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Cell Phones & Mobile

Best Smartphone

Like most technology, what's initially exclusive becomes commonplace and the same applies to mobile phones. With the explosion of smartphones, it was only a matter of time before they became an everyday device. If you're looking for a new phone, now is the time to consider upgrading to a smartphone as the selection of models and features each can offer are excellent. We've chosen the following best budget Verizon smartphone because of their extended battery lives which can realistically last through a full day of voice, texting, and data usage, they feature durable designs allowing each to survive the rigors of every wear and tear complete with fumbles and drops, enhanced photo/video capabilities, and equipped with excellent camera technology for capturing crisp photo stills and video.

iPhone 6s Plus - Verizon

iPhone 6s Plus - Verizon

For users looking to balance cost with performance and who are partial to iOS devices, it’s the one-year-old items that usually are the sweet spot. While they don’t command the same prices as the new phones that were released that year, Apple’s older-generation iPhones are still devices that are extremely serviceable and that will continue to be updated for years to come. This is the case of the Apple 6 and 6 Plus.

While many new features were rolled out with the release of the 6S series, Apple’s 6 and 6 are still one of the best-performing smartphones available, making it an excellent buy. There’s a couple of caveats, though. If you’re a super user, who demands an extreme amount of storage capacity, keep in mind that the re-released 6-series may not be for you. The phones come in 16 and 64GB capacities, but not 128GB like the current-generation models. Fashionistas will also want to keep in mind that rose gold and gold are not options, but silver and space grey are.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use an 8 megapixel sensor for its images and video. Apple’s used the 8 megapixel sensor on several generations of iPhones and its images have consistently been rated as some of the best on photo sharing sites like Flickr. Though the video resolution maxes out at 1080p, it shouldn’t be a problem for most, as 4K TVs are still fairly rare.

Images and videos taken by the 6 and 6 plus are displayed on excellent displays, which are the same that are used on the newer 6S and 6S Plus. The 6 Plus screen comes in at 1920 by 1080 pixels (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334 x 750 pixels for 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). According to Apple, both phones are "retina" displays which means text and graphics are sharp and at their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

The phones can easily keep up with the latest networking standards with cellular networking which I done via LTE. WIFI networking includes the newer 802.11 ac standard, as well at the older a/g/b/n standards. The A8 processor is about a year old, but it still holds up well when compared other smartphones. Despite initial reports of users being able to bend iPhone 6 devices, both models are extremely well built with displays clad in shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass. Rest assured, the phone will stand up to daily use, even in the hands of the clumsiest user.

We’ve chosen the iPhone 6 Plus as the preferred device between two. While both phones are virtually the same, the addition of optical image stabilization in the Plus model makes a definite difference in still image performance. However, the smaller iPhone 6 does not include this feature.

Motorola Droid Turbo

Motorola Droid Turbo

Motorola’s Droid Turbo touts its speed as its main selling point (in this case, a 2.7Ghz processor ties everything together) but what’s not so apparent is the real-world appeal of the device. Modern smartphones are made of glass, metal (or sometimes plastic) and a whole lot of anxiety. However, this phone is very well equipped against the knocks, bumps and spills that most people encounter on a daily basis.

The Droid Turbo is made from Kevlar (the stuff commonly used to stops bullet) and "metallized glass fiber". Additionally,  the 5.2 inch screen is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3, the latest version of the hardened glass. Sure, you could use a case, but if the design of a phone was its selling point then you’re essentially getting something different than what you paid for. Or you could go without a case and worry about the (inevitable) slip of the hand that means a dented phone or, worse, a broken screen.

The Droid Turbo features a 21 megapixel camera that shoots video in 4K and the device comes with 32GB of storage (loaded with Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box). This phone connects to cellular networks using the LTE standard and its WIFI radio is compatible with 802.11 b/g/n/ac. The device’s battery also boasts a 48 hour charge, with an 8 hour charge after 15 minutes of being plugged into a wall in addition to featuring wireless charging.

Motorola Moto X - 2nd Generation (Verizon)

With portable devices becoming a more important part of any tech company’s bottom line, consumers benefit from increased competition. In the case of the Moto X, Motorola created a phone that won the praise of many critics. When the company was sold to Lenovo, people wondered if the Moto X was dead. With the second iteration of the Moto X, Lenovo shows that it’s interested in growing, and improving, its business.

The second generation Moto X blows up to a 5.2-inch phablet, offering a sharper, clearer and all around better viewing experience than its smaller predecessor. The X ditches the previous generation’s plastic frame and uses a much more durable metal frame; for Verizon users, customizable case backings which include real wood are available. Also interesting is the phone’s LED flash which is arranged in a ring around the 13 megapixel camera, much like flashes favored by professional photographers.

While the X uses a customized version of Android KitKat 4.4, many have applauded the changes are subtle and actually enhance the user experience. The only downside is the phone has a slightly lower battery life than other large format Android phones.

Apple iPhone 5s (Verizon)

The iPhone 5S is the oldest smartphone Apple is now offering for sale — it’s also the smallest. While small might seem like a negative, there’s many people who’ve questioned the trend toward larger phones. With a four inch screen size, the iPhone 5S is a very pocketable but there’s no getting around the fact it’s an older phone. That being said, the phone features two of the more important features that Apple’s incorporated as important in its more recent phones: Touch ID, a biometric sensor to allow access to one’s phone with a fingerprint, and a 64-bit processor. It should be noted the 5S does not allow for Apple Pay transactions, as it lacks a near-field-communications chip.

The 5S uses the same 8 megapixel camera that its successor, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use; a search on photo sharing sites will show that the stills captured by iPhones with 8 megapixel sensors are some of the most popular in terms of their visual quality. Storage for those images and videos, in addition to any other data, is limited to 16 or 32GB. Users with larger libraries need to look elsewhere. The device’s WIFI radios can receive 802.11a/b/g/n signals, but not the newer ac standard. Cellular networking is through LTE.

Motorola Droid Mini (Verizon)

The Droid Mini by Motorola combines hardware functionality with Google's latest version of its 4.4 KitKat Android operating system. The Droid Mini's camera sensor is 10 megapixels for taking still photos and 2.2 megapixel front facing cameras which are perfect for video conferencing and selfies. There’s 16 GB of storage for data, but unfortunately no external data options. The 4.3-inch screen size is what defines the phones "mini" designation, which is small for an Android device anyway. Finally, this smartphone accesses data via LTE, rather than the slower 3G standard for faster data transfer and web surfing.

iPhone 6s Plus - Sprint

iPhone 6s Plus - Sprint

The Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus introduced two new screen sizes to the device’s lineup, a 4.7 inch smartphone and a 5.5 inch phablet. Though the company’s introduced a new phone, the 6 and 6 Plus are still devices that have a long life ahead of them. Though current-model iPhone models come in data capacities up to 128GB, the 6 and 6 Plus maxes out at 64GB, with a 16GB option also available.

The phones use the same 8 megapixel sensor that’s captured many of what are considered the best smartphone photos on photosharing sites around the internet. The camera can also shoot video up to 1080p. There phones have upped their resolution to 4K, but the fact is most TVs can’t take advantage of the higher resolution video.

The 6 Plus screen comes in at 1920x1080 pixels (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). Both phones, according Apple are "retina" displays, mean text and graphics are sharp. At their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

With LTE cellular networking and the ability to use VoLTE (or voice over LTE), the 6 and 6 Plus will be usable for the foreseeable future on most mobile phone networks. If you’re in the vicinity of a trusted WIFI router, the 6 and 6 Plus will be able to connect to the most advanced 802.11 protocols, including ac, to older b networks, and everything in between.

A year later after its introduction Apple’s A8 processor, which is the heart of both phones, is still extremely fast and can handle any apps that are thrown at it.The phone is very usable and stands up to normal use. Though early reports raised concerns that the aluminum body could be bent, it was later discovered that these were rare and extreme cases while the display uses the equivalent of Gorilla Glass. Apple also dropped the popular gold color, with the phone available only in silver and space grey. (Rose gold is only available for 6S and 6S Plus models.)

The combination of price and performance makes the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus one of the best buys in smartphones. However, we’re going with the iPhone 6 Plus as our device of choice because of the addition of an optical image stabilizer. The 6 does not feature OIS and it does make a very apparent difference in stills.

LG G Flex2, Platinum Silver 32GB (Sprint)

LG’s highly rated G series of phones are known as the company’s flagship models which is a shame, because the Flex 2 is very well-made phone that’s light on the pocketbook. At 5.5 inches, the Flex2 is a phablet sized device that (as its name implies) features a curved screen. However, the 13 megapixel sensor in its camera is probably going to be of more interest to most users, that also features a floating lens and it shoots video in 4K.

Selfies and video conferencing is done with a 2.1 megapixel camera and LG’s variant of Android 5.1 Lollipop can enable self-shots with a simple hand gesture. The Flex2 comes with 32GB of storage but it can use microSD cards up to 2TB, a feature that the more pricier crop of Galaxy phones lack (much to the protest of the device’s users). LTE networking ensures fast cellular networking and the phone is also compatible with 802.11a/g/b/n/ac wifi networks.

HTC One A9 (Sprint)

HTC One A9 (Sprint)

HTC’s One series of smartphones has traditionally held its own among flagship Android smartphones. At one time, HTC’s smartphone business was larger than Samsung’s and one of the earliest adopters of Alphabet/Google’s mobile operating system. However, this means that the One A9, the latest addition to HTC’s flagship lineup, is a great buy.

It’s one of the few phones that comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box. The camera with its 13 megapixel sensor, comes with optical image stabilization and shoots video at 1080p while the  front-facing camera features a 4 megapixel sensor. With this phone HTC opted to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5Ghz 617 processor to power the device.

The One A9 comes with 32GB of stock storage for data and media, but it is expandable via microSD cards for another 200GB. And NFC chip allows short-range data transfer and mobile payments, with LTE networking takes care of cellular data. It is compatible with 802.11b/g/n/ac wifi.

The One A9 comes with 32GB of storage and is expandable up to another 200GB of storage using a microSD card. It also features 802.11b/g/n/ac wifi networking, with LTE cellular networking. An NFC chip is also built-in for short-range data transfer and mobile payments. The phones 5 inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass and the metal unibody construction means this pick can easily stand up daily use. However, paranoid and accident-prone users will want to (as always) consider a case. Overall, the HTC One A9 is an excellent device for hardcore Android users looking for a flagship without the accompanying price.

Samsung Galaxy Grand

Samsung Galaxy Grand

Samsung has a wide selection of phones that don’t receive the same press as the Galaxy S or Edge series, but they’re excellent choices for budget-minded users. While the Samsung Galaxy Grand isn’t one of the company’s flagship models, it’s loaded with some great features smartphone at a price that’s nice.

