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Best Android smartphones (August 2013 edition)

Time to take a tour of a handful of the best Android smartphones currently available on the market (August 2013). There are a few new handsets, including one for all you pure Android fans.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 11 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

UPDATE: The "The Best Android smartphones (September edition)" is now available.

Introduction

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. 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. However, I have to admit that some of the features present on the Samsung Galaxy S4 make it a great choice for the BYOD crowd. 

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2 of 11 Google

Google Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 is the smartphone that Google thinks Android should be loaded on.

One of the downsides to the Nexus 4 is that it . According to LG, the manufacturer of the Nexus 4, the LTE modem requires a signal amplifier and filter to work, and these components have been omitted to keep the cost of the handset down.

Despite this, the Nexus 4 is a solid, well-made Android handset.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.2)
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Krait processor
  • 4.7-inch WXGA IPS display
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1.3MP front camera
  • 8/16GB internal storage
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3 of 11 Google

Samsung Galaxy S4 "Google Play Edition"

Like the idea of a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, but prefer a device that gives you a more pure Google Android experience? Or maybe you just want an unlocked handset. Either way, take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S4 "Google Play Edition."

This is the same hardware as the Galaxy S4, but with all the Samsung bells and whistles removed. Some people love this, others hate it. But if you want it, it is yours, unlocked, for $649.

  • Skinless Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2), which means the same experience as the Nexus
  • 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
  • 5-inch Super AMOLED high-pixel-density (441ppi) display
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • 16GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot
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4 of 11 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Note II

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is the Android smartphone for those people with large hands to hold it with, and large pockets to keep it in.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II really is a solid handset packed with an array of high-end features. It even comes with the S Pen that can be used to copy text, crop images, and to share content.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  • 1.6 GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor
  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1.9MP front camera
  • 16/32/64GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot
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5 of 11 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
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6 of 11 Motorola

One to watch - Motorola Moto X

Here's a handset to watch over the coming weeks – Motorola's new Moto X.

I used to be pretty partial to Motorola handsets back before the iPhone. They were well built, and while they relied heavily on gimmicks, delivered decent performance and long-term reliability.

The Moto X is interesting, not because it is manufactured by Motorola – now owned by Google – but because it takes a new approach to computation power. Rather than one chip with multiple cores doing the work, the Moto X has a total of eight cores spread over four different chips, each doing a different thing.

 

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2)
  • Motorola X8 computing system, consisting of a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro dual-core clocked at 1.7GHz, a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, and two low-power processors, one that is used for natural language and the other for contextual computing
  • 4.7-inch AMOLED HD 720p display
  • 10MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • NFC
  • Wireless charging
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7 of 11 Sony

Sony Xperia Z

A newcomer to the list. Sony's Xperia Z packs a lot of cool features under the hood, sporting the sharpest LCD panel on the market, and a 13-megapixel camera capable of capturing HDR video.

This handset is also thin, coming in at a svelte 7.9-milimeters. But don't the thinness fool you, the Xperia Z is tough, featuring tempered glass, and a dustproof and waterproof build.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor
  • 5-inch TFT 1080p (1920 x 1080) display, powered by the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2
  • 13MP rear-facing camera
  • 2MP front-facing 1080p HD video capture
  • 16GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot
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8 of 11 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.

This handset is confirmed as .

  • 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
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9 of 11 Motorola

Motorola Razr i

Perhaps not the best — or best made — handset around, but the Razr i is nonetheless a decent, solid smartphone that won't break the bank.

The DuPont Kevlar fibre and Corning Gorilla Glass construction gives it a good feel in the hand, and it comes with an SD-card slot for storage expansion, something that the Nexus 4 doesn't have.

  • Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), but Jelly Bean inbound
  • 2GHz Intel Atom Z2460
  • 4.3-inch Super AMOLED 540x960 display
  • 8MP rear camera
  • VGA front camera
  • 8GB internal storage
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10 of 11 LG

LG Optimus G Pro

Smartphones are getting bigger, and the Optimus G Pro from LG is a real handful. The huge 5.5-inch display, combined with a quad-core Snapdragon processor makes this a serious piece of kit, but the overall size of this phatlet might put some people off.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  • 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU
  • 5.5-inch 1920x1080 full HD IPS display
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 2.1MP front camera
  • 32GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot
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11 of 11 Karbonn

Karbonn S5 Titanium

Some people love the flexibility that a dual-SIM handset can offer, and not only does the Karbonn S5 Titanium some kitted out with dual-SIM support, but it is also a solid, decent-spec handset that's functional enough to please most users.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.1)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU
  • 5-inch qHD IPS capacitive touch display
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • 4GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot

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