'Tis the Season to Give a Phone
This holiday season, all of the big phone makers are pushing hot new handsets, from the iPhone 4S with Siri to the first crop of solid Windows Phone "Mango" devices to the first generation of Ice Cream Sandwich-ready Android phones. Read on to learn more.
iPhone 4S ($200 to $400 on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon)
The long-awaited new Apple smartphone isn't the iPhone 5--but that hasn't hurt sales. The new voice assistant Siri, big upgrades to the processor and camera, and access to iCloud and iTunes Match made the iPhone 4S a popular purchase weeks before Black Friday.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Price TBA on Verizon)
The Galaxy Nexus is many things: the first Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich phone, probably the last official Google phone to be produced by Samsung (once the Motorola deal goes through), and one of the first phones to offer a 720p display. With its curved shape and solid specs, the Galaxy Nexus is likely to redefine the gold standard for Android phones. We should see it on Verizon sometime before Christmas.
Sony Xperia Play 4G ($50 on AT&T)
This handset has been around for a few months now, but the 4G update of the Xperia Play seems to be an irresistible stocking stuffer. The first official Android PlayStation phone makes a great gift for anyone who is into gaming on the go. The camera and built-in memory are lackluster, but the price makes those drawbacks easy to overlook.
Motorola Droid Razr ($300 on Verizon)
Motorola brought back one of its most popular flip phones ever and mixed it up with its Droid smartphone franchise. The new Droid Razr has its namesake predecessor's thinness, measuring just 0.28 inch thick. Unfortunately it's also thin on battery life, probably due to its beefy guts, which include a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display, an 8-megapixel rear camera with 1080p video recording, and an HD front-facing camera. The phone is tough on the outside, with a Kevlar backing. Notwithstanding the upcoming Galaxy Nexus, the Droid Razr could be the best Android phone on the market right now.
Pantech Pocket ($50 on AT&T)
Pantech's Pocket is a great budget phone for Android fans. A little more squarish than the average smartphone, it runs the Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS and supports AT&T's HSPA+ network. The 1GHz processor and 5-megapixel camera are nothing to sneeze at, and the phone is light but scratch-resistant. This entry-level Android phone is well worth the price.
Samsung Galaxy S II ($200 to $230 on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile)
Another top-of-the-line Android phone, the Galaxy S II is an update that improves on the success of Samung's Galaxy line. The S II spares little expense in its specs, adding an NFC chip (AT&T and T-Mobile only), 4G capability, a Super AMOLED Plus display, a dual-core processor, and 12GB of storage. The lack of a memory card slot isn't ideal, but most users enamored with its top-notch speed, display, and performance will likely forgive that shortcoming. And just in time for the holidays, T-Mobile will be releasing an exclusive all-white Galaxy S II.
HTC ReZound ($300 on Verizon)
This LTE phone comes with audio technology from Beats by Dr. Dre, thanks to a recent deal between HTC and Beats. Its 4.3-inch screen is the first 720p high-def phone display in the United States, too. Inside, the ReZound boasts a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 32GB of storage, and 1GB of RAM. That leaves just one thing missing for many Android fans, but don't worry--HTC says an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade could come early in 2012.
Motorola Droid Bionic ($250 on Verizon)
The Droid Razr has stolen a bit of the Droid Bionic's thunder, but this phone remains one of the best models released in 2011. It's still impressively fast and built to perform for entertainment or business use.
HTC Titan ($200 on AT&T)
This Windows Phone 7.5 Mango handset lives up to its name. It's undeniably big at 4.7 inches, and its Super LCD is getting warm reviews. Solid specs, an 8-megapixel camera, and access to AT&T's HSPA+ network round out the profile. The Titan is one of the best options for anyone seeking a new Windows Phone this season.
Samsung Focus Flash ($50 on AT&T)
This Windows Phone Mango handset is probably the best value going for fans of Microsoft's mobile OS. The Focus Flash packs a Super AMOLED display and a 1.4GHz processor. Though its camera is disappointing, that price is hard to beat.
LG Thrill ($100 on AT&T)
The LG Thrill has been out for a few months, but I'm including it in this list for all the 3D fans out there. The Thrill is the U.S. version of LG's popular Optimus 3D handset. The 3D recording and playback capability is the draw here; but this phone is also a good deal overall, offering a solid dual-core processor.
HTC Amaze 4G ($260 on T-Mobile)
This Android Gingerbread phone features solid performance, design, and speed, as well as one of the best phone cameras around. PCWorld's Ginny Mies says the Amaze 4G is "sort of like a hybrid of the MyTouch 4G Slide with its awesome camera and the HTC Sensation with its unibody aluminum design." One issue here: It's pricey.
HTC Evo 3D ($100 on Sprint)
Like the LG Thrill, HTC's Evo 3D has been out for some time, but it's another model that 3D fans should consider. Even though 3D on phones can be gimmicky, the Evo 3D is still a wonderful phone without it. The design is attractive, the dual-core speeds are fast, and the Evo 3D is a great entertainment phone overall. In short, it's the best phone that Sprint has to offer.
BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 (Prices Vary on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon)
Motorola Photon 4G ($100 on Sprint)
The Photon could be the best overall value for anyone in the market for a new Android phone. Don't let the strange, almost octagonal design throw you; the Photon comes with serious specs such as an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of on-board storage. The Photon runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).