The defining features of 2014's high-end Android smartphones
In this article, we will be taking a look at these defining features – the ones that, if taken away, will leave their respective device as a part of the top-shelf flock – a powerful smartphone that is just as good as all the others, and therefore – easy to forget or mix up.
So, let's begin!
Additionally, the Xperia Z3 packs two front-firing stereo speakers – a feature that is yet scarce among smartphones, but welcome amongst mobile users, as it makes media consumption that much better. Sony's speakers still have a ways to go, but the ones in the Z3 are at least better than what the Xperia Z2 had to offer.
What is also a notable feature of the Compact is its battery life – it held out for 10 hours and 2 minutes when put through our battery life test, which puts it at the very top spot for long-lasting sub-5” phones.
Galaxy Note 4 would've easily been lost among them, if it weren't for one unique, defining thing – the S Pen.
Indeed, nobody gave the little gizmo much thought back in 2011 – it was still underdeveloped, and besides – everyone was still awed by the large (by the old standards) screen. But Samsung kept working on the S Pen and made it better with each new major version of the Note-branded handsets. And good on the manufacturer for doing so, for in today's world – the proprietary stylus is definitely one of the Note's most defining features. If you wish to check out what the S Pen could be useful for, take a look at our Galaxy Note 4 tips & tricks article, the one on Smart Select, or see here for more ways we like to use the S Pen for multitasking.
Additionally, the flagship sports stereo front-firing BoomSound speakers, which impressed us with a full and powerful sound – any heavy media consumer should definitely give the One (M8) a second look.
AnTuTu champion for Q3 2014 – Meizu's MX4 – is a truly impressive device to look at. Its unique 5.4” display has the unorthodox ratio of 5:3 and its noteworthy 75.52% screen-to-body ratio makes the phone unbelievably easy to hold, considering the large screen. With such razor-sharp bezels, the Meizu is a pleasure to work with and there are definitely very few flagships out there that can brag about providing the same user comfort.
Additionally, the LG G3's camera sports laser autofocus, which we've yet to see on another flagship – a laser-beam assisted method for the camera to intelligently determine distances and shapes, allowing it to focus on different objects much faster than some of the competitors' cameras. In fact, this feature is only rivaled by Samsung's "phase detection" and Apple's "focus pixels".
Indeed, not only does the phablet offer a 13 MP camera with a dual LED flash on its back – it has the very same components nested on its front, for all your detailed selfie needs – no matter if you are indoors or out, in the night or in the day – the EYE delivers a better shot in almost every situation (check this thread for all your comparison needs).
However, there is one unique option that Motorola gives its customers and it's a pretty cool one at that – if one orders a Moto X from the manufacturer's website, they can use the Moto Maker page and customize their phone to make it unique – the choices available allow for various colors and textures for the back, front bezel, speaker grille, and even customized engraving.
As far as other unique features go – Motorola equipped its flagship with a rather innovative “Flash Ring” – a translucent halo, which circles around the camera lens, and houses the phone's duo of LED flashes. Its purpose is to mix and distribute the light from the two sources evenly, creating a better-than-average flash for night shots.
And if that's not enough to set it apart – let's remember that Google's Nexus devices are the ones that receive new Android updates the fastest and, arguably, for the most time post-release. Now, this year, Motorola almost beat Google to it on a couple of occasions, but this barely means that the search giant is slowing down – it's just that Motorola is running vanilla Android on its own phones, and besides – both companies are currently in close partnership.
The Nexus 6 also received Moto X's unique Flash Ring for its camera, and is among the few flagships to sport dual, front-firing stereo speakers.
For one, the Galaxy S5 was the first smartphone to rock Sammy's brand-new, shiny ISOCELL technology – an attempt to reduce cross-talk between individual pixels in the camera's sensor, while increasing their full well capacity, giving the captured images a better dynamic range and color exposition.
Secondly, Samsung employed a “phase detection” technique in the S5 camera's tech, allowing the lens to focus much faster – according to our tests, it's even slightly speedier than the LG G3's laser autofocus. Apple's iPhone 6 is the second smartphone to feature such tech, though, Cupertinians call it “focus pixels”.
Gionee's Elife S5.1. What's even better – the R5 is internationally available and not through rebranding, but via Oppo's own online store.
Packing a Snapdragon 615, octa-core, 64-bit processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 13 MP / 5 MP camera combo, and a 2,000 mAh juicer, the R5 is more than just a thin body – it can hold its own in the upper-midrange arena.
Oppo N1 – the N3 brings the swivel camera back – the phone only has one camera, however, its module can turn around for front-facing shots at will. The sensor has been upgraded to a 16 MP one, and there is a twist – Oppo has added a motorized mechanism to the module, which can turn the camera for you. There is also a proprietary O-Click remote control added in the package, which allows you to turn the camera and snap those selfies from afar, and, if one gets creative, from many interesting angles.
On the flipside, the N3 got its screen shrunk, from 5.9” to 5.5”, and the whole device's footprint is now more managable – 6.72 x 3.25 x 0.35 inches (170.7 x 82.6 x 9 mm). Unfortunately, this also resulted in a 610 mAh loss of battery capacity – the juicebox now only carries a 3,000 mAh tag.
So, instead of trying to fit one in some unorthodox place, Sharp took another route – it used the glass – by vibrating the entire panel, the phone transfers sound to our ears via bone conduction. While this is an undeniably cool feature, the tech still lacks a bit, since the result is a quiet sound that just doesn't come through if we are forced to talk in noisier environments. Still, kudos to Sharp for creating such an unique device and possibly opening the doors for some more interesting hardware in 2015.