20 best mobile phones in the world today
UPDATED Top mobile phones compared: what phone is best for you?
www.techradar.com updated the top 20 mobile phones at present date.
20. Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
When we talk about a Phoenix Phone, it will forever be the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, which in the end made way for the Xperia Arc S, which makes things even better.
It's taken a right old tumble down our rankings (from number one last year) thanks to now being usurped as a flagship device by the Sony Xperia S - but given it's now got a lovely low price.
From the beautiful Reality Display with Bravia Engine to the powerful-yet-simple 8.1MP camera with Exmor R technology, this is one of the phones that people actually want to hold and play with when you show it off - plus it now boasts a 3D panorama mode, although you have to hook it up to a compatible big screen TV to view.
The Sony Ericsson overlay has cool features such as an 'exploded widgets' view, and the integration of YouTube searching for videos of songs currently playing is super cool too - plus the Xperia Arc S is now rocking deeper Facebook integration and Android 2.3.4, although it's not certain to get the Ice Cream Sandwich update.
OK, it's not dual-core powered, but Sony Ericsson has looked to fix that with a boost to a 1.4GHz processor, and until we start seeing some applications that really start to challenge these smartphones, we're happy to recommend a phone that is slick under the finger, slim in the pocket, satisfying in the hand and kinder than many on the wallet to boot.
The hardware is extremely impressive, both in terms of looks and performance. When done right, a single-core processor can still do it all at the cheaper end of the budget, and it costs a whole lot less.
As it is, we're prepared to overlook the Xperia Arc S's minor flaws, thanks to its stunning good looks, superb screen and very decent photo performance.
You can't help but love it once you've held its magically thin body and gazed adoringly into its dazzling Reality Display - but it's best to check out the new HD display on the newer Xperia S before deciding if this is the phone for you.
19 more after the break
19. HTC Sensation XE
We know it's terribly geeky, but the battle between the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S2 was one we were salivating over.
Both are dual-core powerhouses, both had cutting-edge software of the time and both the brands behind them have enjoyed success with Android in recent times.
But with the launch of the One X, HTC has a new favourite to show off to all the world, meaning if you're after a top-end Sense experience, you won't be looking at the HTC Sensation XE any more.
But that doesn't mean it's going to slide right out of the top 20 ranking - it's got a cheaper price tag and an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich to keep things ticking over nicely.
The camera is excellent, browsing and UI speeds are still speedy and the overall build quality is sure to entice a number of users to still pick up the Sensation XE and play with it in their local phone outlet - especially with Beats Audio branding, too.
The HTC Desire was the phone that showed the world what HTC could do, and the Sensation is a big step change once more. The dual-core power really shows, and the HTC Watch service is one to, well, watch, bringing movie downloads to the phone on the go.
A Beats-style upgrade brought red flashes and helped make up for the disappointment of the HTC Sensation XL - and cements its place as one of the best in the world, despite noted battery issues.
18. BlackBerry Bold 9900
The Bold 9900 is the best BlackBerry phone ever created, with a solid chassis, easy-to-use keys, a superbly hi-res screen and touch capabilities too.
BB OS 7 might not be much of an upgrade, but it still just works on a phone with a QWERTY keyboard/smaller screen combo.
The internet is faster (although not market leading), the camera has been improved and NFC capabilities push the Bold 9900 into next generation territory.
However, the price is still too high, despite recent drops, which is why we've been forced to give it such a shove down the rankings here.
If you're a BlackBerry fan, this is the phone for you without doubt. Well, that is if you can afford the still oddly high price tag - it's only this (and the the fact BB OS7 is about to forgotten) that prevents it going higher up the rankings.
17. Sony Xperia U
If you're not caught up in today's obsession with enormous display sizes, the Sony Xperia U is a great choice of smartphone.
It has all the speed, power and features of the larger Android models that cost two or three times as much - your only compromise here is seeing it all through a smaller display.
The only noticeable weaknesses here are the phone's video performance, which is terrible despite the 720p claim, and the lack of onboard storage space.
But this phone does everything else just as well as the high-end Android flagship handsets. And the battery will last longer, too.
The Sony Xperia U will do everything you want, albeit not at the full speed you may want. However, the price is right and the form is good - plus the little blinking notification light in the transparent sector pleases us.
16. Huawei Ascend G300
When you initially pull the Huawei Ascend G300 out of its box, or out of your pocket, you'll be more than impressed at the quality, given that you only handed over 100 notes for the privilege.
