2014 had plenty of new challengers trying to compete with established
manufacturers. This shook things up a bit, so we have some new faces
in our line-up of the best, worst and ugliest phones of the year.
The Good: Honourable mentions
There have been a number of interesting devices this year, many
of which are products of small companies thinking differently. The
2 shows a radical solution to the problem of power drain, the
tackles the issues of privacy and warrantless interception, and
Jolla showed promise with their Sailfish OS smartphone
(due next year). The Fairphone
makes commendable efforts to take a different ethical stance when
it comes to building smartphones.
Motorola made real progress, with the second generation of the
Moto G and Moto
X smartphones along with the elegant Moto
360 smartwatch. LG impressed us with the LG
G3 and the phone company formerly known as Nokia made no compromises
with the Lumia
HTC One M8 and One E8
One M8 and One
E8 are a pair of closely-related high-end smartphones.
The M8 has an elegant metal housing that makes it look
distinctive, but the tricky dual camera manages to put
some customers off. The cheaper E8 comes with a conventional
camera but looks rather boring, and it isn't widely
available. There M8 is also very unusual in that it
comes in an Android or Windows
version, so really there are a trio of devices here.
HTC have done an excellent job in creating something
a bit different with the M8, and they have tried very
hard not to be in the "me too" crowd. We look
forward to the HTC One M9.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Forget about the smaller iPhone 6, the headline-grabbing
Apple phone this year was the iPhone
6 Plus which finally broke out of the undersized
form factor that had been holding it back. At last,
Apple had a product that was competitive in every way
with the competition and which Apple fans didn't have
to make excuses for.
Some weakness in the chassis design led to initial
reports of the phone being prone to bending, leading
to a great deal of negative publicity that seemed to
die down quite quickly. If Apple follow their usual
pattern we should see a slightly improved version (perhaps
the iPhone 6S Plus) sometime during 2015.
A flagship-class device for half the price of the
competition or less, the OnePlus
One makes very few compromises in terms of features
or quality. The slogan of OnePlus is "Never Settle",
and the attention to detail in the One is extremely
impressive, and it seems that OnePlus have a passion
for design and engineering that you'd normally associate
with their much more expensive rivals.
It's a hard phone to get hold of - you usually have
to get a invite first, although there have been some
released to the general public. And some devices have
a problem with a yellowing of the bottom of the screen,
which is possibly down to rushed production processes.
Nonetheless, the OnePlus One indicates that you can
have everything you want for a much more reasonable
price than the competition.
Because of the impressive feature set and the very
low price, we believe that the OnePlus One is the best
phone of 2014.
Manufacturers have been pretty careful (and boring) in 2014
compared to 2013 which saw several handset disasters. But there
were still phones that failed to reach their mark.
Samsung Galaxy S5
Galaxy S5 singularly failed to capture the imagination
of consumers, even if it did sell reasonably well. An
evolution of the S4, it seemed that there was very little
to make the S5 stand out in terms of features or quality.
You could probably sum the Galaxy S5 up by saying
that it is boring. Yes, Samsung do have more interesting
devices in their product line, but this particular one
is far too conservative.
That having been said, it's a decent handset to have
in all other respects. But really it needs to be exceptional
to be truly competitive.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini
Take the lacklustre Galaxy S5 and remove almost all
the really desirable features, then you end up with
Galaxy S5 Mini.
Another addition to Samsung's exceptionally muddled
range, the only real selling point of this phone was
the name which led people to believe that they'd get
something as powerful as the S5. They didn't.
Samsung have been doing this for a long time, and
we think it is about time that they stopped passing
off inferior handsets as mini versions of their flagship
Perhaps it's a bit unfair to include the Samsung
Z as it got cancelled. But this is really part of
the problem, Samsung's attempt to create a rival smartphone
platform to Android by using Tizen has not gone well
at all. It is perhaps worth noting one of the predecessors
to Tizen was MeeGo which was also a bit of a disaster
There's a very long list of manufacturers who have
tried to fight Android and Apple, and most of those
have been failures. The world does not need another
mobile phone OS, but it looks like there's a chance
that Tizen might find a niche in smartwatches instead.
A combination of failure to appear and being a superfluous
idea means that in our opinion the Samsung Z is
the worst phone of 2014.
An ugly phone isn't necessarily a bad phone, and besides
beauty in the eye of the beholder. But these two handsets are a
bit challenging to look at.
Don't get us wrong - the Sonim
XP7 is an incredibly rugged fully-featured smartphone
that we like a lot. But the result of all that ruggedness
is something with the aesthetic appeal of an armoured
It looks the way it does simply because it is designed
to be exceptionally durable. Yes, there are certainly
many prettier phones out there. But none of them would
survive the sort of things that the Sonim XP7 can take.
If your phone is likely to get dropped, knocked,
muddy, covered with gloop, splashed, dunked, frozen
or baked or is very likely to be used in VERY LOUD environments
then you probably already want one of these, and you
won't care what it looks like.
Again, there's quite a lot that is admirable about
Passport and it certainly has appeal to long-suffering
BlackBerry fans. But it is a hugely wide device that
it rather shocking when you take in its sheer physical
Where the Sonim looks like it does for a very good
reason, the Passport's looks are rather less necessary.
BlackBerry promoted the Passport by citing how useful
it was to have a wide screen when viewing content, but
that completely ignored the fact that on a standard
smartphone you can make the screen wider by rotating
the phone by 90 degrees.
You can't fault BlackBerry for thinking out of the
box, but this design is just too esoteric. In our view,
the BlackBerry Passport is the ugliest phone of 2014.