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The Best Smartphone Reviews of 2015

  • The Sony Xperia Z3 is Sony's most formidable to date with a formidable display and promising features that easily give Android competition a run for their money – CNET
  • Incredible battery life
  • 88/100 Engadget Product Score

Waterproof phones generally come at the cost of a low-res display, poor camera, and bulky build (take the Kyocera Brigadier, for example), but most people don't want to make that compromise. Luckily, the Sony Xperia Z3 is a waterproof smartphone that offers top-notch performance and an elegant design. There's also Samsung's Galaxy S5 Active, but out of the two, the Z3 has the highest Ingress Protection ratings (IP55 and IP68), meaning it isn't just water resistant; it's ready for underwater photography in the Caribbean. Speaking of photography, the Xperia Z3's 20.7-megapixel rear-facing camera didn't perform as well as the Galaxy S5 Active in low light. But, in well-lit situations, I was able to capture stunning photos and 4K video – once you master its auto-brightness nuances and somewhat complicated settings menu, that is.

What about build and performance? Engadget's James Trew says the Z3 has “epic battery life, " which translates into about three days' worth of use. CNET says its premium feel is hard to beat, and The Verge calls it a top-tier phone with a unique look and speedy performance. All in all, the Xperia Z3 is a true flagship device that doesn't require a $70 LifeProof case to survive a dip in the sink.

Best cheap smartphone

  • If what you really want is just a basic smartphone, this is absolutely the one to get – PC World
  • Runs near-stock Android
  • Costs only $179 unlocked

Depending on your contract status, you might be eligible for an iPhone 6 at $200 down. Just remember: You'll end up paying more than the full $649 over the next 24 months in the form of monthly payments. If you can't justify spending that kind of money on a phone (subsidized or not), and don't want to participate in a year-long program such as, it “goes from 0 to a good picture faster than anything else." There are plenty of other handsets with more than eight megapixels, but between the phone's incredible optical image stabilization software (which is unique to the 6 Plus), effortless operation, and top-notch video chops, it's the most talented of the bunch. No one wants to deal with laggy autofocus when their child blows out the candles on his first birthday cake. Low light, sunlight, bumpy car ride – doesn't matter. The 6 Plus is going to perform regardless of the conditions.

Now, in terms of raw specs, the LG G3, Note 4 and Xperia Z3 are all top contenders, with the Note 4 pulling slightly ahead (again, this is a really tough category). The Xperia Z3's 20.7-megapixel shooter performs extremely well, but only in well-lit circumstances. The Note 4 actually takes a more crisp and naturally colored photo than the iPhone 6 Plus, but I had to suffer through a variety of jitters and blurry photos to get there. Finally, the LG G3 is pretty similar to its Samsung counterparts on paper, but is worth mentioning because of its laser autofocus feature, which, according to Digital Trends, is noticeably quicker than the competition.

The Best Android smartphone

  • The 2014 Moto X is a huge step forward from last year's model, and it's finally equipped to compete with a sea of strong competitors – Engadget
  • Motorola's additional software features that are thoroughly useful
  • 8.3/10 CNET Editor's Choice Rating

Contrary to what you might expect, this section isn't about determining the most popular non-iPhone; it's about which phone offers the best Android 5.0 Lollipop experience. And as much as I like Google's own Nexus 6, its six-inch display is too large for most people. Instead, let me introduce you to the second-generation Moto X with a 5.2-inch screen. It's snappy, well-built, runs near-stock Android, and includes several unique software features (like Active Notifications and Moto Voice) that give it a leg up on the competition. The Verge calls it “the best Android smartphone ever made, " and I'm inclined to agree.

Now, Android Lollipop aside, you can't go wrong with the Galaxy S5, LG G3, or HTC One M8. Looking for the most bang for your buck? The GS5 has the best display around, a fingerprint reader and health sensors, a water-resistant build, and a solid camera. The G3 isn't as feature-rich as the GS5, but reviews across the internet commend its laser-equipped camera, premium feel, and speedy performance. Finally, if you're a sucker for design, you'll appreciate that the HTC One M8 is as prestigious-looking as it is powerful.

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