Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Best of the Best: Smartphones

This is the 2013 edition of the post that began on /r/PickAnAndroidForMe - "Powerhouse Phone List". It's going to go through all the best phones available, but this time also covering other platforms. This list is in No particular order, and formatted the same way as the old post (note: TL;DR means "Too long; Didn't read", and is basically a summary). Prices will vary depending on where you buy the phone, and not all phones will be available in every market.

Android phones

Samsung Galaxy S 4 (price not confirmed) - Android's new figurehead. Samsung's Galaxy S lineup has hit a home-run each time, and the S4 looks to continue this trend. It's got the best hardware specs out there, with the software features few will use, but are nice to have anyways. Depending on the market, it will either have the Exynos Octa-core (8 processors! Whoa!) or the Snapdragon 600 processor. The Octa-core uses the big.LITTLE format. This means that there are 2 quad core processors that toggle between them depending on use (heavyweight 1.6GHz A-15 and power efficient 1.2GHz A-7 processors). Although this phone lacks any single "wow" factor, it is clearly an improvement on the best selling android phone ever, the S3. TL;DR: The S4 is the best all-round android phone, making no compromises.

HTC One (not to be confused with 2012's One X/S/V) - HTC is back. HTC have had some trouble in 2012. OK - they had a lot of trouble, but that should all be over because they made the One really good. On paper the camera looks like ts from 2009 (its 4MP "ultrapixels"), but it is the best damn 4MP camera on Earth, taking better pictures than most13MP cameras on smartphone of today. It also has "BoomSound" with two amazing speakers (on the front of the phone!). HTC also rejigged their UI (Sense 5) again, and is starting to come back to it's former glory. It also uses a new Snapdragon 600 processor - the newest Qualcomm chip (an upgrade from the S4 PRO).TL;DR: HTC is putting all it's weight behind this hardware heavyweight.

Nexus 4 ($300/350 unlocked or ~$150 on contract) - the Google phone. This phone was made by LG (don't worry though, it's hardware is good quality) but has no bogus software put on it - only stock android will be found on a Nexus. This is the android that Google (the maker of Android) envisioned, and not tinkered with by any manufacturer. It doesn't have as many features as say Samsung's TouchWiz skin, but it does look slick. It's the best phone for the cost: it's got a great quad core processor (S4 PRO) with 2GB of RAM. The screen is another huge plus, as it's one of the best available. LG and Google did skimp out a bit to bring the cost down though...the camera isn't amazing. Totally usable, but low-light pictures are horrid. Also, there's no LTE. Battery life wasn't great at launch, but with the latest update (4.2.2) it seems to have gotten better. About updates - because manufacturers don't have to re-jig with the software, it will always get updates first. TL;DR: Updates, inexpensive, stock android. What more could you want?

Sony Xperia Z (price not official, likely ~$200 on contract or ~$600 off contract) - delectable, yet durable. Sony hasn't really been known to produce 'epic' smartphones, but the Z looks really good. It's main attraction is that it's kind of looking a bit like Nokia - trying to produce indestructible phones. The Z is water resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes. Toilet - 0, Sony - 1. The glass is also "shatter resistant", and the entire thing is dust-proof. Even with all that protection, Sony managed to pack in the standard (among top-tier phones): quad core S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, 5" 1080p screen, 13MP camera, and 2330mAh battery. Sony also makes a different varient - the Sony Xperia ZL which gives up the glass back and waterproofing in favor of LTE and a slimmer design. TL;DR: This is a very rugged phone that makes no compromises.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (~$700 off contract, ~$200 on contract) - The 'Big One'. Samsung's engineering team seems to throw weird ideas out there and see what sticks. The original Note was a full inch bigger than other leading phones when it came out, and the Note 2 is even bigger. At 5.5", there isn't really anything bigger than it. Because it's so huge, Sammy could fit in a giant 3100mAh battery, and their own Exynos quad core processor (1.6GHz) plus 2GB of RAM. This is the oldest phone on the list, and as such it doesn't come ontop for a few reasons - mainly the screen. While most new flagship phones are coming out with 5" 1080p screens, the Note 2 stretches 720p across 5.5", making for a pixel density of 267PPI (pixels per inch). Even with that drawback, it's an amazing phone. TL;DR: Giant, not a single sacrifice. Easily one of the best, even nearly 1 year after it's launch.

Lenovo Ideaphone K900 (price unknown) - the Chinese superpower. When you think of amazing quality, Lenovo doesn't come to mind. But neither does LG, but they're on the right track now as well. The main thing this phone brings, is an Intel processor. I can tell how excited you all are (sarcasm), but you really should be excited. Intel's mobile processors are top-notch. Their single core 2GHz processor found in the Motorola Razr i almost matched the performance of the Teggra 3 processor, and often exceeding dual core processors. The K900 comes with a dual core 1.8GHz Intel processor, and when it was announced at CES is smashed benchmarks. Other than the processor (I've gone on long enough), you get a 5.5" 1080p screen, 2GB of RAM, and android verson 4.2. TL;DR: China can make amazing phones. Consider importing one.

Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 920 (~$500 off contract, ~$100 on contract) the Windows Phone. It's thick, it's heavy, and it's awesome. Nokia really out did themselves on this one. Specs aren't comparable to android phones (WP8 is so much less of a specs hog than android), but if you really want to know it's got a dual core S4 1.5GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. It almost has as many added features as Samsung phone's, too. With PureView camera technology, CityLens mapping, and other features, you'll have it all. Windows Phone 8 runs really smooth, with beautiful menus and a unique interface. WP8 doesn't have tons of apps though, but more are coming every day, especially with Microsoft throwing cash at it until its awesome (ahem: XBox). TL;DR: HIPSTERS! And anybody who wants something flashy, yet basic.


iPhone 5 (~$750 off contract, ~$200 on contract) Tried and true. We all know that the iPhone doesn't bring anything revolutionary, but "it just works". Everything is pretty easy to do, and fast too! The dual core 1.3GHz processor doesn't sound like much, but it doesn't slow down in games at all. That's just the way of iOS. Apps are top-notch as well - not only the number, but especially the quality. Android is really just starting to catch up to the iPhone as far as apps go, and the iPhone runs the same games smoother (generally). The camera isn't the best, but it's certainly up there. Same goes for battery life. It is also the smallest of any phone on this list - a 4" screen, and incredibly thin and light. TL;DR: Solid phone, super app selection, and the most accessories! Best selling phone on the planet for a reason.


Z10 (~$600 off contract, ~$150 on contract) Didn't expect to see a BlackBerry phone on a "best of the best" list, did ya? The Z10 is BlackBerry's 'savoir phone', and it does a pretty good job at it too. BB10 just released, but they've already got nearly all the major apps. You now get revamped BB10 (now with video chat), and a unique interface (no buttons!). Everything is controlled by gestures - to go home, swipe up from the bottom bezel. For the menu, swipe down from the bottom. To peek at your notifications, swipe up, then to the right, and everything is there. I haven't read one review about the Z10 saying they were disappointed with it, but they've all said the keyboard is legendary. Too bad the battery life isn't quite what it used to be (on BB7), but at least BB's now have a competitive device. TL;DR: multitasking is top-notch, everything is fluid, the Z10 is the best phone to get S#*T done. 

I've tried to be as un-bias as possible. Again, prices will vary, and these are only guidelines. Information is correct to my knowledge, but if I goofed something soundoff in the comments.

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