Top 5 Android smartphones: Nearly perfect - in different ways

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.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
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.

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