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Holiday Buyer’s Guide: The Best Smartphones of the Season

Each quarter we round up a list of the best Android smartphones on the market. It seems more fitting to cover Android that frequently because phone makers refresh Android handsets more often than other mobile operating systems.

With the holidays upon us, however, we’re ready to bring you a list of the best smartphones that we think will make great gifts this year. We’re going to cover an array of devices here, hopefully tapping some of the best options each mobile operating system has to offer.

Buying a new smartphone for a loved-one can be hard, particularly if they’re locked into a contract, so we’re also going to include some options that can be purchased easily, and for relatively affordable prices, off contract.

Let’s dive in now.

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iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus

Apple hit a home run this year with the introduction of both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. We’re not here to tell you which screen size is better: some members of the TechnoBuffalo staff prefer the smaller iPhone 6, while others appreciate the larger screen of the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple totally redesigned the body, opting for a thin and light design, but you’ll find these are the most powerful iPhones ever. With iOS 8, a new Apple Pay mobile payment option, some of the finest cameras on smartphones today and quick performance, you really can’t go wrong with Apple’s latest devices.

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Galaxy Note 4

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is one of our favorite Android smartphones on the market, and it’s arguably the best phone Samsung has ever created. We’re in love with the sharp edges and the premium build, but also appreciate the expandable storage, replaceable battery, quick charging features, improved S Pen and more.

That’s not to mention the Quad HD Super AMOLED screen, either, which is probably the best we’ve ever seen on a smartphone. If you’re in the Android camp, and don’t mind tweaking the software a bit to get rid of TouchWiz, this is a no brainer.

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OnePlus One

Several members of the TechnoBuffalo staff own the OnePlus One and, while it’s still hard to find, this is a great choice if you need a phone off contract. It offers some of the most powerful specs out there, including a Snapdragon 805 processor and 13-megapixel camera, but won’t break the bank at $299 without any carrier contracts.

Plus, since it’s unlocked, it’s a great choice for global travelers. Toss in CyanogenMod 11 and you have a device that Android enthusiasts will love, too.

DROID Turbo

The DROID Turbo is tied to Verizon Wireless right now, but with a promise of two days of battery life – which has held up relatively well in our tests – an amazing Quad HD screen, a near barebones version of Android, a 21-megapixel camera, and support for super fast charging (up to 8 hours of mixed usage after just 15 minutes at the outlet), the DROID Turbo is certainly a top choice on Verizon Wireless and. If you’re adventurous, you might even seek out the Moto Maxx, which is the international version of this phone.

Nexus 6

The Nexus 6 is still hard to find and it’s more expensive than other Nexus smartphones that came before it. That said, it’s now available from some carriers on-contract and is also the first smartphone to launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop.

You’ll find a huge nearly-6-inch Quad HD display, 32GB or 64GB of storage, 13-megapixel camera, Snapdragon 805 processor, awesome voice activated controls and more. Plus, it’s water resistant, supports wireless charging, and will likely receive Android updates faster than most competitors in the future. This is the benchmark for Android and shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone shopping for a new smartphone.

Moto X (2014)

If the Nexus 6 is just a tad too big, check out the Moto X (2014), one of our favorite devices available right now. You can tweak the accents, the back cover, the front body color and more, building it to the liking of your loved one.

You’ll also find a near-pure version of Android, a more stomachable up-front cost than the Nexus 6 but the same first-class design (if a bit smaller). It also features Motorola Assist, Active Display for viewing notifications with the wave of a hand, first-class voice control features (name the phone whatever you choose!) and more. Plus, you’ll already have access to Lollipop, since the update is rolling out now.

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Lumia 830

This list wouldn’t be complete with some Windows Phone love. While we’re huge fans of the Lumia 1520, Lumia 1020 and Lumia 930, all of those devices are growing a bid older compared to Microsoft’s latest releases. The Lumia 830 was introduced in September and Microsoft bills it as the “smartphone for everyone.” We tend to agree, and like the balance between price and features offered by the Lumia 830.

You’ll get the latest Windows Phone 8.1 update installed, complete with Cortana, several color choices, and a lower up-front cost than some of the Android smartphones on this list. That’s not to forget wireless charging, a 10-megapixel camera, 16GB of expandable storage and a nice and large 5-inch display.

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BlackBerry Passport

We recently reviewed the BlackBerry Passport and we know there are still plenty of BlackBerry QWERTY-loving fans out there. This is our favorite BlackBerry to date, so if you have a loved one who needs a QWERTY device and loves BlackBerry’s ecosystem, this is a top pick.

The Passport includes a redesigned QWERTY keyboard that doubles as a trackpad, a solid camera, expandable storage, and a first-rate design. Plus, that square 4.5-inch 1440 x 1440-pixel display is excellent for viewing and editing work documents on the fly.

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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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