What I enjoyed using the most in 2014
2014 was a pretty good year for Android powered, and related, devices. Smartphones, tablets and wearables all advanced to a stage genuinely above anything we'd seen before and whichever manufacturer you looked at there was a good chance you'd find a great phone.
The devices that came across my own desk surprised me a lot. I can honestly say that no truly bad phones came my way at all in 2014, and some of the ones that I enjoyed using the most were from some unlikely sources. So, here's the devices I enjoyed using the most from 2014.
My favorite Android phone — LG G3
Just as the LG G2 was my favorite phone from the 2013 crop of Android devices, the LG G3 was my favorite from 2014. It isn't without its faults – LG still needs to step up its game a little when it comes to software – but I'll readily admit I went to the launch event in London with high hopes.
And from the first moment I touched it I wasn't disappointed. Once again LG crammed a large display into a device easily manageable in one hand, and what a display. While being first to put a QHD display into a device looks great on paper, on the whole it is a joy to look at. There are a couple of color issues and some weird sharpening issue with text in certain places, but most of the time it's fantastic. And that screen doesn't destroy the battery life like many feared it might. The G3 rarely struggles to get through the day.
Round the back LGs laser-guided auto-focus helps the G3 become one of the very best cameras on any Android smartphone. In fact until the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 arrived, it was easily arguable the G3 was the best Android camera.
And the buttons on the back continues to be a superb idea.
More: LG G3 review
My other favorite Android phone — Huawei Ascend Mate 7
Huawei's second big device launch of 2014 is probably its finest yet. While the oversized smartphone isn't for everyone, the Ascend Mate 7 is a fine example of one. Great design and construction, immense battery life, a form factor that defies the size of the display, the Mate 7 is a well put together phone by any standards.
It also boasts the best implementation of a finger print scanner anywhere away from the iPhone. With a single touch you've unlocked the phone in the blink of an eye. And as with the Ascend P7 that came earlier in the year, it boasts a solid all round camera that will take great shots in most situations.
Huawei's software could still use some work, but it's taken a big step forward with the Mate 7. It's a big, metal phone, but it's one that I'm still using today. There's no substitute for an enormous battery, and it's the first huge phone I haven't put down.
My favorite budget Android phone — Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G
So, here's a bit of a wild card. With the recent successes of Xiaomi they're becoming a big player, even if you can't buy their phones in many places round the world. So, in the pursuit of doing this job as best I can, I imported the Redmi Note 4G. A budget offering – seriously, it cost me £127 including shipping from Hong Kong – that has recently gone on sale in India.
And it's absolutely incredible.
The mid-range hardware specs fade into nothing when you use the phone. It's smoother to use than some manufacturers – who will remain nameless – flasghip devices. MIUI is a deep, deep customization of Android. But you know what? Xiaomi makes it work. And work well. It's big, but light, and yes, it's going to be tough to use in some parts of the world, but it's the most impressed I've been with a low cost device since the Moto G.
It's also got a really nice 13MP camera. Not just nice for a cheap phone, nice for any phone. Xiaomi's approach to design and marketing may be questionable, but so long as they make phones this good, they've a bright future.
My favorite wearable — Xiaomi MiBand
It's a double whammy for Xiaomi. OK, the MiBand doesn't actually run Android, but it's a great accessory to an Android device. I imported it to the UK for not a lot of money and I've been happy with it since day 1. It's small, comfortable and boasts absolutely insane battery life. At 39 days since its last charge it still has 29% battery charge remaining. Take that Fitbit.
Its accuracy could be questioned at times, but for the more casual fitness/activity tracker, there's not much to dislike about it. It's cheap, works with any recent Android phone – and now even the iPhone, if you're partial – and tracks sleep, steps and running. You can get it in a range of different colors, but the biggest issue is still actually getting it. There are plenty of online retailers that will import them for you.
More: Xiaomi MiBand Review