CLEVELAND (WKYC) -- It seems like the Apple iPhone has captured all of the smartphone headlines these days.
Who can blame them? It's an undeniably beautiful piece of engineeringwith software that's so easy to use, anyone from small children to theelderly can pick it up and get the basics right away.
But still, there are plenty of other choices on the market thatarehigh-quality, just as useful and can be had for prices much lower thanthe iPhone... if you shop in the right places.
Today, Matt hands the ball off to the resident smartphone guru on theWays to Save team, producer Vince, for a breakdown of the top fivesmartphones that aren't the iPhone and how to get them for a bargain.
We did our best to come up with a list of devices that are availableon as many carriers as possible. That really narrowed down the field wehad to work with. If you need more in-depth reviews of these devices,we've included links to some of the most respected review sites on theweb for each model.
Some of the deals are exclusive to a single carrier. That's part ofthe ebb and flow of the cell phone carrier business. Someone is bound tocome along at some point for the ones we don't have deals for yet. It'sjust a matter of time in most cases.
Let's start the list...
1) HTC One
In a crowded, noisy field of large screen slabs,the HTC One standsatop the heap. It is very difficult for manufacturers of Android phonesto stand out because there are so many of them. HTC hits a home run withthe One. This phone has incredible build quality, with astunningaluminium unibody design.Nothing cheap on this device.
The stereo speakers (a rare feature itself) are among the elite onthe smartphone market. An innovative camera technology performs verywell in those key low-light situations. Most Android phones are clumsyto use for the average person because the software is so complex. HTCbucks the trend, marrying simplicity and power with its take on Androidthat is both pleasing to the eye and easy to pick up.
For the spec hounds and power users, this device is the cream of thecrop. Top shelf hardware from top to bottom and blazing performance onthe back end make this one a sure thing. The battery is not removable,which is a sticking point among smartphone purists, but has been amainstay of the iPhone for years. Hardcore Android fans are stilldebating the merits of the phone's camera quality, but it stands up verywell against a lot of the others in its class.
EXTRA | Android Central Review: HTC One
2) Samsung Galaxy S4
It's the flagship phone that almost everyone thinks of (alongsideiPhone) when they hear the term smartphone. The GS4 has a dizzying arrayof features, great hardware to back it up and the marketing muscle toactually put it into customers' hands. The problem is, this phone isn'tenough of an upgrade over the Galaxy S III to justify the difference insticker price.
The average user doesn't need this phone. That's not a popularopinion, but it is true. This phone has more features than you can shakea stick at, and most of those features go undiscovered and unused bymost users. People buy smartphones for the apps, media/games,cameras,phone calls and the communication tools. It packs a quad-core processor,which sounds great, but most people who use a GSIII don't evenusetheir dual core to its potential. Despite tons of fun features,Samsung's take on the Android software lacks consistency and uniformity,unlike competitors like HTC, Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Motorola.
Power users will appreciate this device. It has everything you lookfor and more. Samsung's camera typically trumps every manufacturerexcept for Apple and Nokia/Microsoft. The processor is excellent andwill power through almost any task. The screen is only .2 inches larger-- notice the decimal point -- than its predecessor. The larger batteryis the real upgrade, but with normal use, it did no better than the HTCOne. However, the battery is removable, so if you plan to keep thisphone for longer than the life of your carrier contract, you can buy anew battery after this one wears out.
3) BlackBerry Q10
The darkhorse in the field getsa surprising nod very high on thislist. Despite the negative headlines about the company, the Q10 is thetop phone on the market with a physical QWERTY keyboard. It also is oneof the best-constructed smartphones you can buy. The software uses aninnovative way of navigating that takes some patience to learn, but onceyou get the hang of it, all tasks get accomplished faster than oncompeting devices.
Let's face it, people hate typing on touchscreens. They do it becausethat's pretty much their only choice. Not any more. The Q10's keyboardis the best we've ever tested. BlackBerrys are known for being the bestmessaging devices and the company retains that title with this offering.It packs a touchscreen that is smaller than the others on this listbecause the phone has to fit a keyboard right under it, but it doesn'treally hurt its functionality. The screen is too small for big-timegaming or video watching, but games and media apps are available anywayif you want them. The Q10's sister phone, the Z10, is an all-touchscreendevice that aims to fill that media-loving void and can be purchasedfor free on sites like Wirefly and Amazon.
