Buying Guide, Top mobile phones compared: what phone is best for you?
What’s the best mobile phone? Our verdict on the best smartphone/best phones – constantly updated
We’ve all got at least one mobile phone each, right? We’ve probably got about three or four nowadays, and that counts giving your old Nokia 3310 to your Mum a few years ago.
But while you used to be able to just bank on the new Nokia or always get the next Sony Ericsson because it had a half-decent camera, there are now so many great options out there from loads of manufacturers.
The trouble is, how do you decide which is the best one for you?
Well, this is where we make it easy. Because here we have our continually updated comparison of the top 20 best smartphones currently adorning phone emporiums up and down the UK.
The last update saw the HTC One maintain its place at the top of the charts, holding off multiple challenges from Nokia, Samsung, LG and Sony (namely the Galaxy S4) – showing the smartphone market still has a fair few players.
But the HTC One is nearly a year old. That’s an age in smartphone terms, and Apple’s in there too, doubling down by bringing out a phone at the same price (the iPhone 5C) and pulling no punches with the supercharged iPhone 5S, so where have both landed in our top 20?
But it’s by no means a ‘can Apple topple HTC’ kind of race – as HTC has created a cheaper version of the One (the HTC One Mini, of course), LG’s gone all out with the aptly named LG G2, and even Sony is continually pushing the smartphone envelope with the all new small-yet-powerful Sony Xperia Z1 Compact – so who knows who will be number one these days?
If that still doesn’t help, well, there’s always our extensive mobile phone reviews pages as well – or check out our personally crafted smartphone buyer’s guide:
Here are our rankings for the best mobile phones around, currently available in the UK.
20. Samsung Galaxy S3
With the Samsung Galaxy S4 (and friends) now launched, the S3 has predictably fallen down the rankings thanks to there being a better phone to recommend.
But don’t worry: the S3 is still a strong phone: it’s got loads of features we want and more, and raised the bar once again in terms of what consumers should be expecting in terms of battery life, processor speed and media management.
Would we recommend you buy one if you’re hankering for a spot of Samsung? Yes, but only if you’re trying to save money, as the S4 is a much better version of this phone indeed.
Price isn’t the only reason the Samsung Galaxy S3 is worthy of consideration though. Smart Stay, Super AMOLED HD screen, up to 128GB storage, Music Hub, removable battery, quick camera; for the price, this phone still delivers in ways that many others on the market can’t.
If you’re after a decent slab of Samsung tech, the Galaxy S3 is an OK choice. It’s getting on a bit, hence the slip down the rankings.
Samsung faced an almost impossible task in trying to create a worthy sequel to the Galaxy S2, and while this is an older model, it’s still worth a look.
19. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Many (including us, we admit) were not convinced when the original Samsung Galaxy Note launched. Who on earth would want something so big to make their calls and surf the internet, even with a glorified stylus? Cue awkward silence.
Millions of you, it would appear. The Galaxy Note sold by the bucketload, so how do you follow that up? With something better, of course – the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, which has shifted 20 million units worldwide, and now is the elder statesman thanks to the new Galaxy Note 3 appearing.
Still a strong and eye-catching device, the Galaxy Note 2 is well-connected, and thanks to that increased screen size (up to an eye-bulging 5.5-inches), is, among many things, a quality media player.
Samsung has achieved something special here, because it has made the Galaxy Note 2 bigger than the original, but pulls it off so that you don’t notice it too much and anyway, it’s the features that make it so amazing.
Air View, Multi-window, a dock that can turn it into a fully-fledged computer – it’s all here, people..
As a phone, it’s big, but once you get over that, if you can, it’s great. As a PMP, it really does excel, but there are better options on the market (Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra, for instance).
Ultimately, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a niche device. But it does almost everything it sets out to do perfectly, with grace, class and maximum functionality.
With a lower price, it’s still powerful enough to last for at least a year or two, so we have no qualms recommending it as a viable option for your next phone.
18. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Want the Samsung Galaxy S4 but are too worried about dropping it in the bath or flinging it into a sand dune? Well, you can either not do either of those things, or buy the Samsung Galaxy S4.
With a powerful IP67 water and dust proof case the Active is far more hardy than a lot of the top end devices currently on the market.
The only other handset which can match the rugged credentials of the S4 Active is the Sony Xperia Z, (and Z1 successor, of course) although those being covered in glass front and back makes them feel far more fragile.
While the 5-inch display may not sport the Super AMOLED technology of the S4, the full HD resolution still makes for an excellent visual experience which is only really bettered by its namesake, the LG G2 and the HTC One.
If you’re in the market for a super powerful smartphone which you can take on extreme activities, swimming and in the bath then sure the Galaxy S4 Active is the best around, although that’s a pretty limited market.
And hey, chuck it in a bucket of water and your mates will be seriously impressed (honest).
We’ve only got this phone so far down on the list as we don’t think huge amounts of users will be desperate to add the heft to an S4 to make it a bit more life proof, and that isn’t going to be something most people will worry about.
But if you want the security of a phone that can withstand a few knocks but doesn’t scrimp on the specs or usability, then you could do a lot worse than checking out the S4 Active.
17. Nokia Lumia 925
Simplicity is the key here, the Lumia 925 does the basics well, from contact integration and calling, to web browsing and messaging. The camera is market-leading, and offers excellent performance from low-light to jumpy videos.
The 8.7MP PureView camera on the back of the Lumia 925 is actually one of the best we’ve used, and for anyone looking to get a top end cameraphone: you need to seriously consider this Nokia, although a glut of handsets (Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, HTC One, LG G2 and iPhone 5S) have all stepped up their game significantly to offer strong camera experiences too.
The 4.5-inch display is also a good’un, crisp and clear it makes watching movies, surfing the web or Facebook stalking an enjoyable experience, thanks to the PureMotion HD technology on offer.
And you can even use it with gloves on… what more could you want? You’re right: hologram messages. But they don’t exist yet.
The Nokia Lumia 925 is a worthy ambassador for Windows Phone 8 and probably a strong part of the reason Microsoft decided to acquire the Finnish handset division.
It’s not got the clout to take on the likes of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 just yet, but it’s still a great choice if you’re not sold on Android or iOS but don’t want to give up a powerful phone.
16. iPhone 5C
What’s this? A new iPhone not making it into the top five? Wait… not even the top ten?
Well, you can’t really blame us. This isn’t a new iPhone – it’s last year’s device in brand new package with more colours to choose from.
There are more LTE bands to choose from too, which is important to UK buyers as it means it can give superfast speeds from all the networks.
It’s still a really rather good phone, with the Retina display still giving market-leading colour reproduction, a strong camera and the best App Store around.
We’ll be honest: this is the place the iPhone 5 would have occupied since it’s been usurped by the iPhone 5S.
This is, in our eyes, essentially the same phone with a new skin. There will be loads of people looking to buy it simply because the iPhone now comes in pink or green, and to those we say: look at the Lumia range. Nokia’s been doing the same thing for years and at a much, much cheaper price point.
The iPhone 5C is the same as a every phone from Apple: too expensive for what it is, but if you’re desperate for such a device from the Cupertino brand then this is still a strong handset to plump for.
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