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Best smartphones: the ten best mobiles

From Samsung to Sony and Apple to HTC, Matt Warman rounds up the ten best mobile phones on the market today. 

 

There’s a 13MP camera and a 5” screen packed into a smaller, lighter, thinner body than the S3, and there’s new eye-tracking technology that simply means you have to tilt your head to scroll on the screen. It’s not perfect but it works.
Hovering your finger above a photo or email lets you preview more of it, which works rather more consistently. And there are health features that track how far you’ve walked, a built-in remote control and a deal to print out your photographs. Just in case you feel the need, you can now even take pictures with both the front and the rear cameras at the same time.
It packs more screen into the hand than has ever been possible before, and that 5” display offers more pixels per inch than any previous device, and more than the eye can see anyway. It’s compelling in a way that is becoming standard on top of the range mobiles, regardless of the specifications I think Samsung’s design is excellent, and focusing purely on plastic is to value style over the substance of features, camera, battery life and more. Some of Samsung's own software, such as the enhanced calendar and email, are useful, but the S4 is a piece of hardware first and foremost.
The camera, indeed, is possibly the single greatest improvement over the S3. Most improvements are incremental, but this isn’t: at 13MP the pictures are more detailed than on any other Android phone.
Screen: 5” Full HD Storage: 2GB RAM; 16/32/64GB + microSD Camera: 13MP (rear); 2MP (front) Size: 69.8 x 136.6 x 7.9mm; 130g
Blackberry Q10

This is the first device from the manufacturer formerly known as RIM to use both the new version of its software, BB10, first seen on the Z10, and also to feature a physical keyboard.
That means there are two huge advantages: its small screen drains the battery a little less and means it lasts longer; and the keyboard makes typing the BlackBerry way possible again. Both of these are hugely important to the target market of business people, and both are serious successes.
So now there are all the advantages of a modern operating system, from easy web browsing, a growing library of apps and the famed BlackBerry email system. Plus there are the new ideas of the BlackBerry Hub, where all your emails and messages live in one place, and BlackBerry Balance, which easily separates Work and Personal life, even changing the screen colour to differentiate the two.
Screen: 3.1", 720×720 Processor: Dual core 1.5GHz processor Storage: 2GB RAM 16GB storage, expandable via microSD (supports up to 32GB cards) Processor: Dual core 1.5GHz processor Camera: 8MP (rear) 2MP (front)
Sony Xperia Z

Sony’s comeback phone is a top device – it’s got a gorgeous, HD screen and a waterproof design that makes a real, minimalist statement. It is big, with a 5” screen, and it feels big in the hand thanks to the square corners, but it is also positioned to capitalise on its size: that screen really comes into its own playing films, the 13MP camera looks almost as good as many standalone cameras and yet it all comes in a package less than 8mm thin.
Add in Android apps that make Sony’s entertainment network useful and there’s a lot to like. It’s also got a decent range of accessories available, from cases by third parties to the excellent companion tablet, the Tablet Z.
Screen: 5”, 1920x1080; Processor: 1.5GHz quadcore; Storage: 16GB, MicroSD; Camera: 13.1MP, 1080p; Size: 139x71x7.9mm, 146g
Samsung Galaxy S3

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the dominant Android phone on the market – that’s thanks to its excellent performance, a design that while plastic still feels premium, and clever features such as Smart Stay, that keep the screen on if you’re looking at it by tracking your eyes, Smart Call that automatically calls contacts if you’re looking at their details and lift the phone to your face. There’s also the computer-type possibility to split the screen between two apps. Samsung’s track record of innovation is remarkable within the Android arena, and add to this the fact that it’s the only Android device with a real ecosystem of accessories, including bespoke charging packs to supplement the already decent battery. It’s a device that really offers additions to the bare Google OS.
Screen: 4.8”, 1280x720; Processor: 1.4GHz quadcore; Storage: 16/32GB, MicroSD; Camera: 8MP, 1080p; Size: 137x71x8.6mm, 133g
Google LG Nexus 4

LG’s Nexus device is a pure Google experience, with no embellishments but those made by Google themselves. As such it takes some customising but at £239 without a contract many consumers have been totally convinced that it is an excellent device. They’re right, and running the latest Android OS it also features updates direct from Google and additional features that haven’t made it to many other handsets yet, including the Photo Sphere technology that means you can take immersive panoramas, as well as wireless charging. The screen isn’t as big as rivals, the design isn’t as conspicuous and – silly as it sounds – the back is ludicrously slippery. But this is Google’s best bargain yet.
Screen: 4.7”, 768x1280; Processor: 1.5GHz quadcore; Storage: 8/16GB; Camera: 8MP, 1080p; Size: 134x69x9.1mm, 139g
HTC One

