• 2015
    BEST
     
    Smartphones
    reviews & comparisons

    Smartphones have become ubiquitous parts of our lives. Our comparison breaks down what we love about the best smartphones in the world.

    Design
    Usability
    A-
    A
    A+
    B+
    B-
    A-
    A-
    C+
    B
    A+
    B+
    C+
    B-
    A+
    C
    C+
    F
    C-
    Build Quality
    B+
    A
    A+
    A-
    B-
    B
    B+
    C
    B
    B
    B+
    B
    B+
    B+
    D+
    C-
    C-
    D-
    Operating System
    Android 5.0.2
    Android 5.0.2
    iOS 8
    iOS 8
    Android 4.4.4
    Android 4.4.4
    Android 4.4.2
    Android 4.4.2
    Android 4.4.4
    Android 4.4.4
    Android 4.4.3
    Android 5.0
    WP 8.1
    Android 4.4
    Android 4.2.2
    Android 4.4.2
    Fire OS 3.5
    BlackBerry 10.2
    Screen Size (inches)
    5.1
    5
    4.7
    5.5
    5.7
    5.2
    5.5
    5.1
    5.2
    5.2
    5
    5.5
    5
    4.95
    6
    5
    4.7
    5
    Display Resolution
    2560 x 1440
    1920 x 1080
    1334 x 750
    1920 x 1080
    2560 x 1440
    1920 x 1080
    2560 x 1440
    1920 x 1080
    2560 x 1440
    1920 x 1080
    1920 x 1080
    1920 x 1080
    1280 x 720
    1920 x 1080
    1280 x 720
    1280 x 720
    1280 x 720
    1280 x 720
    Pixel Density (PPI)
    577
    441
    326
    401
    515
    424
    538
    432
    565
    423
    442
    403
    294
    445
    245
    294
    312
    295
    Screen Technology
    AMOLED
    Super LCD
    IPS LCD
    IPS LCD
    AMOLED
    IPS LCD
    IPS LCD
    AMOLED
    AMOLED
    AMOLED
    AMOLED
    IPS LCD
    IPS LCD
    IPS LCD
    POLED
    TFT
    IPS LCD
    AMOLED
    Weight (ounces)
    4.87
    5.54
    4.55
    6.07
    6.21
    5.36
    5.26
    5.11
    5.96
    5.08
    5.11
    6
    5.29
    4.59
    6.24
    4.97
    5.64
    6
    Dimensions (inches)
    5.65 x 2.78 x 0.27
    5.96 x 2.74 x 0.38
    5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27
    6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28
    6.04 x 3.09 x 0.33
    5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29
    5.76 x 2.93 x 0.35
    5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32
    5.65 x 2.89 x 0.44
    5.54 x 2.85 x 0.39
    5.70 x 2.73 x 0.35
    6.00 x 3.04 x 0.43
    5.49 x 2.78 x 0.33
    5.43 x 2.72 x 0.34
    6.32 x 3.21 x 0.34
    5.16 x 2.64 x 0.39
    5.48 x 2.62 x 0.35
    5.54 x 2.83 x 0.37
    Cameras
    Image Quality
    A
    C+
    A
    A+
    A
    B+
    A-
    A
    B
    A
    B-
    B-
    B
    D
    C
    C
    D+
    D
    Resolution (MP)
    16
    20
    8
    8
    16
    20.7
    13
    16
    21
    13
    8
    13
    10
    8
    13
    8
    13
    8
    Aperture Size (F-stop)
    1.9
    2.2
    2.2
    2.2
    2.2
    2.3
    2.4
    2.2
    2
    2.25
    N/A
    2
    2.2
    2.5
    2.4
    N/A
    2
    2.2
    Max Video Resolution
    4K
    4K
    1080p
    1080p
    4K
    4K
    4K
    4K
    4K
    4K
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    Max Video Frame Rate (fps)
    30
    120
    240
    240
    60
    120
    30
    120
    30
    30
    30
    30
    30
    30
    60
    30
    30
    30
    Flash Type
    LED
    Dual LED
    Dual LED
    Dual LED
    LED
    LED
    Dual LED
    LED
    Dual LED
    Dual LED
    LED
    Dual LED
    LED
    LED
    LED
    LED
    LED
    LED
    Optical Image Stabilization
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Front-Facing Resolution (MP)
    5
    4
    1.2
    1.2
    3.7
    2.2
    2.1
    2
    2
    2
    2.1
    5
    0.9
    1.3
    2.1
    1.2
    2.1
    2
    Front-Facing Video Resolution
    1440p
    1080p
    720p
    720p
    1440p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    1080p
    720p
    720p
    1080p
    720p
    1080p
    720p
    Internal Specs
    Benchmark Results
    100%
    97%
    91%
    95%
    79%
    74%
    61%
    70%
    78%
    77%
    67%
    77%
    31%
    59%
    66%
    30%
    61%
    N/A
    Processor Architecture
    64-bit
    64-bit
    64-bit
    64-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    32-bit
    Processor Speed (GHz)
    1.8
    1.75
    1.4
    1.4
    2.7
    2.5
    2.5
    2.5
    2.7
    2.5
    2.3
    2.3
    1.2
    2.26
    2.26
    1.2
    2.2
    1.7
    Number of Cores
    8
    8
    2
    2
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    4
    2
    RAM (GB)
    3
    3
    1
    1
    3
    3
    3
    2
    3
    2
    2
    4
    1
    2
    2
    1.5
    2
    2
    Built-In Storage (GB)
    32/64/128
    32
    16/64/128
    16/64/128
    32
    16/32
    32
    16/32
    32/64
    16/32/64
    32
    16/32/64
    16
    16/32
    32
    8
    32/64
    16
    Expandable Storage
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Battery Life
    Overall Grade
    B-
    C
    C
    B
    B+
    A
    C
    B
    A-
    C-
    B+
    C
    B+
    D+
    A-
    C-
    C-
    D+
    Web Browsing Test (hours)
    8.5
    7.2
    7.5
    10
    8.7
    12.2
    7
    9.5
    9.5
    7.6
    5.9
    7.1
    N/A
    6.2
    10
    7.1
    7
    N/A
    Battery Capacity (mAh)
    2550
    2840
    1810
    2915
    3220
    3100
    3000
    2800
    3900
    2300
    2500
    3000
    2200
    2300
    3500
    2040
    2400
    2880
    Removable Battery
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Rapid Charging
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Wireless Charging
     
