Tech Solutions

The best smartphones of 2014

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

2014 was a banner year for smartphones with a number of notable releases from industry heavyweights such as Apple, Samsung and Sony. The year also sprung some surprises with lesser known Chinese brands such as OnePlus delivering a truly top-tier handset for a fraction of the price.

Whether you prioritise design, ruggedness, battery life, a cracking camera, a user-friendly interface or the productivity potential – not all smartphones are created equal. So which smartphones released in 2014 made the cut? Smarter believes these four are the very best.

Apple iPhone 6 Mobile phone Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – For the busy professional

Samsung’s latest super-phone, the Galaxy Note 4, boasts cutting-edge specs, the company’s first ever quad HD resolution (2,560 x 1,440 pixels) display and improved pen stylus experience.

While the Note 4’s stunning 5.7-inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display is great for content consumption, it’s on the productivity front that Samsung’s latest phablet (a device with a screen size between a smartphone and a tablet) truly shines.

The new and improved S Pen offers the best digital writing experience around and makes everyday tasks like annotating and signing documents, jotting down meeting notes, mind mapping or drawing up projections for that quarterly meeting, an absolute breeze.

The S Pen functionality has been expanded further to work more like a mouse so you can quickly select several images or copy a block of text by simply clicking and dragging the S Pen across the screen.

The Note 4 also boasts easier to use multi-tasking features that take advantage of its large screen. A new Smart Select feature enables users to easily piece together content from different origins, and share it with ease. The Snap Note feature allows users to take a picture of their hand written notes on paper or whiteboard and easily convert it to a digital note with complete editing support using the S Pen.

A two day battery life, excellent camera and a fingerprint scanner round out a package that is sure to please any busy professional or road warrior. 

Sony Xperia Z3 – For the outdoor enthusiast

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or someone who regularly works out on the field and are in search of a smartphone that can stand up to the elements without compromising on performance – look no further than Sony’s latest flagship, the Xperia Z3.

With an IP65 and IP68 rating, the Sony Z3 can be submerged in fresh water at up to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes at a time and is also impervious to dust and sand. Despite packing in a waterproof and dust resistant casing, the Z3 maintains a ridiculously thin profile at only 7.3mm.

The glass covered front and back does a decent job of protecting the phone from scratches, but we would definitely recommend slapping on a case for drop protection.

Of course, any outdoor smartphone worth its salt needs a big bright screen that can deliver a legible viewing experience in the harsh bright sun and this is where the Z3 delivers with one of the brightest displays on the market.

Another big plus is that the Z3 boasts an incredible two day battery life so you can spend more time enjoying the great outdoors and less time searching for power outlets.  

HTC One (M8) – For the fashion conscious

If you value an excellent user experience and a head turning smartphone design above all else, then the HTC One (M8) is your best bet.

The HTC One (M8)’s seamless metal build combined with the subtle curved back and sides commands an impressive feel in the hand. From the striking gunmetal grey and brushed aluminium finish to the micro-drilled speaker grills that adorn the top and bottom of the display, nothing has been left to chance on the One M8.

In short – this is the most beautifully built smartphone to date that looks just as good as it feels.

The One M8 also sports the loudest and richest sounding pair of stereo speakers ever to grace a smartphone, making it ideal for speaker calls or viewing videos with a group of colleagues.

iPhone 6 – The best all-rounder

The iPhone 6 offers the perfect balance between performance, stunning design and impeccable build quality backed up by an app library that is second to none.

The 4.7-inch size screen means that the iPhone 6 is comfortable to use for almost any task while still small enough to use one-handed and fit in one’s pocket – traits that are fast becoming extinct in a market overrun with big-screen behemoths.

TouchID offers a secure but convenient means of unlocking your smartphone and authenticating App Store purchases while Apple Pay looks set to deliver a wallet-less future.

Some killer features the iOS 8 introduced is the ability to make and receive calls and text messages from your Mac while your iPhone is buried in your bag or in another room. You can also seamlessly jump between desktop and mobile device with Handoff which enables you to start a document, email or browsing session on your iPhone or iPad and pick up precisely where you left off on your Mac.

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