With 2014 knocking at our doors, we thought it’s about time to look back and see what are the best smartphones that saw the light of day in 2013.
It has been a pretty buys year for the Android enthusiasts and OEMs as well, with loads of new smartphone releases and an incremental Android update in the spotlight.
In the beginning of 2013 all big Android players launched at least one high-end smartphone on the market, with Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, LG Optimus G Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S4, and believe it or not, not all the aforementioned devices made it in our Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013.
Some of the smartphones launched this year were popular for their design, other brought powerful hardware, and a handful of them brought innovations in the software department. Some were rugged, some had amazing cameras, but only five of them were good enough to be named in the Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013 list.
But enough with the introductions for now and let’s begin the countdown and see which Android smartphone is, in our opinion, the best of 2013.
5. Sony Xperia Z1
The Sony Xperia Z1 is on the last place in our Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013, but it’s a great performance knowing it managed to outmatch a lot of powerful competitors.
Without a doubt, the main selling point of the Sony Xperia Z1 is the the impressive 20.7 MP camera with G Lens sensor. The primary camera mounted on the glass back of the Xperia Z1 brings autofocus, LED flash, 1/2.3” sensor size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, image stabilization, HDR, panorama, and 1080p@30fps video recording with HDR video and video stabilization. The front-facing camera is a 2 MP unit.
The hardware platform of the Sony Xperia Z1 is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset with quad-core 2.2 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU, assisted by 2 GB RAM, 16 GB of micro-SD expandable storage, and a 3,000 mAh battery. All these are fitted in a 144 x 74 x 8.5 mm body that weighs 170 grams.
Just like its predecessor, the Sony Xperia Z1 brings a glass body with dust and water resistance. Like most of the high-end Android smartphones launched in 2013, Xperia Z1 packs a 5-inch full HD screen. The screen is based on a TFT touch panel with Sony’s proprietary X-Reality Engine.
In terms of connectivity the Sony flagship smartphone comes with LTE, WiFi in all standards, NFC, IR blaster, Bluetooth 4.0, and microUSB 2.0.
Xperia Z1 comes pre-loaded with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, but it will soon receive Android 4.4 KitKat, just like the other high-end smartphones developed by the Japanese company.
4. HTC One
Even though it has a lot in common with the Samsung Galaxy S4 – a smartphone that didn’t make it to our Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013 – the HTC One is occupies the fourth place in our top. Why? Because it’s simply the best-looking smartphone announced this year.
The HTC One brings a wonderfully-crafted aluminium body with ceramic edges and a curved back that integrates the primary camera sensor. The HTC One measures only 4 mm at its thinnest point and 9.3 mm at its thickest, while being 137.4 mm tall and 68.2 mm wide. It’s pretty lightweight as well, weighing 143 grams.
While most of the Android phone makers installed 13 MP cameras on their high-end smartphones, the HTC One comes with a 4 UltraPixel camera with autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash, 1/3” sensor size, 2µm pixel size, simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, face and smile detection, 1080p@30fps and 720p@60fps video recording, and a front-facing 2.1 MP camera, also capable of recording full HD videos.
The HTC One is the only smartphone in our top to come with a Snapdragon 600 processor (quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300 CPU and Adreno 320 GPU). The HTC smartphone also comes with 2 GB RAM, 32/64 GB of native storage, Beats Audio sound enhancement, and a non-removable Li-Po 2300 mAh battery, along with all the connectivity features worthy of modern smartphone: WiFi, NFC, LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, IR blaster, and microUSB 2.0.
HTC’s flagship sports a 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display with 1080 x 1920 resolution, 469 ppi pixel density, and Corning Gorilla Glass 2 protection.
HTC One was released with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean on board with Sense 5.0 on top of it, but some if the units in the US are already upgradable to Android 4.4 KitKat with Sense 5.5.
3. LG G2
The LG G2 is one of the most interesting smartphones launched in 2013, not only because it brings an impressive hardware platform, but because the Korean company chose to place the Volume and Power buttons on its back. Even though some of you might be tempted to believe that the buttons are very hard to use in the unconventional position, I am assuring you that in just a few hours you will find out that placing them on the back is even more convenient than on the sides.
