Archives for

LG smartphones

Best Android smartphones with a removable battery and microSD slot

Times are changing, tides are shifting, trends are passing and drifting and priorities are rearranging. The thing is the way device manufacturers set their priorities straight doesn’t always align with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of mobile consumers.

Android batteries

Take smartphone battery capacity. Literally everyone who’s ever owned a half-decent Android with web access, a semi-sharp display and the ability to run games and various juice-consuming apps knows autonomy is a pain.

Yet except for Motorola and maybe Lenovo, OEMs refuse to do the right and simple thing and increase cell size at the risk of also beefing up bulk. Recently, a separate but just as disturbing market direction has begun to dictate to gadget producers user-removable batteries and microSD card slots are out of style.

Taking a page from Apple’s ill-advised book, Samsung outed the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge with sealed pacemakers and no external storage expansion possibility. Meanwhile, the HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3 let you slip in a microSD card for extra hoarding room, but block entry to the old juicers.

Android microSD

Needless to stress why some find microSD support and replaceable cells greatly convenient, so without further ado, here are a few of the remaining Mohicans to offer both features:

LG G3 – starting at $369 factory unlocked; $0.01 with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint contracts

  • Up to 128 GB microSD capabilities; 3,000 mAh battery

Not only can you see, touch and substitute the out-the-box cell in need (and for a really small price), but this also delivers plenty of energy, sufficient in fact to comfortably last you through the typical work day. Then again, what’s not to like about the G3?

LG G3 battery

It’s almost as speedy as its successor, it’s over 75 percent screen with ultra-narrow bezels, a multitasking champion, runs on Lollipop sans a glitch and sports top-of-the-line Quad HD display resolution. Plus, it’s roughly twice as cheap as a Galaxy S6 and, presumably, a G4.

LG G3 S – $205 and up unlocked

  • Up to 64 GB microSD expansion; 2,540 mAh battery

Not digging the gargantuan footprint of the 5.5-inch G3 or perhaps feel $370 is too much to pay for a slab of silicon, no matter how cool of a discount Amazon pitches? The “diminutive” G3 S might be the answer to all your prayers, albeit it’s not as small or affordable as you’d probably expect.

LG G3 S battery

It’s 5 inches in diagonal, 137.7 mm in height, nearly 70 mm wide and it’s just $165 cheaper than the “full-sized” G3 with lower resolution, less processing power, an inferior RAM count, camera sensor, everything. Not to mention it barely accommodates 8 gigs of internal data, limiting your microSD inflation as well.

Samsung Galaxy S5 – $390 factory unlocked; $0.01 with AT&T pacts, $1 at Verizon, $30 for Sprint

  • Up to 128 GB microSD; 2,800 mAh battery

Last year’s “next big thing” is by no means better than LG’s 2014 spearhead, yet it’s still slightly steeper. What’s up with that, Sammy, Amazon and especially Sprint? Granted, you do get water resistance and fingerprint recognition here, only at the end of the day, the FHD Samsung is clearly no match for the QHD LG.

Galaxy S5 battery

Not in ppi, RAM muscle, build quality or overall design style. Perhaps in cell endurance, thanks to Galaxy S5’s more frugal screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – $547 factory unlocked; $230 on-contract at Verizon, $300 and up with Sprint

  • 128 GB microSD; 3,220 mAh battery

Look, we get it, the 5.7-inch Super AMOLED 2K phablet is a powerhouse, with Snapdragon 805 inside, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB native storage space, up to 20-hour 3G continuous battery life, fast charging technology, heart rate monitoring, fingerprint authentication and S Pen support.

Galaxy Note 4 microSD

It’s handsome as well, with its premium metallic frame, soft-textured back cover and 8.5 mm wasp waist. But $300 with a 24-month carrier obligation?!? That sounds extreme. Even $230 is preposterous. For crying out loud, the newer, better-looking, more robust albeit smaller Galaxy S6 starts at $200.

Samsung Galaxy S4 – $291 factory unlocked; $0.01 with Verizon or Sprint pacts

  • 64 GB microSD; 2,600 mAh battery

It may feel hard to argue with a sub-$300 SIM-free valuation of a Lollipop-ready device packing quad-core Snapdragon 600 or octa Exynos 5 punch, plus 2 GB RAM. Yet if the LG G2 can go for $220 in a 32 GB configuration, so should the 16 GB GS4 model Amazon shamelessly charges almost three Benjamins for.

