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Best Android Smartphones of 2013

2013 has been a year of “Refinement” for Android smart phones. With the release of Android 4.3 and 4.4, Google has finally left the “Jellybean” dynasty behind and moved onto the subsequent letter “K” for  KitKat which was formerly referred to as “KeyLimePie” during various leaks and rumours. Android has a major overhaul every time the number before the “.” gets changed and the subsequent changes in the number after the “.” signifies a refinement, a few added features, better battery life and smoother performance. Thus giving many OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) time to catch up and give customers many times more choices than there were last year.

In the not too distant past, consumers had a very easy choice. If they wanted a fun phone with every possible sensor onboard, they had to go with Samsung’s S3 and if looks and refinened UI (User Interface) in a durable shell were priority, HTC’s One X answered the call. Winding the clocks over to a few months later, with a myriad of devices to pick from in every shape and size, there are significantly more options to pick from. We will try our best to be impartial and thorough in order to give you the best for what you intend to spend and address exactly what you look for in a smartphone.

The review will be categorized based on various aspects that buyers generally look for from our experiences of being consulted for recommendations. Note that phones like the Xiaomi Mi3 will not be included in the article due to lack of international availability. This article was written to serve more as a buyers guide to give you the Best Android Smartphones of 2013.

Affordability: A smartphone running Android today is quite frankly, not very expensive. There is almost no reason to pick a feature phone. This was reflected in the sales of 2013 when smartphones outsold feature phones by volumes of shipment. Bundling Android with insufficient hardware isn’t uncommon practice and the results are laggy and less than adequate experiences with the OS. We explored the device that needed the least investment to provide a satisfactory experience.

Out of the box experience: Droid may be extremely customizable but not everybody is patient enough, most users don’t download any more than the basic apps they need. This ultimately leads to unexplored potential of droid when feature phones could do just as much and outrun droids for battery. In this section, we explore only what came within the bundle that the device was packaged with.

Ergonomics: Texting was once a one handed operation as many of you may recall. Although a bigger screen looks more attractive, it adds unnecessary strain on the fingers and not all hard buttons may be easily accessible with one hand. This is important because phones play a more important role outdoors where one hand may be holding onto a briefcase or children. Ease of pocketing the phone is also related to the dimensions of the phone.

Latent Potential: The true potential of a device can sometimes only be realised not from the manufacturers with their limited human resources and time but from the consumer community that works together to raise the bar. In this section, we explored various devices rating them based on support from community and support from manufacturers.

Camera: There was a time when photography gave you 3 choices, a DSLR(Digital Single Lens Reflex), point and shoot or a phone. Point and shoots are becoming increasingly outdated with the advent of the megapixel race and other innovations like improved post processing in recent times. In this section, we explore the options for those who demand the best snappers that are pocket able.

Build quality: It isn’t enough to just pay a premium and walk out with a new phone. Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. We explored capabilities of phones to be able to live up to surprises.

Aesthetics: Many of you wouldn’t mind paying an extra for a premium feel. Because attention to detail makes all the difference between delight and satisfaction. In this section, we explored how much efforts were put into the making of a device by the makers.

All rounder: This is the ultimate recommendation from us to you.

We are looking for aspiring bloggers and journalists for The Mukt. If you are interested, apply now!

Noteworthy mention: This is a occasional mention of a competitor which made us tear our hair out before we could decide on a winner in a particular round.

I am a Linux user for a little over a year now and an ardent distro hopper. I have used LXDE, XFCE, RazorQT, Gnome 2, Gnome 3, the new MATE, and Cinnamon desktops. I have a soft corner towards Manjaro for being a rolling distro that provides stable packages but my daily driver at the moment is Ubuntu 13.10 with Gnome window manager running KDE 4.11 and Gnome 3.10 which I switch between based on my mood. I'm fond of R for being the most powerful statistical tool. Being a junior consultant in quality, I still don't have the money to purchase tools my peers use but R being flexible, free and completely cross platform was everything I have ever wanted. I also use Steam on Ubuntu to play Team Fortress from time to time, other open source software I use are LMMS and Openshot.

12 Comments

  1. I think you forgot one of the best Android smartphones on the market, the LG G2.

    • Thanks for the feedback my friend, but I WILL say this, this was a very thorough review and the G2 although mighty impressive in many regards, isnt really a winner any any category.

      1) It is too expensive to be of any real value to casual buyers,

      2) The 5″ screen is too big for practical one handed use, the phone isnt that thin or light,

      3) The plastic build is lackluster and it doesnt offer the same value for money as the Nexus 5 nor the HTC One’s flamboyance or size of each pixel nor the Xperia Z1’s water/dust proofing or ultra high shutterspeeds and megapixel count for camera.

