The best smartphones of 2013

TechCentral’s editors have rounded up the five devices they believe deserve to be in the list of top five smartphones of the year. By Nafisa Akabor.


It’s been a bumper year in the smartphone sector, with Nokia alone announcing nine Lumia handsets, Huawei introducing the world’s slimmest handset, and Samsung debuting too many smartphones to count.

There were many great devices that came to South Africa this year, including the entry-level Lumia 520, which has sold like hot cakes, Huawei’s “world’s slimmest” Ascend P6, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3. But none of those phones, great as they are, made our list.

Without any further ado, we present, in order from five to one, our top five smartphones of 2013.


5HTC One
HTC outdid itself with the release of its flagship HTC One smartphone in March this year. Its 4,7-inch aluminium-clad unibody shell looks stunning and the dual front-facing stereo speakers deliver exceptional sound for a mobile device. It’s powered by a 1,7GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of non-expandable storage. The handset supports LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Wi-Fi and DLNA for wirelessly streaming media content and has a large, 2 300mAh battery. The controversial 4-megapixel ‘Ultrapixel’ camera means fewer but larger pixels on the sensor, which is great for low-light conditions. Apart from BlinkFeed, it’s one of our favourite devices this year. Now if only HTC could sort out its support and marketing in South Africa — we hope its recent distributor deal with Ingram Micro Mobility will get the brand noticed again.


4LG G2
Although late to the premium smartphone market, the LG G2 used this to its advantage to deliver a handset that ticks all the required boxes for a high-end smartphone. With its one-of-a-kind 5,2-inch IPS full-HD display, it packs in a 2,6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM and a slightly disappointing non-expandable 16GB on-board memory. It has a massive 3 000mAh battery, supports LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC, and has a built-in infrared blaster. Its 13-megapixel camera takes excellent pictures at night, while the nifty “Knock On” feature lets you wake your device by tapping the screen twice.


3Apple iPhone 5s
The iPhone 5s just landed on our shores and has already impressed with its fingerprint reader, called Touch ID. The handset is physically identical to the 4-inch iPhone 5 in terms of size and weight, with a new home button that houses the fingerprint scanner. On the inside is the world’s first 64-bit chip in a phone (which doesn’t mean much right now), dual-core A7 processor and the M7 motion coprocessor, which uses very little power. The handset has an improved 8-megapixel camera with larger lens and a dual LED flash for more natural looking photos and is capable of 1080p recording. Battery life has only been improved slightly. The iPhone is still one of the world’s best smartphones, but it’s no longer king of the castle.


2Sony Xperia Z1
Sony’s flagship Xperia Z1 is quite the superphone with its stunning design, durability and outstanding hardware. It has a 5-inch full-HD 1080p screen. Unfortunately, at the slightest tilt, colours appear washed out. But the phone is waterproof and dustproof, and runs on a 2,2GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage that is expandable via microSD up to 64GB. It also has a 20,7-megapixel camera with the same lens found in Sony’s point-and-shoot range, with full 1080p video recording. At 170g, it manages to squeeze in a large 3 000mAh capacity battery.


1Nokia Lumia 1020
Windows Phone 8 is starting to feel a little long in the tooth, but the Nokia Lumia 1020 is still a fantastic device, made better with Nokia’s excellent range of applications. The Lumia 1020 really shines with its whopping 41-megapixel PureView camera, which boasts a six-element compound lens, Carl Zeiss optics and optical image stabilisation. The large sensor allows for pixel oversampling, which reduces a high-resolution picture to much lower resolution, giving it high definition and light sensitivity. We love the optional camera grip that comes with the 1020, which provides an extra boost to the battery, too. The Lumia 1020 is certain to turn heads. As a productive everyday phone and camera, it’s also superb. It’s a worthy winner of TechCentral’s smartphone of the year.

Share this article

  • Alexis_Zenios

    Where is womble?

  • Vuyani Billy Nyathikazi


  • Greg Mahlknecht


  • gamesbook

    Where is the S4 with air scroll?

  • Nazir Taib

    Wow.. Nice

  • Blowntoaster

    What a Joke. Where is the Galaxy S4? The Note 2? The Note 3 even?
    How about the Nexus 4/5?

    The HTC One should be No2 or higher, followed by the G2 and the Note 3/Galaxy S4.

    the Nokia shouldn;t even be on the list. Top 10, not even close.

