Best Android smartphones 2013: The best Google phones available to buy today
So you're after the best Android smartphone you can buy? The best of Google's mobile experience, fused into the best all-round device, offering the best experience you can get for your money? Then you've come to the right place.
We will guide you through the hottest Android phones of the year, giving you the chance to weigh up your options, make a decision on what your next Android phone will be, or simply to see what others are getting that you might be missing out on. You might want compact power, you might want sheer size, you may be after bang for your buck.
Things are changing fast in the world of Android: slashed prices mean older models can be a steal; ever-improving hardware and refreshed handsets arriving every few months along with Android updates like the soon-to-be-announced Android 4.4 KitKat mean things never stand still.
Our list of great handsets here covers just the best of Android, but in all sizes, at all prices. We'll be regularly updating this feature, reflecting the changing demands of the Android market and apps. A phone that's great today, may be obsolete in six months, so check back regularly.
Of course, feel free to tell us which you think are the best Android phones in the comments below.
13. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini continues Samsung's trend to capitalising on a successful handset name. It's not a mini in the sense that it matches the specs, but in design and to some extent experience. There was a time that "mini" was "lesser" but with the latest wave of devices, the mid-range is more appealing than ever.
Samsung's customisation brings a huge change over Android, packing it with useful features and options. The display is great, if not quite matching the sharpness of the HTC One mini, but here you have the advantage of microSD card expansion and access to the battery, should you wish to swap it on a busy day.
With plenty of power under the hood, slick design and all that software innovation, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini is cheaper and more compact than it's bigger brother, but still delivers a great smartphone experience.
QUICK VERDICT: All things considered, we really fell for the Mini. It's a powerful and well-designed phone that does everything you need in a nice compact device. It's still expensive, but it's a phone that will serve you well for a couple of years, assuming storage isn't an issue.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini review
12. HTC One mini
The HTC One mini offers the lovely design of the HTC One, but doesn't stop there. It has a cracking 4.3-inch 720p display that's very capable and enough grunt under the hood to cope with pretty much everything you want to do with your phone on a day-to-day basis, but won't match the top handsets for sheer power.
The HTC One mini takes a hit on the spec sheet, but offers the same UltraPixel camera of the HTC One, along with all the smart functions like Zoe and the highlight videos that bring your photography to life.
It's all wrapped into a nice mature bundle by HTC Sense 5 making for a mini experience that's really enjoyable.
QUICK VERDICT: The HTC One mini is a great Android smartphone. The design and build are outstanding, the user experience offered by HTC Sense 5 is commendable and the step back into mid-range specs isn't hugely to the phone's detriment.
FULL REVIEW: HTC One mini review
11. Motorola Moto X
Motorola has been in this business a long time and although it doesn't launch as aggressively as rivals like Samsung, there's still a great feeling of quality when you get your hands on the latest Motorola phone, the Moto X.
The Moto X doesn't go up against the flagship phones out there on the spec sheet, but it still delivers the essentials. The dual-core processor offers plenty of power, partnered with 2GB of RAM and the 4.7-inch display offers plenty of space to play, even if the resolution is a notch down at 720p. What you do get, however, is the option to customise the exterior of your phone, so you can design it to suit your own style with a choice of 252 different colour combinations.
The software offers a blend of Android Jelly Bean with a range of Motorola tweaks, which we think get the balance just about right. It's all you want of Android and not too heavily drawn off into unnecessary customisation. There's a generous 2,200mAh battery, that will see this phone outlasting some rivals. It might have some mid-range specs, but it delivers an experience that impresses.
QUICK VERDICT: Priced at $199 (£124) on contract there are plenty of other similar-priced options out there such as the HTC One that bury the Moto X under mightier specs. But even so, and while it's not quite to that level, we've really enjoyed adopting the Moto X. It's smart and still powerful enough - plus it avoids too much bloatware as per the Samsung Galaxy S4. Motorola's customisation options will also tick the box for some - we think they're cool - and that gives this phone that middle-ground appeal that nothing else in the market has. It's not perfect, but we do rather like it.
FULL REVIEW: Motorola Moto X review
10. Sony Xperia Z1
The Sony Xperia Z1 refreshes the excellent Sony Xperia Z, bringing you a powerful handset, with waterproofing, a slick design and a large 5-inch display.
On paper the Z1 sounds like it will be king of all classes, but the boosting of the battery and the accommodation of a 20-megapixel camera, swells the body to larger than its rivals, with a bigger footprint than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2, but note quite reaching into phablet territory. But if you can handle the size there are plenty of treats in store.
