Introduction

The early 2015 flagships are on sale, the low and mid-range phones are out in force - it's a good time to consider breaking that piggy bank of yours if you are after a new smartphone.

In our last Smartphone buyer's guide edition we advised you to hold off buying an early 2014 flagship, now it's quite the opposite. Their replacements are out and the prices of the old models has fallen. That said, some excellent devices have hit the market since February so we can see how you'd be tempted to splurge.

This Buyer's guide is structured by price, it starts with sub-€100 phones and then each chapter increase the price ceiling by €100. In the final chapter money is no object. We've rounded up phones with OSes for every taste - plenty of Androids, but also increased completion from Windows Phone, some iOS and BlackBerry, even Firefox OS and Tizen.

Shopping Guide May 2015

The sub-€100 segment proved to be the most diverse with representatives of four different OSes being included. We used a few simple rules as guidelines - no pre-KitKat phones and no screens under 480 x 800px. It may sound restrictive, but you can get a 5" 720p _phone_ for €99, HD video is not out of reach either.

Things heat up surprisingly fast, as the €100-€200 chapter offers a couple of phablets and even a _phone_ with a Snapdragon 800 chipset and OIS camera (though there's a catch). 64-bit processors running Lollipop and 1080p cameras are common for this price range.

This puts a lot of pressure on the €200-€300 phones, but they deliver - their budgets allow for metal builds, better selfie cameras, impressive stereo speakers, one even has enough RAM to rival your old laptop.

The €300-€400 group was dominated by a clique of phones that offer various combinations of metal frames, quality cameras, stereo speakers and waterproofing. Some of those are previous-gen flagships, but they still have a lot of fight in them.

Only two devices made the €400-€500 group and they are promptly eclipsed by the "money's no object" group, which features the latest flagships on the market. Some of them are brand new, others come from late 2014, but you can't buy better phones than these.

  • Under €100
  • €100-€200
  • €200-€300
  • €300-€400
  • €400-€500, €500 and above
  • What didn't make the cut

While we strived for offering a variety of options, it's important to note that we only listed phones with wide availability - single carrier or single country phones did not make the cut. You may also notice that some widely available phones didn't get a nod either, they just didn't rate high enough. Check the final chapter for why some got cut.

Under €100

Some years ago Android conquered the low end of the market, but now it's getting pushed out or at least phones from well-known brands are. New brands have emerged that offer relatively high specs on a tight budget. Also, the Under €100 category has the biggest diversity of OSes.

The Alcatel Fire E comes as living proof, it's a Firefox OS phone. We found it at just over €50 for which you get a 4.5" IPS screen with 540 x 960px resolution, a 5MP camera with 1080p video capture and a dual-core 1.2GHz processor. The 1080p video is by far the most impressive, but the next FullHD shooter on the list is double the price.

We know better to blindly trust specs, but the competition in this price range averages 5MP/480p. The Fire E also brings a VGA selfie camera and an LED flash, which are not a given on device in this price range. The IPS screen should offer better viewing angles than basic TFTs too, so keep an eye out for it.

The 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage won't have you confusing this for a mid-ranger, but Firefox OS has been designed to support even less RAM. Mozilla's platform looks like a viable option if you're on a budget and value open software.


Alcatel Fire E

Pros

Cons

  • Firefox OS 1.3
  • 4.5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (245ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • Limited app selection

  • Coming close to the psychological limit of €50, the Acer Liquid Z200 is a compact Android 4.4 KitKat phone a 4" 480 x 800px screen. The dual-core CPU should keep things snappy though 512MB RAM limits multitasking capabilities. Also, the 2MP camera is rather basic.

    A phone like the Liquid Z200 may not be very impressive but it gets your foot in the door to mobile Internet and a wide selection of great Android apps. You can also have this phone in a dual-SIM configuration, available as the Liquid Z200 Duo.


    Acer Liquid Z200

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 2MP camera
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • Basic camera with no flash
  • Limited RAM

  • Getting a phone for €50 sounds great if you're on a very tight budget or just need a backup phone, but you'll have to live with a number of compromises. Some of those can be removed for an extra bill, so we'd recommend against sticking to arbitrary price caps and shopping by features instead.

    The Samsung Galaxy Ace Style also has a 4" 480 x 800px screen and runs Android 4.4 KitKat on a dual-core processor with the less-than-ideal 512MB RAM. The upshot is a 5MP/720p camera on the back and a basic selfie camera. The Ace Style has an LTE-enabled version too, if you need it and most importantly, can afford it as some carriers are charging a premium on your monthly bill for accessing their LTE network.


    Samsung Galaxy Ace Style

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 720p video
  • Optional LTE connectivity
  • Limited RAM

  • If you're in the mood for trying something new, another Samsung phone brings the third OS so far. The Samsung Z1 runs Tizen OS on a dual-core processor with slightly more RAM (768MB). The camera isn’t as good as on the Ace Style though the Z1 is a dual-SIM phone, a fair trade if you find yourself making calls more often than taking photos.

    While technically a new platform like Firefox OS, Tizen supplements its own app selection with Android apps. Compatibility may be an issue though, it was certainly a problem with BlackBerry's Android support.


    Samsung Z1

    Pros

    Cons

  • Tizen OS 2.3
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex-A7, 768MB RAM
  • Dual-SIM
  • 3.15MP camera
  • Android app compatibility is suspect

  • The first-gen Motorola Moto E is fairly cheap, especially if you catch it on a sale. It already received the Android 5.1 Lollipop update and it has 1GB of RAM for better multitasking. The 4.3" 540 x 960px screen provides a break from the 4-inchers and it's guarded by Gorilla Glass 3. The 5MP/480p camera is decent but image quality is far from stellar, Samsung makes much better 5MP cameras.

    It's not the most compact 4.3" device either, but it has a relatively large 1,980mAh battery. You can get the dual-SIM version of the Moto E if you want better management of your mobile plan.


    Motorola Moto E

    Pros

    Cons

  • Upgradeable to Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 4.3" screen, 540 x 960px (256ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • Fairly thick and heavy for its size
  • Review

    The Microsoft Lumia 532 brings the fourth OS to the party. We considered some cheaper Windows phone handsets, but we skipped the Lumia 435 because of its dual-core processor and the Lumia 530 due to its limited memory.

    The Lumia 532 is €10-€15 pricier than them, we think it's worth it though. For the same price as the Moto E, you get double the CPU cores and double the internal storage (8GB), more RAM than most of the droids so far too. Also note that this is the Lumia 532 Dual SIM as the single-SIM is not meaningfully cheaper.

    The update to Windows 10 is guaranteed and you'll get the full set of features the new OS will bring, thanks to the 1 gig of RAM.


    Microsoft Lumia 532 Dual SIM

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • Dual-SIM

  • If you want a bigger screen, the Microsoft Lumia 535 is a fine choice. It has a 5" IPS LCD with roughly the same pixel density as the Lumia 532, but with added Gorilla Glass 3. There's also a surprisingly capable 5MP selfie camera to the mix.

    We considered the Lumia 630, which is the middle ground between the 532 and 535 in terms of both price and screen size (4.5"). Its advantages include 720p video capture and but better quality screen (albeit smaller), though the full gig of RAM and the selfie camera swung our favor towards the Lumia 535.


    Microsoft Lumia 535

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (220ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • No 720p video like on the Lumia 630
  • Screen looks washed out and generally, of poor quality
  • Review

    A popular sub-category of phones snips the link between screen size and resolution. Resolution ups the price tag and while it makes things look better, from a practical standpoint reading on a bigger screen is just easier. The Lumia 535 is part of that movement, but it extends to 6+ inch screens.

    Other phones promise the best of both worlds, the likes of the Lenovo A6000. It has a 5" IPS screen with 720p resolution, which pushes it over the requirement for Retina. You also get a quad-core Cortex-A53 processor. It can't spread its 64-bit wings on Android 4.4 KitKat, at least it should be slightly faster than A7-based competitors.

    The A6000 is also one of the most affordable LTE phones and it has two SIM slots to boot (only one can be used for LTE though). The 8MP camera offers the best still resolution in this price range too. We found the availability of Lenovo A6000 units a bit spotty though, so you might need to look around for it.


    Lenovo A6000

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz Cortex-A53, 1GB of RAM
  • 8MP camera
  • Dual-SIM, LTE
  • Spotty availability

  • €100-€200

    This category ended up longer than we had intended – there are some phones that are just above the competitors of the previous chapter, there are some with great photography skills, some with large screens and some for the shrewd, tech-savvy shopper.

