Talk Android’s Smartphone Buyer’s Guide Fall 2012: A Guide For Students, Geeks, Show-Offs And Android Newbies

 

Fall is almost here for those of us here in the States and many of you may be in the market to grab a new phone. Whether it’s the latest and greatest quad-core beast, something that will let you be able to share all those updates of your trip around the globe or if you’re upgrading from a dumbphone to a basic Android smartphone that will give you the most bang for your buck, this guide has you fully-covered. In this guide, you’ll find the device that will be well within your budget range as well as feature items you may care about most such as a full touchscreen or slide-out keyboard, solid camera and topnotch multimedia capabilities. Without further ado— let’s hit the break to see what phone will suit you best on your respective wireless network.

AT&T

Best Android… Period

Samsung Galaxy S III

 

 

It was a tough choice between the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III on Ma Bell’s network. Both phones feature a heavy slab of Ice Cream Sandwich, superior Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor, gorgeous 720p displays and run on AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Despite HTC’s outstanding camera with ImageSense technology and the smooth Sense 4.0 UI, the Galaxy S III is the better overall phone. One major knack against the One X is the fact that it only comes in a 16GB configuration and while the Galaxy S III is also available in a 16GB configuration, there is the ability to add even more memory via an expandable microSD card. Sure HTC has the awesome DropBox deal, but we suspect that most smartphone users will want to access those precious photos or music at anytime such as when you’re on that cross-country flight— not just when there’s a cellular signal available. Don’t forget, Samsung also features items such as the cool S-Voice and of course, Sammy’s own AllShare feature. Oh and Samsung generally has a better track record of updating its premium smartphones to the latest Android software and has confirmed the Galaxy S III should get the Jelly Bean update by Q4 of this year. The One X will also get Jelly Bean at sometime, but exactly when is anyone’s guess. The Galaxy S III is worth every penny— believe us.

Price: $199.99 on 2-year contract

 

Best Mid-Range Phone

HTC One X

 

 

The initial thought was Motorola’s fine Atrix HD smartphone would take the crown here, but with AT&T’s recent decision to drop the price of the One X, it was only fitting to slide the second-best phone available in this category. We here at Talk Android love the One X’s superior Super LCD 2 display, incredible camera capabilities thanks to ImageSense and the ample 1,800mAh battery which should offer acceptable juice for use throughout the day— even when you’re surfing the web on AT&T’s blazing 4G network. Of course prospective owners may have trouble trying to tinker with the One X for now— but hey— the hope is that an easier feat will arrive sooner than later.

Price: $99.99 on 2-year contract

 

Best Budget Phone

Pantech Burst

 

 

A smartphone featuring a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a 5MP camera with 720p video recording and LTE surely must not be considered a budget phone, can it? Well AT&T and Pantech offer premium features for under a buck in the Burst smartphone.  Yes friends, for  only 99¢, AT&T customers can be treated to a solid Android device and experience. The best thing is that while the device still features Gingerbread 2.3, it’s expected to be updated to Android 4.0 sometime later in the year. Without a doubt, this device is hands-down the best budget offering available on AT&T’s network.

Price: 99¢ on 2-year contract

 

Verizon Wireless

Best Android Phone… Period

Samsung Galaxy S III

 

 

Much like AT&T, Verizon Wireless has a clear-cut winner in the Galaxy S III smartphone. Compared to devices such as the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX or Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S III features a gorgeous display, awesome camera, great battery life and an underrated slim profile. One thing Verizon variant has going against it is the fact that well… it kind of has a locked bootloader which may turn some of you experimental Android users off a bit. Fortunately, Samsung is offering the Developer Edition of the smartphone as well, though you’ll need to shell out a princely sum if this option is indeed the right one.

Price: $199.99 (16GB version); $249.99 (32GB version) on 2-year contract

 

Best Mid-Range Phone

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

 

 

The controversial Verizon Galaxy Nexus is head and shoulders above the other devices in the sub-$100 category (price is $99 when $50 online discount is applied). The most notable feature of the Galaxy Nexus is the pure stock Ice Cream Sandwich that’s preloaded, the still beautiful 720p display and of course, the ability to operate on Big Red’s insanely fast 4G LTE network. And those of you who like to tinker with your smartphone can take solace in knowing it’s got Google’s support for all your tinkering needs. The device has been one of Verizon’s most popular and successful, yet still has plenty of fight left.

