The 5 hottest Android phones of 2013 square off in our side-by-side spec comparison

5 hottest Android phones

We know mobile phone users are an opinionated bunch and can argue iOS vs. Android until their faces turn blue. (Trust us, we read the comments.) But what happens when you pull iPhone out of the equation and make it all about Android? Which Android phone is the best? We put the Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2, HTC One, Motorola Moto X, and Google Nexus 5 side-by-side (by-side-by-side-by-side). Here’s a detailed look at how they stack up, along with a full spec comparison table to compare all the little bits.

Processing power

The geekiest, and most obvious way to compare phones is straight horsepower … err, processing power. We’ll give you the short and the long on this. In short: all five of these phones are plenty powerful and would be at the top of the pile no matter what mobile device you compared them against. In reality, we don’t really know. Both Samsung and HTC are accused of messing with benchmark test results on their phones, and it’s impossible to say if LG, Google, and Motorola (also Google) aren’t doing the same. There are some things we do know, however.

HTC One and Galaxy S4 are disadvantaged because they came out right before summer. Both run on Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processors, which are an older model of the higher-end Snapdragon 800 processors in the Nexus 5 and LG G2. The Quadrant test, and others, show the LG G2 to be far-and-away the winner, and we’d stand by that ruling. Overall, the LG G2 seems to be the fastest device we’ve used, but the Nexus 5 is highly comparable.

Google Nexus 5 review rear camera macro angle

The Moto X does lose this category, but only because we’re looking at sheer processing power. The X has a new kind of chipset that’s broken into eight cores. The X8 chipset has a Snapdragon S4 Pro inside it, but it also has dedicated processors for motion, graphics, and other sensors. It takes a very different approach, and we consider it a worthy entrant and a high-end phone, despite what some say.

Winners: LG G2 and Nexus 5

Pixel power

This, for once, is a pretty simple category. Unfortunately, the Moto X comes out at the bottom of the stack with a 1280 x 720 pixel 4.8-inch screen. It still looks fantastic, especially because Motorola takes advantage of the deep blacks of its AMOLED screen, but Moto X doesn’t pack nearly as many pixels as everyone else. The HTC One, Galaxy S4, Nexus 5, and LG G2 all have Full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixel screens that hover around 5-inches. Our favorite is the LG G2 because it manages to squeeze in a 5.2-inch screen in a size about equal to the others thanks to a razor-thin bezel; that, and LG’s LCD screen is vibrant and beautiful, much like last year’s Optimus G. The HTC One is also impressive because it packs the most pixels into the smallest screen (4.7 inches), if that kind of thing impresses you. Again, to reiterate, even the Moto X has a good screen here. It’s unlikely anyone outside of hardcore screen nerds will be able to tell the difference between these screens.

Winner: LG G2

Camera

If you love to snap away with your phone and capture everything around you in every way possible, the camera can be a major selling point. We’ve seen a lot of companies pack in the megapixels behind their lenses in hopes of upping the photo quality. The Galaxy S4 and G2 are prime examples of this, pumping up the rear camera to 13 megapixels. The Moto X trails just a bit behind at 10 megapixels, and all three of those devices have essentially the same front-facing camera. The Nexus 5 has perhaps the least impressive camera of the bunch at just 8 megapixels, though it does have the additional optical image stabilization. The HTC One is the only one that doesn’t have an issue going with the smaller number in pixel count, opting for 4 ‘Ultrapixels.’

LG G2 Phone comparison back 2

However, as we know, megapixels no longer tell the full story (if they ever did). In our experience using each of these cameras, HTC’s One stands out for producing great shots in a variety of conditions. LG’s G2 also stands out for its ability to focus on up to nine things at once, though the app can get a little laggy when that feature is on. The Nexus 5 has had the most difficulty so far, and we’re hoping that a software update will fix some of its issues with focusing and consistency. Galaxy S4 is alright, as is Motorola’s Moto X, but neither camera impresses us.