     
     
     
     
    Some Models
    Some Models
     
     
     
     
     
    Features
    Bluetooth 4.0+
     
    Bluetooth aptX Audio
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    USB 3.0
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Positional Sensors
     
    Barometer
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Near Field Communication
     
    Infrared Blaster
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    FM Radio
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Fingerprint Scanner
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Water Resistant
     
    Splashes Only
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Included Headphones
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Carriers
    Verizon Wireless
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    AT&T
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    T-Mobile
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Sprint
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Smartphones Review

    by

    The top performers in our review are the Samsung Galaxy S6, the Gold Award winner; the HTC One M9, the Silver Award winner; and the Apple iPhone 6, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a smartphone to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our rankings of the 10 best devices.

    We've long since passed the point when people choose between smartphones and feature phones – dumb phones, as they've come to be called. Every major carrier and minor cell phone provider offers phones with touch screens and internet connectivity at virtually any price point – $600, $200, even $50. The question is no longer, "Should I buy a smartphone?" Rather, we now ask ourselves, "Which smartphone is best for me?"

    With rigorous testing and our trademark side-by-side comparisons, we've identified 2015's best smartphones and ranked them for their processing power, battery life, camera quality and that almost intangible but extraordinarily important quality: design.

    How We Tested the Smartphones

    Whenever a major manufacturer comes out with a new smartphone, we put it through its paces with an intense sequence of performance benchmarks. The phone's display, processor, camera, battery life and unique features are each tested multiple times under identical conditions. Once we have our results, we compile them by Olympic average and aggregate them in the grades and scores you see above.

    Of course, while synthetic benchmarking can reflect the capacity of a smartphone, it doesn't always reveal real-world performance. Consequently, we also run a series of real-world tests that simulate, as closely as possible, the experiences of a typical consumer.

    To obtain each smartphone in our comparison, we either received them on temporary loan from the manufacturers or purchased the phones outright. Manufacturers had no input or influence over our evaluation methodology nor was it provided to any of them in more detail than is available through our reviews. Results of our tests were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.

