As the year comes to a close, we’re back with our top ten list of the best phones we’ve seen over the past twelve months. While our 2012 list was notable due to the lack of feature phones – a first at the time – this year sees the inclusion of hardware not produced solely by the big names. We’ve got an true newcomer on the list, and also a relative unknown too. It has been an amazing year for smartphone fans, so in no particular order, here are the ten phones which have excited us most during 2013.
Will there come a time when an Apple smartphone doesn’t make most annual top ten lists? If so, it’s not this year. The iPhone 5S packs considerable punch thanks to the new 64-bit A7 processor, and is host to several interesting features such as the fingerprint scanner.
Jolla is this year’s smartphone startup success story. The Finnish firm launched the Jolla phone and the new Sailfish OS in November, following a pre-order campaign in the summer, having started out almost from scratch late last year. The phone may not have super specs, but the software looks great, and Jolla shows great promise for the future.
Motorola Moto G
After being absent from the UK market for several years, Motorola is back, and it has brought us the Moto G. It’s easily the smartphone bargain of the year. The spec is solid – a 4.5-inch, 720p display and a quad-core chip – but it’s the draw of stock Android 4.3 (soon to be Android KitKat) that’s hard to resist. Particularly as it’s a mere £119.89 for an 8GB, unlocked model.
Chinese brand Oppo is one of the few companies pushing the smartphone boundaries in 2013. The unusual N1 smartphone – a tech powerhouse with a 5.9-inch Full HD screen and a quad-core processor – has a swiveling 13-megapixel camera module, so it can be used for both forward and rear facing shots. There’s also an intuitive touch panel control on the rear of the device. Expect more exciting hardware from Oppo in 2013.
If Motorola brought us the biggest bargain of the year, then HTC holds the title for producing the best looking phone of 2013. Released way back in February, the HTC One‘s aluminium unibody hasn’t been trumped in terms of style, while the gorgeous 1080p screen is still one of the sharpest available too. HTC knows it’s on to a winner, and has repeated the One’s look on the One Mini and the One Max.
Google LG Nexus 5
Once again, Google teamed up with LG to produce this year’s Nexus phone. The Nexus 5 is loaded with Android KitKat, and has a Snapdragon 800 processor – surely the chip of 2013, given its dominance on this list alone – plus a 5-inch, 1080p touchscreen. Only the camera lets it down, but thanks to the low price, this is easily forgiven.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung played it quite safe with its flagship Galaxy smartphone for 2013. The design isn’t all that different from the Galaxy S3, and neither is the processor, but the screen and camera both received big updates. Samsung pushed the Galaxy S4‘s software features more than the tech specs. The phone has been incredibly popular, easily ending up as one of the year’s biggest sellers.
Nokia Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 has no such camera problems, and is the first Windows Phone to be equipped with Nokia’s full PureView experience. The 41-megapixel camera is a marvel, and has seen the Lumia 1020 become the choice of the cameraphone connoisseur this year.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The smartphone/tablet hybrid has grown in both size and popularity during 2013, and although the Galaxy Note 3 may get most of the recognition, we think if you’re going to buy a big phone, get a big phone. The 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra is almost comically large, but is also very powerful, super slim, and beautifully made. A phone for those who want to be noticed!
We think this is the best phone LG has made to date, and is the unsung smartphone hero of the year. It’s fast, capable, and good looking. The build quality is great, the rear mounted controls are surprisingly natural, and the screen is a real beauty. The software still needs some work, but that’s true of all Android phones which have a manufacturer UI installed. Give it a try if you haven’t done so already.
That’s it for 2013, and what an incredible year it has been for smartphones! Once again, our list is devoid of hardware from BlackBerry, ZTE and Huawei, although the Ascend P6 was a consideration. The other notable absentee is the LG G Flex, which we didn’t add in due to it not being on sale in the UK just yet. We can’t wait to get our hands on it though. Will it or its successor be on 2014′s list? We’ll find out in 12 months time.