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The best smartphone for most people this holiday season is the iPhone 5s. The candy-coated 5c is tempting from afar, but the 5s is worth $100 more for a device you'll use dozens of times per day for two years. That small premium gets you a better camera with burst mode and slow motion video, a TouchID sensor that actually works pretty reliably, and a faster, more future-proof processor. The 5c is for people who don't know better, but now you do.
- Verizon | $199
- AT&T | $199
- Sprint | $199
- T-Mobile | $649 | No Contract
- Virgin Mobile | $549 | No Contract
Of course, iOS isn't everyone's cup of tea, and if you're reading this site, you've probably already aligned yourself with a platform. If you're still on the fence, Lifehacker has a thoughtful summary of the benefits and shortcomings of iOS and Android, and a separate discussion on Windows Phone. If the iPhone doesn't do it for you, these are the Android and Windows phones worth buying.
Moto X (Verizon) | $50
Moto X (AT&T) | $60
Moto X (Sprint) | $20
The Moto X is the best Android phone for most people. Its 4.7" screen is in the Goldilocks zone of usability and viewability, and while it won't beat some top-flight Android phones in a spec war, it has a few tricks up its sleeve that more than make up for any perceived deficiencies. For example, its Active Display offers a low-powered way to check your notifications from the lock screen, Motorola Connect lets you type out texts and access notifications from your computer, and Motorola Assist adds a very useful driving mode when you're in the car. Individually, these tweaks are small, but they add up to turn this into the most useful Android device on the market.
More power, less polish:
If you're desperate for a bigger screen, you really care about how games look on your phone, or you don't want to sign a contract, you should get the Nexus 5. The Nexus packs a 5" 1080p screen and blazing Snapdragon 800 processor that would be right at home on a phone that costs twice as much. Its stock Android installation lacks the nips and tucks that made the Moto X so great, but you can replace some of that functionality with third party apps. Unfortunately, Verizon's leaving the Nexus out in the cold, so you might have to switch carriers if you're really desperate to get one.
Nexus 5 (Unlocked) | $349
Nexus 5 (Sprint) | $50
Nokia Lumia 1020 Black | $150
Nokia Lumia 1020 Yellow | $150
We wouldn't get a Windows phone until the ecosystem matures, but if you're set on having one, get the Nokia Lumia 1020. If you've been eyeing Windows Phone from afar, and you value good photos, The 1020's 41 megapixel camera is arguably the best in the smartphone world, and might be enough to lure you over. The catch: it's exclusive to AT&T in the US.
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