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Best smartphones 2015: The best phones available to buy today - Top 21

Pocket-lint logo Pocket-lint 03-08-2015

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So, you want to buy a new phone? If you're looking for the best smartphone of 2015, you've come to the right place. We will guide you through the hottest mobile phones of the year to save you time when you go to your local phone shop.

We continually update this best smartphones feature to reflect recent launches, recognise price changes, and ensure 2015's latest devices appear alongside the best of 2014 (and before, if applicable). All the listed devices have been fully reviewed by us.

We're at a time of change in smartphones - new models are incoming, old models are falling by the wayside and the desirability of some of last year's models are waning. We're also spoiled for choice, with even budget handsets delivering increasingly fast processing power and quality design.

Our best smartphones list covers all operating systems, all sizes, and prices, so you'll be armed with everything you need to consider when choosing to buy your next device. Of course, the most important factor in buying a new device is making sure you have the best smartphone for you. The best for your budget, the features you need, the size that feels right and platform that suits you best.

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21. Microsoft Lumia 735

The Lumia 735 was launched alongside the Lumia 830, but it manages to match the specs and beat the price of its launch buddy, making it an interesting device.

It offers a great Windows Phone experience packed into a handset that, thanks to its 4.7-inch screen, is not too big and plenty affordable. It offers the latest Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim, which sees Microsoft's mobile devices getting stronger all the time.

There's a great pairing of cameras too. There's a lovely front 5-megapixel camera to the front and a rear 6.7-megapixel camera on the rear. Although the rear camera isn't the highest resolution, it's a good performer and offers Zeiss optics.

It's not the most powerful handset around, but at just £189 the Lumia 735 is difficult to ignore.

Buy if you want a great all-rounder without spending a fortune.

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20. Nexus 6

The Nexus 6 is a pure Google phablet and that's one of its strengths: it offers a stock Android experience, unfettered by manufacturer additions. Not so long ago that was a huge differentiator, but thanks to faster update cycles and Google's gradual unbundling of many of the Android apps - including the Google Now Launcher - the Nexus experience isn't as rare as it used to be.

However, the Nexus 6 is large. It takes the Moto X design and scales it up to a 6-inches screen device, which may be too large for some. That screen does mean plenty of space to play and you get a great Quad HD high-resolution display, along with powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 innards to keep everything moving along at pace. However, compared to something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 the Nexus 6 doesn't show off that extra screen real-estate with any extra features to benefit from it. 

You still have the advantage of fast update times, being head of the list for Google, but as a phablet, we think you might find Samsung's offering more enticing. If price comes into it then the £499 price point meant the Nexus isn't hugely expensive, which adds further appeal.

Buy the Nexus 6 because you absolutely have to definitely have the pure Android on the big screen.

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19. LG G Flex 2

The LG G Flex 2 might be something of a surprise entry in our list of best smartphones. The curved display format is unconventional and might not appeal to everyone, which may make it a non-starter for some.

But this is one of a new-generation of smartphones, a device that's packed with power from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset. It's a great size at 5.5-inches, although the display on the devices we've seen so far aren't as capable as some of the flat rivals.

There's a great camera on the back too, but the software throughout the device isn't as slick and smooth as some competitors, even those on older hardware. We know that LG is looking to clean things up, but there are some compromises for wanting to be different.

Buy the LG G Flex 2 because you want something unique.

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18. OnePlus One

It's rare that an outsider jumps into the elite ranks, even rarer that it's widely lauded. The OnePlus One managed this, capturing the attention of smartphone lovers, not only for offering great value for money, but with viral marketing and a degree of exclusivity: it's not always been the easiest phone to get hold of.

When you do part with the £220-odd that you'll be asked to pay, you're left with a device that's powerful and has plenty of battery life, all on a budget. It also comes pre-loaded with CyanogenMod - which is a custom version of Android, so you get all the usual Google goodies, plus some extra - which means a range of tinkering options are available from the off.

