The year's top 10 smartphones available now

The year's top 10 smartphones available now

Summary: All the smartphones announced in the first quarter of 2014 are now available and this list ranks the top 10 for you to consider.


Back in December I wrote about my top smartphones of 2013. With all major first quarter new smartphones available from US carriers this week, it’s time to look at the best devices to purchase as we start 2014.

We can expect a new iPhone, the Xperia Z2, possibly a new Moto X, and more coming in the next few months. For now, there are at least 10 good quality devices — this list is based on my experiences and opinions. I am sure many will have different opinions about the ranking and am curious to see what your top devices are at this time.

Number 1: Apple iPhone 5s

(Image: Apple)

All indications are that we will see a new iPhone, possibly with a larger display, announced in June at WWDC. However, after looking at the iterative updates from HTC and Samsung, it is difficult for me not to give my top pick to the Apple iPhone 5s.

With the iPhone 5s in hand, you get all of the latest apps and services first, a solid performing all-around camera, an extremely pocketable form factor, and a smartphone that is simply tough to beat.

Number 2: HTC One (M8)

(Image: HTC)

The HTC One (M7) was my top smartphone of 2013 and I would have placed this new HTC One (M8) at the top of this list if HTC had done a bit more with the rear camera. It is honestly still the smartphone I would personally purchase myself at this time, but I understand not everyone wants a new device just because it has the best build quality over everything else available.

HTC improved its Sense 6 UI so that it honestly enhances, rather than detracts from, the Android experience. There is just the right amount of customizations, settings, and features without being overbearing like Samsung tends to do. You won’t find a better designed smartphone and HTC did a fantastic job improving on an already great device.

Number 3: Samsung Galaxy S5

(Image: Samsung)

Samsung’s latest smartphone is available from US carriers this week and — as clearly stated in CNET’s full review — the S5 is one of the top two Android smartphones to purchase right now. It has some new features over the S4, such as a fingerprint scanner, heart rate monitor, upgraded 16 megapixel camera, and water resistant design.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is one of the only smartphones today that offers both a removable battery and microSD expansion card slot, which makes it handy for road warriors. There are plenty of options in the S5, but thankfully TouchWiz has been slimmed down a bit to offer a better overall experience.

Number 4: Moto X

(Image: Motorola)

While the Moto X was launched last fall, it remains one of my favorite smartphones of all time. The Moto X is great because of the things Motorola has done to make the overall experience fantastic, including active notifications, touchless controls, Motorola Connect, and Motorola Assist.

The Moto X is also one of the lowest priced smartphones you can purchase and is available on all US carriers via the Moto Maker customization site. Even though I continue to test out the HTC One (M8), my SIM keeps finding its way back into my custom Moto X because of the Motorola enhancements.

Number 5: Nokia Lumia Icon

(Image: Nokia)

Windows Phone is gaining market share and the best overall Windows Phone available today is clearly the Nokia Lumia Icon from Verizon Wireless. It offers up the perfect mix of screen size, 5 inches, with great internal specs and a fantastic camera. You can’t beat a high end Nokia Lumia camera on a phone and the Icon doesn’t disappoint.

Nokia just announced the Lumia 930, which is the GSM version of the Lumia Icon for customers outside the US. Windows Phone has come a long way and will be getting even better very soon with the Windows Phone 8.1 update that was announced and shown off last week.

Keep clicking through to see numbers 6 through 10.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, HTC, iOS, iPhone, Samsung, Smartphones

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  • Finally!

    Finally, a ZDNet article with multiple products that isn't a clickfest slideshow! Thank you!
    • Nice to see

      some diversity as well. Usually it is 100% Android or Android and Apple. Nice to see 2 WP8 devices creeping in there.

