The Sony Xperia M2 certainly looks like a premium smartphone, but carries a surprisingly mid-range price tag. With a more impressive camera and more storage, we'd be really impressed with the Xperia M2 for that price, but we think you can get more for your money elsewhere. It's worth investigating the cheaper Moto G, or if you've got a little extra budget the Google Nexus 5 is worth a look, as it has a lot going for it and is still under £300.
The ZenFone 6 is not going to appeal to everyone. It really is huge, so it's not the most portable of smartphones, but if you're ok with that you're going to benefit from a brilliant device for watching TV and movies on the commute. If it's playing games you're most keen on, you might need to look elsewhere as the ZenFone 6 isn't he most powerful of options, but for £250 you'll get a good-looking phablet with satisfactory specs, an impressive camera and a really nice user interface.
Like HTC’s Desire 610, the Desire 816 sits awkwardly between other smartphones in terms of price, with rivals including the OnePlus One, Nokia Lumia 1320 and Nexus 5 among others. If you’re won over by the big screen, you won’t be disappointed if you can pick one up for around £200.
We really like the ZenFone 5. From its design and battery life to its software and price tag, this smartphone has got a lot going for it. However, it's well worth checking whether Motorola's Moto G is a better choice for you, as it could save you a bit of money but provide very similar features, including an 8Mp camera, a 294ppi 5in IPS screen and a microSD slot (though it only adds up to 32GB).
Overall, the HTC Desire 610 will appeal to anyone looking for a reasonably priced all-rounder to use for browsing the web, taking good photos, emailing, texting, making phone calls, playing casual games and running Android apps.
The HTC Sense software is sleek and easy to use and you'll be satisfied with the battery life. We really enjoyed our time with the HTC Desire 610 and don't have any real qualms aside from the large bezels and slightly disappointing display.
We like the phone, but when you come to compare it with close rivals, it becomes more difficult to give it a hearty recommendation. If you're on a budget it's definitely worth investigating the Motorola Moto G, which only really falls down against the HTC Desire 610 when it comes to design and camera. For anyone with a bit of extra cash to spare, the Nexus 5 offers a better display, a faster processor and more and will only set you back an extra £60.
The iPhone 5C is a nice smartphone. However, we just can't see the need for it in the first place, unless it was cheaper. It's too expensive for what is effectively an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell with minor changes in hardware. There are better and cheaper Android devices on the market and those wishing to stick with iOS should pay the extra £80 for the iPhone 5S.
There's nothing shockingly wrong with the Lumia 830, but it does feel like a slight opportunity lost. It is a mediocre performer, with a not-great camera. But it is well priced, nicely built and stylish. Better value can be found by dropping down to the Lumia 630, but if you want a 5in Windows phone this is a decent option.
There isn't the app ecosystem of the big two competitors but we can see the BlackBerry Z30 as a useful compromise of the needs of businesses that rely on BlackBerry's security model, and users who'd like something with the touchscreen power of iPhone-based handsets. This big handset deserves to win friends from anyone that can value its secure and robust features.
If you're looking for a cheap smartphone, you may have just found it. The Nokia Lumia 520 doesn't tick all the boxes on our features wishlist, but it capably handles those that are most important. Windows Phone 8 is a beautiful operating system, but it still lacks apps. If you can get past this and don't mind sacrificing some performance, the Lumia 520 is a strong budget buy.
The Galaxy S4 mini is a great mid-range option, offering the same styling – which includes the same mediocre build quality – as its flagship counterpart, with a cheaper price tag. The cameras are good but the screen and storage are both under par. Consider the HTC One mini or the Nexus 4 as serious alternatives.
We really like the Lumia 720. Nokia has made a well-balanced smartphone which could be exactly what Windows Phone 8 needs. It offers decent performance at a more than decent price.
We like the Kestrel, we really do. We don't like its design and build quality, and we hate its user interface, but in other respects the Kestrel has a lot going for it. Whereas network operators haven't yet been able to make 4G connectivity available UK-wide, at least the hardware on which to enjoy it is now available even to those on tight budgets. At £99, you get a pretty good screen, better performance than you should probably expect at this price, and the promise of 4G connectivity if it's available in your area.