A quirky skin atop Android 2.3 might not sound like much, and it's a little underpowered if truth be told, but for the price it serves the purpose of making the handset stand out a little in the Android cacaphony.
The budget market is a difficult one to crack, and the G300 has managed to put in enough tech, including a 4-inch WVGA screen, 1GHz processor and slim design to compete with the Blackberry Curve 8520, the Samsung Galaxy Y and the HTC One V, all of which are more expensive.
Plus, with promised late summer update to Ice Cream Sandwich, the G300 even manages to keep up with future devices - although we're getting close to winter now and we're getting worried we won't see said upgrade.
Not every phone needs to cost thousands of pounds to use, and for those that want the latest version of Android, a big screen for movies and the ability to buy another handset without breaking the bank, the Huawei Ascend G300 is the winner for us.
15. Motorola Razr Maxx
You're not caught in a time vortex - the Motorola Razr of old is back, but in a totally new form factor.
The Motorola Razr is one of those phones that, like the Atrix, we instantly looked forward to when we saw it launched.
A super thin body, oodles of RAM, Kevlar casing and a top end processor are all things we want to see in a phone of this ilk, and it's good to see Moto attempting to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple.
And now the Maxx comes in with an improved battery that's industry leading. While we're not smitten with the design, the chance to have a phone that won't die the second you play too much Temple Run is worth recommending.
Motorola needed a phone like the Razr Maxx in its arsenal, and now it has one to be proud of. It's got all the dual-core power of the Atrix, plus a superior screen; more importantly, it's jumped from a squat chassis to a sumptuous slimline affair that glides into the pocket.
The Motorola Razr Maxx enters the market at the same time as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, which both overshadow Motorola's effort - perhaps a spec boost could have been included alongside that bigger battery.
The Motorola Razr Maxx does beat these next-generation handsets when it comes to battery life – its possible only saving grace when faced with the stiff competition.
If you're not too bothered about styling, slicker interfaces and extra features, and just want a phone that will see you through a few days, then the Motorola Razr Maxx is probably the one for you. Stay tuned for our re-review when the Ice Cream Sandwich update lands on the phone to see if it can get boosted up the rankings.
14. Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
Sony had something of a smartphone reboot in 2011, with the likes of Xperia Arc and Xperia Mini proving big hits.
But there's another winner from the now-just-Sony brand, with the Xperia Ray winning more than a few admiring glances.
It's got the innards of the Arc, plus the same pixel count - in a much smaller screen. That means the display is pin sharp, and while a little small compared to the competition, it's a very pocketable affair indeed.
The 8MP camera isn't as strong photographically as its rivals, but it still delivers quality snaps for a cheaper price tag.
Well-packaged and packing in a host of top-end Sony tech, the Xperia Ray is a smaller smartphone that squeezes a large amount of power into a pocketable handset.
It's dropped down our list due to starting to creak slightly on the spec front, but the price and imminent Ice Cream Sandwich update should keep it current and worth looking at for a few more months.
However, it's starting to creak a bit in terms of power, so make sure you get it at the bargain end of the contract spectrum if you're entranced by its teeny prowess.
13. Nokia Lumia 900
Android could learn a thing from the nearly bloatware-free Windows Phone – the Nokia Lumia 900 brings a big screen and an excellent OS together.
We can't take our hands off the Lumia 900 – not since the iPhone was overhauled in 2010 have we enjoyed touching an inanimate object this much.
It's a shame the camera hardware doesn't live up to its software – there's so much more that can be done here.
It's not as exciting as it once was, as we have the fancy Nokia Lumia 920 on its way - plus that brings 4G and the next version of mobile software through Windows Phone 8, where the Lumia 900 will always be stuck on Windows Pone 7.8
The Nokia Lumia 900 certainly isn't an iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S2 beater - but it's the best Windows Phone device out there. If you're a fan of a simple interface with some quality add-ons, then you should definitely look at Nokia's new flagship.
12. Orange San Diego
Orange has pedigree in own-brand handsets, with the San Francisco offering up an excellent mobile experience, although the San Francisco 2 did seem a little off the mark compared to its predecessor.
Thankfully Orange has managed to get back on the horse with its partnership with Intel, as the San Diego offers an impressive array of specs at its price point and challenges handsets that are £100 more expensive.
The San Diego is a serious contender for anyone looking for a decent mid-range smartphone who doesn't want to break the bank for some flagship features - although you won't get the full range of Android apps.