      We have standardized on the LG G2 and the iPhone 5S for our employees this year (waiting for my GS3 to be replaced), although I use a Lumia 1020 for my private phone.
      • LG G2

        This is a great phone (LG G2). I've had one for about 6 months. As far as I can tell, the specs are equal to or better than the S5, HTC One and what is rumored to be on the new iPhone. 5.2" screen is great.
    • hear hear! (nt)

      thanks MM for making this readable, instead of a gallery
  • HTC One camera problem

    Has HTC finally done something about the issues that plagued the M7 camera (the "purple tint") problem? As much as I love my M7, that one issue pretty much makes it a device that I can't recommend to anyone and so I'm hesitant to recommend the M8.
  • Not sure I agree

    If you are talking about the best phone, why bring up your non-phone related benefits, like apps? Anyone can get an iPod Touch or cheap Android phone to be used as an iPod Touch if they are really that reliant on a particular app. Shouldn't this list be specific to the phones and what is preloaded or available from the OEM? Things like camera, speakers, recording, sound, build quality, and other features that make a phone unique should be what makes a phone good or bad. The iPhone winning with no stand out feature simply because it is a fading status symbol among the wealthy doesn't make a product the top. I'm not an Android fan either, but I find it nuts that the iPhone 5S is beating newer phones with newer and better OEM features. You take away the apps and the iPhone likely doesn't make this list...a finger sensor beats out all the other features of newer, faster devices with actual OEM support? Yay...Apple gives you a handful of apps, most of which people ignore because they are terrible. Nokia makes apps people use because they are some of the best at what they do. I think you take the iPhone off the list and replace it with something else and, as a diehard Windows Phone fan, wouldn't care if you picked an Android or BB device so long as it deserved it. I think it is a shame you don't include a Lumia 520 that runs great and can be had for typically sub-$100 off contract. If not, make a top 10 budget phone list. You write on a
    • continued...

      (sorry, fat finger moment) You write on a tech site. Your audience knows the high end devices. What are we going to recommend to the little old lady that wants a smartphone because they feel left out, but realistically will never use it for more than email and Facebook? If someone wanted a budget Android phone for under $100, I wouldn't have a clue what would be "best".
    • How about voice quality?

      The iPhone5 is not in the top 10 when it comes to voice quality. How about the poor sap on the other end talking to a business partner sitting in Starbucks on his iPhone5? The amount of ambient noise coming through makes it the most irritating experience ever. The iPhone might be a good data phone (if you can deal with the tiny screen) and you are invested in the walled garden of iTunes and not interested in customization, but it's never been a good voice phone. Apple just doesn't get that important part of the picture.
  • But...

    The S5 isn't released yet. How can you have an opinion on a phone that hasn't been reviewed or tested? I'm still not sure the iPhone 5S can even compete with phones that have higher hardware specs...which the Lumia, One, and S5 all do. Further, the S5 and Lumia ARE NOT YET AVAILABLE!! This my propaganda at its finest.
    • As far as I know

      Both the Lumias included in the list ARE AVAILABLE.
  • I don't agree either

    The Apple iPhone really is a fading status symbol. How did you derive the top 10 status? I get the impression that it was purely sales numbers. That is OK if you had the title Top 10 sellers. But your title is top 10. To me that means you have analyzed the operating systems, tested the ability to make and receive calls (what a concept for a phone!), looked at the ease of use, security, design, and how well the apps are built. I use a number of smartphones, including the apple (I use a Mac), and Samsung S4, and a Nexus 5 and a Nokia 920. For a tight, well designed, stable OS that is easy to use for business I always go to the BlackBerry Z10. That should cause a few gasps. But part of my job description is to test smartphones for business use. The Z10 wins. Sure, there are not a lot of apps, but more than media journalists seem to be aware of, and the Z10 will load and run well designed Android apps, the key here is WELL DESIGNED. And remember, the Z10 has been given security clearance at USA DoD. And it is a business phone NOT a games machine.
    • It's just for fun

      A top ten list doesn't have to adhere to some universally accepted standard of ratings. Whoever writes the top ten list gets to decide the criteria. Feel free to make your own.
  • What?

