2013 was a remarkable year in advances with Android as we got to see a ton of heavy hitters come out via hardware showcasing changes in design, battery life, display, and just how many companies would try to make a phablet sized version smartphone. Updates to the Android OS was done 2x this year with 4.3 giving us “restricted profiles”, more efficient use of Bluetooth, and faster user interface switching. With Android 4.4, Google decided to make it run smooth as butter and is aiming for it to work on not just the newest devices but older as well. It’s still a work in progress but its coming.
So we picked some very popular topics that you may be familiar with seeing and some not so much and tried to get down to an overall winner. Selections were based on votes alone in the G Style offices and battles for the best got very close to the wire where clear-cut winners were hard to decide. Hopefully you enjoy our picks in “G Style’s 1st Annual Android Awards”.
Best Design: HTC One
This one was a no brainer picking the HTC One.You have to applaud HTC for taking a chance and making their smartphone in an aluminum build. Besides taking the lead from plastic they added dual front facing speakers on the front called “BoomSound”. With this it gave you a stereo sound experience that would never be thought of having on a smartphone’s exterior. Its 4.7” size made it not too large and fit into pants pockets with ease.
Runner-Up: LG G2
Even more of a design risk then the HTC One was the LG G2. It had its buttons removed from the sides completely and thrown in the back right under its camera lens. By doing this it gave you an overall slim device as they were able to cut the bezels ever so thin. Also its display gives you wall to wall screen real estate and can be turned on by giving a “Knock-On” it.
Best Mini Me: HTC One Mini
If you’re looking for a close to miniature version of its signature model then seek no further than the HTC One Mini. What was great about the HTC One such as its aluminum body and signature BoomSound speakers makes its way to this 4.3”version. Even though the screen resolution was downsized for the One Mini, it still managed to execute a great display and its battery life lasting close to a day. Besides this it’s on tap to receive 4.3 Android (while not 4.4 yet) and Sense 5.5 as we speak.
Runner Up: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
If you’re looking to trim down that 5” display of the Samsung Galaxy S4 , the S4 Mini would be a great bet for you coming in at 4.3”. It works for fans who love Samsung’s TouchWiz OS, its 8MP camera shoots decent pictures and takes far better video then those in its arena. Some features are missing but it retains some that are necessary. [divider][/divider]
Best Phablet: Samsung Galaxy Note 3
After a runaway success with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 in 2012 going into 2013, we saw a massive exodus of large smartphones from various manufacturers. While some were larger versions of their counterparts such as the HTC One MAX and Sony Xperia Z Ultra, the Galaxy Note 3 ran from the competition with its refresh from Samsung in the phablet arena. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 brought on a better battery life, superior 1080p AMOLED screen, one of the fastest processors on the market which was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip combined with 3GB RAM(only phone available with this much), and a 13MP camera. Crazy part besides the camera shooting 1080P video it could also shoot 4K videos providing with some of the best shots in the biz. Samsung managed to make such various improvements with this device that it tackles the Note 2 and puts the Galaxy Note series in a whole other category from the Galaxy S line of phones.
Runner Up: LG Optimus G Pro
A surprise hit that came out this year was from LG. The Optimus G Pro at its time looked to thwart the Note 2 with its updated specs & elegant IPS 1080p display and only thing may have been hampering it was no stylus and the fact of it releasing a couple of months before the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 which at that point everyone was clinging to their wallets for. Otherwise it is a nice sized phablet and showed off some what would become of the mighty LG G2. Releasing it on multiple carriers besides AT&T may of helped it garner more buzz as well. [divider][/divider]
Best Display: LG G2
When it comes to getting a smartphone the first thing obviously you notice is the screen. The LG G2 sported some of the most vibrant colors of any handset at any size with its 5.2-inch 1080p IPS LCD display and rocking 423ppi. It’s as close to edge to edge as you can get, with its rather small bezel based on its sleek design and with buttons showcased on the back it feels great overall. Also with it having an elegant display it didn’t hamper on the battery life so you are able to play games or browse the net all day long without disappointment.
Runner Up: HTC One
If you’re not looking for full vibrant colors then look no further than the HTC One as it took more of a realistic approach with its 4.7-inch IPS Super LCD 3 1080p display and its massive 468ppi. With its excellent sharp screen it even reflected better in direct sunlight then some competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy S4. Sure it’s slightly smaller than some of its 5-inch nemeses but some prefer the comfort size more than others.
Best Camera: LG G2
While there has a lot of nice cameras on smartphones this year, the crown would have to go to LG’s G2. This 13MP shooter takes beautiful shots and some of the best we have seen ever. LG knew how to utilize the lens with it having Opticial Image Stabilization (OIS) helped knocked this bad boy out the park to give us crisp colorful clear shots. Nothing worst then seeing blurry shots no matter how steady you try and keep your hand. The buttons being used on the back also helped for nice front facial snaps as well.
Runner Up: Samsung Galaxy S4
Even though the LG G2 took the title, the Galaxy S4 by Samsung wasn’t too far behind. It as well had taken great images with its 13MP camera and its video recording in 1080p was stellar and you might not even have known it was recorded with a smartphone as I was told multiple times. There are endless camera features to keep you’re pic snapping items going and is overall a great camera phone to behold.
