My Top 5 Tested Android Devices of 2014

Generic Top 5 Graphic

Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat, as I’ve only fully tested a grand total of seven Android-powered devices this past year. Of the extra pair, one gets an honourable mention and the other a dishonourable one. In fact, let’s go ahead and get that part of the list out of the way:

Honourable Mentions:

1. Motorola 2014 Moto G

Moto’s refreshed G—codenamed “titan”—didn’t make my list only because I never had an extended play with one. But there’s no question that it’s an improvement over the original in every way, with a bigger screen, more megapixels, micro SD and stereo speakers. That anyone in Canada can buy it unlocked from their local Staples for the same price as its predecessor is icing on the cake.

2. Xiaomi Redmi 1S

Here’s another improvement over the original Moto G, with a removable battery and dual-SIM support for the equivalent of $150 CAD! Too bad it’s 3G radio doesn’t work in this part of the world; gotta cut corners somewhere, I guess.

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Apart from a Samsung Canada hands-on I haven’t really had any quality time with this latest iteration of the original phablet. But from what I saw (and Howard’s review) it looks like a solid upgrade in every way. I certainly think that ditching the flap-covered USB 3 hybrid charging port was a good idea. I wonder if Samsung still region-locks these things…?

Dishonourable Mentions:

1. Firefox Flame

Its not so much the device itself but the craptacular OS that runs on it. Way to aim low, Mozilla. ಠ_ಠ

2. Nexus 6

Google courts carriers and the iPhone crowd at the expense of everyone else. The AT&T version of this thing is barely a Nexus at all.

3. Samsung Galaxy S5

“Joyless” is the only word I can think of to describe it. Despite the spec bump over the massively-popular SGS4 there’s nothing about it that gets me even remotely excited in any way. SGS5 owners, feel free to tell me how I’m wrong…

And now, the list!

My Top 5 of 2014:

5. Sony Z3 Compact

Sony easily outguns this year’s only other contender for sub-5 inch flagship, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Cheers for it being available SIM-unlocked from Sony; jeers for that locked bootloader.

4. LG G3

The first QHD smartphone of 2014, LG’s flagship G3 is the dark horse on this list. It’s got a lot going for it—a removable battery, great camera, super-thin bezels… And the really good news: any variant of this device can be easily rooted. The bad news? Custom ROMs are as yet only available for the European version (D855).

3. Moto G LTE

Last spring Motorola addressed two of the orginal Moto G’s biggest shortcomings—onboard storage and lack of LTE data—with a mid-run refresh. Its codename is “peregrine”, important if you’re looking for custom ROMs and such. And yes, they’re out there!

2. HTC One M8

Last spring also saw the release of HTC’s 2014 flagship M8. I think it’s fair to say that the M8’s superior build materials were enough to get Samsung off their cheap plastic kick, which is saying something.

Even if the Developer and Google Play Editions of this device aren’t available to Canadians, every M8 user can unlock their bootloader (with HTC’s blessing) and enjoy any of the big names in custom ROMs. For me, its only downfall was the Duo Camera which, at the end of the day, was kind of a gimmick.

1. OnePlus One

Believe the hype. Or don’t—the OnePlus social media PR machine had their fair share of gaffes this past year. Despite that, the OnePlus One is, in my opinion, entirely worthy of its “flagship-killer” moniker. SIM-unlocked? Check. Unlockable bootloader? Check. Gobs of onboard storage? Check. Better than stock Android experience? Thanks to Cyanogen’s Privacy Guard, check. Surprisingly affordable? Check.

As for its availability, sure, the invite system was frustrating. But just by following OnePlus on social media and paying a little bit of attention I’ve been able to purchase three OPOs so far. If you’re looking for the spiritual successor to the Nexus 5, it’s made by OnePlus.