Galaxy S4 microSD

True, G2’s battery is bolted down. Otherwise though, the 2013 high-enders are matched in screen res and camera performance, and the G2 likely prevails as far as autonomy and processing speed are concerned.

Samsung Galaxy Mega 2 – $310 factory unlocked; $100 with AT&T contracts

  • 64 GB microSD; 2,800 mAh battery

Bet you forgot all about this unusually timid mid-end 6 incher. So did AT&T, we presume, or else they’d lack the gumption of asking 100 clams for such an unimpressive phablet on-contract.

Samsung Galaxy Mega 2

It’s really not worth it, since the battery is teeny-tiny, the display 720p, the cameras mediocre and, given the nonexistent marketing, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Mega 2 were stuck on KitKat for a long, long time.

HTC Desire 510 – $65 with Sprint prepaid plans; $66 at Boost Mobile; $70 on Virgin Mobile

  • 128 GB microSD; 2,100 mAh battery

HTC-Desire-510

Before you even think it, we had to include an ultra-low-cost no-contract trooper in our roundup of the rare removable battery/storage expansion birds. We just had to. And yes, we agree the Desire 510 looks pretty chintzy and its specs are, well, a full-on crapfest.

But it’s 65 lousy bucks, lets you add all the memory required to deposit half of Netflix’s library and, thanks to an FWVGA panel blessing in disguise, promises to last around 17 hours between charges.

Top Android smartphones with the highest screen-to-body ratio

Gadget display borders have made for a delicate, controversial, sometimes even uncomfortable topic basically since the inception of the so-called mobile tech industry. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t really a focal point back when the Nokia 1100 was selling in hundreds of millions of copies, but the prospect of a truly “bezel-less” smartphone captured the imagination of Android enthusiasts for many years now.

bezel less Android

Of course, as hardware manufacturers repeatedly highlighted, a completely bezel-free handheld would be as impractical as betting on a three-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby. There would be nothing to hold on to, not to mention the tricky software optimizations required to shun accidental touch interaction.

Also, be honest, a little bit of panel frontier often gives off an air of distinction and style compared to how an entirely stripped-down phone would probably look. The key is obviously to limit yourself to the absolute minimum necessary, coming as close as possible to a perfect screen-to-body ratio.

slim bezel display

What’s perfect? Considering the premium Galaxy S6 offers 70.7 percent of its surface as usable real estate, anything above that mark sounds great. The more screen, the merrier, as long as you don’t exceed 80 percent. All in all, 80 is likely the max sweet spot.

Sharp Aquos Crystal – $132 prepaid; 78.5 percent screen

Our first proposition and the overall compact form factor champion of the world falls short of the aforementioned magic number, but boy, does it come close to aesthetic perfection. Too bad Sharp couldn’t find a way to maybe split Crystal’s “chin” in slightly more harmonious slim strips of bezel all around the 5-inch 720p display.

Sharp Aquos Crystal

As things stand, this surprisingly affordable mid-end Android looks a little awkward, though the “sharp” edges are certainly a(nother) nice design touch. Beauty isn’t everything, of course, so you should be ecstatic to hear 130 bucks buy you Harman Kardon sound enhancements as well, plus quad-core Snapdragon 400 power and 1.5 GB RAM.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – available at $449; 77.6 percent

Despite what the name suggests, the Mate 7 is “merely” a 6 incher with a robust, elegant metallic exterior, fingerprint recognition tech, octa-core Kirin 925 juice, 4,100 mAh battery capacity and almost no visible empty space to the sides of its Full HD panel.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Above and underneath it, there’s enough room for a couple of sensors and subtle company logo, and unlike the Aquos Crystal, everything’s symmetric and mighty attractive here. Hands down the best use of the “edge-to-edge” concept to date.

LG G3 – $345 factory unlocked; 75.3%

You probably never realized just how thin G3’s “outskirts” were and how difficult it was for the OEM’s designers to make this a feasible build until the G4 dropped with a “modest” 72.5 percent screen quota. Now you understand why we’re urging you to buy this living legend before it vanishes into oblivion?

LG G3

Well, there’s that, plus a gorgeous 5.5-inch Quad HD piece of glass, Snapdragon 801 chip, Lollipop software, 13 MP laser autofocus camera and 3,000 mAh pacemaker.

BLU Studio 6.0 LTE – $207; 74.6%

How can such a massive beaut cost so little SIM-free, sans contractual obligations or strings attached of any sorts? Simple, BLU Products is still struggling to make a name for itself and pulling all the stops to become the US king of unlocked gear.

