Smartphone screen size just keeps on growing. In fact, it’s increasingly difficult to find a decent selection of models with displays under 4’’ in size. On top of that, processing power is on the up while power use drops to boost battery lives. Operating systems (Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone, RIM’s BlackBerry OS, Samsung’s Bada, etc.) are becoming increasingly intuitive and practical too. It’s no wonder so many of us have snapped up one of these new-generation mobiles.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a selection of stand-out handsets emerge in the high-end market. However, there are now more than ever good-value mid-range smartphones out there too. There are even some decent entry-level handsets around (approx. £200 SIM-free), which are perfectly suitable for users who don’t want to shell out for an all-singing, all-dancing mobile.
Basically, you’re spoilt for choice these days! To pick a model, think about your needs and priorities (do you need a good camera, a good battery life, a fast handset, a high-def screen, etc.?), then use our reviews, search filters and buyer’s guide to whittle down the options.
The Galaxy Note 2 is a nice update of the original Galaxy Note, particularly with the major progress Samsung has made with its S Pen stylus and associated functions, including almost instant handwriting recognition thanks to the ultra-fast processor. Business users, fans or previous Note owners will no doubt fall for this giant smartphone, as well as its monster battery life—it gives around two days' use with no need to hold back on what you're doing.
The fifth generation of the iPhone is an effective high-end smartphone. More powerful than the 4S (as one would expect) though not a game changer either, the iPhone 5's primary selling points are a lighter body, quicker execution and excellent multimedia capacities. Its weaknesses? A GPS function (Apple Maps) in need of revision and average battery life that isn't quite enough for intensive use.
Best of the rest
With its flawless responsiveness and sleek design, the One gives the impression that you're holding a unique device (even though HTC fell in its own trap with the UltraPixel camera). At the end of the day, the HTC One is the perfect product to get the company back on its feet—provided it doesn't change horses in midstream, and provided you aren't too picky about the camera.
Google Nexus 4
Rock-bottom price aside, the Nexus 4 is an excellent smartphone. You just have to like Android without any of the (sometimes useful) extras that you get with the competition's software overlays. The Nexus 4 is LG's triumphant return to the mobile race with a sober, elegant and effective smartphone. The only major issues that could turn off certain consumers are the inconsistent camera and non-expandable memory. That said, you won't find better value for your money anywhere else in the Android universe.
Budget Windows Phone
Nokia Lumia 620
The Lumia 620 has a good screen, a nice user interface, great responsiveness and good sound quality. On the downside, it takes poor quality photos and has low battery life. If you're looking for an inexpensive WP8 phone and these last two points don't deter you, then why not get a Lumia 620.
High-End Finish With Waterproofing
Sony Xperia Z
The Xperia Z has lots of selling points: elegance, quality finishing, high responsiveness, an effective user interface, a good phone function... But it isn't perfect: the camera is disappointing and the body picks up smudges like crazy. Another decent alternative is the LG Optimus G, a responsive handset with a user-friendly interface with plenty of functions.
Boosted Battery Life
Motorola RAZR i
A good, well-balanced smartphone on the whole, the RAZR i's standout features are battery life and camera settings. Unfortunately, it could run a tad more smoothly when navigating through menus and the screen quality is definitely behind the competition. Alternatively, the Huawei Honor is a good value handset that also boasts a very good battery life.