The 5 Best Smartphones

by William Tran on 19 November 2013 3 comments

Nothing captures the essence of modern technology quite like a smartphone. The convenience of having a portable computer always in reach has allowed us to connect to the world in ways we previously never thought possible. It has become the one gadget that most of us cannot live without. Love it or hate it, the smartphone is here to stay.

But with its booming popularity comes the onslaught of multiple varieties of smartphones, each with their own unique shapes, sizes, and operating systems. Wise Bread is here to help you find the phone that's right for you with our list of the top five smartphones available today.

What Is a Smartphone?

A smartphone is an advanced cell phone with a built-in mobile operating system that allows it to perform many of the tasks and functions that a regular computer can do. Modern smartphones utilize a touchscreen interface and a vast ecosystem of mobile apps to perform an almost endless list of functions, from taking photos and recording HD videos to providing GPS navigation to even managing your finances and business, all while embracing incredibly slim and minimalistic designs that fit comfortably in your pocket or hand. Smartphones nowadays are also all-in-one multimedia devices, capable of playing your favorite music and movies and displaying your books to read. Their sheer power and convenience are what make them so popular and useful.

Please note that smartphone prices and availability may vary depending on your cellular provider. Prices will also be higher if you're buying a smartphone that is factory unlocked.

Best 5 Smartphones

Apple iPhone 5s

With a top recommendation from Consumer Reports, the new Apple iPhone 5s, which marks the seventh iteration of the popular iPhone line, is still one of the best smartphones available in the market.

The iPhone 5s contains a bunch of new exclusive features, including a top-notch 64-bit A7 processor that allows for a lag-free experience when using graphics-intensive apps and a Touch ID fingerprint reader that enables faster and safer access to your iPhone. There's also an improved rear-facing iSight camera that has a host of new features of its own, including auto-stabilization, a new True Tone flash, continuous burst mode, and slow-motion video capabilities. The new iOS 7 operating system adds a brand new look and new level of functionality to the iPhone 5s while still being easy to use and learn.

Despite all the added new features, the iPhone 5s' physical design remains unchanged from the iPhone 5 for better or for worse, and there are still no expandable storage capabilities and no NFC capabilities. But with access to the largest marketplace of apps available, these are merely small grievances when compared to the incredible package that the iPhone 5s delivers overall.

Currently $199.99 on Apple.com for the 16GB version with a two-year contract.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Another Consumer Reports top pick, the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is the fourth iteration in the popular Galaxy S line, is part of the Android family of smartphones and is definitely one of the best Android phones you can buy.

To start, it has a large, yet gorgeous 5-inch Super AMOLED HD touchscreen display with 441 pixels-per-inch, which is a great deal more than the iPhone's 326 ppi. It has a 1.9GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM, which makes loading and running apps a breeze. The S4 also has the ability to add up to 64GB of additional memory via its micro-SD slot. On top of that, the S4 also packs a 13-megapixel camera with a ton of cool features, including the ability to take pictures from both the front and rear-facing camera simultaneously.

While the S4's plastic-build quality and incredibly large screen may not be to everyone's liking, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is still a beast of smartphone that leaves very little to complain about.

Currently $138.00 on Amazon for the 16GB version with a two-year contract.

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a Consumer Reports recommended choice that presents a strong alternative for those interested in a smartphone that's outside of the Apple and Android masses.

The Lumia 1020 is part of a new line of “Windows Phones” that utilize the brand-new Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system developed by Microsoft. The interface is composed of customizable Live Tiles that display the information of apps in real time without the need to open them, which provide a fresh user experience overall. The Lumia 1020's most notable feature is its incredible 41-megapixel camera — the highest resolution in any smartphone available now. It allows for stunning detail and clarity to be retained in both normal and zoomed-in photos. Images and videos look brilliant on the Lumia 1020's 4.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen display.

Beyond that, there's actually not that much else that it offers in the way of features. The Lumia 1020 is also much thicker and heavier than most other smartphones, and its app selection is really limited due to its new OS. But if you strongly desire to stand out from the pack or have an amazing camera, then the Nokia Lumia is the phone for you.

Currently $149.99 on Amazon for the 16GB version with a two-year contract.

HTC One

As both a Consumer Search and a Consumer Reports best reviewed pick, the HTC One is the biggest competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S4 in the race for the best Android smartphone title, and there are many ways that the HTC One tries to best its Samsung rival.

Its 4.7-inch Super LCD touchscreen display packs in a whopping 468 pixels-per-inch, which results in sharp details and vibrant colors. Users have reported that the super-slim aluminum body of the HTC One feels especially light and resilient. The HTC One's UltraPixel Camera is one of its most noteworthy special features. While the camera offers only 4 megapixels, each of those pixels takes in much more light, which allows for outstanding pictures to be taken in low-light conditions. The HTC Blinkfeed is another special feature that allows you to open your favorite apps right from the lock screen for quick and easy access.

The HTC One isn't without its share of flaws, however. Some users have reported that the HTC Sense interface isn't as intuitive as other Android smartphones and that the battery life is particularly poor. Still, users generally agree that the HTC One shines quite brightly above the rest.

Currently $49.99 on Amazon for the 16GB version with a two-year contract.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Despite being over a year old, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is still a top-performing contender in the smartphone market and easily takes the title of best value smartphone on our list. Being the predecessor to the S4 isn't a sign of weakness for this phone, but rather, it's what makes it stand out.

This Consumer Reports and Consumer Search top pick has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor underneath a beautiful 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD touchscreen display. It packs an 8-megapixel camera with a continuous burst mode and 1080p HD video recording. It has expandable memory capabilities via its micro SD slot as well as a surprisingly long battery life. Users have even reported that the call quality on the S3 is superb and crisp. However, what's most impressive about the S3 is that its specifications still hold their ground today and even beat several smartphones that are priced above it.

The only downsides seem to be the plastic build quality and the shaky TouchWiz interface. But all can be forgiven once you realize that you can get this phone now for close to nothing. It's practically a steal.

Currently $0.01 on Amazon for the 16GB version with a two-year contract.

And those are our recommendations for the best smartphones! As always, be sure to check out the Wise Bread Shopping Calendar to learn when and how to buy just about anything.

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Guest

How about reviewing smartphones for those that don't use contract services? Thanks!

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Laura

I really think that this article would have been a lot more useful if it had included unlocked phone. My husband and I switched over to unlocked phones about six months ago, and it has been a really good choice. You do spend more on the phone initially, but you save SO much, and you have SO MUCH MORE freedom when you are not tied to a contract. Considering the nature of this website, I think this should have been at least brought up.
In case you are wondering, my husband bought a Nexus 3, and I got a Samsung S3 mini, as I like my phones a little smaller. I noticed that some of these phones in the article are unlocked, and I feel like that is a huge benefit!

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Johnathan J.

It's hard to take this list serious due to the fact that the Note 3 is better than the S3, S4, and HTC one...