6 flagship smartphones you can safely ignore

Though they get a lot of coverage in the press, these smartphones should not be on your list when it's time to buy

Last week, I listed the only five smartphones that matter to any professional user looking to buy a new phone.

There were six flagship devices not on my list of the smartphones you should choose from. They may appeal to you, but they lack one feature or another that keeps them in the also-ran group.

Here's why you can safely cross them off your list most of the time and when you might want to consider them.

BlackBerry Classic Brian Sacco

The BlackBerry Classic


BlackBerry still makes smartphones, but it sells fewer and fewer every year. In fact, each new model seems to sell worse than the last. That's because very few people actually need BlackBerry's very high level of security. The fact is that iOS is secure enough for 95 percent of users, and Android 5 with Android for Work is secure enough for maybe 75 percent of users.

If you are one of those people who does need more security, you also probably want 2011's BlackBerry Bold 9900, which the company even brought back to market for several month last summer. Of the current models, the best choice is either the BlackBerry Z30 (if you want a true touch experience) or the BlackBerry Classic (if you really want the old-style keyboard experience). Beware the BlackBerry Passport, whose unusual screen size makes apps display oddly, and the new BlackBerry Leap, which is widely criticized as underwhelming.

Google Nexus 6 Google

The Google Nexus 6

Google Nexus

The Google Nexus series gets a lot of buzz in the tech press when a new model ships, because it's usually the first Android smartphone to get the latest version of the new Android OS and the beta version of the next Android OS. As a result, it's become a must-have device for developers.

But it's a fairly generic smartphone (it must be, for use as a testbed), so it hasn't caught fire with regular users. Plus, although the Nexus 5 was a nice smartphone, the new Nexus 6 is often criticized as an ungainly phablet. Get a (used) Nexus 5 if you need a reference smartphone for your development work.

HTC One m9 HTC

The HTC One M9


The HTC One is a sleek Android smartphone whose crisp, spare user interface really stands out in the skin-heavy Android world. I liked the M7 model (the M9 is the current edition) because of its smartly spare sensibility.

But HTC has let the One series fall behind technologically, so it's become a middle-of-the-road device more like the Moto X than the Galaxy S6. HTC unfortunately has a history of such ups and downs in terms of its Android commitment; unless a specific model really excites you, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Lenovo Moto X JR Raphael

The Moto X offers different casing options.

Moto X

Lenovo's Moto X flagship also has a following in the blogosphere, but that hasn't translated to widespread adoption. There's still some nostalgia among older technology writers for the Motorola brand, and among younger technology writers for the (disastrous) period when Google owned Motorola Mobility and sought to displace or at least slow down Samsung.

However, despite gimmicks like custom casings, the Moto X has always been a middle-of-the-road device, even with improvements in the latest model. Now that Lenovo owns Motorola Mobility, maybe this middling focus will change. Until it does, why bother?

OnePlus One Michael Kan/IDG News Service

The OnePlus One

OnePlus One

The OnePlus One caught the imagination of many tech bloggers because it runs the CyanogenMod fork of Android, and there's a community that likes to run forked OSes. The smartphone hardware is sleek, and its limited availability gave it an air of being a must-have -- until recently, you had to be special to get an invite for the chance to buy one.

The truth is CyanogenMod is not stable, nor is it as complete as the real Android. Ia The OnePlus One also falls short in key hardware areas such as its camera. The OnePlus series is a technopolitical statement more than a real product. (Note that the OnePlus2 is due by year end, but details are nonexistent.) 

Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi

The Xiaomi Mi 4i

Xiaomi Mi

Then there's Xiaomi, a Chinese company whose Xiaomi Mi shamelessly rips off the iPhone design and whose current Mi 4i model sells very well in China. The company has aspirations to be the next Samsung globally.

It's easy to be the top seller in China's heavily manipulated market, where the government nakedly favors Chinese companies over foreign ones -- and certain politically connected owners over others. Xiaomi is a favored son, so it doesn't have to compete on the merits.

To Xioami's credit, it has focused on quality builds to get the high-end Chinese market. That bodes well for gaining profitable traction elsewhere. However, Xiaomi has run into patent issues outside of China, meaning it may be using technology it doesn't have the rights to use.

The bottom line is that I don't believe it can compete in the rest of the world where intellectual property laws matter more and political connections matter less. But if you need a smartphone for use in China, the Mi 4 should be on your list as the best local experience.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform