Best iPhone alternatives


WhistleOut
10 September 2014

iPhones are great devices, but they’re not the only game in town. Even so, it can be daunting choosing where to embark on your new Apple-free life. There are so many options in today’s market that it can take hours of research to get up to date.

Never fear. Here are your best iPhone alternatives in today’s market. We’ve tried to keep the field diverse and focus on what you may or may not have liked about your old handset.

I want the best

If paying top-dollar is your measure for merit then it’s hard to go wrong. Still, we have to consider what might be a good entry to the Android or Windows Phone markets for the uninitiated user.

A quick word of what to expect: all the highest-tier non-iPhones on the market right now have displays that measure at least 5-inches diagonally. That’s 25% larger than the 4-inch one on your iPhone 5 or 5s, and 43% bigger than an iPhone 4s.

Furthermore, if you thought that the Retina Display of an iPhone really is the 'best' resolution detectable by the human eye then get ready to enter a new realm of high-def luxury. It turns out that 1080p and higher resolutions are noticeably more fabulous than the Retina Display’s 326 pixels per inch (ppi).

Samsung Galaxy S5

Pros Cons
1080p screen Plastic construction
Great camera Slightly more expensive
Popular and well-reviewed Features you may not use
Water resistant

The Galaxy S5 is an obvious consideration. It’s the best-selling non-iPhone handset in the world. These days that’s largely because of marketing and reputation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t deserving of being considered among the better smartphones on the market.

Its 5.1-inch 1080p display offers 431ppi, or 32% higher pixel density than an iPhone 5s. It’s a powerful phone, but, like the iPhone, it does tend to be a bit more pricey than the competition.

It has a focus on funky features like a built-in heart-rate monitor and fingerprint scanner. The 16MP camera is one of the best to be released yet this year and the whole phone is water-resistant – able to sit fully submersed under 1m (3 feet) of water for up to half an hour.

HTC One (M8)

Pros Cons
Gorgeous brushed metal design Less-effective camera
Minimalist user interface Not water resistant
Smooth
1080p screen

The HTC One (M8) is where you go if you want to turn heads. Its stunning brushed-metal design remains unmatched

by any other release in the past two years, with the given exception of its predecessor the One (M7). It’s a phone that reminds you of its quality before you even activate the screen.

Once you do, you’re greeted by a similar 1080p panel as on the Galaxy S5. This time it’s only 5-inches, which gives it a slightly higher ppi of 440, but the difference is not particularly noticeable.

The Sense 6 user interface (UI) is almost as elegant as the phone itself. It’s minimalist and, thanks to a lack of added bloatware to bog it down, smooth.

The 4 “Ultrapixel” camera is something of a divisive factor. It takes fast, accurate pictures and even features a depth-sensor to let you edit the back and foreground of pictures without affecting the rest. However, this feature isn’t always reliable.

The low megapixel count (4MP) has been implemented to provide better low-light photos. This works passably, but not amazingly. The trade-off is that photos taken during the day are less-crisp than from something like the Galaxy S5. This is no issue if you plan on restricting yourself to Facebook posts or showing off pics on your phone’s 5-inch screen. If you like to blow photos up to full size on a computer monitor or TV, however, there are better options.

LG G3

Pros Cons
Huge quad-HD resolution Not water resistant
Great camera A tad on the large side
Fun and easy UI One of our test models had issues
Generally fast and reliable

LG is probably not the first company you think of when you’re after a high-end phone, but it should be. The LG G3 is a fantastic device with a great camera, display and UI.

The 5.5 inch screen may sound huge, but thanks to some super-thin bezels it’s only 4mm wider and 2mm taller than the Galaxy S5. Even better, the display panel has a killer quad-HD resolution of 2560 x 1440. That’s a whopping 534ppi, or 62% more pixels per inch than an iPhone for the clearest image on a smartphone this side of the future.

The 13MP camera is very nearly as good as the Galaxy S5’s, providing brilliant photos quickly and with minimal fuss. The physical design is plastic, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite as obvious as it does with the S5. Also, in some regions the G3 has wireless charging built-in. You’ll need to buy a Qi charging station separately, though.

