Top 10 smartphones of 2013: There's One that's best

Top 10 smartphones of 2013: There's One that's best

Summary: We have seen some fantastic smartphones in 2013 and one phone remained clearly at the top of my list. Another one recently knocked it out of my pocket, but it still remains in my collection.

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htc-one-small
(Image: HTC)

Last month I posted my top 10 smartphones for the holiday season and wanted to look back through the entire year to see what other devices grabbed my attention.

As I was looking through the phones I have tried all year, some of my earlier opinions changed and in some cases phones that I ranked lower on my seasonal ratings have changed with extended usage.

We all have different opinions on what is the best, but I think most people will agree with the phones I selected even if they don't agree with the particular order of my rankings.

Number 1: HTC One

I frequently swap my SIM into different phones and it is rare for me to ever use a single phone for six months or more. Thus, I must rank the HTC One my top smartphone of the year and until about a month ago it was the best smartphone I have ever used.

The hardware is fantastic, HTC has done a great job updating the OS to the latest and greatest while also updating its Sense UI, you can pick it up in various colors, and it can be found for a good deal (as low as $50 with contract) with rumors of a successor launching in early 2014.

Number 2: Moto X

motorola-moto-x-press
(Image: Motorola)

This is one phone that I had ranked lower in earlier articles, but after extended use it truly is the 'iPhone' of the Android world and Motorola has shown an unprecedented ability to update it to the latest Android OS within weeks of launch. I just recently customized my Moto X with my Twitter handle and preferred colors and it was the phone to finally steal the SIM from my HTC One.

The in-hand feel, high quality construction, excellent custom Motorola functions (active notifications, Moto Assist, and touchless controls), personalization options, and reasonable price for an unlocked device make the Moto X one of the top devices of the year.

It didn't launch as low as we expected it to and compete with the Nexus pricing scheme, but Motorola has dropped it $100 and also offered a couple of $150 specials. In my opinion, it is worth the full price and I encourage people not to be afraid of the specifications.

Number 3: Apple iPhone 5s

1iPhone5
(Image: Apple)

Every year Apple releases a new iPhone and the iPhone 5s is clearly the best iPhone released to date. The improved processor, camera, and fingerprint-enabled Touch ID make it a compelling smartphone.

As smartphone displays grow larger, it is nice to still have an extremely pocketable smartphone with the iPhone 5s. While Android gets most of the newest apps and services, iOS still has an advantage here as most companies release iOS apps first and that is why I need one in my collection.

Number 4: Google Nexus 5

5Nexus5
(Image: Google)

LG's Nexus 5 was leaked well in advance of its release and it sold out quickly as soon as it appeared on Halloween. LG did a great job with the Nexus 5 and it is one of the best Android smartphones available today.

The Nexus 5 has the latest and greatest internal specifications, including a Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM, 8 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, Qi wireless charging, and more.

Google has released a couple of software updates for the camera to improve its performance and it likely will continue to get updated and improved over time. I personally prefer the Moto X customizations and design, but the Nexus 5 is the next on my list of Android smartphones. It is available at a great price too.

Number 5: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

2GalaxyNote3
(Image: Samsung)

Samsung throws everything, but the kitchen sink, in the Galaxy Note 3 and I found the experience both rewarding and frustrating. It is an incredible device for the road warrior with a large replaceable battery, expandable storage, and a display that functions like a small tablet.

I found it to be too large for regular usage, but if you are a person who uses the S Pen then there is no other device that can beat the stylus experience. The improved Galaxy Gear and Note 3 make a great combo and I would still have them if there weren't so many other great devices competing for my attention.

Keep clicking through to see numbers 6 through 10.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, HTC, iPhone, Nokia, Samsung, Smartphones, The Year's Best Tech for Work and Play

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47 comments
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  • Agree with the list, though ranking, of course, differ for different readrs

    iPhone 5s is the choice of buyers, the most popular flagman smartphone because of small size and low weight, best materials (metal and glass), the biggest application and media libraries, speed and unique features like TouchID.
    DDERSSS
    • "best materials"

      i-phone has great build quality achieved using great material, but to say it has the best material? you might want to try picking up a HTC One. I'm not saying its the best but material wise & build quality its no less at all than the I-phone
      gordongr
      • "The best" does not deny that HTC One build quality is necessary worse

        They could be best both.
        DDERSSS
        • Aluminium is the BEST material??!!?

          There are phones made with a Kevlar Composite casing and that would be magnitudes more expensive to make and lighter yet more robust.
          Your concept of best is pegged at Apple and that's it, no idea of what's REALLY BEST.
          warboat
      • What?

        HTC One has no business being number one. I had an HTC Amaze and it's the same story every year. A nice build quality with a pretty shell. At the end of the day it's still Android.

        The iPhone 5S is the most revolutionary phone out right now. At this time next year ALL the leading edge smart phones will have fingerprint scanners, 64 bit processors, and two tone flashes. Apple did it again, nobody recognizes it.
        Maha888
        • revolutionary?

          sorry to burst your buble, but there is nothing revolutionary in these features. When the Atrix 4G came out with a fingerprint scanner in its power button, all the fanboys were screaming "useless" and "gimicky". Now its revolutionary? Dont get me wrong, I dont judge the feature itself, some people may find it usefull, others dont, but Im judging the attitude.

