We’re back! We already brought you our guides to the best smartphones on AT&T and Verizon Wireless and this time we’re here to offer our advice on what phones to buy (and which one to avoid) on Sprint. The summer is upon us, which means it’s a decent time to buy a new smartphone ahead of the back-to-school season when manufacturers and carriers typically launch new phones (if you’re waiting for the iPhone 5 you probably already made up your mind to do so). Plus, Sprint’s budding 4G LTE network is about to take off and the carrier already offers a few devices that support the faster data speeds offered by LTE. If your phone just bit the dust or if you’re cleared for an upgrade, we have several devices you might want to consider. We’ll be following this with a T-Mobile USA guide, too, so stay tuned for more.
1. Our Favorite: Samsung Galaxy S III
The Samsung Galaxy S III is a no-brainer. It offers support for Sprint’s 4G LTE network and, while the existing LTE footprint is not as expansive as the existing WiMAX network, you’re basically future-proofing yourself for when LTE is available in your town. Plus, it offers hardware specs that make the phone the top dog among all smartphones currently on the market. The Galaxy S III packs a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, a beautiful 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, 16GB or 32GB of storage, a microSD card slot for adding more storage, a removable battery that offers excellent battery life and a svelte design that guarantees you’ll have one of the best looking smartphones on your block.
2. Closest Alternative: HTC EVO 4G LTE
The HTC EVO 4G LTE is Sprint’s version of HTC’s One X. There are a few design tweaks, such as a kickstand, but it’s admittedly more ugly than the One X on AT&T and the Galaxy S III. You might not be buying a phone based on how it looks, though, so there’s also plenty of noteworthy hardware features to point out. It’s packed with a 4.7-inch HD display that’s brighter than the screen on the Galaxy S III, solid battery life, an impressive 8-megapixel camera with HTC’s ImageSense engine for snapping photos in rapid fire, a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and support for Sprint’s 4G LTE network. Unlike other versions of the One X, the EVO 4G LTE also provides a microSD card slot for additional storage, but it doesn’t have a removable battery. Ultimately, if you want the best, you’ll need to choose between the EVO 4G LTE and the Galaxy S III and we prefer the Galaxy S III’s industrial design.
3. Best Smartphone for first-time Smartphone Buyers — iPhone 4S
The iPhone 4S is an excellent phone, particularly for first-time smartphone buyers who want access to a huge marketplace of applications. It doesn’t support Sprint’s 4G WiMAX or even its new 4G LTE network, however. That means you’re stuck on the carrier’s 3G network, which offers pretty terrible upload and download speeds. The iPhone 4S still isn’t a slouch; you’ll get access to Siri, which will be vastly improved with Apple’s iOS 6 update, due this fall, 16GB or 32GB of storage, decent battery life, a palm-friendly 3.5-inch display with a sharp 960 x 640-pixel resolution, a beautiful (and admittedly weak) glass design and an 8-megapixel camera. iMessage and FaceTime are two features that round out the benefits of choosing the iPhone 4S, too.
4. Don’t Buy: Samsung Epic 4G
Sprint has incredibly competitive pricing, so you really can’t go wrong by choosing a number of its free phones if you’re on a budget. We’d avoid any BlackBerry device because they aren’t as powerful as what you’ll get with iOS or Android, but you should also steer clear of the Epic 4G. It’ll set you back $99.99 with a new two-year contract and runs on Sprint’s older WiMAX network instead of its fresh 4G LTE network. It ships with an outdated version of Android (2.3 Gingerbread) and is equipped with an underpowered 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. One redeeming feature, however, is its full QWERTY keyboard for anyone who prefers hardware text input. Do yourself a favor, though, and save up an additional $100 and stick with one of the phones we mentioned above or drop $50 more for the LTE-toting Galaxy Nexus. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see its price drop drastically soon, if you must have the Epic 4G.
5. Wild Card — Galaxy Nexus
This honestly could have been among our top two picks for Sprint, but alas those devices offer slightly better specs and so we’re putting it here as our wild card choice. Sprint’s Galaxy Nexus on Sprint runs on the carrier’s brand new 4G LTE network, which means you’ll get access to the fastest data speeds Sprint offers as the network expands throughout the U.S. Better yet, it only costs $50 more than the Epic 4G and offers Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It will also likely get Google’s latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system soon, which comes with a ton of awesome features — our favorite of which is its revised Google Search feature that acts much like Siri does on the iPhone. You’ll also get NFC for mobile payments using Google Wallet, a large battery, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 32GB of internal memory, 1GB of RAM, a solid 5-megapixel camera and a beautiful contoured 4.6-inch display.