We round-up the best smartphones to buy in 2014, from all our in-depth mobile phone reviews. No longer just used to make phone calls and send text messages – we use our smartphones to listen to music, watch movies, play games, browse the internet and more. So choosing the right one for you is crucial.
It’s been a busy few years for the smartphone market, as Apple’s iPhone has had to make way for a flurry of the best Android phones yet, not to mention the steadily growing Windows Phone OS. But which are the best smartphones in 2014, and what upcoming smartphones should be on your radar? Read on...
Best smartphones 2014
Apple iPhone 5s
The iPhone 5s has, as ever, divided opinion. Some say Apple has cleverly tweaked one of the best phones on the market, and made it even better. Others, that it hasn’t innovated enough to compete with the Android market. We have to say, we sit firmly in the camp of the former. With a new processor, excellent new operating system, improved camera and of course, that fingerprint scanner, the iPhone is as desirable as ever - that's why we gave it our Smartphone of the Year 2013 Award.
The iPhone 5s is our favourite phone when it comes to sound quality, too. Songs are remarkably clear and packed with crisp detail, with a precision and rhythmic handling that most smartphones simply cannot match.
Sure, the iTunes experience divides opinion and can make things a fiddle but the flipside is the convenience of the iTunes Store and streaming music via AirPlay.
While we love the HTC’s stereo capabilities, when it comes to listening through headphones, the performance of the iPhone 5s cannot be beaten.
MORE: Read our full Apple iPhone 5s review
Best alternative smartphones 2014
The HTC One M8 took everything that was good with the HTC One, added some extra features and made it great. The One M8 is as lovely to hold as is it to use thanks to its 90% metal body and a processor upgrade and addition of a microSD card slot are welcomed with open arms. If you're after one of the best Android phones currently on the market, then look no further.
MORE: Read our full HTC One M8 review
The G3 arrived on the smartphone scene with incredibly big shoes to fill. But fill them it does. With a stonkingly sharp Quad HD display, lightning fast processor and a fantastic camera, the LG G3 is a vast improvement over the G2, which is certainly saying something. Quite possibly the best smartphone available at the moment, the G3 definitely warrants your attention.
MORE: Read our full LG G3 review
The Z1 saw Sony pull up a chair at the top table where mobile phones were concerned in 2013, and the Z2 aims to manouevre Sony's Xperia range to the head of the table.
The new design is largely the same but with rounded edges and a slightly larger screen, which will help when it comes to watching video if maybe not holding the thing.
Also new is 4K video recording and noise cancelling technology, which very much tickle our sound and vision fancy. Undoubtedly a contender for the best smartphone award in 2014.
MORE: Read our full Sony Xperia Z2 review
The Samsung Galaxy S5 was officially revealed at MWC and... well, we're a little underwhelmed.
There are clear improvements, refinements to the OS, improvements to the specs, the addition of some new features, but the plastic casing remains and despite a finger scanner and heart rate monitor, we hoped for more innovation.
MORE: Read our full Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Best budget smartphone
LG and Google have joined forces once again to bring us the long-awaited Nexus 5.
As the first phone to run Android's latest 4.4 KitKat iteration, the Nexus 5 offers the purest form of Android, an experience that was much revered on its predecessor, the Nexus 4, and we love it here too.
In fact, there's a lot to love about the Nexus 5. Not only is it slick and easy to use, picture quality is outstanding and we love its way with music too. If only it's camera was a little bit better... but at this price, we can forgive it.
Because like its predecessor, the Nexus 5 has a very reasonable price tag compared to other similarly specced handsets, available at £299 (16GB) or £339 (32GB). Welcome to the 'budget' category of the smartphone world.
Spec-wise, it's got a larger 5in, Full HD screen with a super-crisp 445ppi, a quad-core Snapdragon processor, a choice of 16GB or 32GB of on-board storage and an 8MP camera.
Its also 4G/LTE ready, should you have a 4G-compatible SIM and contract.
MORE: Read our full Nexus 5 review
Best Windows Phone smartphone
Windows Phone has had quite the battle on its hands up against the mobile behemoths of iOS and Android, but the Nokia Lumia 925 is one of Nokia's more recent attempts to draw users over the WinPho way of life, alongside the likes of the flagship Lumia 1020.