With a fairly quick 1.2 GHz processor and a 5 inch screen, the Galaxy Grand is compact smartphone with a feature many Galaxy S, Note and Edge users wish were present on their more expensive models; the Galaxy Grand accepts microSD cards for further data storage (up to 64GB). However, microSD cards are the only storage option, so choose a card accordingly.

The phone connects to LTE cellular networks as well as wifi networks.It also features an 8 megapixel camera sensor, with a 5 megapixel front-facing sensor. It also charges up to 50 percent on a 30 minute charge using what Samsung calls Adaptive Fast Charging, for those times when you’re on the go but your battery’s low. If you need to stretch that battery life out, a 10 percent charge can provide 24 hours on use on its power saving mode. The Grand also comes with an NFC chip, making it compatible with Android Wallet. Ironically, the phone is not compatible with own payment solution, Samsung Pay.

Apple iPhone 5s (Sprint)

If you’re a smartphone user who likes Apple’s iPhones and you like your devices large, the last two years have been an answer to your prayers. The company’s latest lineup of phones begins at 4.7 inches and includes a 5.5 inch phablet. However, if you are not a fan of large phones and you’d rather have something that fits into a pocket, these are dark days.

The two year old iPhone 5S isn’t exactly cutting edge anymore but it does include two important features to ensure a few years of life are left in this device. The first is Touch ID, Apple’s biometric fingerprint sensor which allows easy access to the phone without a passcode (and sensitive apps that allow its use) and second, the phone’s A7 chip is 64 bit, meaning its fully compatible with the latest apps and the phone will continue to receive iOS updates.

The iPhone 5S’ camera is equipped with an 8 megapixel sensor, the same sensor in the larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The iPhone has consistently been one of the most popular devices on photosharing sites and despite the age of the phone, the 5S is included in that list of smartphones. It shoots video in 1080p, but storage only comes in 16 and 32GB.

The 5S is compatible with LTE, meaning fast cellular data transfers. Wifi networking is compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. For those on a budget or who require their smartphone to fit in a pocket, the iPhone 5S is a very usable alternative to other larger, more expensive options.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

With the recent introduction of the Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, it’s easy to forget that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are still standout phones in their own right. Granted, you will be missing out in some of the newer hardware that’s tied to new UI and features, but the 6 and 6 Plus remain phones that have a lot of use left in them.The iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s first attempt at a phablet. The 5.5 inch screen won fans quickly, and though Apple’s management was widely quoted for pooh-poohing large-format phones, it was one of the company’s best selling iPhones.

The 6 and 6 Plus share the same display as its newer counterpart and the screen comes in at 1920x1080 pixels for the 6 Plus (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for the slightly smaller, 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). Both phones, according Apple, are "retina" displays, meaning text and graphics are sharp. At their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

When it comes to wireless networking, the phone is fast. It uses LTE cellular networking, which is fairly ubiquitous across the country, and WIFI with multiple input/multiple output MIMO, which uses multiple antennas for transmission and reception. The A8 processor is about a year old, but it continues to outclass the speed and performance of many of its competitors. While there’s no 128GB option, but the phone does come in 16GB and 64GB capacities.

The phones use an 8 megapixel imaging sensor for stills and video. While Apple is using a new and improved chip in the newer iterations of the iPhone, the 6 and 6 Plus cameras remain one of the most popular on online photo sites and is regarded as an excellent piece of hardware. Though some initial hands-on reports expressed concern over bending, or "Bendgate", the phone’s current construction has held up and the phone’s display is made from Gorilla Glass. This is a phone that will stand up to day-to-day use, though a case is suggested if you plan on using the phone long-term.

LG G Stylo (Boost Mobile)

While Samsung may have popularized the use of styluses on phablets, other phone manufacturers have incorporated the pointing devices into their own lineup. LG’s G Stylo is the company’s answer to those who need a stylus to use with their device.Overall, the Stylo is a well-appointed budget phablet. The IPS screen comes in at 5.7 inches, is very vibrant, and is viewable at a wide angle. The phone uses microSD cards for storage and can use cards up to 32GB.

The Stylo’s back-facing sensor comes in at 13 megapixels and the front-facing camera takes selfies and performs video conferencing duties at 5 megapixels. It also comes with a 1.2Ghz processor and has Android 5.0 Lollipop right out of the box. Wireless networking is done through 802.11b/g/n wifi networking or through LTE. Like T-Mobile’s other WIFI-equipped smartphones, the Stylo is capable of making WIFI calls in the event cell coverage is spotty and can make voice-over-LTE calls with other phones on T-Mobile’s network for enhanced audio fidelity.

Samsung Galaxy Grand

Samsung Galaxy Grand

Samsung has a wide selection of phones that don’t receive the same press as the Galaxy S or Edge series, but they’re excellent choices for budget-minded users. While the Samsung Galaxy Grand isn’t one of the company’s flagship models, it’s loaded with some great features smartphone at a price that’s nice.

With a fairly quick 1.2 GHz processor and a 5 inch screen, the Galaxy Grand is compact smartphone with a feature many Galaxy S, Note and Edge users wish were present on their more expensive models; the Galaxy Grand accepts microSD cards for further data storage (up to 64GB). However, microSD cards are the only storage option, so choose a card accordingly.

The phone connects to LTE cellular networks as well as wifi networks.It also features an 8 megapixel camera sensor, with a 5 megapixel front-facing sensor. It also charges up to 50 percent on a 30 minute charge using what Samsung calls Adaptive Fast Charging, for those times when you’re on the go but your battery’s low. If you need to stretch that battery life out, a 10 percent charge can provide 24 hours on use on its power saving mode. The Grand also comes with an NFC chip, making it compatible with Android Wallet. Ironically, the phone is not compatible with own payment solution, Samsung Pay.

LG Leon

LG Leon

Smaller than LG’s G-series of phablet, the LEON is a smaller device (with a screen size of 4.5 inches) that packs in a usable checklist of features for price-minded users.The phone features a 5 megapixel camera with a VGA front-facing camera. While it’s not the best camera we’ve seen, but with careful composing and attention to lighting images should be usable. Storage is handled by a microSD card, which is capable of handling cards up to 32GB, making it capacious enough for most, unless you’re a power user (and if you were a power user, chances are you’d be in the market for a flagship device).

The phone is 802.11b/g/n enabled and should be compatible with most public and private hotspots while also equipped with Android 5.0, Lollipop installed. The device also comes with a 1.2 Ghz processor, making it usable for all but the most demanding apps.The LEON also includes some features found in LG’s more expensive G-series, such as Gesture Shot which allows users to take a shot using a hand gesture, a handy feature to have for selfies or photos using the self-timer. It also offers KnockOn in which a user can set a series of knocks on the phone to unlock the device and QuickMemo+ for taking notes during a call.

Apple iPhone 5s (T-Mobile)

Apple iPhone 5s (T-Mobile)

Apple once embraced the philosophy that users should be able to use their devices one-handed. However, with the introduction of the iPhone 6 series (the iPhones 6/6S and the Plus variants), the company now embraces the "bigger is better" dogma of other cell phone manufacturers. It’s helped the company gain new market share, but many users who actually want a phone they can put in their pocket  were not that happy. So, what are their options?

For right now, the iPhone 5S, the last phone with a four inch screen. While it’s currently the oldest phone in Apple’s lineup, the 5S holds up surprisingly well against its larger and newer cousins.The biggest concern of buying any phone that’s two years old is app compatibility and with the iPhone 5S, it has a fair amount of life as it uses Apple’s A7 chip which is 64 bit like the 6 and 6s. The phone is compatible with iOS 9, Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system and it also shares Touch ID, the biometric security device that allows users to unlock their phones with a fingerprint.

The phone also uses the 8 megapixel sensor that Apple’s used for awhile for many shots that many users have used for years; it also shoots in 1080p. Data storage only comes in 16 and 32GB, which may be a problem for users with large media or app libraries.Wifi is compatible with the 802.11a/b/g/n standard but not the newer, and faster, ac standard. Overall, the 5S may be long in the tooth, but it’s a very viable phone for phone those who have to balance features with budget.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus - AT&T

With the debut of the iPhone 6S-series (Apple’s flagship phones from last year) the 6 and 6 Plus are now a bit more affordable. Mobile technology is moving at a breakneck speed, and while it’s easy to be wowed by the latest and greatest, it’s important to remember that last year’s brand new phone is still very, very usable. This is the case of the iPhone 6 line.

Though there are some physical differences between 6 and 6 Plus, it’s so subtle that it’s not very likely anyone will notice you’ve chosen economy over performance. This is true of both the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 model and the larger, phablet-sized 5.5 inch 6 Plus. The screens are 1920x1080 pixels for the 6 Plus (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for the slightly smaller, 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). The displays, are "retina" displays according to Apple’s math, rendering text and graphics crisp and clear.

Both models only come in 16 and 64GB storage capacities. If you’re a data hoarder or if you shoot a lot of video or stills, you’ll have to look elsewhere (and seeing as how you’re interested in an iPhone, the 6S and 6S plus would be your only choice for a 128GB phone). The 6 and 6 Plus now only come in silver and space gray, but no gold or rose gold options.

As with most phones, the 6 and 6 Plus come equipped with LTE, meaning cellular data connections are as fast (or sometimes faster) than at-home broadband. Connection options to WIFI networks use MIMO technology, which involves multiple antennas for transmitting and receiving data extremely fast. Its A8 processor is a year old, but according to reviewers who have the technical background to weigh in matters of silicon, it is still very competitive in terms of speed.

The 8 megapixel camera sensor is one component that Apple’s replaced with the introduction of its new phones. However, the older camera continues to wow photographers and videographers with its performance. It is still considered excellent despite increasing megapixels, not just from the Apple’s 6S standpoint, but from other Android phones as well.
 
The phone is designed to stand up to daily use with the use of aluminum (yes, “bendgate” was a thing, but you really had to work hard to bend a 6 or a 6 Plus) and strengthened glass (it’s Gorilla Glass, though Apple’s not big into sharing the spotlight). If you feel you have butterfingers or if you’re just plain nervous about stuffing a slab of glass into your pocket, a case is always advised.

For my own needs, I’ve chosen the 6 Plus because of its larger screen size and the addition of optical image stabilization. The larger screen makes it the perfect companion if you use your phone a lot and OIS does help when taking photos. However, both phones are still standout devices.

LG G Flex2, Platinum Silver 32GB (AT&T)

Like the name suggests, the LG Flex2 features a curved screen. At 5.5 inches, it’s a very large, very usable screen and it can comfortably be called a phablet. The funny thing is, the screen isn’t what most people are going to notice about this phone. Rather, it’ll be the 13 megapixel sensor in its camera, matched with laser auto focus and a floating lens, which also shoots video in 4K. This means that the Flex2 camera offers performance on par with much more expensive phones.

