Best & Worst Smartphone Brands 2013

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best worst smartphone brands 2013
Whether you're upgrading your existing smartphone or buying one for the first time, there are lots of factors to consider. Screen size, operating system and other considerations come into play, but, ultimately, the brand behind the phone is most important. That's why we set out to name the Best & Worst Smartphone Brands for 2013.

Each smartphone maker has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, from design and camera capabilities to special features. So, how do you know which one is best? For our first annual Best & Worst Smartphone Brands report, we rated nine companies (Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony) across nine categories to separate the winners from the also-rans.

Best and Worst Smartphone Brands 2013

How We Graded (100 Points Possible)

best worst smartphones 2013 how we graded

LAPTOP reviewed more than 50 smartphones during the last year. We dug into those reviews as well as reviews of handsets that are older but still for sale. Then we did more testing, comparing cameras and speakers and more across flagship devices. The results, weighted by category, add up to a possible 100 points. We evaluated each brand using the following categories.

Reviews (15 points)

By examining reviews from June 15, 2012, to June 15, 2013, this category is weighted heavily to reflect the average star ratings and performance scores from a given company’s handsets. Extra points are offered for Editors’ Choice Award-winning machines. By the same token, we take away extra points for any review that earned 2.5 stars or less (not recommended).

User Interface (15 points)

The software and user interface included with a brand’s phones determines not only how easy the devices are to use but also how engaging and customizable the experiences are. From lockscreen shortcuts to the way brands handle notifications, we looked closely at UI across both low- and high-end handsets.

Battery Life (15 points)

Because you need your smartphone to work all day, few things can top the importance of this category. We compared a brand’s battery life average against the smartphone average (using LAPTOP’s own battery test) to see how it compares.

MORE: 10 Smartphones with the Longest Battery Life

Special Features (15 points)

By sneaking a few tricks up its sleeve, some smartphones find a special place in our hearts. And if you’re not innovating, other brands will lap you. Special features can range from unique apps pre-loaded by the brand to camera modes to the ability to use your smartphone as a TV remote.

Display (10 points)

A fast or long-lasting phone doesn’t mean much if you don’t enjoy viewing content and apps on the screen. Is the display brighter than average? Does the company pack in the pixels? What size options are available, and do those big screens offer wide-enough viewing angles?

Camera (10 points)

We not only looked at the quality of shots taken with each brand’s flagship across nine different categories, we also dug into a brand’s special features to determine a winner in this round.

MORE: Smartphone Camera Shootout 2013

Design (10 points)

No one wants a drab slab of a phone. That’s why we looked at each manufacturer’s build quality, materials, ergonomics and overall aesthetics. Drab slabs brought up the rear.

Audio (5 points)

Each of the flagship phones for all nine brands were compared side-by-side both with and without any extra features turned on. We also examined the general call quality and built-in technologies.

Selection (5 points)

If you can only get a specific brand through one carrier, the customer loses. That’s why we took into account how many phones a manufacturer produces and carrier availability.

Best and Worst Smartphone Brands 2013


Best and Worst Smartphone Brands 2013: Full Scorecard

smartphone full scorecard best worst smartphone brands
 1st Place: Samsung

By taking top honors for user interface, special features and selection, Samsung wins big as the best smartphone brand of the year. In fact, Samsung placed first, second or third in every category except design. During the last year, we’ve praised Samsung for offering excellent and helpful extras that redefine what a smartphone can do, from pen input and split-screen multitasking to innovative gestures and camera modes. And we expect to continue to see great things from this brand in the year to come.

best smartphones 2013 samsung 1st place ranking


MORE: Galaxy S4 Tips

2nd Place: Apple

There’s no doubt the smartphone race is a tight one at the top, and sales of the iPhone 5 prove that this brand hasn’t lost its luster. Apple took top prize in the reviews, design and camera categories, and it placed among the top three for user interface, battery life, display and audio. Only a relative lack of special features held Apple from the top spot, tying the brand with HTC for second place in our overall showdown. However, iOS 7 and the next iPhone could catapult Apple past both HTC and Samsung.

best smartphones 2013 apple 2nd place ranking


MORE: 11 Battery Tips for Your iPhone 5

2nd Place: HTC

A best-in-class display, a toned-down Sense interface and excellent audio on the HTC One helped this brand earn a two-way tie with Apple for the silver in our first showdown. A second- or third-place finish in every other category (including cameras) didn’t hurt, either. HTC also does a fairly good job juggling multiple platforms. The Windows Phone 8X proved to be a quality device both in terms of design and performance.

best smartphones 2013 htc 2nd place ranking 

MORE: 10 Best HTC One Cases

4th Place: Nokia 

Having made the commitment to Windows Phone 8, Nokia's Lumia phones look and feel unique in the marketplace. And Nokia adds plenty of value to Microsoft’s easy-to-use platform with its PureView camera and useful apps and services. Nokia placed in the top three for both special features and design, helping the brand to place 4th overall. While lackluster battery life and weak audio performance held Nokia back, we expect much better things from the company’s next crop of phones.


5th Place: LG

Special features such as QuickRemote and Video Wiz separate LG from some other brands. Sadly, below-average camera performance and design prevented this brand from earning a higher score. The Optimus G Pro proved to be a solid big-screen phone, but middling battery life and a lack of widespread availability put LG smack in the middle of the smartphone pack.