With a £200 price tag the San Diego is also very reasonably priced, providing a well rounded smartphone experience with treats such as an 8MP camera and NFC technology.
11. iPhone 4S
When Apple announced the iPhone 4S, it's testament to the power of the rumour mill that people were angry it wasn't called the iPhone 5, which is now a real device.
Predictably the iPhone 4S is no longer the iOS handset we recommend, but it's still a very worthy choice in the smartphone game thanks to some decent upgrades through iOS 6 (although the less said about Maps, the better...).
Siri voice recognition has shown itself to be slightly more than a novelty and has been upgraded to actually become useful with the new OS, and the screen technology is still top notch..
We were hoping for a larger display (which we now have with the iPhone 5), and things such as a lack of Bluetooth transfer, no Flash integration with the internet browser and an uninspiring contacts app still grate - but they're no match for the sheer ease of use and general operation of Apple's OS if you're talking to one of the fans.
OK, so it doesn't feel different in the pocket, and the updates don't seem to be that groundbreaking - but that doesn't matter for Apple, and the amazing camera, slick iOS 6 platform and superb display are still the things we look for.
It was one of the most expensive phones on the market but sadly hasn't dropped much in price (otherwise we would have kept it higher up the rankings) so think about whether you really want its high-end features, since the iPhone 4 is still a cheaper alternative.
10. Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The first 'Google phone' to come without the search giant's branding, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is meant to be the device that preaches the power of Ice Cream Sandwich to the awe-struck Android masses - and now it's now been updated to Android 4.1Jelly Bean.
There's something great about having a 'pure Google' phone, and the show-off factor is strong here since few will be able to get their hands on this. It's got a fantastic screen, a superb OS and extra elements such as Android Beam for sharing photos, contacts or (in the future) connecting to peripherals.
And as a smartphone or even mini computer, it's a great size with a nice weight that doesn't feel too cumbersome to carry or use.
The screen, when lit up, looks fantastic. It's 4.65-inches with a resolution of 720 x 1280, giving a ppi of 316. It really is super sharp. We would have expected nothing less, with Samsung's mobile displays among the best out there, but it's cracking for internet and video.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is mostly buoyed by the presence of Jelly Bean, but the high-quality screen, slim chassis and fast processing speeds make it a top device in our eyes. It's not worthy of the top spot as it lacks some of the power of the similar Samsung Galaxy S3 - but it's a darn sight cheaper these days.
9. Sony Xperia S
We used to love the Xperia Arc S - but we're a fickle bunch, and now Ericsson has been cast aside, we're all over the new brand like a cat on a fresh set of curtains.
The Xperia S almost has too many positive points to list, with a new HD screen, 12MP camera and dual-core processor all combining to make one of the finest smartphones of 2012.
As you will gather from our review, the Sony Xperia S has both an amazing screen and a dual-core processor that never slows down - plus that 12MP camera is really one of the best out there.
Sony has also very kindly bundled lots of software with the Xperia S out of the box, which saves you having to dash to Google Play as soon as you turn on to grab vital apps.
Battery life is the only slight wobble (if you don't mind a plastic casing), but it will generally last a day under normal conditions, and that's a solid enough benchmark for us.
There are still some niggles with the Xperia S but we think it says a lot that when deciding on the pros and cons for the device, we really struggled with the cons section.
This handset may not be the cheapest (although it still costs less than the likes of the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2 when it launched) but we are really impressed with what Sony has done for its first solo foray.
That's now been improved with the announcement of the Sony Xperia T, with faster innnards and a better screen - but that means the Xperia S will become a budget winner hopefully, so don't worry about the first Sony phone just yet.
8. Samsung Galaxy S2
The king is dead - and the former number one phone in the world continues to slide down the rankings. That's not to take anything away from a cracking phone that is getting to a really low price these days, but it's nothing compared to its successor.
Make no mistake - this is still a great phone, thanks to the Ice Cream Sandwich update, and the design has moved from cool to iconic pretty quickly. However, we're still not sure when or even if the S2 will get an update to Jelly Bean, while those below it have all been confirmed (well, apart from the iPhone 5, obviously).
What we love about the Samsung Galaxy S II is the sheer amount of stuff that's packed in under the chassis - but more important is the way Samsung has used all that tech to create a phone that just works near-flawlessly.
The dual-core 1.2GHz processor, the Super AMOLED plus screen and the excellent sonic performance of the media player all combine to make a real doozy of a mobile phone.