BLU Studio 6.0 LTE

Now, make no mistake, build quality is short of premium, with cheap plastic everywhere, and the specs are nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, for a low-cost trooper, the bang for buck factor is mind-blowing. Check it out and see for yourselves!

Huawei Honor X2 – $437; 74.5%

Known as MediaPad X2 in certain circles, this full-metal bad boy decidedly trudges on tablet turf, with a screen measuring, you guessed it, 7 inches in diagonal. But Huawei bills it a phone, and it can make and receive voice calls, so why not?

Huawei Honor X2

After all, it’s pretty light, at 239 grams, and impressively slender, at 7.2 mm. Phenomenally handsome too, with a near-microscopic black vertical layer on the screen’s right and left and perfectly tolerable horizontal dead spaces.

Motorola/Google Nexus 6 – $600 and up unlocked; 74.1%

Nexus 6

The prettiest Nexus family member was bound to be the most compact also in addition to gigantic, fast and furious. Such a shame it’s a bit overpriced, even following a recent trim, and tacky according to some, due to the polycarbonate body and much too rounded corners.

Meizu MX4 Pro – $410; 73.7%

Meizu MX4 Pro

It comes from a Chinese brand many of you may not entirely trust, it’s fairly hard to score stateside via conventional retail channels and runs an Android fork most Westerners don’t approve of. Yet the MX4 Pro makes up for all its flaws with first-rate design, a high-res screen, 3 whopping gigs of RAM and top-class 20.7 MP rear camera.

Last but not least, very low price relative to what’s brought to the table.

LG G Flex 2 – starting at $560 unlocked; 73.5%

Curved doesn’t have to mean bezel-y… or repulsively experimental anymore, and somehow, the arch makes the G Flex 2 seem shorter than 149 mm and more compact than “just” 73.5 percent functional display.

LG G Flex 2

It’s a victory of mindful design, if you will, especially compared to the first-gen “banana phone”, which looked crazy and not entirely in a good way. Let’s not forget the G Flex 2 saw its list price plummet already, and an on-contract Sprint version only costs $100. With Snapdragon 810 inside, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage and fast-charging 3,000 mAh battery.

Huawei Honor 6 Plus – $472; 73.2%

Wait, three Huaweis on such a competitive top ten list? Do you dare still call the Chinese device maker a mobile underdog? Sounds to us it’s more than ready for the big leagues, albeit the Honor 6 Plus will probably never leave the Asian continent… officially.

Huawei Honor 6 Plus

Unofficially, a few third-party Amazon sellers specialized in imports promise to ship the 7.5 mm thin 5.5 incher at a decent price if you’re willing to give them some time. Roughly a month, to be specific. Worth the wait? Consider this – while only 4 mm taller than HTC’s Desire 626, the Honor 6 Plus offers a whopping half an inch extra of Full HD IPS LCD glass.

Meizu M1 Note – $209; 72.9%

Almost unbelievably cheap, the non-stylus-capable iPhone clone homage boasts a fitting glossy plastic rear, but it’s by no means ugly. The razor-thin bezels emanate a distinguished vibe, the corners are just the right amount of circular and the signature home button somehow raises M1 Note’s elegant profile even more.

Meizu M1 Note

Under the hood, an adequately zippy octa-core 1.7 GHz MediaTek MT6752 processor runs the show, backed by 2 GB RAM and a hefty 3,140 mAh cell. Add in a 13 MP dual-LED camera, a secondary 5 MP shooter, 5.5-inch IGZO 1,080p panel and KitKat-based Flyme 4.0 OS, and you get one of the best sub-$250 propositions around, not only an extremely compact one.

LG G4 vs G4 Stylus vs G4c vs G4 Beat/G4s – specs comparison

And just like that, LG managed to overshadow arch-rival Samsung for a change. Unfortunately, product confusion and brand dilution aren’t departments one would want to “prevail” in, especially when an exceedingly dense mid to high-end roster could generate serious market cannibalization issues.

LG G4

Even at first glance, there’s plenty to underline the “standard” G4’s superiority over its pen-capable and compact siblings. But can you also tell off the bat the 5.5 incher is considerably better than the just-announced 5.2-inch G4 Beat, aka G4s?

