Buying guide: Best Android phones – Canada, May 2013

by: Bogdan PetrovanMay 22, 2013
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Canada flag Andreasivarsson/Flickr

This spring a variety of top-notch Android devices have been released, including Samsung’s fourth generation Galaxy S smartphone, the fully aluminum One from HTC, and the Xperia Z, a sleek high-end phone from Sony. Android has truly become the benchmark for all mobile operating systems. Sure, the market is fragmented and filled with cheap devices that no one wants or needs, but there are also some truly fantastic devices available, that have groundbreaking features and stunning designs. Many exciting announcements have come over the last few months, and it is no wonder that Android is holding its throne at the top. Let’s take a look at some of the best Android phones available in Canada this month, on contract and on pre-paid.

Best phones on contract: high-end

HTC One

In recent years, HTC has been losing the momentum it once had. They released too many flagship phones with confusing names and have fallen behind in marketing compared to Samsung. With the One, HTC is trying to bring itself back into the game as a true contender to Samsung’s flagship. HTC has vastly improved Sense with the new version 5.0, presenting it with a cleaner, more responsive interface. The Taiwanese company has also added in extra features, such as BlinkFeed, a Flipboard-style news feed that resides on the One’s homescreen, and Zoe, which brings your photos to life. There is also a range of added camera features to go along with the improved four ultrapixels sensor. The ultrapixel sensor is one of the most impressive features of the HTC One, allowing it to take fantastic, dynamic photos, even in low-light conditions. The secret is the novel technology that allows each pixel to capture more light, thus packing more information in each image. However, the low pixel count can be worrying; in some situations, the low-resolution sensor causes images to turn out blurry or lacking in details. More coverage

HTC One video review

HTC One availability and pricing

  • Rogers – available for $149 on a new 3 year plan
  • Telus – available for $149 on a new 3 year plan
  • Bell – available for $149 on a new 3-year plan
  • Virgin Mobile – available for $149 on a new 3-year plan

Samsung Galaxy S4

After building up Apple-style hype, Samsung launched last month the new Galaxy S4, sending shockwaves throughout the industry. The Galaxy S4 is filled with software features, but some of them come off as gimmicky or of questionable utility. These new features include things such as scrolling a website with your eyes, hovering over the screen for previews, a useful health app, and a lot more. They are not necessarily groundbreaking, but they do add a lot to the user experience. Much ink has been spilled over the fully plastic build of Samsung’s flagship phones. Plastic is perhaps not the best material in the world, but it does ultimately hold up well and doesn’t take away from the user experience. It also allows the back cover to be taken off, revealing the replaceable battery and SD card slot, which are widely considered important smartphone features. We thoroughly enjoyed this device and found it to be the best contenders in many categories, with its super-fast quad-core processor, stunning display, and brilliant 13-megapixel camera. More coverage

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Samsung Galaxy S4 availability and pricing

  • Rogers – available for $199 on a new 3-year plan
  • Telus – available for $199 on a new 3-year plan
  • Bell – available for $199 on a new 3-year plan
  • Virgin Mobile – available for $199 on a new 3-year plan

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

With the success of the Galaxy S3 on their belt, Samsung proceeded to introduce the second generation of the Note series, which was remarkably successful amongst consumers. The Note line was introduced with the primary aim to make a phone which doubled as a tablet. The result was a device with a large screen, though not large enough to be considered a tablet. Despite the massive size, many people find the idea of such a large device appealing, especially when combined with the S Pen. One of the unique features of the Galaxy Note 2 is its S-Pen, which is a stylus that can perform many tasks around the Galaxy Note 2, such as the ability to write down notes quickly and without hassle using the fabulous S-Note app. The Galaxy Note 2 is no spec monster by 2013 standards, but it still holds up well, with its 5.5-inch 720p screen, quad-core processor, and 8-megapixel camera. It also features a removable battery and an SD card slot. So, If you’re looking for a compromise between a phone and a tablet, with lots of extra features added on, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a solid choice. More coverage

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 availability and pricing

  • Rogers – available for $149 on a new 3-year plan
  • Telus – available for $149 on a new 3-year plan
  • Bell – available for $149 on a new 3-year plan

Sony Xperia ZL

The Sony Xperia ZL is the smaller brother to the Xperia Z. It retains the same 5-inch Full HD display, high-powered quad-core processor, and 13-megapixel camera that the Xperia Z has, but in a smaller, more portable package, which helps with one handed use. The handset is running Sony’s custom UI, which is not the best interface on a smartphone, but it does add some extra features and is smooth and reliable. We have however, noted that the display lacks great colors and wide viewing angles, which could potentially be a problem, but if you look past the display, the Xperia ZL is still a great on-contract choice. More coverage

Sony Xperia ZL review

Sony Xperia ZL availability and pricing

  • Rogers – available for $124 on a new 3-year plan
  • Bell – available for $99 on a new 3-year plan
Next page: phones on contract (budget) and unlocked.

