Whether you are thinking about getting a new 2015 flagship smartphone like the Galaxy S6 or maybe getting the 2014 LG G3 as prices have dropped in half, here’s some of my thoughts into the Android smartphones from 2014 and 2015.
Now, this buying guide is geared towards people who want to know some of the highlights of each of these phones and I wanted to include some of my thoughts on rooting and custom ROM development on each. This isn’t probably the best guide in the world but then again, I have personally bought all of these phones with my hard, earned money and yes, I have used them all as daily driver. If you are in the market to buy a new phone or used phone, this guide should help you.
First, I will include Galaxy Note 3. Although it’s a 2013 device, I still consider it 2014 phone since this phone always comes out near the end of the year plus Note 3 is still a beastly phone. If you want the best phablet under $350, Note 3 may be your best bet. Coupled by Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor at 2.3Ghz and 1080P screen, the Note 3 will also give you the ability to swap out batteries on-the-go and easily extend the storage up to extra 128GB with use of its micro-SD card slot. This is probably one of the most versatile smartphones out there if you also consider its S-Pen capabilities. Note 3 also has great custom ROM support, you will find more custom ROMs for this bad boy than Note 4 as it’s an older phone. With overclocking to 2.726Ghz, you can easily surpass the 2.5Ghz Snapdragon 801 processor on newer smartphones like Galaxy S5, LG G3, and OnePlus One.
Prices on the Note 3 vary anywhere from around $380 for a brand, new device to $300 for a used model. I highly recommend you to buy the T-Mobile Note 3 or the SM-N9005 international model as they have the best custom ROMs and the T-Mobile Note 3 supports all AT&T, T-Mobile, and international 4G LTE frequencies. Stay away from AT&T or Verizon Note 3 models (unless they are rooted or they come shipped in unbroken box with original firmware) as they have locked bootloaders and you cannot install AOSP custom ROMs nor root it on Lollipop. In general, AT&T and Verizon are bad news for flashaholics, avoid them at all costs when possible!!!
Probably the fastest focusing smartphone camera in year 2014 was the LG G3. Without a doubt, this phone could literally take instant photos in action shots. The first time I played golf and took some shots of my friend’s impact, I was amazed by G3’s laser focus abilities. Not only that, the LG G3 is also the first smartphone in the world to include a full 1440P screen with 4K OIS last year. Although with LG G4 being pushed out, the G3 may look old but it’s still a beastly phone. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor is still snappy enough to graphic-intensive games for another year or two and having removable battery/microSD storage is another plus. If you don’t want to shell out more than $400 but you want the best still camera/4K stable video recording, the LG G3 is definitely the way to go.
The international D855 model is probably the best one to get as it has a ton of custom ROM support along with earlier software updates but 4G LTE does not work for U.S. carriers (but HSPA+ should be plenty fast enough for most). You can grab one on Amazon for about $373.
The Galaxy S5 has one of the longest batteries out of all the Android smartphones I’ve tested. Not only that, you have removable battery/micro-SD, making it one of the longest bunnies out there. If you need long battery life, S5 may be one of the best choices. Also S5 sports Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5Ghz processor. So long as you avoid AT&T or Verizon S5 models, you will have a ton of custom ROMs to flash on this bad boy. Whether you like stock TouchWiz with multi-window features or you want pure Google AOSP ROMs like CM12.1 I am runnning here, the S5 is one of the best Android smartphones for aftermarket support. Best of all, S5 offers IP67-rating waterproof rating. You can easily go in for a dive and take some excellent underwater videos like I did here. Oh yeah, don’t forget a load of sensors including heart rate sensor, certainly great phone for athletes.
Like Note 4, try to get the T-Mobile SM-G900T model if possible as it has more support for all types of LTE bands around the world. Prices of Galaxy S6 vary anywhere from $250 for used one and around $400 for a new one. If I had a choice between this and LG G3, I would get the G3 for camera and the S5 for its waterproofing/battery life/health apps.
