Picking the right smartphone can be tricky. Do raw specs, or user-experience matter? Do you prefer an unskinned version of Android, or one done up in HTC’s best? What’s best for one won’t always be best for the other. I’ve spent a decent amount of time with every smartphone in AT&T’s lineup and have compiled a list of the 5 best phones they currently offer. If you don’t see your phone on the list – don’t fret – it means it’s best for you. For those of you deciding which phone is worth your 2-year contract, read on. If you’re not with AT&T, be sure to check out our other Top 5’s for Sprint & T-Mobile. (Verizon is on tap).
1. Apple iPhone 4S
This one comes with a huge caveat. If you are already using an iPhone 4, please skip to #2 . If you are using anything else, the iPhone 4S still represents the best in AT&T’s lineup. While this proclamation is sure to ruffle a few feathers, raw device sales numbers still indicate consumers are flocking to the latest ‘i’ device from Cupertino. While it’s 3.5” screen is diminutive by today’s standards, its 960 X 640 ‘Retina Display’ is still one of the best in the business. The iPhone 4S’ improved 8-megapixel camera takes great pictures and video (although produces muffled audio), and Siri is always waiting for your next command. Add the phone’s specs and HSPA+ into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a closed-ecosystem that just works. With the iPhone 4S, you know exactly what you’re going to get. (iPhone 4S Review)
2. Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket
Picking between the standard Galaxy S II, and the Skyrocket variety was a tough decision. At the end of the day LTE was the deciding factor for me between the two phone because I value faster internet speeds over chipsets. If you are the opposite of me, head down one spot on the list to #3. The Galaxy S II Skyrocket is a tremendous phone, and packs an even bigger punch than its 4.5” screen. It’s one of the two LTE smartphones in Ma Bell’s lineup (HTC Vivid is the other), and is an Android dream to use. Despite keeping the same 480 X 800 resolution as its smaller cousin the Galaxy S II, the Skyrocket’s Super AMOLED plus screen delivers beautiful images and perfectly rendered text (albeit a bit bigger). Some may take umbrage with its Quaalcomm chipset (vs Exynos), but for my uses it was plenty fast, helped by a 1 gig of RAM. Signing your name to a 2-year contract is a big commitment, you owe it to yourself to have access to an incredibly fast and growing LTE network, that AT&T promises is coming to a city near you. (Skyrocket Review)
3. Samsung Galaxy S II
This ubiquitous smartphone (and its family) have quickly become the gold standard for Android. Fast, powerful, thin and beautiful, the Galaxy S II for AT&T is impressive from just about every angle. The highlight of this 122g package is its heart, the ARM cortex A9 processor and Samsung Exynos C201 chipset. Just typing those make the spec nerd in me shake. This phone handles everything thrown at it with aplomb, and barely breaks a sweat doing everyday tasks. The screen size is a bit smaller than its Skyrocket cousin (4.3” vs 4.5”) while maintaining the same 480 X 800 resolution, meaning everything this screen shows looks bright vibrant and awesome. The camera is tremendous, its Gingerbread operating system has been tested, and its Gorilla Glass display can withstand most of life’s accidents. This phone took a bath in awesomesauce, it just forgot to bring the LTE soap. (Galaxy S II Review)
4. HTC Titan
I love Windows Phone 7. This OS underdog is best represented by what I consider its flagship device, the appropriately named HTC Titan. This gargantuan mobile is packing an almost tablet like 4.7” screen and the latest version of Redmond’s OS, 7.5 Mango. Detractors will immediately point out its single core 1.5 GHz processor, paltry 512 MB of RAM, smaller app ecosystem, and lower resolution screen relative to its size (480 X 800). To them I say, try it. Regardless of what you feel towards Microsoft, their mobile OS, much like iOS just works, and works really well. I’ve never once felt like the device was underpowered, it hums along beautifully, without a single crash or slowdown. It’s elegant and even fun to use. As for the apps, I have yet to find an application that I use on iOS or Android that is not (or some substitute) in the App Marketplace. If you’ve never tried Windows Phone 7, and you are in the market for a new phone, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. You might just like it. (HTC Titan Review)
5. HTC Vivid
Rounding out our top 5 is the HTC-built Vivid, the carrier’s second LTE device. If you’ve read this far, you know that LTE is important to me. The Vivid is at the bottom of the list due to its sheer weight and performance. This is a heavy phone for its size, tipping the scales at 176g. It’s a device you are always aware is in your pocket. While that extra weight does translate to excellent HTC build quality, it was just too heavy for me. However, if you are more forgiving, you’ll be rewarded with potentially incredible data speeds and HTC Sense OS augmentations. Performance was good, but not nearly as fast as its Galaxy S II friends. The Sony built Super LCD was average- but not outstanding -and gave me more trouble than most in direct sunlight. Despite its few flaws, the Vivid is still a great phone, even if it is in a heavy package. (Vivid Review Coming Soon)
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