphone competition - the number of phones out there running Google's hot mobile OS.

Samsung makes loads of them. Sony's cut the Ericsson ties but still is cranking out the Google-branded handsets. Then you've got Android-powered phones from Acer, LG, Huawei, Motorola, ZTE and many others, and while HTC has ceased the practice of releasing more phones than centipedes have shoes (they do wear them, you know) it's still one of the most prominent Android manufacturers.

The many variations in screen size, processor power, software features and design makes finding the best Android phone for you extremely tough.

To help find the best Android phone for you, we've rounded up the best Android handsets out there today, rating the phones on hardware performance, OS upgrade potential and, of course, how shiny and nice they are to have and boast about to work colleagues.

So here they are - the best Android phones money can buy today. For many, many different reasons.

10. Motorola Moto G

Motorola Moto G

The Moto G rocks up with a 4.5-inch 720p display, punchy 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and pure Android 4.4 KitKat on board.

Add to that a 5MP camera, the choice of 8GB or 16GB of internal storage and connections such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, and you've got a pretty decent mid-range handset. But wait...

... take a look at the price tag and you'll be astounded by how little the Motorola Moto G will set you back - £130 SIM-free, or £100 on PAYG, it's a steal. Pay a little bit more and the Moto G 4G offers you superfast LTE data speeds and a microSD slot.

It's not all good news, there's no NFC or removable battery, but these are relatively minor points which can be easily overlooked thanks to the low price.

Quick verdict

If you're looking for the best budget smartphone on the market then look no further, for the Android 4.4 toting Moto G gives you more than enough bang for your buck.

9. Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The original Galaxy Note started the phablet revolution that now lays before us and Samsung's third generation device is the best example of this form factor on the market.

The Galaxy Note 3 comes with Samsung's own S Pen stylus which provides a host of additional features on top of the traditional tap, tap, tap. The 5.9-inch Super AMOLED full HD display is eye popping, and while it makes for a large handset in the hand and pocket, that's kinda the point.

There's plenty of power under the hood - it once held the crown as the most powerful phone in the world - and the impressive battery life will keep you going all day.

Quick verdict

If screen real estate is a key factor for your smartphone then the Galaxy Note 3 is the smartphone for you, but if you just want a high powered wonder there's better available on the market.

8. HTC One Mini 2

HTC One Mini 2

Like the look of the HTC One M8, but less fond of its price tag and size? Well the HTC One Mini 2 could be the smartphone for you.

It sports the same premium metal chassis, Sense 6 UI and front facing Boomsound speakers as its bigger brother, but allowances have been made on the 4.5-inch 720p display, lower grade 1.2GHz quad-core processor and Duo Camera has been kicked to the kerb in favour of a 13MP single lens.

The camera is still a decent offering, although it obviously lacks some the fancy features of the M8, and a smooth, fluid UI and premium design makes the One Mini 2 a solid package.

Quick verdict

A great compramise if the HTC One M8 is just out of reach for you, but at this price point you are a little spoilt for choice.

It's worth checking out the Xperia Z1 Compact and OnePlus One, but neither look or feel as good as the One Mini 2.

7. Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

We said that the HTC One Mini is best down sized flagship around, and at its price point it is, but if you're willing to spend a little extra cash the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is well worth considering.

Unlike the One Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini, Sony hasn't reduced the specs of the Xperia Z1 Compact. Instead it's kept the same 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, Adreno 330 GPU, and 20.7MP camera from the Xperia Z1 and squashed it all into a smaller package.

The one thing that does suffer is the screen, which is pushed down to 4.3 inches and sees its resolution slashed from full HD to 1280 x 720 - that's still better than an iPhone.

Quick verdict

Want a top-end Android handset without the bulk? Look no further - the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact offers up an excellent array of specs in a package which is similar in size to the iPhone 5S.

6. Google Nexus 5

Google Nexus 5

The Google Nexus 5 is certainly a phone for the Android purists, as well as anyone who wants a flagship handset, but doesn't fancy parting with hundreds and hundreds of hard earned pounds.

