In the past 12 months, we’ve seen oversized phones (don’t call them phablets) rise to dominance and pretty much becoming the face of the Android smartphone market. Gone are the days of phones with modest 3.5-inch screens, dual-core processors, and limited wireless features. Nowadays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a handset that doesn’t have a large screen, quad-core CPU, and some form of next-gen wireless networking.
But it’s about time that we make a new list of the best Android phones released in 2013, and talk about some exciting devices that are rumored to be released in the coming months.
So far, 2013 has been an absolute whirlwind for Android. There are a lot of great phones worthy of being called “the best” out there, and we know that more are on the way (Nexus 5, anyone?) so we will update this piece accordingly.
But we also know that there can be only one. So without further ado, meet the current contenders to the title of best Android phone of 2013.
If you’re looking for reasons why you shouldn’t upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S4 — or purchase any other phone, for that matter — we can give you at least one. The HTC One is, by far, the absolute best Android phone that HTC has ever created, and it’s a serious contender for the title of best smartphone of 2013. It’s also a symbol of HTC’s fight for survival.
HTC One specs
- Display: 4.7-inch Super LCD3, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 469 ppi
- Camera: 4MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (1080p video recording)
- SoC: 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU, Adreno 320 GPU
- Memory: 32GB/64GB internal storage (no microSD support), 2GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to Android 4.2.2
- Battery: 2,300mAh battery (non-removable)
We have to admit, the HTC One doesn’t exactly scream “best Android phone ever” on paper. Some of its features might even make it look a bit underwhelming: “4 megapixel camera?” But don’t let the appearances fool you.
The HTC is anything but underspec’ed. It’s actually one of the more feature-rich handsets launched so far this year, especially when it comes to the camera. It also offers a unique homescreen experience courtesy of an app called HTC BlinkFeed, which may or may not be useful depending on how you use your phone. The stereo speakers, part of the BoomSound sound system, are another highlight of the HTC One.
The bottom line is, in a sea of Android lookalikes, the HTC One easily stands out.
HTC One review and image gallery
Google Nexus 4
LG pretty much gets a free pass to be on this list because of its status as maker of the current flagship Nexus smartphone from Google. And it doesn’t hurt that it did a really great job with it, too. The Nexus 4 is one of the most in-demand Android phones out on the market because it offers a no-frills “stock” Android experience, one that won’t leave users annoyed with bloatware and scrambling for ways to flash a custom ROM. It’s also very cheap, if you get it from the Play Store
Nexus 4 specs
- Display: 4.7-inch IPS+, HD (1280×720 pixels), 318 ppi
- Camera: 8MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (1080p video recording)
- SoC: 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, Adreno 320 GPU
- Memory: 8GB/16GB internal storage (no microSD support, 2GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to Android 4.2.2
- Battery: 2,100mAh battery (non-removable)
Another thing that makes the Nexus 4 a must-have is the fact that it gets Google-issued Android software updates faster than any other handset you can buy right now, which is standard operating procedure for all of Google’s Nexus devices. There are some who find the Nexus 4’s lack of support for microSD cards disappointing, but the good news is that Android — the default version of the operating system itself, that is — doesn’t really take up too much space to begin with.
With all of that said, the Nexus 4 is clearly not the most powerful model that you can get your hands on. People tend to buy it more for the software, and rarely ever for the hardware. It even lacks an FM radio, but buying it can save you a bunch of money, and that’s a good thing.
Google Nexus 4 review and image gallery
Samsung Galaxy S4
You can’t have a list of the best Android smartphones of 2013 without what is currently considered by many as the undisputed king of all: the Samsung Galaxy S4. It has all of the features that made its predecessor, the Galaxy S3, a favorite, and ups the ante with a boatload of new and exciting features.
Samsung Galaxy S4 specs
- Display: 5-inch Super AMOLED, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 441 ppi
- Camera: 13MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (HDR + 1080p video recording)
- SoC: Exynos 5 Octa 5410 with PowerVR SGX 544MP3/Snapdragon 600 with Adreno 320
- Memory: 16GB/32GB/64GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
- Battery: 2,600mAh battery (removable), 62 hrs. music, 17 hrs. talk
On top of all the TouchWiz standard features, there’s also a number of exclusive software tricks, of which some can be life-changing while the rest are a bit gimmicky. Some users have argued that Samsung should have just left these software tricks out in favor of letting users enjoy all the extra storage space, but the die has been cast.
Some have been very vocal about their disappointment in the Galaxy S4’s apparently limited amount of internal storage (at least in the case of the base model), but we think that shouldn’t stop you from purchasing this powerhouse.
Samsung Galaxy S4 review and image gallery
Sony Xperia Z
Sony has been making a lot of good moves in the Android universe lately, and users can’t help but notice. But don’t call it a comeback, Sony has been here for years. The flagship Xperia Z is the product of the vast amount of knowledge and experience that Sony has acquired from working in the mobile industry for so long.
Sony Xperia Z specs
- Display: 5-inch TFT, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 441 ppi
- Camera: 13.1MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (HDR, 1080p video, sweep panorama)
- SoC: 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600, Adreno 320 GPU
- Memory: 16GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to Android 4.2
- Battery: 2,330mAh battery (non-removable), 40 hrs. music, 11 hrs. talk
As you can see, the Xperia Z is not just beautiful on the outside. With the kind of specs it has, it’s quite beautiful on the inside as well. Its camera feature in particular is interesting, owing to its use of the exclusive Exmor RS sensor from Sony. And did we mention it’s water-resistant, with the ability to survive a dip into up to one meter of water?
