Best smartphones: Christmas 2013

We round-up the best smartphones your money can buy this Christmas

Christmas is almost upon us yet again and what better way to spoil a loved one by gifting a new smartphone?

Whether you're looking for a gift for a family member, a friend or even for yourself, we've rounded up the best smartphone choices on offer for all types of people.

Whether you just want the best of the best, you're on a strict budget, or you're looking for a great camera, here are the best smartphones you can buy right now. Remember to click on the image of each phone to read our full review.

Best of the best

If money is no concern and you're just after one of the best smartphones on the market, these are just the selections you should consider.

Top pick: Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 may look almost identical to its predecessor but it includes a better display, an improved camera and a huge amount of software features and functions. Although many of its software features are gimmicks that you probably won't end up using very often, the Galaxy S4 remains an excellent and overall outstanding smartphone and a great all-round choice.

Alternate pick: Apple iPhone 5s

Apple's iPhone 5s has a small screen by 2013 standards and is unlikely to attract users switching from large screen Android devices, but it remains the best smartphone Apple has ever released. The useful fingerprint sensor, a faster processor and improved low light camera performance will keep most existing iPhone users satisfied, and Apple's meticulous attention to detail and build quality remains unsurpassed.

Worth a mention: HTC One

The HTC One is one of the best designed phones we've ever used. It has an outstanding display and offers fast and smooth performance. It's battery life is below average, the new camera technology isn't a revolution and the tile-based 'BlinkFeed' home screen won't suit all users, but despite these few quirks, the One is a great phone.

Best camera phones

If you demand a smartphone with a great camera, you can't go past these three selections, all which boast superb image and video capture.

Top pick: Nokia Lumia 1020

The Lumia 1020 comes with a 41-megapixel PureView camera, building on the technology first seen on last year's widely lauded but never seen in Australia 808 PureView. The 1020 has a truly superb camera that takes outstanding photos, and offers the best imaging experience you'll ever get on a smartphone. You'll need to live with a thick design and a limited app ecosystem, but the trade-offs are definitely worth it if you want a great camera.

Alternate pick: Sony Xperia Z1

The Sony Xperia Z1 retains an attractive, glass-back design, but is now fully waterproof and has an upgraded 20-megapixel camera. The camera boasts a 1/2.3in sensor, a G lens with 27mm wide angle and a range of software features. The highlight is low light performance — even without the flash, the Xperia Z1 takes decent images in low lit environments.

Worth a mention: Apple iPhone 5s

The camera on the iPhone 5s may still use an 8-megapixel sensor but it now has a 5-element lens with an aperture of f2.2. It promises improved performance in low-light conditions, and for most part, it delivers. Low light photos are also aided by a new dual-LED flash, the first on a smartphone with different colour temperatures on each LED.

Great value

If you're looking for a smartphone that offers excellent value for money, here's the options you should consider. These selections provide great bang for your buck.

Top pick: Google Nexus 5

If value for money is what you're looking for this Christmas it's simply impossible to overlook Google's latest Nexus smartphone, the LG-manufactured Nexus 5. It boasts an excellent screen, powerful internals and runs the latest version of Android. Despite a few flaws, it offers hugely impressive value for money and comes highly recommended.

Alternate pick: Nokia Lumia 925

Nokia's Lumia 925 Windows Phone has many of the same features of its predecessor, but is thinner, lighter and uses an aluminum frame. The Windows Phone OS still has some annoying limitations compared to competing platforms, but the Lumia 925 offers excellent value, particularly as it's available on cheaper plans than most other flagship models.

Worth a mention: Sony Xperia Z

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Sony's Xperia Z was the company's flagship device when it was released earlier this year, but time moves fast in the smartphone world and it's now available on some very well priced plans. It has a 5in, full HD 1080p display, excellent performance, good battery life and water and dust-resistance. The latter is particularly great for our Aussie summer.

Pre-paid cheapies

If you want a cheap but capable smartphone and you can't afford to break the bank, here's the devices you should take a look at. All of these selections are available as outright, pre-paid phones.

Top pick: Nokia Lumia 520

How much smartphone does $179 buy you? That's the question Nokia has emphatically answered with the Lumia 520, the company's cheapest Windows Phone to date. If you can live without a front-facing camera, the Lumia 520 is the best bang for buck on the market. It packs in a wealth of features for its low asking price and sacrifices very little in the process.

Alternate pick: Sony Xperia SP

If you can stretch your budget a little further, the Sony Xperia SP is a relatively inexpensive mid-range Android phone that boasts an aluminium frame, a 4.6in screen and 4G connectivity. It has a lacklustre display but its solid aluminium build, clean UI and good all-round performance make it one of the best phones in its class.

Worth a mention: LG Optimus F5

4G smartphones have generally been restricted to high-end handsets in Australia, but LG is aiming to change this with the Optimus F5. It provides plenty of value for money thanks to a pleasing design, reasonable performance, and largely intuitive software.

Big screen phones/phablets

There's currently a growing demand for smartphones with very large screens, otherwise known as "phablets". Generally offering screen sizes of 5.5in and over, these huge smartphones aren't for the faint hearted.

Top pick: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

It's fair to say that Samsung's Galaxy Note range has created, and now defined the oversized smartphone category. Now in its third generation, the Galaxy Note 3 is best described as an evolutionary device, rather than a revolutionary one. Despite this, its fantastic display, slim build and fast software make it a fantastic option for anyone who's looking for an oversized smartphone.

Alternate pick: Nokia Lumia 1520

With a whopping 6in screen, Nokia has taken the oversized smartphone concept to a whole new level with the Lumia 1520. If you can handle its gargantuan, awkward size, the 1520 combines a great screen with continually developing software, though there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Worth a mention: Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3

The Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 is a mid-range smartphone with a gigantic 6.3in touchscreen. It offers excellent battery life and 4G connectivity, but performance is a mixed bag and it's impossible to use single-handedly. That being said, it's significantly cheaper than most of the alternatives in the oversized smartphone category, so it's well worth a mention.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

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