Top 5 hottest smartphones this summer

There are tons of smartphones available from your carrier, but I think there are 5 that stand out from the crowd this summer. Which is your favorite?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Readers tend to enjoy my top device lists here on ZDNet so with most smartphone announcements made for this summer I thought it was appropriate to share my top 5 smartphones. You can check out several product photos of these top 5 smartphones available this summer in my image gallery, but I also highly recommend you visit your carrier store or local electronics retailer to get some hands-on time with a device before you make your purchase decision.

Image Gallery: Check out photos of my top 5 smartphones that are hot this summer.
Image Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S III

I have five phones on a family plan on T-Mobile, an individual grandfathered unlimited data account on Verizon, and a new AT&T individual account for my Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC One X. Here are my Top 5 hottest smartphones of summer 2012.

Number 1: Samsung Galaxy S III

I just received a T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S III to evaluate and after I return from vacation I will post my review, but I can already tell this will most likely be the hottest smartphone of the summer. The success will be due in large part to Samsung's ability to get it launched across the board with virtually the same hardware on all the major wireless carriers in the U.S. Not even Apple has been able to achieve this level of broad carrier adoption and I am sure the Galaxy S III will set record sales numbers.

The hardware is fine (typical Samsung plasticy feel to it), but the real innovation looks to be in the software that Samsung provides that work with some hardware elements. The Samsung Galaxy S III sports a 4.8 inch 720x1280 Super AMOLED display, Android ICS with new TouchWiz overlay, NFC, 2GB of RAM, 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 8 megapixel rear camera, 1.9 megapixel front facing camera, 4G LTE and/or HSPA+ support, and 2100 mAh battery.

Software elements include Smart Stay where the sensor notes when you are looking at the display and keeps the display turned on during this time, Direct call that will initiate a call when you lift the phone to your ear during a text conversation, Smart alert that vibrates your phone when you come back to it if there are pending notifications, S Voice voice command software, enhanced sharing functionality, and more.

After just a day, I am seriously considering pick up a Verizon one to use with my current unlimited data plan or a T-Mobile one since I am finding the HSPA+ speeds to rival Verizon's LTE in my area. I will post my review after a week or more of using the device. You can find models with integrated 16GB and 32GB memory for prices between $199.99 and $249.99 with a 2-year contract.

Number 2: AT&T Nokia Lumia 900

I am sure readers will have some issue with the placement of this pick, but after a month with my own white Nokia Lumia 900 I can honestly say it is my daily go to phone and works best for ME. I LOVE Windows Phone, despite its lack of current market share and Nokia did an excellent job with the Nokia Lumia 900. It is available for just $99.99 from AT&T, lower from Amazon and other places, and IMHO it cannot be beat at that price.

The Nokia Lumia 900 has that lovely form factor similar to what we saw on the N9 and Lumia 800 with a larger 4.3 inch AMOLED ClearBlack display. You can also find an 8 megapixel camera, 1 megapixel front facing camera, LTE, 1.4 GHz processor, and more. It will be getting the Windows Phone 7.8 update with the cool new Start screenin the next few weeks as well.

Number 3: HTC One Series (X, S, EVO 4G LTE)

IMHO, HTC blew it by not being able to do what Samsung did with the Galaxy S III and get the HTC One X on all the major carriers. When you hold an HTC device next to an equivalent Samsung device you immediately choose the HTC one in terms of feel and build quality. The HTC One X is simply gorgeous and as I wrote earlier it is the best HTC device I have ever used.

I am including the HTC One X from AT&T, HTC One S from T-Mobile, and HTC EVO 4G LTE from Sprint in this single pick because they are all basically the same internally with just a few customizations and changes made by each carrier. I love the small size of the HTC One S, the added features (microSD, kickstand, camera button) on the EVO 4G LTE, and the simple elegance of the HTC One X.

All three devices sport the Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, HTC Sense 4.0 with Ice Cream Sandwich, Bluetooth 4.0, 8 megapixel camera with f/2.0 lens, and Beats Audio. The screen sizes vary between 4.3 and 4.7 inches and LTE is provided on the AT&T and Sprint models. $199.99 is the going price for these three smartphones.

Number 4: Apple iPhone 4S

The Apple iPhone is an extremely popular smartphone and after using my iPhone 4S on Verizon for several months I have to say it is one of my favorite phones ever. I actually traded away my iPhone 4S because I become bored with the UI in the OS, but still recommend it to many family and friends looking for a solid first smartphone. The Android and Windows Phone devices are getting much better though and with ICS in Android I am finding that more people are looking around as well. The iPhone 4S camera is fantastic, Siri is very useful, applications are outstanding, battery life is decent, signal strength is better than I have seen on any other Verizon phone, and the display is excellent. It is a bit small for my taste though and I like having more glanceable information on my display.

You can now purchase an iPhone 4S on Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and other regional carriers so the majority of mobile phone customers can choose this device and stick with their existing carrier. I'm not sure what Apple can do to make the iPhone better, other than supporting LTE data, and imagine the next update will be focused on that aspect since everything else is already excellent.

The iPhone 4S ranges in price from $199.99 to $399.99, depending on the integrated storage you select, 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB.

Number 5: Nokia 808 PureView

This selection may draw some criticism from readers, but honestly the 41 megapixel camera technology used in the Nokia 808 PureView is stunning and given that you likely will be capturing lots of pictures in the summer I thought it was worthy of a spot in my top five. I almost purchased one and may not be able to hold out, but with my oldest daughter now off to college I am becoming a bit more selective when I purchase phones.

Symbian Belle on these latest Nokia smartphones is actually very similar to Android with a pull down shade, widget home screen panels, and more. I don't think many people have given Symbian a chance lately with iOS and Android dominating the market, but it really is still a very powerful mobile operating system that deserves consideration.

I still carry around my Nokia N8 thanks in large part to the amazing camera with Xenon flash. The Nokia 808 PureView is a pentaband device so you can use it with the 3G networks on T-Mobile and AT&T. It will not work on Verizon or Sprint and is available only as a SIM-unlocked phone, currently as a pre-order on Amazon for $699.

Summary thoughts on my selections

Each modern smartphone OS is actually well represented in my top five list with Android taking two of the top five spots. This makes sense given that Android is at the top of the food chain right now. I like various aspects of all platforms and wish you all could try each one out too and give them all an honest try.

I think there is something to what I keep saying to people about Windows Phone though. I gave the four ladies in my house opportunities to use Android, Symbian, and Windows Phone devices (the iPhone doesn't work on T-Mobile 3G) and all four are now sporting Windows Phone devices and loving the fluid user interface and custom Live Tiles. I imagine when Nokia brings one with the PureView image technology it will be even more compelling.

We will likely see a new Apple iPhone, new Galaxy Nexus with the Jelly Bean operating system, new Windows Phone 8 devices, and new BlackBerry 10 OS devices this fall so a brand new list will have to be created in time for the holiday season.

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