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44 best Android smartphones in UK: What's the best Android phone you can buy in 2014?

The 44 best Android smartphones reviewed | Best Android phones in UK

In an ever expanding smartphone market, we review and rank the 44 best Android phones that are available to buy in the UK in 2014. See also: The 38 best smartphones: What's the best phone you can buy in 2014?

New entries: Samsung Galaxy Note 4, HTC Desire Eye and Honor 6 - see where they rank below.

The mobile phone industry has been turned on its head in the past seven years, with practically every phone now sold a ‘smart’ one with manifold mobile-computer possibilities. For most people the default choice is now thoroughly Android. The combined weight of Google with its Android software and all its hardware licensees, such as HTC, Sony and Samsung, has created a buoyant and incredibly competitive market among handset manufacturers.

We identify two main categories of Android smartphones: the flagship devices that go head-to-head with leading Windows Phones and the iPhone, and the larger mass of more affordable options, typically priced around £100-£230 when sold SIM-free. Also see: Best SIM-only deals: Best SIM-only and Data SIM deals for smartphone and tablet users

In the UK, many Android smartphones will be sold on contract, of course, often with no upfront cost, but on a two-year contract. Another option may be a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) handset that requires topping up with credit for calls and data. But bear in mind that PAYG phones may be locked to the selling operator, which will try to recoup its loss-leading sale price with costlier fees. When you've found the phone you like, compare mobile phone deals to get the best tariff. (See also: what's the best Android tablet?)

Best Android smartphones 2014

How to choose a premium Android phone

The flagship Android smartphones of 2014 now all come with quad-core processors, huge 5in and larger touchscreen displays and 2GB or more of memory. They are also 4G-capable and ready to join the UK’s emerging LTE networks, and most now sport dual-band Wi-Fi with draft 11ac, so can take advantage of faster data links to the latest wireless routers.

The arms race for more processor cores and higher clock speeds was started by Android hardware makers, desperate to differentiate themselves with specifications against rival devices. We're now at the point where few phones are not powerful enough to meet your needs. With Google pedaling hard to speed up its software, interface stickiness is now barely a problem on the best Android hardware. The main processor will be integrated as a system-on-a-chip with the graphics processor, and all the best Android phones can play action games fluidly.

Although benchmark speed tests tell us little about the suitability of a smartphone to serve in its chosen role as our personal internet gateway and digital assistant, we do include them in our reviews. We don’t recommend you make your purchasing decision on these alone, though. See also: What's the fastest smartphone 2014.

With development of the modern smartphone now slowing, manufacturers are building on existing components, notably the camera. Nokia made great strides with ultra-high pixel photography with the Lumia 1020 phone and its 41Mp camera, although as a sub-brand of Microsoft, its handset runs Windows Phone software. LG differentiated its flagship phone with a pseudo-Lytro focus-free camera, while Sony has made strides with a combination of 20-plus megapixels and high?quality sensors.

On the video side, we’re seeing 4K-class UHD video recording, high-speed shooting for slow-motion playback, and front Skype cameras equally at home with full-HD face capture.

Other features typically only found in the leading Android devices include NFC, even if it remains a novelty for the greater majority of users, and infrared transmitters that allow your phone to replace your TV channel zapper.

How to choose a budget Android phone

Typically, the budget end of the market includes phones that try to look as impressive as possible, while built down to a low price using older or slower components, and with plastic shells and buttons.

With Google keen to get Android phones into as many hands as possible, subsidised handsets have appeared that make usable smartphones more accessible than we ever. Decent-spec phones such as the Google Nexus 4 enabled handsets with all the headline features of a flagship smartphone to be brought into reach for under £200.

Sacrifices can include lower-quality displays, both in pixel count, which makes text blurrier, and also in colour/image quality. Processors may also be slower or less efficient, meaning more interface lag is likely and perceptibly slowed screen animations.

Cameras may cite as many pixels as their more expensive stablemates, but will use low-grade sensors and cheaper optics, giving lower-quality photos. And built-in storage can be limited to a paltry 4GB, which means you’ll depend on slow and fiddly SD cards just to keep your music collection to hand.

But if you can work through such limitations and don’t have the budget for the full smartphone experience, some budget smartphones are very tempting without breaking the bank.

Best Android phones: what to look for

As you'll see from our reviews of the best Android smartphones (below) there is a wide variety of Android operating systems on the market. So do be aware that not all Androids are made equal. Each manufacturer puts on to Google's OS its own stylings and features: Samsung's TouchWizz interface is very different from HTC's Sense, for instance. But it's also worth pointing out that there are different iterations of Android included with brand new phones, and your phone is not likely to be upgraded when a new Android comes out. Also some Android phones - none here - don't give you access to Google Play and all the apps and media contained therein. This is a big point: don't get caught out.

Unlike Windows Phone and BlackBerry the Android world is full of great apps. Unlike Apple's iOS you have a choice of music and movie stores. And almost all Android phones charge and synch from vanilla USB cables, and allow for the addition of SD cards for expanded storage.

