5. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - part phone, part tablet, all powerful
If you find yourself reading, writing and just using your phone more than any other device, then you may be a candidate for the Galaxy Note 2. It's a powerful phone with incredible battery life, but it's not for everyone. Its most defining feature is also its most polarizing: its size.
Just shy of 6-inches (5.95-inches to be exact), the Note 2 is huge, and therefore not for everyone. If you never carry a handbag, satchel or you don't rock nineties cargo shorts, then this phone may not be for you. It's also got a somewhat slow shutter speed, so quick pics are out of the question.
With great size comes great benefits; the Note 2 is powered by a 1.7 GHz quad-core and backed by 2GB of RAM. Internal storage on AT&T's model is 16GB, although 32 and 64GB version are available from retailers. The Note 2 supports a 64GB microSD card, so storage shouldn't be an issue. AT&T stocks it in grey and white.
It's also perfectly suited for a few of Samsung's TouchWiz touches, like Multi-Window, which is basically a picture-in-picture for app multitasking. Then there's the S Pen, which lets you draw directly on the screen. We don't often see people using this feature, but the pen tucks away so nicely we can't complain.
This phone doesn't come cheap. A Note 2 with set you back $300 with a two-year agreement. Say no to a contract and its $650. Ouch.
4. LG Optimus G Pro - who says bigger isn't better?
Love 'em or hate 'em, "phablets" are here to stay as long as folks keep buying them. It's certainly taken LG long enough to launch a proper response to Samsung's big-screen devices, but overall we found the Optimus G Pro a worthy contender to the Galaxy Note.
If you're going to put a massive 5.5-inch display on a smartphone, make it a good one - and that's exactly what LG has done here. Paired with photos taken using its effective rear camera image sensor, this is a screen you won't mind spending hours looking at.
Despite the gorgeous display, the Optimus G Pro is ultimately a tad too large for a smartphone. Despite LG adding custom one-handed features, there's just no getting around the sheer size, so users will need to get used to using it with both hands.
It's a shame Samsung has deeper pockets and a larger marketing budget, because the LG Optimus G Pro is nearly every bit Sammy's equal - not just when pitted against the equally phablet-sized Galaxy Note 2, but also the largely overhyped Galaxy S4.
3. iPhone 5 - the best iPhone for 8 months or so
While most premium handsets have gone quad-core, the iPhone 5 is still dual-core, but still manages to keep pace with the competition. Chalk it up to Apple engineering, we suppose. The iPhone 5 also boasts a stellar camera, and great music playback support.
If you're already using an Apple computer like the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, you'll really love the iPhone. The syncing and communication between them is excellent. Podcasts and contact information can be automatically synced over Wi-Fi, and all your most pertinent information and photos can be backed up to iCloud, ensuring it can never be lost.
If we had to ding the iPhone 5, and we do, it would be on price. At $199, $299 and $399 for 16, 32 and 64GB models, with contract, it's an expensive phone. This is especially true considering you can't expand the storage with a microSD card. Off contract the iPhone 5 is downright unaffordable, going for $649, $749 and $849.
Then there's the whole iOS 6 as a walled garden argument. If you don't like the look of the iPhone 5S or iPhone 6, whichever comes next, good luck getting any of your iTunes purchases onto a non-Apple device. Finally, the whole Apple Maps fiasco is still fresh in our minds. Thankfully a third-party Google Maps app has been released, and it's fantastic.
All that aside, the iPhone 5 is easily the best iPhone yet. It's thinner, taller, faster and most importantly, the first iPhone to take advantage of 4G LTE. Its more than earned its high rank among the best AT&T phones.
2. Samsung Galaxy S4 - de-throned but still loved
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a phone that we really, really like. The combination of powerful innards, the market's best screen and a clever design ethos all combine to make a really strong contender for the handset you should be buying.
It's slick, it's fast and it wipes the floor with the competition in so many ways. The 13MP camera is one of the best we've seen on a phone for getting that picture, with rich colors and texture the way forward especially on a screen that's out of this world. Even at a lower PPI the 5-inch display dominates the competition.
But for a phone that's so quick to run through nearly every task we were a little upset to see how long it takes to load a gallery up. This problem is compounded with a microSD card, and the more stuff on there, the more the phone has to parse.
Regardless, the Galaxy S4 is a great, great device in its own right, reinventing what it means to own a brilliant smartphone in a number of ways. The gestures are cool, the touch-less experience amazing at times - in short, it's a wonderful phone you'll want to pull out of your pocket again and again and again.
1. HTC One - the one you need
The HTC One is the best phone the firm has made, without a doubt. It's got the wow-factor that made us fall in love with the HTC Desire, and manages to bring Sense back to a level that shows off the best of Android, rather than obfuscating it. There are those that pine for stock Android Jelly Bean, but updates aside, we happen to think that Sense is better.
The camera is a great addition for on the spot shooting - if you want to take the photos and blow them up somewhere, it's not the phone for you, but if you want to be able to snap your friends in pub without it being a blurry, dark mess, the HTC One comes into its own.
The battery life issue has been negated, although it's not gone away totally. But many will only use HTC Zoe and the highlight reels during the weekend, and in doing so will remove some of the big battery draining problems with the phone day to day.
Our only real gripe is with storage: many will argue that expandable memory slots are unnecessary when you've got Dropbox on board for extra space, or just being organized and deleting unwanted content will solve the problem. That's true to a degree, but it's not common behavior for today's smartphone user.
If you're looking for a phone, we can honestly say this is the best HTC phone ever. But we'll go one better than that: it's the best phone on the market full stop. The Galaxy S4 is sleeker and cheaper, and the iPhone 5 is, well, Apple-ier.
But for sheer level of functionality, innovation and just overall effect it has in the hand, we can't help but recommend the HTC One to anyone looking to buy a new smartphone.