Mobile // Mobile Devices
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4/9/2014
09:06 AM
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5 Best Smartphones Now

The time is right for smartphone buyers itching for a new model. Check out these top picks.

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Smartphones have come a long way since the days of brick-like BlackBerrys and Treos. Today's devices offer large screens, solid battery life, lightning-fast broadband, innumerable apps, and cameras that come close to rivalling dSLRs. They serve as essential productivity tools, entertainment devices, and, of course, links to colleagues, friends, and family.

While new models hit the store shelves nearly every week, the best of the best stick around for the better part of a year before their manufacturers replace them. That's partly why the following five phones are solid picks -- they have plenty of shelf life left. Other reasons: strong design, apps, and quality. Nearly all can be purchased for $200 with a contract, and most are available through an installment plan if that's how you roll.

Apple iPhone 5s
Apple iPhone 5s

Apple iPhone 5s: The iPhone is the smallest smartphone on this list, but it is also one of the most finely crafted. Apple spared no expense in designing the device, and its materials and manufacturing are second to none. The iPhone 5s is fast, has a great camera, and is universally available from most network operators around the country. The iPhone 5s has access to a million apps and has an entire ecosystem of accessories supporting it. You can't go wrong with the iPhone 5s.

[How will HTC's newly redesigned One fare against Samsung's S5? Read HTC Posts Loss As Smartphone Sales Sag.]

HTC One
HTC One


HTC One: HTC has upped the ante with this newly redesigned device, and it offers a strong challenge to any Android phone in the market. Featuring an appealing metallic shell and a luscious 5-inch full HD screen, the HTC One also boasts premium design and high-quality manufacturing. The newest version of Sense (HTC's user interface skin) includes a vast array of customization features and a personalized social reading app called BlinkFeed. The HTC One is sold only in Verizon stores today, but it can be ordered online from the other big carriers. If you prefer Android to iOS and Windows Phone, the HTC One is well worth consideration.

LG/Google Nexus 5
LG/Google Nexus 5

LG/Google Nexus 5: The Nexus 5 doesn't offer a premium design, and its manufacturing and materials are average at best, but the N5 has something the others on this list don't: direct support from Google. The Nexus 5 is one of a handful of smartphones that run a completely stock version of Android. It is also the first to receive new operating system updates, a big plus for users who like to be on the cutting edge. The N5 has a 5-inch full HD screen, speedy performance, and a decent camera to boot. Aside from the OS factor, the N5 is sold directly from Google and comes unlocked. The best part? Its full retail price is just $349. That's $300 cheaper than the iPhone (purchased at full price). You can also pick one up at a T-Mobile store with a contract for even less.

Nokia Lumia Icon
Nokia Lumia Icon

Nokia Lumia Icon: This Windows Phone is a top-of-the-line device from Nokia. The Icon is exceptionally well made and sports a unique look, thanks to its aluminum frame combined with a strong polycarbonate panel. Like many phones on this list, it features a 5-inch full HD display. The 20-megapixel camera takes impressive photos, and the quad-core processor gives it plenty of oomph. The Icon is one of the first two Windows Phones to include a third row of Live Tiles on the Start screen. This boosts its utility and gives users more control over their home screen experience than other Windows Phones. The Icon is sold only by Verizon in the US.

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5: Samsung's latest flagship device is a refinement of last year's model. Though it is slightly thicker and heavier, it's also waterproof and dustproof. The Super AMOLED display is gorgeous, the processor among the fastest available, and the classy design will fit most lifestyles. Like the iPhone, the GS5 will eventually have access to a wide array of accessories. Samsung's additions to the Android operating system are toned down a bit but still offer incredible functionality. The Galaxy S5 can be pre-ordered from all the major carriers today and hits stores on Friday, April 11.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
4/9/2014 | 7:36:41 PM
Windows Phone Rows or Columns?
Regarding the "third row" Windows Phone comment:

Is it a row or column that they've added?
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
4/9/2014 | 2:32:54 PM
Re: missing info
In this list, I'd rank the devices in the following order (best to worst): One, GS5, Icon, iPhone, N5. The N5 is surely the weakest with respect to battery life. The rest of these should be able to get most people through an entire work day without issue. The One and GS5 both have new extreme power saving modes that significantly extend battery life. For example, the One offers 15 hours of calling, texting, and email with just 5% of the battery left. I haven't had a chance to fully test the GS5's power saving mode, but will in the coming weeks. 
anon4614275813
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anon4614275813,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2014 | 1:54:22 PM
missing info
But what about battery life? 

That's the single most important variable out there.  Features, usability, price are all close enough.  The device that can go a whole day without needing its umbilical power suck will be the one I buy.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
4/9/2014 | 12:30:29 PM
Re: Yawn
More smartphone innovations will arrive later this year, sure, but our readers have shown a strong interest in Samsung Galaxy. Any of you want to weigh in on why the Galaxy phones intrigue you?
epochone
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epochone,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2014 | 12:11:52 PM
Yawn
Slow content day? This article might be relevant about six mo0nths ago, before the stalling out of smartphone innovations. Things will get interesting again in a few months but for now....yawn.
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