Gift guide: the best smartphones

By Hayley Tsukayama Time of article published Nov 26, 2015

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Hoping to get a new phone in your Christmas stocking this year? Hayley Tsukayama does a quick rundown on the best phones on the market this festive season.


iPhone 6s

Pro: If you're upgrading, you'll probably be happy.

Con: It's thin but not exactly compact.

Apple's new iPhone offers new features including a more versatile screen. Instead of just tapping and swiping, you can also “peek” and “pop” by pushing on the screen, a feature it calls “3D Touch.” So instead of opening an e-mail, you can push on it for a preview.

It also has “Live Photos” that produce Harry Potter-like pictures by offering a second or so of video and sound captured just before and after the photo was taken. Push on the screen, and you get a mini movie with every photo.

All in all, the iPhone 6S provides a solid upgrade that makes everything move just a little snappier. Its “rose gold” finish may just tickle you, well, pink. If you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, the bump won't seem as significant, but those upgrading from an iPhone 5s will see a big difference.


iPhone 6s Plus

Pro: That screen is large and in charge.

Con: All that beauty doesn't come cheap.

The iPhone 6s Plus is a lot like its smaller sibling, super-sized. It comes in rose gold. It supports the moving Live Photos and the 3D Touch screen. And it offers improved camera technology.

The most distinctive feature of the phone, however, is its large 5.5-inch screen, which Apple touts as perfect for watching and creating video. It's also pretty good for reading, being more portable than a book (or stacks of books) but easier on the eyes than a small screen. At that size, the phone can strain your budget – and cause tighter pockets.


Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Pro: Great for doodlers

Con: Not a budget item.

A fan of doodling? The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is unique because of its devotion to the stylus, that oft-maligned modern replacement for the pen. On the Note, however, the stylus is more than something you're just bound to lose.

It lets you jot down numbers or notes that can then be converted into text, and it also has extra features to navigate through menus more easily. The stylus is fairly responsive to the touch. It's not for handwritten novels, but it's good for keeping quick thoughts that you may have otherwise put on a sticky note or index card. Samsung has dropped some features from past models, such as the option to remove the battery and swap it out with a spare. But, all in all, this is an excellent phone.


Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Pro: A crisp, gorgeous screen.

Con: Can be a bit fragile.

The curved edges on the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ seem a bit like a gimmick. And to be honest, it is a bit of a gimmick - but one that gives you a crisp, end-to-end screen. If you're an Android person and want to splurge, it's tough to think of a better option. (If the Edge+ is too big or expensive for you, you may consider its smaller and slightly less extravagant sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.)

The curved edges offer this, too: The phone can show you alerts along its side, as if on the spine of a book. That's a nice feature, but not a reason to buy the phone. One last note: This phone is very slippery. It may be painful to shut any of its gorgeousness away in a case, but that might be the only way to hold on to it.


HTC One A9

Pro: A solid, if someone boring, phone.

Con: Loses much of what made HTC unique.

With the HTC One A9, the company has made a solid, competent smartphone. It's also left a lot about what made its phones unique on the drawing board. Gone are the company's front-facing speakers and other distinctive design touches. What's left basically looks like an iPhone that happens to run Android.

That's not a bad thing necessarily, but it does make the phone somewhat unremarkable. Still, it gets the job done - and well. Its 5-inch screen should be welcome to those who haven't jumped onto the mega-phone bandwagon. It runs the latest version of Android, Marshmallow, and the manufacturer has promised not to clutter up that system with too many bells and whistles from its own pre-installed apps. – Washington Post


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