Best Android phone - which should you buy? $599
6th Feb 2014 | 15:06
The top Android phones compared
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.
The latest wave of phones rocking up are running Android Jelly Bean, but there are a handful starting to sport Android 4.4 KitKat too - plus we're feverishly awaiting the new big gun, which you can check out in our extensive hands on: Samsung Galaxy S5 review.
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 more 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.
Do you physically and emotionally need a QWERTY keyboard? Are you the sort of oddball who prefers the rough pressing needed to make resistive touchscreens work? If so, you won't find much luck here, as those technologies are sadly phased out of the Android world as buyers get enamoured by fancy, glossy capacitive touchscreens.
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. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
For those after some Samsung muscle but in a slightly more pocketable format, the S4 Mini's a result. It's had its display size chopped to just 4.3 inches - positively tiny in this age of 5-inch+ slabs - and although the resolution and internal power have also been reduced when compared with the S4 Large, the Mini's everyday performance isn't really compromised at all.
The 1.7GHz dual-core chipset is perfectly capable of handling both Samsung's software tools and the ever-increasing demands of Android, while it outdoes other phones in this mid-range price bracket by having 1.5GB of RAM onboard for solid app, gaming and multitasking performance.
It's not quite a miniature Galaxy S4 in that it's been downgraded a little internally as well as externally, but the good news is the asking price has been chopped accordingly -- making it a low budget scorcher.
9. Sony Xperia Z1
The Sony Xperia Z1 is another powerhouse of a phone. With a 20.7MP camera with G Lens technology, the ability to withstand rain, snow and sand and a superfast Snapdragon 800 processor running the show, it's clearly a great handset to have around.
It also comes in a variety of funky colours, has a pleasing build quality that helps justify the higher price to a degree and basically offers the best of the Sony brand in a smartphone.
We do have a few reservations insofar as the Z1 doesn't really carry the mantle the Xperia Z created; it's got a massively uprated camera and screen technology, but neither particularly wow.
Don't think that this is anything less than a leading phone from Sony. It's just that the added thickness to accommodate the camera doesn't impress enough to plop it into the top five, and after the really great showing from the Xperia Z, we were a little disappointed.
8. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is alive and kicking and 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.
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.
This is the best Galaxy Note smartphone to date, so if you're looking for a supersized handset with impressive power and a wide range of features the Galaxy Note 3 has got you covered.
7. HTC One Mini
As with Samsung's attempts at scaling down size, performance and the cost of ownership to you the punter, HTC's miniaturised HTC One reduces both size and internal performance a little to bring it in at a more affordable level than the original flagship.
The dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1GB of RAM and smaller, lower resolution 4.3-inch display are compromises, but HTC's polished software and exemplary hardware design skills make this a strong contender regardless.
It has the same victory points as the large HTC One - the brilliant Boomsound audio output and front-facing speakers, the Ultrapixel imaging sensor for cracking photographs and particularly fine low-light performance, plus HTC's classy aluminium chassis is here once again.
It doesn't feel cheap, but it is a little bit cheaper. Win-win.
The same quality exterior design as the full size HTC One, with internals that have only a little less punch. And a 4.3-inch display isn't exactly small, making it ideal for people after decent power in a more modest form factor.
6. 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 £120 on PAYG, it's a steal.
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.
Best Android phone: 5-1
5. Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung may have been top dog in 2012, but since those glory days the sultry stylings of the HTC One and craziness of the LG G2 have proven too strong against a phone that's a slightly-better-version of its predecessor.
Ok so it's only really looks that the S4 is too similar, and sadly that was one of the biggest issues most users had with the S3. It's not the biggest smartphone crime, but that coupled with some other minor niggles means it misses out on being in the top three.
There's a lot to love with the Samsung Galaxy S4 with its super sharp screen, powerful camera, long-lasting battery and fluid user interface - it's got everything you could ever want in a smartphone.
It may be a little more costly than some of its direct rivals, but thankfully it's still cheaper than the iPhone. If only it was made out of something a little more premium.
There's no doubt that this is one of the best smartphone ever made - it's clear, powerful and does everything we'd expect a flagship Samsung mobile to do.
It's just a shame that the perceived 'innovation' doesn't really add anything, but make no mistake you'll love the Samsung Galaxy S4 if you decide to plump for it.
4. 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.
If you're after a top Android handset, but don't have the budget to stretch to the likes of the HTC One or LG G2, then you can't really go too wrong with the Google Nexus 5.
3. Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
A new entry in our best Android phones rundown is the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, coming in at a very respectable number three.
While it isn't your traditional flagship device such as the HTC One or Galaxy S4, the Z1 Compact boasts high-end specs in a slimmed down chassis - with the 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, waterproof body and 20.7MP camera borrowed from the Xperia Z1.
Sure the screen is smaller at 4.3 inches and it doesn't boast a full HD resolution, but the 1280 x 720 setup is still pretty decent and while indoor shots are a bit of a let down pictures taken outside look stunning.
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.
2. LG G2
LG's return to smartphone form kicked off with the Optimus G last year, a very decent mobile that won even more fans when redesigned a little and sold for peanuts through Google as the Nexus 4.
The G2 builds on this, upgrading the display size to a massive 5.2 inches with a resolution boost to full 1080p output, powering it with a best-in-class Snapdragon 800 series chipset alongside 2GB of RAM. It doesn't get much better than that.
The external design's rather a mixed bag though, looking like your usual black slab from the front, but shocking everyone with LG's bonkers decision to put the power button bang in the middle of the back of the phone.
What's undeniably an improvement is the camera - a weak spot of the Nexus 5 - plus the phone's battery life, which has again improved over that managed by LG's Nexus and Optimus G.
An insanely powerful phone that nukes everything else out there in terms of raw performance, with the impact only slightly lessened by LG's oddball button placement and occasionally mad software additions.
1. HTC One
It's still here! Yes, the HTC One is still the best Android smartphone around - in fact, it's the best smartphone around.
It's nothing to do with the quality of the S4 (or the LG G2 for that matter) – it's still an outstanding phone – but more the fact HTC has managed to bring out a smartphone that's worthy of any user's consideration with a supreme aluminium chassis, full HD screen and simplified version of Sense 5.5 sitting on top of Android Jelly Bean.
The new innovations are also pleasingly 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.
Originally rated at 4.5 stars, a swift update soon after launch sorted the slightly flaky battery life, allowing the HTC One to become only the third smartphone ever to achieve a 5 star TechRadar rating.
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.