Which is the must-have smartphone of 2014 so far?

a gaggle of smartphones

If you’re looking for a new smartphone among the dizzying number of choices, here is our guide to the top five newly released phones

 

A group of flagship smartphones – said to be the best of the best – have just been released, brimming with new technology, so it’s time to ask: is the iPhone 5S still the best smartphone? And which is 2014’s must-have?

When looking for a new phone, there are a dizzying number to choose from, and all worth a pretty penny. A fight is raging between Apple and Samsung, but premium contenders from Sony and HTC could steal the show, and Nokia’s photography prowess still can’t be matched.

There has never been a better time to buy a phone, so here’s a quick guide to where to put your money.

Big screen, big camera, big phone, £550 without contract

Sony’s latest and greatest has the largest screen of the top five here – a whopping 5.2in on the diagonal. Thankfully, it’s big and beautiful, with rich colours and terrific viewing angles, which, paired with stereo front-facing speakers bracketing the screen, makes watching movies with friends a great experience.

The phone is waterproof down to 1.5m, which means you can go paddling with it, if you must, while the battery will last all day on a charge or much longer with power-saving activated.

The Xperia Z2 packs arguably the second-best camera in this group, with a 20.7-megapixel shooter on the back capable of fancy tricks such as placing animated dinosaurs into your photos and video. Happily, the point-and-shoot mode is fantastic and will make you look like a pro.

The only issue with the Xperia Z2 is that it really is just a tad too big for average hands, so this is one to try before you buy.

Verdict: fast, feature-packed and waterproof, but a bit big to hold in one hand.

41-megapixels of camera at your disposal, £360 without contract

Clad in a bright plastic case with a sizeable bulge on the back, Nokia’s top-of-the-line Windows phone is all about the camera. The Lumia 1020 packs a monster 41-megapixel camera, co-developed with the photography masters at Zeiss.

While pure megapixel count means nothing, the “PureView” camera system gives photographers access to a 3x lossless digital zoom while maintaining crystal-clear images using some fancy “supersampling” image-processing technology.

As a byproduct, the 41-megapixel super-sized images give life to that silly “enhance” thing people in American crime dramas always do, turning that tiny CCTV image into an immaculate close-up of a person’s face or licence plate number. You can keep zooming in and the image is still pin-sharp.

The Windows phone software powering the 1020 is decent, but lacks a few apps and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This is one for people who want the best mobile phone camera on the market, or something different from Android or Apple.

Verdict: powerful camera and a solid alternative to Android or the iPhone.

Market-leading Android wrapped in plastic, £560 without contract

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is the latest flagship Android phone from Korea. Packing a brilliant camera that can refocus a photo after capture, a vibrant 5.1in high-definition screen and enough battery life to see it comfortably through the day – maybe even two – the S5 is a great all-rounder.

The star of the show is a fingerprint scanner under the home button that unlocks the phone with a swipe of the thumb. It can also be used to authenticate payments through PayPal with your fingerprints preventing some little tike trying to buy something on eBay with your money.

The Galaxy S5 is waterproof too, so a quick dunk down the loo won’t stop it.

Not everyone is a fan of Samsung’s plastic design or cutesy take on Android software, but the S5’s good balance between large screen and manageable device size makes it easy to handle for a big phone.

Verdict: fast, feature-packed and waterproof, but plastic feels less premium.

A modern classic that’s looking a little long in the tooth, £550 without contract

Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone 5S is actually seven months old, but is still the king of iOS for at least another three months. Its TouchID fingerprint sensor under the home button is unparalleled in ease of use and accuracy (despite other phones having something similar), while its speed and features are on a par with the best of the rest. It has a decent, if not spectacular camera, and Apple’s iOS 7 is refined and colourful.

Its one differentiator is size; the iPhone is over an inch smaller than most of the competition, making it easier to handle, but more fiddly to type on.

The iPhone’s small screen size makes it slightly less capable as a video screen, while people with less than delicate fingers might find it cramped to operate. Apple’s iOS 7 makes full advantage of the small screen, though, while the slim, lightweight frame means the iPhone isn’t a bulging behemoth in your pocket.

Verdict: great fingerprint sensor, but a bit on the small side.

All-metal and simply beautiful design, £550 without contract

HTC has achieved something no one else can do right now; its new One M8 Android phone is almost all metal.

The smooth, curved, aluminium back is both gorgeous to look at and beautiful to hold, fitting nicely in the palm with a pleasingly warm feeling – premium design at its finest.

The One M8’s screen is one of the best ever fitted to a smartphone too, while its front-facing “BoomSound” speakers are impressively loud, making watching videos with friends a joy.

A five-megapixel selfie-camera can capture every nick and wrinkle. But the HTC One M8’s party piece has to be its Duo Camera, which puts a depth sensor on the back, making fancy photo effects seamless and after-the-fact focus possible, even if the photos aren’t always pin-sharp at just 4.1-megapixels (yes, the selfie-cam is higher resolution).

With enough power to handle anything you throw at it, the One M8 will last all day on a single charge, stretching way beyond two days’ battery life with some power-saving features activated.

Verdict: beautiful design, gorgeous screen and Impressive speakers, interesting camera, great battery life.

 

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