There are some downsides, of course, like some network compatibility issues (Vodafone and O2 4G bands aren't supported in the UK, so it's 3G only) and being tricky to buy. But if you've got one, you'll be the envy of your friends.

Buy the OnePlus One because you know where to get one.

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17. Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Huawei has been looking to break into the top flight of smartphones for some time, and not without good results. Perhaps not as widely regarded as some rivals, there's no doubting that Huawei has come on a long way, and is selling a lot of phones.

The Mate 7 is its latest crack at the phablet, with a 6-inch full HD display and a metal design that's a far cry from the budget phones the company is known for. It's a big device, of course, but you get all that space to play.

There's plenty of customisation to the Android UI, some of which is really useful, presenting plenty of options, even if some of the design choices might not be to everyone's tastes. The long battery life, however, will be. The sub-£400 asking price is also appealing - if, that is, you can get hold of it in the UK.

Buy the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 to get a great phablet experience without the cost.

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16. Nokia Lumia 930

The latest Lumia flagship is the 930. It refines the 925 offering, in a handset that's a little big chunkier (at 9.8mm thick), but nonetheless solidly built.

The Lumia 930 offers the new pinnacle of the Windows Phone experience. There's a great 5-inch Full HD display, a wonderful camera on the back and some of the latest software from Microsoft, dabbed with Lumia additions. With the Lumia Denim upgrade, it makes Windows Phone more compelling than ever before.

There's no shortage of tech packed into the brightly-coloured handset, with optical image stabilisation on its camera and wireless charging for the battery.

Buy the Nokia Lumia 930 because you want the best of Windows Phone.

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15. Motorola Moto G 4G (2014)

The Motorola Moto G took a lot of people by surprise. Motorola wasn't content with the original, so updated with microSD card support and 4G, making for a cracking device.

The Moto G 4G is a fantastic smartphone and incredible value for money that's difficult to ignore. With a price as low as £150, if you're on a budget, this is the handset to choose. The Moto G has now been updated with a 2015 model, but the newer version is larger and loses some of the charm of the earlier Moto G 4G in our view.

Take the price out of the equation and you don't feel let down. The design is great, the display is excellent and there's plenty of power too. Yes, it will be out-performed by any number of handsets, but those are handsets that will cost you twice, if not three times, as much.

Better still, the Motorola Moto G was one of the first non-Nexus devices to be upgraded to Android 5.0 Lollipop, as it's pretty much stock Android with some Moto app extras.

Buy the Motorola Moto G 4G (2014) for the best 5-inch Android experience in a budget handset.

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14. Motorola Moto E (2015)

The Moto E is Motorola's play for the even more budget section of the market, with a price tag of £109 seeing it as even cheaper than the Moto G. However, in its 2015 form, we find the Moto E is the best of the two for the balance of size (it's now got a 4.5-inch screen), price and features. It might not have the fastest processor in the world, but this rarely affects use.

Principal to the Moto E is a great design - which now includes interchangeable "Bands" for a lick of colour, as shown in blue in the above photo - a good display, excellent battery life and microSD support for expanding the internal storage. Compared to the original 2014 model, the 2015 Moto E also adds a front-facing camera, a smoother Android experience, as well as all-important 4G connectivity for fast internet browsing.

Despite its low price point and slightly bulky build, the Moto E has glimpses of premium about it. It's a brilliant handset for just over the £100 mark and the budget handset to beat.

Buy the Motorola Moto E 2015 for the best Android experience on a budget.

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13. Apple iPhone 6 Plus

For years Apple was criticised for sticking to small displays, while other platforms got bigger, giving more space to play. That all changed with the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, which landed alongside the smaller iPhone 6.

The 6 Plus offers a lovely high-quality design, with an all-metal body and a great 5.5-inch screen. This display curves into the edges for an almost seamless design, but there's no denying that this is a big handset overall. That's matched by a big price too: starting at £619 it's more expensive than most rivals.

There isn't a huge amount done to take advantage of the large display either - a similar story to the Nexus 6 in that regard; the Samsung Galaxy Note handsets offer more custom features - but the 6 Plus offers a Full HD display and plenty of power to take Apple into the realms of the phablet.

