Whether you're due for an upgrade or just have extra dough burning a hole in your pocket, there's never been a better time to buy a new smartphone. Apple, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung have completed refreshing their respective lineups in time for the holidays; now all you have to do is pick out the phone that best suits your needs. Regardless of your carrier, you can find a new phone this season that you'll love and that your friends and family will covet.
Given so many solid choices, we've broken down the best smartphone options by carrier, offering two top picks and an honorable mention for each of the big four services (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon).
What more can we say about Apple's iPhone 5? It's the thinnest iPhone yet, with a stellar camera and more available apps than you can shake a stick at. The iPhone 5 is available on multiple carriers, but AT&T's version gets a special nod for being able to connect to the sevice's faster HSPA+ network in areas where LTE isn't yet available.
The Nokia Lumia 920 is a big handset, but that size accommodates a roomy, impressive-looking 4.5-inch, 1280-by-768-resolution screen that can respond even to gloved fingertips. The phone's camera uses advanced floating-lens technology, which allows the lens to stay open longer and capture more light to produce amazing photos even in low light.
Honorable mention: The Samsung Galaxy Note II is even larger than the Nokia Lumia 920, and its size makes it the ideal device for watching videos or reading books on the go.
Though the LG Optimus G is available for both Sprint and AT&T, the Sprint version sports a higher-megapixel camera and a more aesthetically pleasing design. The Optimus G features a beefy quad-core processor and interesting software enhancements that set it apart from other Android smartphones, as well as a crystal-clear display that makes the phone easy to use in bright sunlight.
Samsung's Galaxy S III is available on all four major carriers. Sprint's version, however, is the only one that's compatible with Google's mobile payment system, Google Wallet. If you find the Optimus G a tad too large for comfort, the Galaxy S III may be just your style. Its slick design and smaller dimensions make it a worthy Android alternative to LG's handset.
Honorable mention: The Apple iPhone 5 on Sprint may not run at the LTE speeds that its Verizon and AT&T cousins enjoy—but with unlimited data, who needs them?