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Top Android phones (April 2014 edition)

Time once again to take a tour of a handful of the best Android phones currently available on the market (April 2014). There are a few new handsets, including one for all you pure Android fans. Also, do you want a smartphone that's a little more robust that regular devices? If so, how about a new water- and dust-resistant smartphone from Sony.
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1 of 10 ZDNet

Introduction

Update: The May 2014 Android phone report is now available.

Time once again to take a tour of a handful of the best Android phones currently available on the market (April 2014). There are a few new handsets, including a couple for all you pure Android fans. Want something bigger than your average smartphone? If so, there's also a phablet for you to look at!

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.

If I had to choose one of these, I'd still more than likely go for Google's Nexus 5 because it's a powerful, fully featured handset that offers the purest Android experience possible. It's the only handset that will guarantee that you'll see Android updates over the course of its lifespan.

However, I have to admit that some of the features present on the Samsung Galaxy S5 make it a great choice for the BYOD crowd. Not only is it water- and dust-resistant — something Samsung doesn't talk much about — but it's also crammed with cool features and software. If you like to geek out over smartphones, this is the one to geek out over.

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2 of 10 HTC

HTC One M8

Looking like the original HTC One, the One M8 features a unibody aluminum shell which gives it a firm feel, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4 with its plastic shell.

Inside the shell is everything you'd expect from a modern Android smartphone — a large, high-pixel-density display, a powerful quad-core processor, plenty of storage, good cameras, and a microSD card for storage expansion which supports cards up to 128GB.

An excellent Android handset.

  • KitKat (Android 4.2.2) with HTC Sense
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
  • 5-inch Full HD, 1080p display (441 pixels-per-inch)
  • 4MP rear camera
  • 4MP UltraPixel front camera
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • microSD card slot
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3 of 10 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung finally lifted the veil of secrecy that surrounded its new flagship handset at MWC 2014, and we now have official confirmation as to what the new Galaxy S5 will bring to the table.

While I have little doubt that Samsung was influenced by the iPhone 5S — the fingerprint reader and motion sensors kinda gives that away — there's also plenty of originality in the Galaxy S5 too.

Once this is released — slated for this month — this will undoubtedly be the flagship Android handset.

  • KitKat (Android 4.4)
  • 5.1-inch Full HD Super AMOLED with a pixel density of 415 pixels-per-inch
  • 2.5GHz quad-core processor with Adreno 330 GPU
  • 16MP rear camera
  • 2MP front camera
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Air Gesture support
  • Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, gesture, and heart rate sensors
  • 16/32GB internal storage
  • microSD card support
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4 of 10 Sony

One to watch: Sony Xperia Z2

Another entry that was unveiled at this years MWC bash.

The water- and dust-resistant Xperia Z2 comes only six months after the previous Xperia Z1 flagship was released, but this update has everything you'd expect — larger display, faster processor, better camera, and support for the latest Android 4.4 KitKat release. Also in are stereo speakers and noise cancellation technology.

  • KitKat (Android 4.4)
  • 5.2-inch IPS LED display with a pixel density of 424 pixels-per-inch
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdradon 801 processor with Adreno 330 GPU
  • 20.7MP rear camera
  • 2.2MP front camera
  • 16GB internal storage
  • microSD card support
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5 of 10 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 also supports Samsung's new Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Probably the biggest downside to this handset is that it feels plasticky and a little bit cheap in the hand, though 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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6 of 10 Samsung

Samsung Galaxy S4

It might now have been superceded by the Galaxy S4, but there's still an awful lot to like about the Galaxy S4 — the powerful CPU, plenty of storage space, a user-replaceable battery, the microSD slot, and the fact that it can be used as a remote control for a DVR. It's very much like HTC's new One handset, except marginally better in almost every way (except, perhaps, for the plastic shell).

And, if you're lucky (or know how to shop around), you can pick one up cheaply now.

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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7 of 10 Sony

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

A newcomer to the list. Sony's Xperia Z Ultra 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 6.5-milimeters. But don't let the thinness fool you — the Xperia Z Ultra is tough, featuring tempered glass, and a dustproof and waterproof build, rated to IP58.

This is the smartphone you need if you want to be able to submerge it in a meter of water and still have a working handset.

  • Jelly Bean (Android 4.2)
  • 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor
  • 6.4-inch TFT 1920 x 1080 display, powered by an updated Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 with 342 pixels-per-inch
  • 8MP rear-facing camera
  • 2MP front-facing 1080p HD video capture
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Compatible with the Sony SmartWatch 2
  • microSD slot
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8 of 10 Motorola

Motorola 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. This is supposed to both speed up the handset and make the battery last longer.

Oh, and it's also built in the U.S.

  • 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

 

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9 of 10 LG

LG G2

In an attempt to differentiate its phablet from the competition, LG made the decision to place the hardware buttons on the back of the device. This, the company claims, reduces accidental button presses and also makes it easier for southpaw's to use.

Getting on a bit, but still a solid, well-rounded phablet.

  • Android 4.2.2 "Jelly Bean"
  • 2.26 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor
  • 5.2-inch full HD 1080p IPS display featuring 423-pixel-per-inch
  • 13MP rear camera
  • 2.1MP front camera
  • 16/32GB storage
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10 of 10 Google

Google 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 will also 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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