Which is best smartphones in 2014?

2014 Smartphone Comparison Guide

We've seen so many great smartphones this year, it isn't easy to pick just one. Let Gizmag try to help with your decision, as we compare the features and specs of some of the best smartphones of 2014.

Update: This guide is now out of date. With the new year's big flagships hitting store shelves, you can now check out our updated guide for early 2015.

For this smartphone comparison, we picked 12 of the best (or best values) you'll find today:

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
  • Apple iPhone 6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • HTC One (M8)
  • LG G3
  • Google/Motorola Nexus 6
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
  • OnePlus One
  • Nokia Lumia 930 (aka Lumia Icon)
  • HTC Desire Eye
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)

For each category, you'll see three rows of phones, ordered exactly as they are in this list. You'll see faint labels above each phone, in case you forget which is which.

Size

With Apple finally joining the trend of big-ass phones this year, every one of our handsets, considered normal by today's standards, would have been called huge just three or four years ago.

The enormous Nexus 6 is the biggest in this bunch, but several others aren't far behind. And even the smallest, the iPhone 6, towers over the iPhones of yesteryear.

Weight

None of these phones are ridiculously heavy, but the Lumia 930 (known as the Lumia Icon in the US) has the least favorable size-to-weight ratio.

Build

While most smartphones still have plastic backs, this year we saw several flagships add metallic bands around their edges – making them something like half premium. That includes the Galaxy Note 4, two of Motorola's phones and the Lumia.

Colors

These are the color options available for each phone ... but just remember that they might not all be available in your area.

The Moto X gives you the most options, as you can customize it at the Moto Maker website. And though its baby brother, the Moto G, only sells in two colors, Motorola offers snap-on shells (sold separately) that let you liven things up a bit.

Display (size)

These percentages tell you how much screen real estate each gives you, compared to the largest in the group, the Nexus 6.

Navigation buttons

Some of the phones, though, sacrifice a little bit of that real estate for onscreen navigation buttons. Android's Immersive Mode fades them out in the most important areas (like videos and some reading apps), but in other places they will take up some space.

The OnePlus One lets you choose between onscreen and below-screen (capacitive) keys.

Display (resolution)

The 720p Moto G is the only phone in this group with a mid-ranged pixel density: it's sharp by 2011 standards, but not so much by today's.

Display (type)

Our group is evenly split between IPS and AMOLED display panels.

Stylus

Only the Galaxy Note includes a stylus – and loads of pen-friendly software. The S Pen in the Note 4 is also much improved over older versions, with increased sensitivity that has a more natural feel.

Any phone can use capacitive styluses, which simulate finger touches, but the Note's digitizer stylus (including pressure sensitivity and a hovering cursor) makes it stand out from the pack.

Water resistance

Though the Motorola phones all offer some light water resistance (good for the occasional splash), only the Galaxy S5 has full water resistance. You can soak it in 1 m (3.3 ft) of water for half an hour, and it will keep on ticking.

One-handed mode

As phones get bigger, they become harder to use with one hand. But Apple's, Samsung's and LG's phones include one-handed modes to help out with that.

Apple's one-handed mode slides the top of the screen down to the bottom, Samsung's shrinks the entire display and LG's just slides over the buttons on keyboards and number pads. And they're all optional.

Split-screen multitasking

One-handed use may be one of the downsides to huge phones, but one of the upsides is the ability to run two apps next to each other. Samsung's Multi Window (and Pop-up Window) and LG's Dual Window let you do just that.

The only caveat is that both are only compatible with select apps.

Storage

All but the last three phones sell in multiple storage tiers.

MicroSD

Half of our handsets, though, let you augment their internal storage by popping in a microSD card.

Cameras (megapixels)

Megapixels are far from a perfect measurement of camera quality, but they do tell you how high a resolution each camera can handle. From experience, I'd say the Lumia, both iPhones and the Note 4 have the most standout rear cameras in this group.

The Desire Eye is tailor-made for selfies, with its wide-angle 13 MP front-facing camera (that's a higher resolution than many phone's rear cameras). The Eye even has a dedicated selfie-button, so you can quickly jump into a selfie from anywhere.

OIS

Five of our phones' cameras have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) onboard, to help reduce the effects of shaky hands.

Dual LED flash

Nine of these phones have dual-LED flashes, which can make flash shots look more colorful and evenly-lit than shots taken with single-LED flashes.

The selfie-focused Desire Eye is the first phone I've seen with a dual-LED flash on both sides.

Depth sensor

The HTC One (M8) has a second rear camera devoted to sensing depth. It lets you apply effects to your shots, including one that simulates blurred-backgrounds that you'd get from a DSLR.

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