If you’re wondering which smartphones are the best, Consumer Reports tested phones recently and rated two Android phones higher than the Apple iPhone 5.
The Samsung Galaxy S III and the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD took the top two spots as the best smartphones currently on the market.
Realistically, there is not a glaring difference in the performance, features, reliability, and spec’s of the top 5 or so smartphones available now. Even a Windows 8 phone (the Nokia Lumia 920) is in the conversation concerning the best phones. Of course, Apple will always have its fans. And for those who are attracted to the iPhone 5’s combination of function and design, it’s a phone that will mostly please.
However, this site is not called “almost the best stuff for men.” This site is Best Stuff for Men — which means I must report that two phones have gotten better reviews and ratings than the iPhone 5. These two smartphones are of the Android flavor. As tested by Consumer Reports, they are the best phones you can get now. You can acquire either of these phones from the links on this page.
So, if you’re looking for the best, check out the…
Samsung Galaxy S III
Reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S III have been glowing across the board. In addition to Consumer Reports awarding it the number one spot among this year’s crop of the best smartphones, CNET rated it “Excellent,” and PC Mag rated it “Excellent” (“state of the art everything,” they wrote) and made it an “Editor’s Choice.” TechRadar gave the Galaxy S III 4.5 out of 5 stars and said it was “one of the most advanced smartphones in the world ever… the best smartphone on the market.” PC World rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
In the United States, the Galaxy S III is available with carriers Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Cricket, MetroPCS, and C Spire.
Some of the standout features of the Galaxy S III 4G LTE:
- 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display (1280 x 720 resolution) with scratch-resistant touchscreen made of Corning Gorilla Glass 2
- S Beam function enables sharing of photos, videos, and documents by touching two S III phones back to back
- Voice-activated functions, such as Web search
- Share files with other DLNA-capable devices via Wi-Fi using Samsung AllShare
- 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with Burst Shot, LED flash, geo-tagging, HD video, self-timer, etc.
- 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera shoots HD video (720p)
- The phone’s camera detects when you’re looking at the screen and brightens it
- In-call sound equalizer adjusts audio quality to help a call sound clearer
- Multiple audio CODECs handle many types of audio and sound files
- Multiple video formats are supported, including MPEG4, H.264, H.263, DivX, DivX3.11, VC-1, VP8, and WMV7/8 (in other words, watch your favorite shows and movies)
- Simultaneously watch videos while you surf the Web or check email with Pop Up Play
- When texting with a person, initiate a call to them by raising the phone to your ear
- Up to 64 GB of expanded storage, depending on model
- Lithium-ion battery provides up to 15 hours of talk time
- Includes Google Maps and Google Wallet
- 1.4GHz quad-core processor and 1 GB RAM
- Hand-writing recognition input capable
- Built-in support for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Picasa
- Stereo FM Radio with RDS
- Bluetooth capable
As you might imagine, there are many more features incorporated in the Galaxy S3 — too many to list here. The above includes only the highlights.
About the only commonly-mentioned drawback by some reviewers was that the screen could be brighter. (However, you can turn off “Automatic Brightness” on the phone and increase the brightness manually, which solves that problem.) A smaller subset of reviewers also quibbled with the performance of S Voice, the user-interactive verbal interface. They said, basically, it wasn’t Siri. But Google (the Android folks) are working on that. (And besides, do you need your phone to talk to you like a friend?)
The Galaxy S III was originally sold (30 million units so far around the world) with the version of Android known as Ice Cream Sandwich. In recent weeks, Galaxy S3’s have become available (or are being upgraded) from all major carriers with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
For your further edification and entertainment, here’s a video of a torture test that CNETTV put the Samsung Galaxy S3 phone through. Would it survive abuse?
Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD
The Droid RAZR Maxx HD achieved the second highest score among all smartphones tested by Consumer Reports. And with good reason. This is a phone that does virtually everything competently, with a number of stand-out strengths.
