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The best AT&T smartphones

Best AT&T SmartphoneView full product info

1. Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

Pros
  • Offers a killer 1.2 GHz dual-core Exynos CPU, and is incredibly smooth and lag-free
  • Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 UI is a night-and-day difference from previous builds, and can compete head-to-head with HTC's Sense and Motorola's UI
  • Feature set is fantastic, and it's nice to see it available in subsidized form
Cons
  • AT&T's version has a 1,650 mAh battery, and it struggles to make it through the day with moderate use
Summary

After sixteen months, an Android smartphone has knocked the iPhone 4 out of the top spot (until the iPhone 4S, at least).  The Samsung Galaxy S II is the best Android smartphone out there at the moment, and it's nice to see it available in carrier (and in subsidized) form.  AT&T's Galaxy S II closely resembles the international version and users in some killer specifications like a 1.2 GHz dual-core Exynos CPU, 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, and Android 2.3 with Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0.  It won everyone over at Mobile World Congress, and based on AT&T's current lineup, it's the best smartphone available right now.
Second best AT&T SmartphoneView full product info

2. HTC Vivid

Pros
    •    iPhone 4 builds on a successful formula with a thinner, more luxurious design, higher resolution display, and improved camera paired with a front-facing camera and video-calling software
    •    Improved wireless radio (reception) and better voice quality thanks to dual-mic noise cancellation
    •    Best HD video capture from any mobile phone we've ever tested
    •    Out-of-the-box iTunes compatibility bests offerings by any other mobile platform
    •    Battery life is impressive

Cons
    •    "Death Grip" issue has led to widespread reports of severe signal loss when phone is held a certain way

Summary

Despite its highly publicized antenna problems, iPhone 4 is one of the best smartphones on AT&T. Whatever you think of Apple's approach to smartphones, iPhone 4 is incredibly thin, has the best display ever to grace a mobile phone, and serves up state-of-the-art media capabilities. Some will prefer an Android phone because they prefer Android, and as of right now, the Samsung Galaxy S II offers a better combination of features. For everyone else, though, iPhone remains the smartphone to beat.

Third best AT&T SmartphoneView full product info

3. Apple iPhone 4S

Pros

    •    4-inch qHD display looks nice, and strikes that perfect balance between the "too small" 3.7-inch displays and the "too big" 4.3-inch displays.
    •    First phone to offer NVIDIA's Tegra 2 dual-core processor
    •    With the option of a laptop dock, multimedia dock, and more, Motorola has created a great accessory ecosystem
    •    Android 2.3 and Motorola Applications Platform update make the Atrix 4G a whole new phone

Cons

    •    Somewhat cheap, plasticky feel
    •    Camera is only 5-megapixels, though picture quality appears to be better than Motorola's 8-megapixel devices

Summary

Forget the dual-core 1 GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 CPU and 4-inch qHD display.  Thanks to Motorola's old user interface - MOTOBLUR - the Motorola Atrix 4G suffered from a terrible amount of lag when it launched in March.  Thankfully, the recent Android 2.3 update completely rectified the issues that the device was facing.  The lag issues from the past have been completely resolved, and the phone zips through anything thrown at it.  With sideloading enabled, Gingerbread installed, and a much-improved build of Motorola's UI on board, the Atrix 4G is finally ready for primetime.  Combine the updates with a fantastic accessory ecosystem and a powerful spec sheet, and the Atrix 4G moves past the HTC Inspire 4G to become the second place smartphone on AT&T.

 

The best Verizon smartphones

Best Verizon SmartphoneView full product info

1. Motorola DROID RAZR

Pros

  • 1 GHz dual-core processor is incredibly fast
  • The 4.3-inch qHD display is large, but the phone is still relatively compact in the hand
  • Motorola's custom UI has seen tremendous improvements over the past few months, and that new version is what's installed on the BIONIC
  • 8-megapixel camera shoots video in 1080p

Cons

  • At $249.99 with a two-year agreement, it's pricey
  • BIONIC utilizes PenTile technology for the display, which is known for its pixelation in comparison to the competitors
  • BIONIC has a 1,735 mAh battery, and while it's the largest battery out of the 4G LTE devices, it still struggles to make it through a day with moderate use

Summary

Announced way back in January at CES, the Motorola DROID BIONIC has been redesigned and reworked, and is finally available in retail stores.  It's no slouch, with a 1 GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor, 4.3-inch qHD display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording, and Android 2.3 with the latest build of Motorola's custom UI.  BIONIC solves the carrier's rift between high-end dual-core devices (all of which happened to be 3G) and the 4G LTE devices (none of which have been dual-core until now).  The BIONIC brings together the best of all worlds, and while it has issues with battery life and is pricey, it's still Verizon's best smartphone at the moment.

