Google has one key advantage over Apple when it comes to the smartphone market: choice.
Android phone shoppers can browse devices in different price ranges and sizes, while iPhone loyalists have only three primary options that are typically more expensive.
This can also mean that it can be much harder to choose the best Android phone to fit your needs.
Here are a few things to consider when shopping for Android phones.
How much do you want to spend?
Most of the best Android phones will cost just as much as the iPhone, but there are a few less expensive options you can also consider. If you’re willing to pay $US199 (with a two-year contract), Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the new HTC One are both strong options.
They’re both drastically different in terms of design and software (which we’ll get into later), but if you’re willing to pay the price, both phones come with top-of-the-line hardware, including the newest processors, high quality camera,s and beautiful, high-res screens.
For those on a budget, the Moto X is probably the best deal. It’s hardware is out-of-date when compared to phone like the Galaxy S5 or new HTC One, but it’s a great choice for fans of stock Android.
The Moto X comes with a simple version of Android that’s not cluttered with extraneous features, and there’s a natural language processor inside for improved voice recognition.
With the Moto X, you can simply say “Ok Google” and issue a command without even having to touch your device or activate the screen. Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are all offering the Moto X for free on a two-year contract.
If you’re looking to avoid commitment to a two-year carrier contract and really want to save cash, check out the Moto G. It’s basically a scaled-down version of the Moto X, and it starts at $US179 for 8GB of storage unlocked. The internal components aren’t as advanced as today’s Android flagships (naturally), but you still get the benefit of a clean Android experience and timely software updates for next to nothing.
What kind of software do you prefer?
This is one of the biggest decisions when it comes to buying a phone. It determines how you interact with your phone, what you can do with it and how easy it is to use. Although the basic characteristics of Android are the same across devices, smartphone manufacturers usually overlay their own custom skin that changes the interface and adds extra features.
If you’re looking for the simplest, stripped down interface, you’ll want to look for a phone running stock Android. This means you should take a look at the Nexus 5, the Moto X, or the Google Play version of the new HTC One. The Moto X doesn’t come with pure Android, but it’s pretty close to it.
If you care about more advanced features such as the ability to open multiple apps in separate windows, the Galaxy S5 is the right choice for you. Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay lets you do a little more with your phone.
For example, Samsung has a power-saving mode that can get you several extra hours of battery life, even if your battery is down to ~5%.
The disadvantage here, however, is that Samsung often loads its phones with bloatware and apps that you never really end up using. The company has toned that down significantly with the Galaxy S5 compared to its previous handsets, but it’s still not quite as clean as stock Android.
The new HTC One is kind of a medium between stock and skinned Android. It uses HTC’s Sense overlay, which isn’t as prominent as TouchWiz. The major differences between stock Android and Sense is the addition of BlinkFeed, a home screen option that presents updates from your social media and news feeds in a tiled format. The app drawer is also a bit different since by default you scroll up and down to breeze through apps rather than from left to right. HTC’s software doesn’t come with as many features as Samsung’s, but it’s a bit easier to navigate.
How big do you want it?
The average screen size for an Android smartphone is about 5 inches, which is usually large enough for comfortably watching movies, viewing photos, reading emails and other visual tasks.
But for those who need a phone with an even larger screen, Samsung’s 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 is your best option. Not only is it a super light phone for its size, but Samsung’s TouchWiz software is optimised for the S Pen stylus that comes with it. This means that you’ll be able to do more than just use the stylus to navigate your phone since Samsung has an entire menu of features and apps just for the S Pen.
When shopping for a new Android smartphone, ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend, what kind of software experience you prefer and how big of a screen you need. If you’re willing to spend some money and are looking for an average-sized Android phone with a stunning display, quality camera and don’t mind Samsung’s proprietary software, the Galaxy S5 is the way to go.
The new HTC One is a close runner up, but we prefer the Galaxy S5 since you get a bit more for your money. The S5 comes with an embedded fingerprint sensor in the home button just like the iPhone 5s, and it’s also capable of monitoring your heart rate.
Those looking to save some cash should consider the Moto X — it’s an attractive, slightly smaller phone with internals powerful enough to handle everyday tasks and powerful voice controls.
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