Best phones on contract: budget

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung is, by far, the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Last year, the Galaxy S3 became a global hit, even before it became avail be to purchase, thanks to an unprecedented hype building campaign. The handset became the first device to outsell the iPhone in many places, and is widely thought of as the smartphone of 2012. This Galaxy S3 is, of course, a year old and is no longer the latest and greatest, but it still has moderately decent mid-range specs, sporting a dual-core processor, a 8MP, camera and 2 GB of RAM. Available for $49 on contract, there’s almost nothing that can beat the S3 for the price, especially considering Samsung will most likely support this device for at least another year. More coverage

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3 availability and pricing

  • Rogers – available for $49 on a new 3 year plan
  • Telus – available for $49 on a new 3 year plan
  • Bell – available for $49 on a new 3 year plan
  • Virgin Mobile – available for $49 on a new 3 year plan

Nexus 4

Google’s Nexus series is a favorite amongst hard-core Android fans, because it doesn’t have the bloat and overlays that most manufacturers put onto their devices, and retains the smooth, clean interface of stock Android. Nexus devices are also the first to receive the latest updates directly from Google, while other smartphones have to wait months for new versions to be pushed out. The Nexus 4 has a beautiful glass build and high-end specifications, such as a quad-core processor, an 8 megapixel camera, a 720p HD display, and 2 GB of RAM. The spec sheet, coupled with Google’s software, makes an almost unbeatable package for the price, and gives clear insight that Google knows how to design a phone that will please consumers. More coverage

Nexus 4 review

Nexus 4 availability and pricing

  • Telus – available for $99 on a new 3 year plan
  • Bell – available for $99 on a new 3 year plan
  • Virgin Mobile – available for free on a new 3 year plan

Best phones off contract (SIM-free)

Nexus 4 (unlocked)

While also available from Canadian carriers, the Nexus 4 happens to be the best deal around for an unlocked and SIM-free phone. It is available from the Google Play Store for an unbelievably cheap outright cost.

Nexus 4 - 10 tips and tricks

Nexus 4 unlocked availability and pricing

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

After the booming success of the Galaxy S3, Samsung created a second device for those who wanted a device that is similar to the S3, in a smaller, more convenient body. For the S3 Mini, all of the features of the larger device were kept, but put into a device with a 4-inch screen. The screen is not the only thing made smaller though. The specs are also a step down, but not to the point where it spoils the phone. The Galaxy S3 Mini has a dual-core processor, a 540p resolution display, and a 5 megapixel camera, which are not necessarily bad specs, but will disappoint people who expected the S3's high-end specs to be put in its smaller brother. All in all, the Galaxy S3 Mini is still a solid SIM-free choice for those who would like a slightly smaller device. More coverage

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini review

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini availability and pricing

  • Amazon – available for $349 unlocked

Wrap up

With so many great Android phones released in Canada, it can be hard to make a choice as to which one is the right device for you. There is an Android handset covering almost every gap in the smartphone market, and that is why Android ultimately remains the dominant and most well-respected mobile OS. It is already clear that this year will be a great one for both Android lovers and general consumers, with so many choices available on the market. Which phones that we listed above do you recommend? Have we missed a good one? Tell us in the comments!
  • Hardik Choudhary

    I would love the GS4 and the HTC One…But more of my support goes to the GS4….The most obvious reason for that is I have got a new GS4 and not the HTC One.

  • NexusNation

    Funny, all things considered I’d easily rank the Galaxy Nexus over the Galaxy S3, yet The Nexus 4 listed AFTER the S3. That’s a head scratcher.

  • simpleas

    Put simply, now that HTC is gone, you will get jack support. If you thought support was bad before, you haven’t seen nothin yet. Note 2 FTW! lol It’s a good time to be a Samsung fan ~ woot.

  • Maybe I’ll get the s4 on 5-23. Can’t wait!

  • obie

    can any one tell me what is there any difference between Samsung galaxy s3 Korean version or Samsung galaxy s3 international version which is also known as the original one and why is it so cheap then , is the camera quality same of both please help me !!

  • Can someone tell me if the att version will work on tmobiles hspa+ or 4g lte?