Second best Verizon SmartphoneView full product info

2. Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Pros

  • Offers blazing fast 4G LTE speeds for the price of a normal data plan
  • The 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, while not dual-core, is reasonably fast
  • The 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display is absolutely beautiful, and is easier to use outdoors
  • 8-megapixel camera is impressive
  • For an Android device, the 1,600 mAh battery performs well
  • Offers Mobile Hotspot capabilities; service is free through June 16

Cons
    •    While the LTE is incredibly fast, it's also very intermittent; it's not uncommon to see it cut in and out (especially when using Mobile Hotspot)
    •    At $299.99 with a two-year agreement, it's a bit pricey

Summary

While it suffers from LTE connection issues, the DROID Charge is the second best smartphone on Verizon at the moment.  The 1 GHz processor, while not dual-core, performs well, and the 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display is absolutely gorgeous.  That said, the $299.99 price tag is a bit much.

Third best Verizon SmartphoneView full product info

3. Apple iPhone 4S

Pros

  • Offers blazing fast (and very consistent) 4G LTE speeds
  • The 1 GHz next-generation Snapdragon processor, while not dual-core, is an improvement over first-gen devices like the HTC EVO 4G
  • It's a feature-packed device, with a 4.3-inch display, 8-megapixel camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and Android 2.2 with HTC Sense 2.0
  • Comes with a 32 GB microSD card and 8 GB of internal storage to total almost 40 GB of available storage space.

Cons

  • Battery life is poor to terrible, depending on usage habits
  • Occasional issues with text messaging application
  • The number of "force close" (similar to "this program is not responding" on a PC) messages are a potential concern
  • While it comes with HTC Sense 2.0, Verizon has stripped most of the fun from it, including access to HTCSense.com and the corresponding customization options

Summary

Despite issues with the battery life and some of the applications, the HTC ThunderBolt surpasses the iPhone 4 to take over the number one spot on our list.  The 4G LTE speeds are absolutely phenomenal (not to mention very consistent), and the device is feature-packed with an 8-megapixel camera, 4.3-inch display, and almost 40 GB of memory.  Unfortunately, the battery life is very poor, and there are some software issues.  Despite the cons, the phone makes it into the top smartphones list on Verizon and should please Android die-hards and intermediate users alike.

 

The best Sprint smartphones

 

The best T-Mobile smartphones

Best T-Mobile SmartphoneView full product info

1. HTC Amaze 4G

Pros
  • 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU seems to handle Sense 3.0 well
  • 4.5-inch qHD display offers rich color and the aspect ratio (540x960) makes it easy to hold in the hand
  • 8-megapixel camera takes an excellent picture
  • Stock build of Android 2.2 makes the device even faster
  • Supports T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42Mbps network, so data speeds are very fast (assuming your market has HSPA+ 42)
Cons
  • Audio in 1080p videos sounds far too brash
  • With a 1,730 mAh battery, longevity isn't terrible, but falls behind other Android devices and the iPhone 4S

Summary

With a fast processor (that seems to work well with the software) and a beautiful, metal-clad body, the HTC Amaze 4G is the best phone on T-Mobile right now.  It's packed with a ton of goodies, like a 4.5-inch qHD display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video recording capabilities, and Android 2.3 with HTC Sense 3.0.  While pricey at $259.99 with a two-year agreement, it's the most feature-rich device on the carrier.
Second best T-Mobile SmartphonView full product info

2. Samsung Galaxy S II

Pros
  • Though it's plasticky, it offers up a well-designed body that's thin and fits into pockets easily
  • 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display is absolutely beautiful, though may border on the "too large" side for some
  • Ships with Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) and TouchWiz 4.0, a drastically improved version of Samsung's custom UI.
  • Supports T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 Mbps standard, so data speeds are nice and fast
Cons
  • Despite what most would consider a fast 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor, there's noticeable lag in comparison to Samsung's Exynos CPU (which is found in the AT&T and Sprint versions)

Summary

The Galaxy S II line is arguably the most popular Android line in the United States (at the time of this writing), and the list keeps growing with the introduction of T-Mobile's version of the iconic device.  It branches off from AT&T and Sprint's versions by offering a dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon CPU in place of a 1.2 GHz Exynos chip, along with a 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video recording capabilities, and Android 2.3.5 with TouchWiz 4.0.  It's a high-end phone with an excellent user interface, but due to lag experienced on it that wasn't present in the other two models (likely due to the processor shift), it comes in behind the HTC Amaze 4G.

Third best T-Mobile SmartphoneView full product info

3. T-Mobile G2x

Pros
  • 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor makes the phone fly
  • 4-inch display is an excellent balance between "too tiny" and "too large"
  • 8-megapixel camera shoots 1080p video
  • Upgrade to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) makes the device even faster
  • HSPA+ speeds have been consistently strong
Cons
  • No notification light
  • Battery life is decent, but still falls behind devices like the iPhone

Summary

The T-Mobile G2x is one of the best Android smartphones on the market at the moment.  As if the dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor wasn't enough, the upgrade to stock Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) makes the phone fly through everyday tasks with ease.  Seriously, it's unusually fast.  The 4-inch display, while nothing special, is an excellent balance between 3.7 and 4.3 inches, and the 8-megapixel camera does an excellent job shooting 1080p video.  It comes in behind the HTC Amaze 4G and Samusng Galaxy S II, but if you're buying now and want a stock Android experience, the G2x is the way to go.

 


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