It’s the special time of year when every smartphone manufacturer is releasing a new flagship device leading up to the holiday shopping season.
What’s different about this year is each company seems to have a relatively solid flagship offering. Android devices have caught up with Apple both in terms of build quality and power, especially when it comes to high-end devices. So with so many Android smartphones that in some cases look almost identical, which one should you shell out hundreds of dollars for?
Below are the various Android smartphones, mostly of the high-end variety, that I’ve been able to get my hands on over the last few months.
Which on will come out on top?
Motorola’s Moto X improves on last year’s smartphone
The 2nd-generation Moto X is Motorola’s new flagship smartphone. Patrick O’Rourke/Postmedia
Moto X (2nd generation)
Release Date: September 5th, 2014
Every smartphone manufacturer seems to have a decent flagship device available this holiday season and Motrola’s Moto X is no exception. Unfortunately its camera is still less than stellar and the smartphone’s battery life is merely average. These were both major issues with the first-generation Moto X.
The smartphone essentially builds on everything Motorola stared with last year’s Moto X, only with a larger screen (4.7-inches to 5.2-inches), a new aluminum frame and full 1080p HD screen resolution.
Unfortunately if you aren’t buying the Moto X on a plan, it’s rather expensive, running at about $499.99 outright with most carriers.
LG G3 is amazing but expensive
The LG G3 is one of the best Android smartphones out right now, rivaled only by the HTC One (M8). Patrick O’Rourke/Postmedia
Release Date: August 1st, 2014
My favourite thing about the LG G3 is its build quality. The phone feels solid and looks great thanks to its brushed metal body and unique off switch located on the back of the smartphone (which is unusual when it comes to Android smartphones).
The smartphone’s QuadHD screen, which packs four times the pixels of a 720p display, also looks amazing. Its 5.5-inch display might borderline on being too large for some users, but I still found it fit into my pocket easily. It’s also a powerful smartphone, boasting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (and 3 GBs of RAM if you purchase the 32 GB version).
This means it’ll be able to multitask and play high-end modern Android games with relative ease. Unfortunately all this power comes at a premium since the phone costs a scary $699.99 not on a plan.
Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha looks like an iPhone
Unfortunately Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha features an outdated screen resolution. Patrick O’Rourke/Postmedia
Release Date: Mid August 2014
The Galaxy Alpha has obviously been designed to be Samsung’s big smartphone for this holiday season and its sights are directly aimed at Apple’s iPhone 6. So how does it stack up to the competition?
The Alpha’s body feels solid and if you showed this smartphone to someone who doesn’t know very much about technology, they’d likely assume it was an iPhone 4, at least at first glance. My favourite thing about the Galaxy Alpha is its small screen size, coming in at just 4.7-inches, which is tiny when compared to today’s often comically gigantic smartphones.
Unfortunately it also has a umber of downsides. The Alpha’s battery life is underwhelming and perhaps most importantly, it only features a 720p display. At $699 not on a plan, I expected the smartphone to feature a top-tier display rivaling the LG G3, HTC One M8′s or almost any other Android device in its price range.
Maybe if the Galaxy Alpha was slightly cheaper it would be much easier to recommend, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. You can get a much better smartphone at this price point.
The HTC One M8 is a great looking smartphone
The HTC One M8′s brushed metal unibody feels great in your hands. Handout/HTC
HTC One M8
Release Date: Mid May 2014
The best thing about the HTC One M8 is how great the smartphone feels in your hands. Its brushed metal body gives the Android smartphone a high-quality iPhone-like feel to it and it also packs a decent hardware punch, with a 1920 by 1080 full HD resolution screen, 2 GBs of ram and the ability to expand the smartphone’s internal storage via a micro-SD card, a rarity when it comes to smartphones lately.
The smartphone also features the same powerful Qualcomm 801 Snapdragon processor as the LG G3. In fact, both the HTC One M8 share a number of great features.
In terms of downsides, the HTC One M8′s camera is less than stellar, especially in low-light situations (the same can be said for almost all of HTC’s smartphones).
It also comes at a hefty price tag, $699.99. But this is a premium phone with a premium price tag, so shelling out this amount of money should be expected. As an all around high-end Android smartphone though, it’s hard to go wrong with HTC’s successor to last year’s HTC One. Although it’s important to point out a new version of the phone is likely coming out soon).
HTC Desire 510 is solid and durable, but definitely not high-end
The HTC Desire 510 is a decent budget smartphone, but most people might be better off picking up the Nexus 5. Patrick O’Rourke/Postmedia
HTC Desire 510
Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Unlike most people, I’m a fan of smartphones with rubberized backs and bodies. It makes the phone more durable and if I owned a Desire 510 I probably wouldn’t even put a case on it. Some people might find its body cheap feeling but it’s important to keep in mind the Desire 510 isn’t what you should consider a high-end smartphone.
The Desire 510 comes with a 854 x 480 4.7-inch screen that isn’t quite considered high-definition, and an already outdated quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor, as well as 1 GB of RAMand an external micro SD card slot. It also supports LTE connectivity, a rarity when it comes to most budget smartphones.
What’s most appealing about this phone is its $200 outright price (with Telus, Rogers and Fido), which is a great price tag considering the high cost of most smartphones. If you set your expectations appropriately, the HTC Desire 510 is a decent device, designed to compete directly with the Moto G and Samsung’s Galaxy Core LTE, two other budget Android smartphones.
Still, most people would be better off purchasing the much more powerful Nexus 5 for $100 more. It’s a more powerful device for just a little more money.
Sony’s Xperia Z3 is the definition of an all-rounder
The Sony Xperia Z3 is a decent all-round smartphone. Patrick O’Rourke/Postmedia
Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact
Release Date: September 5th, 2014
I’ve never used a Sony smartphone before so I was interested to get my hands on both the Xperia Z3 (5.3-inch screen) and its smaller cousin, the Xperia Z3 compact (4.6-inch screen and a slightly smaller battery). It’s great Sony is giving consumers an option when it comes to the Xperia’s size since large smartphones have become so common lately. Just like the Galaxy Alpha, the Xperia Z3 mimics the look of older generation iPhones, although the regular sized Z3 could be mistaken for an iPhone 6. It also sports a full HD 1920 by 1080 display.
The biggest draw for me with this smartphone is its excellent battery thanks to the 3,100 mAh battery it comes equipped with (only in the 5.3-inch version). It also rocks the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor as other high-end smartphones like the LG G3 and HTC One M8. This means it multi-tasks, plays high-end games and generally perform most tasks with very little lag.
If you own a PlayStation 4, you’ll also be able to play PS4 games remotely on your Z3, although touch screens aren’t exactly designed to accommodate the number of buttons on the Dualshock 4 gamepad.
While the build of the smartphone will likely be appealing to most, I still prefer the HTC One M8 and the LG G3′s brushed metal body’s. The Xperia also has a premium $699.99 unlocked price tag.
It’s an expensive smartphone sandwich. Patrick O’Rourke/Postmedia
Note: The Nexus 6 isn’t included on this list because I haven’t got my hands on it yet. When I do, I’ll be putting together a full review of the smartphone.