Best Android smartphones (May 2013 edition)

Best Android smartphones (May 2013 edition)

Summary: Time to take a tour of a handful of the best Android smartphones currently available on the market. Here are some killer handsets from Google, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung.


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  • (Image: ZDNet)

    For an updated slideshow, see: Best Android smartphones (July 2013 edition)



    Looking to replace your aging Android companion with something newer and with a little more "oomph"? Here are five excellent Android-powered smartphones from Google, Motorola, and Samsung.

    No matter whether you are looking for a consumer handset or something that will be suited to a BYOD role, you're bound to find something of interest here.

    The handsets are arranged in no particular order, but my current favorite continues to be the Nexus 4. It's a powerful package that delivers what I believe to be the best, purest Android experience possible.

  • (Image: HTC)

    HTC One

    The all-new HTC One is the first of two new kids on the block in terms of Android-powered smartphones.

    Under the hood, the HTC One isn't all that different to Samsung's new Galaxy S4 — it features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU (although it runs a little slower), 2GB of RAM, and a 1080p screen — but it is also a very different beast thanks to Sense, the bold new user interface HTC has loaded into the smartphone. It also features an aluminum shell, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4, which has a plastic shell.

    • Jelly Bean (Android 4.2) with HTC's Sense user interface

    • 1.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600

    • 4.7-inch Super LCD, Full HD, high-pixel-density (468ppi) display

    • 4MP rear camera

    • 2.1MP front camera

    • 32/64GB internal storage.

  • (Image: Samsung)

    Samsung Galaxy S4

    The second new kid on the block — Samsung's new and long-awaited Galaxy S4.

    There's an awful lot to like about the Galaxy S4 — the powerful CPU, plenty of storage space, a user-replaceable battery, the microSD slot, the fact that it can be used as a remote control for a DVR. It is very much like HTC's new One handset, except marginally better in almost every way (except, perhaps, for the plastic shell).

    Another quality handset from the company that is now the king of the Android smartphones.

    • Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2)

    • 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (1.6GHz octa-core processor offered in some markets)

    • 5-inch Super AMOLED high-pixel-density (441ppi) display

    • 13MP rear camera

    • 2MP front camera

    • 16/32/64GB internal storage

    • MicroSD slot

Topics: Mobility, Android, Smartphones

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  • LG E970 Optimus G

    I have used or own the Nexus 4, HTC One, SGS3, and the Optimus G.
    Based on use, I rank the Optimus ahead of the GS3.
    • HTC One

      After a week, I am becoming disenchanted with the One. Button placement and Sense are the leading issues. I am ambidextrous and use the phone in my left. Sense, when compared to Samsung and LG add ons, removes the most stock Android functions and gives back the least in custom functions.
      • Funny

        coming from a Galaxy Note, I find the buttons are finally in the right location. I guess to each his own. I'll reserve comment on Sense though, I'm currently neither in favor nor against. I can see stuff I like, and definitely stuff I don't.
      • Touchwiz > Sense

        played with HTC One extensively and find that the sense interface has gone backwards in a few areas.
        Touchwiz on Samsungs have improved over last couple of years that it works better than Sense these days.
        The HTC one looks nice but is not that nice to hold or operate, its slippery aluminium casing needs a case. Also lacking is the hard menu/options key which is a huge omission. The rear camera on it is only a 4mp sensor!
        who are they trying to fool?
        The display is really nice, that's about it.
        It's form over function, Apple style.
      • HTC One

        Definitely a matter of opinion. I like Sense, a lot. No longer am I looking for 3rd party shells to fill the gaps. Folders in the app slip is only common sense. No pun intended.
    • I agree

      The only phones on this list that tops the Optimus G is the Note 2 and S4.
      Optimus G should be on this list instead of the RAZR I.
  • Motorola????

