Best smartphones 2014: The best phones available to buy today
So, you want to buy a new phone? If you're looking for the best smartphone of 2014, you've come to the right place. We will guide you through the hottest mobile phones of the year to save you time when you go to your local phone shop.
We continually update our best smartphones feature to reflect recent launches, putting 2014's latest devices alongside the best of 2013, but all the listed devices have been fully reviewed by us.
Things are changing fast in the world of smartphones: slashed prices, ever-improving hardware, software updates and refreshed handsets arriving every few months means that things never stand still.
Our best smartphones list covers all operating systems, all sizes, and prices, so you'll be armed with everything you need to consider when choosing to buy your next device. Of course, the most important factor in buying a new device is making sure you have the best smartphone for you. The best for your budget, the features you need, the size that feels right and platform that suits you best.
Be sure to let us know what you think is the best smartphone in the comments below.
21. Samsung Galaxy Alpha
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha sets out to address the criticism that Samsung was making cheap plastic phones. The Galaxy Alpha, the first in a new line of premium devices, swaps metal for plastic in some places, giving this a build quality that we've so far not seen from Samsung.
It is a powerful handset, however, with Samsung's octo-core chipset meaning things skip along nicely. There's a useful 12-megapixel camera on the back, and all the customisation from Samsung that you expect.
That means you'll get the heart rate sensor and the fingerprint scanner, as well as all the additional software features that Samsung offers. It's expensive however, priced close to, if not more than, most larger flagship handsets.
Buy the Samsung Galaxy Alpha if you love Samsung and want a premium finish.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Alpha review
20. Motorola Moto E
The Moto E continues Motorola's aim to deliver smartphones on a budget. This compact handset is incredibly cheap, but still manages to offer plenty of features.
The design is solid, for starters, and although the display is lower in resolution than many of the devices on this list, so too is the price. That's a significant factor, as this handset only costs £89.
You'll get all the glory of Android at almost disposable prices, but this isn't the fastest phone around and the camera performance isn't great. It lacks 4G connectivity, but does offer a range of coloured changable backs, so you can make it suit your style.
Buy the Moto E because you want smartphone features at a great price.
FULL REVIEW: Motorola Moto E review
DEALS: Motorola Moto E best deals
19. Nokia Lumia 1020
The Nokia Lumia 1020 is yet to be replaced, with the rear camera standing out, both literally and figuratively. But this is also a jewel in Nokia-now-Microsoft's crown, a stand-out phone, despite getting a little long in the tooth.
The very capable PureView camera on the back brings options you simply don't get elsewhere in the smartphone world: it's a great performer. The compromise you have to accept however, is that this is a big phone, especially compared to Nokia's "other" flagship, the Lumia 930.
In many areas, the 1020 offers the same experience as other Lumia devices, with Windows Phone offering a great alternative to Android or iOS.
Buy the Nokia Lumia 1020 if you want the best smartphone camera available.
FULL REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 1020 review
DEALS: Nokia Lumia 1020 best deals
18. Nokia Lumia 1320
The Nokia Lumia 1320 brings you a Windows Phone phablet that's managable. It might sit slightly in the shadow of the older Lumia 1520, but the 1320 is available for a little over £200, which is incredible value for a 6-inch device.
That means you can take your Windows Phone experience onto the big screen without breaking the bank. The compromise that you make is that you're not getting the most powerful device around: it uses older Snapdragon S4 hardware and the display is 720p, which is a little lacking in pixels.
However, you do get a plenty of space for productivity or entertainment and, well, lets say it again: this is incredible value for money.
Buy the Nokia Lumia 1320 because you want to go big on a budget.
FULL REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 1320 review
DEALS: Nokia Lumia 1320 best deals
17. Nokia Lumia 1520
The Nokia Lumia 1520 brings Windows Phone into the realms of the phablet, but it does it with aplomb, giving you a device that offers size, power and a great camera performance.
Nokia's (now Microsoft Devices) commitment to the platform, dragging apps - kicking and screaming - over to Windows Phone really enhances what's on offer, but also pouring home-grown features in too.
We've been critical of some of the moves of Windows Phone in the past, but the Lumia 1520 feels like the hero device that was needed. It's powerful, it's wonderful to use and it's the rival of Android peers that rule the big-screen phone world.
Buy the Nokia Lumia 1520 if you want the biggest Windows Phone experience.
FULL REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 1520 review
DEALS: Nokia Lumia 1520 best deals
16. Nexus 5
The Nexus 5 plays out the pure Google dream. There's a brilliant display, which gives you plenty of detail and performance to rival some of the top phones out there.
