Saturday, 7 March 2015

10 best smartphones to kick off 2015

Now that MWC is over and the expected flagship phones have been announced it's time to take a look at the best smartphones to kick off 2015.
While I haven't had a chance to test all of these phones extensively, stay tuned for reviews in the next month or so, I have spent at least a few minutes with eight of them. As I stated in my last best smartphones article, my litmus test for picking the top phone in these lists is figuring out which single phone I would own if I could only have one.
After my first pick, the list becomes rather subjective and it's unlikely you will have the same opinion as me when it comes to the ranking. You may end up with the same top ten that I have, but in a different order. If you have another contender for the top ten I would love to hear which phone and why in the comments.
Thankfully, in my role here on ZDNet I don't have to choose just one and usually have two or three in my gear bag ready to step in when I get bored of one and want to switch to another. Let's take a look at my current top picks of 2015.

1. Apple iPhone 6 & 6 Plus

I bought my iPhone 6 Plus the day it was released and while I do pop my SIM in other phones, when I am going out and carrying just one it is the iPhone 6 Plus. It has yet to let me down and while it doesn't conveniently fit into my pants pocket, it lasts all day, takes great photos, gives me all the apps I need, and is very well designed. Since I purchased it back in November, I've written a few articles about why I think it is the best, including my full iPhone 6 Plus review and one month with the iPhone 6 Plus article after further usage.
The iPhone 6 is included here too since it's essentialy the same device as the iPhone 6 Plus, except for the size, battery capacity, and optical image stabilization in the camera. Recent data shows that the public overwhelmingly chooses the iPhone 6 over the iPhone 6 Plus so size does still matter to most folks.
The Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus remain the most expensive smartphones available today with full prices ranging from $649 to $949 and two-year contract subsidized prices ranging from $199 to $499. For those of us who use our smartphones daily as an essential tool for getting work done, the cost is justified.
Check out the CNET reviews of the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6.

2. Samsung Galaxy Note 4/Note Edge

Image: Samsung
Samsung significantly improved the design of its flagship smartphone with a full metal frame and improved camera. The Note 4 and Note Edge have excellent cameras that match, and often beat, the results I see from the iPhone 6. If you want the most powerful Android phone, then the Note 4 and Note Edge deserve serious consideration. The Note 4 is powered by a Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, with a 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 Super AMOLED screen, 3GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage with support for a microSD card, 16-megapixel camera, 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera, and large 3220 mAh replaceable battery. Now that the Galaxy S6 is known, the removable battery and microSD card slot set the Note 4 up as a device for the road warrior.
The Note 4 and Note Edge are the most expensive Android smartphones ($750 to $870), but in this case performance matches the price. I thoroughly enjoyed my month with the Samsung Note Edge and found the edge display quite useful.
Check out the CNET reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge.

3. HTC One M9

HTC just revealed the One M9 last week and I was able to spend 24 hours testing one out. Everything about the HTC One M9 is an improvement over the One M7 and One M8 so if you were happy with one, or both, of those devices then you will be thrilled with the HTC One M9. The UltraPixel camera was improved and moved to the front of the phone where it fits in best with expectations for front facing cameras. The rear camera was upgraded to a 20-megapixel shooter that performs better for those who want more detail in their phone pictures.
The design was improved with two-tone color metal and an in-hand feel that shouldn't slip as much as the One M8 did. HTC Sense has been improved to provide more personalization at a time when people are looking for ways to make their phone unique.
The internal specs have been updated to include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, microSD card slot, and large 2800 mAh battery.
Check out the CNET preview of the HTC One M9.

4. Sony Xperia Z3

My primary Android smartphone at the moment and the one that seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the smartphone world (it doesn't get any respect) is the Sony Xperia Z3. It is only available from T-Mobile in the US, there is a variant of it on Verizon, but when you travel you will see the Z3 in hands of people everywhere around the world. Android Lollipop should be arriving soon and it looks like we won't see an Xperia Z4 for a few more months. The Z3 isn't perfect, but it's the Android phone I keep coming back to and I just can't fully explain why.
Check out the CNET review of the Sony Xperia Z3.

5. Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge

Samsung revealed the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge at MWC and I was able to spend some time with both at the press event. I feel the design has been significantly improved, but the trade-offs made for the design killed off a few reasons that people chose the Samsung Galaxy S line over other Android smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are powered by a Samsung Exynos octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB/64GB/128GB internal storage, 16 megapixel camera, 5.1 inch Super AMOLED 2560 x 1440 pixel display, integrated wireless charging, and more. Note that the removable battery is gone, as well as microSD memory card expansion.
The camera improves on the Note 4 so should perform amazingly well. The battery life concerns me a bit, but these new Galaxy phones do support Quick Charge technology. The Galaxy S6 models arrive in April so stay tuned for further coverage.
Check out the CNET first look of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.