And if so, doesn’t that make the latter way too similar to the G4c? Not to mention how convoluted things might get if the oft-rumored G4 Pro materializes with a display diagonal circling the 5.7-inch footprint of the G4 Stylus, labeled G Stylo at T-Mobile.

G4 Beat

All in all, LG was obviously wrong to hatch so many marginally different members of the same smartphone family, but since we can’t convince them to axe a few G4 derivations, we’ll try to understand each and every variant’s strong points and flaws, as well as their overlapping target audiences.

How? Through a tried-and-true comparison process, which this time doesn’t aim to uncover a winner. It’s crystal clear who that is, now we’d like to know why and by what type of margin:

LG G4 vs G4 Stylus vs G4c vs G4 Beat/G4s – pricing and availability

LG G4 leather

Retail costs aren’t the definitive contrast elements, but it’s good to get this out of the way early and gauge the exact tariff gaps. A factory unlocked flagship G4 can be purchased from Amazon for as little as $540 in brown leather, $567 in black leather, $568 in metallic gold and $578 in metallic white.

On-contract, the Quad HD handheld is available for $0 down with AT&T financing, or $200 at Sprint or Verizon. Meanwhile, the G4 Stylus is slightly harder to come by stateside, except for its T-Mo-exclusive G Stylo incarnation, which costs $330 outright (no upfront payment needed).

LG G Stylo

The G4c has recently gone on sale in Europe starting at €250 or so, and the G4 Beat will apparently debut in countries such as France, Germany and Brazil in a matter of weeks, maybe days at an as-yet undisclosed rate. Fingers crossed for $300 tops when or rather if it ever swings by America.

Design and build comparison

Essentially, all four G4 models look the same on the outside. Brushed plastic constructions – check across the board. Subtle curves? They all got’ em. Rear physical buttons? Do you even need to ask? Optional leather covers? Those are limited to the base G4, and chiefly make it a premium proposal.

LG G4 plastic

Then there’s the issue of size, with the G4 Stylus leading the ranks, at 5.7 inches, followed by the 5.5-inch G4, 5.2-inch Beat and 5-inch C. Unsurprisingly, the Stylus is the tallest and widest quartet constituent, while the G4c is the thickest, measuring 10.2 mm in depth.

The thinnest? The G4 Stylus by a hair, at 9.6 mm. The lightest? The G4c, of course, weighing 136 grams.

Display and cameras

See, this is where things get a tad confusing. LG advertises the G4 Beat as a mid-range soldier, but with 1,920 x 1,080 screen resolution and 423 ppi, it’s almost as sharp as the G4. Probably not on paper, given 2,560 x 1,440 and 538 ppi sound a lot more impressive, yet in real life, you’ll never, ever tell Quad from Full HD apart in these circumstances.

LG G4 camera

And the G4 Stylus and G4c aren’t half bad either, touting 720p IPS LCD panels.

As far as photography is concerned, the G4 easily stands out, thanks to 16 and 8 MP shooters. Tied for the silver medal, the Stylus and Beat offer 13 or 8 megapixel rear cams, depending on region. Dead last, the G4c lacks the 13 alternative and caters to selfie pros with a 5 MP front snapper that’s also slapped on Stylus and Beat’s faces.

Processors, RAM and battery life

Short of remarkable compared to, say, Samsung’s homebrewed Exynos 7420 SoC, the hexa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 inside the G4 runs circles around G4 Beat’s octa-core S615, or G4 Stylus and G4c’s quad S410.

Snapdragon 808

The significantly prevalent 3 gig memory count should help you better understand why the G4 is roughly twice as expensive as the 1 GB RAM G4c. The G4 Stylus lets you choose between 1 and 2 configs, and the G4s sits in the middle, with 1.5 gigabytes of the good stuff.

Now, as you can imagine, it’s tricky to estimate the day-to-day autonomy of relative newcomers G4c and G4 Beat. The G4 and G4 Stylus both pack 3,000 mAh cells, reportedly good for close to 20 hours of continuous 3G talk time on a single charge.

LG G4 battery

At 2,540 and 2,300 mAh respectively, the G4c and Beat may fall a little behind. Not too much, though, particularly in the former’s case, considering its less power-demanding hardware.

Software, storage and others

Android Lollipop everywhere. 5.0 on the G4 Stylus and G4c, 5.1 for the G4 and G4 Beat. With a number of LG-proprietary tweaks and add-ons mainly on the latter two.

