Without sounding like a harp, I want to reiterate my belief that 2014 was perhaps the game changing year when it comes to smartphones. I am sure there are many more in the offing, but it is rare for a year to have so many that were good, and that too at different price brackets. If needed there could be a best phone in each Rs 10,000 slab and they could compete among themselves. It was that kind of year. The list below is not is any order. Depending on your budget and preferences, you can change the rankings.
My top 5, actually phones that I would potentially want to spend money on, is in the video above.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4: The best phablet got better this year with a stylus that is actually better than a pen. The Note still retains the edge when it comes to processing power in Android phones and has the best display in a smartphone. It has a camera which can now give you 4K recording and there are a handful of apps that make the best use of the stylus. In 2015, you will be able to buy the Note Edge too, provided you can afford it.
Apple iPhone 6: The phone might not be as tempting as before, but the iPhone is still among the best smartphones in the market, any market. It still has features that the Android phones are still catching up with. This time that feature would be Apple Pay. Plus there is more scope for customisation now as well as compatibility with the iWatch coming soon.
BlackBerry Passport: This phone might not have flown off the shelves, but it was certainly the most innovative of the year with a different form factor and a unique keyboard. The phone, which was the shape of a passport and made to fit any shirt pocket, also had a surprisingly good camera and great battery life. It showed that BlackBerry still had some steam left in it as a hardware company.
Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact: If you are looking for a complete android phone, then the Z3 is pretty much up there with top-end performance, a great camera with 4K recording and a slim design. It is an added advantage that the Xperia flagships still have the best waterproofing in town. For those who didn’t want to spend as much or use a large phone, Sony had the Compact version which for many was a better option.
Lenovo Vibe X2: Lenovo got the sweet spot right by giving the best possible specs at a very affordable price point. The phone had everything, great processing power, a good camera, a decent battery and innovative design. Plus you could add a battery layer to make it last longer and a speaker layer to increase the sound output. No wonder it is called the world’s first layered phones.
Huawei Honor 6: I haven’t reviewed this phone, but my colleague who did was confident enough to suggest this as the next phone for his elder sister. That is good enough for me to include the phone in this list. I am putting this a notch below the Lenovo Vibe X2 because for me it has more brand value, and customer service centres, around India than Huawei.
HTC Desire 816: The HTC Desire 816 is a good mid-range phone with features that you would expect at this range. On top of all this is a camera that and compete with the very best, across price points. Now, there is a cheaper version of the phone in the HTC 816G with a processor that is clocked slightly slower. Both are good picks in the mid range.
Moto G (2nd Gen): The Moto G gives you the best bang for the buck in its price. And that is a price most people are comfortable spending on a smartphone these days. Now you know why this phone has been so successful in India. It has been a stellar comeback by Motorola.
OnePlus One: This phone gives you almost every spec you get in a top end phone at less than half the price. I like the phone for its great processing power, 64GB storage and superb camera. The phone was pretty good with the CyanogenMod operating system, but it remains to be seen how it does with a new OS.
Micromax Canvas Knight: I still like this phone because it was the first to get the spec-to-price ratio right. Sweet spot meant it was a phone that offered much more than its price tag at that point of time. Since then almost every successful phone has been able to find this sweet spot. But the Canvas Knight was the first to do this year.
Asus Zenfone 5: The Zenfone 5 could have been priced at least Rs 5000 more and people would have still bought it. But the phone was priced below Rs 10,000 making it a big hit. It helped that there were cheaper as well as more expensive version around. The phone stood out for its Zen UI, low-light camera and was Intel’s first big bet in the smartphone space.
Moto E: Moto showed the world what it means to make a budget phone when it launched the Moto E at an unbelievable price point. The phone spurred many people to switch over to a smartphone any rival companies to ensure that they had a good phone at the entry level. For once a cheap phone did not look cheap.
Nokia Lumia 530: While a newer version has come in without the Nokia branding, this earlier version seems a better bet at the moment as it has a cheaper price tag and almost the same features at the Lumia 535. Users get almost free access to Microsoft services, a good camera and a phone that is different from the rest of the pack. You will have to live with a smaller screen though.