The latest phone from struggling giant HTC is in a sense a return to form – the new camera is dubbed ultrapixel because of its remarkable low-light performance, and called Zoe after the zoetrope. There’s also a new interface that adds to Android and seeks to aggregate all your social media and news feeds into a single place, great sound and a screen as good as the Xperia Z. HTC knows that much of this is to try to fill idle moments when you’d be fiddling with your phone anyway but the effect is to nudge towards a very different kind of feel for software. It’s user-friendly and design-wise there’s also a lot to like in the solid aluminium unibody construction and a lovely screen. HTC deserves to do well with this device, and may yet recapture its glory days.
Screen: 4.7”, 1920x1080; Processor: 1.7GHz quadcore; Storage: 16/32GB; Camera: 4MP Ultrapixel, 2688x1520; Size: 137x68x9.3mm, 143g
Apple iPhone 5

Apple’s iPhone 5 is by far the best iPhone the company has ever made and as a piece of design it is a perfect combination of form and function. Users of the iPhone tend to use significantly more data than others, thanks to downloading apps and surfing the web, so it makes sense to get the new device on Britain’s fastest network, the new EE. That means the iPhone’s fast processor is not being held back by creaking infrastructure and you can enjoy iOS6’s latest features, including updates to voice control Siri and, unfortunately, some terrible maps. If you download Google Maps, however, that problem’s solved. Apple remains the simplest operating system to use and this lovely light iPhone’s still the UK’s best selling handset by miles.
Screen: 4”, 1280x720; Processor: A6; Storage: 16/32/64GB; Camera: 8MP, 1080p; Size: 124x59x7.6mm, 112g
Samsung Galaxy Note 2

At 5.5”, the Galaxy Note 2 is both a phone and a tablet - hence the ‘phablet’ moniker. But as much of the appeal comes the unique S-Pen technology. This stylus allows you to garner extra information about what’s on the device’s screen simply by hovering above it, and the superfast processor means that this is a device that is as comfortable as a media consumption device as it is as a work unit. For some that means the Note 2 is neither one thing nor the other, but many people still use this it as their main, sole device. It may look like an over-sized phone, but its advantages are considerable. Large screen and impressive capabilities aside, it’s also blazing a new trail.
Screen: 5.5”, 1280x720; Processor: 1.6GHz quadcore; Storage: 16/32/64GB, MicroSD; Camera: 8MP, 1080p; Size: 151x81x9.4mm, 183g
Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia’s Lumia range remains the one that does best by Microsoft’s new Windows Phone operating system, in large part because they augment it with features such as Here Maps and music services that mean you’ve always got a bit of freely accessible music to hand. But the Windows Phone operating system remains the key focus: it uses live tiles rather than icons meaning that your home screen gives useful nuggets of information, whether that’s from Facebook or your own email. It’s a new, simpler way to use a smartphone that should be welcoming to new users and integrates with Windows 8 in a way that will only provide more useful ‘synergies’ in the future. The problem, though is the lack of apps – Microsoft is getting there, with the iPlayer arriving shortly. Nokia’s design, at least, makes the Lumias lovely to hold, although the Lumia 920 pays for its big screen with heavy weight.
Screen: 4.5”, 1280x768; Processor: 1.5GHz dualcore; Storage: 32GB; Camera: 8.7MP, 1080p; Size: 130x71x10.7mm, 185g
Apple iPhone 4S

Apple’s previous model iPhone hardly lacks any of the features of the latest version. It has one row fewer on its home screen, meaning you can’t fit quite the same number of icons on in one go, but in terms of whether you can use the voice assistant Siri or whether you can run all the same apps, the 4S is practically as good as the 5. And it has the crucial advantage of being substantially cheaper. It may not quite have the slimline appeal or the light feel of the 5, but in the face of decent savings, Apple fans may struggle to resist this old classic, even with its small screen.
Screen: 3.5”, 960x640; Processor: 800MHz dualcore; Storage: 16GB; Camera: 8MP, 1080p; Size: 115x59x9.3mm, 140g

 

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