It may not be a Nexus, but Sony has promised to provide plenty of software support for users of the Xperia Z well into the future. In fact, it decided to create an Android Open Source Project for it last month, in order to show its commitment. Among other things, it fully works with the latest nightly builds of CyanogenMod as well.
Sony Xperia Z review and image gallery
LG Optimus G Pro
LG has been on a tear lately, managing to regain its footing and hold on to the third place in the world smartphone market, thanks to successful devices like the Nexus 4, Optimus G, and Optimus G Pro. The latter gives the Note 2 a serious run for its money, thanks to its large, crisp display and powerful internal components.
LG Optimus G Pro specs
- Display: 5.5-inch IPS LCD, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 401 ppi
- Camera: 13.1MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (HDR, 1080p video)
- SoC: 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600, Adreno 320 GPU
- Memory: 32GB internal storage + microSD (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, upgradeable to Android 4.2
- Battery: 3140mAh battery (non-removable), 15.5 hrs. talk
When we reviewed the Optimus G Pro, we were impressed with its beautiful display, which makes the Note 2 feel a bit dated. The design is modern, though some may take offense with the plastic, the cameras are excellent and the specifications are the best you can get at this moment.
The only caveat with the LG Optimus G Pro is its size – if you’re used to the Note 2 or other similarly sized devices, it’s okay, but for someone coming from an iPhone or an older Android, the size of the G Pro can be shocking.
LG Optimus G Pro review and image gallery
Asus Padfone Infinity
The Asus PadFone Infinity is probably the most unique device on our list. Asus’ idea to create a smartphone that turns into a tablet was received with skepticism, but the truth is the PadFone has huge potential. If only it was available in more countries.
Asus Padfone Infinity specs
- Display: 5-inch Super IPS+ LCD, Full HD (1920×1080 pixels), 441 ppi
- Camera: 13MP auto-focus camera with LED flash (HDR, 1080p video)
- SoC: 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600, Adreno 320 GPU
- Memory: 32GB/64GB internal storage, not expandable, 2GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
- Battery: 2400mAh battery (non-removable), 19hrs. talk
The Padfone Infinity’s unique ability to become the brains of a tablet shell can be very compelling, but the phone itself is extremely appealing. It features specs that are as good as anything out there, the display is gorgeous, while the metal build give it a classy appearance. The device is expensive (especially if you want the full package, including the tablet and the keyboard dock) and hard to get by in Western markets, but if you do manage to buy it, it’s certainly one of the best phones of 2013 so far.
Asus Padfone Infinity hands-on and image gallery
Upcoming and rumored smartphones
We are approaching the middle of 2013, and we’ve already seen some amazing Android smartphones launch. But more great Android phones are expected in the coming months, so we’ll be updating this list often.
For now, we’ll go through some of the leaks and rumors to get an image of the most exciting Android phones that will come out by the end of the year.
Google Nexus 5
There has been no shortage of rumors pertaining to the highly-awaited Google Nexus 5. We’re not even sure yet of who will end up making it in the first place (LG seems a good candidate), but we’ve already got clues as to what kind of features it will bring to the table once it finally gets released.
The latest Google Nexus 5 rumor states that it will come fitted with a 4.5-inch screen that has a native resolution of 1280×720 pixels. It’s also said to have a 9MP CCD camera as well as a 2,800mAh battery, which we think would be useful. But as always, it would be wise to take this information with a grain of salt.
LG Optimus G2
Like the other handsets in this section of the article, the LG Optimus G2 has been the subject of many rumors. It has been spotted in benchmark scores in the past, plus there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t exist, especially since the original — the LG Optimus G — is so popular. So what exactly are all the Optimus G2’s rumored features so far?
The LG Optimus G2 will reportedly come with a 5-inch Full HD screen, a Snapdragon 800 CPU and the latest version of Android pre-installed. So far, LG has managed to remain mum about it, so we can’t tell you anything official yet. But we will, as soon as more info comes to light, so stay tuned.
Motorola X Phone
The Motorola X Phone — a.k.a. the Google X — is surely one of the most rumored Android-based Motorola handsets ever. But for something that gets talked about so much, we still know very little about it.
Some people don’t even think that the Motorola X Phone is real. For those who do, the rumored specs include the following: a 4.8-inch screen with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels as standard, 2GB of user-available RAM, and Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Whether or not it is able to live up to the expectation that all of the rumors have been setting it up for, we’ll find out soon enough.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The thing about the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is that it’s almost guaranteed to be a bigger, better, faster, and more powerful version of all of Samsung’s current Galaxy smartphones combined. Based on information from the most recent Galaxy Note 3 rumors that have appeared online, we can tell you that it will be fitted with an Exynos 5 Octa CPU as well as a Mali-450 MP GPU, along with a 4.99-inch screen.
The current version of the Samsung Galaxy Note is, of course, already quite interesting enough. You can be sure that we’ll be all over its successor to tell you all about it once it finally arrives some time later this year.
Honami is the codename for one of Sony’s upcoming Android smartphones, rumored to be called officially as the Sony i1. The most interesting bit of info about it that we have so far is that it will be made with a focus on the camera feature, even carrying the old yet famous Cyber-shot brand, taken from another product owned by Sony.
It is said that the Sony Honami will be second only to the Nokia PureView 808 in terms of camera performance. That would make it something that’s really worth looking forward to, if only to see what kind of output it would produce in the hands of a professional.