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Smartphone reviews

Smartphones ranging in price from $99 to $1129 are put through their paces.
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01.Introduction

smartphone reviews

We review the latest smartphones, priced from $99 to $1129.

Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which smartphones have the best:

  • web-browser performance
  • sound, picture, and video quality
  • battery life
  • display
  • reception
  • email and SMS performance
  • handling, and
  • durability.

On this page you'll find:

Apple iOS

At four inches, the display on the iPhone 5C and 5S was a significant increase on the 3.5-inch display on every iPhone for the past six years. However, the iPhone 6 series' 4.7-inch display and 5.5-inch monster iPhone 6 Plus finally bring Apple up to the rest of the pack when it comes to screen real estate.

Android (Google)

Samsung continues to dominate the Android space as far as sales are concerned and our testers judged some newer Samsung models to be among the best smartphones of the latest batch, including the latest Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 3. New mobiles from HTC, LG, and Sony are also delivering impressive results, with a wide variety of smartphone choices in terms of size, price and features. The Google Nexus 5 remains one of the best value large screen mobiles, although the Nexus 6 is now the best value 'phablet' (huge mobile phone) around at the moment.

Alternatives

The BlackBerry Z10 scored slightly better than a range of new Windows Phone 8 smartphones; however, it's the overall support for BlackBerry that is the major issue rather than the performance of any one model. Microsoft and Nokia seem determined to ensure Windows Phone 8 is a relevant player over the next few years and several new models in this batch indicate that Windows Phone 8 will be the only significant alternative to Apple's iOS or Google's Android OS. BlackBerry may very well go the way of the Palm OS in the not-too-distant future.

Read our free article on smartphone data usage to make sure you're not paying more than you need to, and see our article on smartphone operating systems to help you decide on the software, a factor to consider for your overall experience on the OS.

Brands tested

  • Apple
  • BlackBerry
  • Huawei
  • HTC
  • LG
  • Motorola
  • Nokia
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • ZTE

Models tested

  • Apple iPhone 4s
  • Apple iPhone 5c
  • Apple iPhone 5s
  • Apple iPhone 6 (16 GB)
  • Apple iPhone 6 (64 GB)
  • Apple iPhone 6 (128 GB)
  • Apple iPhone 6 plus (16 GB)
  • Apple iPhone 6 plus (64 GB)
  • Apple iPhone 6 plus (128 GB)
  • BlackBerry Q5
  • BlackBerry Q10
  • BlackBerry Z10
  • BlackBerry Z30
  • Google Nexus 4
  • Google Nexus 5
  • HTC Desire 516 Dual SIM
  • HTC Desire 300
  • HTC Desire 310
  • HTC Desire 500
  • HTC Desire 600 Dual SIM
  • HTC Desire 601
  • HTC Desire 610
  • HTC Desire 816
  • HTC One
  • HTC One Max
  • HTC One Mini
  • HTC One Mini 2
  • HTC One M8
  • Huawei Ascend G6
  • Huawei Ascend P7
  • LG Optimus F5
  • LG Optimus L3 II Dual
  • LG Optimus L3 II E430
  • LG Optimus L5 II Dual
  • LG Optimus L5 II E460
  • LG Optimus L7 II
  • LG L40
  • LG L70
  • LG L90
  • LG G Flex D955
  • LG G2
  • LG G2 Mini
  • LG G3
  • Motorola Moto E
  • Motorola Moto G
  • Motorola Moto X
  • Nokia Lumia 630
  • Nokia Lumia 635
  • Nokia Lumia 930
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
  • Samsung Galaxy K Zoom
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo SM-N7505
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32GB)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (64GB)
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 I9505 4G (32GB)
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 I9505 4G (64GB)
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy Trend Plus GT-S7580
  • Sony Xperia E C1505
  • Sony Xperia M2
  • Sony Xperia T3
  • Sony Xperia Z1
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z2
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra

How we test

Our testers rate the following aspects of each phone:

How we test

Testers rate the following aspects of each phone:

  • Web browser performance How easy it is to start the browser, navigate to sites, enter addresses and use favourites and bookmarks. We conduct a practical test on content downloads, and award extra points for Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • Sound quality We measure a number of acoustic criteria, such as frequency response, for both incoming and outgoing calls. In addition, a user panel subjectively rates the sound quality of calls.
  • Email How easy it is to set up an email account as well as send, retrieve and read emails.
  • Camera score The phone's digital camera capabilities to produce an image in different lighting situations. Photo images are printed and rated for resolution, colour reproduction and noise. We also look at how easy the phone is to use in picture-taking mode.
  • Music quality The phone's performance as a music player. We test the phones with the headphones supplied and with a set of reference headphones. Also, how easy it is to navigate through playlists, music transfers, volume control and available memory.
  • Reception The phones' receiving sensitivity and sending power (particularly important in areas with poor network coverage) in both the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for GSM networks and on 2100MHz for the 3G network.
  • Handling We assess the keypad, touchscreen and keyboard, as well as general handling and menu controls when using the phone. 
  • Touchscreen quality Includes the speed of refresh and accuracy of operation.
  • Battery life Time-in-use results recorded in hours, and standby times recorded in days.
  • GPS Measured for accuracy and speed. 
  • Synchronisation How easy it is to use the phone to keep contacts and messages up to date when working with contacts and information stored on another computer or online.
  • SMS Assessed by writing and receiving an SMS and checking the suitability of the display for texting. 
  • Display score Size of the display and quality of the image with regard to sharpness and colour clarity.
  • Durability We simulate falls from a table or out of a shirt pocket up to 25 times; store the phones in hot, damp conditions; and carry out a rain test.
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