    There's so much competition that we added a few paragraphs of side-by-side comparisons. For example, Motorola's Moto E (2015), Moto G 4G and Moto G (2014) are similar in price and features, so we're offering some extra guidance on picking the right one.

    Time for HTC to join the party. The Desire 320 doesn’t have the features that make flagship HTC's so popular, but for some premium over the Moto E you get four CPU cores and 1080p video capture, VGA selfie camera too. Note that the North American version has only 512MB RAM and lacks an LED flash, while the European version has the flash and comes with 1GB of RAM.

    Anyway, the screen is slightly bigger, but not as sharp as the Motorola’s. You get Sense-ified Android 4.4 KitKat, which some love, but it will lag behind the Moto E in updates.


    HTC Desire 320

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4.5" screen, 480 x 854px (218ppi)
  • 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • Low screen resolution for the price range
  • North American version has half the RAM, no LED flash

  • We'll admit that one of the biggest draws for the Desire 320 is the HTC brand. Without that at almost the same price you can get the Alcatel Idol 2 Mini S, which measures just 8.5mm thick, weighs 116g, and is more compact than both the HTC and the Moto E. It has a 4.5" IPS screen with qHD resolution and an 8MP/1080p camera. And if that wasn’t enough of an advantage over the Desire 320, the Idol 2 Mini S has LTE connectivity.


    Alcatel Idol 2 Mini S

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4.5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (245pppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Thin and light
  • Launched on Android 4.3, so it already got one major update and further major updates are uncertain
  • Review

    A more recognizable brand name is the Sony Xperia E4g. It packs a larger screen, 4.7" IPS with qHD resolution, and while not quite as thin (10.8mm), it's reasonably light (135g). It runs Android 4.4 KitKat on a 64-bit quad-core Cortex-A53 processor at a higher clockspeed and also records 1080p video with its 5MP camera. The Xperia E4g is available in dual-SIM flavor too.

    At essentially the same price the Xperia E4g and Idol 2 Mini S, Sony's brand name may prove the deciding factor, but the Alcatel has pretty solid build quality and is alluringly compact. Whether either phone will get updated to Android 5.0 is uncertain. Sony has committed to delivering Lollipop updates for the Xperia Z series, but we've heard nothing on the Xperia E4g.


    Sony Xperia E4g

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4.7" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (234ppi)
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53, 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • Update future uncertain
  • Review

    If current software is a must, the Motorola Moto E (2015) is a solid choice. While the 5.1 update is not yet available, it's coming soon and you get Android 5.0 Lollipop to play with until then. It has a 64-bit quad-core processor too, but doesn’t use 64-bit software either – while Android 5.0 does support it (4.4 does not), Motorola has stuck to the 32-bit version of the OS.

    The Moto E (2015) screen is slightly smaller than the one on the Sony, 4.5" with Gorilla Glass 3, and the 5MP camera tops out at 720p. It's also rather thick and heavy, 12.3mm and 145g, but build quality is superb on this generation. Also, the 3G version has an old and underpowered 32-bit chipset, so we'd pick the 4G LTE model.


    Motorola Moto E (2nd gen)

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 5.0, but 5.1 coming soon
  • 4.5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (245ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 720p video
  • 3G version has 32-bit Cortex-A7 cores
  • Rather thick and heavy
  • Review

    Amazon's Fire phone was a commercial failure so you can snag one on the cheap. The specs are better than similarly priced phones – the Snapdragon 800 chipset crushes all others so far (for gaming especially) and you get 2GB RAM. The device also boasts a 13MP camera with 1080p video and optical stabilization.

    It has a nice 4.7" 720p display with 3D Dynamic Perspective UI, plus stereo speakers. There's no microSD slot, but you get 32GB as default and the 64GB model is only €20 more.

    Keep in mind that this one runs Amazon Fire OS out of the box, which is a heavily customized Android to tie it to Amazon services. Unless you're okay with that, the Amazon Fire phone is only for frequent visitors of XDA-Developer community website. There's no CyanogenMod yet, but you can root the phone and install Google Apps. If rooting and side-loading don’t mean much to you, you’d be better off with the vanilla UI.


    Amazon Fire phone

    Pros

    Cons

  • Heavily customized Android
  • 4.7" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (312ppi)
  • 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera with OIS, 1080p video
  • Dynamic perspective effects
  • 32GB built-in storage
  • Non-standard Android, no alternative ROMs
  • Non-expandable storage

  • Another phone with a custom Android version is the Xiaomi Redmi 2. MIUI 6.0 is closer to regular Android though and you get Google Apps out of the box. The screen is similar, 4.7" 720p, and while the chipset is less powerful with four Cortex-A53 cores, there's a version with 2GB RAM.

    The 8MP camera on the back with 1080p video is pretty competitive too. The Redmi 2 also has a microSD card slot (but starts with only 8GB or 16GB) and a second SIM slot.


    Xiaomi Redmi 2

    Pros

    Cons

  • MIUI 6.0, Android 4.4 based
  • 4.7" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (312ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53, 1GB/2GB RAM
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Dual-SIM
  • Non-standard Android
  • Version with 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage costs more
  • Review

    Microsoft's mid-range recently received a big boost with the 640 devices. The Microsoft Lumia 640 Dual SIM has a 5" 720p screen with Gorilla Glass 3 and ClearBlack (a tech that improves sunlight legibility), plus an 8MP camera with 1080p video capture. The quad-core Cortex-A7 with 1GB of RAM is what keeps this phone from going higher up the ladder, but the Windows 10 update is guaranteed.

    Compared to the Lumia 535, you get a sharper screen, a better camera – the difference in video capture is night and day – and a solid 2,500mAh battery. There's no 5MP selfie camera though, you'll have to make do with a 1MP/720p one. It looks like Microsoft wants to evict Android from the lower mid-range, the same way it's pushing it out of the entry level.


    Microsoft Lumia 640 Dual SIM

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Dual-SIM
  • No 5MP selfie camera like the Lumia 535

  • While nostalgia doesn’t have much place in tech, if you haven’t gotten the hang of fast on-screen typing then you may be longing for the hardware QWERTY days. The BlackBerry Q5 has that, plus a relatively small 3.1" 720 x 720px screen. On-screen keyboards tend to take up plenty of room, so for texting and email at least, the 3.1-inch screen will be providing enough room for typing.

    Also, BlackBerry is still laser focused on security. The 5MP/1080p camera is competitive with other phones in this segment and you get some Android compatibility though we wouldn’t rely too much on it.


    BlackBerry Q5

    Pros

    Cons

  • Hardware QWERTY keyboard
  • Security-conscious BlackBerry OS 10.3
  • 3.1" IPS screen, 720 x 720px (328ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Krait processor, 2GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • Limited app selection
  • Relatively small screen
  • Review

    The LG G2 mini has a screen-to-body ratio over 70%, which is competitive with current flagships. Its thin bezels keep it compact for its 4.7" screen and you get the LG-pioneered design with buttons on the back (which other companies are adopting). The 8MP/1080p camera is quite good, even though the qHD screen resolution doesn’t do it justice.

    The quad-core Cortex-A7 processor doesn’t live up to the big G2 flagship but is the norm for this price range, aside from a few Cortex-A53 CPUs. Currently, the LG G2 mini runs Android 4.4 KitKat with some goodies like tap to wake (KnockON as LG calls it), but the company hasn’t made any official plans to update it to 5.0 Lollipop.

    Be aware that there are three variations of the phone and we have the LTE one in mind. There's also a 3G dual-SIM version and one with LTE but with a Tegra 4i chipset (that's the Latin American version).


    LG G2 mini LTE

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4.7" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (234ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Optional dual-SIM (but without LTE)
  • Low screen resolution
  • No Lollipop update plans yet
  • Review

    Perhaps a better Android-powered competitor to the Lumia 640 is the ZTE Blade Vec 4G. It's a single-SIM phone, but it has a 5" 720p display, a 13MP or 8MP camera (region dependent) with 1080p video and runs Android 4.4 KitKat on the same Snapdragon 400 chipset. The Vec 4G is thin (7.8mm) and has an attractive carbon-fiber pattern on the back.


    ZTE Blade Vec 4G

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5" screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 processor, 1GB RAM
  • 13MP/8MP camera, 1080p video

  • The LG G2 mini screen quality and Android updates may be iffy, but the Motorola Moto G 4G has a 4.5" 720p screen and the Android 5.1 Lollipop update is pending. The 5MP/720p camera isn’t as nice though and while the Moto G is thicker, it has a smaller, non-removable battery.

