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There are a ton of amazing smartphones on the market right now, and it’s no surprise considering that OEMs typically want to get the best of the bunch on store shelves before the holidays. There’s a lot to choose from, but a few stand out among our favorites right now. We’ll cover each major operating system, so that you can find the perfect phone for your loved ones this holiday season.
We’re not posting these in any particular order, and we want you to know that there are great smartphones at every price point. These are our top picks, but it’s OK if you don’t agree and we’re happy to hear of any devices you might think fit the bill better. Without further ado, here are our top smartphone picks this holidays season.
If you really want to blow the holiday socks off of a friend or family member who uses an iPhone, why not upgrade them to the iPhone 5s? It offers the fastest processor ever for the product line, Apple’s brand new A7 chip, an amazing Touch ID sensor for unlocking the phone and buying iTunes goods with your finger print, and a camera that’s among the best on the market right now. It even has a unique M7 processor for tracking movements with apps like Nike+ Move and RunKeeper, and Apple’s iCloud backups make it a cinch to move from an old iPhone to a new one.
The iPhone 5c is great for kids or adults who love colors. Apple basically reskinned its iPhone 5 with a new design, so the parts are all mostly the same as last year’s model, but you get a body that blends perfectly with the colors in iOS 7. It’s also more affordable than the iPhone 5s, in case you’re sticking to a budget, but you’re still going to have access to all of the amazing iOS applications that your friends and family use. In most cases we recommend the iPhone 5s hands down, but the iPhone 5c is still a top pick and we totally dig the colors.
Nokia Lumia 1020
We really want to include the Lumia 1520 on this list, but since it’s not quite out yet we’re going to go with the current best Windows Phone on the market: the Lumia 1020. Its 41-megapixel camera takes massive and clear images, arguably the best possible on a smartphone right now, and the huge image size means you can zoom in and crop to get the perfect shot. We also love its Xenon flash, great battery life, yellow color choice and more. Windows Phone is still lagging on apps, but Vine just launched and we know Instagram is on the way. If Android and iOS aren’t up your alley, this should be a no-brainer.
The Nexus 5 is hands-down the best unlocked carrier-free smartphone available right now. For $349 you can pick one up, no contract at all, with 16GB of storage. The 32GB model costs $399, which provides a bit more storage, but Google Drive has you covered for cloud backups. Additionally, the Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and will receive the very latest version of Google’s mobile operating system whenever they are released. It’s super-fast, though the camera is weak, and you won’t find a better phone at this price point.
Galaxy Note 3
$299.99 ($349.99 on Sprint)
Love big screens? So do we, and we’re still madly in love with the Galaxy Note 3. It packs every feature imaginable, including the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, an IR blaster for controlling your TV, an insanely crisp 5.7-inch display with a 1920 x 1080p resolution, 3GB of RAM for cruising through software without a hiccup, and more software enhancements than you can dream up. We don’t use the S Pen often, but when we do it’s an absolute charm for jotting down notes, quickly bringing up the calculator and more. We also dig that the Note 3, like other Galaxy phones, lets you run two apps side-by-side. It’s not cheap at $299 (on contract), but you really get an overload of bang for you buck.
The Moto X is now just $99 and, as of Nov. 11, you can customize it on Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon using the Moto Maker tool. Sure, choosing your own colors and accents is amazing, but we’re still madly in love with the Active Notifications, which lets you check alerts without unlocking your phone, amazing Google Now voice command support that lets you play music, search the web and more by simply speaking “Ok Google Now,” and its super pocketable design. It doesn’t offer all of the latest and greatest specs, but Motorola did a great job showing us that those don’t really matter, provided that the software kicks butt.
The LG G2 is like the Nexus 5, but on steroids and without Android 4.4 KitKat just yet. It includes bonus features, like an IR blaster, and has a slightly larger 5.2-inch display with a 1080p resolution instead of the 5-inch 1080p screen on the Nexus 5. Additionally, it has a 13-megapixel camera instead of the 8-megapixel shooter on the Nexus 5. All of that comes at a cost, though: the LG G2 is $99.99 with a new two-year contract but $699.99 if you buy it contract-free.
Wild Cards and Wrap-Up:
Like we said in the beginning of this article, there are a ton of great phones out right now. Another one we highly recommend is the HTC One, especially because the company has been so amazing at keeping it up to date with new software. It even promised that Android 4.4 KitKat is coming. On that note, you might also consider the larger One max, which should be coming soon. Motorola’s Moto G is a budget-friendly choice that will also hit the market in the coming weeks, and some folks may want to stick around for Nokia’s new wave of Windows Phones.
Depending on the operating system you choose, we think you and your family will be very pleased with any of the choices we’ve listed above. Happy shopping!