Capture selfies to your hearts content with the aid of a very capable 2.1 megapixel camera, and LG’s particular flavor of Android (Android 5.1 Lollipop, to be exact) means that the camera can be enabled with a quick gesture. The phones internal data can hold up to 32GB of information but like the pricier G3 and G4, the LG FLex2 can also expand that storage with the use of microSD cards, up to 2TB. Wifi speeds are fast, with the smartphone being able to handle 802.11a/g/b/n/ac, with LTE cellular networking.

HTC A9 (AT&T)

HTC A9 (AT&T)

The HTC One line has been considered to be one of the best Android smartphones available. However, the fortunes of the company have changed (at one point, HTC’s mobile phone business was larger than Samsung’s) and as such, so has the One. However, the One A9, HTC’s latest addition to its lineup, is a great buy for its price.

This pick is one of the few phones that comes with the latest version of Android, Marshmallow (6.0) out of the box. The spec sheet for its camera is also exemplary, with a 13 megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and 4 megapixel selfie/video conferencing camera. Strangely, the camera doesn’t shoot video in 4K, unlike other cameras with a similar sensor.

The One A9 comes with 32GB of storage and is expandable up to another 200GB of storage using a microSD card. It also features 802.11b/g/n/ac wifi networking, with LTE cellular networking. An near field communications chip is also built-in for short-range data transfer and mobile payments. You also get a very respectable Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5Ghz 617 processor which flawlessly ties all these components together. The One A9 is an example of why a high end smartphone doesn’t have to cost a lot.

LG G2 (AT&T)

LG’s G2 is a well-appointed budget phone, offering an excellent balance between price, performance and intelligent design. While many mobile phones in its price point feature 4 to 4.5-inch screens, LG’s built the G2 around phablet-class 5.2-inch screen with an excellent resolution of 423 pixels per inch. For many users, the camera is just as important as the screen with stills and videos looking gorgeous thanks to a 13 megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization. Internal storage comes in at 32GB and the phone offers other features usually found on more expensive devices like side-by-side multitasking. A Snapdragon 800 processor, one of the best made by Qualcomm, handles all these tasks with ease and offers a practical talk time of up to 24 hours.

Apple iPhone 5s (AT&T)

The iPhone 5S is one of the oldest phones the company still offers in its lineup, but it remains one a very usable smartphone two years after its release.While Apple’s newer phones have increased their screen size (the 6 and 6S models come in at 4.7 inches, while the 5S features a 4 inch screen), it was the first phone that featured Touch ID. Touch ID, it could be argued, is the most important feature Apple’s introduced into the iPhone. It offers convenience when securing an iPhone. The 5S offers this convenience because it was the first phone to offer the fingerprint sensor (though it does not offer Apple Pay, like the 6 and 6S models do).

The A7 chip that’s at the heart of the 5S is 64 bit so most modern apps are fully compatible with the 5S and will be for the foreseeable future. Storage is a bit limited at 16 and 32GB but the the phone is still usable with iOS 9. It uses an 8 megapixel sensor for its camera, which shoots video in 1080p high definition with videos and photois still ranked as some of the best taken by a smartphone. The 5S also features LTE for high speed cellular networking, and 802.11a/g/b/n wifi networking.

The 5S is also the only choice for those who are fans of Apple but who desire a phone they can still conveniently pocket with ease. With the newer iPhones moving to larger screen sizes, keeping an iPhone in a pocket’s become more tricky, with some people upgrading their wardrobe to include more cargo pants!

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

When it comes to large-format phones, Samsung is the leader of the pack for good reason, as it’s the company which forsaw that the evolution of the smartphone wasn’t just smarter, it was bigger, as well. Though other companies have seen the light, Samsung continues to set the pace when it comes to Android phablets. The Note 5, with its 5.3 inch screen, is no exception. It doesn’t just lead the pack in raw specs, which we will get to in a moment, but it also leads in features. Samsung ditched Google Wallet in favor of its own payment solution, Samsung Pay. While Google Waller, and Apple Pay, utilize NFC chips for payment, Samsung Pay also uses secure magnetic transmission, making it compatible with card readers that aren’t equipped for NFC payments.

The Note 5 features a fingerprint scanner to lock down the phone from unwanted access as well as convenient wireless charging to keep its battery replenished. The phone’s camera comes with a 16 megapixel sensor, which can also shoot 4K. Strangely, despite the increasing demands on bits of 4K video and 16 megapixel stills, the Note 5 only offers a 32 and 64GB storage option. Samsung’s eliminated the microSD slot that was standard on the Note’s older models in favor of an enclosed, glass and metal design like Apple’s iPhones, a real point of controversy with users.Take note that the S6 Edge+ is virtually the same model as the Note 5; only difference is the Note 5 lacks the Edge+’s curved display and the Edge+ lacks the Note 5’s S Pen. the S Pen is more useful than the curved displays, so our vote for the better device goes to the Note 5.

LG G4 - Sprint

LG G4 - Sprint

Though Samsung’s dominated the Android space for several years, other companies have been forced to innovate. In many cases, like the LG G4, they’ve offered phones that are as good as the Galaxies and Notes, and in some cases, offer features that have gone MIA in those phones.The first thing that catches the attention of any user is a device’s display. In the case of the G4, the 5.5 inch IPS screen consistently wows reviewers and users. Made by LG, the display is praised as being vibrant and lifelike, with images and text coming in at a crisp 531 dots per inch.

LG has improved its camera sensor to 16 megapixels, with the laser autofocus system it used in its last flagship phone, the G3. The selfie/video conferencing camera shoots at 8 megapixels, which is as good as many mid-range smartphones. A fast Qualcomm 808 processor with 3GB of RAM keeps up with the best of the premium offerings out there, with reports from reviewers and critics uniformly positive with its performance. There’s also an NFC chip for mobile payments and near field payments.

The G4 comes with a base 32GB of internal data storage, but it also includes a microSD slot for expanding storage up to another 2TB and allows for a swappable battery. The lack of a microSD slot in Samsung’s newer devices has been a sore spot among Samsung users, so those who miss it may want to take a close look at the G4.The G4 may not be as weatherproof as unibody designs, but it's a very compelling device for those looking for something other than a Samsung or Apple device.

Google Nexus 6P by Huawei 128gb Aluminum color

The Android operating system is all about choice and one of those choices is the choice for a stock version of the operating system. The Nexus 6P, with blessings from Google, is that stock device. Maybe you’re a developer who needs a reference device. Maybe you’re a user who wants to make sure you get the date Android updates.The Nexus 6P is a follow-up device to last year’s Nexus 6. The 6P is manufactured by Huawei, while last year’s 6 was built by Motorola which can be confusing, as the Nexus devices are Google-branded, but it’s standard for the line. Google partners with a new company, every year, to manufacture the Nexus devices to their specifications, probably to put any suspicions about favoritism at ease.

This is a large phablet format phone at 5.7 inches, and comes in 32, 64 and 128GB capacities. The 6P’s camera is outfitted with a 12 megapixel sensor which also shoots in 4K video, which seems to be a standard feature among flagship devices this year. The phone also features a fingerprint sensor, and is packaging it with Android 6.0 Marshmallow (as you’d expect, this Nexus device is one of the few to feature the new operating system) with "Nexus Imprint", its biometric security solution.

Reviewers and users have reported it is fast, responsive and snappy.Interestingly, the inclusion of USB-C might be the most hotly anticipated feature of the device. USB-C was selected as the data and power port for the device, and though that sounds pretty dull, it’s the latest USB spec and has shown up on very few devices so far (the most notable being Apple retina MacBook as a power and peripheral port). USB-C allows for two-way power delivery, meaning it could be charged like a regular cell phone, or it could be used to charge other USB-C-equipped devices, along with fast (5Gbps) data speeds.

HTC One M9

Though the tech press have reported problems with HTC, don’t count them out. The One A9 is proof that, though the Taiwanese computing giant is having its share of problems, it can still design and bring to market a world class flagship Android device.The One A9 is one of the few devices available now that come with Android 6.0 Marshmallow loaded onto the phone out of the box. Its camera features a 13 megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and shoots at 1080p, with a front-facing 4 megapixel camera with a Qualcomm 617 1.5 Ghz processor tying it all together.

The device comes with 32GB of stock data storage and is expandable via microSD cards for another 200GB. HTC also built in an NFC chip for short-range data transfer and mobile payments. LTE networking takes care of cellular data. It is compatible with 802.11b/g/n/ac wifi.The body of the device is encased in a metal unibody construction while the five inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass.. It should stand up to daily bumps and spills, but the more accident prone and paranoid will, as always, want to get a case.The HTC One A9 is a flagship device that any Android fan should seriously consider.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

The thing that most people will take notice of when they see the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is, well, its edge. Its screen tapers on its side and Samsung uses the that sliver of extra real estate to display function information, like when new emails have been received or when a new text is waiting. It’s a unique innovation in a market full of devices that look alike, save for the Edge’s larger sibling, the Galaxy S6 Edge+. However, unlike the Edge+, the Edge is very pocketable with its 5.1 inch screen which makes for a more compact size.

The Edge packs the same 16 megapixel sensor for its camera that its newer and larger sister devices (the Note 5 and the S6 Edge+) feature in their cameras. It’s a great sensor and one of the best found on Android devices. As an added trick the Edge also features optical image stabilization, a trick the similarly-sized iPhone 6 and 6S do not. Images can be transferred off the phone in RAW format, the preferred format for professional photographers and serious amateurs.

The Edge+ also improves its security with a fingerprint scanner that, according to reviewers, works pretty well. The device also opts for Samsung Pay  the company’s own mobile payment solution that's also compatible with magnetic card readers. But like its newer, larger siblings, the S6 Edge features a metal and glass construction that neatly  seals the device. Though earlier versions of the phone allowed user access to the battery and included a microSD slot, the S6 Edge does not, which has caused some controversy among its users. Data capacities for the S6 Edge are 32 and 64GB which should be enough for most users.

Priv Blackberry Unlocked Smartphone

To say the BlackBerry Priv is a curious device would be an understatement. A quick history lesson: before 2007, BlackBerry was, for the most part, the smartphone market. The devices had a devoted following among all types of consumers, despite initially being a gadget marketed for business users. The iPhone was released and BlackBerry’s management dismissed it as a toy.However, the company’s been playing catchup ever since. The company’s now on life support and a radical change of course (or as the MBA types are so fond of saying, "pivoting") was required. The BlackBerry Priv is that change of course.