    Do have a look at the new Moto E (2015) before you commit to buying it, it actually comes with a newer chipset, the camera is essentially the same and has a slight lead in Android updates. The screen is no match though, which is probably not worth the €20 drop in price.


    Motorola Moto G 4G

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 5.1 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 4.5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (329ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 processor, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 720p video
  • Thick, but battery is relatively small
  • Review

    While you'll have to pay a premium over the Blade Vec 4G, the second gen Motorola Moto G has a 5" 720p screen with Gorilla Glass 3 that's flanked by stereo speakers. Also, the 8MP/720p camera is more competitive than what the Moto G 4G brings and the Android 5.0 Lollipop update is incoming.

    The choice between a Moto G 4G and the second-gen Moto G is largely about the screen size. The chipset and software are identical, the camera is pretty close too. You do get stereo speakers with the 2014 model though, that alone might be enough for some.


    Motorola Moto G (2nd gen)

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 processor
  • 8MP camera, 720p video
  • Stereo speakers
  • Pricy for no 1080p video option
  • Review

    To be fair, the LG G2 mini is getting long in the tooth. The latest phone of this size, the LG Spirit, has a 4.7" 720p screen without being much bigger and has the same back button design. Also, it comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop straight out of the box.

    There are two versions – one with a 64-bit processor and 8MP camera and one with 32-bit CPU and 5MP camera. It's obvious which one we prefer, make sure to double check the specs before forking over the cash.


    LG Spirit

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 4.7" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (312ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53, 1GB RAM
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Be aware of the 5MP/32-bit version
  • Review

    The Nokia Lumia 730 Dual SIM has a 4.7" screen with 720p resolution too, but it's an OLED (with ClearBlack tech). The phone has a stronger focus on the camera with a 6.7MP sensor (6.1MP effective, 16:9 aspect ratio), Carl Zeiss optics and a 5MP selfie camera. Both cameras can shoot 1080p video.

    The Lumia 735 is an LTE-enabled, single-SIM version of this phone. Both will be updated to Windows 10 when it comes out.

    Its predecessor, the Lumia 720, has a 6.7MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics too and boasts an impressive f/1.9 aperture. However, it has a smaller 4.3" IPS LCD display at just 480 x 800px resolution. There's no dual-SIM or LTE, no 5MP selfie camera either. It's roughly the same price, but we think the Lumia 730/735 is definitely the better choice.


    Nokia Lumia 730 Dual SIM

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 4.7" OLED screen, 720 x 1,280px (316ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 6.7MP camera and 5MP selfie camera, 1080p video with both
  • Dual SIM
  • Single-SIM LTE version with wireless charging built-in
  • Review


    So far 5" was the biggest screen diagonal, but many will find that too small. The Sony Xperia T3 edges up from that with a 5.3" 720p screen. While the 7mm-thick chassis is impressively thin, the other dimensions (150.7 x 77mm) are too much even for this screen size. The 2,500mAh battery is smaller than you would expect.

    Still, you get Android 4.4 KitKat on the Snapdragon 400 chipset that is inside so many phones in this category and an 8MP camera with 1080p video capture.


    Sony Xperia T3

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5.3" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (277ppi)
  • 1.4GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB of RAM
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • 7mm thin
  • Large even for the screen size
  • Relatively small battery
  • Update future uncertain
  • Review

    You can go even bigger with the Huawei Honor 4X and its 5.5" 720p screen. It has an octa-core 64-bit processor (Cortex-A53 cores) with 2GB of RAM. The camera department has an edge too, a 13MP/1080p camera plus 5MP selfie camera. And unlike the Xperia T3, the Honor 4X is officially on its path to Android 5.0. Additional advantages are the dual-SIM connectivity and the bigger battery.


    Huawei Honor 4X

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px resolution (267ppi)
  • 1.2GHz octa-core Cortex-A53, 2GB of RAM
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Dual SIM
  • Review

    The Meizu m1 note ups the resolution to 1080p. The 5.5" display has an IGZO matrix, a type of LCD usually found on high-end devices, and a pixel density of over 400ppi, which was flagship level spec a year ago. It's powered by an octa-core 64-bit processor like the Honor 4X, but comes with an older Android 4.4 KitKat.

    The camera department matches the Huawei too – 13MP/1080p main camera and 5MP selfie shooter. The Meizu m1 note is a dual-SIM device, but the second slot doubles as a microSD slot. So if you need more than the base 16GB or 32GB storage you'll have to settle for only temporary dual-SIM use.


    Meizu m1 note

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5.5" IGZO screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (403ppi)
  • 1.2GHz octa-core Cortex-A53, 2GB of RAM
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Dual SIM
  • microSD cards occupy the SIM2 slot
  • Review

    The final phablet in this price range goes up another 0.2" step. The Microsoft Lumia 640 XL has a 5.7" 720p screen and will be getting update to Windows 10 in due time. It has a 13MP/1080p camera with Carl Zeiss optics on its back like the Huawei, but the 5MP selfie camera captures 1080p video (the Honor 4X is limited to 720p selfies).

    The Lumia 640 XL is available in any combination of 3G/LTE and single/dual SIM, so you can pick and choose your connectivity options. The version that slips under the €200 cut-off point is the 3G dual-SIM model. The single-SIM LTE version is proving difficult to find in stores, while the dual-SIM LTE one goes into the next price category.

    The 6" Nokia Lumia 1320 is still kicking around at roughly the same price as the 640 XL, though at this point there's little reason to go for the older model. The 5MP/VGA camera combo is no match, it's 50g heavier, it lacks a dual-SIM option, all it has going for it are those extra 0.3" of screen.


    Microsoft Lumia 640 XL Dual SIM

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 5.7" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (259ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • 5MP/1080p selfie camera
  • Optional dual-SIM and LTE (both available simultaneously)
  • Single-SIM LTE version is hard to find in stores

  • €200-€300

    This chapter has some excellent devices though you may have to manage your excitement. We're mostly shopping for old, priced-down flagships here. While they share genes with the latest and greatest, most won't satisfy power users and early adopters. That comes in the later chapters, bang for the buck is still king here.

    At a bit over €200 the BlackBerry Z10 makes for a quality compact phone for the security-conscious that couldn't stomach the return to small screens and hardware keyboards represented by the BlackBerry Q5. The 4.2" screen is surrounded by thicker bezels than much of the competition, but at least the build is solid.

    The 8MP/1080p camera is fairly good, though you'll have to sideload Instagram, Snapchat and the like (the Android versions reportedly work well enough). For business use, Office 365 is fully available.


    BlackBerry Z10

    Pros

    Cons

  • Security-conscious BlackBerry OS 10.3
  • 4.2" screen, 768 x 1,280px (355ppi)
  • 1.5GHz dual-core Krait
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • Some popular apps don't have native versions
  • Review

    The LG Optimus G Pro has proven one of the evergreen Androids. It's from early 2013 so it's pretty cheap these days, but it brings a good 5.5" 1080p screen, a Snapdragon 600 chipset (which stacks up quite favorably against S400 chips) and a 13MP camera with 1080p video.

    It was updated to Android 4.4 KitKat and that may be its last stop (at least officially). Also, supplies may be running low, but if you find one, it's a good value for money deal.


    LG Optimus G Pro E985

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (401ppi)
  • 1.7GHz quad-core Krait 300, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • Upgrade future uncertain
  • May be hard to find in stores
  • Review

    Neither the Desire 510 nor 610 made the cut, though the HTC Desire 620 dual sim is a sort-of baby One phone. No, it doesn't have a metal unibody, but it does have front-facing stereo speakers, Sense UI and a 5MP/1080p selfie camera. The 8MP/1080p main camera sounds pretty good, at least against the One and One (M8).

    The Desire 620 dual sim also has a 5" 720p screen, a Snapdragon 410 chipset (64-bit Cortex-A53 cores) and as the name suggests, dual-SIM connectivity. Note that for a bit more cash you can get the Desire 620G version, which packs a faster octa-core processor.


    HTC Desire 620 dual sim

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5" screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53, 1GB RAM
  • 620G with 1.7GHz octa-core Cortex-A7
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • 5MP/1080p selfie camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual-SIM

  • If you want a better camera then the Nokia Lumia 830 will tempt you with one of the most affordable OIS-enabled cameras. It has Carl Zeiss optics, a 10MP sensor with some PureView tech and 1080p video capture. The 0.9MP/720p selfie camera is a bit of a disappointment.