The UI is fun and easy, although one model out of the total three we’ve now gotten our hands on had a tendency to lag a bit here and there. There was also some application instability, which led to the odd sudden shut-down of a game or browser. This wasn’t so often as to be a deal-breaker, and it was only one of three models, but it’s still worth a mention.

Nokia Lumia 930

Pros Cons
Gorgeous brushed metal design Some app restrictions
Minimalist user interface Not water resistant
Smooth Difficult to access YouTube
1080p screen

If Android isn't your style, the Nokia Lumia 930 is probably your best option. It's the current Windows Phone 8.1 flagship, and it's a solid piece of hardware.

The 5-inch 1080p screen is a good size without being gigantic, offering the same 440ppi of the HTC One (M8). Colors and whites are handled well, but blacks are where it really shines. This is a boon considering the black default theme of the WP platform.

The camera, too, is one of the best ones on the market. It's comparable to the LG G3 or Galaxy S5, except it does take a little longer to achieve focus.

Being a Lumia, it's available in vibrant colours -- green and orange -- as well as the more-usual black and white. The rim of the device is a brushed metal, lending it a feel of premium quality when held.

Unfortunately, thanks to a slow build in popularity Windows Phone is still lagging behind in app support. Most of the big names are aboard these days, but you may find some of your favorites are missing, noteably YouTube.

Something affordable

To hell with paying top-dollar. There are plenty of options for great phones for far less than a flagship device. You can save hundreds of dollars without sacrificing too much in the way of functionality. We’ve picked the best small, medium and large-sized screens that won’t break the bank.

Better still, if you can afford to buy a phone outright you can often save money by going on a SIM-Only plan. SIM-Only is usually cheaper, and doesn’t require you to sign any long-term contracts, so you can up and leave whenever it suits you.

Compact

The Motorola Moto G (2013 edition) was originally released as a 3G-only phone, but has since been re-launched with 4G. The 4G model costs more, but it’s still affordable enough to sit down the lower ends of the market.

How compact are we talking here? It’s difficult to get anything as small as a 4-inch iPhone these days. At 4.5 inches, the Moto G is only 12.5% bigger than an iPhone 5s, which is about as small as reliable non-Apple smartphones come.

Despite the low cost, it’s a surprisingly powerful little phone. The 720p HD resolution gives it the same 326ppi of a Retina Display, except over a larger area.

As far as day-to-day use goes it’s a thoroughly impressive little device. Straight-forward and no-frills, it’s what you need in a smartphone minus the bells and whistles.

For an added perk: Motorola doesn’t apply any third-party UI to its phones. Using Google’s ‘vanilla’ Android experience means that you’ll be the first to get new Android updates after they’re released.

Suitably-sized

The 5-inch 1080p Google Nexus 5 is approaching a full year old, but it’s still the best smartphone you can get in its price range. It was absolutely top-tier tech when it was released, and just like the Moto G it comes running the stock Android experience for faster upgrades and a smoother UI.

The 5MP camera won’t compare to something like a Galaxy S5 or even iPhone 5, but it’ll get the job done well for social media usage.

Keep in mind that the next Nexus phone – whatever it ends up being called – is expected within the next few months, so if you can wait then it may be worth it. If you can’t, don’t fret, you’re still not going to find a better bang-for-buck 5-inch smartphone on today’s market.

Big and beautiful

So you want big, eh? Try the 5.5 inch HTC Desire 816 (eight-sixteen) on for size. It’s a little more expensive than the other two, and it’s specs aren’t quite as impressive as the Nexus 5. Still, there aren’t many big phones that can deliver the same experience for a comparable price.

The 13MP camera is great, albeit a tad darker than some other phones, and the UI is the same model of simplicity used by the above-mentioned HTC One (M8).

There’s no fancy metal frame this time; it’s polycarbonate all the way. The screen is also a step back from the Nexus 5 at just 720p, which makes this the only phone on the list with fewer pixels per inch than an iPhone with just 267ppi. It's also quite reflective and therefore difficult to view in direct sunlight. Be that as it may, it’s far from appearing pixelated or fuzzy, which is all you really need if you’re after a money-saving device.


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