Number 10: Nexus 6
Knowing the best smartphone you can buy right now is more than just a hunch for us. We test out the latest and – sometimes – greatest phones in comprehensive mobile phone reviews.
To drill down to a list of our 10 favorites in the US leading into the second half of 2015, we based the updated rankings on a lot of geeked-out factors: design, performance, battery life and camera quality.
Sure, your personal preference among iOS, Android and Windows Phone could sway you to another device besides our top-ranked phone. Likewise, availability via AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile is an outlier. The best phone for AT&T may not be available on-contract on Verizon, and vice-versa.
But that’s why we have more than just a No. 1 pick, which, spoiler alert, isn’t Apple’s iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. We’re not that predictable. Before you lock into a binding contract or spring for an expensive unlocked, SIM-free smartphone, consult our best phone guide, updated regularly. It’s missing our forthcoming LG G4 review today, but that’s guaranteed to give it a shake up in July.
10. Nexus 6
OS: Android 5.1 | Screen size: 5.96-inch | Resolution: 1440p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB | Battery: 3,220mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 2MP
The biggest smartphone on the list is the Nexus 6 from Google and Motorola. At a whopping 6 inches, it has room to compete with other flagships: a Snapdragon 805 processor, 3GB of RAM, all-day battery life, QuickCharge 2.0 and the latest Android 5.1 Lollipop update.
Nexus 6 has a nearly bezel-free display, so the finger-stretching dimensions actually manage to be not too far off the size of the iPhone 6 Plus, which includes Apple’s physical home button. The size of the phone is comparable, yet the screen size happens to be much bigger.
Of course, its bumped up cost isn’t as budget-friendly at $650 full price – more than double the $300 starting price of the now discontinued Nexus 5. It’s $249 through AT&T, but now $199 on-contract through Verizon. Just make sure you can properly hold this two-handed phablet before entering into a binding two-year commitment or opting for the very pricey no contract option.
- Nexus 6 review
- See the best Nexus 6 deals
Number 9: Sony Xperia Z3
9. Sony Xperia Z3
OS: Android 5.0.2 | Screen size: 5.15-inch | Resolution: 1080p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 3,100mAh | Rear camera: 20.7MP | Front camera: 2.2MP
Skip the on-contract Sony Xperia Z3v and forthcoming Sony Xperia Z4v, which are only available through Verizon, and opt for the infinitely better Sony Xperia Z3. Its the true upgrade to Sony Xperia Z2 that’s already outdated by the Z3’s aluminium frame. Plastic is out and metal-and-glass design are in.
Thankfully, Xperia Z3 keeps the dedicated button for its 20.7-megapixel camera and Sony’s IPS LCD screen technology makes it easier to read the 5.2-inch display, even in sunlight. The biggest beneficiaries are going to be PS4 consoles owners who can take advantage of Remote Play, a feature it shares with the Z3v, Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact.
Z3’s internal specs are a small step up from the Z2 and matched by the Z3V, but this is the best of what Sony has to offer in design. That is, until the currently Japan-only Sony Xperia Z4 launches everywhere else as the Sony Xperia Z3+.
- Sony Xperia Z3 review
- See the best Sony Xperia Z3 deals
Number 8: iPhone 6 Plus
8. iPhone 6 Plus
OS: iOS 8.4 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1080p | Memory: 1GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2,915mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
iPhone 6 Plus is the only phablet-sized smartphone that runs iOS 8, so if you’re tied into apps and services like iMessages and iCloud, this is your best and only bet for going big with Apple. It got even better at WWDC 2015 thanks to the reveal of today’s iOS 8.4 update and the iOS 9 beta.
Its 5.5-inch Full HD display makes it almost as multimedia-friendly as the iPad mini 3. All of a sudden, there’s even less reason to check out that tablet. Simply put, it has the best specs within the iPhone lineup: a killer camera with optical image stabilization, a crisp 1080p screen and a bigger battery.
This means that it’s a tad expensive and harder to hold than the simultaneously launched iPhone 6 that we like slightly better. It may be a little too wide (but not too pricey) for what Apple fans are used to, when the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is cheaper and just as powerful.
