It’s been a busy Q1 in the smartphone industry. We’ve seen a ton of stellar smartphones announced, and many of those have launched or will launch in the coming weeks. HTC, Samsung, Sony, Nokia, and even underdogs like OnePlus have all brought some compelling smartphones forward to bring us into 2014, and us phone nerds are salivating all over our keyboards.
We’ve reviewed the HTC One M8 and had hands-on time with most the other announced handsets. But which is the best of the best so far this year? I, personally, provided a pretty in-depth rundown of the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S 5, and Sony Xperia Z2 in a text comparison. But those are only three of many.
So which is the best smartphone of 2014 so far? I’ve gathered the input from the Pocketnow team. Below you will find our individual opinions on which smartphone gains our respective votes for the spring season this year. Enjoy!
Nokia Lumia 930
The best smartphone of spring 2014 is one of the latest ones announced, and it makes me angry. I’m referring to the Lumia 930, which was revealed at Build just last week. The main things that make this phone so great are the Nokia created 20-megapixel camera with not-as-much-as-the-1020 lossless zoom and Windows Phone 8.1, which brings Microsoft operating system up to date with the other two contenders in the space.
The Action Center, customizable wallpapers on the live tiles, and the flippin’ sweet lock screens are all the pretty wrapping paper that encloses Cortana, far and away the most exciting feature of the upcoming OS. We haven’t had our official hands-on yet, but we can’t wait to get our paws all over her. This just got weird. Bottom line, the solid construction all round out this offering that I would love to get my hands on, but can’t. Grr… Have fun with it ROW.
Nokia Lumia 1020
As a Nokia Lumia Windows Phone fan, I was hoping to see some great new Lumias launch with the new Windows Phone 8.1 operating system this spring. Instead, Nokia announced the Lumia 930 which has only a 20-megapixel camera, no Xenon flash, and no Glance Mode in the screen. That last one has become a total deal-breaker for me. Sure it has a 1080p high resolution screen, but what does that do to increase usability or efficiency? That’s right, absolutely nothing! There’s also the Nokia Lumia 630/635 which is a more low-end device that will launch with Windows Phone 8.1 for a nice budget friendly price. Sometimes inexpensive phones have some great features not found on more expensive phones… things like an inexpensive replaceable battery, MicroSD card storage expansion, and interchangeable color covers, but another thing that has become a requirement for me is Qi wireless charging capabilities and it doesn’t sound like the Lumia 63X will have that option. So I’m going to stick with what I consider to still be the best Windows Phone around: the Nokia Lumia 1020. It has the best camera that you’ll find on a phone, wireless charging (via an attachment), Glance mode on the screen, and if you sign up for the developer preview program, you’ll be able to install Windows Phone 8.1 on it right away. Plus, since it’s been around for a while, the price is probably going to be a bit better these days.
Anton D. Nagy
Sony Xperia Z2
For me, it might very well be the Xperia Z2, or the Galaxy S 5, but it’s definitely a tight race. It’s no longer about the specs and some phones being faster than others. It’s about the details. The HTC One M8 is beautiful and speedy, but I won’t be giving its camera another chance in 2014; I did that with the M7 in 2013. If HTC is certain that 4MP are all that users need, then I’ll have to admit I’m not the target audience for the phone. Camera, for me, is a deal-breaker. As far as the S5 is concerned, I’ve spent about the exact same amount of time with it as with the Z2, and, somehow, the Z2 won me over (and that’s back from the Z1 days). I like its design, in-hand feel, something I couldn’t necessarily say in the S5’s case. The fitness features on the GS5 do not attract me because I have my own solutions for that, so, at the end of the day, it comes down to design and camera, and I think the Z2 would suit my needs better.
Google Nexus 5
The best phone for Spring 2014 is still the Nexus 5. Other phones have been released that are less expensive (such as the Moto G) and more expensive (such as the HTC One M8), and still more that aren’t yet readily available. When looking at any device, one must consider costs versus benefits. The best value is that which should win out. For the general user, the Nexus 5 is an ideal smartphone. Others may have differing requirements that may warrant another choice, but in general, the best phone for the dollar you’ll pay is hands-down Google’s Nexus 5.
Nokia Lumia Icon
There’s a not-insignificant part of me that wanted to name the Galaxy S 5 as “winner” of this faux competition. Despite the fact that we haven’t spent much time with the unit (we’ll be reviewing it in the coming days), it bears a spring-friendly list of features that makes it easy to envision caked with pollen after a jog through the park, or speckled with drying puddles of sweet-smelling water after a dip in the backyard pool.
But unfairly maligned though it may be, the Galaxy S 5 brings an awful lot of 2013 with it into our still-young year, and my favorite season is no time for looking backward. It’s a season for fresh starts, for scaring off the gray blanket of wintertime with sunlight and brightly-colored flowers. And there are few smartphone cameras better suited to capture the essence of springtime than the 20MP PureView shooter on Nokia’s Lumia Icon.
It’s not just the camera that earns the Icon my vote, either: as stated by Taylor Martin and backed up by my own review rebuttal, this is one of the finest-made Windows Phones ever. With its substantial but minimalist build, integrated wireless charging and powerhouse processing plant, it’s as fresh a Windows Phone as you can find today … and it’s about to get a whole lot better with the introduction of Windows Phone 8.1. Other devices do more, yes … but for my money, none of them do it with quite as much class.
Chief News Editor
The best smartphone for spring isn’t quite here yet but it will be soon: the OnePlus One. The hardware details that OnePlus has been making available paint the phone to be on par with current flagships from more established OEMs, and the combination of that great tech with a custom CyanogenMod build only sweetens the deal. Am I nervous about the unproven track record, OnePlus being such a newcomer? Sure, but I’m also quite optimistic.
Why not the One M8 or Galaxy S5? Both are solid phones, and I’d probably go with the One M8 were I forced to choose, but they’re just non-starters for me due to their prices; I never buy phones on-contract, and I just can’t stomach a price tag much north of $450. Sure, that absolutely limits my options, but that’s why I’m so grateful that there are phones in development like the OnePlus One that aim to deliver top-tier handsets at budget prices, without making too many trade-offs in the process.
HTC One M8
These posts always make me so conflicted, since there is no perfect smartphone and there are so many great options around. I’m tempted to say the Moto X is still what I consider the best phone around – I still carry it as my daily driver when I’m not reviewing some other phone. And while its feature set is still as impressive as it was at launch, it wouldn’t be true if I picked it. I’m in the market for a new phone. I’m getting tired of the Moto X and, especially, the 4.7-inch 720p display. Also, while I’m still eyeing the Nexus 5 as my next handset, my review time with the One M8 has really changed my mind. And I’m so ready to see what the OnePlus One has in store.
There are so many great choices, but if I were going to choose the best all-around smartphone for spring 2014, I would have to choose the HTC One M8. The phone is superb, its specs are impressive, as is performance, and it’s beautiful. After switching away from it to the Nexus 5 (for our next After The Buzz episode, keep an eye out for it later today), I miss the BoomSound speakers, aluminum build, and the S-LCD3 display.
Still, the camera is a huge disappointment. It’s the only thing that gives me any pause over buying one for myself. And now that I’ve used it and experienced how amazing the rest of the phone is, I may have to pull the trigger anyway and just suffer through the poor camera experience like I have with … practically every other Android phone I’ve ever used.
What’s the best smartphone this spring?
Now it’s your turn to tell us what the best phone this spring is. Is it the One M8? Lumia Icon? Galaxy S 5? OnePlus One? Something older?
Jump in the comments section and get the conversation rolling!