Sleeper Hit: Moto X
One of the most rumored android smartphones in 2013 came from Motorola/Google. While coming with not the greatest specs on paper, the Moto X showed you the best isn’t exactly necessary. Built with a Moto X8 Chip which is a Dual Core Processor, its utilization of processing power is some of the best seen with a smartphone. Even with its 4.7” AMOLED HD 720P display it looks great and with these specs gives you awesome battery life. Other features such its Active Display & Touchless Controls makes you wonder how other phones wont implement these features in the future. If you are looking for a close to pure Android experience, the Moto X is good for that also. It carries barely any bloatware, smooth UI, and has gotten the latest version of Android KitKat 4.4 almost faster than Google’s Nexus line themselves. Motorola’s Motomaker option allows you to give your Moto X its own identity if you want to make cosmetic changes. Also deals are usually available for this device either from Moto itself or the carriers.
Runner Up: LG G2
With the LG Optimus G Pro that came out earlier in the year, everyone thought the successor to the LG Optimus G would be about the same with minor advantages. We were actually taken for a loop and given a design change we haven’t seen on a smartphone and let alone actually worked. Buttons on the back and tapping on the screen to wake it up were things to get used to but operated sufficiently. LG went from just releasing a device exclusively on one carrier and gave it to all four major providers. The LG G2 went on to have some of the best specs and performance seen in an Android device no we seen in quite a while. It was also great to see them cut the name down to just G2 as well.
Best Overall App: Google Music All Access
Starting out as an online music app called Google Music, it allowed you to upload 20,000 songs of your own music to its servers and would even match it with their servers for correct synching. Being that’s in the online cloud, you could access your music from any Android device. In May 2013, it evolved into Google Music Play All Access (title too long) and added a subscription stream service rivaling the music stream king known as Spotify. Pricing was the same, and the UI looked easier and was better to navigate. Also with features such as “Listen Now” and “Get Lucky” which caters to your music listening, it’s looking to overthrow Spotify dominance tune by tune.
Runner Up: Instagram
This year we saw Instagram help solidify itself as the top photo sharing/social media app with a bit of radical changes. Helping to compete with Twitter’s Vine, the addition of video was created going beyond Vine’s effort of 6 secs to 15 seconds of sharing. With Instagram’s 150 million user base there is tons of media out at this point. Also recently they added Instagram Direct which allows for you to send a video or image via Direct Messaging and keeping the conversation there. Looks like that Facebook acquisition is starting to pay off.
Best Photo Edit App: Photo Grid
One of the most used collage building apps would have to go to Photo Grid. From where it started last year with its simplicity and ease of use, it has continued to add-on to its collage creating resume and make it a force to be reckoned with as far as throwing your best photos together. Besides that its options for Layouts, adding Text, and other features make you wonder why you were uploading one picture at a time in the first place.
Runner Up: Snapseed
Previously as a iOS exclusive, photo app Snapseed was bought by Google and added under their umbrella to help out with their photo editing and filtering. Checking out Snapseed, the combination of photo manipulation that can be done with the application is endless and the quality is still on par without much decreasing imagery of the overall photo.
Best Tablet: Nexus 7(2013)
One of the most affordable android tablets in the tech game would be from Google with the Nexus 7. While the original released in 2012, this 2013 revision was a complete overhaul with a better designed structure, cameras on the front and back, and running some nice hardware with 2GB RAM and Quad Core Snapdragon chip by Qualcomm. All 7” of the 2013 Nexus 7 looks great by all means and it’s hard to bypass this with a starting price of $229. It makes those cheaper tablets cry in shame and those higher priced ones take notice.
Runner Up: LG G Pad 8.3
Flying under the radar is the G Pad 8.3 from LG which was announced back at Mobile World Congress and released in the US for $349.99 last month. Like its smartphone counterpart the LG G2, its specs are beefy and tears through so much in its path. It still has the awkward UI that LG likes to use, where there is so much going on but you can always opt for the Google Play Edition which is currently for the exact same price. The GPE version is the first device other than Nexus 7 & 10 to be added to their tablet rotation. It does come out to $120 more than the Nexus 7 but you’re definitely getting a bigger size and larger memory capacity to play around with. [divider][/divider]
Best Smartphone: HTC One
Voting was pretty tight on what the best Android phone of 2013 would be in the G Style offices. There were so many potential favorites but it came down to one phone that surprised us all this year which was the HTC One. The One brought a different design then what we’re accustomed to seeing, especially with all devices being made with some form of plastic and they went the aluminum route. Throwing stereo speakers on the front worked better than expected and wasn’t seen as a gimmick and provided excellent sound. HTC’s Sense 5 OS brought a robust user interface and also introduced us to Blinkfeed bringing you the latest news that you wanted to see right away. Overall the HTC One was crafted beautifully from the inside and out and makes our number “One” android smartphone of 2013.
Runner Up: LG G2
When I say it was down to the wire for Best Smartphone it was oh so close. The LG G2 was close on being our selection of the year based on similar reasons the HTC One was chosen. The G2 brought a refreshed look into the smartphone game with its razor-thin design and button placements not usually seen. And with all these changes it actually worked better than advertised. The gorgeous display gave you brilliant colors; its chipset created tremendous speeds and even with both these you still got extremely good battery life. LG demonstrated sometimes it’s worth taking a risk *Hint Samsung, Apple*.
Going into 2014…
Seeing Google have a streamlined OS across all or most of its devices will be a sight to see. And we aren’t just talking about its Nexus/GPE ones either. With Android Kit Kat 4.4 and the way it’s coded, it’s made to work on high-end and entry-level devices. It looks like Android/Google is realizing they need to tie up one of their worst things in the mobile industry and what slows them heavily which is fragmentation. Android should confidently be able to turn the tide in 2014, if they keep up having such remarkable devices showcasing their technology and they continue to work with the best tech brands in the business today.