    My Droid 3 has left me a bad after taste for Motorola. Not a bad phone at all but it was abandoned by Motorola almost as quickly as it was released. And the combination of Motorola bloatware + Verizon bloatware + no updates and locked boot loader make me wish I had chosen another brand. I keep hoping that Google owning Motorola will lead to Motorola phones that are more Nexus like - i.e. more of just a straight Android interface and perhaps even unlocked? But I'll definitely wait and see before I get another Motorola product.
  • Sony Xperia Z

    I feel this handset is missing off the list. It includes the same top of the line specs and has a quality design. Perhaps one of the thinest phones too.
    • I haven't seen it on anyone's top phone list

      it didn't get great reviews. good specs on paper don't always = a good phone in real life.
    • Sony iphone wannabe

      Experia Z has rear glass case. Seriously bad design.
      Screen is very nice, waterproof feature is awesome.
      but why why why the rear glass!
    • Xperia Z and ZL

      You are darn right! The 2 phones from SONY are perhaps their best renderings till date.
      The smallest 5 inch phone packed with all the features available in the top phones in the market.
    • Sony Xperia Z

      Everyone has a different taste, and I think that the Sony Xperia Z is probably the most beautiful phone on the market. Kudos to Sony for the form factor -- straight sides and slightly rounded corners -- absolutely stunning!
  • Nexus for the win

    I switched from an HTC phone to the Nexus 4 and have never looked back. I will never buy another non Nexus phone again.
    • I tend to agree

      but the HTC One I just bought is the unlocked one. NO ATT BLOAT, just HTC's :) But it's a lot easier to hang with. The Sense changes I'm still deciding on.
    • The problem with Nexus Android

      I hear a lot of people saying they prefer the 'pure Android' but I don't get it.
      I have a Nexus 7 here and like the Nexus 4 it misses out a few of the nice custom things that other androids have had for years.
      Things like the basic option to show battery percentage or AM/PM with 12 hour time in the notification bar is missing in Vanilla Jellybean. Also can't get rid of the Google search bar in home screen nor can I make use of the verticle space when in landscape.
      You can't customise shortcuts in the notification pull down or have a sliding brightness bar like Samsung.
      With regards to widgets, it doesn't have the very useful active apps manager, no 1x1 direct dial or direct message widget, and no monthly view calendar widget like Samsung.
      You also don't have the option of folders instead of just apps and widgets.
      And that's before we get into all the advanced features like smart stay, air preview, smart rotation, and gesture controls like screen capture and muting. People can say these are gimmicks, but when they use it, they will understand how useful they are.
      Samdroid comprehensively beats Nexus Android.
      • You sure about that?

        "With regards to widgets, it doesn't have the very useful active apps manager, no 1x1 direct dial or direct message widget, and no monthly view calendar widget like Samsung.
        You also don't have the option of folders instead of just apps and widgets."

        I can confirm that stock standard Nexus Android does indeed have 1x1 direct dial (I use it), direct message (just looked), and folders. I've got two folders in my drawer and four on my primary home. I'm not sure what "active app management" is (so I'm probably not missing anything) and I could probably find a monthly calendar widget, although the native agenda calendar view is sufficient IMO and directly launches the calendar app.
        • yep you're right

          direct dial and message is on nexus 4, but missing on nexus 7 obviously.
          folders is there but you can't just create an empty folder. you create a folder when you drop one app on top of another so you need a minimum of 2 in a folder.
          The other problem with the Nexus launcher I haven't mentioned is the inability to add or remove homescreens which I find a glaring omission. This has been the case with all stock launchers since Android began and it hasn't changed.
  • This article is a waste of bytes

    Samsung Galaxy S4: "the fact that it can be used as a remote control for a DVR"

    This also applies to the HTC One. If you're looking for comparisons and reviews of these phones get away from ZDNet's cursory coverage and go immerse yourself in's reviews, they're a little more detailed.
    • HTC One vs GS4

      They are pretty close until you come to the camera. 4mp vs 13mp. No contest.
  • Nexus 4 or HTC One

    I love the design and specs of the HTC One and I love my all glass Nexus 4. I just switched from an iPhone and I will never go back. I just used my Nexus 4 today to buy my coffee using NFC and Google Wallet. How cool is that! With a list like this we are pretty lucky. Oh the choices! :)
    Brendon Jarrett