Highly-rated in general by CR, testers especially singled out its impressive battery performance (“Best for long battery life”) and, when considering the operation of most other smartphones, the battery life of the RAZR Maxx HD with its 3300 mAh Li Ion battery is astonishing: watch 13 hours of continuous video, talk for 23 hours (as compared to 8 hours on an iPhone 5) and, under mixed use (game-playing, GPS navigation, Web-browsing, email, listening to music) you can expect about 24 – 32 hours before you’ll need a charge.
The RAZR Maxx HD blows away all other Android phones, as well as Apple and Windows 8 phones, when it comes to battery life — something for which consumers have been hungering ever since multitasking smartphones came out. This is one area Motorola got incredibly right.
You’ll pay a bit more for this performance ($50 – $100) over the Galaxy S III and entry-level iPhones, but to many users it’s worth it. Plus, you’ll start to find deals for the RAZR Maxx HD that make it comparable in price to those other two phones.
CNET rated the RAZR Maxx HD “Excellent” — a standout Android phone with “a big, eye-popping screen, luxurious design, great call quality, lots of storage, 4G data speeds, and unbeatable battery life.” ZDNet placed the RAZR Maxx HD among its top 5 best Android phones this year. PCMag rated it “Excellent.” Phonearena made it a recommended buy among Verizon smartphones. And in their review, Mashable praised many of the phone’s features and stated that if you want a phone with all-day and into-the-night battery life, the RAZR Maxx HD was the one to get.
Like the Galaxy S3, the RAZR Maxx HD is at home on 4G LTE networks. And it is now running the up-to-date Jelly Bean 4.1 flavor of the Android OS.
Currently, the Droid RAZR Maxx HD is available on contract only from Verizon Wireless. But that’s not such a bad thing, since Consumer Reports also rated Verizon as the number one cell phone network.
Some of the standout features of the Droid RAZR Maxx HD:
- Super slim case at 9.3 mm (about a third of an inch)
- 4.7″ HD Super AMOLED screen (1280 x 720 resolution)
- Body is constructed of rugged Kevlar, aluminum, and Gorilla Glass, with a nanocoating on both the exterior and interior for waterproofing
- Remote wipe feature enables you to erase the phone’s hard drive if it is ever lost or stolen, plus the phone incorporates government-grade data encryption
- 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with panorama, multi-shot, 1080p video capture, etc.
- 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera with 720p video capture
- NFC (Near Field Communications) capable and includes Android Beam for sharing files, photos, etc.
- 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, with 1GB RAM, and 26GB available memory, expandable with microSD card
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable
- Google Maps and GPS navigation, also pre-loaded with Google Chrome browser
- Voice-activated text messaging
- Global ready
- Mobile Hotspot support
The biggest criticism of the Droid RAZR Maxx HD by reviewers is the quality of the images captured by the 8 megapixel camera. This evaluation is summed up in the review of the RAZR Maxx HD by Hothardware: “With an 8 megapixel camera and LED flash you’ll find it’s a decent if not spectacular performer when capturing images and video. Pictures tend to be very saturated and detail is above average, however, performance with the flash is somewhat disappointing, as it is with most smartphones.”
The quality of a smartphone’s camera is important to a subset of users but the majority don’t expect to use their phone to capture critical photographs and video.
That’s why they still make cameras. 🙂
If you’re a member of this photographic-quality subset, consider another phone — particularly the Galaxy S3, Nokia Lumia 920, or the HTC One X. The iPhone 5 also has good photo performance.
Below is a video review of the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD versus the Samsung Galaxy S III in a “dogfight” between the two phones for those who like a hands-on look:
If you’d like to see Part 2 of the dogfight between these two top phones, you can click here to see Part 2 on YouTube.
When testing and evaluating the top smartphones this year, Consumer Reports took both overall quality and value for your money into account (including the quality of the available carriers; in this respect Verizon smartphones are clear winners). In their review, the overall best phone was the Samsung Galaxy S III, closely followed by the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD. The Apple iPhone 5 lost points to these phones with respect to screen size and battery life, plus the iPhone 5 is not able to simultaneously support a phone call and an Internet connection with most of its carriers.
The two Android phones reviewed here have already gathered a legion of satisfied owners (take a look at customer reviews at the vendors linked-to in this post). You cannot go wrong with either of them.