Many phones pass through the AndroidPIT offices. Most are good, a few are great, but only a tiny elite become stone-cold classics. We’re not talking about those best-smartphone-of-the-year winners, rather those that whisper the sublime, that contain some smartphone magic that lingers long in the memory. These are the chosen ones: the phones that have climbed to classic status.
Apple iPhone 5
Not only the shortest-serving iPhone, but also, far and away, the best. The iPhone 5 remains a wonder. Just to see one and hold it is a pleasure. Although it was, at the time, the thinnest iPhone ever made, its sensible dimensions lend it a solidity and reality that is sometimes lacking from the wafer-thin smartphones populating the high end today.
The design of the iPhone 5 was the kind of thing that comes along very rarely in the commercial electronics market, striking a profound balance between aesthetics and functionality. It has exactly that indefinable excellence that elevates a product beyond the function it serves.
It also felt like the first iPhone that was all Apple, housing its first custom processor, the A6. Besides that, a jump in screen size and switch to a 16:9 ratio meant easily the best screen yet.
Phones came after it that didn’t look all that different from it, but there was something hidden in its sprezzatura that, to my mind, makes it the best looking phone ever made. The balance of straight lines and wide curves, the anodized aluminum backplate, the size, everything comes together on the iPhone 5.
With the Nexus 5, LG hit the price/performance sweet spot with the accuracy of a Marine Corps sniper. For many, it is still the best Nexus device ever made, and when the Nexus 5X was announced, there was furor and clamor, but it largely failed to live up to expectations. A natural outcome when you’re the successor to one of the most beloved smartphones ever made.
The Nexus 5 embodied all the values the Nexus line espoused, bringing powerful hardware running barebones Android at a mid-range price point. It set a new standard, and remains, in the minds of many, the yardstick by which all Nexuses are measured.
Although it sounds boring, the Nexus 5 was probably the most satisfactory phone ever made. Everything it set out to do, it did. In a world increasingly build on unfulfilled promises, it’s good to see something go against the grain, and earn shed loads of respect for doing it.
Sony Xperia Z2
Remember when Sony’s mobile division was doing well? No? Although it might seem like a fairy tale, it’s true that once they were actually selling phones. In fact, demand was outstripping availability. The Xperia Z2 continued the Z1’s success, with Sony struggling to produce enough stock to meet the volume of preorders.
Not only was it a commercial hit, but the Xperia Z2 hit the omnibalance design principles with a deft and beautiful blow. It provided a mature, premium design, far ahead of the adolescence of the Xperia Z1. It was also where Sony’s camera tech really came into its own, with a 20 MP rear camera, also offering 4K video.
The Xperia Z2 represents a strange, uniquely Sony crossroads. It is at once where the company came into its own and produced its first truly excellent device, and also the last time that the company could really be said to be doing well. A brief moment of transcendence, made all the more beautiful for its transience.
Samsung Galaxy S3
In a world dominated by iPhones, there was one, brave, singular voice that dared to join the race for popular appeal. The Samsung Galaxy S3 roared through the market like a stray cat possessed by ungovernable rage. It was the first Android smartphone to launch with a higher price than an iPhone 4S, and it was the device of the moment, gathering adoring supporters around the world.
In essence, the Galaxy S3 was a game changer. It set Samsung in direct competition with Apple, something that had previously seemed like the far-fetched fever dream of a maniac.
The Galaxy S3 still had some way to go in terms of design; the polycarbonate shell was deemed by many to feel cheap and inferior to the iPhone, and it took a while for Samsung to catch up to Apple in this regard. Despite this, the Galaxy S3 achieves classic status thanks to its sea changing ways.
Although it hasn’t even been out a year, the OnePlus X has ‘classic’ written all over it. In my humble opinion, it’s the best looking Android phone currently available. And although it’s running on what is now two-year old hardware, it somehow seems to zip along.
$250 for a design of this quality – the most appealing to me since the aforementioned iPhone 5 – and performance off of two-year old innards that still impresses six months after launch? That is classic material if ever I saw it. Let’s just hope that the follow up, sure to arrive later this year, lives up to the insane standard set by this beautiful piece of design and engineering work.
Any glaring omissions? Do you think my choices are indeed the classics of the smartphone world?