LG G4c

MicroSD external storage expansion capabilities are naturally one more point where the four meet, albeit “locally”, the hoarding room differs quite a lot. The G4 allows you to save 32 GB of movies, apps, videos and photos sans a secondary card, the G Stylo cuts the ROM in half on Magenta, and the “international” G4 Stylus, G4c and G4 Beat further reduce that by 8 gigs, sticking to only 8.

Any other “small” things you should take into account before deciding which G4 flavor to buy? Perhaps optional Qi wireless charging and standard Quick Charge 2.0 technology, both features squarely present in G4’s bag of tricks.

LG-G4-Stylus

Or maybe it’s worth highlighting once again the G4 Stylus provides a touch of extra functionality, courtesy of pen support. Bottom line, it’s easy to distinguish the G4, G4 Stylus, G4c and G4 Beat/G4s… if you know where to look.

Google/Huawei Nexus 6P vs LG Nexus 5X – specs comparison

They say the smartphone space is slowly but steadily getting too crowded for anyone besides Apple to post a constant profit. Tablets are dying, and conventional PCs linger in purgatory, yet an obvious market saturation seems to prevent handhelds from further growing.

nexus-5x-nexus-6p

As such, it’s no wonder companies like HTC or Microsoft badly want to streamline their mobile product rosters, reducing the number of eerily similar Lumia and One models released year after year. Meanwhile, BlackBerry seeks an Android Hail Mary pass in utter desperation, and Samsung may soon need to enforce cost-cutting measures of its own to stop an abrupt, free fall in revenue.

Bottom line, everyone acknowledges the industry’s identity crisis, acting in accordance with various austerity tactics, except for Google. The search giant has adhered to the conventional 11 or 12-month hardware upgrade cycle and one phone a year launch standard since the very inception of the Nexus program, but all of a sudden, that’s no longer enough for Sundar Pichai & co.

nexus-5x-nexus-6p-2

Enter the Huawei-made Nexus 6P and LG-produced Nexus 5X, the first duo in the family’s history to get a simultaneous announcement, and target different audiences. In case you’re confused regarding exactly what’s different, and what’s not, let us clear the air for you:

Nexus 6P vs Nexus 5X – design and build quality comparison

As the name suggests, the N6P is larger. Specifically, 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm vs. 147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm, as far as the N5X is concerned. So, 12 mm taller, 5 wider, and remarkably enough, around half a millimeter thinner. Also, 42 grams heavier (178 vs 136), and most importantly, half an inch larger in screen diagonal (5.7 vs 5.2).

But of course, the aesthetical distinctions don’t stop there. In fact, size is the least important of them, with build material contrasts much more relevant for your buying decision. The higher-end, bigger Nexus 6P is arguably handsomer as well, courtesy of anodized aluminum use, compared to “premium injection molded polycarbonate.”

Translation – plastic for the Nexus 5X, and the same type of metal alloy employed in the aeronautical industry on the 6P. Too bad the latter’s rear camera looks God-awful, even though we wouldn’t exactly call the former’s main photographic unit a beaut either. Both stick out like a sore thumb, and the slimmed-down chassis around them seems a huge waste of space. Why oh why didn’t Google just make them thicker overall, and add extra battery capacity in the equation?

Display and cameras

No more racking their brains to come up with the “sweet spot” in terms of footprint and screen real estate for Google engineers! There’s no such thing, by the by, which is why it’s great phablet lovers and fans of smaller phones alike can finally come together.

The only catch is, if you’re into “diminutive” Androids, you’ll have to settle for 1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution, LCD technology, 423 ppi, and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The jumbo-sized new Nexus ups the ante across the board, to 2,560 x 1,440, AMOLED, 518 pixels per inch, and Gorilla Glass 4.

But surprise, surprise, the two primary cams are identical. Truly so, with the same 12 MP sensors, 1.55 μm pixels for superior details in low-light conditions, f/2.0 aperture, laser autofocus, dual LED flash, and 4K video recording capabilities at 30 fps.

Google-Nexus-6P-camera

Selfie addicts are better served by the Nexus 6P, which sports a pretty amazing front-facing cam too, despite lacking flash illumination. You get 8 generous megapixels, f/2.4 aperture, and 30 fps HD video capture, whereas the N5X barely offers 5 MP.

Processor, RAM and battery life

In the octa-core Snapdragon 810 vs hexa SD808 battle, the question is not who wins in the raw speed department, but whether the fiery hot 810 can at last be contained and cooled down. Hopefully, in a 2.1 iteration, it will.