      P.s. the Xperia Z1, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the Nexus 5, the LG G2 etc ALL have the SAME processor.. Snapdragon 800. If there are any benchmark differences, its to do with the drivers and the differences are MARGINAL.

      • I don’t agree on everything. First of all. the LG G2 is only a bit more expensive then Nexus 5 (which is based on G2) but it has a much bigger battery and better camera. The screen is also better, less dpi, but brighter. So the price is not “too expensive”, HTC One is much more, HTC One Max is even more…

        Maybe in your country is different, but in Europe the price difference is not big, but the advantages are. The only downside in G2 is the plastic, but I think it’s better than most of the plastic I’ve seen, much better than any Samsung’s plastic.
        Let’s see some prices:
        LG G2: 450-550€
        Sony Xperia Z1, about 250€ MORE than Nexus 5, about 150€-200€ MORE than LG G2

        Galaxy Note 3: about 350€ MORE than Nexus 5, about 250€-300€ MORE than LG G2
        Nexus 5: about 50€ cheaper than LG G2

        So, LG G2 is the better option of all those, the most balanced. If you don’t mind about battery life and camera, Nexus 5 is a better choice. If you don’t mind about money, then Z1 ou Galaxy Note 3 are better choices.

        Do you understand now why I spoke about the G2?

        • you dont get it..
          Affordability : Moto G (just compare prices.. anyone with a modest budget looking to buy an android should get this..) and yes, it is MUCH cheaper than the G2

          Out of the box: HTC One Max (because of blink feed.. and search which filters apps) LGs interface is just ok…. you should read more reviews on why HTC’s sense is still number one!

          Ergonomics: Asus Padfone Mini it is just 4.3″, and weighs 105 grams.. it is THINNER, and LIGHTER and more accessible than the G2..

          Latent Potential: Nexus 5, hands down.. it’ll probably be supported by google for another 2-3 years.. people wont remember the G2 next year, people dont talk about the Optimus G much, but they DO still talk about Nexus 4

          Camera: yes, the G2s cam is very impressive, but it cant compete with the Z1 or the HTC One in what they do.. the HTC One is arguably as good as a point and shoot without a zoom. and the Z1 is better than a DSLR because of underwater photography and the extra editing features which DSLRs DONT have.

          Build quality: I’m impressed with the Z1’s Dragontrail structure but the Nautiz X1 is military grade… again, the G2 doesnt even come close to comparing..

          Allrounder: I’m gonna have to give this one to a tougher, more ergonomic, Z1S which has the SAME spec as the Z1 except its smaller in screen size.. AND it only costs around 360 euro.

          ^ The G2 tries to be an allrounder but it still needs to get past the Xperia Z1 which comes with waterproofing, beautiful glass body and an incredibly impressive camera. the Z1 is only marginally more expensive than the G2, equal in performance but its better in every other way..

          • Xperia Z1 is not marginally more expensive than LG G2. Is too much of a difference, as I said earlier.

            Nexus 5: about 400-450€

            LG G2: about 500-550€

            Xperia Z1: about 650€-700€

            You are forgetting some issues in Z1: the sound is worse, because speakers must be protected (for dust and water); the metal on the outside is just visuals, as it doesn’t protect when the device falls; the screen is not very good, compared with Nexus 5 or LG G2 (the best on this three); The camera is 20.7MP, but it’s not very good, compared to the number of MP, and the processing is mediocre (I don’t know if any update corrected this); Check MKBHD review and you’ll understand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUgOgMCKXqs

            In general, the Z1 reviews just say the device is only good for the water and dust proof features, but inferior in everything else.

          • I’ve personally tested its camera.. and I assure you it is top notch for zoomability, colour reproduction and the shutterspeeds are mindblowingly high.. and if you put it in manual and are able to tweak the settings yourself, the camera hardware on the Z1 is outstanding..

            anyway, YMMV(your mileage may vary).. some people say its camera is second only to the Lumia 1020 while some hate it altogether,

            http://www.phonearena.com/reviews/Camera-Comparison-Google-Nexus-5-vs-iPhone-5s-Sony-Xperia-Z1-Samsung-Galaxy-Note-3-Galaxy-S4-LG-G2-Nokia-Lumia-1020-HTC-One_id3500

            heres another review which suggests otherwise.. that the camera IS as good as they say at Sony.

            the Nexus 5 is only a winner in the latent potential department.. its for people who want to get their hands dirty with the geeky details and experiment with the phone or want to be at the bleeding edge of Droid development.
            no other phone beats it there.

            There is NO other reason we are recommending a Nexus.. not for the value especially, for value, we have Moto G

  2. A way to predicatable list.. I have recently bought an Oppo Find 5, which features the same hardware as the HTC One and only for 300€. In my opinion, the writer clearly did not want to deviate from the main brands..

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