Android 4.4 KitKat, a full HD 4.95-inch display, quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM means the Nexus 5 is set up nicely to please most users, but it's not without its flaws.

First up there's the average battery life which means it struggles to last a whole day, while the 8MP camera on the rear offers up substandard performance for what is essentially a top-end handset.

Quick verdict

If you're after a top Android handset, but don't have the budget to stretch to the likes of the HTC One M8 or Sony Xperia Z2, then you can't really go too wrong with the Google Nexus 5.

Best Android phone: 5-1

5. Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a top phone, that's why it's made it into the top four, and it's jam packed full of tech to keep your on the cutting edge.

It's got a fantastic 5.1-inch display, super fast Snapdragon 801 processor and a high performing 16MP camera.

There are also some more unusual additions including a fingerprint scanner hidden beneath the home key, a dust and waterproof chassis and a heart rate monitor on the back - pretty pointless but fun to show off.

The Galaxy S5 loses marks for its all plastic design which results in it feeling a little toy like, and the heavy TouchWiz UI which comes with a whole heap of bloatware.

Quick verdict

If you opt for the Galaxy S5 you will be very happy with what you get - especially if you're a Samsung fan - but it you want something which feels as premium as its price tag take a look at the top three entries.

4. OnePlus One

OnePlus One

It's probably safe to say that the OnePlus One took almost everyone by surprise. It arrived with little fanfare from a new company, yet it turns out it's one of the top three phones on the planet.

With a full HD 5.5 inch display, 2.5GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM it's got the specs to compete with anything else out there, but what really makes it stand out is the price, because at just £229 SIM-free it beats out the Nexus 5 as the best value high end phone available.

In fact it's roughly half the price of competitors like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5, so with that in mind it's easy to forgive the lack of a microSD card slot and the questionable call quality, and with its tweakable CyanogenMod OS it's even a little bit different.

Quick Verdict

When it comes to sheer value for money it's hard to beat the OnePlus One. Its build might not be as high end as the HTC One M8 but for what it costs we're surprised it even has a screen.

Speaking of the screen, it might be a little on the large side for some users and price aside the phone isn't quite up to the standards of the HTC One M8, LG G3 or the Sony Xperia Z2, but it sure comes close.

3. Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony's back in 2014 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 and Primary rivals thanks to being IP58 rated.

Great battery life, strong power and a good camera all are present and correct with our new top three phones, but Sony steals second 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.

Quick verdict

With front facing speakers, a new screen with better colour reproduction, 4K video recording and inbuilt noise cancellation the Xperia Z2 is 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.

2. LG G3

LG G3

The big selling point for the LG G3 is its display. It's the only smartphone on the UK market to sport a QHD (that's 1440 x 2560) resolution, making it pin sharp. While there's not a huge amount of content to take advantage of that res just yet, you can be safe in knowledge the G3 is future proof.

Away from the screen and things are still good for the G3 with a punchy 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU ensuring the interface, widgets, apps and games all speed along at a rate of knots.

The design is a little questionable with a faux-metal rear, and the 5.5-inch display means the G3 is a little on the large side which will put those with small hands off. Get past those small facts though and this is a top quality smartphone with a boat-load to offer.

Quick verdict

If you want the latest and greatest screen technology in the palm of your hand the LG G3 is the smartphone for you, but the whole package isn't quite there.

The LG G3 is a great handset that's more phablet than phone - and it's only slightly let down by lacklustre design.

1. HTC One M8

HTC One M8

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 HTC One M8 is an excellent package

The Snapdragon 801 processor has boosted battery dramatically, 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, unless Apple or LG have got some dark sorcery up their sleeves when the iPhone 6 or LG G3 appear later in the year.

Quick verdict

The only way to know how good the HTC One M8 is, is to go into a store, pick it up and hold it for a few minutes. Take in the design, listen to the BoomSound speakers and glide around the Sense UI.

Of course the One M8 won't be for everyone, and the Xperia Z2, OnePlus One and Galaxy S5 are seriously tempting propositions - but anyone looking for the perfect fusion of design and features need look no further.

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