- iPhone 6 Plus review
- See the best iPhone 6 Plus deals
Number 7: Samsung Galaxy Note 4
7. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
OS: Android 5.0.1 | Screen size: 5.7-inch | Resolution: 1440p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: removable 3,220mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 3.7MP
Samsung is on the best smartphone list three times starting with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It’s simply a better phablet than what Apple and Google have to offer out of their own labs.
The 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display dials up the pixel count with a Quad HD resolution and it’s sharper and brighter than other two-handed phones. And it comes with the handy S Pen stylus.
Note 4’s camera exhibits punchy colors, and for the most part works flawlessly. In fact, some scenes look more dramatic than real life due to Samsung’s image processing. Under the Gorilla Glass 3 and Super AMOLED is a solid Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM and a user-replaceable 3220mAh Fast Charging battery.
Samsung’s support of microSD cards as well as its removable battery is also laudable, something that didn’t carry over to the new Galaxy S6. Just be warned, the best phablet will cost you. It’s $300, and that’s with a carrier’s strict two-year contract in the US. Otherwise, it’s pricier at $600 off-contract.
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review
- See the best Samsung Galaxy Note 4 price
Number 6: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
6. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
A small Android phone packed with big features
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 4.6-inch | 720p | Memory: 2GB | Storage: 16GB | Battery: 2,600mAh | Rear camera: 20.7MP | Front camera: 2.2MP
Less powerful with a lower-res screen than its bigger brother, the Z3 Compact still uses most of the high-end specs, fuses them with things like Remote Play and the 20.7MP camera, and does it all at a low, no-contract cost for a phone of this power.
The 4.7-inch display makes this one of the best phones to hold and use in day-to-day life, and it’s also got a brilliantly long-lasting battery, so if you’re not a fan of the gargantuan models on show, there’s a lot to love with Sony’s mini flagship.
Its best of Sony in a smartphone, with ergonomics and a contract-free price that impresses. Don’t let the specs sheet fool you. You just won’t find it discounted through a carrier, as it has to be bought outright.
- Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review
- See the best Sony Xperia Z3 Compact deals
Number 5: LG G3
5. LG G3
A superb flagship phone for an excellent price
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1440p | Memory: 2GB/3GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: removable 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 2.1MP
We’re currently reviewing the LG G4, but until we test out all of its new features, the LG G3 remains on our list for its simple selling points: its price and an ultra clear screen. It’s got a lot of other technology in there to attract you too, but it’s those two elements that show it off so well, as well as fan favorite features like a removable battery and memory card slot.
LG has always offered a premium experience for a lower price than its rivals, and with a QHD screen it’s got four times the pixels of some phones on this list, and it also comes with a number of other enhancements too – although with those extra pixels packed in, the display is a bit darker than others on the market.
Laser-based auto-focus? Check. Improved design? Check. Overhauled and simplified UI? Double check. It’s a little big for some hands, thanks to the 5.5-inch display, the camera isn’t up to scratch and it’s stuck at Android 5.0 Lollipop without the 5.1 update – but for the price it’s easy to forgive those elements when there’s so much else to love in this handset.
- LG G3 review
- See the best LG G3 deals
Number 4: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
4. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Curving into the future with impressive specs
OS: Android 5.0.2 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2560mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge has all the power and features of the table-topping S6, but does it with a little extra flair thanks to the curved edges on each side.
They’re pretty much aesthetics, as they don’t add a huge amount of functionality, but if you’re going on looks alone, the S6 Edge has them in spades.
The price is $100 higher though, making it $300 on contract and$700 for full price. That’s is why it doesn’t join its twin (non-identical) brother at the top of the chart. But if you’re after something that’s wildly different from anything else, with a great feature set and tip-top camera, this is your best phone choice.
- Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review
Number 3: HTC One M9
HTC One M9
Not quite up the 5-star standard, but HTC still has the most beautiful phone around
OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1080p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB | Battery: 2840mAh | Rear camera: 20.7MP | Front camera: 4MP
HTC’s been used to living at the top of our charts for the last couple of years, and while it’s not quite managed it in 2015, it’s still a phone with the best build quality out there.
None of the old favorites are missing, so BoomSound enhancement still really turbocharges the audio and the Sense overlay remains one of our favourites, thanks to being sophisticated and really powerful.
