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Just in case you were underwhelmed by the new Apple smartphones.
Calling all contrarians
There’s a great deal of Apple love sloshing around the Internet right now, thanks to the typically deafening volume of hype that accompanied the launch of the iPhone 5S. If you’re just not on board this particular bandwagon, however, we’ve come up with 10 alternatives that you might like better.
The critically-acclaimed HTC One is easily the brightest spot in a pretty bleak year for HTC. Boasting a gorgeous 1080p screen and slick metal-and-glass construction, it’s one of the best Android phones on the market.
AVAILABILITY: All major U.S. carriers, around $200 with a contract
WHY IT’S BETTER: It’s one of the few devices that can go toe-to-toe with the iPhone both in the “fit-and-finish” and hardware departments.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Not to be outdone by HTC, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is that company’s entry at the top end of the smartphone market, trading the polished construction of its Android rival for a host of advanced software features and equally impressive hardware.
AVAILABILITY: All major U.S. carriers, around $200 with a contract.
WHY IT’S BETTER: Like many of the Android entries on the list, has a higher-def screen and at least comparable hardware, along with arguably a richer feature set.
By now, the features are probably familiar – the LG G2 is a 5-inch-plus Android powerhouse with a 1080p screen and top-shelf everything. Oh, and it’s got this weirdo control switch mounted on the back.
AVAILABILITY: Out on Verizon on Sept. 12, AT&T on Sept. 13, and T-Mobile on Sept. 18. Price is $200 with a contract on the first two, more like $500 on T-Mobile ($100 down, $21 monthly payment for 24 months.) Sprint will have it eventually.
WHY IT’S BETTER: If you’re a fan of the rear-mounted control – we haven’t played with it ourselves, but we could see it being useful – there’s no other option. Substantially bigger battery.
Motorola Moto X
The pattern changes a little on this one – The Moto X isn’t quite the power-packed uber-flagship the other entries on this list are. It is, however, partially customizeable, ergonomically designed and comes packed with impressively well-integrated gesture and voice commands and automated features.
AVAILABILITY: $200 on Verizon and AT&T, $100 on Sprint (only for new customers). Please note, AT&T’s currently the only one with full customization options.
WHY IT’S BETTER: If you like all the automation and voice/gesture control functionality, you really can’t look beyond the Moto X. Or if you want a distinctive-looking backplate.
Sony Xperia Z1
The Xperia Z1, however, is an alpha phone and then some – even bigger than the HTC Ones and Galaxy S4s of the world, it boasts a 20 megapixel camera, state-of-the-art Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, and ringtones recorded by the freaking Vienna Boys’ Choir. Oh, and it’s essentially waterproof.
AVAILABILITY: Supposedly by the end of September, though exact pricing and carrier availability have not been forthcoming – which is a little ominous given Sony’s track record.
WHY IT’S BETTER: Bigger and better are likely to be enough for some people, and the water-resistance could be a draw for the clumsy.
Google Nexus 4
It’s (comparatively) a little dated at this point, but the Nexus 4 packs a smooth, vanilla Android experience, attractive construction and still-competitive performance at a bargain price.
AVAILABILITY: $250 from the Play Store for the version with 16GB of storage, and $200 for 8GB – which might not sound like such a deal, until you realize that’s without a carrier subsidy. You can get it from T-Mobile for as little as $20 up-front, with a new contract.
WHY IT’S BETTER: Pricing. Be warned, however, that it’s not LTE-capable, and that you’ll still need to buy a wireless plan.
Motorola Droid ULTRA
The ULTRA is the high-concept entry in the latest set of Droid phones from Motorola, boasting unique Kevlar construction and a thin, contoured body, as well as a series of usability tweaks like a more accessible camera and improved voice command functionality.
AVAILABILITY: $200 on-contract, Verizon only.
WHY IT’S BETTER: One of the more stylish non-iPhones. 802.11ac WiFi-capable.
Nokia Lumia 925
A sleeker, lighter, Windows Phone 8 version of last year’s Lumia 920 with which it shares many features: dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor at 1.4 GHz, 8.7 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, LTE support, and 4.5-inch display with 1280 x 760 resolution. But the display is AMOLED rather than LCD, and more sensitive for accurate touch; an aluminum frame with polycarbonate back panel; 7GB of free Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage; and built-in Microsoft Office app. On the downside: 16GB internal storage, without a microSD slot to expand it.
AVAILABILITY: now, list price is $530; on AT&T for $100 with contract; on T-Mobile USA for $30 initial payment, and then $20 per month for 24 months.
WHY IT’S BETTER: AMOLED display, optional wireless charging
Samsung ATIV S Neo
The Neo is a 2013 update, only on Sprint, for last year’s ATIV S. To be honest, it’s not a real iPhone 5 competitor, but it’s the most recent Samsung Windows Phone. Samsung improved the processor, now a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 at 1.4 GHz, with a 4.8-inch 1280 x 720 resolution TFT LDC display, and 2,000 mAh battery. The main camera is 8.0 megapixels.
AVAILABILITY: now on Sprint; with a two-year contract, the price is listed as $49.99, but that assumes 1) “instant savings” of $250, 2) “bring your own number savings” of $100 and 3) a mail-in rebate via “Reward Card” of $50.
WHY IT’S BETTER: removable battery, expandable memory
Nokia Lumia 1020
The 1020 boosts Nokia’s high-end smartphone game: about 0.5 ounces heavier, and just slightly bigger than the 920, it also has 4.5-inch AMOLED display, 768 x 1280 resolution with 334 pixels/inch, a slightly faster Snapdragon S4, 2GB of RAM, and the astonishing 41 megapixel PureView camera.
AVAILABILITY: now, on AT&T, with price just reduced by $100 to $299, with a two-year contract.
WHY IT’S BETTER: that 41-megapixel camera, which seems to have exhausted the superlatives of camera enthusiasts; wireless charging option