Some of the more informed power users are starting to notice thisdevice because even though the BlackBerry World app catalog isn't aslarge as Android or Apple's offerings, users can actually run Androidapps on this device. The software is so powerful that it can actuallysimulate Android while running its own operating system. Battery life isexcellent because the smaller screen and display technology combineswith the largest battery ever put in a BlackBerry. This thing is aworkhorse worthy of its place on this list.
Note: With BlackBerry's impending purchase by private investmentcompany Fairfax (headed by the "Warren Buffet of Canada" Prem Watsa),the company is on solid ground and isn't going anywhere, so there is noreason to worry about future support of your devices.
Now: $99.99 - $69.99 (includes free case!)
4) Nokia Lumia 920 series
There are four major software platforms that power smartphones thesedays: Apple's iOS, Google's Android, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8.This one runs Windows Phone. It's a really fun, yet functional operatingsystem that isvery easy to use andquickly catches your eye. Nokia'shardware is really slick, using high-quality materials that still manageto keep its phones at a lower price than its comparable competition.
The 920 series refers to basically three phones in the U.S. -- theLumia 920 (AT&T), 925 (T-Mobile) and 928 (Verizon). Each carrierwants to have its own special spin on this great line of phones, hencethe rather confusing list of model numbers. Each one basically packs thesame general internals, but have different stylistic flair to set themapart. The software is fun, colorful and simple. It uses somethingcalled "Live Tiles" that double as both icons and notification windows.Hard to describe on paper, but easy to figure out as soon as you look atit. Some of the best visual layout designs on competing smartphones"borrow" directly fromwhat Windows Phone already created.
The camera on these devices are incredible. Nokia decided early onthat it would make camera technology one of its differentiating factorsover the competition. They don't disappoint. Its software is so tightlywoven with the hardware that it doesn't need power-sucking features likequad-core processors to do the job other smartphones need morehorsepower to accomplish. The touchscreen keyboard is one of the best,so if you don't want a BlackBerry, this is your next best bet fortyping. The Windows Store app catalogisn't as robust as the Apple AppStore or the Google Play Store, but still has almost all of yourstaples. For the name-brand apps it doesn't have, crafty third-partydevelopers have created fully-functioning replacements. The Lumia 928 isalready free with a new contract on Verizon. Below are some deals onthe other two iterations of this innovative device.
Sorry Sprint fans. The carrier has not yet brought a Nokia device to its lineup.
5) Moto X by Motorola
Motorola took a year off after Google bought the company's mobiledivision and emerged this year with its flagship Moto X. It is agorgeous device that feels great in the hand and performs incrediblywell. It probably deserves a higher spot on this list, but it's acrowded field and this phone is so new that most peoplehaven't evenseen one in person yet.
Google pulled out all the stops for this one, but keeps costs down.It is shaped to comfortably fit in your hand, unlike the muchsharper-edged iPhone. While it doesn't have bleeding-edge specs underthe hood, this phone performs with the best of them, including somegreat features that a lot of people will enjoy. The Google Now voiceactivation integration is a killer feature that gives Siri a real runfor her money. Oh, and the battery is projected to last 24 hoursstraight. There isn't an official independent mixed-use test of thisclaim, but it stands up well to some really hardcore battery draintests, so it probably isn't too far off the mark.
Hardcore Android fans will balk at the screen size, resolution andpower under the hood. What they fail to realize though, is how tightlywoven Google/Motorola made the whole package. They maximize just aboutevery component built into this thing. The camera, like all Motorolacameras, leave something to be desired, but it is better than previousmodels. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that this phone can also becustom built (if you're on AT&T). Custom wood back plates, colors,etc. can be designed to your personal taste. The custom building isexpected to eventually be available to other carriers, but AT&T paidmore up front to lock in the exclusivity for a while.
EXTRA | CNET Review: Moto X by Motorola
Don't agree with the list? Want more deals? Sound off on Twitter and follow @MattGranite.