At last, we have reached the end of SBT’s smartphone guide of 2014. Just in time for Black Friday/Cyber Monday….well Cyber Monday anyway. Just to recap, in Part 1 we looked at ecosystems which are becoming just as important as the phone you buy. In Part 2, we looked at the top 5 phones for people with big hands (or who just like big phones period). Finally we list the top 5 phones for people with small hands….kinda. I say “kinda” because some of these phones aren’t necessarily small but they’re definitely smaller than the phones from part 2. Let’s continue…
1. Samsung Galaxy S5
With a 5.1 inch screen, the S5 isn’t exactly a “small” phone but it IS smaller than the Galaxy Note 4 so that’s why I’m putting it on this list. The S5 is the sequel to last years S4. It includes a 2.5 Ghz Quad core processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 5.1 inch 1080p Super AMOLED display. Additions to this year also include a fingerprint scanner (although not as reliable as the iPhone’s Touch ID) and a heart rate monitor on the back. Samsung is trying to push into the health space with its “S-Health” app and Gear smartwatches. Most reviews say the S5 is a pretty good phone but it isn’t a “must have” upgrade if you already own an S4. Still, it’s definitely worth a look at if you’re in the market for a new phone. Reviews of the Galaxy S5 are below.
2/3. iPhone 6/5S
Most of the things about the iPhone 6 Plus can also be applied to the iPhone 6 so check out Part 2. The main differences are the screen size (4.7 inch for the iPhone 6) and the lack of optical image stabilization (OIS). The smaller size does make it easier to operate one handed. However, if 4.7 inches is still a little big for your tastes, there is still the iPhone 5S. The 5S is still a very capable device with it’s 4 inch screen. iOS 8 is still just as fluid and it still has Touch ID if you care about that. The only thing you’d be missing is the NFC chip for Apple Pay. If Apple Pay is something you care about, stick with the iPhone 6. Reviews for the iPhone 6 and 5S are below
The Verge Video Review (iPhone 6)
4. HTC One (M8)
If there is any manufacturer that could legitimately challenge Apple for industrial design aesthetics, it’s HTC. The One M8, just like the M7 last year, its sleek unibody metal design is definitely comfortable to hold and striking to look at. It has a 5 inch, full HD display, 2.3 Ghz Quad core Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM. Although Android purists will bemoan how Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense Android skins slow down the overall Android experience, HTC’s Sense is sleek and minimalist. The Snapdragon 801 isn’t the most up to date processor but it’s still capable of keeping the M8 relatively smooth performance wise. One of the defining features of the M8 (and M7 before it) are HTC’s front facing “BoomSound” speakers. They are hands down the loudest and best speakers on any phone. Once you hear them, you’ll want front facing speakers on every phone. One of the more interesting features of the M8 is the 4 “Ultrapixel” camera. It has a few neat tricks like being able to refocus the image after it’s been taken. You can even make focus the foreground and blur the background. Unfortunately, being only 4 Megapixels, photos still aren’t as sharp as other phones with higher resolution cameras. Check out reviews of the M8 below. Note: There is an Android version and a Windows Phone version of the M8. I’d recommend trying out both of them.
5. Nokia Lumia Icon (Verizon exclusive)
Note: Microsoft bought Nokia’s smartphone division but these phones came out before Microsoft started phasing out the Nokia brand.
In my opinion, Windows Phone has not gotten the attention it deserves. iPhone and Android dominate the smartphone market but Microsoft has a very compelling and intuitive mobile OS that is in many ways equal or superior to its Android/iPhone brethren. The Lumia Icon is a 5 inch smartphone that is intriguing in its own right. Nokia is still well known for robust industrial design. That robustness comes at the expense of size but the good thing is you probably won’t need a case. Specs include a 20-megapixel PureView camera, a 5-inch 1080p display, top-of-the-line quad-core Snapdragon processor, 32GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM and a 2,420mAh battery. Nokia is one of the few companies that truly get camera phones just right and the PureView on the Lumia Icon is no exception. Pictures are crisp and accurate and low light photos are excellent. The iPhone 6/6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are probably the few phones that can compete with a PureView. The Windows Phone 8.1 OS itself is smooth and fluid as always. Updates include the ability to show a background picture on the home screen tiles. Personally, I think it’s very beautiful to look at. There’s also Cortana, Microsoft’s take on the digital personal assistant akin the Google Now and Apple’s Siri and named after the A.I. in the Halo video game series. Windows Phone’s biggest pitfall continues to be it’s app selection. Either the apps you want aren’t there or the apps that are there usually aren’t updated at the same pace as the iOS and Android versions. It’s a shame because I really think Windows Phone is an excellent platform, especially if you use Microsoft services. Regardless, if you’re Verizon subscriber, I highly recommend you check out the Lumia Icon. Even if you’re not on Verizon, I still recommend checking out Windows Phone in general. See below for Lumia Icon reviews.
That concludes Short, Black, and Techie’s Smartphone Guide for 2014. If you want to see more countdowns like this, let me know in the comments. Please make sure to like my Facebook page and follow this blog! Tell your friends! Till next time….