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Best Android phones to buy in 2014


Discover what are the best Android phones to buy in 2014 and read our in-depth smartphone reviews, as rated by our team of expert reviewers. Android devices now dominate the market for smartphones, having overtaken the iPhone in sales. Google's Android operating system is remarkably flexible, and there are loads of Android phones available to buy.

Here are our top picks, from budget pay-as-you-go devices to flagship handsets with all the latest features. There's an Android phone here for every need and budget.

Expert Reviews Best Buy

Samsung Galaxy S5


Samsung's flagship phone is the best model yet
Samsung Galaxy S5

Our Expert Opinion Arguably the most anticipated smartphone of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S5 doesn’t disappoint. An evolution of the S4, the S5 looks very similar, though it actually has a slightly larger 5.1in. The resolution remains at 1,920x1,080 but image quality has been improved with great colour reproduction and fantastic contrast. The rear has gained a new dimpled finish, which we like, and at just 8.1mm thick it’s easy to slip in your pocket.

It’s faster too with incredible benchmark scores in both web browsing and 3D applications. However, the real improvement is in battery life, with the larger 2,800mAh battery pack providing an incredible 17 hours and 30 minutes in our video playback test. It’s the best score we’ve ever seen and the handset will handle a typical day of heavy usage without a problem.

The camera has also been updated and the results are better than ever, thanks to a comparatively large 1/2.6in sensor and great automatic exposures. There are some more gimmicky extras packed in too, the fingerprint reader takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll never want to go back to passwords. The heartbeat sensor will interest some people, but they might be better served by a dedicated fitness gadget. Thankfully the S5 is fully compatible with Samsung’s own Gear range, making it the smartphone of choice for fitness fanatics.

It’s not a huge step up from the Samsung Galaxy S4 but it’s still the best new flagship handset for most, if only due to its incredible battery life and great all-round camera.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S5 review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.4
PROCESSOR SPEED 2.5GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, LTE
DISPLAY 5.1in 1,920x1,080 LCD
CAMERA 16-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 16GB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
CLAIMED BATTERY LIFE 21 hours talktime, 390 days standby
DIMENSIONS 142x73x8.1mm, 145g
PART CODE SM-G900H
DETAILS www.samsung.co.uk

BUY IT FROM £570 from Carphone Warehouse

Expert Reviews Best Buy

HTC One (m8)


Your new best m8
HTC One (m8)

Our Expert Opinion The HTC One (m8) is an all-round update to the HTC One, though it does keep a very similar, and still fantastic looking metal chassis. Inside there’s a faster chipset for better all-round performance and a bigger battery so the phone should last all day. The screen is fantastic, bright and detailed with vibrant and largely accurate colour. Even more impressive are the front-mounted stereo speakers, making the HTC One (m8) the only choice for those who like to share their movies and music with others.

The camera is still the 4-megapixel ‘Ultrapixel’ design which reduces noise in low light conditions for crisper images, though in better light you will see more detail from higher-rated cameras. Still it’s a great choice for those who like to stay out late, and just want the best looking snaps to upload to Facebook, rather than worrying about the fine details. This year, HTC has added a second camera, which provides depth information, and so lets you refocus the image after having taken it, very handy for striking portraits with blurred backgrounds.

It’s a tough call between the HTC One (m8) and its Samsung S5 rival, we narrowly prefer the S5, but if the metal chassis, stereo speakers and dual camera appeal to you then this is a fine choice too.

Read our full HTC One (m8) review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.4
PROCESSOR SPEED 2.3GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, LTE
DISPLAY 5.0in 1,920x1,080 LCD
CAMERA 4-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 16GB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
CLAIMED BATTERY LIFE 20 hours talktime, 496 days standby
DIMENSIONS 146x70x9.4mm, 160g
PART CODE HTC ONE M8
DETAILS www.htc.co.uk

BUY IT FROM £532 from Handtec

Expert Reviews five stars

SONY Xperia Z1 Compact


The Z1 Compact isn't perfect but it's still very good, a top-end smartphone in a smaller package
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Our Expert Opinion For a while now smartphone manufacturers have been trying to reflect some of the hype and glory bestowed on their flagship models onto lesser brethren – usually by adding the suffix Mini. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and HTC One Mini are prime examples, they’re not just smaller versions of their illustrious siblings, they also has cut-down specifications and prices. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is a little different, for this is truly a flagship phone specification, just packed into a less massive shell than the Sony Xperia Z1 proper.

The chipset is the same speedy 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 and it’s very fast indeed. The camera has the same 20.7-megapixel sensor and an identical lens and software. The design is the same too, not just a look-a-like, with the same metal frame and waterproofing.

