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The Best Phone You Can Buy Right Now: January 2015

Daniel Howley

The Best Phone You Can Buy Right Now: January 2015

Apple? Google? Samsung? LG? Windows? BlackBerry?? There are a lot of smartphones on the market. Here’s which one you should get, if you’re buying today.

Not buying today? We’ll update this list next month!

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If you want a big-screen Android phone

Samsung Galaxy Note 4:
We’ve tried a lot of big-screen phones. Based on that experience, we really have only one recommendation in this class: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Not only is its 2560 × 1440 resolution, 5.7-inch screen incredibly sharp, but its Super AMOLED (active matrix of organic light-emitting diodes) display technology also makes colors look absolutely brilliant.

There’s a 16-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization, which means your pictures won’t look blurry even if your hand shakes a bit while taking them. On top of that, the Note 4 comes with a stylus (and a handy dock to store it), and it can multitask just like a computer, letting you run several apps onscreen at the same time.

The Galaxy Note 4 is available through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon with 32 GB of memory.

A new version of the Note 4 isn’t expected until sometime in late 2015, so you’re good to get this one for a while.

If you want a smaller Android phone

Motorola Droid Mini:
Brand-new small-screen smartphones are relatively hard to come by, as display sizes continue to balloon to dinner-plate proportions. If you’re in the market for an Android handset with a display that you can actually use with one hand, though, your best bet is Verizon’s Motorola Droid Mini.

Verizon’s Motorola Droid Mini

This phone’s 4.3-inch, 1280 × 720 resolution AMOLED screen looks beautiful, and its voice controls are among the most advanced around. You can search for pizza, open apps, and send text messages, all without lifting a finger.

Unlike most larger phones, however, the Droid Mini suffers from a relatively short battery life. On top of that, its camera leaves something to be desired. But when it comes to small-screen phones, this handset is the best around.

The Motorola Droid Mini is available exclusively through Verizon.

The Droid Mini has been around for a while now, which means it likely won’t be in stores for much longer. So snatch this phone up while you can.

If you like iPhones

iPhone 6:
Want to buy an iPhone that’s larger than the Tic Tac box-sized handset you’ve been carrying around for the past few years? Then you’ve got two choices: the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6 Plus.

iPhone 6

For our money, the iPhone 6 is the phone to get. That’s because, with its 4.7-inch screen, the iPhone 6 is bigger than its predecessors without feeling as unwieldy as the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

The biggest difference between the two phones, besides their sizes, is that the iPhone 6 Plus’s camera comes with optical image stabilization, while the iPhone 6’s doesn’t. The 6 Plus also has better battery life. Still, we recommend a smartphone that you can use with one hand: the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 6 is available through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon with 16 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB of memory.

The next iPhone isn’t due until late 2015, so you can purchase this without worrying that it will soon be out of date.

If you want an inexpensive iPhone

iPhone 5c:
If you’re looking to buy an iPhone but don’t want to spend a ton of cash, your best bet is to opt for the iPhone 5c. Available for less than $1 with a two-year contract, the 5c is Apple’s entry-level iPhone.

iPhone 5c

Its tech is more than a year old at this point, but the iPhone 5c is still able to handle anything you throw at it (except Apple Pay).

If your smartphone’s camera and screen size are important to you, then you’ll want to skip the 5c, as it sports a lower-resolution camera and smaller screen than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Still the iPhone 5c is a quality choice for people looking for an iPhone that won’t break the bank.

The iPhone 5c is available through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon with 8 GB of storage.

The iPhone 5c will probably be discontinued when Apple revamps its iPhone line later this year.

If you want a phone with a fantastic camera

Galaxy Note 4iPhone 6 Plus, or Nokia Lumia 1520:
You’ve got three excellent options if you’re looking for a smartphone with an amazing camera. If you’re a devout Android fan, then Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is the winner, thanks to its 16-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), which helps reduce blurriness caused by camera shake.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

If you’re an iPhone fanatic, then the iPhone 6 Plus is the way to go, as it uses Apple’s latest 8-megapixel iSight camera with optical image stabilization (OIS). (The iPhone 6’s camera doesn’t come with OIS.)

iPhone 6 Plus

Not wedded to either Android or iOS? Then you might want to consider Nokia’s Lumia 1520 running Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS. Sure, this phone is a more than a year old, but its 20-megapixel rear camera not only comes with OIS, but it also lets you zoom in on your subject more than most other smartphone cameras.

Nokia Lumia 1520

What’s more, the included Nokia Camera app lets you manually adjust everything from the image brightness to the shutter speed.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 comes with 16 GB of memory.

The Lumia 1520 is starting to get a bit long in the tooth, which means a replacement probably isn’t too far off.

If you want a phone with a long-lasting battery

Galaxy Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus:
If you’re in the market for a smartphone that can easily last a day or two on a single charge, then you’ll want to look at either Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, if you’re an Android fan, or Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, if you can’t get enough of iOS.

Galaxy Note 4

The reason you’ll want to opt for such large phones is because they have more room for bigger, longer-lasting batteries than their smaller counterparts.

iPhone 6 Plus

I managed to use the Note 4 for nearly two days before it needed a recharge. I had a similar experience with an iPhone 6 Plus.

If you want a great off-contract phone

OnePlus One:
When most people buy smartphones, they do so by signing up for two-year carrier contracts. But if you don’t want to be chained to a particular carrier for such a long time, you can opt instead for an off-contract phone.

OnePlus One smartphone

Right now, the best off-contract phone you can buy is the 5.5-inch OnePlus One, at $299 with 16 GB of storage or $349 with 64 GB of storage.

To put those prices in perspective, an off-contract iPhone 6 Plus, which also has a 5.5-inch screen, costs a whopping $749 with 16 GB of storage. And it’s not like the OnePlus One is a bad phone, either. Its specs stack up nicely with today’s leading handsets. And it’s a heck of a deal.

You do, however, need to signup for an invitation to buy the OnePlus One through the OnePlus website.

The OnePlus One is available with 16 GB or 32 GB of memory.

Rumors are swirling about a new OnePlus One hitting the market this year, so if you want to make sure you always have the latest thing, buy this bad boy at your own risk.

Email Daniel at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+ here.

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