Top 10 smartphones for the 2013 holiday season

Top 10 smartphones for the 2013 holiday season

Summary: As people start to look for a smartphone for someone special this holiday season, there are a ton of outstanding choices.


Number 6: Moto X

(Image: Motorola)

The Moto X has a great feel in your hand with excellent voice control functionality and active notifications on the lock screen.

Motorola took a while to get their Moto Maker customization out to all supported carriers, but that option went live today.

The specifications are not the highest in the current generation of smartphones, but the Moto X performs well and has a rather long battery life. The camera had some issues at launch, but a recent update fixed most of those issues.

You can purchase the Moto X starting at $99 on contract or $499 on T-Mobile with no contract, for the 16GB model. It's nice to see that it is assembled in the US and as a veteran that is something that had me seriously considering it even though it isn't the most powerful smartphone available.

Number 7: LG G2

(Image: T-Mobile)

LG continues to launch exciting smartphones and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the G2.

The minimal side bezel, long battery life, and solid camera experience are compelling on the LG G2. I couldn't get used to the power and volume buttons on the back and did not like the glossy plastic back cover.

The 5.2 inch 1080p IPS display looks great and the device flies. It comes with Android 4.2.2, which is common for devices from LG, Samsung, and HTC that have customized user experiences. I didn't personally get a lot of value from some of the LG custom experiences and prefer what I see on Samsung and HTC devices.

The LG G2 is available on all the major carriers for $199.99 with a 2-year contract. T-Mobile sells it for $99.99 down and $21/month for 24 months or $603.99 full retail price. It is available now on all carriers with some software differences and WiFi Calling support on T-Mobile.

Number 8: Samsung Galaxy S4

(Image: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a very popular smartphone and a standard for many folks. It could easily have been put higher on the list, but there are other newer exciting smartphones I placed higher.

The Galaxy S4 has a 5 inch display and yet still feels great in your hand. Samsung provides some flexibility with a microSD card and removable battery too. They also include plenty of software enhancements that make the S4 unique compared to many other Android smartphones.

There are plenty of accessories available due to popularity of the S4 and it is a great alternative to consider. You can purchase the S4 on all carriers for $199.99 with 2-year contract. T-Mobile sells it with no contract for $627.99.

Number 9: Motorola Droid Maxx

(Image: Verizon)

I think the Note 3 is the ultimate road warrior phone due to the memory and battery swap capabilities, but the Droid Maxx is next in line for this title.

The Motorola Droid Maxx has a longer battery life, thanks to the internal 3,500 mAh capacity battery, and many of the unique Motorola features found in the Moto X. These include active notifications, always-on listening, and Motorola Assist.

The Droid Maxx comes with a 5 inch Super AMOLED display, Motorola X8 processor, 32GB internal storage, 10 megapixel camera, Qi wireless charging, and more.

Again, the Droid Maxx suffers from carrier exclusivity and is only available on Verizon Wireless. The price dropped quickly after launch from $299.99 to $199.99 with a 2-year contract. The $499.99 no-contract price is quite good for a powerful smartphone.

Number 10: Sony Xperia Z1

(Image: Sony)

Sony's Honami phone, aka the Xperia Z1, was long rumored and desired by smartphone enthusiasts. It is now available as a SIM unlocked variant directly from Sony.

The Xperia Z1's claim to fame is the waterproof and dust resistant casing with a high-powered camera. Unfortunately, Sony still has some work to do on their smartphone displays before I will purchase one for myself.

The Xperia Z1 includes a Snapdragon 800 2.2 GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage with a microSD card slot, 20.7 megapixel camera, and five inch HD display. You can purchase it without a contract for $649.99 from the Sony store in black, white, or purple.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Windows Phone, Verizon, AT&T, Samsung, Nokia, iPhone, iOS, HTC, Apple, The Year's Best Tech for Work and Play

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  • not really suprised but

    No BlackBerry?
    • No BlackBerry (major oversight too)

      Seriously, it is a highly underrated phone. I upgraded to a Q10 (I still prefer a physical keyboard) a little over a week ago and am very impressed with it. The BB10 o/s is super responsive and the Hub is a major timesaver for anyone that is a message-heavy user. The AMOLED screen is extremely crisp and the browser is very fast, waaaay faster than previous BB models (although that is an easy measure to beat). I'm synced to multiple mail systems, which was drop-dead simple to setup, and the integration with / hotmail / is seamless. It took a few hours to get used to the user-interaction with the new BB, which I think is partially why it "shows" poorly in a hands-on user demo, but once you understand it you really learn to appreciate it.