Recent efforts from developers have seem more apps optimised for use on the larger display with Netflix, as one example, offering Full HD playback.

Buy the iPhone 6 Plus because you want big screen gaming and entertainment, Apple style.

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12. HTC Desire Eye

The HTC Desire Eye is something of a surprise package, pitched as the selfie phone - but it's so much more than that. Carrying a name from HTC's second tier of devices, the experience it offers is far from sub-flagship.

The Desire Eye offers all the internal power of flagship rivals and comes with a lovely full HD 5.2-inch display. It offers HTC's mature Sense 6 user interface layered over Android, with the latest HTC Eye experience bringing a boost to the cameras.

The headline feature is the 13-megapixel front-facing camera with flash. But this phone is great not because of that camera, but despite it. The cameras perform well enough, even if the front selfie camera is a little over sold.

But what you get is a flagship experience at a price that's affordable at £399. You don't get the premium metal body of the HTC One M8, but you do get a fun and well-built phone with waterproofing.

Buy the HTC Desire Eye because you're a selfie fiend or because you want near-flagship HTC performance at an affordable price.

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11. Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Samsung originally showcased the Note Edge as a limited release device, but following a glowing reception, it landed in stores in many territories. It was also the pre-cursor to the Galaxy S6 edge, one of our favourite Android phones ever.

The Galaxy Note Edge takes the Note 4 and curves one of the display edges, giving you a range of shortcuts down one side, adding extra functionality.

You get the plenty of power and a great camera, but the battery takes a bit of a hit over the original Note 4 and, although there are a lot of core features that take advantage of the larger display, that curved edge perhaps doesn't have the support or attention it needs - third-party support isn't really there, so it doesn't feel like a feature you absolutely must have.

It gives you a phone that's a little different, but we find it hard to really get the benefit from the additional curved area. It's also more expensive than the Note 4, at £700, which is a lot to ask by any measure.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge because you want a phablet with added functionality that's a little different.

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10. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact succeeds by dominating its unique position: it offers flagship power in a mid-range size. For anyone looking for a portable powerhouse, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is it.

Sony has also brought this handset to market at a price that's aggressive for the package you get. At around £300 there's a lot of phone for your money.

The 4.6-inch 720p display is good, if not the highest resolution at this size, but the outstanding feature is battery life. This is a phone that goes on and on, surviving the busiest days where larger rivals falter.

Mature user interface tweaks, waterproofing, great camera performance and options galore will make the Xperia Z3 Compact the sort of device that power users will want - without needing giant pockets (both in physical and cash terms).

Buy the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact if you want the best performance in a compact device.

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9. LG G3

The LG G3 was one of the first mainstream devices to step out of the door with a Quad HD display (2560 x 1440 pixels), pushing the resolution further than its rivals. It's 5.5-inch panel is capable of incredibly sharp details (at 538ppi), but be warned - little content really makes use of that resolution even a year later.

Although the G3 doesn't offer the same build quality as many others, it's a good looking phone. But the real appeal here is the size of the display crammed into that body: you get a lot in your pocket.

LG has added plenty of smart functionality to the G3. There are gestures and shortcuts to make your life easier, as well as a range of functions to make use of all the display space, like dual app views, although the battery life is relatively weak.

There's a really impressive camera on the back which is slick and performs well in most conditions. Add 4K video capture to the list and you've a smartphone package that sees you ready for the future. It also cost £275 SIM-free, which is a bargain -likely because the leather-clad G4 is just around the corner.

Buy the LG G3 because you want a big screen experience in a manageable package.

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8. Motorola Moto X (2014)

The Motorola Moto X was reborn for 2014 in its second-generation guise. Boosted to offer a larger 5.2-inch display than the original, the design of the Moto X sits nicely in the hand, but most appealing of all are the options to customise the design materials using Moto Maker - including a leather back if that's what takes your fancy (and it should).

The Moto X's unfettered Android experience is one of its strengths, as is the speed of updates as new Android versions come along. But at the same time its rivals are much more fully featured, offering more straight out of the box.