Motorola set a new benchmark for the budget smartphone with the Moto G but has gone even lower on price with the Moto E. Although we're impressed with the Moto E which will make a great first or spare smartphone, it's worth paying the extra for the Moto G which is now £99 on PAYG.
With 'okay' performance and a good but not great screen, the Lumia 1320 still offers good value for money. It's certainly not the best handset on the market, but if you want a Windows Phone with a big screen, and you can't or don't want to stretch up to the faster 1520, you won't regret buying the Lumia 1320. The camera is basic and the storage limited, but the battery life is brilliant.
The Nokia Lumia 1520 has got so many things right including build quality, a great camera and a good looking screen. It's the best Windows Phone yet but software is still lacking and we just wish the darn thing was smaller because it's severely off putting.
It won't be for everyone, but if you want a big phone (and we mean BIG), you could do a lot worse than the HTC One Max. This is a serious performer that is built to look good and last.
The HTC One mini isn't as good as the HTC One. Its performance is decent but not spectacular, and the addition of a layer of plastic has removed some of the original's chic. But this is a very strong handset at a decent price. Well worth a look.
The Huawei Ascend P6 is a fantastic and desirable smartphone, whether it's an iPhone copy or not. It provides real value for money even if it is lacking NFC and 4G support. We particularly like the cameras and the customisable user interface.
The HTC Desire 500 is a great-looking device, with tons of unique software and solid mid-range smartphone specs on board. It's hard to find any real weaknesses with the phone, including its reasonable £199 price tag. To sum up, it's simply a very good mid-range Android smartphone.
The most fun Nokia on the market, the Lumia 735 really is an ideal smartphone for selfies. At just £189 we can picture many a teenage girl - and boy - adding this great-value Windows Phone to their Christmas list. Given the low- to mid-range price its performance is sufficient, and we appreciate the extras such as microSD support, Qi wireless charging and 4G LTE. We just hope the Lumia Denim update fires up that camera a bit quicker.
The Lumia 930 is a step in the right direction with its semi-metal design and decent hardware line-up. We like the screen and camera but it's lacking additional features and doesn't have expandable storage. Windows Phone 8.1 vastly improves things on the software side but the platform is still not a priority for developers – especially when it comes to third-party hardware.
The Galaxy S4 is a great phone with outstanding hardware and performance, but it's not flawless. We're disappointed with the build quality considering the handset costs a fair bit more than its rivals and while the S4 is packed with features we find a lot of them to be gimmicky.
The Xperia Z is the first smartphone which Sony has really nailed. We love the stylish, desirable and rugged design. The combination of excellent performance, a stunning screen and great cameras make the Xperia Z a force to be reckoned with. There is very little to say about this phone that is negative.
We're not sure you need all the extra features that Samsung packs in, and we could live without the S Pen. And not everyone needs or wants a smartphone with a 6in display. Neither is the camera all that great. But be in no doubt about it, the Galaxy Note 3 is a high-quality portable device, offering the best performance we've ever seen, a stunning screen and nice build quality.
The HTC One is up there with the very best smartphones on the market today. It has superb performance, and excellent build quality spoiled only slightly by running hot in use. You can't fault the feature set, and it matches the other high-end products in terms of price. In terms of audio and visual output it is unsurpassed. The interface might be an acquired taste for some, and we weren't overly impressed with the camera. It's not perfect, but alongside the Xperia Z and iPhone 5 this is about as good a phone as you can buy.
Motorola's Moto G is the best budget smartphone around. At £135 it's got great build quality, an excellent screen, decent cameras and Android 4.3 Jelly Bean soon to be upgrade to 4.4 KitKat. It's only limited in the storage department and a lack of 4G support.
With a bigger screen, much better speakers and improved cameras, the new Moto G is a great budget smartphone. The lack of support for 4G will be a deal-breaker for some, though. It isn't without its rivals, but if you're specifically looking for a budget dual-SIM Android phone, it's a good choice.