6th Place: Sony

Not known as a top-tier smartphone maker in the United States, Sony’s middle-of-the-road performance in reviews, user interface, special features and battery life resulted in a ho-hum sixth-place finish (out of nine). Sony does offer very good cameras, and we like that the Xperia Z is water-resistant, but the company should really work on display viewing angles and carrier distribution. 


7th Place: Motorola

While the long battery life of the RAZR Maxx HD was enough for the brand to earn a second-place finish for that category, poor cameras held Motorola back from a better showing in the overall rankings. The fact that the now-Google-owned Motorola didn’t release a compelling device in the last nine months didn’t help matters, nor did its lack of carrier support. We hope the upcoming Moto X Phone will turn things around.

best worst smartphone brands motorola report card 7th place

8th Place: BlackBerry 

A company cannot come in dead last for its smartphone reviews, battery life and displays and expect to do well overall, as BlackBerry can attest. The company previously known as RIM has had a tough year, in which a lot was expected to happen. BlackBerry 10 hasn’t proved to be the panacea the Canadian-based smartphone maker had hoped. All that combined with a lackluster showing in the camera and design categories relegated BlackBerry to second-to-last in our smartphone brand showdown.



MORE: 14 Essential BlackBerry 10 Tips

9th Place: Google

At least for now, Google produces only one phone, the Nexus 4, which is made by LG. And, sadly, that phone didn’t score well across multiple categories, leading Google to the very bottom of the barrel in terms of smartphone brands for 2013. Also, now that you can get a pure Android experience from Google Play Editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, the Nexus line is less relevant. Here’s hoping Google does better next time around. 



Best and Worst Smartphone Brands 2013

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Add a comment
  • Lala Says:

    In my own personal opinion, the best manufacturer of phones as well as other electronics is Samsung. (You probably knew i was gonna say that, huh?) Well, its true. I don't care what anyone says, Samsung belongs at the very TOP of the list when it comes to quality and everything else. LG is pretty good, too, since I have an LG phone, so, yeah, if i had to choose the best, it'd be these two. Worst? Duh, I'd have to go with Motorola and Apple. Trust me, folks, iphone isn't that good. I know a few people who've had them. Go with the Galaxy!

  • Jai Kumar Says:

    How come Apple came to second position, as it has a disadvantage of memory Slot and bluetooth not compatible with other company handsets

  • WTF Says:

    How much did Samsung pay you guys for the #1 ranking?

    I see you didn't even bother adding case design/materials/durability to your scores... how ridiculous.

  • Najmul Says:

    Xperia sl is the best and blackberry z10.

  • CHARLES Says:


  • Cashy Says:

    galaxy gear seemz really cool...

  • 1234 Says:

    "Audio (5 points)

    Each of the flagship phones for all nine brands were compared side-by-side both with and without any extra features turned on. We also examined the general call quality and built-in technologies.

    Special Features (15 points)
    Design (10 points)
    Camera (10 points)"

    so a cool looking, 9999megapixel with 3328642 apps that you will probably use just once too see what they do, value more than a PHONE that actually makes good PHONE-calls. just incredible what people value in a phone this days. anything but what the device is meant to do. what is next? a 9.99/10 review of a refrigerator that can;t keep your food cold just because it has 19" amoled display 99terapixels and you can post what food you have on instagram and facebook. gj

  • Just a Guy Says:

    All you so called experts on smart phones come up with different "best" smart phone.
    That sort of tells me either your paid to rate one better or none of you truly know which is best but instead base it on what YOU LIKE in each phone.

    So sad as I have special requirements and seems no carrier or phone company cares what we the consumer truly wants.

  • Hmm Says:

    You just lost credibility. Nokia is #1 when it comes to camera but you gave it 6 while giving Samsung 8 and Apple 9. Ridiculous!

  • Jared Says:

    You guys forget that Mark Spoonauer thinks everything is crap compared to Apple. Even when Apple makes a subpar iOS, he gives it at least 4 stars and an Editor's Choice, just because you know, it's Apple. This site is pretty predictable when it comes to "reviews"

  • Loren Says:

    Google Nexus is better than last place. I would agree the camera is not so hot. The battery life seems fine so far for me, unless you have a ton of things going on in the background, or did movie streaming or something. So far it has lasted the day for me. As for reviews, they vary wildly, so I take it much has to do with opinion, more-so than facts. The user interface is so clean and easy to customize. The notifications work well. Not sure what it takes to be better. I am sure Samsung has so extra fluff. Love the Nexus4 display wise -- turn up the brightness and it pops. Feature wise, it just works great with all the apps I have found for free - nothing I find lacking at all, though the camera is not so good and a dedicated button for camera would be a welcomed thing. The looks of the Nexus is clean and awesome to behold, though you need the bumper on it right away, as glass back can be fragile. All in all, just a classy and clean design, one would think it to be more costly than $299. The audio is great - clear, and people sound natural on the other end of conversations. Using Sherpa for playing songs, the audio seems fine to me. As for selection, well duh, it is ONE phone, but really now it is one of many LG phones. Does anyone expect Google to have a half dozen. The idea is for clean and pure Android phone interface and it hits the mark.

  • Skipper Says:

    Yeah, the best, apart from the fact it looks pig-ugly.

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