There are downsides, however. We don't think it's the best designed phone around, perhaps less interesting than the Nexus 4 which came before it and as is typical of Nexus devices, the camera isn't so good and neither is the battery, which is the biggest downside.
However, the Nexus 5 delivers plenty in it's aggressively priced package at £299, especially if power and display are top of your list and you have the reassurance of knowing you'll be at the front of the Android upgrade queue too.
For some, however, the refinement added by other manufacturers will bring attractive features out of the box that the Nexus 5 lacks, and we suspect it'll soon to be replaced by the next-gen Nexus.
Buy the Nexus 5 for the pure Android experience and plenty of power in an affordable package.
FULL REVIEW: Google Nexus 5 review
DEALS: Google Nexus 5 best deals
15. OnePlus One
It's rare that an outsider jumps into the elite ranks, even rarer that it's widely lauded. The OnePlus One managed this, capturing the attention of smartphone lovers, not only for offering great value for money, but with viral marketing and a degree of exclusivity: it's not the easiest phone to get hold of.
When you do part with the £220-odd that you'll be asked to pay, you're left with a device that's powerful and has plenty of battery life, all on a budget. It also comes preloaded with CyanogenMod, offering a range of tinkering options.
There are some downsides, of course, like some network compatibility issues (Vodafone and O2 4G bands aren't supported in the UK) and being tricky to buy, but if you've got one, you'll be the envy of your friends.
Buy the OnePlus One because you know where to get one.
FULL REVIEW: OnePlus One review
14. Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Huawei has been looking to break into the top flight of smartphones for some time, and not without good results. Perhaps not as widely regarded as some rivals, there's no doubting that Huawei has come on a long way, and is selling a lot of phones.
The Mate 7 is its latest crack at the phablet, with a 6-inch full HD display and a metal design that's a far cry from the budget phones the company is known for. It's a big device, of course, but you get all that space to play.
There's plenty of customisation to the Android UI, some of which is really useful, presenting plenty of options, even if some of the design choices might not be to everyone's tastes. The long battery life, however, will be.
It's yet have the final price confirmed, but we suspect it will hit £440, well below that of rivals.
Buy the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 to get a great phablet experience without the cost.
FULL REVIEW: Huawei Ascend Mate 7 review
13. Nokia Lumia 930
The latest Lumia flagship is the 930. It refines the 925 offering, in a handset that's a little big chunkier, but nonetheless solidly built.
The Lumia 930 offers the new pinnacle of the Windows Phone experience. There's a great 5-inch full HD display, a wonderful camera on the back and some of the latest software from Microsoft, dabbed with Lumia additions. With the Denim upgrade, it makes Windows Phone more compelling than ever before.
There's no shortage of tech packed into the brightly-coloured handset, with optical image stabilisation on that camera and wireless charging for the battery.
Buy the Nokia Lumia 930 because you want the best of Windows Phone.
FULL REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 930 review
DEALS: Nokia Lumia 930 best deals
12. Motorola Moto G 4G
The Motorola Moto G took a lot of people by surprise. Motorola wasn't content with the original, so updated with microSD card support and 4G, making for a cracking device.
The Moto G 4G is a fantastic smartphone and incredible value for money that's difficult to ignore. With a price as low as £150, if you're on a budget, this is the handset to choose. The Moto G has now been updated, but the newer version is larger and loses some of the charm of the Moto G 4G.
Take the price out of the equation and you don't feel let down. The design is great, the display is excellent and there's plenty of power too. Yes, it will be out-performed by any number of handsets, but those are handsets that will cost you twice, if not three times, as much.
Better still, the Motorola Moto G was one of the first non-Nexus devices to be upgraded to Android 5.0 Lollipop, as it's pretty much stock Android.
Buy the Motorola Moto G 4G for the best Android experience in a budget handset.
FULL REVIEW: Motorola Moto G review
11. Samsung Galaxy S5
The Samsung Galaxy S5 refines much of what the SGS4 offered. The design is similar, as is the interface, but there's refinement at every level. This is still the Samsung smartphone you know and love, but it's slick and fast, with plenty of power, and offers a stunning 5.1-inch full HD display.
The build offers the same flexibility as previous devices, so you can remove the back of the phone to switch out the battery which gives you all-day performance. The build might be mostly plastic, lacking the premium sheen of some rivals, but that makes for a device that's lighter and more compact.
The addition of a heart rate scanner is one element of a new focus on fitness from Samsung, even if the implementation of the fingerprint scanner is a little awkward. The camera produces great results, and is a good performer in all conditions.
There are perhaps a number of features packed into the Samsung Galaxy S5 that you won't use, but there's no lack of choices. Things like the download booster and user interface features that make use of the larger display give you plenty of useful elements to enhance the day-to-day experience.