The camera has been boosted to 20.7MP, although it doesn’t have the impressive snapping power of some of the other phones on the market, and the design language still means this is one of our favourite phones to stick in the pocket.
It’s a touch more expensive than before, and doesn’t take a huge leap forward from last year’s model – but then again, that was nearly perfect, so where was HTC to go?
- HTC One M9 review
- See the HTC One M9 deals
Number 2: iPhone 6
2. iPhone 6
Bigger, better, sleeker and faster than the iPhone 5S
OS: iOS 8.3 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 750p | Memory: 1GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1,810mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
iOS 8 is so easy to use that you can operate an iPhone with one hand. That’s why we like the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 the best among Apple devices. It’s almost the best phone on the list. Sure, it doesn’t excel in any given part of the smartphone recipe, but it just works, promoting simplicity over complicated menus.
Case in point, the camera has a lower megapixel count than others, but it’s fast, bright and easy to use. Its screen is low-res compared to the phones around it, but pops and fizzes with color and brightness. And that design – we have to keep coming back to it as it feels beautiful in the hand.
iPhone 6 is easy to hold than its bigger brother and easier to pay for. It puts everything at our fingertips reach without requiring that “reachability” feature (though, it does have it just like the larger iPhone 6 Plus), and it’s $100 cheaper than Apple’s phablet at $200 on contract and $650 at full price.
- iPhone 6 review
- Best iPhone 6 deals
Number 1: Samsung Galaxy S6
1. Samsung Galaxy S6
A brilliant phone that shows Samsung still has what it takes
OS: Android 5.0.2 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440p | Memory: 3GB | Storage: 32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2550mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP
While last year’s Galaxy S5 was nothing special, this year Samsung’s started from the ground up to make a truly wonderful smartphone.
The camera is superb, the audio and video quality brilliant and the QHD display crammed into the 5.1-inch screen is the sharpest on the market – although it does suck down the battery rather a lot.
The design is finally something we’re pleased to hold in our hand, rather than the plastic cheapness of last year, and the refined TouchWiz overlay is a lot nicer to use. Not perfect, but nicer.
It’s pretty expensive, so make sure you’re after a truly A-grade experience before buying as you’ll be paying handsomely for it – but if you do take the plunge, you’ve got the best phone on the market.
- Samsung Galaxy S6 review
- Best Samsung Galaxy S6 deals
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HTC One M8
A stunning phone with very few flaws
OS: Android | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB | Battery: 2,600mAh | Rear camera: 4MP dual | Front camera: 5MP
The HTC One M8 has tumbled dramatically out of the top 10 after holding onto top spot for the best part of a year, so why the demise? Well it’s now pretty old compared to the handsets making up the top ten, and there’s a new kid on the block in the shape of the One M9.
It’s still the same perfectly design handset though, with impressive BoomSound speakers and the short-live, yet innovative Duo Camera on the year – but the One M9 is almost identical, and just a bit better all round.
There’s been a small price drop too since the arrival of the One M9, and you certainly won’t be getting a poor phone if you choose to pick it up – but for just a bit more you can have its up to date successor. Your call.
- HTC One M8 review
- See the best HTC One M8 deals
Samsung Galaxy S5
A year old, but still very capable
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB |Battery: 2,800mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 2MP
If Samsung’s latest duo of flagship devices (the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge) are too rich for your wallet then you can always consider last year’s Galaxy S5.
Sure it doesn’t have the same premium design as the current generation, but the plastic body means it’s dust and water resistant as well as giving you a removable battery and microSD slot – all things not available on the S6 range.
The drop in price also makes the Galaxy S5 more attractive and it’s stuffed full of tech and sports a fantastic screen to ensure you still have an enjoyable mobile experience.
- Samsung Galaxy S5 review
- See the best Samsung Galaxy S5 deals
Moto X (2014)
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.2-inch | Resolution: 1080p | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB | Battery: 2,300mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 2MP
Moto X is the most stylish and customizable smartphone within our best of list. That’s thanks to Motorola’s sophisticated Moto Maker website that made its debut with the Moto X 2013. You can outfit this new 5.2-inch Android device with accent colors and different backs, like leather and wood.