OnePlus One came out of nowhere last year to overtake traditional title from Google Nexus as “best Android deal of the year”.
At just $299 for a 32GB model, the OnePlus One offered the best price for a new smartphone with Qualcomm Snapdraon 805 processor and support for many custom ROMs. The camera is decent, better than most smartphone cameras from 2013 but isn’t as good as one found on Note 4 and S6. It’s also the same Sony camera found on the Nexus 6.
Now, I would have to say that the price isn’t as good as when it came out as many other smartphones like Note 3 and LG G3 have dropped prices drastically so I would definitely wait to buy OnePlus Two at this point. But this is absolutely the best Android deal of 2014, just not anymore. I love my OnePlus One, it’s close ties with CyanogenMod makes it one of the most wanted phones by flashaholics like myself.
The HTC One M8 is also a great choice for those of you who want a metallic back along with very good feel in the hands. This bad boy comes with Qualcomm 801 2.5Ghz, 1080P screen, and removable micro-SD card. In general, HTC One series have very good custom ROM support and the only thing I can say bad about it is its 4MP UltraPixel camera. I don’t know anyone who likes the camera on the HTC One M8 and its one of the main reasons why HTC has been slowly losing ground to Samsung and LG. But if you are a hardcord HTC fan who has been following HTC since Nexus One, you won’t be disappointed with the M8 as its stereo speakers speak for themselves and the unibody is just sexy as hell.
Prices are similar to S5, around $250 for used and $400 for a new one.
Galaxy Note 4 is the ultimate king of all smartphones when you consider performance, battery, and features altogether. Although S6 and S6 Edge have much faster processor, you still cannot beat the super-huge screen with ability to write/draw using S-Pen and the removable battery/micro-SD card. This is the king of all phablets and if you want the best big smartphone, there’s no substitute. It’s so good, even Apple decided to copy and release iPhone 6 Plus, which comes nowhere close to the king. The Note 4 packs a Snapdragon 805 processor clocked at 2.7Ghz along with first Note series to include a 1440P resolution screen. Screen is fabulous and the phone runs super-fast without lag.
Price is still high for these Note 4 but it’s worth every penny. If I had to choose one smartphone, this would be it.
The Galaxy Note Edge is without a doubt the most innovative smartphone of year 2014. When I first got my Note Edge, it had the coolest feature of being able to use the Edge screen for your app shortcuts along with ability to answer calls and receive notifications on your phone all without interrupting whatever else you are doing on the screen. Samsung scrapped these features that made the edge screen cool on the S6 Edge so the Note Edge is still the king of edge screens. Other than the edge screen, the Note Edge is a full-fledged Note 4 as it shares identical hardware specs along with S-Pen capabilities. It’s too bad Samsung made these as limited edition and the prices on the Note Edge are still at sky high. As far as custom ROMs, the Note Edge doesn’t have anywhere near the number of ROMs as the regular Note 4. Also it does not support Gear VR. But if you absolutely need to make your smartphone life more efficient, the Note Edge is baddest of ’em all.
These still go for around $700-800 and I don’t think prices will go down much even with time as they are limited in quantity, price is probably the only concern.
The Nexus 6 is Google’s first attempt at phablet smartphone and the large screen makes it easy to type/view videos. Also Nexus 6 supports Google’s first 1440P screened smartphone. Traditionally, Nexus devices have had advantage over other Android smartphones in price as the price of the phone was usually $100-300 cheaper than other flagship phones. No longer is the case as Nexus 6 costs just as much as a Note 4. In terms of price, the Nexus 6 is a bit overpriced, especially considering its Sony camera is decent (and same as one found on $299 OnePlus One). But it’s still a beastly phone with Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor (like Note 4) along with flawless pure Google Android OS. If you are Google purist and you must absolutely be googlified daily by flashing nightlies of your favorite ROM developer, you cannot go wrong with the Nexus 6. One really cool feature on the Nexus 6 is that it supports all CDMA/GSM networks.
