What's the best Android phone your money can buy?

Recently, I have gotten a lot of calls to ask which is the best Android phone to buy. If you remove the constraint of budget, there are many exciting Android handsets this year - HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 2 and Sony Xperia Z are some of the names that come to mind. Here are my views on getting the best Android for your buck:

1) A smartphone with the Nexus Experience 

Till recently, Google has been putting stock, vanilla android only on their own phones - first the Nexus One, then Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus and the latest, the Nexus 4. These phones have always done well with the geeks but have never been mainstream.

In 2013, things have started to change, with Google attempting to push the 'Nexus experience' to more handsets - notably the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. The Nexus phones are separate from the original phones skinned by the manufacturers. But the Nexus experience is a step in the right direction - what if you had a choice to keep the manufacturer's skin, or load vanilla Android on your phone.

My recco - buy the S4 or HTC One, and if the Nexus experience becomes a reality, you will have a fantastic piece of hardware married with the latest and best Android updates - truly a marriage made in heaven.

And if the manufacturers and Google don't get their act together on this, the folks at XDA surely will. 

2) The screen size debate

The giant sized (5 inch plus) 'phablet' phone is a category created by Samsung and now everyone wants  a piece of the action. Phablets from Micromax, Karbonn etc. are available for as little as 10,000. Even Samsung has realised the potential of the budget market for phablets and introduced the Galaxy Grand. I do not recommend cheaper phablets (including the Galaxy Grand) unless the screen resolution is really good like the Micromax Canvas HD Pro. Simple rule of thumb - the bigger the screen, the more important it is to have a hi-res display. A large screen will show up a poor display very badly. 

So spend the extra bit for the Galaxy Note 2 and remember to budget for the portable charger because you are going to need it. Every day.

3) The older crop of top-end phones are a bargain

Hesitant to spend more than Rs.30,000 on a smartphone, but still want a good deal? The Samsung Galaxy S3 at Rs. 27,000 on Flipkart, is still a fantastic deal while it is in stock. And the low profile LG Nexus 4 at Rs. 26,000 is not at all a bad phone. The Galaxy S2 is also not a bad buy by any stretch of imagination. All these three phones stand out as best buys in the Rs. 20,000 + segment.

4) And finally, is the S4 or the HTC One, the best Android phone?

I never get into such subjective statements. I think both are fantastic phones, but if I had to buy one of them, it would be the HTC One. What holds me back is the risk factor - HTC is not doing very well and one does not know at this stage if they will continue in the smartphone business. Then there will be a question mark over service, warranty, exchange value etc. If these things don't bother you and you just want to own a phone that's gorgeous inside and out, then go for the HTC One.

So my list of phones is:
Galaxy Note 2
Samsung Galaxy S4
LG Nexus 4
Samsung Galaxy S2


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