Truth be told, our leather back choice got beat up within a few days, making iPhone 6 Plus’ notorious BendGate look pretty by comparison. But the new powerful specs bump held up. Its 2.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, enough for a one-handed smartphone.
Motorola’s flagship for 2014 is cheaper than its direct rivals, including the better-marketed Samsung Galaxy S6. Add the fact that it has pure Android and the handy infrared-sensing Moto Display on board, and Moto X seems like the ideal combination: fashionable, functional contract-free if the right deal is found.
Just be warned, it’s likely to be replaced by a Moto X 2015 with a better camera around September.
- Moto X 2014 review
- Best Moto X 2014 deals
Nokia Lumia 930
Hey Nokia, (now Microsoft), nice flagship phone!
OS: Windows Phone | Screen size: 5-inch | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 32GB |Battery: 2,420mAh | Rear camera: 20MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
The Lumia 930 does lack compared to the competition, but only in a couple of areas. Windows Phone is still a sub-par operating system for most people, thanks to the poorer apps and lower amount of control. But then again, for a lot of people the improved Office functionality and simple interface is a boon.
It’s strong in both design and power, although a little last-gen on the latter element, and coupled with a very capable camera, is a phone that’s easy to recommend to those looking for something different.
Windows Phone aside, there’s a great deal on show here to make this a top-rated smartphone. The build quality is excellent and iconic, and the camera is powerful and results in mostly great snaps. We like that 32GB is on offer as the base model, and wireless charging built in is perfect.
This is your best Windows Phone option while we wait for the newly renamed Windows 10 Mobile to launch later this year.
- Nokia Lumia 930 review
- See the best Nokia Lumia 930 deals
OS: Android | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1080p | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 16GB/64GB | Battery: 3,100mAh | Rear camera: 13MP | Front camera: 5MP
OnePlus One was the surprise smartphone of 2014 thanks to the Chinese manufacturer that no one had ever heard of a few months ago. It’s fast, large and, importantly, inexpensive.
It has super-customizable software, derived from the popular CyanogenMod, is backed up by still-powerful specs: a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a healthy 3100 mAh Li-Po.
There’s no microSD card slot or removable battery, and the 13-megapixel camera quality finishes in the middle of the pack with the same “pretty good” sensor as the new Nexus 6. That’s okay. At $300 unlocked, it’s more than half of the starting price of Google’s new 6-inch smartphone that is a more serious $650 without a contract.
That’s a good deal, at least until the One Plus Two launches sometime in 2015 with possible lasers.
- OnePlus One review
- See the best OnePlus One deals
Perfect for fans of the smaller screen size
OS: iOS | Screen size: 4-inch | Resolution: 1136 x 640 | RAM: 1GB | Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB |Battery: 1,560mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 1.2MP
Remember this? After the furore with the iPhone 6, it’s easy to forget that the Apple iPhone 5S is still alive and kicking at a discounted price of $100 on contract and $550 with no contract.
It’s still a bit expensive, but that said it’s sucked down the iOS 8 software pretty well, and is still pushing on as a decent option for a slightly cheaper iPhone, especially if you like the smaller sized screen.
Plus, you can use it with the Apple Watch and pay for things on the go using the cunningly named Apple Pay – although for some reason Touch ID won’t be enabled to work online, where it will be for the iPad Air 2 and friends.
- iPhone 5S review
- See the best iPhone 5S deals
Physical keyboards FTW, right?
OS: BlackBerry 10 | Screen size: 3.5-inch | Resolution: 720 x 720 | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB |Battery: 2,515mAh | Rear camera: 8MP | Front camera: 2MP
Come again? BlackBerry is still going? Well yes it is, and in the past year it’s launched both the Passportand the Classic.
They certainly won’t be to many people’s taste, but those unable to drag themselves away from a physical keyboard on their phone have the Classic to fall back on.
It takes the best bits of design from the firm’s much loved Bold series and brings them into the 21st Century with the BB10 operating system and improved specs. Great for those always emailing and messaging on the go, just don’t try and play games or watch movies on its 4:3 display.
- BlackBerry Classic review
- See the best BlackBerry Classic deals
Source:: phones revews