Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Smartphones

Smartphones – the heavy hitters of the holiday season. These are the gifts that, if all goes well, will stay with someone for two years. They’re tied to contracts. A smartphone is going to become someone’s constant companion. So, all that said, you probably want to pick a good one (no pressure or anything). Fortunately, we have one intriguing smartphone for each of the four major carriers this year – no matter which company your special someone has signed their life away to, you’ll be covered.

Verizon – Motorola Droid Razr Maxx

In a world with the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx might strike you as a surprising choice. Despite keeping a lower profile, this offering from the now Google-owned Motorola deserves a long, hard look this holiday season. The Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich phone can be upgraded to 4.1 Jelly Bean, and has 4G LTE connectivity. It has an excellent 4.7” AMOLED HD display capable of 720p playback and front and rear-facing cameras, the latter of which can take video in 1080p. There’s also NFC and Android Beam functionality, for quick tap-to-transfer between phones and other NFC devices. But, all of that probably strikes you as old hat. Here’s the eye-opening part about this Droid – the battery life. A very impressive 32 hours of battery life is packed in – 13 hours of video playback, 27 hours of music, or 8 hours of Web browsing on a 4G LTE network. It’s a phone that won’t die before the workday is done, and not too many other phones can say that. The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx is selling on Amazon for about $200 with a two-year Verizon contract.

T-Mobile – Samsung Galaxy Note II

The second iteration of Samsung’s smartphone-tablet hybrid is here, and it’s great for anyone who has large hands and a large appetite for data. The Note II, which is every bit the technological equal of the Samsung Galaxy S III,  has a 5.5” HD Super AMOLED display and comes running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box. The S Pen, the stylus that comes with the Note II, is drastically improved from the original – the device is more responsive to it, and there are all kinds of new apps and features on the smartphone that take advantage of it. It’s a little up there in price, but for anyone who wants to consolidate their tablet and smartphone needs into one device, the Samsung Galaxy Note II just might do the trick. You can pick one up at T-Mobile for $369 with a two-year contract, or for $419 sans contract.

AT&T – HTC Windows Phone 8X

Know someone adventurous? Get them started on the brand new Windows Phone 8 era with the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The new operating system will look very nice on the 4.3” super LCD 2 display, and the phone runs on the equally impressive Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. The real selling point here is Windows Phone 8 – if the target of this gift is big into Live Tiles, or if Microsoft has already gotten their hooks in them some other way, this one is arguably the best Windows Phone 8 device on the market. The HTC Windows Phone 8X comes in blue and yellow, and is available from AT&T in 8 GB and 16 GB configurations, for $100 and $200, respectively. The 16 GB phone only comes in blue.

Sprint – LG Optimus G

It won’t transform into an awesome, Decepticon-fighting robot, but the Optimus G is a pretty solid smartphone for Sprint customers often deprived of the more high-end choices. The Optimus G packs in a quad-core processor, GPS, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and 4G LTE connectivity. All of that comes with decent battery life that should keep users going throughout the workday. The 13 MP rear-facing camera is also worthy of notice for being more powerful than the average smartphone camera right now. The LG Optimus G is available through Sprint for $200 with a two-year contract.


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