The screen has a lower overall resolution of 1,280x720, but then it’s physically smaller of course, at just 4.3in; the detail level is still pin-sharp at 342 pixels per inch, more than you get from Apple’s Retina-class display on the latest iPhone. The battery is smaller too, but again the results are actually improved with over twelve hours of continuous playback from the 2,300mAh battery.

The Z1 Compact has no real competition from other Android handsets, if you don’t want a big 5in screen phone but you want a top-end spec then this is a great buy. The only other handset similar is the mighty iPhone 5S.

Read our full Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.3
PROCESSOR SPEED 2.2GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, LTE
DISPLAY 4.3in 1,280x720 LCD
CAMERA 20.7-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 16384MB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
CLAIMED BATTERY LIFE 18 hours talktime, 670 days standby
DIMENSIONS 127x65x9.5mm, 137g
PART CODE D5503
DETAILS www.sony.co.uk

BUY IT FROM £399 SIM free from www.amazon.co.uk

Expert Reviews Budget Buy

MOTOROLA Moto G


The best budget smartphone ever, the Moto G is an incredible bargain that punches well above its weight
Motorola Moto G

Our Expert Opinion The Motorola Moto G is the first smartphone to be launched in the UK since Google took over the company, and you can tell. This handset redefines the budget smartphone market, for just £130 you can buy a SIM free handset with impressive specifications. Its quad-core processor, detailed 1,280x720 HD display and long battery life (9h and 12min in our video playback test) would all have been welcomed in a handset costing twice as much.

On top of all that you get a largely vanilla version of Android 4.3, so you can use the operating system as Google intended it. No swathes of pre-installed apps to confuse you and silky smooth performance. Plus Motorola is promising an update to the latest Android 4.4 in January.

The handset itself feels well-built, it's a simple design but it doesn't feel cheap at all. You can switch out the back cover for various coloured versions, plus there's ruggedised and flip cover versions too. The only downsides are limited storage, just 8GB or 16GB options with no micro SD card slot, and a distinctly average camera, that's only good for quick social posts rather than photos to keep.

Despite those drawbacks though this is phenomenally good value and probably the most important Android phone to be released this year.

Read our full Motorola Moto G review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.3
PROCESSOR SPEED 1.2GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 1GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA
DISPLAY 4.5in 1,280x720 LCD
CAMERA 5-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 8096MB
MEMORY CARD SLOT none
DIMENSIONS 130x66x11.6mm, 143g
PART CODE Moto G
DETAILS www.motorola.co.uk

BUY IT FROM £130 SIM free from http://www.phones4u.co.uk

Expert Reviews Ultimate

SAMSUNG Galaxy Note 3


Samsung improves the Note in almost every way, making it the giant smartphone to buy
Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Our Expert Opinion Samsung started the craze for massive smartphone handsets and continues to lead the way with this latest Galaxy Note 3. The most striking feature is undoubtedly its huge 5.9in Full HD display, which looks stunning with great contrast and vibrant colours. It stands out from its S4 sibling in more than just size though, with a faux-leather back panel and a built-in stylus so you can draw, write and doodle on that big screen.

There are numerous apps to support the stylus, plus Samsung has made further modifications to Android to allow for split-screen multi-tasking. It's not the best choice for Android novices maybe, but it's surprisingly flexible and powerful

Inside there's a huge battery providing a whopping 15 hours of constant video playback in our tests. It's among the quickest handsets we've seen too, with the 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 chipset powering through our benchmarks. The 13-megapixel camera is great too, proving reliable in a wide array of situations.

If you're happy to tote around a big smartphone then the Note 3 is an impressive piece of kit. It's not cheap but it packs so much in that it's our current Ultimate smartphone.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.3
PROCESSOR SPEED 2.3GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 3GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, LTE
DISPLAY 5.7in 1,920x1,080 LCD
CAMERA 13-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 32GB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
DIMENSIONS 151x79x8.3mm, 168g
PART CODE SM-N9005
DETAILS www.samsung.co.uk

BUY IT FROM £464 SIM free from http://www.amazon.co.uk or on contract from

Expert Reviews Ultimate

Samsung Galaxy S4


The new Android king has everything you need and a lot more besides
Samsung Galaxy S4

Our Expert Opinion After all the hype the Samsung Galaxy S4 is finally here and its lived up to expectations. The new handset is similarly-sized to the old one, but somehow manages to pack in a bigger screen. That gives it a bigger screen in smaller package than any of its competitors. The 5in Super AMOLED display is great, with a Full HD resolution and rich colours.

The UK version of the S4 uses a Qualcomm quad-core chipset with full support for 4G/LTE networks. It's not the eight-core chipset that some models have, but the Qualcomm still proved quick in all our tests and produced a brilliant battery life of over 10 hours. Plus you can open up the back and replace the battery if required.

