In part one of our three-part best of series covering the top smartphones of 2013, we named the HTC One the best-designed smartphone of the year. We also said Apple’s iPhone 5s features the best performance and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 had the best display of any phone in 2013. Now, in part two of this series we cover three more categories that are just as important: Best Fit and Finish, Best Value and Best Phablet. Each of these categories included plenty of stiff competition this year, especially the phablet category since that space really started to heat up toward the end of 2013. But in each category, there can be only one winner.
Best Fit and Finish
When it comes to refined and beautiful designs that extend from hardware to software and user experience, there is still no other company on the planet that can compete with Apple.
The iPhone 5s with iOS 7 is the latest and likely the best example yet of Apple’s attention to detail. Every aspect of the phone’s design, both inside and out, is a reminder of how different Apple’s approach to smartphone design is compared to the company’s rivals.
Everything about the iPhone 5s hardware screams premium. The design is sleek and elegant, and there is no plastic to be found on the exterior of the device. Everything is either glass, metal or sapphire crystal.
All of the small details — the metal band that slopes down from the face of the phone to the recessed home button; the polished, chamfered edges on the front and back of the aluminum band that wraps around the outside of the phone; the way those chamfered edges are mirrored on the volume buttons, mute switch and power button; and so on — combine to bring users a fit and finish that doesn’t just beat the competition… there’s nothing else out there that even approaches it.
It was extremely difficult to pick a winner in some categories. This was not one of them.
Google’s Nexus 5 debuted in late October and while the phone itself wasn’t much of a surprise thanks to the months of leaks that preceded it, the price was. For just $349, consumers can buy a phone that rivals and in many cases bests handsets that cost nearly twice as much off contract.
We also noted how important it is for buyers to be smart with their service contracts in order to take full advantage of the value afforded by the Nexus 5. Paying $349-$399 for the phone and then using it on a service plan with in-built fees that cover device subsidies makes the phone even more expensive than high-end phones like the iPhone 5s.
Using a solid prepaid plan like this $30 unlimited messaging and data plan from T-Mobile is definitely the way to get the most bang for your buck. AT&T also recently introduced new postpaid plans that don’t offer quite as much value but they do cut some of the device subsidy out of the cost of service each month.
Here at BGR, we make a number of good calls long before most other industry watchers do when it comes to predicting where various consumer electronics markets are headed. This… is not one of those cases.
When phablets first began to emerge, we were appalled. These monstrous smartphone-tablet hybrids were basically caricatures of a normal smartphone. Surely no one wants these beastly devices, right?
Supersized smartphones are now a huge part of the global market. In fact, smartphones that might have been considered phablets last year are now just standard handsets, and phablets have grown even more gargantuan than ever — the Nokia Lumia 1520 and HTC One max are two perfect examples of this trend.
But our pick for the best phablet of the year isn’t quite that massive.
The king of phablets was not dethroned in 2013, as the latest addition to Samsung’s Galaxy Note lineup remained the top supersized smartphone of the year. In fact, when we reviewed the Galaxy Note 3 back in October we said it was easily one of the best smartphones Samsung has ever made, period.
Not everyone likes the Note 3 but for our money, no other phablet on the planet offers as much unique and compelling functionality. Plus, it sports one of the most amazing smartphone displays we have ever seen.
Samsung shipped 10 million Galaxy Note 3 handsets in just two months and we’d bet the company will ship plenty more before all is said and done.
Upcoming categories in part 3 of this series include Best Android Phone and Best Windows Phone, and we will also declare a single best overall smartphone.