It's a veritable powerhouse, with great internal hardware, so everything is slick and fast. The waterproofed 3.5mm headphone jack is now more convenient than the original Xperia Z, but the previous phone is smaller and getting cheaper, so is definitely worth considering.
QUICK VERDICT: Sony has created a powerful and good-quality device in the Xperia Z1. It hits all the high points on the spec sheet, but that doesn't always lead to the best results.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z1 review
9. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Where the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active wins is in offering an experience that's really close to the Samsung Galaxy S4, in a slightly cheaper but water-resistant package. That takes the pains out of dropping your phone in the toilet and gives you more freedom to use your device in all conditions.
There's plenty of power and an impressive Full HD display, meaning that despite having something that's resistant to the elements, it won't cause a huge bulge in your pocket. Then there's all the customisation and all the features brought by Samsung's TouchWiz.
Some might not like the rugged looks, or the move to hardware buttons, but for those who want to get dirty with their phone, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is a natural choice. The Xperia Z1 is more powerful, but the Galaxy S4 Active makes better use of space, so it's more comfortable to use day to day.
QUICK VERDICT: The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is a great handset, offering a flagship smartphone experience in a device that's happy to take a dunking in the bath. If you're accident prone or are always getting caught in the rain, then this is a viable alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S4.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review
8. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
The Samsung Galaxy Note has taken the smartphone world by storm, crossing the divide between tablets and smartphones.
It might be too large for some, but the 5.5-inch display gives you room to play, without being too big for your pocket. Samsung's innovative features will help you get the most out of the size on offer from the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
There's a stylus which might be more popular with those who prefer to note down things in writing, but you can equally just leave the stylus in place and never use it, if it's the larger display that you're after. It's big and beautiful, and far from stupid. However, with the Note 3 recently announced and soon to be launched, we'd expect to see this model tumble in price, but be bettered by its replacement.
QUICK VERDICT: We're in love. This phone may seem wildly illogical, but those fabulous Koreans have somehow managed to create a device that offers so much more than a smaller phone and almost makes tablets pointless. This phone won't be for everyone, but for us it's one of the best Android devices money can buy.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 2 review
7. Sony Xperia Z
The Sony Xperia Z offers a great design package that's distinctly different. Sony may have revised the Xperia Z with the Z1 and the new device is certainly more powerful. However, falling prices mean that Xperia Z is increasingly affordable.
Sony's take on Android is lighter than ever before, resulting in a device that doesn't feel inhibited, while still bringing plenty of power. We love that even though this handset is water resistant, you still get the option to expand the memory.
There's a huge 5-inch Full HD display on the front, and although it's not as accomplished as that of the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, it's still a pleasure to use. A great device from Sony.
QUICK VERDICT: The Xperia Z combines sharp design with a great display, sensible software tweaks and attention to battery life. It might be out-classed in the specs department by it's Z1 brother, but here you get great design in a more compact package at a cheaper price.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z reviewed
6. Nexus 5
The Nexus 5 plays out the pure Google dream, debuting Android 4.4 KitKat and bringing you plenty of power for your money. There's also 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.
However, the Nexus 5 delivers plenty in it's reasonably priced package, 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.
QUICK VERDICT: The Nexus 5 delivers some great hardware at a price that's difficult to beat, along with the latest Android software which brings some new treats. The camera isn't the best around and the battery doesn't really excel, leaving space for other flagship devices to thrive.
FULL REVIEW: Google Nexus 5 review
5. Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy S4 brings more innovation to a phone that's already at the top of its game. The design offers flexibility where others don't with access to the battery and the option to expand the memory via microSD.
Some may say that there's a feature too many and the design isn't as inspiring as some other devices like the HTC One, but if you opt for the Samsung Galaxy S4, you won't be disappointed. Samsung crams a large 5-inch Full HD display into a handset that isn't overly large, so despite going large, the size is still manageable.
Undoubted the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be the top smartphone choice for many, but recent launches bring more raw power. The Samsung Galaxy S4 will handle anything you throw at it, and beautifully so, but those looking for more power might be tempted by the LG G2.
QUICK VERDICT: We love it, honestly. The new design might look the same as the old, but it isn't. New, more squared-off sides mean it feels nicer than the old model, and it's got so many new features that it's impossible not to love some of them. Battery life is still a major issue for Samsung though, and that's a big deal for most users.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S4 review
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 takes the format and continues to refine it. In this 2013 model, there's a cracking 5.7-inch display offering a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, giving you 386ppi. It's packed into a frame that measures 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm, making it one of the most compact devices with such an expansive display.
