Top 5 Android smartphones: Nearly perfect - in different ways

Top 5 Android smartphones: Nearly perfect - in different ways

Summary: There are lots of excellent Android smartphones and after spending considerable time with five of them I offer pros and cons for each to help you narrow down your choices.

Top 5 Android smartphones: None is perfect, but they are all close
(Image: Sony)

Unlike most of you who have to buy phones to try them out, I am blessed to be able to try out the latest and greatest smartphones for a few weeks at a time. I have been spending a lot of time with the HTC One (M8), Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, Moto X, and Nexus 5 and wanted to summarize my major pros and cons.

Last month my top smartphones article was posted with four of these five in the top ten list. My ranking would now change after handling the Sony Xperia Z2, but all five are still excellent choices.

I purchased and kept two of these five devices so far (I bought a Nexus 5 and then returned it) and am likely buying a third for my wife. Each of us has different needs and something that is important to me may not be important to you. Some of my pros and cons are not major factors in your decision, but I still hope these thoughts are helpful to you since I have spent lots of time with these devices.

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M7) was one of my favorite smartphones ever and I was ready to buy the new model when it was released. I still haven't purchased it though because HTC did not significantly improve the camera and made the device a bit too long. My pros still far outweigh the cons, but I can't carry too many devices and I like another one better than the One (M8). Here are my pros and cons for the One (M8):

Pros Cons
High quality construction Longer form factor
Camera software Camera hardware
HTC Sense 6 UI No dust and water resistance
Motion Launch gestures Very slippery back
BoomSound stereo speakers  
Extremely fast performance  
Excellent LCD3 display  
32GB internal storage and microSD card slot  
Great battery life  

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung continues to sell millions of their Galaxy smartphones and the S5 is a solid choice. I recently popped my wife's SIM into a Galaxy S5 review unit and she told me there is no way I am getting it back. She stated that she loved how "smart" it was and is referring to the way the Samsung UI interacts with the user after calls, messages, etc. to try to make things easier for you. I will be visiting my local T-Mobile store soon to buy her one. Here are my pros and cons for the Samsung Galaxy S5:

Pros Cons
Vivid Super AMOLED screen Overwhelming and disorganized settings area
Excellent camera performance Nearly useless fingerprint scanner
Dust and water resistant Limited internal storage capacity
Removable battery and microSD card Cluttered notification area
Lightweight for a large screen device  
Great battery life  

Sony Xperia Z2

I was ready to give a Sony Xperia device a try again after not using one since the Windows Mobile days, but the display on the Z1s was absolutely terrible. I heard a lot of good things about the new Z2 and bought my own last week. The device continues to impress me daily and is my favorite smartphone of those currently available. Here are my pros and cons for the Sony Xperia Z2:

Pros Cons
Beautiful IPS LCD display Limited internal storage
Incredible glass and metal design Lots of port covers
Excellent camera performance  No infrared remote control
Dust resistant and waterproof  
3GB of RAM  
microSD expansion card  
Physical camera capture button  
Great battery life  
Multi-color indicator light  

Moto X

The Moto X has been out for quite some time, but it is very difficult for me to give up on it because of so many additional functions Motorola provides in a device that is extremely pocketable. The custom design feature is also a cool way to add personalization without a bulky case. Here are my pros and cons for the Moto X:

Pros Cons
Awesome, compact form factor No memory expansion
Low price Limited battery life
Touchless controls, Motorola Assist, and trusted Bluetooth device Minimal camera performance
Quick to get Android updates Lower resolution display
Twist to launch camera  

Google Nexus 5

You cannot write about the top Android smartphones without including the Nexus reference design. The Nexus 5 is an excellent smartphone that is guaranteed to get the latest and greatest Android software. Like the iPhone, we see a Nexus once a year and still have several more months with the Nexus 5. Here are my pros and cons for the Google Nexus 5:

Pros Cons
Low price with no contract No memory expansion
Qi wireless charging Limited battery life
Fast performance and pure Google experience Decent camera performance
Quick to get Android updates  

A sixth contender will be revealed in the next couple of weeks, the LG G3. There are plenty of leaks hitting the internet as we get close to the launch date and indications are that this could indeed by the top Android smartphone so far this year. Stay tuned for the announcement in late May.

For my usage, the Z2 would be perfect with more internal storage, the M8 with a better camera and some water resistance, and the S5 with more internal storage, less Samsung TouchWiz, and fewer efforts on gimmicks that don't work.

Related coverage:

Topics: Mobility, Android, HTC, Samsung, Smartphones

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  • Reasonable battery life

    Reasonable battery life would be neither a "Pro" or "Con". Reasonable is what is expected.
    • Fair comment, I updated to limited

      I can go a full day of fairly regular usage with the S5, One, and Z2, but need a charge to get through the day with the Moto X and Nexus 5.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • I thought

        the moto x was supposed to have one of the best battery lives of any phone on the market?
        • Moto X owner...

          I get through the day with about 50% left at 10PM on a GSM MotoX.

          My day is:
          -7AM Remove phone from charger
          -Walk/run to work (with Runkeeper on) ~1hr
          -Work all day with about 50-60% signal (LTE) ~9hr, including lunch, listen to music/podcasts nearly all day
          -Walk/run to home (with Runkeeper on) ~1hr
          -Netflix/Google Play/Plex watch movies/TV using Chromecast (90% LTE signal strength at home)
          -10PM connect phone and go to sleep

          If I don't use Runkeeper (drive to work), I go to sleep with about 75-85% charge. If I turn off LTE it's more like 90%. My phone is mostly used for email during the day, limited voice.
  • Nearly perfect?