Recording in 1080p is a nice touch (given that it actually works most of the time) and the camera is more than enough to take great shots in a short space of time - although we suggest you check out the phones lower in this list for more powerful snappers.
In short, be it internet browsing, navigation, media, or social networking- the Samsung Galaxy S2 is still more than good enough for all those functions in one phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S2 has sold over many millions of units worldwide - and it's showing no sign of slowing down in the popularity stakes, so it stays in the top ten for now.
It's a cracking media mobile, still next generation in web browsing thanks to slick Flash integration, a very good replacement for a pocket camcorder and, goshdarnit, it makes calls pretty well too.
The Samsung Galaxy S II not only set a new bar for smartphones in 2011; it smashed the bar, recreated it in its own image and even managed to see off the competition of an Apple smartphone that doesn't drop signal all over the place - but now it's been usurped by a more powerful device.
7. Sony Xperia T
The Sony Xperia T takes over from the Sony Xperia S as the Japanese company's new flagship device, but borrows the design found on the popular, but now aging Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and Arc S.
It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, with a 4.6-inch display boasting Sony's Bravia TV technology and on the back of the handset you'll find the 13MP camera – one of this phone's best features.
Sony has produced another impressive smartphone that offers the functionality and performance we're looking for in a top-level handset.
That being said, when compared with the earlier Sony Xperia S, or some of the other flagship Android handsets, the difference is negligible.
The Sony Xperia T is a very, very good phone. Everything about it is slick and well-executed and the performance is certainly what we expect from a £400 device.
However, the Xperia S was a very, very good phone. When a new model comes out, we look for it to improve upon the previous one and unfortunately, hand on heart; this doesn't improve on the last generation of smartphones as much as it should - so that's why it just pips the S, but doesn't challenge the leading pack in our top 20.
6. LG Optimus 4X HD
If we didn't live in a world where we have the Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X, there is no doubt about it – the LG Optimus 4X HD would be one of the best phones out there. Its specs are fantastic.
The trouble is, LG has released this handset six months too late, which means it doesn't offer anything mind-blowing or really that alternative.
However, it's a media powerhouse, has sleek lines and has power in spades - plus a better battery than the One X, with the same chipset.
In summary, we do recommend it – it's a cracking piece of kit. And if you can get it on a good deal, we say 'go for it', but there's no real reason to pick this over a Samsung Galaxy SIII, an HTC One X or even a One S, with the last option impressing hugely on the design front.
A fantastic phone that really joins the benchmark level set a few months ago, rather than breaking new ground.
5. HTC One S
There are few phones we play with where we think that we have the complete package and would happily give five stars. The HTC One S would have had five stars had it not been for the 16GB memory cap and non-HD screen.
The phone actually climbs a place in today's rankings, thanks to a promised upgrade to Jelly Bean and a continuing drop in price... plus the more we fondle it, the more we realise this is the best-designed phone on the planet.
We'd have even settled for 32GB in the absence of an expansion card slot. If you're a music lover, you're much better off with the Samsung Galaxy S3.
Or check out the HTC One X if you're after a little bit more bang for your buck... although you'll need to spend more bucks to actually get the HD screen and quad-core processor in your pocket.
But let's not get caught up with negativity here: if you're not bothered about a massive memory (which most people aren't), you probably can't do much better now. The HTC One S is a beautiful handset blessed with beautiful capabilities and is already available at very palatable price points.
HTC could have launched the One S and not bothered with the One X in many ways - it's a beautiful handset blessed with a nice skin and the latest version of Android in the shape of Ice Cream Sandwich.
It's more of an evolution of the HTC Sensation range: slimmed down, nicer finish and far more feature-rich - and you will struggle to put it down once you've popped it in your hand.
It hasn't even been a year since the original Samsung Galaxy Note launched. Many (including us, we admit) were not convinced. Who on earth would want something so big to make their calls and surf the internet, even with a glorified stylus? Cue awkward silence.
Millions of you, it would appear. The Galaxy Note sold by the bucketload, so how do you follow that up? With something better, of course - the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
Faster, stronger, better looking, and more functional, the Galaxy Note 2 is better connected than ever, and thanks to that increased screen size (up to an eye-bulging 5.5-inches), now takes the crown in our eyes as the perfect media player.
Samsung has achieved something special here, because it has made the Galaxy Note 2 bigger than the original, but pulls it off so that you don't notice it too much and the fact that it launches running Android Jelly Beanand has such grunt with that quad-core processor makes this a class-leading phone.