Some might not like the faux leather back, but you can peel that off and swap it out: as well as access the internals to expand the storage or change the battery.
There's plenty of power, thanks to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset and 3GB of RAM, meaning that everything is slick and smooth. Samsung hasn't ignored the screen space on offer, giving you innovative features through the S Pen to help keep you productive.
You get a lot with the Note 3, but it's also going to cost you a lot at £599. Arguably you can get bigger displays for the same money, but in the Note 3 the blend just feels right. It might be just too big for some.
QUICK VERDICT: There will be some who will dismiss this phone out of hand for being too big. Those people are silly, and will never know what they are missing. The Note 3 is a diamond in the rough, a phone that doesn't just follow that pack, but leads it shouting, "Come on you dozy slowcoaches, at least try to keep up". It has instantly become our go-to Android phone, and will remain so until the Note 4, no doubt.
FULL REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review
3. LG G2
LG hasn't had the smoothest run of in the world of modern smartphones, but the LG G2 brings things back into focus. There's heaps of power on offer and a 5.2-inch display crammed into a body that's still fairly compact: LG has banished bezels, so you get more space to play. It's an enormously powerful phone, and is rumoured by some to be the forerunner to the Nexus 5. The point is though, this phone competes brilliantly with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4 while offering a more "Android" experience, through a slightly less customised UI.
Some have expressed dislike of the rear-mounted buttons, but they make sense when you're in a call and trying to adjust the volume - far more so, at least, than side mounted buttons do. The biggest problem we had was with the camera, which we just weren't all that impressed by. It's good enough, but the SGS4 beats it easily, and the iPhone is streets ahead.
But best of all, the display is outstanding. LCD screens have great detail, and accurate colours that OLED screens can't claim. And the high-quality audio system will blow you away if you plug in some high-quality music, and some decent headphones. What we like most is that LG hasn't just thrown features at the phone. It's thought about what is missing from current phones, and what customers might like to have, and done its best to incorporate those into the phone. We're sold.
QUICK VERDICT: LG has done it. The G2 really is a compelling alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and even the iPhone. We like LG's take on a phone, we think it has thoughtfully and successfully made a handset that does everything we want, without overloading us with features we don't need. If you've after power and a big display, it's the LG G2 you want. We just wish that camera was better.
READ: LG G2 review
2. Motorola Moto G
The Motorola Moto G has taken a lot of people by surprise. We've heard the sentiments plenty of times before: performance at a price, without compromise. Motorola, however, went ahead an got it right. The Moto G is a fantastic smartphone and incredible value for money that's difficult to ignore.
Take the price out of the equation and you don't feel let down, however. 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 as much.
We're really impressed with what you get in the Moto G. It's a great handset and no matter what your budget, if you're after a smartphone for daily use, then this phone pretty much does it. It's fast, the display is lovely and the camera will give you some decent shots too. There's also a guarantee that an Android 4.4 update will be delivered in January 2014.
QUICK VERDICT: A great handset for an affordable price, that delivers a fantastic display, good performance, great design and brilliant customising options.
FULL REVIEW: Motorola Moto G review
1. HTC One
The HTC One is a triumph of design and sumptuous to hold. It balances size with practicality, making it a great all-rounder: there's space to play, but you're not grappling with something that feels too large. There's a stunning 4.7-inch display on the front, with a Full HD resolution, so Android looks pin sharp, delivering some of the best quality visuals you'll find on a smartphone.
It might not have the most-powerful hardware inside, but it still skips through daily tasks with ease, but if out-and-out power is what you're after, you might want to look at what's on offer elsewhere.
HTC Sense has been refined with a lot of the clutter removed to focus on the essential features. There's an elegance and sophistication to HTC's flagship phone for 2013, making it a pleasure to use.
The camera might not be the best for straight photos, but the unique features it offers are really fun. This is paired with stunning sound quality that's best-in-class to result in a smartphone that covers all bases.
The HTC One was awarded Best Smartphone 2013 in the 10th Annual Pocket-lint Awards and more recently, HTC has announced a One with a removable back, so it will take microSD.
QUICK VERDICT: HTC has a history of making good phones, so the HTC One doesn't comes as a surprise to us. It's a fantastic Android smartphone and is well worthy of your consideration if you're in the market for a premium device.
FULL REVIEW: HTC One review