Snapdragon 810

Likewise, the accompanying Adreno 430 GPU easily eclipses the 808’s 418 inside the Nexus 5X in graphics performance, yielding no stability concerns fortunately. The memory duel takes the Nexus 6P one step closer to total N5X annihilation, as the updated 5.2 incher merely matches the RAM count of its two year-old predecessor, at 2 GB.

In addition to packing 3 full gigs of the good stuff, Huawei’s rookie Nexus effort also touts the significantly heftier cell – 3,450 mAh, compared to 2,700. We’ll obviously have to wait for real-life battery tests before concluding which device lasts longer, but the good news is you get rapid charging features either way.

Nexus USB charging

The Nexus 6P should be able to keep the lights on for around 7 hours after 10 minutes of juicing activity, while the N5X can provide 4 hours or so endurance in the same timeframe.

Software, storage, and others

Say hello to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, possibly the most energy-efficient, security-focused variant of the world’s most popular mobile operating system, and hopefully, the smoothest, fastest, most stable too.

As you can imagine, Google doesn’t play favorites on this front in 2015 either, and loads up the same stock goodies on both new Nexuses. You have your intuitive Now on Tap function, Doze frugality, App Standby enhancement, customizable permissions, zippier and smarter Google Camera and Photos apps, plus native fingerprint recognition.

Nexus 5X fingerprint

Needless to highlight that latter feature would be useless without actual fingerprint sensors, located on the back of the 6P and 5X, and endowed with something called Nexus Imprint that “gets smarter with every touch” by “incorporating measurements each time you use it.”

What else? Well, since you predictably can’t expand the internal storage space via microSD cards, it’s vital to note the smaller handheld accommodates 16 or 32 GB data, whereas the Nexus 6P allows you to store up to 128 gigs, starting at 32 instead of 16.

Nexus 6P

Then you have dual stereo speakers on the 6P, and a single audio player slapped on N5X’s face, three microphones with noise cancellation for each model, LTE Cat. 6, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, dual-band across the board. Oh, and let’s not forget the two’s reversible USB Type-C ports, which help make super-fast charging possible.

Pricing and availability

Up for pre-orders straight from Google, the vanilla Android powerhouses look like phenomenal bargains, commanding tariffs of $379 and $499 respectively in “entry-level” configurations. Considering all the Nexus 6P’s fortes listed above, the 32 GB flavor isn’t a lot pricier than its 5X counterpart, which sells for $429.

Nexus 5X

Craving for 64 or 128 gigs of digital hoarding room? Then be prepared to spend $549 or $649. The ultimate deal sweetener comes in the form of free 90-day Google Play Music access, and complimentary $50 Google Play credit for orders placed before October 25. And yes, you’ll be able to activate the Nexus 5X and 6P on all four major US carriers, including Verizon.

This week’s best deals on phones, tabs, wearables, and accessories : September 14 – 20

The back to school discount season is effectively over, IFA 2015 feels like a distant memory, the new iPhones and iPad Pro are official, and most Android device manufacturers have themselves debuted their holiday weapons.

Hot deals

Except for HTC, that is, possibly LG too, plus Google and Huawei, not to mention Microsoft, and whoever might be gracious enough to help Redmond get Windows 10 Mobile off the ground. When we put it that way, it certainly appears there’s a lot on the horizon for gadget lovers, and we haven’t even mentioned the Galaxy S7, or HTC’s radically redesigned O2.

Of course, if you let the “next big thing” influence you into holding off a new Android purchase, the cycle will go on and on, and you’ll never buy anything. Besides, as fall competition heats up, it’s raining hot deals over at Amazon, and it’d be a shame to miss out on the following:

This week’s top smartphone promotions

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ – $728 unlocked in gold platinum

samsung-galaxy-s6-edge-plus

We realize it may appear silly to call the $700+ dual-curved Sammy flagship a bargain, but since the iPhone 6s Plus starts at $749 with a humble Full HD screen, 2 GB RAM, and 12 MP rear camera in tow, the bang for buck factor of the S6 Edge+ feels irresistible.

Remember, what you’re getting here is a one-of-a-kind Lollipop phablet, stylish and curvy, yet tough as nails, with Exynos 7420 power, 4 gigs of memory, Quad HD Super AMOLED glory, 16 and 5 MP cams, as well as 3,000 mAh battery juice.

