Top Five Android Phones 2014

Category: Mobile

As we roll into the New Year waving our credit cards at smartphone makers, everyone is asking, 'What’s the best phone to buy?' If you’re an Apple fan the answer is obvious, even if it’s wrong. If you’re an Android droid, then it gets more complicated. Here's my advice...

Which Android Phone is Best For You?

Market research company Gartner estimates that over one BILLION Android-powered devices will be sold in 2014. Top vendors include Samsung, LG, HTC, and Sony. And then you have to choose a mobile carrier. Will it be Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or a smaller regional company? That's a lot of choices.

I have friends who love their iPhones. There's no question it's a fine product, but I'm just not an Apple kind of guy. And of course there are Windows phones, but in my opinion that's still a fringe market. (I only know ONE person who owns a Windows phone, and he likes his Lumia 1020 mostly for the 41-megapixel camera.)

If you're in the market for a new Android-powered smartphone, maybe I can make things a bit easier for you. Here are five of the hottest Android phones going, at the start of 2014:
Top Android Phones 2014

Google Nexus 5: You might call it the iPhone of Android phones, the bar-raising “nailed it” new standard that OEMs will have to beat. That was Google’s intention, after all, when it collaborated (and later bought) Motorola’s smartphone-making division to invent a smartphone that is totally Google-centric. The Nexus 5’s build quality is impeccable. It gets its OS updates directly from Google, with no waiting for equipment makers to customize and push the latest version of Android out to their phones… something they are very lax about. Features include Android 4.4 (KitKat); a 2.23GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU; 4.95-inch 1920x1080 display with a pixel density of 445 pixels-per-inch; 8MP rear camera; 1.3MP front camera; and 16 or 32GB internal storage.

Unlike the earlier Nexus 4, the Nexus 5 offers 4G/LTE for faster internet access. You can buy an unlocked version via the Google Play Store for $350, and use it on AT&T, but Verizon is refusing to sell it, or even allow it to run on its network. The Nexus 5 is available from Sprint for around $149 with 2-year contract. T-Mobile does the "$0 now, but $16.50/month for two years" plan, which works out to $396.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Boy, do I feel uncool, still carrying around a 1-year-old Galaxy S3. The newer S4 has a larger 5-inch Gorilla Glass screen, sports a 13MP camera, a long-lasting 2600mAh battery, and runs Android Jellybean. The S4 is available from all major carriers, and can be had with a 2-year contract for anywhere between $49 and $249, depending on your carrier, whether you're adding a line, upgrading, using a family plan, or other confusing options. Or you can always buy the unlocked version for $749.

The Air View feature lets you interact with the S4 without even touching it. Just hover your finger above the screen, and special sensors enable you to magnify text, preview emails or photos, or pause a video and view it frame by frame. The Dual Shot option lets you shoot simultaneously with the front and rear cameras, so you can take a picture and also be in it. For business users, the Samsung KNOX feature enables enhanced security, and plays nice with companies that want to implement a "Bring Your Own Device" strategy. World travelers will appreciate S Translate, which will translate what you say or type. (That would've been really handy back in 1987, when I ordered escalopes, and was surprised with veal.)

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Samsung Galaxy Note 3: The big kahuna for people with large hands and deep pockets, it brings a broad spectrum of improvements to the winning Galaxy Note 2. Plus it’s the only phone or phablet that is compatible with Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch (support for the Note 2 and Galaxy S3 and S4 should arrive later this year). The Note 3 is available from most carriers, with a 2-year contract price ranging from $199 to $299.

Features Android 4.3 (Jellybean); 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor; 5.7-inch 1920 x 1080 display with 388 pixels-per-inch; 3GB of RAM; a stylus; 13MP rear camera; 2MP front camera; 4G LTE; NFC (Near Field Communications) for digital walletry; 32 or 64GB internal storage; microSD card slot for expansion. (Sorry, no cup holder.)

HTC One: its biggest distinction are the exciting new Sense user interface and aluminum shell which gives it a sturdier feel than the plastic Samsung Galaxy phones. Under the hood it’s much like a Galaxy S4: 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU; 2GB RAM; 1080p display; 4.7-inch Super LCD, Full HD, high-pixel-density (468ppi) display; 4MP rear camera; 2.1MP front camera; 32/64GB internal storage. (Oh, and I've heard rumors that you can even make a phone call with this thing.)

Sony Xperia Z Ultra: a svelte 6.5mm thin, this phone sets a new style standard for Android-powered smartphones. It sports a supersharp 6.4-inch TFT 1920 x 1080 display, powered by an updated Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 with 342 pixels-per-inch; Jelly Bean (Android 4.2); 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor; 8MP rear-facing camera; 2MP front-facing 1080p HD video capture; 16GB internal storage; a microSD slot; and it’s compatible with the Sony SmartWatch 2.

Here's some closing advice. Most people are inclined to run to the carrier's retail stores when they're ready to buy a new mobile phone. But that could be a very expensive mistake. Look for deeply discounted offers from Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Amazon Wireless, and you could save hundreds of dollars, when compared to the same phone and plan purchased at the Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint store.

What's your favorite smartphone? And where did you buy it? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Top Five Android Phones 2014"

Posted by:

David Brooks
09 Jan 2014

Hi Bob :-)

You said "There's no question it's a fine product, but I'm just not an Apple kind of guy."