The BlackBerry Priv, most importantly, does not run BlackBerry’s OS. Instead, it runs Android. While previous versions of the BlackBerry OS addressed the problem of the lack of apps on their phones, the Priv goes full Android and abandons their proprietary OS. This is, to say the least, huge.BlackBerry markets the Priv on the same qualities as the older models of BlackBerry: a focus on enterprise (or business) users, a real, physical keyboard (more on this later) and security (though the company’s CEO, John Chen, has said he’s ok with opening backdoors for law enforcement).

The hallmark of BlackBerry devices have been its keyboards. As the company lost marketshare, fans of the devices refused to move to other devices because of the keyboard and for the few users of BlackBerries that are left, the keyboard is of primary importance. The Priv’s keyboard, according to reports from reviewers and users, is of the same quality. Though physical keyboards, or various quality, were available in early iterations of consumer Android smartphones, this may the only current Android device with a keyboard.

The device is powered by a Snapdragon 808 with 3GB. It comes with 32GB of onboard storage, which is expandable with an SD card. However, reviewers reported heat and performance issues with the device when using it. Its display is 5.4 inches, making it a phablet-sized device, protected by Gorilla Glass 4.Compared to what BlackBerry is asking for the device, it puts it in line with flagship devices from other manufacturers, but tech writers who’ve spent time with the device complain that the overall experience is along the lines of a midrange device.The device’s camera features an 18 megapixel sensor in its camera, which is equipped with optical image stabilization. This easily makes it the best-performing BlackBerry ever, but even with this praise, taking photos takes about a second, with HDR photos taking about four or five seconds to process.

Keeping with privacy aspect of the device, the phone includes an app, DTEK security, that monitors malicious activity from the phone and offers details as to what’s going on in the phone. The Priv doesn’t run the latest version of Android, but it does allow for granular permission controls.One of the ideas from the BBX operating system carries over to the Android-powered Priv is BlackBerry Hub. As it turns out, it’s a great tool for managing communications, whether it’s from emails, texts or social media. All of that noise can be filtered with Hub into the signal you’re looking for. It’s a great idea, and something Google and Apple could learn from.

The question ultimately is whether the Priv is the transcendent device that will win back and, hopefully, convert users. If you’ve been holding out for a new BlackBerry, the Priv offers full compatibility with Android with the privacy and keyboard one expects from BlackBerry.For most users, they’d be best served by sitting out the first version of the Priv and waiting for the refinements of a second version. But given dwindling fortunes of the company, there very well might not be another Priv.

BlackBerry Classic Smartphone

If the Blackberry Classic looks familiar, it’s because the company’s is returning to the design that the company (née RIM) was known for. It seems almost retro, but the company claims that the Classic isn’t for the masses that dumped the original Blackberry models for touchscreen Androids and iPhone. These phones are for people who genuinely like the Bold 9900-series of phones. In response, albeit long after it released its current crop of phones, the company reintroduced features on the Classic which haven’t been seen since the company rebranded itself.

The Classic runs Blackberry’s latest operating system, Blackberry10 and attempts to close the app gap with competitors by allowing the installation of apps from its first party app store (Blackberry World) as well as Amazon’s Android App Store. However, the experience left many reviewers scratching their heads, as the Amazon apps weren’t designed for the Classic’s square display.

The biggest plus for faithful Blackberry users is a return to the bolder Bold/9900-series QWERTY keyboard. Other than that, the specs are fairly middle of the road with 16 GB of storage, microSD expansion and a camera that’s been called "good enough" by reviewers. It will be available through Verizon and AT&T although its availability through other carriers is up in the air. Blackberry will sell unlocked versions of the phone through Amazon.com.

Will it be enough to bring former Blackberry users back to the fold? Probably not, but that’s probably wasn’t the plan to begin with. The Classic represents Blackberry’s attempt to dig in with the users they have now, rather than trying to turn back time to before 2007.

BlackBerry Leap Unlocked Cellphone

The Leap is a curious device. Though it came after the Z30, BlackBerry’s followup to the Z10 and its only completely touch screen device, its specs are slightly lower than its predecessor. That’s because the Leap wasn’t meant to replace the Z30. It was meant as a device to deployed as a general purpose device for companies that needed to communicate with its workers.However, as you'll see, it is in many ways an excellent buy and successor to the Z30.It’s not a stunning device, but let’s face it, if you’re looking for a BlackBerry device, your pickings are pretty slim.

The Leap has been given praise by critics because of its very solid build quality. To be fair, a solid device is just the sort of thing the bean counters in accounting would want to be distributed to the working masses. Rather than glass and metal the Leap is glass and rubber, which again, is a better choice for something being bought in bulk, to be put into the hands of people who probably won’t be very careful with the device.The screen is 5 inches (at a resolution of 1,280x720, which isn’t bad) and the device takes a microSD card for storage to augment its 64GB of storage.

|The device also includes Hub and Blend, one of the newer features BlackBerry’s added to BB10 in the last few years. Blend allows users to access the information on their BlackBerry, including contacts and calendar items.Interestingly, the Leap received high marks for its 8 megapixel camera, which apparently takes fairly good stills for a camera. However, overall performance is apparently somewhere between "meh" and "blah." The Leap also plays nicely with LTE, as well as 802.11b/g/n (at 2.4Ghz). Reviewers are also very impressed by the longevity of the Leap’s battery, reportedly a whole day of heavy use.

BlackBerry Passport

Blackberry’s Passport harkens back to the companies golden era with a physical keyboard (at this time it’s the only smartphone with a physical keyboard) as well as widescreen orientation for its display. Like any business proposal, Blackberry pushes the numbers about the Passport including a 13 megapixel camera, 30 hours of battery life, 32 GB of storage and a screen with 451 pixels per inch.

The Passport can also purchase apps from the Amazon Android app store, in addition to apps from its own store. However, given that even Blackberry's once-core business of being the device to CEOs, bankers and professionals is being chipped away increasingly by Apple and Android, how much the Passport can stop the bleeding remains to be seen.

BlackBerry Q10 Smartphone

If you’re a BlackBerry user who’s serious about the old design of BlackBerrys, and there’s quite a few of them, apparently, there’s two choices — the very expensive P’9983 and the much for reasonable Q10.

We’re going to make this quick: unless you’re someone who would describe themselves as a serious BackBerry fanboy, forget about the P’9983, save a yourself a grip of cash and get the Q10. They’re essentially the same phone. The Q10 features the BlackBerry 10 operating systema touchscreen and a physical keyboard. Battery life is an amazing 13 hours of talk time and 15 days of standby. The phone also features 16 GB of internal storage, with additional storage with microSD cards. It also features an 8 megapixel camera for stills and high definition 1080p videos.

The BlackBerry P’9983 is a pricier, $2,000 variant of the Q10. BlackBerry insists it’s a different model, and taking the cost, as well as its redesigned body (including the keyboard), as well as a "special" BlackBerry Messenger PIN ID to identify its users, into consideration, it’s a status symbol for the hardcore BlackBerry user. If you’re the kind of person that Porsche Design means something, the BlackBerry P’9983 may be the phone that compliments your Porsche Design sunglasses, watch, coat and car.

It’s not a phone for everyone at $2,000, but the differences are, of course, the design, and 64GB of internal storage. BlackBerry is adamant that is a different device, and with the external differences, the price and a unique BlackBerry Messenger PIN and icon for devices designed by Porsche (2AAXXXXX, according to the company’s website). It will impress and intimidate, assuming the people you’re giving that number to still use BBM and actually know what that 2AA is supposed to mean. We’re not so sure this constitutes a "different device".

Aside from that, the P’9983’s build quality, which includes a stainless steel frame, is reportedly very, very high according to the reviewers who were able to get their hands on one, though there's no complaints about the Q10. Even the keyboard, which many agree is top notch on BlackBerrys, was given the redesign treatment. As it turns out, Porsche Design made the keys even better, though it’s doubtful it’s worth the price. Like other BB10 devices, it can download apps from BlackBerry World, Amazon’s app store or it can sideload other Android apps. The P’9983 and Q10 connects via LTE and 2.4GHz/5Ghz wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n.

HTC One M8 Verizon

As an Android phone, the HTC One (M8) won praise for its solid build quality, especially for its metal unibody construction. HTC brought the exact same design to its Windows Phone lineup with the HTC One (M8) for Windows and while the name is a mouthful, it is one of the best Windows Phones currently on the market.

The phone comes with Windows 8.1 installed with its very capable virtual voice-activated assistant, Cortana. The screen comes in at 5 inches and the rear facing camera is highly regarded. It’s also one of the few cameras (if not one of the only one), that can do 3D imaging. Critics also like the audio fidelity from its two speakers mounted opposite each other. The HTC One (M8) for Windows comes with 32 GB of storage and is upgradable up to another 128 GB through the use of a microSD card. Battery life comes in at 15.5 hours of usage and 15 days of standby.

Nokia Lumia 1520 - AT&T

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is, without a doubt, the best Windows Phone on the market. It offers a large, 6 inch screen that only Android phablets had previously offered, making it larger than Samsung’s own recently-released Galaxy Note III. The phone comes with up to 16 GB of internal storage, which is small by today’s standards, but can be expanded using microSD cards (up to 64 GB).

Photographers will note the 1520 has one of the best cameras available on a smartphone. The camera features a 20 MP sensor with Zeiss optics. When you Android and iPhone-toting friends start taking out their phones, you won’t feel inadequate; in fact, you may get a few glances at your 1520 instead.

Nokia Lumia Icon

The Windows Phone platform is in a strange place. With the recent announcement that Microsoft will be buying out Nokia (which for all intent and purposes had become the primary manufacturer of Windows Phone devices), some are predicting that interest in the phones by other manufacturers
will decline.

For those who are loyal to the platform, the Nokia Lumia Icon is one of the best phones currently available. It comes with a gorgeous 5 inch display, which is necessary to show off the videos and pictures the 20 megapixel camera cranks out. It also includes cordless charging and is 802.11ac-ready, which isn’t seen very often. Like other flagship Windows Phones, it also includes NFC, or near field communications. Internal storage also weighs in at 32GB for media and data files.

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a very well-equipped device. Though its 4.5 inch screen isn't as large as the Lumia 1520, it comes with 32 GB of storage. It also checks the right boxes with it comes to features you’d expect on a smartphone: Bluetooth, NFC (though to be fair, you’d be one up on Apple iPhone users with NFC), apps, a front facing camera for video conferencing and a 41 MP camera.

The sensor for the 1020’s camera comes in at a whopping 41 MP and Nokia is advertising its use as being able to zoom into photos after they've been taken without needing to actually use an optical zoom. Though smartphone photographers rave about the iPhone’s camera, there’s no getting around what Nokia’s offering with the 1020’s camera. If you’re a serious smartphone photographer, the best you can get is now the Lumia 1020.