          As for 64bit CPUs, you should know that it is part of ARMs roadmap. In the CPU department, the majority of ios and android devices rely on the innovations made by ARM, not apple or samsung, HTC or whatever. In the ARM roadmap 64bit computing is part of its new cortex a53/57 SoCs (system on a chip).

          Apple however jumped the gun and integrated it before the new architecture, leaving out the most important advantage of 64bit computing (large memory addressing since the iphone only has 1GB ram). This is not called innovation or revolutionary, its called marketing.
          atredes81
    • Umm

      No it isn't... It might be popular in the USA but, the world over, Samsung probably has at least 1 phone that outsells it. Crud, they might even have two by now.

      As for build quality, The Apple has a styling all its own but, it is one of the most fragile phones on the market.
      slickjim
      • No, flagship iPhone is #1 worldwide in every quarter

        Samsung only beats Apple because of many models of cheaper smartphones.

        Samsung will sell, by its own estimation, about 100 million Galaxy S+Note smartphones (starts from $150) -- compare it to 150 million iPhones (starts from $400).
        DDERSSS
    • "Best" isn't always *BEST*

      I have noticed a trend in my daily commute over the years. Travelers (Subway and bus) with iPhones invariably have cracked screens and/or backs. Travelers with other phone more than likely do not. If you look at that commuter next to you, you will see that he has a cracked screen. Look closer and you will see it's an iPhone. I have yet to see any other phone *OTHER* than an iPhone with a cracked screen...and honestly, no other phone made has a cracked back!
      As for "quality" case parts....you know? who cares? You will just be getting rid of it in a year when Apple comes out with the next "Jesus phone" and all the iPhone sheeple trek to the Apple store mecca to plop even more money for a phone that they only used for the past 6-8 months...
      Why spend all that on something that you will be getting rid of so soon? I prefer the removable back of the Samsung because it *IS* cheaper and it *IS* plastic...it's lighter (less of an impact when the phone hits the ground) and the difference in build price can go to other innovative features of the phone. Why pay for glass and metal when you can pay for innovation?
      tech_ed@...
      • Android vs Iphone

        I agree. I am happy with everything my Android has to offer at the price of an upgrade. So price is important. The extra $200 goes to the profits of the CEO and shareholders. So i guess they can afford to spend more for the "Extras" I did pay anything to line the pockets of its makers. I like the free route. Anyway after a year or so its time for a new one, and I dont want waste the $400-$600 when the Android phone does fine.
        Marc Waters
    • What really matters...

      How about actually important factors such as battery life, voice quality, speaker quality, keyboard prediction, messaging interfaces etc?

      Sure - the iPhone is designed nicely and has some nice bells and whistles - but in the real life day-to-day buzz, these features fall to the wayside.

      Since picking up a BlackBerry Z30, I haven't gone back. It's FAR more efficient at communication (email, sms, social media) and it beats the iPhone where it matters - in the areas I stated above.

      I'm powering through the day without having to worry about a flat battery while the few iPhone users in my office are scrambling for chargers. The Z30 has a bold, beautiful screen, crystal clear speakers and an operating system that makes iOS feel quite dated.

      When you rely on your phone as a daily driver, the iPhone starts to pale in comparison to other competition - and in my experience, the Z30 trumps all.
      higherdestiny
      • cluld not agree more

        @higherdestiny the z30 absolutely makes the iOS user interface seem extremely dated. Don't have an iPhone but do have an iPad that I find difficult to use now. I use the z30 for everything. Gave away my old nexus 4 to my son. With recent support for Android Apk the z3o just became even more amazing.
        Vijitc
  • List seems about right

    Nokia Lumia 1020 is just awesome, no downside, tons of apps now, and super well built. #1 for me, but I get why Android models are higher ranked because of certain specs. Android. Just wish HTC would make a flagship Win Phone model.
    Sean Foley
    • 925 is nicer

      1020 has great camera but I prefer 925 as it is slimmer and has fantastic screen.
      paul2011
    • Nokia 1020 No Downside?? Are You Serious??

      That yellow brick phone weighs 5.6 oz vs 3.9 oz for the iPhone 5S not to mention it sits awkwardly because of the huge lens that protrudes out the back. Ever put that yellow brick phone side by side next to the iPhone? Colors are super saturated, that's a praise and a curse. Yes, they look bright and beautiful, unfortunately they always look bright and beautiful. They aren't accurate. Do a Google search for "white background" and come back and tell us how accurate those colors are. Don't even get me started on Windows Phone 8 operating system. And tell MS to put a dedicated forward and back on the browser, it's about time they added it to IE.
      Maha888
  • Sony Experia Z1

    should be in the top 10 easily
    warboat
  • I have to agree

    for the most part with the authors list, though I don't have any experience with the i-phone, just held a few. I am pleased to see Blackberry at least make the bottom of the list, I didn't expect that
    gordongr
    • Me too

      I expected not to see it but...Mathew Miller knows his stuff. This time lol
      Georgefly97
  • The ranking doesn't agree with buyers

    Not everyone is the same, or needs the same things, so the author's rankings reflect the way HE uses a smartphone, and what is important to him. I wouldn't attach much significance to it.
    rphunter42
    • Obvious

      Yes, whenever opinions are given, it is obvious that it is subjective. But why come to a page and read an opinion if you don't want it? Also, why state the obvious?
      jetsethi