    The Lumia 830 has some metal too, an aluminum rim around the glass front/polycarbonate back. Other than that, the 5" 720p screen fits in a noticeably smaller body than the Desire (the price of stereo speakers) and you're guaranteed an update to Windows 10 while HTC hasn't mentioned any update plans for the Desire 620.

    There's no dual-SIM option so you might want to look at the Lumia 730 again if that's important. With the same chipset and nearly the same screen size, the major difference is in the photography department - the 830 has a great main camera, the 735 has a great selfie camera.


    Nokia Lumia 830

    Pros

    Cons

  • Upgradeable to Windows 10
  • 10MP camera with OIS, 1080p video
  • Metal/polycarbonate build
  • 5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7
  • Average selfie camera
  • Review

    We already saw the Idol mini, now it's time for its big bro. The Alcatel Idol X+ is just as thin (7.9mm) and surprisingly light (125G), but it ups the screen size to 5" and quadruples the resolution to 1080p. It also doubles the CPU cores too with an octa-core processor clocked at 2GHz.

    The 13MP/1080p camera and stereo speakers sound great too, though here's the bad news - unlike the Idol min there's no version with 1 SIM and 1 microSD, you just get a dual-SIM version and no memory expansion. So we'd recommend getting the 32GB version.


    Alcatel Idol X+

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (441ppi)
  • 2GHz octa-core Cortex-A7, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • Stereo speakers
  • Light for its size
  • Dual SIM
  • No memory expansion
  • Review

    Another phone in the evergreen folder is the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. It's small, powerful, with a good camera, waterproof and features a metal frame, what's not to like?

    Okay, the bezels around the 4.3" screen make it bigger than it needs to be, but the Snapdragon 800 chipset makes it more powerful than most phones so far. The 20.7MP camera is a serious contender too, it matches the Xperia Z3 for stills though it lacks the 2160p video option.

    The camera is enough to put it in competition with the Lumia 830, but the metal rim/glass back design pours even more oil into the fire. The Xperia Z1 Compact will be updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop and can go under more than 1 meter of water.


    Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

    Pros

    Cons

  • Compact metal design; IP58 waterproofing
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 20.7MP camera, 1080p videos
  • 4.3" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (342ppi)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400, 2GB RAM
  • Bezels are on the thick side
  • Review

    For a bit more cash you can have the full-size Sony Xperia Z1 too. It upgrades the screen to 5" 1080p and has a bigger battery but in practice both phones are equals.


    Sony Xperia Z1

    Pros

    Cons

  • Metal and glass body; IP58 waterproofing
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 20.7MP camera, 1080p videos
  • 5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (441ppi)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400, 2GB RAM
  • Bezels are on the thick side
  • Review

    The Xperia M4 Aqua can dive just as deep (and wards off dust better), plus it has a bigger screen, 5" 720p. It will go on sale in a couple of months and bring a 64-bit octa-core processor and Android 5.0 Lollipop. The camera department isn't quite as impressive, but still great with a 13MP/1080p main camera and 5MP/720p selfie camera.

    We'd normally go for the flagship Xperia Z1 Compact, but if you need a bigger screen you might want to wait a couple of months.


    Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

    Pros

    Cons

  • IP68 waterproofing
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • 5MP/720p selfie camera
  • 1.5Ghz octa-core Cortex-A53, 2GB RAM
  • Not on sale yet
  • Large for a 5" phone
  • Review

    If it's a compact phone you want, the HTC One mini 2 is one, at least by name. As with the Desire 620 the stereo speakers on the front make it rather large for its screen size (4.5"), but unlike both the Desire and Xperia Z1 Compact this one has an all-metal unibody.

    The 13MP/1080p main camera is comparable to what the M4 Aqua packs, but the 5MP selfie camera one ups it with 1080p video. The quad-core Cortex-A7 chipset is less than you'd expect in this price range, but at least the update to Android 5.0 Lollipop is already planned.

    The Samsung Galaxy A3 is more compact with a 4.5" screen and while it's a Super AMOLED display we're not fans of its resolution (540 x 960px). It has a metal frame too, but the plastic back isn't quite as nice as that of the Lumia 830 or the glass on the Xperia Z1 Compact.

    The chipset is slightly better with a 64-bit CPU than Nokia's and HTC's, but we'd still pick the Sony's 32-bit Snapdragon 800. With nearly equal price tags, we don't think the baby of the Galaxy A-series passes muster.


    HTC One mini 2

    Pros

    Cons

  • Metal unibody
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 4.5" screen, 720 x 1,280px (326ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • Stereo speakers
  • Large for the screen size
  • Sub-par chipset
  • Review

    Another waterproof Sony is the Xperia Z Ultra phablet. It's huge - no other way with a 6.4" screen. It's a quality 1080p display though and the Snapdragon 800 chipset is biding its time until the Android 5.0 Lollipop update.

    The phablet has the Z-series glass and metal build and is stunningly thin at 6.3mm The 8MP/1080p camera is good, except there's no LED flash.

    The Sony Xperia Z Ultra may be huge, but it makes up for it with a great browsing and gaming experience. You can always pair it with a Smart Watch 3 to monitor your notifications and even answer texts without pulling the phablet out of your bag.


    Sony Xperia Z Ultra

    Pros

    Cons

  • 6.3mm thin metal and glass body; IP58 waterproofing
  • 6.4" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (344ppi)
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 8MP camera, 1080p video
  • It's huge
  • No LED flash
  • Review


    The Huawei Ascend G7 phablet has a saner size with its 5.5" screen and a pleasing all-metal unibody. The 720p screen resolution isn't perfect, but it matches the Samsung Galaxy E7's 5.5" screen. The 64-bit quad-core processor is a match, too.

    Similarities continue with a 13MP/1080p camera and 5MP selfie camera. The Ascend G7 is a fraction thicker (7.6mm vs. 7.3mm) but again it has a metal back, unlike the plastic or glass solutions from Samsung and Sony. The Galaxy E7 has a dual-SIM option though.


    Huawei Ascend G7

    Pros

    Cons

  • All-metal unibody
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (267ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A53, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera, 1080p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • No dual-SIM option
  • Review

    A bit pricier and no metal, but the Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML has 1080p resolution on its 5.5" screen and it's a dual-SIM phone. Also, it's the first phone with 4GB RAM, which is paired to a fast quad-core Intel processor. And it's running Android 5.0 Lollipop too.

    The Zenfone 2 body is plastic with a design inspired by LG's back buttons. The 13MP/1080p camera and 5MP selfie camera put it on equal footing with the Ascend G7.

    Keep in mind that Asus naming scheme is very confusing and there are both a 2.3GHz CPU/4GB RAM phone and a 1.8GHz/2GB phone that bear the name "Zenfone 2 ZE551ML". We'd say go for the 2.3GHz/4GB option, it's not that much more expensive.

    Asus is slowly expanding availability, but the Zenfone 2 family is still scarce in some regions.


    Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML

    Pros

    Cons

  • First phone with 4GB RAM
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (403ppi)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom
  • 13MP camera with 1080p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Limited availability
  • Confusing naming scheme
  • Review

    Coming by the end of the month is another contender, the Alcatel Idol 3 (the 5.5" model). For some extra scratch it tops the Ascend G7 with a 1080p screen and an octa-core processor (also Cortex-A53). It will launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop and offers 4G LTE, dual-SIM connectivity is an option.

    The Idol 3 is an unusual phone - it has stereo speakers on the front (by JBL) and either one can be the earpiece, the phone is reversible. Also, it fuels your selfie obsession with an 8MP/1080p camera on the front. On the other side is a 13MP/1080p camera.


    Alcatel Idol 3 (5.5)

    Pros

    Cons

  • Unique reversible design, 7.4mm thick
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (403ppi)
  • 1.5GHz octa-core processor
  • 13MP camera with 1080p video
  • 8MP/1080p selfie camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • Not on sale yet
  • Review

    Yet another 5.5" entry is the Oppo Find 7a. It has a 1080p screen and a Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB of RAM. It does improve on the Zenfone 2 and Ascend G7 spec sheet with a 2160p video recording from the 13MP camera, plus high frame rate modes like 1080p@60fps and 720p@120fps.

    This phone is the hardware base for the OnePlus One. The offshoot company sold phones on an invite-only basis and while that's no longer the case, it has been plagued with some reliability issues. Not to mention the software drama with Cyanogen OS and the delay of the in-house Oxygen OS.