Things haven't changed much from the Galaxy S4 but Samsung, as usual, has packed the Galaxy S5 with features. However, a lot are somewhat unnecessary. The heart rate monitor is a prime example and while the fingerprint scanner is cool, it's difficult to use. There is some top end hardware here, particularly the screen, but nothing which stands out in a busy and competitive market. A key element is that the design of the Galaxy S5 falls short. It's plastic, looks like every other Samsung handset and doesn't feel premium. Galaxy S4 users needn't upgrade and anyone looking for a flagship smartphone can get better elsewhere.
Huawei has produced a stunning smartphone in the Ascend P7 and this is couple with good value for money with that non-flagship price tag. There's some decent hardware on offer here, particularly the camera but the P7 is let down by software performance issues.
If you already own an iPhone 5, it’s hard to justify upgrading to the 5S. Yes, it’s considerably faster and takes better photos and videos in low light, but the 5 is still a great smartphone and has at least another year in it before apps (and possibly iOS 8) start to find the A6 processor’s limits.
Those with a 4S (or 4) are in for a treat, though. As well as serious performance gains, the bigger screen and lighter weight make a huge difference, and the fingerprint scanner is a bonus.
Ultimately, if you want an iPhone, the 5S won’t disappoint and is one of the most future-proof of the current smartphone crop.
Sony has upgraded its fantastic Xperia Z. The Xperia Z1 feels nicer but is unfortunately bigger and heavier. It's a powerhouse with an all-round impressive specification. Easily one of the best Android handsets around but the high price tag taints this slightly.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the S5 mini is a very decent Android phone. Our key concerns lie in its pricing and performance: while most users will find it more than fast enough for day-to-day tasks, the price tag is a lot higher than we'd like to pay in terms of what we get in return. The new dust- and waterproof casing is a nice touch, but the S5 mini isn't as good-looking as the HTC One mini 2, while the heart-rate monitor and fingerprint scanner are welcome but not essential additions.
The HTC One mini 2 is one of the better examples of a mid-ranged version of a flagship smartphone. It has the same premium feel as the M8 with only a few downgrades - namely a lower res screen and no Duo Camera or IR blaster. The camera is a little disappointing but good performance and software balance things out.
As with the iPhone 6, it's hard to come to a conclusion about the iPhone 6 Plus. For a start, it’s unusual for Apple not to make the first move, so while the iPhone 6 Plus is the biggest and fastest iPhone ever, there are even bigger smartphones with higher resolution screens in the Android stable.
There’s also the unknown for a lot of people. Is a 5.5in screen too big? Conversely, is it big enough to replace a tablet such as the iPad mini? These are questions that have no definitive answers: screen size is and will always be a personal preference. There will be iPhone owners that will prefer to stick with a smaller screen and opt to hold onto their iPhone 5s / 5c / 5 or buy a 4.7in iPhone 6.
Others will love the extra size for browsing websites, watching videos, using detailed apps (such as Garageband) and browsing their iCloud Photo Library. Yet more might feel that 5.5in isn’t enough to comfortably browse some websites or use fiddly controls in apps. As Jason Snell observed above, if you’re not sure, it’s well worth heading to an Apple store to try out an iPhone 6 Plus before you buy.
One thing is for sure: the iPhone 6 Plus is expensive. If you're a dedicated iPhone user and would never consider switching to Android, you'll save money by going for the smaller iPhone 6. But saving money has never been a goal for most iPhone buyers and on that basis, the iPhone 6 Plus is a very fine smartphone indeed.
There are some good things about the Nexus 6 including build quality and some top-end hardware such as the screen, processor and camera. However, it's simply too big, unwieldy and expensive to warrant awarding it anything higher than four stars and really get behind it (unless we wanted to hid from something). In the phablet market, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is simply better even if it is pricier and the excellent LG G3 at less than £300 is another thorn in the Nexus 6's side.
The standard, non-customised Moto X is a desirable smartphone, but it's a little overpriced especially if you compare it with the Nexus 5. So Google's phone may lack the premium build quality and hi-res camera, but in most other respects it's a match for the Motorola at a significantly lower price.