In place of the Nokia Lumia 920’s shiny plastic shell, the Lumia 925 has opted for a slimmer, lighter and classier design, with a metal edge and understated matte polycarbonate back panel.
The camera is a key focus for the Lumia 925. It features six Carl Zeiss lenses and manages pinsharp snaps, with a fast autofocus and natural colour palette. Low light performance is admirable too.
The Nokia Lumia 925 is undoubtedly the best Windows Phone we've seen. While its unique interface and lack of apps may still struggle to turn the heads of iPhone and Android stalwarts, Windows Phone fans and keen converts will find it an attractive and capable option.
MORE: Read our full Nokia Lumia 925 review
ALSO CONSIDER: Nokia Lumia 1520
More after the break
More top smartphones for 2014
Here's a selection of more mobile phones that we think are worth looking out for during 2014, complete with links to relevant news stories and hands-on reviews.
Take a look at the long-awaited, much-rumoured "budget" iPhone 5C. A cheap iPhone, it is not, but it is indeed, as the rumours tipped, a plastic iPhone.
The iPhone 5C doesn’t feel like a plastic phone, and as the firm has gone to great lengths to explain, this is different. Rather like the M&S ads in fact, this isn’t just plastic, this is Apple iPhone plastic.
And on first impressions, they might just be right. The iPhone 5C is a quality, and slightly different product – and after playing with it, it's easy to imagine the 5C becoming Apple’s biggest seller, and the most popular iPhone ever released.
More: Read our hands on iPhone 5C review
The original phablet is back and, Samsung says, better than ever. The Galaxy Note 3, launched at IFA 2013, comes with a new, soft-textured back panel, doing away with the infamous plastic casing and has an even bigger 5.7in screen.
On the inside you'll find, crucially, support for hi-res audio, as well as a new and improved S Pen stylus for tapping away on that big, 1080p Super AMOLED screen.
It launched alongside the Galaxy Gear smart watch, which talks to the Note 3 phone for emails and messages, but it's the sound and video quality of the new Note 3 that we're most interested in seeing in action.
MORE: Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review
Launched at IFA 2013, the Sony Xperia Z1 is Sony's new flagship and once again waterproof with it. It looks similar the Xperia Z but somewhat more premium and less angular. First impressions are good.
Inside it has had a much more thorough upgrade, with a 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage, which is expandable up to 64GB via microSD.
A 5in, full HD screen is powered by a monster 3000mAh battery, while there's also 4G support in the UK. But arguably the stand-out feature is the 20.7MP camera. We look forward to taking this Sony for a spin.
MORE: Read our full Sony Xperia Z1 review
It has a 6.4in screen, which uses the same Triluminos technology seen in the company's 2013 TVs, and the latest Bravia X-Reality Engine. It's a 4G phone, too.
The Xperia Ultra Z price looks likely to be around £600 SIM-free, so it's not cheap, but it is a heck of a lot of screen. Too big? We look forward to finding out in a full review...
MORE: Read our full Sony Xperia Z Ultra review
HTC has followed Samsung's lead in delivering a Mini version of its flagship phone (in this case, the HTC One). The HTC One Mini has a unibody design of anodised aluminium, although there is more plastic at the edges, and a 4.3in 720p display: not Full HD but slightly ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini’s 960x540 resolution.
At the back is the same 4MP UltraPixel camera as used on the HTC One, although the One Mini doesn’t have image stabilisation. The front camera takes a hit, going from 2.1MP to 1.6MP. Sounds good, we look forward to bringing you a review ASAP.
Another mini-me phone, the S4 Mini has a 4.3in qHD Super AMOLED display, a 1.7GHz dual core processor and weighs 107g. It's 125mm x 61mm, and 8.9mm thin.
By comparison, the Galaxy S4 has a 5in screen, quad core processor and weighs 130g, and its dimensions are 137 x 70 x 7.9mm. So it's definetely smaller.
The S4 Mini comes with an 8MP camera and is also 4G LTE compatible, and will be available on the EE 4G network in the UK.
Upcoming smartphones in 2014
Apple iPhone 6
Apple is the last of big smartphone players to present its 2014 flagship. The iPhone 6 is expected to come with a larger, 4.8in screen, an improved processor and an upgraded camera. It will come running iOS 8, bringing with it a plethora of new features.