Price: $99.99 on 2-year contract (when ordered online) or $149.99 on-contract

 

Best Budget Phone

LG Lucid Smartphone

 

 

The Sony Xperia Play smartphone was oh-so close to being the top choice here, but alas— the top smartphone must cater to all types and groups of people and let’s face it— many Verizon customers may not care about a device’s gaming capabilities. Instead, they may be focused on a device with a decent screen, snappy performance and of course— a sexy appearance. The LG Lucid smartphone brings all that and more for Android users. The 4-inch screen of the phone should also be more than enough for those of you with large digits such as people like your’s truly. And hey— the Xperia Play only features 3G— the Lucid operates on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.

Price: $49.99 on 2-year contract

 

T-Mobile

Best Android Phone… Period

Samsung Galaxy S III

 

 

Surprise, surprise— the best device available on T-Mobile’s network is Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone almost by default. As being in a class of its own, the phone has an unparalleled display, NFC and a superior camera. Best of all— the phone comes in both the Pebble Blue and Marble White colors, as well as in the 16GB and 32GB configurations. The upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note may end up being a success too thanks to its sweet display and 5.3-inch form factor, but for sheer value— the future-proof Galaxy S III should be on top of customer’s short list.

Price: $279.99 on-contract (16GB version); $329.99 on-contract (32GB version)

 

Best Mid-Range Phone

HTC One S

 

 

The HTC One S smartphone is not only the best mid-range phone across all major networks— it might be one of the best overall smartphones available. The device features a super-smooth Snapdragon processor that can easily compete with the big boys, solid 4.3-inch Super AMOLED qHD display and a stunning 8MP camera that features HTC’s ImageSense software. What’s even more remarkable is the fact HTC was able to not only squeeze the superior internals into a slim 7.8mm frame— but it was also able to develop what is a sleek and modern body. Toss in the buttery smooth Sense 4.0 software and Beats Audio and you’ve got one heck of a steal for T-Mobile customers. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck on T-Mobile’s network, you can’t do any better than the One S.

Price: $149.99 on 2-year contract

 

Best Budget Phone

T-Mobile Prism

 

 

The Huawei-manufactured  Prism is a solid entry-level/budget device for T-Mobile customers. It features a screaming dual-core processor, an outdated display, have a lackluster 3.2MP camera and is barely capable of 3G-level speeds, but the Prism does offer a near-stock experience and will more than certainly meet customer’s needs. A major selling point is the fact the device is not only perfect for T-Mobile customers looking to save a lot of dough, but it’s also one of the best options for T-Mobile’s prepaid customers.

 

Sprint

Best Android Phone… Period

HTC Evo 4G LTE

 

 

You’d think it would be a clean sweep among the Big 4 wireless carriers for the Galaxy S III, but Sprint’s version of the One X known as the EVO 4G LTE takes the crown here. While it’s discouraging that Sprint has yet to expand its 4G LTE coverage, Sprint customers can look forward to not only a device with a gorgeous display and great camera, but they can also look forward to comprehensive support not just from HTC, but Sprint as well— especially as Sprint and HTC has a close relationship with one another. In addition, the two features that separates the EVO 4G LTE from the other variants of the One X smartphone is the fact it includes the coveted expandable microSD slot and of course, the trademark kickstand. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re looking for a complete phone on the NOW Network— the EVO 4G LTE is definitely it.

Price: $199.99 on 2-year contract

 

Best Mid-Range Phone

LG Viper 4G LTE

 

 

Like the other 4G LTE-capable devices on Sprint’s network, the Viper 4G LTE cannot access true 4G LTE unless used in a handful of U.S. markets at this time. And that’s a shame too because the phone is priced at a hair under $80 and brings with it a snappy 1.2GHz dual-core processor + 1GB of RAM, an acceptable 5MP shooter and tasty Vanilla Gingerbread 2.3 running the show. Once Sprint’s LTE network is really running at full speed— we suspect the Viper 4G LTE will start flying off shelves— especially since it has premium items like NFC as well.

Price: $79.99 on 2-year contract

 

Best Budget Phone

ZTE Fury

 

 

The ZTE Fury is a new entry in Sprint’s lineup and is a solid option for new smartphone buyers or those looking to save a little (or a lot). For under $20, the Fury brings customers a device with a not-too-bad 3.5-inch display, 512MB of RAM, Bluetooth 2.1 capability and an almost-untouched Gingerbread 2.3 OS. Sure the phone doesn’t quite compare to the Pantech Burst on AT&T— but for those looking to do the absolute basics on their smartphone, the Fury is a great option.