Price for brand, new Nexus 6 unlocked edition go for around $640 on Amazon. Also, grab the unlocked edition especially for Verizon as you will be able to enjoy unlocked bootloader and also works for all CDMA/GSM networks including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon.
The LG G Flex 2 is the world’s curviest smartphone that also flexes to a flat device. Unlike bendy iPhone 6, the G Flex 2 actually can bend and unbend back to its original curvy position all without damaging the phone. The G Flex 2 also ships with the same laser-focus camera on the G3 but has 1080P screen. G Flex 2 is not a flagship device and its features and specs are somewhat from yesteryear. But the phone feels great in your hands due to its flexible screen and if you want one-of-a-kind smartphone, this is probably as sexy as they get. The G Flex 2 custom ROM support is almost non-existent and it’s simply a niche device that will not have much support. If you are a flashaholic, avoid the G Flex 2 at all costs and get the G4 instead as they will cost about the same. Yes, the G Flex 2 ships with Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor but it has software bugs which slow down the phone during full load, a problem LG still has not fixed yet.
Price on the G Flex 2 is at around hefty $650-700, get it if money isn’t an issue for you.
The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are by far the fastest smartphones in the world “right now” with the best cameras. The S6 and S6 Edge both score near 70K on Antutu benchmarks, which is nearly 50% higher than almost all 2014 smartphones. As far as camera, the S6 and S6 Edge both take excellent photos in all types of environments thanks to its OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). Not only that the OIS works quite well for videos. Video recording is supported up to 1080P 60fps, 2K, and 4K. Of course, Samsung took out removable battery and micro-SD card this year but if you don’t mind hugging the wall for fast charging once a day, this is a definitely go. I personally use the S6 Edge often these days as my daily driver and I just simply love the camera.
S6 and S6 Edge just came out so prices are pretty much same as when it launched but try to grab the T-mobile version if you can and avoid AT&T or Verizon at all costs as they have locked bootloaders, meaning no root nor custom ROMs.
HTC One M9 has not changed much from previous year’s M8 but it’s definitely a great upgrade as it now sports 20MP rear camera along with manual mode that lets you control ISO, shutter speed, and white balance. The One M9 is flawed with an over-exposing problem when focusing (and this is still not fixed 100% with the latest software update) but it’s probably not a huge deal unless you are addicted to Instagram and take a ton of photos daily. The One M9 also has Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor like LG G Flex 2 but it does not have slow-down problems. This is the first smartphone that has implemented the Snapdragon 810 correctly and the phone runs fast, scoring near 55K on Antutu. HTC did not upgrade the One M9’s screen nor the speakers so you get the same one from the M8 basically. Other than that, HTC One M9 has great custom ROM support. Rooting is easy with HTC devices in general but do avoid AT&T or Verizon as they have locked bootloaders.
ASUS Zenfone 2 may be on its way to the best Android smartphone deal of the year as its 2GB version costs only $215 and 4GB costs around $325. With an Intel mobile processor, the Zenfone 2 is zippy as hell while offering many software that work out of the box including its camera manual mode that has ISO, shutter speed, and white balance controls. Rooting may be hard to come by as ASUS has had terrible reputation with locked bootloaders. If you just need a phone that works and you don’t flash ROMs, go for it. Otherwise, you may want to consider alternatives like HTC or OnePlus One.
I have forgotten to include the Moto X 2014 Edition, which is also a great phone and prices are actually rather good at around $400 for a brand, new phone. Moto X also has great custom ROM support and it is similar to Nexus devices as far as rooting and custom ROMs go. Just avoid AT&T or Verizon as they have locked bootloaders (again). I love the Double-Twist shortcut on my Moto X, which allow you to launch your camera super fast. You can get an unlocked edition on Amazon for $399.
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