NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Walk into any carrier store looking for a phone, and you'll be bombarded with a plethora of Android smartphones. Dozens of black, white, gold, and the occasional blue, yellow, or purple slabs all vie for your attention on the carrier's shelves. One of Android's biggest strengths, the wide array of available devices, can also make choosing a phone a daunting task.
There's no definitive best phone for everyone, but there are a few Android smartphones that stand above the rest. Phones with better specs than most others, that have better industrial design, or simply phones that are a better value than their competitors. I took all three of these aspects into account for this list.
Keep in mind that the world of Android phones is constantly shifting, with new phones coming every few weeks. This list can only promise to be up to date as of July, 2014. In the coming months there may be new versions of some phones on this list which may cause them to move up or down the list. Or, brand new phones may come around that knock one of these off the list.
9. HTC One (M8) Harman/Kardon edition
The Harman/Kardon edition of the HTC One (M8) gets its own spot on this list because of the impressive audio features of the device. The phone uses Harman's Clari-Fi technology to improve the audio quality of compressed files. That means better music through the HTC One (M8)'s already impressive speakers, or through headphones.
LiveStage, another Harman technology, gives you the feeling of being at a show by improving the audio of your files. Combined, the two technologies make the phone great for those who care about the audio quality of the songs they listen to on their phone.
The only downside of the HTC One (M8) Harman/Kardon edition, and the reason it isn't much higher on this list, is that it's only available through Sprint. I can't recommend that anyone switch to the Sprint network unless it's inexplicably the strongest network in their area.
8. Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is on this list for those who want a high-end Android phone, but don't want a giant 5-inch or larger display. The Xperia Z1 Compact takes everything that's great about the original Z1 and shrinks it down to a more manageable size. The phone has a 4.3-inch 720p display, compared to the Z1's 5-inch 1080p display, that reminded me more of the iPhone 5s than any Android phone in terms of size.
Despite the small size, Sony still manages to put all of the internals of the Z1 into the Z1 Compact, including the Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It even has a 20.7MP Exmor RS camera. The only thing Sony had to downsize aside from the screen is the battery, though the phone should still last a full day.
Unfortunately, the only way to get a Sony Xperia Z1 Compact in the U.S. is to buy it off-contract.
7. Motorola Moto G
The Motorola Moto G is on this list because it's a mid-range Android phone that costs less than $200. It's hard to find another Android smartphone with a 4.5-inch 720p display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor for such a low price. This isn't a phone for those who want the biggest, fastest phone possible, but it is one of the best options for those on a budget.
If there's a downside to the Moto G, it's that Motorola left LTE radios out of most models of the phone to help keep costs down. Motorola intended the Moto G for emerging markets where cost if more a priority than LTE.
Google recently introduced Android One, which will provide a framework for more inexpensive mid-range phones like the Moto G, but this is one of the first affordable mid-range phones, and one of the best.
6. LG Nexus 5
Like the previous two phones on this list, the Nexus 5 is notable because of its low price. The 16GB model of the phone costs $349, though it has specs that are comparable to some phones that cost much more.
What's more notable is the fact that it runs Google's vision of stock Android. The UI of the Nexus 5 is pure Google design with no added bells and whistles. All of the apps follow Google's design language, and the homescreen puts Google Now front-and-center, or just to the left of the center. The Google Now launcher puts the feature to the left of the phone's main homescreen.
The Nexus 5 is also the first device to new updates to Android. It's the only phone that can currently use the developer preview of Android L, and will be one of the first phones to get the full final version, if it isn't the first.
5. Sony Xperia Z2
With the Sony Xperia Z2, Sony tried to address all of the faults in the Xperia Z1, while keeping everything that makes it great. The Xperia Z2 keeps the glass construction of the Z1, and its IP ratings of IP55 and IP58, making it both water and dust proof.
The biggest problem with the Xperia Z1 was its poor display, which Sony addressed with the Z2. The 5.2-inch 1080p display of the Z2 has a lot of buzzwords like Triluminos and X-Reality Engine attached to it, but the key is that it's a good display. My biggest complaint with the Xperia Z1 was the poor viewing angles of the display, and the Xperia Z2 solves that problems. The Z2 also features a fantastic camera and great battery life.
If there's any problem with the Xperia Z2, it's that it isn't available through any U.S. carrier as of now, though it should be soon.
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Giant screens aren't for everyone, but for those looking for a phablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is one of the best in its class. The 5.7-inch display does take some time to get accustomed to, but after a few days every other phone seems tiny in comparison. The larger screen size is great for reading, watching videos, and gaming.
Samsung helps make the giant screen more manageable with the S Pen stylus that adds a few unique features to the phone. It makes the huge screen perfect for taking handwritten notes, or for making quick sketches. The large size is also great for using Samsung's Multi Window feature, which puts two apps on screen at the same time.
3. LG G3
At this point in the list, the choice comes down to personal preference. Based on specs alone, the LG G3 is hands-down the best phone on the market, largely because it's the first to feature a Quad HD (2560x1440) display, giving it a higher pixel density than any other phone. It's also the first phone to use an infrared hybrid autofocus system for the camera, and one of the few with 3GB of RAM
LG addressed many of the issues with the G2 to make the G3 one of the best phones on the market. The software is now much close to Google's stock Android, with a new skin and some features that add instead of subtract from the experience. Notable among these is KnockOn, the feature that lets users tap the screen of the G3 to wake it from sleep. It's especially handy given that the power button of the phone is on the back, just below the camera.
LG also improved the buttons on the back of the phone. The buttons are awkward to use at first, but they help keep the bezels around the display incredibly thin, and at this size every millimeter helps to make the phone more manageable with one hand.
2. HTC One (M8)
Another easy contender for first place, the HTC One (M8) has the best industrial design of any phone on this list. The phone arguably has the best design of any current smartphone, regardless of the OS it runs. This is a phone that's meant to be looked at, with an all-metal body that makes it feel like a high-quality device, especially compared to its plastic competitors.
As with the Harman/Kardon edition, the original One (M8) features BoomSound speakers that make it the loudest and best-sounding phone on the market, if that's something you look for in a phone. The phone also has the unique Ultrapixel camera that sacrifices megapixels to get better results in low-light conditions.
1. Samsung Galaxy S5
If the story of the LG G3 is all about specs, and the HTC One (M8) is all about the design, then the Samsung Galaxy S5 is all about features. Features upon features that you might use once. Maybe. Features like the heart rate monitor, eye tracking, step counting, and a fingerprint scanner that may or may not work.
Samsung did include a few very useful features, though. Features such as Ultra Power Saving Mode switches the screen to black and white and shuts down all unnecessary features to make the already impressive battery last longer.
What really sets the Galaxy S5 apart from other phones though, is its accessory ecosystem. Because the phone is so popular, it's easy to find cases and other accessories that are specific to the S5. Popularity isn't a great reason to choose one phone over another, but its something to consider if you want as many accessory options as iPhone users but prefer Android.