Samsung has sensibly provided the latest version of Android with its new handset, so there's all the features we'd expect. The 13-megapixel camera takes good-looking photos and has lots of fun extra modes, and there's loads of gesture and eye-tracking based controls too – some of which you'll find a use for if not all.

It all adds up to a brilliant smartphone and undoubtedly the best all-round Android device at present.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S4 review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.2.2
PROCESSOR SPEED 1.9GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, LTE
DISPLAY 5.0in 1,920x1,080 LCD
CAMERA 13-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 16GB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
DIMENSIONS 137x70x7.9mm, 130g

BUY IT FROM £49 upfront on a £35-per-month contract from http://store.three.co.uk

Expert Reviews Ultimate

HTC One


A beautiful handset with an amazing screen and innovative camera
HTC One

Our Expert Opinion The HTC One is among the best-looking phones we've ever seen and our pick of the current crop. Its metal chassis and edge-to-edge screen look fantastic and the curved rear is both practical and stylish.

Turn it on and you'll also be impressed by the Full HD display with a pixel density of 468 pixels per inch. We narrowly prefer it over the screen on the also excellent Sony Xperia Z. Inside, its fast quad-core processor zipped through all our usual tests, plus its big 2,300mAh battery managed over eight and-a-half hours in our continuous video playback battery test.

HTC continues its tradition of tweaking with the Android operating system, this time adding a new home screen called BlinkFeed. This aggregates all your social networking updates, as well as a selection of news sources, into a rolling update of events. It's pretty slick, though you can hide it off to left of the main home screen if you don't take to it.

The camera only has four megapixels, but each one is far larger than normal, and so you get cleaner, crisper photos in low light than with any other smartphone camera we've tested. You do lose some detail in better lit conditions, but if your main use for photos is uploading them online then you won't really notice.

With a great design, a big battery, fast hardware and an innovative camera, the HTC One is not only our top smartphone today, we also reckon it'll be a worthy competitor for the Samsung Galaxy S4 when we get a review sample.

Read our full HTC One review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.1 (JellyBean)
PROCESSOR SPEED 1.7GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, LTE
DISPLAY 4.7in 1,920x1,080 LCD
CAMERA 4.1-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 32768MB
MEMORY CARD SLOT none
DIMENSIONS 137x68x9mm, 143g
PART CODE 99HTT168-00

BUY IT FROM £30 upfront on a £26-per-month contract from www.affordablemobiles.co.uk

Expert Reviews five stars

Motorola RAZR HD


A great alternative to Samsung's Galaxy S3
Motorola RAZR HD

Our Expert Opinion The Motorola RAZR HD isn't a flagship phone to compete with the likes of the HTC One and Galaxy S4. However, it is a great handset that's available for a very reasonable £22 a month on a decent contract. The design is pure RAZR with a tough-looking chassis including a wrapround kevlar back panel, Gorilla glass front and a splashproof 'nano' coating. It also has a huge 2,530mAh battery inside, which produced a massive 14 hours in our video-playback battery test. The hardware looks and feels great, nicer than the S3 in our opinion.

The 4.7in screen is an AMOLED display with a 1,280x720 resolution, making it almost identical to the one on the Samsung Galaxy, and we couldn't see any difference in image quality. It's as fast as the S3 as well in our usual benchmarks, and we prefer Motorola's take on Android, which is largely stock but with a neatened up home screen layout. The one downside is the camera, which is notably poor compared to Samsung's one. On the plus side the RAZR HD is 4G/LTE compatible for future use with such networks – something you only get on the more expensive 4G version of the S3.

If you were looking to buy an S3 when prices dropped, then the RAZR HD is a strong contender, as it costs exactly the same amount on contract. If a bigger battery is more important to you than the quality of your pictures, then the RAZR HD is a better buy.

Read our full Motorola RAZR HD review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.1.2 (JellyBean)
PROCESSOR SPEED 1.5GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 2
RAM 1GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, LTE
DISPLAY 4.7in 720x1,280 LCD
CAMERA 8-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 16384MB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
DIMENSIONS 68x132x8.4mm, 146g
PART CODE XT925

BUY IT FROM Free on a £22-per-month contract from www.buymobilephones.net

Expert Reviews Best Buy

Samsung Galaxy S3


It may be getting replaced but it's still superb and now available at very competitive prices
Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE

Our Expert Opinion The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the best-selling Android handset of all time. It's no longer Samsung's flagship model but huge competition between retailers mean it costs much less than you might expect - free on a £22 per month contract.

Despite its reasonable price the S3 comes with a gorgeous, huge, AMOLED display, which is capable of deep blacks and vibrant colours. It's not the smallest handset admittedly, but Samsung has kept it nice and slender. The camera is good too, taking well composed shots as quickly as you can tap the shutter.