None of these cameras live up to the standards set by the iPhone 5S or Nokia Lumia 1020, but we’re talking about Android today.

Finally, Moto X wins the special prize for how easy it is to turn the camera on. Thanks to its motion processor, you can flick your wrist twice to turn on the camera, eve when the phone is on standby. 

Winner: HTC One (with kudos to LG G2 and Moto X)

Software updates

Sadly, buying an Android phone usually means that you’re probably stuck with the exact OS you purchased for two years. Google releases updates to its operating system twice a year, and patches every couple months, but because updates must go through manufacturers, and wireless carriers, they usually don’t happen at all.

All five of these phones are, at least, running Android 4.2. Google is promising an Android 4.4 update for the Moto X this year, and Samsung has promised an update for the Galaxy S4. HTC has already released Android 4.3 for the HTC One, but we don’t know when, or if, Android 4.4 KitKat will be on the way. The only way to really ensure that you get updates is to buy a Nexus 5. Like an iPhone gets updates directly from Apple, this phone gets updates directly from Google; there is no middle man involved.

Winner: Nexus 5

The Hot Stuff award

These aren’t ugly phones, but the one phone that has stood out this year, if you’re evaluating looks, is the HTC One. Thanks to its beautiful aluminum frame, you’ll always get compliments if you own a One. As a bonus, the One’s good-looking speaker grills also provide excellent sound for a phone, and its directed at you, unlike many phone speakers, which are placed on the back.

Winner: HTC One

Battery Life

We’ll keep this brief because no matter what smartphone you buy, your battery life will never be all that great. The LG G2 provides the best battery life out of this pack of phones, with life extending up to a day and a half. The Moto X also, somehow, keeps its charge for a little more than a full day unless you’re doing something crazy. The rest of these phones are fine, but you’ll need to charge up before you go to bed.

Winner: LG G2 (Runner up: Moto X)

Hold and feel

Motorola Moto X front

By far, the most comfortable phone to hold here is the Moto X. It has a curved design to it that perfectly fits your hands. And despite having a 4.7-inch screen, its thin bezel gives it an overall footprint of a much smaller phone. No other phone comes close to feeling as natural in your hand as the Moto X. LG’s G2 is notable because of its power and volume button location. LG placed these buttons on the back-center of the phone instead of the sides. This lets you more easily control the phone with one hand, and means you don’t have to always shift your grip to reach the top and bottom of the screen. 

Winner: Moto X (Runner up: LG G2)

Special Abilities

Specs are fun, but what’s the real reason you pick one phone over another? Sometimes it’s the gimmicks. Here are the coolest aspects of each of these phones.

Moto X takes voice to the next level: Aside from being built in the USA (Texas) and being the first phone to offer a variety of color customizations, the Moto X has a lot of secret powers. The game changer is its Google Now integration. Thanks to a special language/sensor processor inside it, you can speak commands to Google Now (which is like Siri) even if the Moto X is on standby. This sounds small, but it really got us to start using voice for the first time. By making it possible to use voice without even picking up the phone, it becomes convenient. We also like Motorola’s Active Notifications. Every time you pick up the Moto X and look at the screen, it will detect that you’re moving the phone and show you the time and a recent notification on a black screen. You wouldn’t believe how this small, smart ability to show you the time and a notification before you press a button adds to the device.

LG G2 lets you turn on the screen by tapping it: LG has packed in a ton of software features like the ability to have mini apps run on top of other apps, and the ability to save apps in place. Our favorite ability is simpler, though. You can turn the G2’s screen on or off by tapping on it twice. You have to be on the home screen to turn the phone off like this, but being able to turn it on without hunting for the power button is nice.

Galaxy S4 has a removable battery and SD slot: We often forget about removable batteries and MicroSD cards, but for some, these are vital. The GS4 is the only one of these devices that lest you add storage and carry extra batteries with you.

