Since the smartphone market is dominated by the iPhone and Android devices, I’ve reorganized the buying guide a bit this month to provide recommendations depending on which device type you are looking for. I’ll start by providing recommendations for people looking to upgrade or buy an iPhone. To go straight to the Android recommendations, click here.
iPhone buying/upgrade recommendation: DON’T
Because the iPhone 6 will be available soon, really soon.
Here’s what we know, or should I say are projecting, at this time.
- The next iPhone will have a bigger screen. It’s pretty much set that we will at least see a 4.7″ screen size (compared to 4″ today). It’s possible that there could be a 5.5″ version, although rumors indicate that Apple is having quality issues producing the 5.5″ device (see here).
- According to Bloomberg’s sources, production has started this month in anticipation of a reported launch date at the end of September.
- The phone design is expected to be more iPod touch like, which means it will be thinner with more rounded edges.
- As you would expect, it will have a new processor meaning it will be even faster and more capable than the iPhone 5s.
- To improve durability, Apple is supposedly switching to sapphire glass technology. Rumors are that the new sapphire screens can resist scratches and all sorts of torture, except being run over by a car. Given how hard my teenage kids are on their phone, they (and I) will appreciate the improved durability.
I suspect that an announcement regarding the phone’s release date will be coming sometime during the second half of August, once most people are back from their summer vacations. I’m sure that lines outside the Apple stores will start shortly thereafter.
If you’re interested in seeing what the new device might look like, here is a video showing a comparison of an iPhone 6 mock-ups to existing devices. You can also check out this link for a lot more pictures and videos.
If, for some reason, you absolutely cannot wait until September because your iPhone decided to go for a swim or went MIA, then do the sensible thing and get an iPhone 5s. Do not buy the iPhone 5c, it’s based off of the iPhone 4s which is almost two years old at this point – an eternity in mobile time.
Android buying/upgrade recommendations
For Android devices, I’m going to break things down into on-contract and off-contract devices. My personal preference is to buy devices off-contract for the flexibility and freedom to choose the best available plan, but it does require more up front investment. If you like the discount and don’t mind the commitment a two-year contract requires, then on-contract may work better for you.
Best on-contract Android devices
Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung’s latest Galaxy device has one of the best cameras out there, and it’s features are the most polished given they’ve had four prior generations to perfect them. If you’re currently using a Samsung Galaxy device, say an S2 or S3, then I would definitely recommend the S5 for the smoothest and easiest upgrade path.
HTC One M8
The HTC One is my personal favorite due to its superior build quality and construction. I’ve always been a fan of HTC’s devices. They just don’t have the same name recognition as Samsung due to inferior marketing. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the HTC One M8 or Samsung Galaxy S5.
Best off-contract Android devices
Even though the device is about a year-old, it’s still a great device, and a virtual steal at $349 without a contract. In addition to a lightweight, thin design, Google is really good about getting all of the latest Android updates onto the Nexus 5 really fast since it uses a stock Android build. That alone is enough to highly recommend the device.
I’ve been using the Moto X for my daily driver for the last 6 months, and I would highly recommend it. It is very close to a stock Android experience, and Motorola has been very good about updating the device quickly with the latest Android improvements. It also has a lot of design options, including wood covers, and it’s a good bargain at $349. It’s also not nearly as big as most Android devices, making it a little easier to carry around in your pockets.
If you’re looking for a great budget device, get the Moto G. For $219, I’d even recommend keeping a Moto G around as a back-up or loaner device, especially if you use AT&T or T-mobile as your carrier. Its specs won’t match up with flagship devices from Samsung or HTC, but as a starter device for a first-time smartphone user or for kids, it’s a great bargain. I’d still contend it’s one of Android’s best kept secrets.
By the way, if you’d really like to go cheap, you can check out the Moto E, which is only $129 off contract. I’d only recommend it as a backup device in case you lose or break your primary phone as it compromises a few too many specs, including connection speed (no LTE) for it to be feasible as a daily device.
Windows Phone and BlackBerry
I would stay away from both of these devices, and if you’re currently using one, I would advise switching. There are too many gaps in available apps that will hurt your productivity and diminish your smartphone experience. In addition, the market share is too small to be a priority for developers. New apps are geared toward toward iPhone and Android devices due to shear volume, and because of that, some apps never make it to the Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms.
I know Microsoft is trying hard to make Windows Phone relevant, but until there is a compelling reason to switch, I wouldn’t. As for BlackBerry, their best days are behind them. For loyal BlackBerry users this is a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner you accept it and move on, the better off you’ll be.
Since carrier quality varies significantly by region, I generally stay away from specific carrier recommendations. That being said, if you are looking for a carrier or want to make a change, check out my article, Choosing a mobile carrier, for tips and guidelines.
If you have questions about any devices, feel as though I left one out, or have personal experience with any of devices, please share in the comments.