It’s a new year, and we’re on the cusp of another major smartphone release cycle.
In the meantime, we’ve already seen a few new phones come out like Sony’s waterproof Z1S and LG’s curved-screen G Flex. Here’s a look at the best phones you can buy right now.
Note: We update this list approximately once a month. We skipped January because there weren’t any major new smartphone launches. Our rankings are based on a variety of factors including design, software and hardware features, content selection, carrier availability, and price. We only consider phones that are on sale in the U.S. at the time of publication. You can see December’s smartphone rankings here.
If you absolutely must have a phone with a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10 is your best (and pretty much only) option.
Like the Z10, the Q10 runs the new BlackBerry 10 operating system. The phone is great for those who want an old-school look and feel. However, the only reason to buy this phone is for the keyboard. There are far better options out there.
LG released the first-ever curved screen phone, the G Flex, in the U.S. this month. The G Flex has a large, 6-inch curved screen and a self-healing backing that can repair itself from minor scratches.
Unfortunately, LG had to make a few compromises to get that curved screen on the device. The resolution is a lot lower than Apple and Samsung phones, so images, text, and video look very grainy in comparison. LG's user interface for Android is also unattractive and buggy.
The HTC One Max is HTC's first ever phablet. It has a 5.9-inch screen and looks like a jumbo-sized version of the company's flagship HTC One phone. It also has a fingerprint sensor on the back so you can unlock the phone without a passcode.
However, it's very thick and heavy compared to other phablets, which will probably be a turn off for a lot of people.
By most accounts, Nokia's flagship phone, the Lumia 1020, has the best camera of any smartphone. If photos are your top priority, then this should be one of the first phones you look at.
But there are a few drawbacks. The Lumia 1020 is very thick and heavy compared to most smartphones in order to make room for that fancy camera. There's even a giant bulge on the back. It's also a Windows Phone, which doesn't have the same robust app selection as iPhone or Android.
Price: $99.99 on AT&T.
If you're accident prone, then Sony's new Xperia Z1S might be a good choice for you. The Android device is virtually waterproof, and can survive under up to five feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
Price: $0 down plus $US22 per month for 24 months on T-Mobile.
The iPhone 5C is one of Apple's two new iPhones. It replaces the iPhone 5 in Apple's smartphone lineup, but that's because it has most of the same specs and features.
The only real difference is that the iPhone 5C is made out of plastic that comes in five colour options: blue, pink, green, yellow, or white.
The G2 is LG's latest flagship phone. It has a gorgeous 5-inch display, one of the best you can get on a smartphone. But it does have one odd design quirk: the power and volume buttons are located on the back of the phone, making it a bit awkward to use at first.
Samsung popularised the 'phablet' category with the Galaxy Note more than two year ago. Now the phone is in its third generation with the Galaxy Note 3.
The Galaxy Note 3 has the biggest screen yet, 5.7 inches, yet its body is actually thinner and lighter than the last model. It also comes with a special stylus called the S Pen for drawing or taking notes.
Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 phone was one of the most hyped devices of the last year. It's a good phone, but could be a bit too much for some people. That's because Samsung packed the S4 full of noisy and complex features that you'd probably never use. It's also covered in cheap-feeling plastic, which could be a turn off for some people.
Samsung and Google partnered together to offer a special edition of the Galaxy S4. The 'Google Edition' strips out all the software extras from Samsung and instead has a 'clean' version of Android, straight from Google.
The basic version of Android is one of the best, and it's great to see it running on Samsung's powerful hardware.
Price: $649, unlocked from Google. Will work on AT&T and T-Mobile.
The Moto X is one of the best Android phones you can buy. It runs a nearly clean version of Android, but Motorola added a few hand tricks like the ability to quickly check notifications from the lock screen.
You can also customise the phone's design with a variety of colours. There's even a special wood option.
Google's latest flagship phone is the Nexus 5. It was actually made by LG, and it's a modified version of the LG G2.
Like all of Google's Nexus devices, the Nexus 5 runs a 'pure' version of Android, meaning you won't find any modifications to the software. It also gets software updates much faster than other Android phones. But perhaps the best part is the value. You can get the Nexus 5 unlocked for about half the price as other top-tier smartphones.
Price: $349 unlocked from Google. Works on AT&T and T-Mobile.
If you're interested in Android and are locked into a carrier contract, the HTC One is the best phone you can buy.
It has all the best features of any Android phone, wrapped in a gorgeous all-metal design. It's the first Android phone to match Apple's iPhone in design and build quality.
Fair warning: HTC will likely announce its successor to the One in March. If you can wait a little bit longer, don't buy the HTC One yet.
Just like Samsung, HTC partnered with Google to create a 'Google Edition' of its flagship smartphone.
The HTC One Google edition is the best Android phone on the planet. It has the same great design as the one running HTC's software, but has a clean version of Android without any unnecessary extras.
Price: $599 unlocked from Google. Will work on AT&T and T-Mobile.
For most people, the iPhone 5S is the best smartphone available.
It strikes the perfect balance of great design, useful features, and app and content selection. The iPhone 5S looks nearly identical to last year's iPhone 5, but sports a better camera and a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone without a passcode.
Samsung has already pre-announced that its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S5, will launch by April of this year. Early rumours suggest the phone will have an iris sensor that can unlock the phone just by scanning your eyes. It may also come in two models, one made of metal and another made of plastic.
HTC's next flagship phone, codenamed the M8, should launch around March of this year. There isn't a lot of information on the device, but early reports suggest it will look very similar to the current HTC One flagship phone.
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