Android’s days as a clunky alternative to iOS are long gone.
2013 has seen Google’s OS affirm its position as the world’s number-one mobile platform.
The last IDC figures claimed that the Big G’s system is now on more than 90% of all smartphones worldwide.
It’s sitting pretty on hundreds of devices, from pricey, top-end efforts to the most affordable handsets out there.
With dozens of new kits to choose from, picking five of the best Android phones released this year is no mean feat. But fear not, because we’ve wracked our brains, re-read reviews and chosen our favourites from the last 12 months.
1 HTC One
HTC might be facing financial ruin. But the One is unquestionably the best phone it has ever produced. The design comes second only to Apple’s peerless efforts with its iPhone (and only just).
The Ultra Pixel camera was a gamble, dropping the megapixel count but improving other imaging tech to deliver snaps that are among the best you’ll find on any Android device. For us, it’s the best Google-backed device released in 2013.
HTC Sense is still a great addition and doesn’t appear to be slowing software updates much any more, with Android KitKat due to hit the One in January 2014.
2 Samsung Galaxy Note 3
It’s hard to pick between Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3. However, we’re going with the phablet instead of the flagship.
Why? Well, Sammy’s efforts in the realm of super-sized phones are virtually untouchable.
The screen is a joy to behold, the battery life is impressive and the design has been tweaked too (although, much like other mobile fans, we’d have liked to have seen Samsung ditch that rather plasticky look).
The S-Pen is a neat extra, rather than an annoying add-on and its clever case, which leaves the top of the screen open for receiving notifications, makes it a unique and brilliant effort.
3 Google Nexus 5
Google and LG have done it again. At under £300, the Nexus 5 is absurdly good value considering it offers the very latest, unadulterated version of Android, a much more rugged design that last year’s Nexus 4 and a much improved 5-inch display.
Yes, the camera needs work (despite the inclusion of beefed up HDR tech), but that’s coming with the Big G’s new Android camera API.
Throw in Google’s Siri-bashing voice assistant and we challenge you to come up with a better value top-end smartphone.
4 Sony Xperia Z1
Since splitting with Ericsson, Sony has been rolling out some seriously impressive smartphones.
The Z1, its second flagship of 2013, is an absolute stunner. And not just because of its slick design and spruced up version of Android.
The 20.7 megapixel camera is superb, perfectly showcasing the Japanese giant’s imaging heritage on a phone.
Chuck in dust and waterproof skills which make it virtually indestructible, and you’ve got the best phone Sony has ever made. Full stop.
5 Moto G
Google-owned Motorola has made a bold play for the budget end of the smartphone space with the Moto G. And it has done an amazing job.
With an unadulterated version of Android (due to be bumped to KitKat in the New Year) and a HD screen, not to mention a quad core processor, the Moto G has no right to be cheap. But it most definitely is, costing only £135 SIM-free.
The device has rewritten the game for budget smartphones and proves that quality can be had on a budget. Apple’s iPhone 5c has a lot to learn from Motorola’s newbie.