    Android, iOS or Windows Mobile

    The first decision you need to make when picking a smartphone is probably the easiest: Which operating system should you choose? Whatever their die-hard fans might say, Android isn't better than iOS, and iOS isn't better than Android. Both platforms have powerful advantages and some nitpicky disadvantages, and your choice comes down to personal preference. Do you want everything on your phone to just work, and are you willing to pay a bit of a premium for that? Go iOS. Do you like customization and buying on a budget? Pick Android. Already have a preference? It's not wrong, so embrace it!

    Windows Mobile, recently rebranded by Microsoft from Windows Phone, is the odd platform out. The OS is about to see some extreme revamping thanks to the impending release of Windows 10, and once that happens, it could well be a serious contender in the market. Until that time comes, however, Windows Mobile isn't as functional or reliable as Android or iOS. It takes more time and taps to do anything on a Windows Mobile device, and its app marketplace is dreadfully underwhelming.

    Smartphone Pricing: Flagship, Budget and Mid Tier

    There are essentially three tiers of smartphones available from the major providers. Flagship phones are the top-tier, brand-defining devices you see ads for. They have impressive specifications and tons of raw power under the hood but are usually rather expensive off-contract, clocking in at around $600. Samsung's Galaxy S series, HTC's One series, and Apple's iPhones are all flagship product lines.

    Budget phones are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Often available from prepaid cell phone providers, these devices can range anywhere from $0.99 to $100 but are usually around $40 or $50. They overwhelmingly run the Android operating system, though usually a generation or two behind the most recent version of the platform. Budget phones are functional: They have cameras, internet connectivity and the ability to stream music and video, but they often chug under heavy app loads and don't have the same build quality as more expensive options.

    Mid-tier devices split the difference between flagship and budget. They range from $150 to $400 off-contract and run either Android or the Windows Mobile operating system. Mid-tier phones are what you want of when you say to yourself, "I don't need the latest and greatest, just a phone that does what I need it to do." A few phones, like Google's Nexus line or Motorola's Moto X, are priced as mid-tier phones but deliver the power of flagships.

    Smartphones: Our Verdict and Recommendations

    There are dozens of recent smartphones on the market and well over a hundred once you account for older models still being sold. Picking the best for you can be a trying task, but we've made things easy. Here are our top recommendations:

    The Best Flagship Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S6

    If you're looking for the best of the best, regardless of operating system or price, Samsung's Galaxy S6 is it. A sea change from the creaky, plastic designs of iterations past, the Galaxy S6 offers a stunning screen, great battery life and a furiously fast processor that stormed our benchmark tests, setting a new bar of excellence. Depending on what you value from your photos, you could even argue it has the best smartphone camera on the market.

    The lone downside to the Galaxy S6 is its design. The physical phone takes a few too many cues from the iPhone 6 for our tastes, while Samsung's TouchWiz software remains one of our least-favorite Android skins. These are nitpicks; right now, the Galaxy S6 offers the most raw power in the palm of your hand.

    The Best iOS Device: Apple iPhone 6

    There aren't many choices when it comes to iOS phones. If you're a fan of Apple and are already invested in its ecosystem, you have your pick of two modern smartphones or one of the company's older models. Between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, however, we pick the iPhone 6 every time. True, the 6 Plus has better battery life and a bigger screen, but it's not as comfortable to use day-in and day-out.

    The iPhone 6 offers a nigh-perfect balance of design quality and pristine usability, and despite Samsung's usurping of its crowning position atop our lineup, we remain tremendous fans of the phone. If you can afford Apple and prefer user-friendliness over customizability, it's your very best bet.

    The Best Phablet: Samsung Galaxy Note 4

    Deftly straddling the line between tablet and smartphone, phablets are big-screen devices you can use as a phone but are even better for browsing websites and watching videos thanks to their huge displays. Despite being about a generation behind current flagships, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is still the best in its class. Its included stylus is great for taking notes, and it offers split-screen app support so you can use two apps at once.

    If you're still having trouble choosing the right device for your needs, try reading some of the articles on smartphones we've written up. Between them and the comparison chart above, you should have no problem picking a phone to be your in-pocket companion for the next couple of years.