  • Ronny

    I am extremely disappointed with your choice of best smartphone. You gave the device first spot because of a camera???. I am an iPhone fan but to not have a Samsung in your line up is downright disgraceful :). I do not agree with 4 of your choices and iPhone should have rated a lot better. Just my opinion….

  • anon

    So one day we will call these devices cameras with an integrated phone

  • Ronny

    So one day journalists will not accept bribes from Microsoft and call it like it is… :) (yes, that was a “tongue in cheek” comment)

  • Pasco_e

    What a joke! Seems Tech Central are clueless about Samsung Galaxy S4. Pity.

  • Greg Mahlknecht

    >not have a Samsung in your line up is downright disgraceful

    It’s a list of the “best” smartphones, not the “best selling”. Otherwise we’d have to have the Blackberry Curve there. yuck.

    If you look at the list, the phones generally bring some stand-out or unique feature to the party. HTC One is just a beautifully designed and manufactured phone with OIS in the camera. 5s has fingerprint reader (meh), Xperia is a ruggedized flagship phone, and the 1020 has the camera. I’m still confused about the LG :) The Samsungs are really just made to sell a lot – there’s nothing wrong with them or that strategy, but Samsung chose to build a phone that was easy to manufacture and get supply chains set up for over something stand-out.

    If they’d chosen build quality of the Sony/HTC, they couldn’t have driven prices down as much; if they’d gone for optical image stabilization or a huge camera sensor, they’d have serious supply-side constraints. The Galaxy S3 and S4 have the accolade of destroying the iPhone’s dominance in the smartphone market, but they shouldn’t win awards for design or innovation! I can imagine their manufacturing process is miles ahead of everyone else, but that’s not what this is about.

  • Ronny

    Then why is the article named….and I quote… “The best smartphones of 2013″….and the winner is…

    “TechCentral’s editors have rounded up the five devices they believe deserve to be in the list of top five smartphones of the year”

  • Greg Mahlknecht

    Um yes… top 5 smartphones, not top 5 selling smartphones. That’s what I said.

  • Greg Mahlknecht

    With almost 20% of users using their camera as their primary phone, and “camera” regularly making #1 spot on polls of important cellphone features, it should come as no surprise how the manufacturers are placing more and more importance on the camera. It’s going to become even more important in the future, we’ve reached the point that phones genuinely can replace point and shoot cameras for a large section of the market.

  • Ronny

    ok, I hear you but except for the iPhone, none of those should be on a list that has the words “top” or “best” in it. :)

  • Greg Mahlknecht

    Spoken like a true iPhone fanboy :) Seriously though – I got myself a Lumia 1020, it’s really spectacular. Camera is an immensely important feature on a phone for me, and this thing constantly astounds me – half the time my photos look like the ones from the 1020 ads where you think “no way man, they had to have faked that”.

  • Ronny

    My friends call me an iTard :). Can you stream on the 1020 because I heard that other Lumia models could not handle live streaming?

  • Greg Mahlknecht

    Haha of course you can. These phones all have similar CPUs and GPUs (Like Samsung and Qualcomm, Apple doesn’t design the base CPU/GPUs, it licenses and tweaks them) – if an iPhone is capable of doing something, you can be sure a similarly aged flagship Android/WP8 phone can do it too.

  • Nazir Taib

    Why Lumia can’t? Is there some limitations to region? My Lumia perfectly fine. I’m not sure others region .

  • Nazir Taib

    That’s the king of camera phone.

  • Ronny

    I know that Android can do it but I ALWAYS wonder with Microsoft. We supply streaming solutions and we were battling with older Lumia models. Happy to hear its sorted out in the latest models.

  • Alexis_Zenios

    Nexus 4/5 isnt even available locally.

  • Dave Baker

    I have played with all of these phones (except the Lunima was one down from this one
    All great devices.

    I have also played the the Samsung S4 and Note and I prefer all 5 to the Samsung

    I must admit the Nokia surprised me. I dont know Windows Phone so I tried configuring it to my tastes and apps. Took me no time. Very intuitive. Very solid. Great camera.

    And before anyone gets upset that its a referendum on OS/es – all 3 top ones are there

  • optimusprime

    Hmmph! No note3. Must be in another league.

  • Piet Le Roux

    I will never take this site seriously again !

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