Nexus 5 gets updates and costs $350: Aside from always getting updates fast and directly from Google, the big draw of the Nexus 5 is that it’s unlocked and costs half the price of the rest of these phones with no major drawbacks. Most of these devices cost $200 with a two-year contract, but you can buy a Nexus 5 for $350, never sign another two-year deal, be free, own your phone, and take it to another carrier if you would like.

HTC One comes with 32GB built in: The Galaxy S4 may have a MicroSD slot, but HTC’s phone comes with 32GB out of the box. This means you may not need an SD card at all.

And the winners are: LG G2 and Moto X

If we had to recommend a phone to you, it would depend entirely what carrier you’re on. Overall, the LG G2 and Moto X are our favorite Android phones this year. If you’re budget-strapped, we highly recommend the Nexus 5, and if you happen to be on AT&T, be sure to check out the Galaxy S4 Active, which is just as good as a Galaxy S4, but waterproof (as in, more awesome). Verizon’s Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini also have all of the Moto X’s special features, so if they are on sale, go for it. T-Mobile owners could also look at Sony’s Xperia Z, which has a full glass design, but is also waterproof. 

Overall, any of these five phones would be a solid choice, and they are all available for just about every major wireless carrier in the United States. Try them out at a store and pick whichever one makes you happiest. There isn’t a bad choice. We hope that the info we gave you will help you make the right choice for you.

Full specs

Which phone has the biggest battery? Which has the latest version of Android? Which is the lightest? These are the smaller questions best left to a proper chart. And we have one for you. (By the way, the answers are the LG G2, Nexus 5, and a three-way tie between the Galaxy S4, Moto X, and Nexus 5, respectively.) 

 

Galaxy S4

SamsungGalaxyS4

LG G2 

lg-g2-front

HTC One

HTCOne

Moto X  

MotoX

Nexus 5

Nexus5
Size 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 (mm) 138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 (mm) 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 (mm) 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 (mm) 137.8 x 69.1 x 8.6 (mm)
Weight 130g 143g 143g 130g 130g
Screen 5.0 inch Super AMOLED 5.2-inch 1080p LCD 4.7-inch LCD 4.7-inch AMOLED 4.95-inch Full HD IPS Plus
Resolution 1080×1920 pixels 1080×1920 pixels 1080×1920 pixels 720×1280 pixels 1080 x 1920 pixels
OS Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz UI Android 4.2.2 with LG UI Android 4.1 with Sense 5.0 UI Android 4.2.2 Android 4.4
Storage 16/32/64GB 16/32GB 32/64GB 16/32GB 16/32GB
SD Card Slot Yes No No No No
Processor Quad-core Snapdragon 600 Quad-core Snapdragon 800  Quad-core Snapdragon 600 Motorola X8 chipset Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
RAM 2GB 2GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, NFC
Camera Front 2MP, Rear 13MP Front 2.1MP, Rear 13MP Front 2.1MP, Rear 4UP Front 2MP, Rear 10MP Front 1.3MP, Rear 8MP
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0
Battery 2600mAh 3000mAh 2300mAh 2200mAh 2300mAh
Batt. Removable? Yes No No No No
Quadrant Score 11,381 17,700 12,194 8,519 9,100
Charger Micro USB Micro USB Micro USB Micro USB Micro USB
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Ave. Price $200+ (with 2-year contract) $100+ (with 2-year contract) $100+ (with 2-year contract) $100+ (with 2-year contract) $350+ (with no contract)
Availability AT&T, Sprint, T-Mob, Verizon, U.S. Cellular AT&T, Sprint, T-Mob, Verizon AT&T, Sprint, T-Mob, Verizon AT&T, Sprint, T-Mob, Verizon, U.S. Cellular AT&T, Sprint, T-Mob, Google
DT Review Score 4 out of 5 4.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 4 out of 5 4 out of 5
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