Mobile Technology

Editors' choice: Top five smartphones of 2014

Editors' choice: Top five smar...
The Gizmag mobile team picks its five favorite smartphones of 2014 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
The Gizmag mobile team picks its five favorite smartphones of 2014 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
1/7
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
2/7
Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
HTC One (M8) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
3/7
HTC One (M8) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Apple iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
4/7
Apple iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Clockwise, from top left: LG G3, Motorola Droid Turbo, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
5/7
Clockwise, from top left: LG G3, Motorola Droid Turbo, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
Motorola Moto X (2014) (Photo: Eric Mack/Gizmag.com)
6/7
Motorola Moto X (2014) (Photo: Eric Mack/Gizmag.com)
The Gizmag mobile team picks its five favorite smartphones of 2014 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
7/7
The Gizmag mobile team picks its five favorite smartphones of 2014 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
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2014 was quite the year for smartphones. Just when it looked like they had plateaued in all the key areas, phone-makers hit us with several amazing handsets during the last few months of the year. Join Gizmag, as we break down our five favorite smartphones of 2014.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

As phablets continue to become the norm, perhaps it's appropriate that the quintessential phablet took a big step forward this year. At first glance the Galaxy Note 4 may look like a minor update over its predecessor, but it's Samsung's focus on the finer details – especially its more responsive S Pen – that make it one of the best mobile devices we've used.

Galaxy Note 4 review

Apple iPhones 6 and 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Apple iPhone 6 Plus (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Apple finally joined the big smartphone party in 2014, and what an entrance it was. The 4.7-in iPhone 6 and 5.5-in iPhone 6 Plus combine three of Apple's favorite things: light, thin and aluminum. Combine that with excellent cameras, Touch ID fingerprint sensors and iOS 8, and you have Apple's two best phones – by a very wide margin.

iPhone 6 review

iPhone 6 Plus review

Motorola Moto X (2nd-gen)

Motorola Moto X (2014) (Photo: Eric Mack/Gizmag.com)
Motorola Moto X (2014) (Photo: Eric Mack/Gizmag.com)

Motorola may not be as popular as Apple or Samsung, but the transitional company (Google recently sold it to Lenovo) delivered one hell of a handset in the 2nd-generation Moto X. It doesn't break as much new ground as its 2013 predecessor, but it does combine the same core ingredients with higher-end specs and aggressive pricing (US$500 full retail, $50 on-contract).

2nd-gen Moto X review

Google/Motorola Nexus 6

Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Google Nexus 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Motorola had several big releases in the last few months, and none were bigger (in a literal sense) than the Nexus 6. The Lollipop-running handset is as much small tablet as it is big phone, with a screen that's about 9 percent bigger than the Galaxy Note's. And though Google axed the bargain bin pricing we saw in the Nexus 5, the Nexus 6 is still a little cheaper than its rivals from Apple and Samsung.

Nexus 6 review

HTC One (M8)

HTC One (M8) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
HTC One (M8) (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

HTC didn’t reinvent the wheel with the One (M8), but it did manage to improve upon its excellent 2013 predecessor. With a curvy and premium aluminum design, along with HTC’s subtle and sophisticated Sense 6 UI, the M8 still holds up well nine months after its launch.

HTC One (M8) review

Also worth a look ...

Clockwise, from top left: LG G3, Motorola Droid Turbo, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Gizmag.com)
Clockwise, from top left: LG G3, Motorola Droid Turbo, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung Galaxy S5 (Photo: Gizmag.com)

LG G3: Its slightly laggy out-of-the-box performance dampened our enthusiasm a bit, but LG's latest flagship has a dazzling Quad HD display, a great balance between phone size and screen size, and one of the best cameras of any phone we handled this year, with its laser-based auto-focus.

Samsung Galaxy S5: Though it was later upstaged by the Note 4, the GS5 is still one of the top flagships of the year, with its impressive camera and IP67 water resistance.

Motorola Droid Turbo: It may not be the sleekest-looking phone we've handled, but Motorola's third phone in this roundup is a specs monster that offers some of the longest battery life you'll find in a smartphone. If it were more widely available (it's a Verizon exclusive), it could have very well snuck into our top five.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge: If pricing weren't an issue, you could argue that this Note 4 variant was the best phone of the year. Its curved Edge Display is fun, convenient and possibly a glimpse of the future. But the phone's sky-high pricing (~US$400 on-contract, ~$900 full retail) puts a big damper on its value proposition.

If you're wondering how (most of) these phones size up, you can read more in our latest Smartphone Comparison Guide.

View gallery - 7 images
6 comments
sutski123
Surprised the Blachphone.ch didn't at least get an honorable mention. All the phones you have chosen are practically the same! Blackphone has PrivateOS, is a 100% encrypted phone, and has many NSA/GCHQ proof features to 100% secure your privacy (yes even from the apps you install). I would say the blackphone is vastlymore important than any of the other phones chosen for this 2014 review. It also retails at only $650 with a massive suite of privacy orientated apps and features worth a couple of hundred $. Cheers!
Bernard Verhaeghe
I'm totally surprised that the One+ (oneplus.net) isn't listed. I know it is hard to get it hold of this beautiful phone, but it certainly tops some of the phones listed above, not so? Kind regards, Bernard
pmshah
Go around and check for XiaoMi phones ans One . phones which are really hurting Samsung's bottom line.
W Young
How about a 'bang for the buck' review on smartphones. Not everyone can afford or needs the 'very best'.
Bob Komarek
I finally decided on the Sam S5 active. It is fairly waterproof, so i don't have to have a bulky case. I like the Apple 6, but I simply will not buy a device when the people that make it are so depressed, they throw themselves off of buildings. The Sam is at least made in South Korea.
Jason Des Forges
I have a Zenfone 6 and couldn't be happier. Does not feel mid-range. US$245 for 16GB expanded to 80GB with a $35 64GB microSD card.