Buy the Samsung Galaxy S5 for the vast array of features and great display.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S5 review
DEALS: Samsung Galaxy S5 best deals
10. Apple iPhone 5S
The iPhone 5S has been supplanted by the iPhone 6, and if you're in the market for a new device, the iPhone 6 is better in all areas. However, with the iPhone 5S receiving a price drop to £459, it becomes more affordable for many.
It offers a great quality display, although it's amongst the smallest of the devices on this list. Apple's Touch ID offers effective security and there's plenty of power and speed on offer.
But it's not only about the hardware, as the iPhone 5S offers a wonderfully polished UI in iOS 8 (post-launch hiccups aside), closing many of the gaps in functionality that had opened up between Apple and Android. On top of that you have one of the most vibrant communities of developers: the iPhone is always top of the list for app development, and even on this smaller device, you get a great experience.
Buy the iPhone 5S for that Apple experience at a slightly more affordable price.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone 5S review
DEALS: iPhone 5S best deals
9. Apple iPhone 6 Plus
For years Apple was criticised for sticking to small displays, while other platforms got bigger, giving you more space to play. That's all changed with the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, alongside the smaller iPhone 6.
The 6 Plus offers a lovely high-quality design, with an all metal body and a great display. The display curves into the edges for an almost seamless design, but there's no denying that this is a big handset overall. That's matched by a big price too; at £619, it's more expensive than most rivals.
There isn't a huge amount done to take advantage of the large display - the Samsung Galaxy Note handsets offer more custom features - but the 6 Plus offers a full HD display and plenty of power to take Apple into the realms of the phablet. Recent efforts from developers have seem more apps optimised for use on the larger display with Netflix, for example, offering full HD playback.
Buy the iPhone 6 Plus because you want big screen gaming and entertainment, Apple style.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone 6 Plus review
DEALS: iPhone 6 Plus best deals
8. HTC Desire Eye
The HTC Desire Eye is something of a surprise package. Carrying a name from HTC's second tier of devices, the experience it offers is far from sub-flagship.
The Desire Eye offers all the internal power of flagship rivals and comes with a lovely full HD 5.2-inch display. It offers HTC's mature Sense 6 user interface layered over Android 4.4 KitKat, with the latest HTC Eye experience bringing a boost to the cameras.
The headline feature is the 13-megapixel front-facing camera with flash. But this phone is great not because of that camera, but despite it. The cameras perform well enough, even if the front selfie camera is a little over sold.
But what you get is a flagship experience at a price that's affordable. You don't get the premium metal body of the HTC One (M8), but you do get a fun and well built phone with waterproofing.
FULL REVIEW: HTC Desire Eye review
DEALS: HTC Desire Eye best deals
7. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact succeeds by dominating its unique position. It offers flagship power, in a mid-range size. For anyone looking for a portable powerhouse, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is it.
Sony has also brought this handset to market at a price that's aggressive for the package you get. At only £429, it's far cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, so you get a lot of phone for your money.
The 4.6-inch 720p display is good, if not the highest resolution at this size, but the outstanding feature is battery life. This is a phone that goes on and on, surviving the busiest days where larger rivals falter.
Mature UI tweaks, waterproofing, great camera performance and options galore, make the Xperia Z3 Compact the sort of device that power users will want.
Buy the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact if you want the best performance in a compact device.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review
6. LG G3
The LG G2 was a great handset and the G3 ups the ante, fusing the appeal of a large display with a body that's only just larger than other devices at the top of this list.
It's also one of the first mainstream devices to step out of the door with a Quad HD display, or 2560 x 1440 pixels, pushing the pixels further than its rivals. It's capable of incredibly sharp details at 538ppi, but be warned - little content really makes use of that resolution, yet.
Although the G3 doesn't offer the same build quality as the HTC One, it's a good looking phone. The design keeps things simple, avoiding some of the kitsch design of the Samsung Galaxy S5. It's easy to grip, although might be a little too large for some.
LG has added plenty of smart functionality to the G3. There are gestures and shortcuts to make your life easier, as well as a range of functions to make use of all the display space, like dual app views, although the battery life isn't the best.
There's also a really impressive camera on the back which is slick and fast and performs well in most conditions. Add 4K video capture to the list and you've a smartphone package that sees you ready for the future. You also don't pay over the odds for it at £479.
Buy the LG G3 because you want a big screen experience in a managable package.
FULL REVIEW: LG G3 review
DEALS: LG G3 best deals
5. Motorola Moto X (2014)
The Motorola Moto X has been reborn for 2014 in this second generation device. Boosted to offer a larger 5.2-inch display, the design of the Moto X sits nicely in the hand, but most appealing of all are the options to customise, including a leather back if that's what takes your fancy.
