PhoneArena Awards 2014: Best product designs

PhoneArena Awards 2014: Best product designs
Few are the people who doubt the importance of a first impression. Every new experience, each major first encounter leaves hard-to-erase memories in one's mind. Unless you're trying to remember the name of the cute girl you just met – that's when your brain suddenly loses its ability to hold data – but that's a topic for some other time. What we'd actually like to talk about is design; design, first impressions, and gadgets, to be more specific. 

What do these three have in common? Well, imagine picking up a brand new smartphone for the first time. Chances are that your first impressions will be influenced mostly by the product's design – by the way it looks, by the way it works, by whether it feels "right" in your palm or not quite. That's why every self-respecting manufacturer pays close attention to the design of its products. Design is key to a product's success with its ability to spark an instant emotional attachment between a user and the device in question. If executed properly, of course. And we believe that good designs must be honored. 

This brings us to today's category in our PhoneArena Awards series – best product designs. We've picked three of the best-designed devices that we had the chance to review this year, but we didn't stop there. We'd also like to honor a beautifully designed piece of software crafted by the creative minds at Google. Drumroll, please!

HTC One (M8)

It was in early 2014 when we reviewed the HTC One (M8) only to have our hearts won by its bold, premium design. Today, some nine months later, the phone still excites us with its daring appearance, solid construction, and sophisticated brushed metal finish. It is one of the few handsets that can really make heads turn without even trying hard. And the moment you pick it up, you instantly realize that you're holding something of immaculate build quality.

iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 isn't just a great-looking tablet. It is an astonishing feat of engineering. It came at a time when we were starting to think that tablets weren't going to get any thinner. Yet it shattered our assumptions with its astonishing thinness of just 6.1 millimeters, which made it the slimmest tablet at the time of its announcement. On top of that, it retained the premium feel and no-compromise build quality of its predecessors, sporting a solid metal back in one of three signature colors. 

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

The Galaxy Alpha will be remembered as a milestone device in Samsung's history. It put an end to the all-plastic era the company was in and reminded us that Samsung could actually produce beautiful phones made of premium materials. As a matter of fact, we called the Galaxy Alpha the best-looking Samsung smartphone we had ever laid hands on. And for a number of good reasons, including it being the thinnest Galaxy in existence. 

Software: Android 5.0 and Material Design

As we mentioned earlier, we really felt like Android 5.0, with its Material Design overhaul, deserved to be on the list. It treats us to a visual experience that's fresh, engaging, and fun to use. But more importantly, Material Design carries a sense of uniqueness. It doesn't simply build upon the look and feel established by KitKat – it catapults us into a brand new chapter in the evolution of Google's design language. It brings character that previous Android releases simply lacked. The result is a platform that does a great job at separating itself from the competition's offerings with its welcoming character and distinct personality. If it could only appear in its vanilla form on more than just a handful of Android devices...

Story timeline



1. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

But I heard that the iPad Air 2 bends really easily...

4. nwright94

Posts: 211; Member since: Oct 14, 2014

If someone's bending a tablet they're definitely using it wrong. You can't stick that thing in a pocket, what situation would you be in that would be bending a tablet?

5. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Seriously. +100

44. ilovephablets

Posts: 45; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

This is out of the subject but i think quad hd (2k) is an overkill i prefer an hd screen over it with the same specs, 1080p should be the maximum for now, i want a blazing fast phone over a higher resolution, smartphone companies have to focus more on the performance and battery rather on screens, i cant even complain about my note 2's screen its gorgeous and i love it, like this comment if you prefer a better performance over a higher resolution.

12. SaintHelena

Posts: 397; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

Hitting your car to a tree is a wrong way of driving car. But it nice to know if I can survive 100 km/hour collision. The same is for tablet, it is nice to know if my tablet is strong enough not to bend easily. and I think this is where iPAD fail to be premium (good) enough in my eyes. +1 for Neo_Huang

20. ryanmononoke

Posts: 21; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

Even 1 5-star rating is tested at 60km/h. No manufacturer will guarantee safety at 100km/h collision. Anyway, yea, iPad Air 2 does bend more easily =)

22. SaintHelena

Posts: 397; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

It just metaphorically speaking.

38. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

Good point.

53. junaidahmed

Posts: 103; Member since: Sep 04, 2014

what if you accidently sit on it?

54. junaidahmed

Posts: 103; Member since: Sep 04, 2014


14. AnTuTu

Posts: 1613; Member since: Oct 14, 2012

I would have proffered Note 4 over Alpha...

21. maherk

Posts: 6879; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Nah, i have the Note 4 and my mom has the gold Alpha. The Alpha is much much better in terms of design, it is compact, light, grippy. Not that the Note 4 is missing those things, but the Alpha does it better.

52. Dejv007

Posts: 4; Member since: Oct 29, 2014

I would sacrifice design and embrace plastic if that meant bigger screen, better specs, etc Note series are big phones, if you want smaller don`t go for them :)

61. junaidahmed

Posts: 103; Member since: Sep 04, 2014

i think note 4 is as much metal as the as the alpha

62. marcski07

Posts: 600; Member since: Apr 25, 2014

what i think separates the design of alpha vs note is the stripe color around the rim, a white note for has white stripe on it's rim, and it makes alpha look more premium build coz of its shiny metal than the colored metal on note 4. that's what i think, the form factor of two specially on the metal rim, is very identical.

2. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

Nick, you tagged the wrong iPad.

3. nwright94

Posts: 211; Member since: Oct 14, 2014

I absolutely love the Alpha design. Looks even better bigger as the Note 4. I personally am fine with a plastic back for a replaceable battery.

6. ePoch270

Posts: 193; Member since: Sep 26, 2013

I really liked the system Motorola used on the Droid X as far as a metal back for a battery cover. That phone was awesome in so many was at the time.

36. laughmi

Posts: 283; Member since: Oct 28, 2014

Very well said. Alpha looks the sexiest device on the 2014 list with a phone like size. I don't like M8 much, though it has great build quality, the overly bezel design looks hideous. also its quite fat for the current generation of devices and too tall. Alpha owns M8 in every aspect. iPad air 2 is just a thinner iPad air. Nothing much and it is exorbitantly overpriced.

7. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Lol looks like Sony and Nokia didn't make the cut. Good job PA. :)

9. SaintHelena

Posts: 397; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

Recent nokia device model were dull, but I like the SONY Z3, and I think it's better than Galaxy Alpha. It looks like BB Passport didn't make a cut. Good Job PA. :)

43. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Z3 is not interesting at all. Same design for three models now. Talk about recycling.

50. SaintHelena

Posts: 397; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

Best screen compared to Z2, Z1 & Z Best battery stamina compared to Z2, Z1 & Z and also compared to other brand (samsung, etc) Better screen compared to Z2, Z1 & Z Better camera compared to Z2, Z1 & Z It's not recycling. It's about don't settle for good, settle for the best.

58. TBomb

Posts: 1500; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

The awards are for design though... not for features/specs

17. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Dude, don't forget Z3 and Lumia 830 & 930

35. Odiin

Posts: 373; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

Agree, XZ3 n L830 really beautiful.

41. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Z3 looks exactly the same as the Z2 which is the same as the Z1. Nokia 830 does look nice though.

19. Venkatramanan

Posts: 327; Member since: Aug 15, 2014

Why do you hate Sony and Nokia So much? Anyway, This time both the companies did not bring anything new. But i-pad Air-2 should not be in this list. Other two are great design. I feel BB passport can be included instead of iPad

42. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I don't hate Nokia lol. Sony on the other hand is pure garbage. BB Passport? Hell no. Air 2 is thin as hell while maintaining the iconic iPad design and feel.

45. kent-gaga

Posts: 609; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

so I guess you're the one who's just walking around and picking "garbage" right? i mean you're on every Sony's post and even when it's not related at all you'll just have to be a little b*tch and mentioned it obsessed hater much

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.