Nokia Lumia 920, Yellow 32GB (AT&T)

With the installation of a former Microsoft executive as the CEO of Nokia, the handset manufacturer has become the go-to choice of Windows Mobile devices. Granted, other companies are making Windows Phone devices, but none have the deep ties to each other as the companies from Redmond and Espoo do. It's no surprise that Nokia's Windows Phones are considered to be flagship devices for the operating system.

The Nokia Lumia 920 does not disappoint, especially for anyone considering a smartphone model other than Apple or Android. Available in five colors, it offers a gorgeous 4.5 inch screen and an 8 megapixel camera that shoots 1080p high definition video. It also features 32 GB of storage for video, music, and data, as well as near field communications, or NFC, for transfer of data when in the proximity of other NFC-equipped devices. The usual networking suspects like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are present, as is lightning-fast LTE mobile data.

Also of note is the induction, or wireless, charging for the Nokia 920. Most importantly, it features Windows Phone 8, the latest version of the OS. However, some reviewers were less than enthusiastic at how thick the phone was compared to the slimmer offerings from Apple and Android manufacturers.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

With the recent introduction of the Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, it’s easy to forget that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are still standout phones in their own right. Granted, you will be missing out in some of the newer hardware that’s tied to new UI and features, but the 6 and 6 Plus remain phones that have a lot of use left in them.The iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s first attempt at a phablet. The 5.5 inch screen won fans quickly, and though Apple’s management was widely quoted for pooh-poohing large-format phones, it was one of the company’s best selling iPhones.

The 6 and 6 Plus share the same display as its newer counterpart and the screen comes in at 1920x1080 pixels for the 6 Plus (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for the slightly smaller, 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). Both phones, according Apple, are "retina" displays, meaning text and graphics are sharp. At their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

When it comes to wireless networking, the phone is fast. It uses LTE cellular networking, which is fairly ubiquitous across the country, and WIFI with multiple input/multiple output MIMO, which uses multiple antennas for transmission and reception. The A8 processor is about a year old, but it continues to outclass the speed and performance of many of its competitors. While there’s no 128GB option, but the phone does come in 16GB and 64GB capacities.

The phones use an 8 megapixel imaging sensor for stills and video. While Apple is using a new and improved chip in the newer iterations of the iPhone, the 6 and 6 Plus cameras remain one of the most popular on online photo sites and is regarded as an excellent piece of hardware. Though some initial hands-on reports expressed concern over bending, or "Bendgate", the phone’s current construction has held up and the phone’s display is made from Gorilla Glass. This is a phone that will stand up to day-to-day use, though a case is suggested if you plan on using the phone long-term.

Motorola Droid Turbo

Motorola Droid Turbo

Motorola’s Droid Turbo touts its speed as its main selling point (in this case, a 2.7Ghz processor ties everything together) but what’s not so apparent is the real-world appeal of the device. Modern smartphones are made of glass, metal (or sometimes plastic) and a whole lot of anxiety. However, this phone is very well equipped against the knocks, bumps and spills that most people encounter on a daily basis.

The Droid Turbo is made from Kevlar (the stuff commonly used to stops bullet) and "metallized glass fiber". Additionally,  the 5.2 inch screen is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3, the latest version of the hardened glass. Sure, you could use a case, but if the design of a phone was its selling point then you’re essentially getting something different than what you paid for. Or you could go without a case and worry about the (inevitable) slip of the hand that means a dented phone or, worse, a broken screen.

The Droid Turbo features a 21 megapixel camera that shoots video in 4K and the device comes with 32GB of storage (loaded with Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box). This phone connects to cellular networks using the LTE standard and its WIFI radio is compatible with 802.11 b/g/n/ac. The device’s battery also boasts a 48 hour charge, with an 8 hour charge after 15 minutes of being plugged into a wall in addition to featuring wireless charging.

HTC One A9 (Sprint)

HTC One A9 (Sprint)

HTC’s One series of smartphones has traditionally held its own among flagship Android smartphones. At one time, HTC’s smartphone business was larger than Samsung’s and one of the earliest adopters of Alphabet/Google’s mobile operating system. However, this means that the One A9, the latest addition to HTC’s flagship lineup, is a great buy.

It’s one of the few phones that comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box. The camera with its 13 megapixel sensor, comes with optical image stabilization and shoots video at 1080p while the  front-facing camera features a 4 megapixel sensor. With this phone HTC opted to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5Ghz 617 processor to power the device.

The One A9 comes with 32GB of stock storage for data and media, but it is expandable via microSD cards for another 200GB. And NFC chip allows short-range data transfer and mobile payments, with LTE networking takes care of cellular data. It is compatible with 802.11b/g/n/ac wifi.

The One A9 comes with 32GB of storage and is expandable up to another 200GB of storage using a microSD card. It also features 802.11b/g/n/ac wifi networking, with LTE cellular networking. An NFC chip is also built-in for short-range data transfer and mobile payments. The phones 5 inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass and the metal unibody construction means this pick can easily stand up daily use. However, paranoid and accident-prone users will want to (as always) consider a case. Overall, the HTC One A9 is an excellent device for hardcore Android users looking for a flagship without the accompanying price.

Apple iPhone 5s (Verizon)

The iPhone 5S is the oldest smartphone Apple is now offering for sale — it’s also the smallest. While small might seem like a negative, there’s many people who’ve questioned the trend toward larger phones. With a four inch screen size, the iPhone 5S is a very pocketable but there’s no getting around the fact it’s an older phone. That being said, the phone features two of the more important features that Apple’s incorporated as important in its more recent phones: Touch ID, a biometric sensor to allow access to one’s phone with a fingerprint, and a 64-bit processor. It should be noted the 5S does not allow for Apple Pay transactions, as it lacks a near-field-communications chip.

The 5S uses the same 8 megapixel camera that its successor, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use; a search on photo sharing sites will show that the stills captured by iPhones with 8 megapixel sensors are some of the most popular in terms of their visual quality. Storage for those images and videos, in addition to any other data, is limited to 16 or 32GB. Users with larger libraries need to look elsewhere. The device’s WIFI radios can receive 802.11a/b/g/n signals, but not the newer ac standard. Cellular networking is through LTE.

LG G3 (Verizon)

Teens seeking a larger format phone can now look to the LG G3. At 5.5 inches, the LG3 is classified as a phablet, or a hybrid mobile phone/tablet device so if your teen wants a larger format device, the LG3 is an excellent compromise for less than the price of a tablet. The high resolution quad HD display delivers 536 pixels per square inch and the large screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. The rear camera features a 13 megapixel optically stabilized sensor with laser autofocus so the camera mechanism remains steady and snaps in-focus photos faster.

The device comes with 32GB of internal data storage but it can also use microSD cards for future expansion. The battery should deliver over 7 hours of real usage (including LTE browsing or browsing on WIFI via 802.11a/b/g/n/ac), but the back is also removable so you can swap out batteries.

Overall it’s a large phone, but for teens looking for more screen real estate, the LG G3 is the obvious choice.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

With the recent introduction of the Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, it’s easy to forget that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are still standout phones in their own right. Granted, you will be missing out in some of the newer hardware that’s tied to new UI and features, but the 6 and 6 Plus remain phones that have a lot of use left in them.The iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s first attempt at a phablet. The 5.5 inch screen won fans quickly, and though Apple’s management was widely quoted for pooh-poohing large-format phones, it was one of the company’s best selling iPhones.

The 6 and 6 Plus share the same display as its newer counterpart and the screen comes in at 1920x1080 pixels for the 6 Plus (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for the slightly smaller, 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). Both phones, according Apple, are "retina" displays, meaning text and graphics are sharp. At their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

When it comes to wireless networking, the phone is fast. It uses LTE cellular networking, which is fairly ubiquitous across the country, and WIFI with multiple input/multiple output MIMO, which uses multiple antennas for transmission and reception. The A8 processor is about a year old, but it continues to outclass the speed and performance of many of its competitors. While there’s no 128GB option, but the phone does come in 16GB and 64GB capacities.

The phones use an 8 megapixel imaging sensor for stills and video. While Apple is using a new and improved chip in the newer iterations of the iPhone, the 6 and 6 Plus cameras remain one of the most popular on online photo sites and is regarded as an excellent piece of hardware. Though some initial hands-on reports expressed concern over bending, or "Bendgate", the phone’s current construction has held up and the phone’s display is made from Gorilla Glass. This is a phone that will stand up to day-to-day use, though a case is suggested if you plan on using the phone long-term.

Samsung Note 5 - T-Mobile

Samsung Note 5 - T-Mobile

For Android users, Samsung is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Other companies may make a phone that’s bigger or maybe they have a feature or two that other may not, but Samsung dominates in a market that its fans love because of the range of available hardware options.

Samsung’s Note 5 was the pioneer in the large screen market and because of its frontrunner status, arrows were leveled at it in terms of usability and consumer demand. To be fair, people loved the large screen and it really didn’t do much to the device’s usability. In fact, Samsung used the screen’s real estate to roll out a stylus and further position itself as the anti-Apple option (more on this later).

Critics have raved about the 5.3 inch screen the Note 5 uses. Its color reproduction and clarity are what draw the most attention, meaning that it’s easier to read text and images are vibrant. Paired with the Note 5’s 16 megapixel camera (one of the best available on an Android device), the phone outputs image files into RAW (one of the few that do) thus ticking off a checkbox for any serious photographer. The camera also shoots 4K video, which is rapidly becoming a must-have specification for any premium phone.

Baked into the phone is Live Broadcast, a live streaming app. It’s much like Periscope or Meerkat, but with other people with Samsung phones. If you live in a Samsung phone-rich circle of friends, Live Broadcast could be an interesting feature. On the other hand, if your circle of friends tends to be more inclusive about their devices, you’re better off sticking to third-party applications.

The fingerprint sensor, which has finally matured into a feature that works to most reviewers’ satisfaction, is also included. It can also lock down third-party apps and also works with Samsung Pay, the company’s new mobile payment system that goes head to head with Apple and (curiously) Google Wallet. Samsung Pay has one interesting trick that makes the more useful of Apple or Google Wallet’s, a magnetic transmitter that works like a swipe. Considering many POS terminals still require a swipe and that they outnumber NFC-capable terminals, Samsung Pay is an interesting solution for the near-term.

The Note 5 comes in two data capacity flavors of 32GB and 64GB. This used to be a non-issue with microSD expansion, but Samsung takes that away with its new glass and metal design. Replaceable batteries and user-swappable storage is out and a more unibody construction is in (to the consternation of many loyal Samsung users).

The Note 5 is practically identical to the Samsung S5 Edge+. it’s the same size and practically the same feature set. The Note 5 includes the S Pen, which can now take notes while the phone’s display is off. The Edge+ features a curved screen that displays additional information. The Note 5 features a much more usable feature set, making a much more usable device.