A 4G version is now also available, from EE, so you can get the fastest possible mobile data - up to 25Mbit/s. However, this version costs a chunk more than the more common 3G model.

We're not huge fans of Samsung's take on Android, but it doesn't take long to hide away all the unwanted apps and install your own favourites. It runs Android 4.1 at present, which is super-slick and has everything you need - 4.2 is better but its best features are tablet-centric.

It's been around a while but the quad-core S3 still feels fresh and fast, plus it has a great big 2,100mAh battery. It remains our number one choice for those looking for a powerful Android phone on contract.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S3 review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.1
PROCESSOR SPEED 1.4GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA, 4G
DISPLAY 4.8in 720x1,280 LCD
CAMERA 8-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 16GB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
DIMENSIONS 137x71x9mm, 133g

BUY IT FROM Free on a £22-per-month contract from Buymobilephones.net

Expert Reviews five stars

Google Nexus 4


A remarkably inexpensive smartphone with the latest version of Android
Google Nexus 4

Our Expert Opinion Google has somehow managed to bring out a quad-core smartphone with an great screen for just £239.

The Nexus 4 is made by LG, and while its bland exterior doesn't really scream desirability, as soon as you start using the phone you'll be smitten.

The Nexus 4 is screamingly fast - apps open in a snap, and Google Maps glides around under your finger. The screen is gorgeous, too; its 1,280x768 resolution has the highest resolution of any Android smartphone we've seen, and it's right up there with the Nokia Lumia 920. This gives a pixel density of 320ppi, which makes this screen almost as detailed as that of the iPhone 5.

The only drawback is battery life, which can't quite match the Samsung Galaxy S3. The only problem is getting hold of one, as they have proven far more popular than Google or LG had planned for.

Read our full Google Nexus 4 review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.2
PROCESSOR SPEED 1.5GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 4
RAM 2GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA
DISPLAY 4.7in 768x1,280 LCD
CAMERA 8-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 8GB
DIMENSIONS 134x69x9.1mm, 139g

BUY IT FROM £239 directly from Google Play

Expert Reviews five stars

Motorola RAZR i


A gorgeous slimline Intel phone
Motorola RAZRi

Our Expert Opinion This is the first big-brand phone to use Intel's mobile processor. It's really quick too, rivalling even the iPhone 5 and Windows Phone 8 handsets in browser-based benchmarks and leaving the vast majority of Android handsets trailing. It's also just been updated to Android 4.1.

As with many mid-range handsets, the Razr i uses a 4.3in 960x540-pixel Super AMOLED screen - with plenty of contrast and punch. Given the size of the screen, the handset is incredibly compact, with very slender bezels down each side.

As part of the Razr line, this handset also benefits from some tough design. The rear panel is made of Kevlar, and the whole handset has a water resistant nano-coating - making it splashproof. It's a great little phone if you fancy something a little different, and is good value on contract.

Read our full Motorola RAZR i review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.1
PROCESSOR SPEED 2GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 1
RAM 1GB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA
DISPLAY 4.3in 960x540 LCD
CAMERA 8-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 8GB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
DIMENSIONS 123x61x8mm, 126g

BUY IT FROM Free on £17-per-month contract from http://phone-shop.tesco.com

Expert Reviews Budget Buy

HTC Desire X


One of the best budget handsets
HTC Desire X

Our Expert Opinion With so many competitive contracts and subsidised handsets about, if you're serious about your smartphones then you should probably sign up. If you only plan to use it occasionally though, then a pay-as-you-go handset may prove cheaper over two to three years.

The HTC Desire X is among the better examples in this category, in that it's a decent Android handset with no major compromises for around £200, less than half what a top-end device would cost you.

It's slim and light and looks classy in white. The 4in screen has a respectable 800x480 resolution and is both bright and crisp. Android runs smoothly on the 1GHz dual-core processor, though it's only the 4.0 version. The 5-megapixel camera takes decent snaps for a budget handset.

It's a good all-round phone, though don't expect it to wow anyone.

Read our full HTC Desire X review

SPECS
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.0
PROCESSOR SPEED 1GHz
NUMBER OF CORES 2
RAM 768MB
MOBILE DATA GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA
DISPLAY 4.0in 800x480 LCD
CAMERA 5-megapixel
INTERNAL STORAGE 4096MB
MEMORY CARD SLOT microSD
DIMENSIONS 119x62x9mm, 114g

BUY IT FROM Around £200 from www.amazon.co.uk

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For more details about purchasing this feature and/or images for editorial usage, please contact Jasmine Samra on pictures@dennis.co.uk

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