Top smartphones of 2013: the MyBroadband charts

Lists of the best smartphones of any given year are a controversial inevitability.

Before one embarks on such a dangerous mission, however, it is necessary to establish some criteria for what is considered “top”.

Should only high-end devices be considered, or should “value” devices with good performance for the price also be contenders? How much weight should sales figures and the opinions of others be given?

For this ranking we decided to limit it to the top-of-the-range smartphones.

To present as balanced a list as possible, we also considered opinions on the best smartphones of 2013 from Stuff Magazine, PCWorld, ZDNet, PCPro, Cnet, and Engadget.

Rank Stuff PCWorld ZDNet
1 LG G2 Apple iPhone 5s Apple iPhone 5s
2 HTC One Google Nexus 5 HTC One
3 Google Nexus 5 HTC One Samsung Galaxy Note 3
4 Apple iPhone 5s Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Nokia Lumia 1020
5 Samsung Galaxy S4 Apple iPhone 5c Google Nexus 5
6 Sony Xperia Z Samsung Galaxy S4 Motorola Moto X
7 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 LG Optimus G Pro LG G2
8 BlackBerry Q10 Motorola Moto X Samsung Galaxy S4
9 HTC One Mini Nokia Lumia 1020 Motorola Droid Maxx
10 Nokia Lumia 1020 Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Sony Xperia Z1

Devices that made it into the “best smartphone of 2013” lists of all the publications mentioned were: iPhone 5s, Nexus 5, HTC One, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, and Lumia 1020.

Interestingly, Cnet also highlights each of these devices for a particular stand-out feature. These, and other features that stood out to us, are mentioned in the below ranking.

Without further ado and for your entertainment; MyBroadband’s top smartphones of 2013:

iPhone 5s 3 colours iOS 7 press shot
iPhone 5s press shot showing 3 colours, running iOS 7

1. Apple iPhone 5s

“Not a required upgrade, but it’s easily the fastest and most advanced Apple smartphone to date” Cnet Reviews

Choosing the number one smartphone (from a South African perspective) is not easy, especially this year.

I would have preferred to cop out and give the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S4 a shared second place, but what fun would that be?

Of the smartphone makers peddling their wares in South Africa, Apple now arguably offers the most comprehensive content ecosystem.

Towards the end of 2012, Apple enabled music and movie purchases in the iTunes store.

However, it wasn’t until the “Games” category was added (finally!) to the App Store in South Africa during 2013 that the Apple ecosystem really stood out from the rest.

While it may be fair to criticise how long it took for music and games to officially become available to South African iPhone and iPad users, the bottom-line is that they are here now.

Apple’s closest contenders content-wise in South Africa is Samsung, which has both Google Play (now with books) and its own Video Hub; and Nokia, which has the Windows Phone Marketplace and its Nokia Music services.

Samsung Galaxy S4 in hand
Samsung Galaxy S4 in hand

2. Samsung Galaxy S4

“The do-everything phone” – Cnet Reviews

The race between the Galaxy S4 and HTC One would have been much tighter had it not been for Samsung’s “accidental damage from handling” (ADH) warranty in South Africa.

This warranty lets SGS4 owners send in their devices for two free repairs – no questions asked – even for liquid or physical damage (including the screen).


3. HTC One

“Nearly perfect” – Cnet Reviews

If you’re looking for an Android software experience that’s not run-of-the-mill, along with good industrial design, the HTC One was your phone in 2013.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 press shot
Samsung Galaxy Note 3

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 3

“The write stuff” – Cnet reviews

While many Android manufacturers are making so-called “phablets” nowadays, if it’s a stylus and Wacom digitiser you want on your smartphone, the Note 3 is the only game in town.

The Note 3 also has its own version of the ADH warranty called ADH Premium, but unlike the Galaxy S4 you get two free replacements. Your replacements also carry over to your next device covered by ADH Premium if you don’t use them.

Nokia Lumia 1020 header
Nokia Lumia 1020

5. Nokia Lumia 1020

“The camera phone to beat – Cnet reviews

As the best Windows Phone has to offer, and arguably the best compact camera built into a phone to date, the Lumia 1020 deserves a spot on any phone ranking for 2013.

Sony Xperia Z1 press shot
Sony Xperia Z1 press shot

6. Sony Xperia Z1

Any of Sony’s Xperia Z range of smartphones could make it into a top 10 this year due to their robust design.

In the end we chose the Z1 because its headset port did not have to be securely plugged up to waterproof it, making it even hardier than its predecessor, the Xperia Z.

LG G2 promo shot
LG G2 promo shot

7. LG G2

The LG G2 has received many positive reviews for its all-round good performance and stellar battery life. It is also the closest thing to the Nexus 5 (hardware-wise) you can get on contract (or at all, for that matter) in South Africa.

BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q10

8. BlackBerry Q10

If it’s a hardware keyboard you want, the BlackBerry Q10 is not just your best choice, it’s your only choice.

Other interesting features of BlackBerry’s new BB10 devices when they launched were their support for LTE, NFC, and mini HDMI output.

Google LG Nexus 5
Google Nexus 5 (made by LG)

9. Google Nexus 5

“Android power at the right price” – Cnet reviews

The Nexus 5 is a great device and would probably have ranked higher had it been officially available in South Africa.

At the time of writing Orange ZA had the 16GB Nexus 5 for R6,345, removing one of the most attractive aspects of the device: its price.

Even in the UK (with its 20% VAT), the 32GB Nexus 5 goes for £339.99 (almost R5,780 at R17/£1) through the Google Play store. A 16GB model costs £299.99 (almost R5,100).

The five colors of the new iPhone 5C are seen after Apple Inc's media event in Cupertino, California September 10, 2013.
The five colors of the new iPhone 5C are seen after Apple Inc’s media event in Cupertino, California September 10, 2013.

10. iPhone 5c

Apple’s colourful, lower cost iPhone 5 beat out Motorola’s Moto X by a nose.

As with the Nexus 5, lack of availability in South Africa (even if it is understandable), counted against the Moto X.

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Top smartphones of 2013: the MyBroadband charts