Nexus 6p

Nexus 6p

Google’s Nexus line is the company’s equivalent of straight black coffee. Nothing added. Just a straight, unfiltered Android experience. Granted, some people like the additions that the various Androids OEM bring to the table. But everyone’s different and the customization options Google offers, even where there are none, is touted as the platform’s primary point of differentiation against Apple. This year’s flagship device that’s blessed from Mountain View is the Nexus 6P, which builds off last year’s Nexus 6. It is not, however, manufactured by last year’s Nexus 6 manufacturer, Motorola. This year Google is employing Huawei as its contractor.

If you like the Nexus line, the lack of skins, overlays and other customizations is probably why you bought it. This also means that most apps will work with the device. Google started the Nexus program as a means of providing reference devices to developers, and the lack of customization means that many developers continue to use the phones in this manner. The Nexus 6P stands on its own as an impressive smartphone. It screen is a very large 5.7 inches, even for a phablet, and with the increasing demands of data (whether its apps, photos, videos, or other information) the Nexus 6P comes in at usable capacities of 32GB, 64GB and 128GB.

Non-developers who just want an Android smartphone will have a 12 megapixel camera at their disposal. Like most premium smartphones released this year, 4K is the new video hotness (as1080p is so last year) even if most households don’t even have a 4K TV yet. Google’s also upping its security with an integrated fingerprint scanner with biometric security rolled into the latest version of its software, Android 6.0 "Marshmallow". Reviewers are very happy with its responsiveness it offers. To be fair, Nexus devices are usually among the first to get software and OS updates. Manufacturers having to modify software releases to work with their overlays and skins adds another layer of complication and time to when they can push their updates out.

Google made an interesting decision that may be lost on most users. Rather than outfitting Nexus 6P with a mini-USB port, the company instead decided to go with a USB-C connector, a new spec to the port. The cables are relatively new, but they are compatible with the current flavor of USB that are in use. If the USB-C port is used with other, like-equipped devices, the Nexus 6P could be used to power other devices (including a laptop) and could upload or download at 5Gbps.

LG G4

If you’re a fan of older Galaxy models for the reasons of replaceable batteries and microSD slots, LG gives what Samsung takes away. The LG G4 offers a cutting-edge phone with all of the expandability many users are craving but are finding are increasingly rare. The G4 is well-built and well-equipped with a 5.5 inch screen matched with the camera sensor and processor users expect from a premium device.

The screen comes in at 531 DPI, with reviewers uniformly agreeing the brightness and color reproduction of the phone is top notch. Stills and videos from its 16 megapixel camera are amazing, and up from last year’s 13 megapixel camera. Serious amateurs will appreciate that the camera outputs to RAW and it keeps the laser autofocus system from last year’s G3. The video conferencing/selfie camera is an 8 megapixel sensor, as good or better than many budget or mid-range cameras.

A very fast six core processor from Qualcomm (the 808, if you need to be specific), offers zippy performance with 3GB of RAM. While it’s not the same custom-designed chip solutions Samsung and Apple offers for their smartphones, users won’t miss out on anything. The G4 also features an NFC chip for Google Wallet mobile payments and short-range data transfer.

The G4 offers "shells" for the phone’s back, which include metallic-looking finishes, real leather and ceramic-appearing covers. This allows for user-replaceable batteries, with microSD slots (up to 2 terabytes) on the side of the phone. The phone comes with 32GB of internal storage.
While it does make the G4 one of the most expandable premium smartphones from a leading manufacturer, it also makes less water/weatherproof than competing phones with sealed bodies.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge - T-Mobile

The older Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge offers something its larger, newer cousins, the Note 5 and Edge+ do not, a robust 128GB option. If you use a lot of data, the S6 Edge is strongly worth considering. With its camera, Samsung Pay, and biometric security, this phone more than keeps up. Though the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is a little longer in the tooth than its larger cousins (the Note 5 and S6 Edge+), the device is still an excellent choice for customers looking for a new smartphone.

The S6 Edge comes in at 5.1 inches and while not a phablet, many consumers aren’t enamored of the larger screen that comes along with many of the flagship devices. This screen is one of the best of in the industry, with 577 dots per inch. Keep in mind that most print is 300 dpi and the S6 Edge’s screen is almost double that. Text is easier to read at this resolution, as well as images and graphics.

Like its larger and newer siblings, the S6 Edge sports a 16 megapixel camera. Most agree that it’s among the best in smartphones and one of the best Android cameras out there. It’s also worth noting, especially for serious amateur smartphone photographers, that it comes with optical image stabilization and output to RAW files. Apple only offers OIS in its larger Plus models and does not offer RAW at all.

The S6 also offers a well-reviewed fingerprint scanner. While previous attempts at biometric security were a mixed bag, Samsung seems to have gotten it right with the S6-series of phones. The phone can also make mobile payments via Samsung Pay, which uses NFC as well as magnetic stripe emulator for greater compatibility with POS systems that Apple Pay or Google Wallet.

In addition the S6’s design is like its larger sibling, abandoning battery access and data expandability via microSD cards for a sealed glass and metal design. Most reviews agree it makes for a more pleasing device, but look at any comment section about the new phones about you’ll see it has many detractors.The phone comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB storage capacities. The 128GB option is an anomaly, as Samsung’s decided not to offer the same on its Note 5 and Edge+ phablets.

There’s not much difference between the Galaxy S6 Edge and the Galaxy S6. However, there is a curved display on the S6 Edge, which the phone uses to display additional information; for example, new mail or text notifications. The added functionality the Edge offers means it "edges" out the more conventional S6 as this list’s pick.

iPhone 6s Plus - Sprint

iPhone 6s Plus - Sprint

The Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus introduced two new screen sizes to the device’s lineup, a 4.7 inch smartphone and a 5.5 inch phablet. Though the company’s introduced a new phone, the 6 and 6 Plus are still devices that have a long life ahead of them. Though current-model iPhone models come in data capacities up to 128GB, the 6 and 6 Plus maxes out at 64GB, with a 16GB option also available.

The phones use the same 8 megapixel sensor that’s captured many of what are considered the best smartphone photos on photosharing sites around the internet. The camera can also shoot video up to 1080p. There phones have upped their resolution to 4K, but the fact is most TVs can’t take advantage of the higher resolution video.

The 6 Plus screen comes in at 1920x1080 pixels (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). Both phones, according Apple are "retina" displays, mean text and graphics are sharp. At their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

With LTE cellular networking and the ability to use VoLTE (or voice over LTE), the 6 and 6 Plus will be usable for the foreseeable future on most mobile phone networks. If you’re in the vicinity of a trusted WIFI router, the 6 and 6 Plus will be able to connect to the most advanced 802.11 protocols, including ac, to older b networks, and everything in between.

A year later after its introduction Apple’s A8 processor, which is the heart of both phones, is still extremely fast and can handle any apps that are thrown at it.The phone is very usable and stands up to normal use. Though early reports raised concerns that the aluminum body could be bent, it was later discovered that these were rare and extreme cases while the display uses the equivalent of Gorilla Glass. Apple also dropped the popular gold color, with the phone available only in silver and space grey. (Rose gold is only available for 6S and 6S Plus models.)

The combination of price and performance makes the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus one of the best buys in smartphones. However, we’re going with the iPhone 6 Plus as our device of choice because of the addition of an optical image stabilizer. The 6 does not feature OIS and it does make a very apparent difference in stills.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 - Sprint

A few years ago, the question was: what are you going to do with a cell phone with a screen that rivaled smaller tablets? The answer is, a few years after the fact, is what wouldn’t you do with a cell phone that size? Samsung developed the large-format mobile device format at a time when smartphone were relatively new. Despite the snickering from other manufacturers and users, the Note caught on in a big way (no pun intended). With the latest iteration of its Note line, the Note 5, Samsung once again brings a compelling device to Android users, with features and upgrades that continue to place its phones at the head of little green robot’s pack.

At 5.3 inches, the Note 5’s screen isn’t the biggest in the phablet arena. However, reviewers have raved about its clarity and color gamut. This makes text easier to read and images truer to life. This comes in handy with the phone’s 16 megapixel camera, which many have called the best Samsung’s offered in their phones, and that can also shoot 4K (which is popping up as a required feature in this year’s crop of cutting edge mobile devices). It also includes a fingerprint sensor that has the option of locking down third party apps. Samsung’s also introduced Live Broadcast, its own lifestreaming app into the device (think along the lines Periscope or Meerkat). Stills can also be exported as RAW files, a format that most smartphones don’t support but that most professional SLR cameras do.

Like Apple and, interestingly, Google, Samsung is incorporating its own payment scheme into its latest crop of phones, Samsung Pay. While other integrated mobile payment systems are dependent on NFC chips, Samsung is, interestingly, using a secure magnetic transmitter than emulates a card swipe. While not all point of sale systems can take payments from an NFC transmitter, Samsung’s solution to include something to address older card readers that require a swipe is an interesting solution to adoption.

The new Note 5 is designed with glass and metal, abandoning its older, plastic back construction. Users who were fans of being able to swap out batteries and add additional storage on the fly likely won't like the new design choices. However, other users who are looking for a more aesthetically appealing device will appreciate the change. However, the device comes available in either 32GB and 64GB storage capacities.

The Note 5 is practically the same phone as the Samsung S6 Edge+, although the Edge lacks the S Pen and the Note does not feature the tapered screen that displays additional information. The S Pen makes the Note a much more usable device, comfortably landing it on our list.

Google Nexus 6P - Sprint

Google Nexus 6P - Sprint

To those that like Android and want something with the direct approval from Mountain View, the Nexus line is held in the same regard and anticipation as any iPhone or Galaxy release. This year’s Nexus flagship is the 6P, which builds off last year’s 6.

One of the idiosyncrasies of the Nexus line is that they aren't directly manufactured by Google. They’re designed and made by companies that have their own business in creating their own Android devices. Last year, Motorola took on the job of getting the Nexus 6 out to the Google faithful. This year it’s Chinese company Huawei. However, the version of Android loaded in Nexus phones are free of the skins, overlays and other modifications other place on the phones. To some, these modifications are welcome, but if to users of Nexus phones, the pure, unadulterated operating system is the draw.

The Nexus 6P is an impressive device. At 5.7 inches, with a well-sized phablet that comes in very usable data storage capacities of 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. The performance of the of its camera keeps up with other new, premium phones released this year with a 12 megapixel sensor that also shoots video in 4K. Google also included a fingerprint sensor with the Nexus 6P and with the introduction of Android 6.0 "Marshmallow", it also officially rolls out support for the biometric security scheme with Nexus Imprint. Users who’ve used the device and the fingerprint scanner reported it was accurate, responsive and fast enough to keep users happy with its use.

