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5 min read 299 Shares 33 comments

The phones that became classics

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.

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Find out what smartphones have achieved classic status. / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

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The iPhone 5 remains a stunning phone, and it represents the moment Apple's line of devices came into its own. / © Neilpcronin / CC BY 3.0

Nexus 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.

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The Nexus 5 is like a dear friend that keeps every promise they make. / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

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The Xperia Z2 was a strange and fleeting pinnacle for Sony. / © ANDROIDPIT

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. 

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The Galaxy S3 was a ferocious new breed of shark. / © ANDROIDPIT

OnePlus X

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.

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The OnePlus X looks incredible, performs well and does it all for just $250. / © ANDROIDPIT

Any glaring omissions? Do you think my choices are indeed the classics of the smartphone world?

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Readers' favorite comments

  • Paolo Apr 23, 2016

    I agree with the iPhone, Nexus, and GS3, but Xperia Z2? Oneplus X? They're "classics," Really? They're not innovative, they're DERIVATIVE! The Z2 just copied and skimmed down the Z1 design. The Oneplus is lost in a sea of literally gazillion faux-flagship phones.

    You want to talk "classic?" Galaxy Note 2, the phone that Democratized the Phablet, living breathing proof of a super large phone is FUNCTIONAL and beneficial, not superfluous. Galaxy Note 3, the Phablet that "Made It." Galaxy S2, because it taunted Apple so hard with its ads it made Android finally, functionally VIABLE against the iPhone. HTC M7, it was a work of art. Lumia 920, it brought colour in a see if greys and whites. First Moto X, the anti-flagship...

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  • Galaxy Nexus. That phone felt SOLID and to my knowledge was the first smartphone with a curved screen. Also, pure Android goodness and so far the only (again, as far as I know) Android phone from Samsung without physical buttons on the front. Combine all that with the nice amoled panel and the phone was a real wonder. And although I've used other, newer Androids since then, it's still a pleasure to hold and use that one on occasion.

  • Why Samsung S2 isn't present in this list?
    For me, a classic of classics.

  • Jim Britt Apr 27, 2016 Link to comment

    The S5 was a winner with it's removable batter, 128GB microSD support, and USB3.0 speeds. The only reason I got a S7 a few days ago was the better camera.

  • Jejoma Apr 27, 2016 Link to comment

    I would go much further back for my first classic - The Ericsson (Remember them?) R380s. Whilst totally limited by today's standards, the magic of having a phone that opened to a large screen display with built-in apps.It was just so amazing! It also shows how far things have come on in the sixteen years since it was released.

  • They all become classic later I think.

  • Michael K Apr 25, 2016 Link to comment

    HTC EVO was a game changer.

  • What about the Motorola Milestone (Droid)?

    I still miss that phone. Sleek, solid, was full of features.

  • andy Apr 25, 2016 Link to comment

    Surprised you didn't put the oneplus one in there, as classics go its got everything and im still using mine as we speak ,still love it 😍😁

  • vicky Apr 25, 2016 Link to comment

    I own a nexus 5, it is one and a half years old now. Power button doesn't work but speed of the phone is blazing fast. No lag at all. It delivers what it's supposed to. 😁
    Thanks

  • This article really just boils down to personal opinion. When I think classic the devices that spring to mind are:

    •Google Nexus 5 (instant classic)

    •HTC M7

    •Oneplus One

    •LG G2

    •Samsung Galaxy S4 /
    Note 2

    •Moto X 2013 / Moto G 2013

    In my opinion the iPhone 5 had no place on this list. I'm not saying it wasn't an excellent device, though, because it was.

  • If you want to add another phone to that list, it should be Galaxy S6 edge. The beautiful design and metal body along with the iconic edges made it one of the best phones if not the best of 2015 and still is very good IMO.

  • Hmm no, is not the iPhone 5 but the iPhone 4S. That was the best iPhone before they introduced the bigger displays. The 6 Plus is really nice though.

  • Rusty Apr 23, 2016 Link to comment

    Yes, Galaxy S3 is definitely a classic, as a matter of fact I'm still using it and it still performs great

  • Nexus 5 is still the best Android smartphone

  • Paolo Apr 23, 2016 Link to comment

    I agree with the iPhone, Nexus, and GS3, but Xperia Z2? Oneplus X? They're "classics," Really? They're not innovative, they're DERIVATIVE! The Z2 just copied and skimmed down the Z1 design. The Oneplus is lost in a sea of literally gazillion faux-flagship phones.

    You want to talk "classic?" Galaxy Note 2, the phone that Democratized the Phablet, living breathing proof of a super large phone is FUNCTIONAL and beneficial, not superfluous. Galaxy Note 3, the Phablet that "Made It." Galaxy S2, because it taunted Apple so hard with its ads it made Android finally, functionally VIABLE against the iPhone. HTC M7, it was a work of art. Lumia 920, it brought colour in a see if greys and whites. First Moto X, the anti-flagship...

    • Yes I too agree with your opinion as the writer has not taken many phones, which you mentioned, into consideration ex - Moto X, moto G, LG G2, LG G FLEX, etc as these phones actually set apart from the rest and raise the cult followers for Android phones. And made android popular.

    • Dead on!

  • It may be a long time ago, but I cannot understand how you overlook the original Galaxy S, which was a game changer with the "large" (at the time) screen.

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