LAPTOP reviewed more than 50 smartphones during the last year. We dug into those reviews as well as reviews of handsets that are older but still for sale. Then we did more testing, comparing cameras and speakers and more across flagship devices. The results, weighted by category, add up to a possible 100 points. We evaluated each brand using the following categories.
By examining reviews from June 15, 2012, to June 15, 2013, this category is weighted heavily to reflect the average star ratings and performance scores from a given company’s handsets. Extra points are offered for Editors’ Choice Award-winning machines. By the same token, we take away extra points for any review that earned 2.5 stars or less (not recommended).
The software and user interface included with a brand’s phones determines not only how easy the devices are to use but also how engaging and customizable the experiences are. From lockscreen shortcuts to the way brands handle notifications, we looked closely at UI across both low- and high-end handsets.
Because you need your smartphone to work all day, few things can top the importance of this category. We compared a brand’s battery life average against the smartphone average (using LAPTOP’s own battery test) to see how it compares.
By sneaking a few tricks up its sleeve, some smartphones find a special place in our hearts. And if you’re not innovating, other brands will lap you. Special features can range from unique apps pre-loaded by the brand to camera modes to the ability to use your smartphone as a TV remote.
A fast or long-lasting phone doesn’t mean much if you don’t enjoy viewing content and apps on the screen. Is the display brighter than average? Does the company pack in the pixels? What size options are available, and do those big screens offer wide-enough viewing angles?
We not only looked at the quality of shots taken with each brand’s flagship across nine different categories, we also dug into a brand’s special features to determine a winner in this round.
No one wants a drab slab of a phone. That’s why we looked at each manufacturer’s build quality, materials, ergonomics and overall aesthetics. Drab slabs brought up the rear.
Each of the flagship phones for all nine brands were compared side-by-side both with and without any extra features turned on. We also examined the general call quality and built-in technologies.
If you can only get a specific brand through one carrier, the customer loses. That’s why we took into account how many phones a manufacturer produces and carrier availability.