What’s most interesting for early adopters is Google’s/Huawei’s use of a USB-C connector. While this detail may be lost on most people, the USB-C port opens up interesting use cases in which the phone may be able to charge a laptop with another USB-C port. In addition, the speed of the USB-C spec is 5Gbps, which is probably much faster than users will actually experience, but no doubt it will be a very fast computer.

LG G4 - Sprint

LG G4 - Sprint

Though Samsung’s dominated the Android space for several years, other companies have been forced to innovate. In many cases, like the LG G4, they’ve offered phones that are as good as the Galaxies and Notes, and in some cases, offer features that have gone MIA in those phones.The first thing that catches the attention of any user is a device’s display. In the case of the G4, the 5.5 inch IPS screen consistently wows reviewers and users. Made by LG, the display is praised as being vibrant and lifelike, with images and text coming in at a crisp 531 dots per inch.

LG has improved its camera sensor to 16 megapixels, with the laser autofocus system it used in its last flagship phone, the G3. The selfie/video conferencing camera shoots at 8 megapixels, which is as good as many mid-range smartphones. A fast Qualcomm 808 processor with 3GB of RAM keeps up with the best of the premium offerings out there, with reports from reviewers and critics uniformly positive with its performance. There’s also an NFC chip for mobile payments and near field payments.

The G4 comes with a base 32GB of internal data storage, but it also includes a microSD slot for expanding storage up to another 2TB and allows for a swappable battery. The lack of a microSD slot in Samsung’s newer devices has been a sore spot among Samsung users, so those who miss it may want to take a close look at the G4.The G4 may not be as weatherproof as unibody designs, but it's a very compelling device for those looking for something other than a Samsung or Apple device.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

The thing that most people will take notice of when they see the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is, well, its edge. Its screen tapers on its side and Samsung uses the that sliver of extra real estate to display function information, like when new emails have been received or when a new text is waiting. It’s a unique innovation in a market full of devices that look alike, save for the Edge’s larger sibling, the Galaxy S6 Edge+. However, unlike the Edge+, the Edge is very pocketable with its 5.1 inch screen which makes for a more compact size.

The Edge packs the same 16 megapixel sensor for its camera that its newer and larger sister devices (the Note 5 and the S6 Edge+) feature in their cameras. It’s a great sensor and one of the best found on Android devices. As an added trick the Edge also features optical image stabilization, a trick the similarly-sized iPhone 6 and 6S do not. Images can be transferred off the phone in RAW format, the preferred format for professional photographers and serious amateurs.

The Edge+ also improves its security with a fingerprint scanner that, according to reviewers, works pretty well. The device also opts for Samsung Pay  the company’s own mobile payment solution that's also compatible with magnetic card readers. But like its newer, larger siblings, the S6 Edge features a metal and glass construction that neatly  seals the device. Though earlier versions of the phone allowed user access to the battery and included a microSD slot, the S6 Edge does not, which has caused some controversy among its users. Data capacities for the S6 Edge are 32 and 64GB which should be enough for most users.

iPhone 6s Plus - Verizon

iPhone 6s Plus - Verizon

For users looking to balance cost with performance and who are partial to iOS devices, it’s the one-year-old items that usually are the sweet spot. While they don’t command the same prices as the new phones that were released that year, Apple’s older-generation iPhones are still devices that are extremely serviceable and that will continue to be updated for years to come. This is the case of the Apple 6 and 6 Plus.

While many new features were rolled out with the release of the 6S series, Apple’s 6 and 6 are still one of the best-performing smartphones available, making it an excellent buy. There’s a couple of caveats, though. If you’re a super user, who demands an extreme amount of storage capacity, keep in mind that the re-released 6-series may not be for you. The phones come in 16 and 64GB capacities, but not 128GB like the current-generation models. Fashionistas will also want to keep in mind that rose gold and gold are not options, but silver and space grey are.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use an 8 megapixel sensor for its images and video. Apple’s used the 8 megapixel sensor on several generations of iPhones and its images have consistently been rated as some of the best on photo sharing sites like Flickr. Though the video resolution maxes out at 1080p, it shouldn’t be a problem for most, as 4K TVs are still fairly rare.

Images and videos taken by the 6 and 6 plus are displayed on excellent displays, which are the same that are used on the newer 6S and 6S Plus. The 6 Plus screen comes in at 1920 by 1080 pixels (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334 x 750 pixels for 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). According to Apple, both phones are "retina" displays which means text and graphics are sharp and at their resolutions, the phones’ screens deliver more pixels per inch than print (which comes in at 300 dots per inch).

The phones can easily keep up with the latest networking standards with cellular networking which I done via LTE. WIFI networking includes the newer 802.11 ac standard, as well at the older a/g/b/n standards. The A8 processor is about a year old, but it still holds up well when compared other smartphones. Despite initial reports of users being able to bend iPhone 6 devices, both models are extremely well built with displays clad in shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass. Rest assured, the phone will stand up to daily use, even in the hands of the clumsiest user.

We’ve chosen the iPhone 6 Plus as the preferred device between two. While both phones are virtually the same, the addition of optical image stabilization in the Plus model makes a definite difference in still image performance. However, the smaller iPhone 6 does not include this feature.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 - Verizon

Samsung developed the large-format “phablet” smartphone, despite the sneers and jeers that other companies and other users leveled at their Note series. Customers took to the devices quickly, however, and it became a success. Other companies jumped on the phablet bandwagon (such as Apple) yet Samsung continues to lead the Android pack when it comes to large-format phones. The Note 5, the latest addition to the Note series, should keep Samsung’s fans happy with its wealth of features.

In addition to its 5.3 inch screen, the Note 5 also includes a fingerprint scanner which is reportedly much more refined and a better overall login experience than older versions. A nice bonus is it can also lock down access to third party apps. Samsung Pay is enabled on the device, and it’s worth noting that unlike Apple and Google, the Note 5 can not only make payments using its NFC chip, but with magnetic secure transmission that emulates a swipe as well.

The phone’s camera is built around a 16 megapixel sensor which also shoots 4K at 30 frames per second. Samsung’s also introduced Live Broadcast, its own life streaming app into the device akin to Periscope or Meerkat. Additionally stills can be exported as RAW files, which should be of interest to shooters with professional inclinations. However, despite the increased demands on data, Samsung only offers a 32GB and 64GB storage option.

In terms of battery life, users report the Note 5’s battery is usable for about a day of normal usage, but the device also allows for wireless charging. Like the Galaxy line, the company is now sealing the battery and eliminating microSD slots by switching to a more iPhone-like glass and metal design, a move that’s proved controversial among the device’s user base.

The S6 Edge+, also made by Samsung, is virtually the same phone as the Note 5. The Note 5 lacks the curved display that the Edge+ uses to display additional information; the Edge+ also lacks the S Pen. Between the two devices, the S Pen is the more useful and with the addition of Screen Off Memo, it makes the Note 5 a more useful device than the Edge+.

Google Nexus 6P by Huawei 128gb Aluminum color

The Android operating system is all about choice and one of those choices is the choice for a stock version of the operating system. The Nexus 6P, with blessings from Google, is that stock device. Maybe you’re a developer who needs a reference device. Maybe you’re a user who wants to make sure you get the date Android updates.The Nexus 6P is a follow-up device to last year’s Nexus 6. The 6P is manufactured by Huawei, while last year’s 6 was built by Motorola which can be confusing, as the Nexus devices are Google-branded, but it’s standard for the line. Google partners with a new company, every year, to manufacture the Nexus devices to their specifications, probably to put any suspicions about favoritism at ease.

This is a large phablet format phone at 5.7 inches, and comes in 32, 64 and 128GB capacities. The 6P’s camera is outfitted with a 12 megapixel sensor which also shoots in 4K video, which seems to be a standard feature among flagship devices this year. The phone also features a fingerprint sensor, and is packaging it with Android 6.0 Marshmallow (as you’d expect, this Nexus device is one of the few to feature the new operating system) with "Nexus Imprint", its biometric security solution.

Reviewers and users have reported it is fast, responsive and snappy.Interestingly, the inclusion of USB-C might be the most hotly anticipated feature of the device. USB-C was selected as the data and power port for the device, and though that sounds pretty dull, it’s the latest USB spec and has shown up on very few devices so far (the most notable being Apple retina MacBook as a power and peripheral port). USB-C allows for two-way power delivery, meaning it could be charged like a regular cell phone, or it could be used to charge other USB-C-equipped devices, along with fast (5Gbps) data speeds.

LG G4 Deep Blue Smartphone - Verizon Wireless

LG G4 Deep Blue Smartphone - Verizon Wireless

While Samsung is the juggernaut dominating the Android landscape, LG’s G4 is a device that’s very competitive and is definitely worth considering for any hardcore user of Android. It’s similar in many ways to last year’s G3 which in many ways is a good thing. The LG-manufactured screen is both vibrant and colorful, having won over many professional reviewers. Text and images are crisp and lifelike at 531 dots per inch. LG’s known for their HDTV panels and their experience in designing and manufacturing world-class televisions translates to their mobile devices.

The manufacturer also bumped its camera sensor from 13-16 megapixels, keeping the laser autofocus system it introduced last year to much fanfare. Its video conferencing/selfie camera comes in at an impressive 8 megapixels which is as good as some mid-range cameras. A Qualcomm 808 processor with 3GB of RAM makes sure the G4 can run with upgraded processors in Samsung Galaxies and Apple iPhones. Reviewers were very pleased with its performance, and an NFC chip allows for capabilities like mobile payment and short range data transfer.

But here’s the detail many former Samsung Galaxy users will find most compelling: the G4 allows its batteries to be swapped and the use microSD cards. These features were touted by Samsung but the company’s since redesigned its smartphones with a sealed design, leaving power users who need to swap batteries and who have microSD cards to swap left out in the cold. The G4 offers a number of back plates in various finishes and the microSD slot can handle storage of up to 2TB, with 32GB of internal storage. While the G4 isn’t as weatherproof as Samsung or Apple’s flagship phones, it nevertheless remains a very compelling and competitive entry into the Smartphone market.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

The thing that most people will take notice of when they see the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is, well, its edge. Its screen tapers on its side and Samsung uses the that sliver of extra real estate to display function information, like when new emails have been received or when a new text is waiting. It’s a unique innovation in a market full of devices that look alike, save for the Edge’s larger sibling, the Galaxy S6 Edge+. However, unlike the Edge+, the Edge is very pocketable with its 5.1 inch screen which makes for a more compact size.