    Are you seriously talking about perfection?
    Since Android is the most vulnerable mobile system around and the updates are really rare through carriers and makers, 'perfection' brings a wrong idea.

    Is the same to say that Zdnet is a trustful and completely independent source of information.
    • Nearly perfect?

      Tim Cook, please post using your real name. Granted, some phones are never updated, but lately, more phones are getting updates and flagship phones are coming out faster than before (Sony will have 2/year). Plus no phone is perfect. Considering that 99% of all people that write articles are so far up Apple's butt, I am amazed that stories like these even get published.
    • Know it all

      with a bad attitude.
    • Targeted vs vulnerable.

      Do you under the difference? There is no evidence Android is any more vulnerable than any other platform, since virtually all Android malware can only be installed by the user via sideloading.

      In other words, a Windows PC being infected after the user installs a 'Free' version of Office from some website somewhere, and an Android device being infected after the user sideloads an app from some website somewhere, are not indicators of platform vulnerability. These are indicators of user ignorance.

      But I suspect you already know that, especially the ignorant part.
      • Agressiviness vs Argumentation

        I never mentioned Apple, iOS, ...
        People are paranoid about this war when the only winners are the shareholders of these two companies. I own both :)
        But it is also true that you need to inform about the securety flaws by design of Android. Quoting McAfee source:

        "That’s because with such a large user base, hackers have better odds finding a successful target. This is especially true when these users believe, perhaps incorrectly, that an app is safe to use just because it comes from an official store such as Google Play."

        I'm not Tim Cook, but I face this as a praise. Apple has an interesting oriented mission with its products. They have a clear line of progression. As any state of art products have.

        Android manufactures are still trying to discover their mission. They are lost in the myriad of tastes so diverse as human thought. Android is something about the possibility of you in your way and the iOS is about the best of you better. None Android phone reached this status.

        You should remember that my critic is that this article brings the wrong idea of a near perfect product, but in the real world none of them can be classified in this way.

        IMO I believe that smartphone technology is only 0.3% of its potential. There are a lot of work to do to make any device available today really good.
        • What?

          Apple's mission is to squeeze more profits out of their products. They could make their products in a place other than China (the excuse about not finding workers anywhere else is just corporate BS) but China is currently the cheapest. They could use non-proprietary connectors such as micro-USB but they make an extra billion on plugs and licensing their port requirements. They could allow side loading but that would break their stranglehold on their closed ecosystem. They created the Dutch Sandwich to shift their billions around the world so they would pay no one taxes. Legal, sure and so was what the robber barons did at the turn of the century, is it moral?

          Etc and so on. That does not mean that they do not make beautiful product and that they are marketing gurus, they do and they are. But Apple's mission is to squeeze billions out of their channels and they do that mission well.
          Rann Xeroxx
          • No one holds a gun to head...

            ((They could use non-proprietary connectors such as micro-USB but they make an extra billion on plugs and licensing their port requirements.))

            I absolutely HATE those cheap micro-USB plugs. Constantly loosening and disconnecting themselves from my devices. If that's what you like, then have at it.
            But don't get miffed that Apple allows me to use something different.
            Why should Apple use non-proprietary connectors?That's what their competitors are there for.
          • Apple Stinks

            I have NEVER had a problem with microSD; I guess you just have to know how to insert them!

            I wouldn't have an outdated (8MP camera) iPhone 6 if you gave it to me.
    • Works better than the third rate stuff...

      And allows more freedom to choose what you install.
    • Half right

      There is a real problem with updates from carriers and OEMs for Android that Google needs to figure out.

      As far as vulnerabilities, as others have said, keep sideloading ability turned off. ~95% of viruses for Android are found in Russia and Asia where piracy is rampant. The only people you hear spouting numbers of exploits never seem to denote location of the device (ever notice that) as they are scare tactics because they are selling AV products and app cleaning.
      Rann Xeroxx
    • Make sure you bow down to Steve Jobs headstone before posting

      Ha Ha. Glad you posted. It brightened my day. I was getting frustrated with the spam posters. It's nice to get a troll to laugh at.
    • targetted.. but only idiots get infected as a rule.

      Since these are not windows flaws, you actually have to download and run android malware yourself and ignore the warning messages.

      Nobody has yet found a way to create an android self replicating self spreading malware that targeted more than one device.

      I'd argue that Android is more secure than windows and going by the massive number of exploits on windows over the years, history agrees.

      so explain what you mean about vunerable to someone who actually reads what permissions an app wants to use.

      Also keep in mind that more and more of android is moving to being upgradeable over the android market. Lots of stuff that used to be core OS requiring a carrier update to patch is now patched by market updates. With each release the release is less important as more and more can be patched via the market.
    • Apple's not perfect, but Android is a mess

      I'm not saying Apple is perfect, but to think Android is more secure is just nuts. Android was developed as an advertising platform, nothing more. Gmail was just comprised by the Russians! I'm sure Google is doing its best to filter your search so these breaches don't show up in your Google search. Not only is Google watching Android users, they are also controlling them.
      Bob Trikakis
    • Apple Nut

      You must be one of the ding-bats that buy into the iPhone hype, a primative phone 3 years behind Galaxy S4 with a 2010 camera
  • Heh, author doesn't know the difference between ram and storage

    None of the phones have memory expansion, but few don't have storage expansion.
    Joseph Harris LB
    • RAM and SPAM its the same isnt it :-)

      2 GB SPAM with 32GB SPAM storage. :-) SPAM, SPAM & SPAM. ...

      its amazing how far we've fallen in the technologies...
      consumerization is a euphemism for idiotization.