What makes the new Moto X really attractive is Moto Maker, as it's unlikely anyone else will choose your combination of customisations. (But it may also make it harder to resell when it's time to upgrade.) It's just a shame that Motorola decided not to add a microSD slot: there's no such thing as too much storage.
If you are an iPhone user, and you specifically want an iPhone to be your next smartphone, the iPhone 6 is the best yet. It's a slick, well-built, beautifully designed handset. Performance is good, the display is good, and the iOS eco-system is, well, good. Where the choice becomes more difficult is in quantifying the value of the iPhone 6 in the wider market. Step over to the Android world and you could get a similar experience with a better display for a lot less money. And you could expand the storage. There is no question that these days there is better value in the Android world, but value isn't really the point with an iPhone. iPhones are great, and the iPhone 6 is the best yet. If you are dedicated to using an Apple phone, it should be your next handset.
We love what Sony has done with the Xperia Z1 Compact. Finally consumers have the choice to buy a high-end smartphone without being forced to use a large screen. The fact it's cheaper than most flagship devices makes it one of the best smartphones around.
Although not much has changed from the Xperia Z1, the Xperia Z2 is another solid effort from Sony. The smartphone is a good all-rounder with a great screen, camera, build quality and performance. We just wish it wasn't quite so bulky.
We are thoroughly impressed with the HTC Desire Eye: it's fast, it's great value (assuming it comes in around £350), it has a nice screen and it sounds great. Better still, it makes you look pretty.
There are only two, possibly three, bad things to say about the OnePlus One, if you are happy to buy online direct from OnePlus. We wish there was expandable storage, and it's bigger than other smartphones with similarly sized displays. And if we are being really harsh, we would hope for a better camera. But at the price the OnePlus One is an amazing deal. It's a flagship smartphone for a mid-range price. Bargain. Get them while they are hot.
The Sony Xperia Z3 is undoubtedly a decent and desirable smartphone but Z2 owners will have little reason to upgrade unless PS4 Remote Play or High-Res audio are must-haves. In terms of the wider market, the Z3 is up there with the best and a solid choice even if it doesn't have the amount of bells and whistles which others do.
Google and LG have done a fantastic job with the Nexus 5, producing a very desirable phone at an outrageously low price. It's the best value-for-money smartphone out there right now.
We're seriously impressed by the Honor 6 which costs just £249 while providing specs you would normally pay a lot more for. It has a decent 5in Full HD screen, high quality cameras, good battery life, 4G support, good performance, expandable storage and wireless features like NFC and an IR blaster. The microSD cards slot is limited to 32 GB and Emotion UI isn't the best Android software but these don't stop the Honor 6 being the best value smartphone around.
The Galaxy Note 4 is a bit of a handful and is rather expensive but lovers of the Galaxy Note range will likely be enamoured with this edition. It is, on the whole, a great device with plenty of power and features. As long as you're aware that you're buying a huge phone and will get the most out of what it offers. Otherwise a smaller and cheaper handset is probably a better choice – the Galaxy S5 or one of its rivals.
Like the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2, the new HTC One M8 isn't a big leap compared to the previous model. What HTC has done is taken a great phone and made it better. The M8 looks and feels gorgeous and with important upgrades including a microSD card slot and an innovative camera. This is one desirable smartphone.
LG trumped the competition with the G2. The phone offers a combination of value for money with high-end features which we haven't seen from rival flagship devices. A great specification combined with impressive design and handy software features mean there's very little to dislike about this handset - only really the lack of a microSD card slot. That fault is rectified in the new LG G3, and if you can afford that handset it will be worth the upgrade. But the LG G2 remains a great handset.
The Xperia Z3 compact is great little smartphone offering pretty much everything available on the full-size Z3 (including PS4 Remote Play and High-Res audio) apart from a Full HD screen. The new design is thinner and lighter plus the display is bigger than previously. At £349, this is not only the best mini smartphone you can buy, it's one of the best smartphones around.
LG has impressed us with the G3 which comes in at under £500 but packs amazing features including that Quad HD and a camera with a laser auto focus. The device is surprisingly small considering the 5.5in display and we like the more premium design. It's another winner from LG.