The LG G2 sports a 1080p 5.2-inch True HD-IPS + LCD with 424 ppi pixel density. The smartphone is underpinned by a Snapdragon 800 SoC with quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU, plus 2 GB RAM, 16/32 GB internal storage, 3,000 mAh battery, LTE, WiFi, NFC, infra red port, Bluetooth 4.0, and microUSB 2.0.
The LG G2 measures 138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm, weighs 143 grams, and runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, tweaked with LG’s custom interface. The great thing about the LG 2 is that the Korean variants are already receiving Android 4.4, and the update will also hit other regions by the end of January.
The smartphone brings a 13 MP camera with autofocus, OIS, LED flash, Simultaneous video and image recording, geo-tagging, face detection, HDR, 1080p@60 fps video recording with HDR video and stereo sound recording. The front facing camera has a 2.1 MP sensor and it can also record full HD videos.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 is unquestionably the most powerful handset launched in 2013, also being the only phablet that made it in our Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013.
The Galaxy Note 3 measures 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm, weighs 168 grams, and comes with a faux-leather back which represents Samsung’s attempt to build their smartphones closer to the premium segment when it comes to design and materials.
The Sammy phablet boasts about a massive 5.7-inch Full Super AMOLED with 1080 x 1920 resolution, while the processing tasks are handled by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset with four Krait 400 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz and Adreno 330 GPU. Note 3 also comes with 3 GB RAM, 16/32/64 GB of internal storage with microSD card support (up to 64 GB), and connectivity features like HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSUPA; LTE, Cat4, 50 Mbps UL, 150 Mbps DL, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, NFC, IR blaster, and microUSB 3.0. A 3,200 mAh battery it’s keeping the lights on.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 camera might not have OIS or the most MP on the market, but it’s considered by most the best smartphone camera on the market. The primary camera of the Note 3 has a 13 MP sensor with autofocus, LED flash, Dual Shot, Simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization, panorama, HDR, and 4K video recording at 30 fps, plus 1080p@60fps video capture. The front facing camera is a 2 MP unit.
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 comes pre-loaded with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean customized with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin and the device will most likely get KitKat by the end of Q1 2014.
1. Nexus 5
The Nexus 5 was probably the most anticipated smartphone of 2013 and just like its predecessors, is one of the few smartphones on the market running a clean Android version.
Nexus 5 is the first smartphone in the world to run Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box, doubled by a potent hardware platform and a starting price of only $350.
The smartphone co-developed by Google and LG is powered by a Snapdragon 800 chipset with quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 320 GPU, it has 2 GB RAM, 16/32 GB storage, 2,300 mAh battery, and an 8 MP camera with OIS, autofocus, LED flash, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, photo sphere, HDR+, and full HD video video recording support.
In terms of design, the LG Nexus 5 has a back panel that reminds of the soft-touch material used for the Nexus 7 2013, with the Nexus logo craved vertically. Nexus 5 packs a 5-inch True HD IPS+ display with 1080 x 1920 resolution, 445 ppi pixel density, and a Gorilla Glass 3 protective layer.
The Nexus 5 might not be the most powerful smartphone on the list and it’s not the most beautiful either. It doesn’t even have the best camera, but it’s the only one capable of delivering a pure Android experience, and we love that.
Surprisingly, or not, neither the Samsung Galaxy S4 nor the Motorola Moto X made it in our Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013, but we thought that we should remind you about them.
The Samsung flagship debuted quite a few innovatory features like Air Gestures or Smart Pause, also bringing an very good 5-inch full HD display and a powerful processor. It’s also one of the most popular Android smartphones of the year, but it’s just below where we draw the line for the Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013.
On the other hand, the Motorola Moto X introduced the amazing Moto Assist, Active Display, and always-on voice commands, all fitted over an almost-stock Android interface. Furthermore, Moto X’s design is highly customizable, the Moto Maker tool allowing the users to choose the color of the front panel, back panel, or accents. Still, the Moto X doesn’t have a hardware platform worthy of a 2013 flagship and it’s not available globally, that’s why it wasn’t included in Top 5 Android Smartphones of 2013 list.