The Moto X's unfettered Android experience is one of its strengths, as is the speed of updates as new Android versions come along, but at the same time, it's rivals are much more fully featured, offering more straight out of the box. There's good battery performance and plenty of power on offer at a price that undercuts most rivals.
The weakness, however, lies in the camera, which isn't a consistent performer. There's also no microSD card which most Android rivals offer.
The Moto X might be the natural choice if you don't like the size of the Nexus 6 and are looking for a pure Android experience.
FULL REVIEW: Moto X (2014) review
DEALS: Moto X (2014) best deals
4. Sony Xperia Z3
Sony has had a number of passes at its flagship model. Fortunately, the Xperia Z3 is where it all comes together. The body design has been refined to the point where the size now feels confortable. Slimming the body pays dividends, but so too does refining the edges and construction.
That's not all the Xperia Z3 offers though. The 5.2-inch display sits in front of powerful hardware that's speedy in execution of all your tasks.
Sony runs a number of customisations to Android through its own skin, but avoids the worst of duplication. Yes, there's some bloat and things are geared towards those using Sony's services, but it doesn't obliterate the Android experience in the process.
Then there's a great pair of cameras, the rear offering great quality, plenty of options and some lovely results. This is the best of Sony's handsets, the flagship device where Sony's perseverance paid off.
Buy the Sony Xperia Z3 for a powerful, waterproof, sharp shooting, Android handset.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z3 review
DEALS: Sony Xperia Z3 best deals
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Samsung has long ruled the phablet roost and the Galaxy Note 4 cements its mastery with big handsets: the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is sensational.
Samsung manages to differentiate itself from the pack by filling the Note 4 with features that really make use of the screen space and the hardware. This isn't just about making a big phone, it's about making it useful.
Samsung's commitment to the S Pen is noteworthy in itself. Whether you choose to use the stylus or not, it genuinely opens up features that others simply don't offer.
There may be some bloat and a feature too many, but Samsung's software is neatly backed by some of the best performing hardware around. There's a fantastic display, plenty of power and endurance packed into a frame that's been sympathetically designed.
If you're looking for the best big screen experience around, then look to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review
2. HTC One (M8)
The HTC One (M8) comprehensively betters the HTC One, taking the design and user experience of the former and refining it in many areas. There's no doubt that this is a premium device at the top of the Android pile. It's slick and fast and the refinement of the new Sense 6.0 user interface adds plenty to Android 4.4 KitKat.
The design is excellent, with a premium metal body offering a great feel in the hand. But this handset isn't only good looking, it offers a great 5-inch full HD display with some of the nicest visuals you'll find on a device at this size.
With size and power, you might expect the 2800mAh battery to be something of a concern, but the HTC One (M8) offers all-day battery life, along with an extreme power saver mode if you need to last longer.
The camera offers some clever features. Thanks to the Duo Camera you can easily refocus images, as well as apply a number of effects after shooting. They add interest, but if camera performance is the most critical feature you want then you might want to look elsewhere. The HTC One M8 is slick and fast and daily use is a pleasure. It will cost you £549.
Buy the HTC One (M8) for it's design, power and mature user experience.
FULL REVIEW: HTC One (M8) review
DEALS: HTC One (M8) best deals
1. Apple iPhone 6
The iPhone has never topped the our best smartphone charts, but in the iPhone 6, Apple has taken a big step forward. The size, for starters, gives us the screen space we've been asking for years. It might not be the highest resolution around, but it's a great quality display, a visual treat.
That's paired with design that's second to none. It's slick, with a high quality finish, with this bigger iPhone sitting nicely in the hand. It looks great, it feels great, and it's a pleasure to use.
The TouchID implementation is the most effective we've seen, and with Apple Pay in the works, could be a key to unlocking much more than your just your phone. The camera too offers great, consistent, results, with simplicity that many rivals lack. It might not pack the most megapixels, but it does give you great consistent results.
This is all wrapped in the refinement of iOS 8. Apple might have been playing catch-up with Android in some areas, but in iOS 8 there's a consistency of experience that some other platforms lack, not to mention the huge developer support. On day one the iPhone 6 is a great device, but offers more potential as the developers swing into action to bring their best to bear.
This is the best iPhone ever and for those who have been waiting for something bigger, that day has finally come.
Buy the iPhone 6 because you want a premium handset offering a bigger Apple experience than ever before. Also because it won Best Phone at the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2014.
FULL REVIEW: Apple iPhone 6 review
BEST DEALS: iPhone 6 best deals