    Oppo Find 7a

    Pros

    Cons

  • Color OS, based on Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (401ppi)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400, 2GB of RAM
  • 13MP camera, 2160p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Non-standard Android
  • Review

    We fault both the Sonys and the HTCs for their chunky bezels, so here's a phone that rose up against that. The LG G2 packs a bigger 5.2" screen in a smaller body than the Xperia Z1. Like it, the G2 has a Snapdragon 800 chipset and the Lollipop update is already rolling out,

    The 13MP/1080p camera boasts optical stabilization. One big drawback is that there's no microSD card slot and the base storage is 16GB, so we've picked the 32GB option. At least it leaves you some room for downloading games and movies.


    LG G2

    Pros

    Cons

  • Compact
  • 5.2" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (424ppi)
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera with OIS, 1080p video
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    This price segment also lets you be adventurous - it's enough to get you some pretty unique gadgets, without risking early-adopter kind of cash.

    How about a watch phone? The Samsung Gear S is the original Tizen phone, though you can't tell by the form factor. It's a chunky watch, but it has a 2" 300ppi screen, which is better than what other smartwatches have. You can use S-Voice commands though. It has 3G connectivity so you can use web services without any smartphone on you or even a Wi-Fi network nearby.

    The 2" screen is not as easy to use as a modern smartphone, but the Gear S is better to take on a run. The heart rate monitor will provide additional data to speed/distance from the GPS. With an IP67 rating you can't take it swimming, but don't worry about being caught in the rain. The watch also has navigation courtesy of Here Maps so you'll never get lost.

    Sure, the LG Watch Urbane LTE has 4G connectivity and a mobile payment system, but that's available only in South Korea and is close to €600.


    Samsung Gear S

    Pros

    Cons

  • Watch phone with 3G connectivity
  • 2" AMOLED screen, 360 x 480px (300ppi)
  • 1GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • Tizen OS
  • IP67 waterproofing
  • Heart rate sensor
  • No support for Samsung Pay
  • Review

    €300-€400

    This chapter opens up with a couple of high-spec'd, reasonably priced phablets. After that it's an all-out war between phones that offers numerous variations on a common theme - great cameras, metal frames, waterproofing and stereo speakers (few manage to check all these boxes at the same time though).

    Alcatel makes phones in every size segment, but the Hero 2 is the largest. It has a 6" 1080p screen and a stylus, with a 2GHz octa-core processor with 2GB RAM ensuring smooth multitasking. The phone is a looker too, with thin bezels and a metal chassis.

    It features a 13MP camera with optical stabilization and 1080p video capture, plus a 5MP selfie camera also capable of 1080p video.

    The Alcatel Hero 2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and while it lacks the extensive multitasking add-ons of TouchWiz it can make a great budget alternative to the Galaxy Note flagship.


    Alcatel Hero 2

    Pros

    Cons

  • Metal frame
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 6" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920 (367ppi); Stylus
  • 2.0GHz octa-core Cortex-A7, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera with OIS, 1080p video
  • 5MP/1080p selfie camera
  • Review

    The LG G3 continues to skew the market being one of the cheapest phones with a QHD screen money can buy. The thin bezels keep the size down, while the Snapdragon 801 chipset and 13MP camera with optical stabilization put extra pressure on 2014 flagships. The camera has "laser focus," which improves focus accuracy in low light.

    Overall, the LG G3 is the phablet to buy if you want bang for the buck. The back is made out of quality plastic with a brushed metal finish and can be popped off to access the battery and microSD slot for extra flexibility.


    LG G3

    Pros

    Cons

  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,440 x 2,560px (538ppi); thin bezels
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Krait 400
  • 2GB or 3GB of RAM
  • 13MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • Review

    The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is the result of Samsung trying to make a compact flagship. In a way it's a prototype of the Note 4, but at 6.7mm thick and 115g it's still has a place on the market. The thin body also features a metal frame combined with faux perforated leather, that is more premium than the Galaxy S5.

    The Galaxy Alpha has options for an Exynos 5 Octa or a Snapdragon 801 chipset. We tested the Exynos model, which offers great performance and managed to stretch the small 1,860mAh battery for a decent battery life. The Home key is a fingerprint sensor, which enables PayPal transactions and Private mode, but it's the less-convenient swipe kind.

    While it's clear the Alpha targets the iPhone, it Xperia Z3 Compact is caught in the crossfire. Samsung's 12MP camera with 2160p video capture produces great quality shots.


    Samsung Galaxy Alpha

    Pros

    Cons

  • Thin and body with metal frame; 6.7mm and 115g
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 4.7" Super AMOLED, 720 x 1,280px (312ppi)
  • 1.8GHz octa-core -or- 2.5GHz quad-core; 2GB RAM
  • 12MP camera (16:9), 2160p video
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact may have an edge in a beauty contest with its metal frame and glass back. It has a screen of almost the same size, 4.6" 720p, but the phone is smaller (if a bit thicker). True, it lacks the hardware Home key with a fingerprint sensor, but it makes up for it with stereo speakers on the front.

    It's waterproof too, so it can go where the Alpha can't, plus Sony's 20.7MP camera promises higher resolution stills. While the quality doesn't quite live up to the megapixel count, the 2160p video is quite good.

    The Xperia Z3 uses the same Snapdragon 801 chipset as one Alpha version, but has a noticeably bigger batter for stellar battery life. As part of the Z-series, the phone is already receiving the Android 5.0 Lollipop update.


    Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

    Pros

    Cons

  • Compact body with metal frame; IP58 waterproofing
  • 4.6" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280 (319ppi)
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Krait 400, 2GB RAM
  • 20.7MP camera, 2160p video
  • Stereo speakers
  • Great battery life
  • Review

    The Nokia Lumia 930 has a 5" screen so it is no mini, but like the previous two it has a metal frame and a heavy focus on camera. The large 20MP sensor features PureView tech with optical stabilization and since the Denim update it records 2160p video.

    The 5" 1080p AMOLED screen rivals Samsung's Super AMOLEDs and with ClearBlack tech it's highly visible in the sun. It's the current Windows phone flagship and will offer the premium W10 experience until Microsoft releases the new flagships (it's been focused on the low and mid-range recently).


    Nokia Lumia 930

    Pros

    Cons

  • 20MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • Eventually upgradeable to Windows 10
  • Metal/polycarbonate build
  • 5" AMOLED screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (441ppi)
  • 2.2GHzGHz quad-core Krait 400
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    The Motorola Moto X (2014) is not as camera-obsessed as the other three, but it takes better care of its looks. With a metal frame and a selection of genuine wood and leather backs, the phone is highly customizable via the Moto Maker.

    It has a slightly larger 5.2" AMOLED screen with 1080p resolution and is based on the Snapdragon 801 chipset. It's a newer generation than the S800 chipset in the Lumia 930, then again Windows phone needs less resources. Still, Motorolas get Android updates faster than any other maker.

    While not camera obsessed, the 13MP shooter of the Moto X (2014) records 2160p video and does a good enough job. You get stereo speakers on the front like the Xperia Z3 Compact, plus some basic waterproofing - it will survive splashes, but not submersion. No microSD card slot either and the base 16GB version won't cut it.


    Motorola Moto X (2014)

    Pros

    Cons

  • Metal frame and customizable leather or wood backs
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5.2" AMOLED, 1,080 x 1,920px (424ppi)
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Krait, 2GB RAM
  • 13MP camera, 2160p video
  • Stereo speakers
  • Splash proof
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    The Sony Xperia Z2 is seemingly a generation behind the Z3 Compact, but keep in mind' it's a Sony half-generation. It has a 5.2" IPS screen with 1080p resolution and stereo speakers and a metal frame. You don't get a choice of backs, just glass, but the Z2 has true waterproofing.

    The camera is the Sony usual, a large 20.7MP sensor with 2160p video capture. The Xperia Z2 is powered by a Snapdragon 801 chipset with 3GB of RAM and will run Android 5.0 Lollipop in short order.


    Sony Xperia Z2

    Pros

    Cons

  • Metal frame; IP58 waterproofing
  • 20.7MP camera, 2160p video
  • 5.2" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (424ppi)
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop update coming soon
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400, 3GB RAM
  • Stereo speakers
  • Review

    The camera frenzy continues with the HTC Desire Eye, though this one is more interested in you than the scenery. It has a best-in-class 13MP selfie camera with its own dedicated LED flash. Most other phones in this category have just 2MP snappers. The main camera is a 13MP unit too, both record 1080p video.

    The Desire Eye may not have a metal unibody like its One siblings - or the Xperia Z2 - but it does borrow their front-facing speakers and its IPX7 waterproof. It's powered by Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB RAM and is getting updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop.