There's good battery performance and plenty of power on offer at a price that undercuts most rivals. The weakness, however, lies in the camera, which isn't a consistent performer. There's also no microSD card which many Android rivals offer, but the £419 price is appealing.

Buy the Moto X for a great Android experience with unrivalled customisable design options to truly make your own mark.

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7. Sony Xperia Z3

Sony has had a number of passes at its flagship Z-series model. Fortunately, the Xperia Z3 is where it all comes together, a case of third time's a charm.

The body design has been refined to the point where the size now feels comfortable. Slimming the body pays dividends, but so too does refining the edges and construction. That's not all the Xperia Z3 offers though: the 5.2-inch display sits in front of powerful hardware that's speedy in execution of all those tasks.

Sony runs a number of customisations to Android through its own skin, but avoids the worst of duplication. Yes, there's some bloat and things are geared towards those using Sony's other services and products, but it doesn't completely obliterate the Android experience in the process.

Then there's a great pair of cameras, the rear offering great quality results and plenty of shooting options. This is the best of Sony's handsets, the flagship device where Sony's perseverance paid off. And at around £430, the price is creeping down.

Buy the Sony Xperia Z3 for a powerful, waterproof, sharp-shooting Android handset.

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6. HTC One M9

The HTC One M9 is in incremental upgrade of the HTC One M8, one of our favourite 2014 phones. HTC has focused on refinement in the M9, increasing the quality of the build and the design to make it one of the most precisely manufactured phones you'll find.

The aim was to preserve the good parts of the HTC One M8 and address the weaknesses of that device. The camera has been boosted to 20-megapixels in place of last year's Duo Camera efforts, but the performance is weaker than many older rivals, especially in low-light conditions. The front "Ultrapixel" camera offers good quality shots, but are often blighted by a pink cast, again struggling in low-light conditions.

The introduction of the Sense 7 brings a good helping of refinement to one of the best user interfaces that you'll find on Android. The BoomSound speakers are still class-leading and there's plenty of power from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM. The HTC One M9 offers a microSD card slot for expansion too, which is a real positive point.

However, the display remains the same, or slightly worse than the M8, and the battery life hasn't advanced either. The result is that the M9 feels like it hasn't advanced over the excellent M8 and in some areas it has regressed. With the M8 price falling, and due an upgrade to Sense 7, there's an argument that you're getting much of the same from the older device, for less cash than the M9's flagship price.

Buy the HTC One M9 for build quality, power and a mature user interface.

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5. HTC One M8

The HTC One M8 delivers design and user experience. There's no doubt that this is a premium device at the top of the Android pile. It's slick, fast and the refinement of Sense 6 (soon to be Sense 7 - enhancing the user experience and rivalling the M9) adds plenty to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Despite being replaced by the HTC One M9, above, it offers many of the same advantages, with prices now slipping down to around £330 SIM-free.

The M8 was once the best of 2014, in the top slot, but even in 2015 it's still more than relevant. The design is great, with a premium metal body offering a great feel in the hand. But this handset isn't only good looking, it offers a great 5-inch Full HD display with some of the best visuals you'll find on a device at this size. We think the M8 has a better display than the M9 too.

The camera is the relative weakness for this phone, with the Duo Camera features not really appealing, and a feeling that there's insufficient resolution in some shooting conditions, even if the low-light performance is pretty good. As this handset is older, it's not as powerful as more modern rivals, but it's no slouch.

Buy the HTC One M8 for it's design and mature user experience.

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4. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung has long ruled the phablet roost and the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 cements its mastery with big handsets: it's a sensational device, offering plenty of power from the Snapdragon 805 chipset, and an included stylus - known as the S Pen - for added feature functionality.

But even if you don't use a stylus, Samsung manages to differentiate itself from the pack by filling the Note 4 with features that really make use of the screen space and the hardware. This isn't just about making a big phone, it's about making it useful - with genuinely useful multi-tasking features that other manufacturers simply don't offer. It's a true workhorse, for work and play.

