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The very best smartphones of 2013

With the year now drawing to a close, it's time to take a look at some of the best tech for the year, and now I move my gaze to smartphones.
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1 of 6 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Introduction

With the year now drawing to a close, it's time to take a look at some of the best tech for the year, and now I move my gaze to smartphones.

Smartphones are the device that kick-started the post-PC revolution, and as screen resolution, processing power and battery life has increased, these devices are taking over tasks that previously required a desktop or notebook PC.

Here all operating system prejudices have been left at the door, and there are smartphones running Android, iOS and Windows Phone in the listing.

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2 of 6 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Galaxy Note 3 is, as you can probably gather, a sequel to the Galaxy Note 2. It brings a whole raft of improvements to the table, and it is currently the only phone or phablet that's compatible with Samsung's new Galaxy Gear smartwatch (support for devices such as the Note 2, and the Galaxy S3 and S4 should arrive before the end of the year).

Probably the biggest downside to this handset is that it feels plasticky and a little bit cheap in the hand, this shouldn't put you off.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.3)
  • 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor
  • 5.7-inch 1920 x 1080 display with 388 pixels-per-inch
  • 3GB of RAM
  • Stylus (a pro or a con depending on your view of them)
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • 4G LTE
  • NFC
  • 32/64GB or internal storage
  • microSD card slot for expansion
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3 of 6 Google

Google Nexus 5

Hot off the production line is Google's latest smartphone, the Nexus 5.

Not only has it been put together using some of the best components currently available, it also offers the purest Android experience possible, and gives owners access to the latest Android 4.4 KitKat. Owners also will get their updates direct from Google and won't need to wait for hardware OEMs or carriers to release customized updates (or just never receive updates, as is still the case with many handsets).

I've always found Nexus-branded hardware to be solid and reliable, but I'd give this a few weeks for Google to shake out any potential bugs before recommending it to anyone other than hardcore Android enthusiasts.

  • KitKat (Android 4.4)
  • 2.23GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU
  • 4.95-inch 1920x1080 display with a pixel density of 445 pixels-per-inch
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1.3MP front camera
  • 16/32GB internal storage
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4 of 6 Samsung

Samsung 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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5 of 6 Nokia

Nokia Lumia 1520

It’s easy to forget that Microsoft is trying to carve out a market between the twin titans of Android and iOS. And as far as hardware goes, the Lumia 1520 is a strong contender.

It features a 6-inch ClearBlack IPS LCD 1920 x 1080 display powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. The operating system is Microsoft's Windows Phone 8

Also built into the handset is a powerful 20MP PureView camera with dual-LED flash.

  • Windows Phone 8
  • 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • 6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display with a pixel density of 368 ppi
  • 20MP PureView camera
  • 32GB storage
  • microSD slot
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6 of 6 Apple

Apple iPhone 5s

Without a doubt, my vote for the best smartphone of 2013 goes to the iPhone 5s.

  • A7 processor – Twice the CPU and GPU performance compared to the iPhone 5. It also brings 64-bit support to the iPhone, which paves the way for some innovative, high-performance apps. This is a first for Apple and a really big win.
  • Better camera – Since the smartphone is most people's default camera, and the iPhone is the single most popular smartphone on the market, it makes sense for Apple to revamp the camera. This new camera can do slow-motion captures and also shoot in burst mode and grab the best photo from the bunch.
  • Touch ID – Dramatically improves security, especially in BYOD or enterprise scenarios.
  • Motion coprocessor – This is used to continually measure motion data, and opens up a whole new range of possibilities as far as fitness apps are concerned.
  • Price – Exactly the same as the iPhone 5, so no surprises there.

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