As a phone, it's big, but once you get over that, if you can, it's great. As a PMP, it really does excel, and as a web communicator, it is almost second to none (though we can't fully get the taste of Flash absence out of our mouth).
Ultimately, there's no getting away from the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a niche device. But it does almost everything it sets out to do perfectly, with grace, class and maximum functionality. And if you're in the market for a larger smartphone or a small tablet, there really is no better device.
3. iPhone 5
Did you see this one coming? The iPhone 5 in at third place in our rankings? Some thought higher, some thought lower - it depends on your level of Apple bias.
Never has a company polarised opinion in the smartphone world like Apple - and with the iPhone 5, so many are quick to decry it while others know it to be the smartphone they've been waiting for.
And let's make no bones about it: this is a stunning phone, with a gorgeous two-tone finish, a superbly high-res screen that's been extended to four inches and an efficient yet powerful core.
The iOS 6 update is a good one, and while some feel it to be ageing slightly, many see it as doing exactly what they want... and given Apple has built its smartphone reputation on simplicity, this makes sense.
However, it's not all cookies and cream for Apple, as it's ditched the Google Maps app for something that's not as slick or well-stocked in its own Maps app.
Sure, you've got turn by turn directions, but given some places are listed incorrectly or missing, combined with some of the laughable 3D modelling in the flyover mode, it's not Apple's finest hour.
Plus the iPhone 5 is very expensive... we're not sure how such sky high prices can be charged when equivalent smartphones are available on the market.
Let's not beat around the bush here: the iPhone 5 is one of the best smartphones in the world thanks to a great package of technology, design and UI intuition.
iOS definitely needs an update, and we'll always hope for a price decrease soon... and if it wasn't for that and the Maps issue, the iPhone 5 might have been higher in our rankings.
2. HTC One X
The HTC One X is an odd handset - not in the design (lovely) or the features (top-end) - but that it's seen as a 'renaissance' phone for the firm, despite its success in such a short time.
The likes of the HTC Sensation and Salsa were seen as overly complicated, so HTC has taken things back to what it knows: making beautiful hardware fused with a top-end skin.
The polycarbonate shell is smooth and premium-feeling in the hand, and the large 4.7-inch HD screen might not be OLED but it's certainly crisp and clear - and we haven't even mentioned the quad-core processor beating at the heart of the One X.
There's only one downside - well, two if you're a fan of expandable storage, since this 32GB-imbued monster doesn't have a microSD slot - and that's the battery. It's OK, but many will find it doesn't last the full day in many usage scenarios, and that's a problem.
However, thanks to being just that little bit improved again by recent updates, we deem this handset worthy to go above the iPhone 5 and the rest of the chasing pack.
It's important not to judge the HTC One X on the battery life issue - make no mistake, this is a phone that is worthy of any pocket.
The design and software integration is enough to inspire lust in any phone buyer, and the range of included apps is superb - you won't regret owning a One X, especially if you're not a power user.
Would we recommend you buy one? Yes, without hesitation. If you're torn between this and an HTC One X, it's a very difficult one to call – the camera on the One X is slightly better and the overall feel might appeal. But in terms of pure usability and power, we really like what Samsung has put on the table.Make no mistake: the Samsung Galaxy S3 is the best smartphone on the market. It's got every kind of feature we could ask for and more, and raises the bar once again in terms of what consumers should be expecting in terms of battery life, processor speed and media management.
And we're sure some of you are wondering how the Samsung Galaxy S3 bests the iPhone 5 - well, for starters, Google Maps works properly. And it's nearly £130 cheaper. And it has a bigger screen, which we think is winning.
That's not the only reason the Samsung Galaxy S3 is at the top of our best phone rankings. Smart Stay, Super AMOLED HD screen, up to 128GB storage, Music Hub, removable battery, blisteringly quick camera... we're getting tired listing all the great things it does.
The design isn't as impressive as when we first laid eyes on the S2, but to us that's the only big issue we can find - and that's enough to recommend the Galaxy S3 without question.
If you waited feverishly for the Samsung Galaxy S3, you won't be disappointed. It's fast, it's sleek and it packs the latest technology that will get your pulse racing.
Samsung faced an almost impossible task in trying to create a worthy sequel to the Galaxy S2, but the Galaxy S3 should definitely be one of, if not thephone you should consider on your next trip to your local handset emporium.