That's it for the recommendations, now it's time to address why we left off some fan favorites. The Apple iPhone 6 is already one of the best-selling phones in history and so it doesn't need our recommendation. It won't get it either - don't get us wrong, it's quite popular in our team, but we can't help but point out it's double the price of the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, which is better in a number of aspects.
Same goes for the iPhone 6 Plus - if you want a recommendation for a large, metal phablet with a 1080p screen and a quality fingerprint reader the Huawei Ascend Mate7 meets those demands at nearly half the price of the Apple product.
The Ascend Mate7 itself was left off the list since it's in the price range of QHD screens and 2160p cameras. The LG G Pro 2 offers more bang for the buck and knocked the Huawei out of the running. Here's the thing though - the Ascend Mate7 has a lovely metal chassis and if you can afford it (and can live with some of the specs) it's a great device to have. Its fingerprint reader is also one of the fastest we've seen.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is thin, light and has roughly the same specs as the iPhone 6, with a noticeably lower price tag. While that's another point against the Apple phone, the Alpha lacks the battery life, the water resistance and stereo speakers of the Xperia Z3 Compact.
A phone that does have those things is the big Xperia Z3. It's a temporary sittuation, but at the moment the Sony Xperia Z3 is priced 100 or so above the likes of Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8). We'd recommend waiting for a Christmas deal before grabbing a Z3.
The HTC One (M8) was on the list at first, though that changed by the time we were done listing what it doesn't have. Again, the metal unibody is exquisite and if you can afford it you'll enjoy one of the best-designed Androids.
It's not very compact though, not waterproof either, it costs more than devices with QHD screens and high-res 2160p cameras. Really, if you take away the aluminum unibody the HTC One (M8) has little left to brag about, other than its stereo speakers (the Xperia Z3 has those too, if not quite as good).
There's a Windows Phone version of the device, HTC One (M8) for Windows, but the Nokia Lumia 930 is cheaper and gets exclusive Lumia perks from Microsoft, making HTC's belated WP effort a hard sell.
There's also the HTC One (M8 Eye), which upgrades the still camera to 13MP, but it's not widely available. A plastic, water-resistant HTC Desire Eye is another option, but it comes up against the Xperia Z3 in terms of price. It only launched this month and its price will drop, though HTCs don't depreciate quickly.
The Moto X (2014) is in a similar boat - Motorola did a great job of improving the build quality since last year and offers unique customization and materials, however the 16GB model (with no memory expansion) is a good 100 above the homely Galaxy S5. Again, paying extra for a premium build is up to you.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is a unique device that has the potential to start a new trend in smartphone design. It's mainly targeted at early adopters though and as we found in the review, the more conventional Galaxy Note 4 still has its advantages for daily use (not the least of which is better battery life).
Other devices were skipped due to other considerations - we write for a broad audience around the world and some devices are limited to only certain regions or launch periodically in small batches. We generally preferred to put up devices you can buy from your local online shop and even do a quick hands on at the store.
There are quite a few other smartphones that were left out of this buyer's guide, most because there was an alternative that offers better bang for the buck. The phones we listed above are just the high-profile targets.