      If your life revolves around games and apps, don't bother, because BB is meant for communication, whether that be phone, text, BBM or email, which it does extremely well.
      • BB10

        We tried it, but out of 5 devices sent 5 came back. On top of that we had to have two BES servers and a traveler server between it and our notes. Part of the beauty of BB was how BES just handled everything. When they added the needless complexity it made the decision to move to other devices leveraging other MDM's that much easier.
  • thanks for not having a zdnet slideshow!!!!!!!!!!


    • No slideshow!

      Totally agree with you...thanks for no slideshow. Please listen to your readers.
  • chcek

  • Overpriced, overpriced, and overpriced...

    You can get a THL W100 phone, completely unlocked for $150 - that's less than half of even the Nexus. No contract. Done. And it's a super Android phone, free of vendor crapware. Works on the AT&T network in the USA.

    You can get much better deals if you get off the mainstream vendor/service provider subsidized route. Paired with a pay-as-you-go provider, I do almost all my calling and surfing on wifi, so my monthly cost is only about $4/month for service.
  • You missed one

    I have been waiting for a Windows Phone Phablet forever. The Nokia 1520 will be arriving just in time for the holidays. Hopefully they will have a nice Black Friday offer. My girlfriend wants the Nokia 1020 and that means that we will both be leaving Verizon to get the phones that we want. Unfortunately the three kids will still be on Verizon until their contracts expire.
    Burger Meister
  • Can Nokia be a choice

    Interesting article, but the enlistment of Nokia at the top rung may draw eyebrows of many. Though Nokia has been striving hard for their survival with Microsoft boost, but they are still much behind in the competition. An Interesting article discusses about the decay of Nokia - if one searches with the string "Lessons from the Nokia debacle"
    • Have you tried the Lumia 1020 or read a review?

      They are only behind the competition in sales numbers. Feature wise, they are lightyears ahead.
      • I've tried a Nokia Windows phone...No thanks.

        What features are you referring to?

        The ugly, off center graphics? The nonexistent apps?

        How about not being able to easily swap out that keyboard?
        How about Microsoft's shameful partnering with Apple on the arrogantly named 'rockstar' patent troll group?

        Microsoft is trying to compete by suppressing the competition.
        Josh Destardi
    • Have to agree.

      The Nokia just are not prime time players, a step above BB but not in the big boys league no matter how much some wish they were.
      • Just because you said so...?

        Please elaborate on:

        "not in the big boys League"

        So many of my friends now have Nokia Lumias of alla models and not one are dissatisfied. So we are eager to hear what we are missing from "the big boys League"?
    • Nokia is in transition

      No matter how good the phone is, there has to be some doubt about what the new owner is going to do to customers in the transition.
  • I get it

    that you're writing for an American audience but the statements aimed at the US market don't really mean much for the rest of the world eg that the Lumia 1020 is only available on certain networks in the US.
  • Great ranking

    Awesome to see that HTC beats Samsung! It's unfortunate to see that the actual bestseller rankings do not closely resemble this list due to manufacturer-carrier incentive arrangements and marketing budget differences.

    However very surprised to see the vast difference between the galaxy S4 and Note 3! Does the stylus make that much difference?
    • vast difference between the galaxy S4 and Note 3!

      The screen size, CPU, SD card, 3 GB RAM, Android 4.4, did I mention the 5.7" screen. Oh, yah, i think it also has a stylus stuck inside somewhere.
      Compared to my old Nexus It can actually make calls and connect to the internet.
  • Asus Padfone is missing!!!

    Your missing the ASUS Padfone II its the perfect travel companion, in the bus in the plane.....
    The option to change from the small screen to the big screen is perfect without having to seperate devices.
    And the additional battery in the Pad keeps you going for Days where other Phones just die.
    All the Phones above are nice but for traveling the Padfone 2 beats them all
  • Holiday season?

    Do you mean Christmas? You should be more aware of the rest of the world: here in Europe the holiday season is usually the summer
  • Mostly okay, but....

    .....the order of best to less best is messed up. :)