What - exactly - IS an Apple kind of guy?

David B

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

What smartphone can you buy that works as a "ToGo" phone from AT&T too? I wanted to give it to my husband.

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

Hi Bob! I enjoy your site!

I've switched to Boost Mobile and use the HTC One sv. So far I love it! I bought it certified refurb direct from Boost online.
I used the Galaxy S3 for over a year and I like my HTC much better.


Posted by:

Robert Bailey
09 Jan 2014

I think I'll just stay with my paid for, unlocked and still working fine iPhone 4.

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

Bob, hi!
You recently wrote an article about the Moto X... I'm thinking on changing my Galaxy S3, and the Moto X caught my eye, but I see no mention of it here... How does it stands when compared to the other models you do mention?

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

Bob ... All of the ones, you have selected, are awesome phones. However, I am surprised that you did not include the LG - Optimus G Pro.

The LG - Optimus G Pro is one of the better Smartphones that I have ever seen. No, I do not have one personally, but, I did get one for my daughter and she LOVES it. She is not that "technically" smart, but, can do lots of things with this phone, on her own. Therefore, I can call this phone ... User Friendly.

I want one, so bad, yet it is not time, for me to upgrade. Boy, do I hate 2 year contracts!!! I know that all carriers are going the way of "purchasing" your phone, with monthly payments and the ability to "purchase" another phone, in a year's time ... However, I am really "stuck" in the 2 year contract mess ... At least, until 2015.

While, the "new" method of getting a new or newer wireless phone every year, may seem better ... I wonder ... Is it really, in the long run? :)

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

You must have big hands (or maybe poor eyesight) to like those elephants. The Motorola Moto X is as big as I will go!

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

You say the Nexus 5 cannot be used on Verizon, but Verizon says the unlocked version from Google Play CAN be used. And the price is almost the same as the T-Mobile price.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Everything I've read says that Verizon will not authorize the Nexus 5 on their network. Where do you see otherwise? (URL, please.)

Posted by:

Mary A. Axford
09 Jan 2014

Got a Nexus 5 and have really liked it, despite having dropped it in water a week after I got it. Yes, folks, in some cases rice WILL dry out your phone, though it took 3 days or so. Anyway, I previously had a Samsung S2 and really disliked it, especially as near the end of the contract life it wouldn't hold a charge and was basically dead. I am also not thrilled by my Samsung Tab 2 10.1 tablet, though it is better with Jelly Bean than it was with the older operating system. I am not buying Samsung again anytime soon.

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

Ordering upgrades on both phones to LG-G2, mainly due to camera specs and image stabilization.

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

You are missing the boat by not including Motorola's line up.

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

I use LG G2 and specifically bought it for the camera. I sell on Ebay and post from the phone. The pictures are better than when I was using my Samsung HD 10X ST201. I would have purchased the Samsung Note 3 but at the time $299 was more than I wanted to spend. I'm very happy with the G2, sound level and clarity of calls and all other functions.

Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
09 Jan 2014

I got my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S4 six months ago and I love it. My wife and daughter also like their S3's, which they'd gotten before the S4 came out. The S3 and S4 aren't that different, and I could make do with an S3 if I needed to. One of these days I want to finish going through the manual and the "Mastering the S4" book I bought, so that I can learn about the rest of the features which I'm not yet even using.

There are apps which let you do practically anything, and again I've barely scratched the surface. I've semi-retired my HP calculator with reverse polish notation, because I now have a scientific calculator app which is at least as good. I never bothered with Kindle books before this, but now I can easily read them on the S4, so I don't have to lug around dead tree versions. I have an app for a brilliant flashlight, which is fast and easy to use in the dark. Etc., etc.

The S4 is a great phone with a large clear screen and very good battery life. I have to replace the screen protector every few months, but other than trivialities such as that I can't come up with any complaints.

Posted by:

Charles Garrod
09 Jan 2014

you did not include Staples as a place to get a good deal. I bought my S4 at a Verizon store for $300.00. Two weeks ago Stgaples had a limited day sale of S4's for one cent,
that's where we bought her phone

Posted by:

09 Jan 2014

Hi Bob: Which Android cell phone has the best camera?


Quick summary: The HTC One, Samsung S4, LG G2, and Sony Xperia Z1 were all rated highly.

Posted by:

10 Jan 2014

David B asks: "What - exactly - IS an Apple kind of guy?"

My general feeling is that "an Apple kind of guy" (or gal) is a person who gets sucked in by market hype and just HAS to buy their latest product, regardless of whether it's the best value for money on the market -- it used to be, back in the day, a person who refused to purchase Windows-based computers because of their virtual monopoly, but obviously that has all changed now.

Posted by:

10 Jan 2014

Apple kind of guy? Originally I used the first and seond generation of mac's. Work forced me on to PC's. It is still my primary. I have a MacBook Pro for travel (pre-owned). I Now have an iPhone 4s (pre-owned). Son bought a 5s and gave me his old one. Love it. I use Consumer Cellular. The use ATT.mnvo and it works perfectly.

Posted by:

10 Jan 2014

I got my HTC One for free when I signed up with Credo mobile. It is my first smart phone and I like it a lot. Its only drawback is that it is very large... which is also a great thing when you're trying to read something.

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