    iPhone 5S at the top? Thats a subpar smartphone... There is nothing at all that is special about it and the iPhone has always been a terrible experience in general.
    Then MotoX on the list? Its another horrible phone, oldschool dual core processor, 720p screen and huge price tag... Mostly a useless device for the price. There are alot better alternatives under flagship and it can't hang with the flagships.
  • Nexus 5 - number 8 - nah

    Petite 4" outrageously expensive iphone 5s is no match for 4.95" full HD Nexus 5 - when you also factor in the fact that the Nexus is half the price it's a no-brainer. I didn't consider the other Android phones because experience has taught me that Nexus is the only viable Android option and I have no interest in Windows phone.
    • BlackBerry Z30 has happiest owners

      The Z30 has an equally large 5inch HD screen, runs all the same Android aps plus native BlackBerry and has the most satisfied owners. Possibly because it has the BEST battery life of any phones, and good build quality. Those boring things media types don't cover, but that we actually care about day to day.

      Would recommend the new intuitive BlackBerry 10 OS to anyone. And if that anyone wants a large HD screen, and great battery life, the Z30 is one of the best phones out there. For a couple hundred less than a worse HTC product. I prefer my Q10 keyboard, but don't mind the just over 3 inch still HD screen.
  • BlackBerry Z30 has happiest owners

    BlackBerry's new Z30 has never been given the time of day by bloggers, who have never tried one, but the flagship BlackBerry is a very good phone! While HTC is proud of "metal" while competitors offer plastic, BlackBerry's has multiple phones wrapped in carbon fibre. The Z30 has a large HD screen, industry best battery life and good software.

    Personally, I love my new Q10, which remians the best phone on the market for doing a high volume of messaging and email, but with an adequate screen size, reliable GPS, also excellent battery life and durable build quality.

    BlackBerry still outsells HTC and some of the phones above. Samsung and Apple remain the ONLY two companies making money off their phones. While BlackBerry remains a popular corporate phone, with the majority of Fortune 500 companies still running the newest BES 10, the BlackBerry is also a good phone for small business owners, real estate agents, even parents on the PTA who are more concerned with fast, reliable email, good battery life and reliable gps (none of these are things the iPhone does well!).

    But, for the "I want to play games and watch movies" crowd, the BlackBerry Z30 does that too, with a much bigger screen than iPhone, without all the Android malware, and with far superior battery life. Really, no reason not to get the Z30, as you can even use Android aps! Plus dedicated BlackBerry aps. Only problem, none of the media types have bothered trialing the Z30 for...
  • iPhone had the least amount of coverage in the article

    Every other phone he discussed got far more lines. Nothing new here, move on please is what he was saying. Is it number 1? I can't abide the iPhone and have found using them to be a miserable experience. The earliest ones couldn't even be counted on to complete a phone call without disconnecting. I love Blackberry but readily admit that they are probably a bit high end for most. The rest really have their ranking based on a niche market. Nokia is for the artist that makes phone calls on occasion, the Motorola really does offer about the best battery life in its class and the Samsung can double as a tablet (although you do look ridiculous holding that monster to your ear during a call). The rest are for gaming. I hate the exclusive marketing deals made between Nokia and Verizon/AT&T but they are doing what others (Apple) have done before them, I trust it will shake out over time. You can buy an iPhone at Walmart now. I have a Nokia 822, love it! Does everything a phone should, everything a smart phone should and has never EVER let me down even once in 2.5 years of ownership. Even has awesome games to entertain between calls and work and the Netflix app is wonderful with great screen and fluid motion. Couldn't ask for more at my level of use.
    The Heretic
  • must be seasonal

    Only a few months ago, Miller had the HTC One and Moto X above the 5S, but now has the 5S above the higher spec One M8 and dropped the Moto X to 4th.
    Is phone fashion seasonal?
  • Bogus List

    iPhone 5... Moto X... you must be kidding.

    And no BlackBerry Z30! Outrageous! Even a BlackBerry Z10 outperforms the iPhone 5 in every single category.

    Check out you tube with /watch?v=LYzBC_gZ6UI