It’s hard to imagine a gadget we use more than our phone. Music and video player, camera and clock, web browser and social network portal, it can even make the odd phone call or two. It’s our everyday device and we’re always looking for an upgrade. But which phone and when?
Below we take a look back at some of the flagship phones we saw in 2013, plus the headline devices you can expect to see in 2014 and when.
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Despite much anticipation around a ‘cheap iPhone’, the iPhone 5c turned out to be little more than a colourful, plastic-backed iPhone 5. And while the flagship 5s deserves credit as the best iPhone yet, the extra performance and fingerprint scanner aren’t enough to justify an upgrade.
If the mid-cycle iPhone ‘s’ upgrades have underwhelmed, the full upgrade every two years usually promise bigger, better improvements. We expect to see the iPhone 6 arrive in September 2014, complete with a longer-lasting battery (it needs one), and a larger, even sharper Retina screen. There may even be a companion iWatch.
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Blackberry’s departure from its traditional QWERTY keyboard in favour of a full touchscreen and a new OS won the Z30 plenty of plaudits. What it didn’t do was fill Blackberry’s piggy bank. Despite an excellent camera, enviable battery life and useful features in the new OS, the Z30 has stayed mostly on the shelves.
The changes may all be too little too late. Access to good apps can make or break a smartphone and Blackberry still has too few. With the Z30 only released in October we don’t expect to see another flagship release until late 2014.
Blackberry phone reviews – read our reviews of the latest Blackberry handsets
For those that want a ‘pure’ Android experience free from manufacturer bloatware, the Google Nexus 4 was a bargain-priced revelation. Its successor, the Nexus 5, adds a bigger, better screen, improved camera, and a more powerful 2.3Ghz processor that puts it on a par with the market’s blockbuster phones. And all for less than £300.
LG built the Nexus 4 and now builds the 5, but was apparently disappointed not to find a pot of gold at the end of the Google rainbow. If LG isn’t keen to build the Nexus 6, it’s been suggested Samsung might (it built the first three Nexii, after all), but whoever builds it we expect to see a new Nexus in November 2014.
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Buried by the avalanche that is Samsung’s marketing budget, the HTC One didn’t receive anywhere near the attention it deserved. This flagship Android phone is fast, has fantastic battery life and a sharp screen and comes with a classy metal body, rather than the plastic casing you get on the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The HTC One was roundly praised so expect HTC to stick with a winning formula when the HTC One Two is released in February or March with a powerful phone inside a metal case. Furtive photos of what is claimed to be the HTC One Two suggest HTC will also deliver a fingerprint scanner. You’d also hope the company is brainstorming a better name.
HTC phone reviews – read our reviews of the latest HTC handsets
What a year. Nokia looked like it was down, out and in need of an early bath twelve months ago but its Lumia handsets have got it back in the game. Perhaps the standout model was the Lumia 925 – its 1.5Ghz processor, top-notch screen and excellent 8.7mp camera gave it the skills to compete in the premier league of phones.
Much of Nokia’s success has come from its 800- and 900-series phones, which offer some of the best specs you’ll find in the £100-£200 price range. New versions should arrive in early 2014, but the sticking point for many remains its Windows Phone OS and a lack of apps. Could Nokia, now owned by Microsoft, release an Android? We think it’s unlikely, but the rumours persist.
Nokia phone reviews - read our reviews of the latest Nokia handsets
The Samsung Galaxy S4 swept all before it in 2013. Thinner, lighter and better all round than its predecessor, the S4 was perhaps the first phone to truly put Apple on notice. It’s since been eclipsed by the iPhone 5s but when it was launched the Samsung Galaxy S4 was the fastest phone we’d ever tested.
The S5 could well be the first blockbuster phone we see in 2014 with a March release likely. For all the good news about the S4, its plastic back made it feel cheap compared to some rivals, so if Samsung wants a more premium feel for the S5 it will need a brushed metal or aluminium shell. A faster processor, better camera and a handful of fancy new Samsung-only features are a given.
Samsung phone reviews – read our reviews of the latest Samsung handsets
Which phone are you looking forward to in 2014? Let us know which handset you can’t wait to get your hands on in the comments below.