The bottom line is that the best Android phones, those reviewed here, are the best phones you can buy. They certainly offer the best value. But be aware that there is wide variety in the Android world. Check reviews from trusted sites such as PC Advisor before parting with any cash. 

44 best Android phones of 2014:

44. Sony Xperia M

Well built and designed, and with great battery life, we can't be too harsh on the Xperia M. Performance an connectivity is good enough, but these days for this price we want better from the display and camera. Not a bad phone, but there are better rivals on the market.

43. Motorola Razr HD

The Motorola Razr HD offers superb build quality and battery life along with a nice screen and great battery life. However, its £400 asking price means that it's probably worth spending the extra for a rival flagship smartphone or saving some money by opting for the Google Nexus 4.

42. HTC One S

The HTC One S is an excellent mid-range smartphone option. It might not have the headline specifications of the One X but it outdoes it on performance and battery life. It does this in a more user friendly size, better build quality and a cheaper price tag.

41. Samsung Galaxy S3

The Galaxy S3 has turned out to be an excellent smartphone. It offers a good design and build quality, despite our small niggles. Samsung has put together an impressive set of hardware resulting in silky smooth performance and extensive software features. We can't give the number one spot to two smartphones, so the iPhone nudges it on a show of hands, but it really is a matter of personal taste. The S3 really is as good a smartphone as you can buy right now. Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Apple iPhone 4S comparison review.

40. Asus Padfone 2

The Asus Padfone 2 is an interesting and unique offering. For £599 you get both a phone and a tablet in one although this has its limitations. Good hardware and excellent battery life are the standout features while build quality is a bit of a let-down. We really like the Padfone 2 but if you're looking to a smartphone and a tablet on the cheap then we suggest Google's Nexus devices.

39. LG G2 mini

The G2 mini is almost exactly what you'd expect it to be. A smaller of the flagship G2 but the build quality and specs take a serious dive. The saving grace is a decent camera but it's worth paying the extra for the now heavily reduced G2. If your budget won't stretch, check out the Sony Xperia M2.

38. Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

By no means the perfect combination of a smartphone and zoom lens, the K Zoom isn’t half bad. It’s capable of great photos and videos in the right conditions. This isn’t a device for everyone, but if the “zoom camera with a built-in smartphone” concept appeals to you and you don’t mind the size and weight, it’s currently your best option.

37. Sony Xperia T3

The Xperia T3 is a good but not great smartphone which will only really suit a particular customer: those wanting a large screen smartphone without spending loads of cash. It delivers this but you should consider the slightly smaller Nexus 5 for a little more money to gain better specs or even Sony's own Xperia Z Ultra if 6.4in doesn't sound too big.

36. Sony Xperia M2

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.

35. LG Optimus G Pro

LG’s Optimus G Pro is king of the small—but growing—phone/tablet hybrid market (I refuse to use the term “phablet”). It’s a performance powerhouse that, despite its large size, is relatively comfortable to use even with average-size hands. The G Pro loses a few points for its limited multitasking features, but if you’re looking to buy a large Android phone and aren’t dismayed by the underperforming camera, then the G Pro is definitely worth considering.

34. Motorola Razr i

The Motorola Razr i is a great all-rounder smartphone. It offers a great combination of design and performance for a reasonable price. It's worth a look for its price and worthy of our recommended award.

33. Huawei Ascend Y300

The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a no-frills smartphone with little to get excited about in dazzling new features. However, it does the basics well with Android 4.1 software with usable battery life at an incredibly low price. For the money, it's one of the best budget smartphone choices around.

32. Sony Xperia SP

The Sony Xperia SP has the spec and price of a mid-range Android smartphone, but when you actually get the device in your hands and start using it any ideas of it being mediocre go out of the window. It really is a class act, so if you're looking for a good phone to browse the web, perform tasks quickly and take decent photos with at a price that won't break the bank, then you really should consider the Xperia SP.

31. HTC Desire 816

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.

30. HTC Desire 610

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.

29. EE Kestrel

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.

28. Motorola Moto E

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.

27. HTC One X+

With a newer version of Android, fixed build quality issues and significantly increased battery life, the One X+ is a polished and honed version of its predecessor. It's now an even better all-round quality smartphone with a reasonable price tag.

26. Samsung Galaxy S4 mini

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.

25. HTC one mini

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.

24. Huawei Ascend P6

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.

23. Samsung Galaxy S4

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.

22. Sony Xperia Z

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.

21. Samsung Galaxy Note 3

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.

20. HTC One

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.

19. Moto G 4G

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.

18. Motorola Moto G 2014 (second generation)

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.

17. Samsung Galaxy S5

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.

16. Huawei Ascend P7

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.

15. Sony Xperia Z1

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.

14. Samsung Galaxy S5 mini

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.

13. HTC One mini 2

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.

12. Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

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.

11. Sony Xperia Z2

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.

10. HTC Desire Eye

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.

9. OnePlus One

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.

8. Sony Xperia Z3

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.

7. Google Nexus 5

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.

6. Honor 6 (by Huawei)

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.

5. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

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.

4. HTC One (M8)

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.

3. LG G2

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.

2. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

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.

1. LG G3

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.

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