Ranking of smartphones

Best & Worst Smartphone Brands 2013

best worst smartphone brands 2013Whether you're upgrading your existing smartphone or buying one for the first time, there are lots of factors to consider. Screen size, operating system and other considerations come into play, but, ultimately, the brand behind the phone is most important. That's why we set out to name the Best & Worst Smartphone Brands for 2013.

Each smartphone maker has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, from design and camera capabilities to special features. So, how do you know which one is best? For our first annual Best & Worst Smartphone Brands report, we rated nine companies (Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony) across nine categories to separate the winners from the also-rans.

How We Graded (100 Points Possible)

LAPTOP reviewed more than 50 smartphones during the last year. We dug into those reviews as well as reviews of handsets that are older but still for sale. Then we did more testing, comparing cameras and speakers and more across flagship devices. The results, weighted by category, add up to a possible 100 points. We evaluated each brand using the following categories.

Reviews (15 points)

By examining reviews from June 15, 2012, to June 15, 2013, this category is weighted heavily to reflect the average star ratings and performance scores from a given company’s handsets. Extra points are offered for Editors’ Choice Award-winning machines. By the same token, we take away extra points for any review that earned 2.5 stars or less (not recommended).

User Interface (15 points)

The software and user interface included with a brand’s phones determines not only how easy the devices are to use but also how engaging and customizable the experiences are. From lockscreen shortcuts to the way brands handle notifications, we looked closely at UI across both low- and high-end handsets.

Special Features (15 points)

By sneaking a few tricks up its sleeve, some smartphones find a special place in our hearts. And if you’re not innovating, other brands will lap you. Special features can range from unique apps pre-loaded by the brand to camera modes to the ability to use your smartphone as a TV remote.

smartphone full scorecard best worst smartphone brandsDisplay (10 points)

A fast or long-lasting phone doesn’t mean much if you don’t enjoy viewing content and apps on the screen. Is the display brighter than average? Does the company pack in the pixels? What size options are available, and do those big screens offer wide-enough viewing angles?

Design (10 points)

No one wants a drab slab of a phone. That’s why we looked at each manufacturer’s build quality, materials, ergonomics and overall aesthetics. Drab slabs brought up the rear.

Audio (5 points)

Each of the flagship phones for all nine brands were compared side-by-side both with and without any extra features turned on. We also examined the general call quality and built-in technologies.

Selection (5 points)

If you can only get a specific brand through one carrier, the customer loses. That’s why we took into account how many phones a manufacturer produces and carrier availability.

1st Place: Samsung

By taking top honors for user interface, special features and selection, Samsung wins big as the best smartphone brand of the year. In fact, Samsung placed first, second or third in every category except design. During the last year, we’ve praised Samsung for offering excellent and helpful extras that redefine what a smartphone can do, from pen input and split-screen multitasking to innovative gestures and camera modes. And we expect to continue to see great things from this brand in the year to come.

2nd Place: Apple

There’s no doubt the smartphone race is a tight one at the top, and sales of the iPhone 5 prove that this brand hasn’t lost its luster. Apple took top prize in the reviews, design and camera categories, and it placed among the top three for user interface, battery life, display and audio. Only a relative lack of special features held Apple from the top spot, tying the brand with HTC for second place in our overall showdown. However, iOS 7 and the next iPhone could catapult Apple past both HTC and Samsung.

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