Google/Motorola Nexus 6 – $349.99 unlocked

Once upon a time sold for a whopping $650 outright, the soon to be refreshed stock Android giant is desperate to finally break into the mainstream, and thus sticks to the heavily reduced tag from a couple of weeks back.

Probably not for long though, as the Huawei-made sequel is nigh, and Amazon inventory is running short, with 9 to 11 days now listed as a shipping date approximation for the cloud white 32 GB version.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – $249.99 ($50 savings)

Xperia M4 Aqua

While waiting for the Japanese OEM’s clarification on the matter of Xperia Z5 waterproofing, maybe we can get you interested in the increasingly affordable M4 Aqua. Based on the name, this upper mid-range 5 incher should really let you take photos underwater, and swim without worries up to 30 minutes in 1.5 meter depths.

It’s obviously nowhere near as high-res as the Z5 Premium, but 2 GB RAM, an octa-core Snapdragon 615 chip, and Android 5.0 software make the Xperia M4 Aqua a very smart sub-$250 buy.

LG G Stylo – $109.99 for Boost Mobile

Typically available for close to $200 on prepaid plans, and recently trimmed to $150 or so, the pen-wielding big guy has dropped to Moto E levels of extreme budget friendliness, despite rocking robust specs such as 720p screen resolution, quad-core punch, 8 and 5MP shooters, and a hefty 3,000 mAh ticker.

LG Volt 2 no contract – $99.99 at Boost

LG Volt 2

Significantly smaller and less powerful than the G Stylo, the second-gen Volt also lacks stylus support, but still manages to pull off a decent quality – price ratio at a Benjamin, thanks chiefly to a sharp 294 ppi 5-inch display, super-slim bezels, 5 megapixel selfie camera, 2,540 mAh cell, and pre-installed Android 5.1 Lollipop treats.

Tablet deals and steals

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 – $350 certified refurbished with 32 GB storage

Before the iPad Pro could challenge Microsoft’s business-friendly Surface Pro roster, an Android alternative failed to do so on account of being ridiculously overpriced. But that’s no longer an issue, at least if you don’t mind a pre-owned, like-new 12.2-inch Tab Pro configuration, which is gearing up to swap KitKat for Lollipop as we speak worldwide.

Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2

In addition to modern, silky smooth software, the gargantuan Galaxy Tab has expandable storage going for it too, as well as 2,560 x 1,600 screen resolution, 3 gigs of RAM, and up to 13-hour endurance between charges.

Dell Venue 10 5050 – $263 ($86 off list)

Known to some of you as the 5000 Series, this versatile 10 incher can seamlessly transform into an extra-productive mini-laptop aided by a keyboard sold separately. Even in tablet mode, it stands out with a nine-hour battery life, 32 GB internal storage (microSD card slot also included in the equation), Full HD+ panel, Intel Atom processing power, Android 5.0, 2 GB memory, and stereo speakers.

Asus ZenPad 10 Z300C-A1 – $168

Asus ZenPad 10

It’s not easy to recognize one ZenPad variant from the other half a dozen models, but at less than $170, you can probably guess this isn’t among the highest-end configs. It’s a lowly contender for the not-so-successful iPad Air 2 in every department but one – RAM, where it actually matches Apple’s 2 GB non-Pro propositions.

Acer Iconia One 8 32 GB – $140

Do you like your slates smaller, more compact, and easier to carry around, at the risk of mistaking them for oversized phones? Then pray Amazon doesn’t run out of Iconia One stock soon, or that the e-tailer shall replenish it before long, and keep the price tag as is, with Intel inside, ample digital hoarding room, and a slim design.

Wearable bargains for the week

 

Pebble Steel – $129.99 black matte

$55 cheaper than the entry-level, non-metallic Pebble Time, the OG Steel remains a nice choice for unpretentious wrist-worn gadget enthusiasts, shining in build quality, battery life, water resistance, and doing a decent job of bringing your vital Android notifications from the pocket to the hand with little to no effort.

Asus ZenWatch – $149

Asus ZenWatch

Let’s face it, the follow-up isn’t much of a step forward. Not as far as capabilities go, and not from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s good there’s a choice now between two sizes, but if the original fits and feels good on your wrist, do not hesitate to grab it, as it looks cool, and offers all the Android Wear essentials.

Alcatel OneTouch Watch – $113 in M/L size

Far, far prettier than the IFA-announced Go Watch, this Android and iOS-compatible timepiece is likely the cheapest of its circular kind, with water and dust protection also part of the package, not to mention all your fundamental fitness features: steps, calories, sleep and heart rate tracking.