    HTC Desire Eye

    Pros

    Cons

  • 13MP selfie camera with LED flash, 1080p video
  • 13MP/1080p main camera
  • IPX7 waterproofing
  • Stereo speakers
  • 5.2" screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (424ppi)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400, 2GB RAM
  • Review

    The Samsung Galaxy S5 rounds off the waterproof shooters for this chapter. It has an IP67 certification and a 16MP camera with 2160p video capture that has several advantages over the Galaxy Alpha camera (including phase detection AF).

    It has a 5.1" 1080p Super AMOLED screen similar to the Lumia 930 and Moto X (2014), similar Snapdragon 801 chipset too. It has a swipe fingerprint sensor like the Galaxy Alpha and unlike the Galaxy S6 you get a replaceable battery and a microSD card slot.


    Samsung Galaxy S5

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 5.1" Super AMOLED, 1,080 x 1,920px (432ppi)
  • 16MP camera, 2160p video
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Krait 400
  • IP67 waterproofing
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Dated design
  • Review

    €400-€500

    This chapter will be short but sweet with only two phablets that made the cut.

    The Meizu MX4 Pro boasts a 5.5" IPS screen that's actually above QHD resolution. It has borrowed the Exynos 5 Octa chipset from the Galaxy Alpha and the 20.7MP/2160p camera from the Xperia Z series (and adds a 5MP/1080p selfie camera). Then Meizu adds a fingerprint sensor, no swiping needed here.

    It sounds great so far, but the Flyme OS (based on KitKat) may not be to everyone's tastes. The bigger problem is the storage though, no expansion opportunities and only 16GB as base.


    Meizu MX4 Pro

    Pros

    Cons

  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,536 x 2,560 (546ppi)
  • Flye OS, based on Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 2GHz octa-core CPU, 3GB of RAM
  • 20.7MP camera, 2160p video
  • 5MP/1080p selfie camera
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Non-standard Android
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    The Note 4 may be cool, but it's still pricy compared to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The 5.7" 1080p screen still looks quite good, the S Pen stylus works great and the 13MP camera records 2160p video. Add an attractive (if metal-free) design and you may be tempted to save the €100 or so premium you need to pay for its successor. Keep in mind that stock is running out and we've seen the Galaxy Note 3 at lower prices previously.


    Samsung Galaxy Note 3

    Pros

    Cons

  • 5.7" Super AMOLED, 1,080 x 1,920px (386ppi); S Pen stylus
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.3GHz Krait 400, 3GB RAM
  • 13MP camera, 2160p video
  • There's an Exynos-powered version with no 2160p video
  • May be hard to find in stores
  • Review

    The Sony Xperia Z3 technically falls into this price category too, though honestly we can't find enough improvement over the Xperia Z2 to justify the sizeable price gap.

    Over €500

    Time to abandon price guidelines and go for broke. The prices of current flagships can grow scary fast and the most expensive ones get uncomfortably close to €1,000. And that's before you reach the storage update selector.

    The Motorola Nexus 6 brings the metal frame and QHD AMOLED screen that the Note 3 lacks, optical stabilization for the camera too. It throws in a rare ring LED flash, plus Moto's stereo speakers and splash-proofing. Unfortunately the Moto Maker customizations didn’t carry over.

    It uses the Snapdragon 805 chipset found in the Note 4 too. It runs pure Android though, at least as Google sees it, and will be first in line for software updates. That means no split-screen multitasking options though, no stylus either. Another issue is the lack of microSD card slot. At least the base storage is 32GB. Legend has it that it was supposed to have a fingerprint sensor that was cut at the last moment.


    Motorola Nexus 6

    Pros

    Cons

  • Pure Android 5.1 Lollipop; fast updates
  • 6" AMOLED screen, 1,440 x 2,560px (493ppi)
  • 13MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Krait 450; 3GB RAM
  • Metal frame; splash-proof
  • Stereo speakers
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is Nexus 6's fierce rival. It's metal frame is more compact, surrounding a 5.7" QHD Super AMOLED screen. The Note 4 houses an S Pen stylus and along with proprietary multitasking software features.

    The OIS-enabled camera has a slightly higher still resolution and the 3.7MP selfie camera matches the screen's resolution exactly (beating the 2MP snapper on the Nexus 6). A fingerprint sensor is on board too.

    The rivalry between the Nexus 6 and the Galaxy Note 4 is too nuanced to summarize in a few quick paragraphs, luckily we have a head-to-head article to answer any burning questions.


    Samsung Galaxy Note 4

    Pros

    Cons

  • 5.7" Super AMOLED, 1,440 x 2,560px (515ppi); S Pen stylus
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.7GHz quad-core Krait 450 -or- 1.9GHz octa-core, 3GB RAM
  • 16MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • Metal frame
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Review

    The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge launched alongside the Note 4 and Samsung intended it as an early adopter's device but demand proved greater than that. The right side of the 5.6" Super AMOELD screen is curved, which enables extra functionality. Which costs close to €100 more.

    Still, the side of the screen is more curved than the Galaxy S6 screen and it's treated differently by the software, almost like a separate screen, so it has more extensive features. The rest is pretty much the same - S Pen stylus, Snapdragon 805 chipset, 16MP camera with OIS and 2160p video, the works.


    Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

    Pros

    Cons

  • Curved 5.6" Super AMOLED, 1,600 x 2,560px (524ppi); S Pen stylus
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.7GHz quad-core Krait 450
  • 16MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • 3.7MP/1440p selfie camera
  • Metal frame
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Review

    Another unique device is the LG G Flex2. It has a curved screen too except it's the whole thing, not just one side. It's a 5.5" P-OLED that makes the Flex2 more compact and manageable than its predecessor, higher resolution too - 1080p up from 720p.

    It was the first device with Snapdragon 810 chipset and launched with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box. It uses the rear button design of the LG G3, but the back has a special self-healing coating, which can heal away scratches in a matter of minutes.

    The LG G Flex also borrows the 13MP camera with OIS, laser autofocus and 2160p video capture of the LG G3 too.


    LG G Flex2

    Pros

    Cons

  • Whole-body curved design; self-healing coating
  • 5.5" P-OLED, 1,080 x 1,920px (403ppi)
  • 2GHz octa-core, 2GB or 3GB RAM
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 13MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • Review

    LG announced the G4 while we were writing this guide and launched it the following day, only in South Korea though. While it will take some time to reach other markets, you may want to hold off on buying the G Flex2 for now.

    The LG G4 is slightly curved - not as much as the Flex and not flexible either - and has a 5.5" screen of higher resolution, QHD. The optional leather back with decorative stitching makes for a rather unique look, a warm alternative to the metal and glass of other flagships. We only worry about the leather's durability.

    Anyway, the camera department is highly impressive, a 16MP sensor with optical stabilization and a wide f/1.8 aperture. It lets in 80% more light compared to the G3. And with manual controls plus RAW capture mode, LG makes a serious claim for one of the best smartphone cameras around. The selfie camera is great too, an 8MP/1080p shooter.

    The single comparatively weak area is the chipset - the Snapdragon 808 has only two powerful Cortex-A57 cores to back the four low-power A53s. Worse, the Adreno 418 GPU will be under lots of pressure under the QHD resolution of the screen. LG moved to a IPS Quantum panel for improved color rendering and contrast over the G3. Unlike the Samsung competition, you get removable battery and a microSD slot.


    LG G4

    Pros

    Cons

  • Slightly curved body with optional leather back
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,440 x 2,560px (538ppi)
  • 1.8GHz hexa-core processor
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 16MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • 8MP/1080p selfie camera
  • Chipset not up to par
  • Review

    The Galaxy S6 duo is similar to the Note 4s. It's a reset of Samsung's usual design with a glass frame and while both look great, the Galaxy S6 edge is one of the best-looking devices on the market.

    But let's start with the base Samsung Galaxy S6, its price tag is easier to swallow. The 5.1" Super AMOLED screen with QHD resolution is the highest quality display yet (beating even the Note 4) and Samsung went a long way to spruce up TouchWiz.

    The 16MP camera with OIS and 2160p video flexed its muscles in our four-way shootout, beating its sibling Galaxy devices. The no-swipe fingerprint sensor also works better than Samsung's previous attempts, but in a controversial move the company sealed the battery and dropped the microSD card slot. The waterproofing of the Galaxy S5 is gone too.