The Edge packs the same 16 megapixel sensor for its camera that its newer and larger sister devices (the Note 5 and the S6 Edge+) feature in their cameras. It’s a great sensor and one of the best found on Android devices. As an added trick the Edge also features optical image stabilization, a trick the similarly-sized iPhone 6 and 6S do not. Images can be transferred off the phone in RAW format, the preferred format for professional photographers and serious amateurs.

The Edge+ also improves its security with a fingerprint scanner that, according to reviewers, works pretty well. The device also opts for Samsung Pay  the company’s own mobile payment solution that's also compatible with magnetic card readers. But like its newer, larger siblings, the S6 Edge features a metal and glass construction that neatly  seals the device. Though earlier versions of the phone allowed user access to the battery and included a microSD slot, the S6 Edge does not, which has caused some controversy among its users. Data capacities for the S6 Edge are 32 and 64GB which should be enough for most users.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus - AT&T

With the debut of the iPhone 6S-series (Apple’s flagship phones from last year) the 6 and 6 Plus are now a bit more affordable. Mobile technology is moving at a breakneck speed, and while it’s easy to be wowed by the latest and greatest, it’s important to remember that last year’s brand new phone is still very, very usable. This is the case of the iPhone 6 line.

Though there are some physical differences between 6 and 6 Plus, it’s so subtle that it’s not very likely anyone will notice you’ve chosen economy over performance. This is true of both the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 model and the larger, phablet-sized 5.5 inch 6 Plus. The screens are 1920x1080 pixels for the 6 Plus (at 401 dots per inch), and 1334x750 pixels for the slightly smaller, 4.7 inch iPhone 6 (at 326 pixels). The displays, are "retina" displays according to Apple’s math, rendering text and graphics crisp and clear.

Both models only come in 16 and 64GB storage capacities. If you’re a data hoarder or if you shoot a lot of video or stills, you’ll have to look elsewhere (and seeing as how you’re interested in an iPhone, the 6S and 6S plus would be your only choice for a 128GB phone). The 6 and 6 Plus now only come in silver and space gray, but no gold or rose gold options.

As with most phones, the 6 and 6 Plus come equipped with LTE, meaning cellular data connections are as fast (or sometimes faster) than at-home broadband. Connection options to WIFI networks use MIMO technology, which involves multiple antennas for transmitting and receiving data extremely fast. Its A8 processor is a year old, but according to reviewers who have the technical background to weigh in matters of silicon, it is still very competitive in terms of speed.

The 8 megapixel camera sensor is one component that Apple’s replaced with the introduction of its new phones. However, the older camera continues to wow photographers and videographers with its performance. It is still considered excellent despite increasing megapixels, not just from the Apple’s 6S standpoint, but from other Android phones as well.
 
The phone is designed to stand up to daily use with the use of aluminum (yes, “bendgate” was a thing, but you really had to work hard to bend a 6 or a 6 Plus) and strengthened glass (it’s Gorilla Glass, though Apple’s not big into sharing the spotlight). If you feel you have butterfingers or if you’re just plain nervous about stuffing a slab of glass into your pocket, a case is always advised.

For my own needs, I’ve chosen the 6 Plus because of its larger screen size and the addition of optical image stabilization. The larger screen makes it the perfect companion if you use your phone a lot and OIS does help when taking photos. However, both phones are still standout devices.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

When it comes to large-format phones, Samsung is the leader of the pack for good reason, as it’s the company which forsaw that the evolution of the smartphone wasn’t just smarter, it was bigger, as well. Though other companies have seen the light, Samsung continues to set the pace when it comes to Android phablets. The Note 5, with its 5.3 inch screen, is no exception. It doesn’t just lead the pack in raw specs, which we will get to in a moment, but it also leads in features. Samsung ditched Google Wallet in favor of its own payment solution, Samsung Pay. While Google Waller, and Apple Pay, utilize NFC chips for payment, Samsung Pay also uses secure magnetic transmission, making it compatible with card readers that aren’t equipped for NFC payments.

The Note 5 features a fingerprint scanner to lock down the phone from unwanted access as well as convenient wireless charging to keep its battery replenished. The phone’s camera comes with a 16 megapixel sensor, which can also shoot 4K. Strangely, despite the increasing demands on bits of 4K video and 16 megapixel stills, the Note 5 only offers a 32 and 64GB storage option. Samsung’s eliminated the microSD slot that was standard on the Note’s older models in favor of an enclosed, glass and metal design like Apple’s iPhones, a real point of controversy with users.Take note that the S6 Edge+ is virtually the same model as the Note 5; only difference is the Note 5 lacks the Edge+’s curved display and the Edge+ lacks the Note 5’s S Pen. the S Pen is more useful than the curved displays, so our vote for the better device goes to the Note 5.

Google Nexus 6P by Huawei 128gb Aluminum color

The Android operating system is all about choice and one of those choices is the choice for a stock version of the operating system. The Nexus 6P, with blessings from Google, is that stock device. Maybe you’re a developer who needs a reference device. Maybe you’re a user who wants to make sure you get the date Android updates.The Nexus 6P is a follow-up device to last year’s Nexus 6. The 6P is manufactured by Huawei, while last year’s 6 was built by Motorola which can be confusing, as the Nexus devices are Google-branded, but it’s standard for the line. Google partners with a new company, every year, to manufacture the Nexus devices to their specifications, probably to put any suspicions about favoritism at ease.

This is a large phablet format phone at 5.7 inches, and comes in 32, 64 and 128GB capacities. The 6P’s camera is outfitted with a 12 megapixel sensor which also shoots in 4K video, which seems to be a standard feature among flagship devices this year. The phone also features a fingerprint sensor, and is packaging it with Android 6.0 Marshmallow (as you’d expect, this Nexus device is one of the few to feature the new operating system) with "Nexus Imprint", its biometric security solution.

Reviewers and users have reported it is fast, responsive and snappy.Interestingly, the inclusion of USB-C might be the most hotly anticipated feature of the device. USB-C was selected as the data and power port for the device, and though that sounds pretty dull, it’s the latest USB spec and has shown up on very few devices so far (the most notable being Apple retina MacBook as a power and peripheral port). USB-C allows for two-way power delivery, meaning it could be charged like a regular cell phone, or it could be used to charge other USB-C-equipped devices, along with fast (5Gbps) data speeds.

LG G4 Metallic Gray Smartphone - AT&T

LG G4 Metallic Gray Smartphone - AT&T

Though it lacks the marketing budgets of Apple or Samsung, LG has pulled away from the Android pack as one of the best manufacturers of mobile devices with introduction of a radically redesigned flagship phone, the G3, last year. While the G4 looks virtually identical, LG’s changes to the phone (and what it didn’t change) appeals to many Android users.

LG’s upgraded the camera sensor from 13 megapixels to 16 megapixels (with the self-facing, selfie-capable camera coming in at 8 megapixels). If you’re running the numbers, that’s more than what Samsung or Apple is offering on their phones. But there’s more to image processing than numbers and LG’s camera (according to reviewers) performs very well. Like last year’s model, the G4 makes good use of a laser autofocusing system.

The 5.5 inch screen is also one of the best in its class. LG is one of the few companies (Samsung being another) that makes their own HDTV panels and their expertise trickles down to their smaller devices. At 531 DPI, reviewers have raved about the brightness and color reproduction of the G4’s display.
The processor’s been upgraded to a Qualcomm 808, and while it’s an off-the-shelf component, it holds its own against the custom, in-house designed chips that Apple and Samsung use. Paired with 3GB of RAM, reviewers are pleased with its performance and it is paired with an NFC chip for Google Wallet payments and short range data transfer.

The G4 remains one of the few premium smartphones left that allows its users access to the battery and to expand data storage. The G4, like its predecessor, offers removable "shells" with different types of finishes to allow replacing the phone’s battery. A microSD slot allows cards of up to 2TB (yes, terabytes) to be used and the internal storage comes in at 32GB. Users should be advised however that replaceable batteries and microSD slots mean the G4 isn’t as weatherproof as other phones which offer completely sealed frames.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge - AT&T

S6 Edge+ and the Note 5, Samsung’s Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge still deliver the kind of excellent performance its users enjoy, making this pick one of the best smartphones available. But even "smaller" smartphones are considerably bigger than they were just a few years ago, and the S6 Edge with 5.1 inches of screen, is easily pocketable by users looking for a device that’s portable and that has a usable screen.

 At 577 dots per inch, the S6 Edge’s screen is easily readable and images are rendered beautifully. It comes equipped with a 16 megapixel camera, the same sensor that’s generally regarded as among the best among mobile devices and possibly the best among Android devices. The S6 Edge also includes optical image stabilization (OIS), which makes it easier to capture an image in real world conditions; comparably, Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6S, which are similarly sized to the S6 Edge, don’t offer OIS. The S6 Edge also can output RAW image files, which are preferred by professional and serious amateur photographers.

S6 Edge also offers a very usable and very functional fingerprint scanner to lock the phone down. It can also restrict access to third party apps. It also offers an NFC chip that allows short range data transfer and mobile payments. There’s also a magnetic stripe emulator, making the device complaint with Samsung Pay.

Eclipsed by its larger and newer cousins, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ and the Note 5, Samsung’s Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge still delivers excellent performance, making it one of the best smartphones available. But even "smaller" smartphones are considerably bigger than they were just a few years ago, and the S6 Edge with 5.1 inches of screen, is easily pocketable by users looking for a device that’s portable and that has a usable screen. At 577 dots per inch, the S6 Edge’s screen is easily readable and images are rendered beautifully.

Like its larger cousins, the S6 Edge comes equipped with a 16 megapixel camera, the same sensor that’s generally regarded as among the best among mobile devices and possibly the best among Android devices. The S6 Edge also includes optical image stabilization, which makes it easier to capture an image in real world conditions; Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6S, which are comparably sized to the S6 Edge, do not offer OIS. The S6 Edge also can output RAW image files, which are preferred by professional and serious amateur photographers.

However, the decision to seal the battery and storage of the S6 Edge has divided the Android faithful. Unlike previous iterations of the Galaxy line, replacing batteries and upgrading data storage just isn’t possible. Samsung had used the flexibility as a point of differentiation between its devices and Apple’s, but in the end, aesthetics won out. However, this continues to be a very sore point among some Android users. The device comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128 GB (strangely, the larger cousins of the S6 Edge, the Note 5 and Edge+, max out at 64GB).

The Galaxy S6 is virtually the same device as the S6 Edge, with one very important difference: the Edge’s curved display is used to display additional status information. For this reason, the Edge is a more useful device and wins our vote as one of the best devices you can buy; however, the Galaxy S6 is the same device and is worth taking a look if the Edge’s curved display doesn’t appeal to you.

Wayne Akiyama
I'm a technology enthusiast and all-around gadget freak. I've paid particular attention to the explosion of mobile technology. My interest is in smartphones and feature phones as well as wired and handsfree accessories.
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