Choosing the Android phone that fits your life
Your contract is up, you have a couple of C-notes in your pocket, and you’ve carried the same phone since Bush was in office. Sounds like it’s time for an upgrade! You settle on Android as your mobile operating system of choice, but with so many Android phones to choose from, picking the right model is an intimidating task. After all, you want a phone that fits your life.
Whether you’re sporty and you like to spend the weekends getting sweaty and dirty, or you’re just sick of having to charge your phone by 2 p.m., there’s an Android phone for every lifestyle.
For the photographer
If your phone contains more photos than a year’s worth of National Geographic issues, consider the Samsung Galaxy S4. Aside from the powerful processor, nice screen, and countless software extras, the Galaxy S4 also features an impressive 13-megapixel camera that performs well in just about any situation. The camera software in the Galaxy S4 includes a good variety of shooting modes, and the phone makes editing and sharing your photos via social media or email easy. Unlike most other phones, the Galaxy S4 allows you to add storage via a MicroSD card, so you’ll never have to worry about running out of space for all your snapshots.
For the power user
Remember the good old days, when cell phones could go an entire week on a single charge? While we don’t know of any smartphones capable of the same feat, the Motorola Droid Maxx is probably the closest we’re going to get: It can go for a full two days of mixed use on a single charge (give or take a few hours). If you’re set on marathoning the final season of Breaking Bad on your phone, you’ll be happy to know that the Droid Maxx produced over 13 hours of continuous video playback in our lab’s battery tests. In other words, you could watch a whole season of Walter White cooking meth before you have to recharge your phone.
For the iPhone switcher
Aesthetics and build quality are the most important things in the world to you. Previously you went with the iPhone because you loved Apple’s eye for design, but for one reason or another you had a falling out. Not to fear: The HTC One is a stellar phone for people who want not only solid performance but also great looks. The One offers a superb design and a screen that looks sharper than the Retina display on the iPhone. To make your transition between operating systems even easier, HTC includes a transfer tool that helps you import your contacts and files from your old phone to your shiny new One.
For the Android savant
Forget design aesthetics—the thing you care most about on your phone is whether the boot loader is unlocked. Although Google’s Nexus 4 is sold out online (and we’re still waiting on the inevitable Nexus 5), you can pick up the dev-friendly Google Play edition of the Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One from Google’s online store. They’re pricey, but you get all the performance and benefits of one of the finest Android phones ever made without being tied to a carrier or having to deal with bloatware. The best part is that the Google Play editions see updates at about the same pace as the Nexus line does, so you won’t have to wait as long to run the latest version of Android.
For the adventurer
You live for excitement: You can’t last more than a few weeks without going camping, and you’re constantly destroying phones by getting them wet or dropping them in the mud. Whereas other phones would duck for cover or hide behind expensive cases, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active meets such challenges head on. It can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes in 3 meters of water, and it has all the same features as the regular Galaxy S4 does, albeit in a more durable shell.
For everyone else
If you don’t fit into any of the above categories, but you still want to get a really good Android phone, the Moto X is right up your alley. The phone boasts a number of extras that make it convenient to use, and it’s available on all four major carriers. The Moto X has multiple sensors that give it a certain amount of situational awareness, so it knows when you’re driving, and it understands that it should turn on the display when you pull it out of your pocket to check the time. You can even control the phone with your voice by saying “Okay, Google Now” followed by a command. Buyers can customize their Moto X online using the Moto Maker tool, but this option is currently available only to AT&T customers, with other carriers set to follow sometime in the near future.
Should you wait?
If you want to experience Android the way Google intended it, waiting a few more months before upgrading might be in your best interest. Even though most smartphone makers have already announced or released their flagship phones for the year, Google is still expected to unveil the next Nexus phone (along with a new version of Android) sometime around November. If previous Nexus launches have taught us anything, however, you’ll be able to use it only if you’re on T-Mobile or a prepaid carrier. But hey, at least then you’ll have a pure Android phone free from bloatware.