Last year I wrote a top smartphones of 2011 shopping guide, and since we’re fully in the 2012 holiday season, I figured I would give it another go this year! Like last year, Samsung and Apple are clearly the dominant players in the smartphone marketplace, but we have a little bit of shuffling among the other smartphone manufacturers. All right, let’s get to it!
LG Optimus G E970 (AT&T and Sprint) – $199.99 w/ 2-year contract:
LG has been a solid force in smartphones over the last year, as the company is #3 in terms of marketshare percentage for U.S. mobile subscribers, landing at 17.6%, just 0.2% behind Apple. LG hopes to get into the #2 spot with its latest smartphone, the Optimus G, which was launched back in early November. The Optimus G boasts a super fast Snapdragon™ S4 Pro 1.5GHz Quad-Core Processor along with 2GB RAM for optimal app performance. Battery life is one of the best in the industry at a full 2100 mAh. And with a super strong Gorilla Glass 2 screen, you can be sure that the Optimus G will take a lot of beating before getting damaged. Another top feature is 4G LTE capability, which is being expanded across the U.S. (though some carriers have still not yet deployed this latest network technology).
One of the most innovative features of the LG Optimus G is the multi-tasking capabilities that allow multiple apps to function at the same time. A cool feature called QSlide allows users to multi-task by simultaneously seeing two functions at once via transparent layers. This hasn’t been seen before on smartphones and could be a key selling point for potential buyers looking for improved functionality. All in all, the LG Optimus G is a very solid smartphone option.
Samsung Galaxy Note II (Multiple Carriers) – $299 w/ 2-year contract
Last year Samsung debuted the Galaxy Note I to the U.S. market at CES 2012. We were live on-site to check it out in all its glory, and it was pretty spectacular. In the lobby of Central Hall, Samsung set up what was probably the coolest product demo in all of CES 2012 – they had caricature artists drawing portraits of individuals using the Note’s drawing app and a multi-functional stylus. Turns out that Steve Jobs might have actually gotten something wrong.
The Galaxy Note I launched in February 2012, and surprisingly Samsung accelerated the development and launch of its successor, the Galaxy Note II. So far, sales have been solid as the tablet/phone hybrid device continues to carve out a market for consumers. The Galaxy Note II boasts a 5.5″ screen, which is a tad bigger than last year’s version. This increase in size added a little bit of weight to the device (a total of 7 grams). However, a lot more processing power is loaded into the Note II for just that small a weight increase. The Galaxy Note II boasts a 1.6 Ghz processor and has double the RAM (2GB vs. 1GB) as the Note I. Chalking up to its tablet roots, the Galaxy Note II not only has up to 64GB of flash memory, it can hold up to an additional 64GB via microSD, which means you can use the extra storage and screen length on this combo device to store all kinds of full-length movies. And finally, yes, the stylus will be back! It’s been redesigned to be even more ergonomic for master users of the pen. The Galaxy Note II has been available in the U.S. for about two months and would make an excellent phone option for users wanting some features of a tablet but still only wanting one device to carry around.
Apple iPhone 5 (Multiple Carriers) – $299 (32GB version) w/ 2-year contract:
Apple is back at it again with their latest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 5. Apple has released a new version of the iPhone every year since the original one back in 2007, and the iPhone 5 fits right in with that schedule.
This latest version of the iPhone is .37 inches longer than the iPhone 4 and 4S, which means you get an extra row of apps per screen and improved screen resolution. Amazingly, the iPhone 5 weighs only 3.95 ounces, which is a full 20% less than the iPhone 4S. The weight difference is immediately noticeable when comparing the 5 vs. the 4S.
Apple loaded the iPhone 5 with a new mobile processing chip (the A6), which means improved processing speed over previous versions. Also, Apple finally caught up to Android phones (yes, I’m saying that) by adding LTE capability, though obviously this will only work on networks with LTE coverage.
The iPhone 5 comes pre-loaded with the latest version of iOS, being iOS 6. Though, that might have actually been a bad thing, at least until the Google Maps app finally became available last week. (Yes, Apple Maps still sucks).
Overall, the iPhone 5 is a solid upgrade over the 4S, and Apple fans will see no reason to switch to Android.
Samsung Galaxy S III (multiple carriers) – $199 w/ 2-year contract:
The Samsung Galaxy S III is 2012′s hottest phone, and it looks to stay on top throughout 2013 as well. The S III is Samsung’s third version in their extremely popular line of Galaxy S smartphones, which have become Apple’s number one competitor. The Galaxy S III boasts a super big 4.8 inch screen with a 1270 X 720 pixel display, large enough for watching videos (more on that in just a bit!).
Obviously being an Android phone, the S III has tons of Google features built right in, including Search, Maps, Gmail, Gchat, and access to the new Google Play marketplace that launched this year. The battery is a solid 2100 mAh, which should provide more than enough juice for even the most energy-hogging apps. The Galaxy S III has several social features built in as well, including face recognition (i.e. – “BuddyShare”) and social tagging.
But by far, the coolest feature of the Galaxy S III is their video sharing feature called S Beam. Any person who takes a video with their S III can immediately share it with another S III user by touching the two phones together. S Beam can also be used to share photos, music, and other content that you have on your phone. Of course, the best way to use S Beam is by sharing videos that shouldn’t be watched on the airplane or while out on your sleigh. Haha, pretty slick Samsung. Pretty slick.
If you are a loyal Android user, or even an iPhone 3GS user who wants to see why Samsung is crushing it in the smartphone marketplace with their awesome phones, then you can do no wrong by getting the Samsung Galaxy S III.