There may be some bloat and a feature too many, but Samsung's software is neatly backed by some of the best performing hardware around. There's a fantastic display, plenty of power and endurance packed into a frame that's been sympathetically designed. Oh, and then there's the camera, which is amongst the best you'll find on an Android handset.

If you're looking for the best big screen experience around, then look to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

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3. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

For many, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge should top this list. It's everything that the SGS6 is, but with innovation in that display design (or what some will see as nothing but design excess). However, although these two phones are matched, the S6 edge comes at a price premium which only really extends to the design - there's not the more extensive functionality as realised in the larger Note Edge to be found here.

Yes, the curves to the display do lead to jaw-dropping design, and that screen is punchy and vibrant, but we feel they could do a little more. Perhaps that will change in the future and bring justification for the £160 surcharge you have to pay over the SGS6.

However, the edge offers the same slick user experience that the SGS6 does. It's fast, powerful, with refinement in the TouchWiz user interface that makes it better than ever before. There's a fantastic camera on the rear that produces great results with very little effort too.

It has the same shortcomings as the SGS6, namely that there's no longer a removable battery or microSD support, the display resolution doesn't really add a huge amount and the waterproofing of the last-generation Galaxy S-series has dried up.

But otherwise, this is a top-drawer smartphone experience. It costs a lot to buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, but it could be the most exciting phone of 2015. Can you justify the extra cost just for the curved edges to the display?

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge because you want a great phone that turns heads.

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2. Apple iPhone 6

After six months at the top, it's taken Samsung's latest SGS6 phone to dislodge the iPhone 6 from number one.

The size of the iPhone 6, for starters, gives us the screen space we've been asking for for years. It might not be the highest resolution around, but it's a great quality display, a real visual treat.

That's paired with design that's excellent. It's slick, with a high quality finish, with this slightly bigger iPhone sitting nicely in the hand. It looks great, it feels great, and it's a pleasure to use.

The TouchID fingerprint-verification implementation is the most effective we've seen, and with Apple Pay having an impact in the US and coming to other countries, it could be a key to unlocking much more than your just your phone. The camera also offers great, consistent, results, with a simplicity to use that many rivals lack. It might not pack in the most megapixels, but it does give you great shots with no fuss.

This is all wrapped in the refinement of iOS 8. Apple might have been playing catch-up with Android in some areas of its operating system, but in iOS 8 there's a consistency of experience that some other platforms lack, not to mention the huge developer support and an app experience that's difficult to match.

Buy the iPhone 6 because you want a premium handset offering a bigger Apple experience than ever before. Also because it won Best Phone at the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2014.

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1. Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung needed change and the Samsung Galaxy S6 was the result. Launched alongside the also excellent (but far more expensive) Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, the S6 betters its innovative brother by being more affordable for much the same experience.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 ditches Samsung's tired design for a body that's more interested in quality. There's no more plastic, instead you have a slick body that turns heads, comprising a metal frame which sandwiches Gorilla Glass both front and back.

There's a fantastic display on the front. The Super AMOLED panel gives deep blacks and plenty of colour vibrancy, only really marred by not creating the cleanest whites around. It offers a super-sharp Quad HD resolution, although it's questionable whether this brings any real benefits in daily use - the same criticism we have of all other handsets with this resolution, but found here condensed into a 5.1-inch display.

The SGS6 is slick and fast, with heaps of power from the Exynos octa-core chipset and 3GB of RAM. It also supports both common standards of wireless charging, which should be of interest as the battery is no longer replaceable and the battery life is a little on the short side. There's also no microSD card slot any more due to the fixed body design.

However, the performance from the 16-megapixel rear camera is one of the most consistent and impressive from any smartphone you'll find. The experience is wrapped in a TouchWiz interface that's slicker, cleaner, and less intrusive than ever before. Then there's the fingerprint scanner that works just as well as it does on the iPhone. In short, this is Samsung's best phone ever.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 for the best Android experience of 2015.

MUST READ: Samsung cuts Galaxy S6 prices

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