    Samsung Galaxy S6

    Pros

    Cons

  • 7mm metal and glass body
  • 5.1" Super AMOLED, 1,440 x 2,560px (577ppi)
  • 16MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • 5MP/1440p selfie camera
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.1GHz octa-core, 3GB RAM
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    It's the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge that's the prettier sibling, its unique design is bound to cause some envy even among iPhone users. The screen's sides are not as curved as on the Galaxy Edge, but they are symmetrical, which looks better.

    Everything else in the hardware department is the same as the flat-screened S6, but the Galaxy S6 edge has some additional software features. A night clock, various notifications and some gestures use the curved screen and add some neat functionality though we wouldn’t call it vital.

    Samsung normally exacts a €100 premium on the S6 edge over the S6 with the same storage, but the Galaxy S6 prices seem to be falling faster. In many regions the Galaxy S6 edge is available only in 64GB and 128GB (skipping the 32GB option) without an additional price hike over a 32GB Galaxy S6, which evens out the price a bit.


    Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

    Pros

    Cons

  • Unique dual-curved screen
  • 5.1" Super AMOLED, 1,440 x 2,560px (577ppi)
  • 7mm metal and glass body
  • 16MP camera with OIS, 2160p video
  • 5MP/1440p selfie camera
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • 2.1GHz octa-core, 3GB RAM
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Costs extra mostly for improved looks
  • Review

    Unlike Samsung, HTC kept its traditional design that goes back to the HTC One from 2013. It tweaked the design with a two-color-tone look and we were always fans of metal unibody phones.

    HTC also recognized that the camera is an issue and grabbed a 20.7MP sensor capable of 2160p video. We were glad to see UltraPixel go (at least get moved to selfie camera duties), but the new shooter doesn’t live up to Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 standards.

    Anyway, the stereo speakers on the front are better than what either Sony or Motorola have to offer and the audio quality with headphones plugged in is perfect. The 5" 1080p screen is behind on resolution and is surrounded by chunky bezels.

    The Snapdragon 810 chipset in the HTC One M9 got some negative attention due to overheating concerns and while it does run hotter than the Galaxy S6 (which also warms up), it doesn’t become an issue unless you really push the chipset. Again, the One M9 and Galaxy S6 rivalry is too turbulent to summarize so you can get the full picture from our head-to-head article.


    HTC One M9

    Pros

    Cons

  • Two-tone metal unibody
  • Great stereo speakers
  • 20.7MP camera, 2160p video
  • 4MP UltraPixel selfie camera
  • 2GHz octa-core, 3GB RAM
  • 5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (441ppi)
  • Design is getting old
  • Screen not up to par with 2015 flagships
  • Neither is the camera
  • Review

    If you want an all-metal flagship, the Apple iPhone 6 is the more popular choice. It brings some much needed updates over the iPhone 5s, but we still think it's a bit behind its Android competition.

    Now, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus is much closer to the mark. It brings the first increase in screen sharpness on iPhone since 2010 and adds optical stabilization. The jump in screen size is braver than the base model, 4.7" is considered "compact" in Android-land these days.

    The 5.5" 1080p screen puts the iPhone 6 Plus in direct competition with Android phablets, the custom chipset is a great performer (especially for games). The 8MP camera (even with OIS) is starting to show its age, but it did quite well. Also, we have to give it to Apple - they weren’t the first to add a fingerprint sensor, just the first to get it to work just right.

    P.S. We've picked out the 64GB model, 16GB will just become a pain the moment iOS needs to update. It's just not worth cheaping out on a pricy flagship like the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Also, check out our iPhone 6 Plus vs. Galaxy Note 4 article for a detailed comparison.


    Apple iPhone 6 Plus

    Pros

    Cons

  • Thin, all-metal unibody
  • 5.5" IPS screen, 1,080 x 1,920px (401ppi)
  • Powerful chipset
  • 8MP camera with OIS, 1080p video
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • No 2160p video, no OIS for video either
  • No microSD card slot
  • Review

    What didn't make the cut

    Samsung and HTC unveiled their flagships at the MWC in February and Sony recently unveiled the Xperia Z4. The Z4 is exclusive to Japan only and may not be Sony's true 2015 global flagship. Apple and Microsoft should be bringing out new stuff later this year.

    We're going over our list of candidates roughly in order of price. Microsoft has a strong presence in the low-end, so much so that there's a lot of in-fighting.

    We skipped the Lumia 530 and Lumia 630 largely in favor of the Lumia 535. Microsoft stated that even phones with 512MB RAM will be updated with the upcoming editions of the OS, but having at least 1GB of RAM is still a huge boon to multitasking. True, the Lumia 435 has 1 gig of RAM, but its dual-core processor made us think that spending a few euro more for the Lumia 532 is the smarter move.

    Nokia Lumia 530 Dual SIM
    Nokia Lumia 630 Dual SIM
    Microsoft Lumia 435

    Nokia Lumia 530 Dual SIM • Nokia Lumia 630 Dual SIM • Microsoft Lumia 435

    The HTC Desire 310 is an impressive low-cost Android with a 5MP/1080p camera and quad-core processor, but it's limited to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. In some regions it only comes with 512MB RAM, in others with 1GB. It just falls short of an excellent recommendation.

    HTC Desire 310

    HTC Desire 310

    The LG L Fino and L Bello may look like LG G3 minis, but they just don't live up to that legacy. Both have screens that hover around the 200ppi mark and Fino's 8MP camera records a measly 480p video. The Bello does go up to 1080p video, though it's completely wasted on the 5" 480 x 854px screen.

    The LG Leon is a warmed up L Fino with Android 5.0 Lollipop and a 5MP or 8MP camera with 1080p video. Still, we'd rather pay a bit extra for the Spirit, which moves up to a 720p screen. There's also the LG G3 s, but the name is quite undeserved, saving some cash and getting a Moto G (2014) sounds like the better option.

    LG L Fino
    LG L Bello
    LG Leon
    LG G3 S

    LG L Fino • LG L Bello • LG Leon • LG G3 S

    Samsung's phones got caught in friendly fire too. The Galaxy A3 attracts with a metal frame, but so does the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, which costs about the same and used to be a proper flagship grade device. The Galaxy E7 is a budget phablet, but it's priced above the metal-clad Huawei Ascend G7, for example, and so it got cut.

    The Galaxy A5 got dropped in favor of the Galaxy Alpha, which is better-spec'd than the A-series. The Galaxy A7 tries to compete with the Galaxy Note 3 and doesn't quite succeed.

    Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos
    Samsung Galaxy E7
    Samsung Galaxy A5
    Samsung Galaxy A7

    Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos • Samsung Galaxy E7 • Samsung Galaxy A5 • Samsung Galaxy A7

    We toyed with the idea of adding the Samsung Galaxy K zoom to the list. It just fits into a €300 budget and its 20.7MP camera enjoys a long 10x optical zoom and OIS, xenon flash too. It is a solid phone/camera combo and it's almost phone-sized (unlike previous hybrid attempts), but the Galaxy K zoom is a bit too niche.

    Samsung Galaxy K zoom

    Samsung Galaxy K zoom

    HTC's One series took heavy casualties too. The original HTC One is still our favorite in the line, but its chipset, and especially, camera haven't aged very well. A Galaxy Alpha or Sony Xperia Z1 Compact can offer better chipset and camera and will look better doing it.

    Its successor has the same camera but commands an even higher price tag. Considering the One M9 isn't that much of an upgrade over the One (M8), the only thing that led us to pick the newer model is the improved camera. The HTC One M8s updates the camera, but it costs even more than the phone it replaces and the Adreno 405 GPU doesn't cut it for games on a 1080p screen.

    The HTC One (E8) has a 13MP camera and is cheaper than the M8s, though if we're going with a plastic phone, the Desire Eye is just more exciting - great selfie camera and waterproofing.

    HTC One
    HTC One (M8)
    HTC One M8s
    HTC One (E8)

    HTC One • HTC One (M8) • HTC One M8s • HTC One (E8)

    The Sony Xperia Z4 is available in Japan only so we're skipping it for now, but we also dropped the Xperia Z3. It costs noticeably more than the Xperia Z2 yet offers only minor refinements - slightly faster chipset, a touch more contrast on the screen, nothing to account for the price hike really.

    Sony Xperia Z3

    Sony Xperia Z3

    Samsung's Black edition of the Galaxy S4 LTE-A (I9506) is a looker and the updated Snapdragon 800 chipset makes it competitive with late 2014 flagships. Some might even argue that it looks better than the Galaxy S5, but it lacks some of the niceties like the new camera, brighter screen, the fingerprint sensor and waterproofing. Those seem worth the price gap to the Galaxy S5, which has gotten pretty tight.

    Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4

    Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4

    BlackBerry is seeing some popularity with its Passport device, but its squarish design makes it too large for casual use. It's too much of a niche device to merit a general recommendation, but business types are welcome to take a look.

    The same thing happened to the BlackBerry Classic and Z30 - BlackBerry isn't a premium name anymore and there's generally no reason to pay top dollar for it. If you have specific needs that are tied to the BlackBerry platform, then a Z10 or Q5 can work just as well.

    BlackBerry Passport
    BlackBerry Classic
    BlackBerry Z30

    BlackBerry Passport • BlackBerry Classic • BlackBerry Z30

    Final words

    Does it seem strange that these days we spend more time picking out our new phone than almost anything else we own? Or is it ok, considering we spend more time on our phones than just about anything else - our TVs and laptops certainly don't see that much of us as before.

    Some people love the process and can spend hours digging up and comparing minute details, while others are put off by the barrage of marketing terms and pick a phone based on a short description. This buyer's guide caters to the latter with concise descriptions of worthy phones and can serve as a starting off point for the former.

    Shopping Guide May 2015

    If you are the type to want more detail, our reviews have plenty of that to offer. We made sure to link each review (or just a hands-on if there isn't one) so you can dive in for a more extensive look. For a few high-profile phones we even have direct comparisons.

    At the bottom of a phone's specs page is a distillation of the tests we've done on each phone. This includes benchmark scores, display quality, camera and loudspeaker performance, battery life too. You can click on those to be taken either to the relevant part of the review or a page that helps you compare multiple phones.

    We've had our Photo and Video comparison tools for a while now, they allow you to pit up to three phone cameras against each other. More recent additions are the table of all Basemark results and the table of all battery scores.

    While we probably haven't seen the best Sony has in store for 2015, it's safe to start shopping around for a new flagship. At the other end of the spectrum are affordable devices that impress with design and specs.

    We're starting to wonder if it's better to save up for a flagship and keep it for 2-3 years or just grab a phone from the lower end of the scale and change it every year.

    Under €100

    Some years ago Android conquered the low end of the market, but now it's getting pushed out or at least phones from well-known brands are. New brands have emerged that offer relatively high specs on a tight budget. Also, the Under €100 category has the biggest diversity of OSes.

    The Alcatel Fire E comes as living proof, it's a Firefox OS phone. We found it at just over €50 for which you get a 4.5" IPS screen with 540 x 960px resolution, a 5MP camera with 1080p video capture and a dual-core 1.2GHz processor. The 1080p video is by far the most impressive, but the next FullHD shooter on the list is double the price.

    We know better to blindly trust specs, but the competition in this price range averages 5MP/480p. The Fire E also brings a VGA selfie camera and an LED flash, which are not a given on device in this price range. The IPS screen should offer better viewing angles than basic TFTs too, so keep an eye out for it.

    The 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage won't have you confusing this for a mid-ranger, but Firefox OS has been designed to support even less RAM. Mozilla's platform looks like a viable option if you're on a budget and value open software.


    Alcatel Fire E

    Pros

    Cons

  • Firefox OS 1.3
  • 4.5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (245ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 1080p video
  • Limited app selection

  • Coming close to the psychological limit of €50, the Acer Liquid Z200 is a compact Android 4.4 KitKat phone a 4" 480 x 800px screen. The dual-core CPU should keep things snappy though 512MB RAM limits multitasking capabilities. Also, the 2MP camera is rather basic.

    A phone like the Liquid Z200 may not be very impressive but it gets your foot in the door to mobile Internet and a wide selection of great Android apps. You can also have this phone in a dual-SIM configuration, available as the Liquid Z200 Duo.


    Acer Liquid Z200

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 2MP camera
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • Basic camera with no flash
  • Limited RAM

  • Getting a phone for €50 sounds great if you're on a very tight budget or just need a backup phone, but you'll have to live with a number of compromises. Some of those can be removed for an extra bill, so we'd recommend against sticking to arbitrary price caps and shopping by features instead.

    The Samsung Galaxy Ace Style also has a 4" 480 x 800px screen and runs Android 4.4 KitKat on a dual-core processor with the less-than-ideal 512MB RAM. The upshot is a 5MP/720p camera on the back and a basic selfie camera. The Ace Style has an LTE-enabled version too, if you need it and most importantly, can afford it as some carriers are charging a premium on your monthly bill for accessing their LTE network.


    Samsung Galaxy Ace Style

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 512MB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 720p video
  • Optional LTE connectivity
  • Limited RAM

  • If you're in the mood for trying something new, another Samsung phone brings the third OS so far. The Samsung Z1 runs Tizen OS on a dual-core processor with slightly more RAM (768MB). The camera isn’t as good as on the Ace Style though the Z1 is a dual-SIM phone, a fair trade if you find yourself making calls more often than taking photos.

    While technically a new platform like Firefox OS, Tizen supplements its own app selection with Android apps. Compatibility may be an issue though, it was certainly a problem with BlackBerry's Android support.


    Samsung Z1

    Pros

    Cons

  • Tizen OS 2.3
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex-A7, 768MB RAM
  • Dual-SIM
  • 3.15MP camera
  • Android app compatibility is suspect

  • The first-gen Motorola Moto E is fairly cheap, especially if you catch it on a sale. It already received the Android 5.1 Lollipop update and it has 1GB of RAM for better multitasking. The 4.3" 540 x 960px screen provides a break from the 4-inchers and it's guarded by Gorilla Glass 3. The 5MP/480p camera is decent but image quality is far from stellar, Samsung makes much better 5MP cameras.

    It's not the most compact 4.3" device either, but it has a relatively large 1,980mAh battery. You can get the dual-SIM version of the Moto E if you want better management of your mobile plan.


    Motorola Moto E

    Pros

    Cons

  • Upgradeable to Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 4.3" screen, 540 x 960px (256ppi)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • Fairly thick and heavy for its size
  • Review

    The Microsoft Lumia 532 brings the fourth OS to the party. We considered some cheaper Windows phone handsets, but we skipped the Lumia 435 because of its dual-core processor and the Lumia 530 due to its limited memory.

    The Lumia 532 is €10-€15 pricier than them, we think it's worth it though. For the same price as the Moto E, you get double the CPU cores and double the internal storage (8GB), more RAM than most of the droids so far too. Also note that this is the Lumia 532 Dual SIM as the single-SIM is not meaningfully cheaper.

    The update to Windows 10 is guaranteed and you'll get the full set of features the new OS will bring, thanks to the 1 gig of RAM.


    Microsoft Lumia 532 Dual SIM

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 4" screen, 480 x 800px (233ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB of RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • Dual-SIM

  • If you want a bigger screen, the Microsoft Lumia 535 is a fine choice. It has a 5" IPS LCD with roughly the same pixel density as the Lumia 532, but with added Gorilla Glass 3. There's also a surprisingly capable 5MP selfie camera to the mix.

    We considered the Lumia 630, which is the middle ground between the 532 and 535 in terms of both price and screen size (4.5"). Its advantages include 720p video capture and but better quality screen (albeit smaller), though the full gig of RAM and the selfie camera swung our favor towards the Lumia 535.


    Microsoft Lumia 535

    Pros

    Cons

  • Eventually upgradable to Windows 10
  • 5" IPS screen, 540 x 960px (220ppi)
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A7, 1GB RAM
  • 5MP camera, 480p video
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Optional dual-SIM
  • No 720p video like on the Lumia 630
  • Screen looks washed out and generally, of poor quality
  • Review

    A popular sub-category of phones snips the link between screen size and resolution. Resolution ups the price tag and while it makes things look better, from a practical standpoint reading on a bigger screen is just easier. The Lumia 535 is part of that movement, but it extends to 6+ inch screens.

    Other phones promise the best of both worlds, the likes of the Lenovo A6000. It has a 5" IPS screen with 720p resolution, which pushes it over the requirement for Retina. You also get a quad-core Cortex-A53 processor. It can't spread its 64-bit wings on Android 4.4 KitKat, at least it should be slightly faster than A7-based competitors.

    The A6000 is also one of the most affordable LTE phones and it has two SIM slots to boot (only one can be used for LTE though). The 8MP camera offers the best still resolution in this price range too. We found the availability of Lenovo A6000 units a bit spotty though, so you might need to look around for it.


    Lenovo A6000

    Pros

    Cons

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • 5" IPS screen, 720 x 1,280px (294ppi)
  • 1.2GHz Cortex-A53, 1GB of RAM
  • 8MP camera
  • Dual-SIM, LTE
  • Spotty availability

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