Price: $19.99 on 2-year contract

 

Prepaid Carriers

Boost Mobile

HTC EVO Design 4G

 

 

This WiMax-powered smartphone is easily among the cream of the crop of Boost Mobile’s lineup. While the EVO Design 4G doesn’t feature Sense 4.0, Sense 3.6 certainly does its part to help Ice Cream Sandwich purr along  and it doesn’t hurt that customers will be treated to solid items like a 5MP camera and 4-inch qHD screen. Oh and the $300 price tag isn’t too shabby either.

Price: $299.99

 

Virgin Mobile

HTC One V

 

 

While the HTC One V rides a fine line between being a budget and a mid-range device, you can’t deny the smartphone’s attractive features. Virgin Mobile customers can be treated to appealing items like Beats Audio, a decent 5MP camera that will allow you to send all those crazy moments to your friends via the preloaded Facebook and Twitter apps. While Virgin Mobile is under the Sprint brand– it is notorious for having lackluster call quality, so the hope is that prospective buyers will utilize the solid phone for its multimedia and social networking capabilities— and not much else.

Price: $199.99

 

Cricket Wireless

Huawei Mercury

 

 

Cricket Wireless is still a fairly relative unknown in the prepaid market— but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have solid offerings. The Mercury is certainly one that will appeal to many customers. For starters, there’s a 4-inch screen along with a 1.4GHz processor. The real kicker here is the smartphone’s built-in Muve music player and whopping 8MP camera— all in a sub-$200 package.

Price: $199.99

MetroPCS

Huawei Activa 4G

 

 

MetroPCS is widely known as a budget brand, but it’s quietly building up its LTE network that even beats the likes of Sprint at this time. The Activa 4G LTE features a terribly slow processor, but makes up for the shortcoming by having stock Android, a 5MP camera and wait for it— a bundled memory card with Kung Fu Panda preloaded. And who doesn’t want Kung Fu Panda preloaded with their new smartphone?

Price $249.99

 

Unlocked Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Nexus HSPA+

 

 

The thought is that the unlocked versions of the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III (GT-I9300) would be the clear-cut winner. But don’t forget– neither device has Google’s direct backing nor does either phone have the latest Android software preloaded (Jelly Bean). While the Galaxy S III and One X each has today’s specs, the specs of the Galaxy Nexus certainly doesn’t disappoint as it has an awesome 720p display, dual-core processor, and NFC among other things. Don’t forget— the Galaxy Nexus is still a Nexus— meaning it’s a Google Developer and Reference device and will get updates before most other Androids. And hey— the $399.99 price tag doesn’t hurt either.

Price: $399.99 on Google Play Store

 

 

 

» See more articles by Roy Alugbue


  • http://twitter.com/samueltludwig Samuel T Ludwig

    As someone who recently exchanged an LG Lucid for a Galaxy Nexus, I find it quite difficult to agree with your assessment that the Lucid is the best budget route on Verizon. I’ll keep my comments brief and point out that there is virtually no developer support for the device, and owing to its lackluster consumer support I’d be very surprised if Verizon ever upgraded it to ICS/Jelly Bean. From my view, and owning this device for three months (before returning it due to my dissatisfaction/Verizon not grandfathering me into an unlimited data plan), the OG Incredible it replaced was a much better device. And, if one is interested in a budget phone, get a 3G device on Craigslist contract-free, or wait until the Gnex drops $50.

  • steve

    No EVO V 4g for Virgin Mobile? WTF?!?! Superior phone in nearly every way to the One V. Larger screen, better resolution, higher ppi, larger battery, 3D capabilities, better processor, more RAM, FFC, etc, etc.

  • jdrulr

    How bout doing a Canadian comparison?

  • Jack Holt

    Great article. While I won’t give up my Galaxy Nexus for a Galaxy SIII I do have to say that those who are in the market for a top-end phone won’t go wrong with an SIII, touchwiz and all.

  • RTWright

    I disagree with the HTC Evo 4G LTE getting best on Sprint, it’s nice but eh, I would have to say it is an equal not better than the GSIII. The camera on the GSIII is better in my opinion as well. But that is just my preference there. Best is a matter of opinion anyway. I love my GSIII and it was a hell of an upgrade from the original Evo 4G. No regrets one bit!