As we're all looking for that perfect Christmas (or Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, or Festivus) gift for "someone else," it's often hard to figure out which of the dozens and dozens of cellphones each carrier offers might be right for us! Add to that tablets and then choosing the right accessories to go with each and things can get a little overwhelming. To ease your holiday shopping, I've come up with this list of some of my favorite choices on each carrier along with a runner-up. Afterall, 'tis the season... to have choices!
First Up: Phones
1. Verizon- Droid RAZR Maxx HD is the Energizer Bunny of Android devices offering unparalleled battery life! You can pick it up for $299 on a 2-year contract. The runners up on this carrier are the HTC Windows Phone 8X by HTC and the Droid DNA, also by HTC. For the full details on pricing and plan options, hit up Verizon Wireless' website.
2. AT&T- Pound for pound, the Nokia Lumia 920, which is another Windows 8 handset, is better than the iPhone 5... on paper. You'll have to decide whether it's a better phone for you. Windows 8 still has a bit of catching up to do in the area of major apps available (still no official Instagram app, among others) but it takes superb pictures and has some great family friendly features. Pick one up for $99 on contract. If it's Android you're after, definitely take a look at both the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the Galaxy Note 2. They're both awesome phones and some of the best out there for Android fans! Find out more at ATTWireless.com
3. T-Mobile- This next phone sold out in minutes and really is the Gold Standard of Android phones... thought it arguably shares that title with the Galaxy line. The Google Nexus 4 sold out in MINUTES on Google's Play website! The reason... it costs as much off-contract as many phones cost shackling you to a carrier for two years. So go ahead and plunk down your $299 and then enjoy the latest software updates directly from Google along with the awesome software feature Google Now, which in my opinion is what Siri wishes it could be. I'm just sayin'!
4. Sprint- Last, but not least, my personal favorite is the Galaxy Note 2. Unfortunately the price tag is as big as the phone, but for $299 on contract you're getting a whole 'lotta phone, tons of features and some pretty innovative software. It's greatest strength may be its greatest weakness for some users but if you can work with the size of the phone there isn't much not to love here. Besides the previously mentioned Samsung Galaxy SIII, notable mention also goes to the LG Optimus G. This phone is greased lightning! Everything is fast on this handset... except maybe the updates to the latest version of Google's software, Jelly Bean. It's currently running a previous version called Ice Cream Sandwich. I always caution people that they better be happy with the version of the operating system they're running because you never know if, or when your device will be updated. In this case, LG has said that they will be updating the device to the most recent OS but how soon that's going to happen remains to be seen.
Microsoft Surface RT- This tablet is a solid performer! I've reviewed it already in my Windows 8 round up that I did last week so you can check that out here. It was good enough that I thought it bears mentioning again in today's segment. You can check it out starting at $499!
Google Nexus 10- You can't go wrong with anything that has the word Nexus in it and the 10 is no different. Matter of fact there isn't really anything negative one could say about the hardware here... it's the software that may leave you a little wanting. While Google's own operating system screams (Jelly Bean) and includes the awesome Google Now, it's the third party tablet apps which are a little lackluster at times. Unlike the iPad, many apps aren't written specifically for the tablet and it shows. The ones that are, are impressive those that aren't, leave you feeling like you're using a really big smartphone. You can pick this up in 16GB and 32GB versions from the Google Play store starting at $399.
Last, But Definitely Not Least: Accessories
Mophie Juice Pack Reserve- This accessory is a "must have" in my opinion. If you often find yourself running errands and away from a charger, this is the charger you need to keep you powered up while on the go. You can pick one up from Mophie.com for $39.95
Speck Cases- Ok, I had to slip one iPhone product in here and most things from Speck deserve the mention! They have a pretty wide assortment of protection accessories to meet your needs and some pretty innovative ones as well. Check them out at SpeckProducts.com
8-Bitty Video Game Controller from ThinkGeek.com- This bluetooth controller works with quite a few iOS and Android games and wonderful for some Atari classic throwback gaming on the go... or on your lunch break at work as a de-stressor. Check out ThinkGeek.com to get your hands on one for $29.99.
Swissvoice's ePure Bluetooth Mobile Station- This unique device can handle phone calls, streams music, works with your PC and tablet, and charges your phone (iPhone dock or universal USB)! It can control your iPhone, works as a speakerphone and speaker for your music with play, pause and volume controls right on the handset. Love this one! There are two versions, one with and one without a built-in iPhone dock. Starts at $139.99.