Jawbone Up3 – $119.99 (33 percent off)

Jawbone Up3

The massive discount on one of the most popular activity trackers around may feel too good (and hefty) to be true, and in under 24 hours, it’ll be gone. So, act soon, and get your copy of the “world’s most advanced health tracker”, with personalized Smart Coach guidance, one-week autonomy, and a remarkable host of fitness monitoring functions.

LeapFrog LeapBand – $16.99

Don’t look at this through your adult eyes. Look at it as if you were four years old again. Still ugly? Well, it’s as inexpensive as an inanimate doll or action figure while getting your kid moving in a fun, interactive, engaging way. The parental controls are of course a key selling point, and the fitness band is water-resistant so as to keep up with your naughty munchkin.

Mobile accessories on the cheap

 

TaoTronics Bluetooth wireless sport headphones – $20.99

TaoTronics headphones

While people were never really charged 100 bucks for a pair of rudimentary earbuds, we wouldn’t be shocked to see TaoTronics and Amazon soon up their ask to $50, give or take. Perfect for running, jogging or exercising, the cable-free headphones provide 5 hours of continuous talking or music time, with CVS Noise Cancellation 6.0 technology, as well as a quartet of sound quality-improving drivers.

RAVPower 3,350 mAh portable charger – $7.99

This external power bank is ultra-low-priced, super-tiny, ergonomically designed, robust, and above all, capable of getting your Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ from 0 to 100 percent battery capacity in one go. Enough said!

Aukey EP-B9 wireless stereo Bluetooth headset – $16.99

Made for talking, not listening to music, this is a professional-looking contraption, it’s lightweight and easy to use, backed by an 18-month warranty, and endowed with active noise cancellation, high-clarity sound, as well as four-hour endurance.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ vs LG G4 – specs comparison

It’s becoming clearer and clearer by the day that Samsung’s “true” flagship for the upcoming holiday season was always meant to be the Galaxy S6 Edge+, not the Note 5. It’s of course no coincidence the latter is getting a more limited global bow, and even its freshly surfaced S Pen-related “design flaw” may have something to do with sloppier R&D.

samsung-galaxy-s6-edge-plus-vs-lg-g4

Many will argue you’re not supposed to insert the stylus the wrong way in its slot, and you deserve what’s coming if you don’t pay attention to the direction the tip is pointing at. But is it really as simple as that? Not if you consider such drama was impossible at previous Note generations and their non-springy pens. Physically impossible, as in prevented by design.

Anyhoo, this is not a piece about the Galaxy Note 5 for obvious reasons. It’s about the fully working, thoroughly well-designed and super-provocative Galaxy S6 Edge+. Also, its number one box-office opponent at the moment. That is, until the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus go on sale.

Galaxy Note 5 S6 Edge Plus

The LG G4’s curves are clearly subtler than its rival’s, and the hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC is no match for the raw speed of the Exynos 7420. Can the leather-clad dark horse then still keep up with the metal-and-glass front-runner? Let’s find out:

Galaxy S6 Edge+ vs LG G4 – pricing and availability comparison

Up for grabs from all big four US carriers, Samsung’s “next big thing” is nowhere to be found on Amazon for the time being. At Best Buy, it’s bundled with a free wireless charger, which is neat, and can further net you $200 on a gift card with qualifying trade-ins.

Galaxy S6 Edge+

If you’d rather take your business directly to wireless service providers, Verizon is selling the edgy phablet starting at $32 a month, no upfront fee, or $768 outright. AT&T asks $47 extra off-contract, and also still does carrier agreements in exchange for $299.99.

Then there’s T-Mobile, where the 32GB 5.7 incher costs $780 at full retail, and finally, Sprint will give you a free Galaxy Tab 4 (on-contract) if you score the Galaxy S6 Edge+ with Lease programs or Easy Pay, i.e. $0 down. Alternatively, the Now Network wants $350 with pacts, or $792, no strings attached.

LG G4 brown

Quite the upscale purchase, no matter your retailer or operator choice, especially given an unlocked LG G4 is only $455 through Amazon. In brown leather, so none of that ceramicky or “metallic” plastic exterior nonsense. Of course, if you dig the non-leather gold or white models, they’re pretty affordable too, at $470 and $495 respectively.

Arguably the handsomest flavor is the leather black, available for $472 SIM-free, or $99.99 with Sprint or Verizon contracts. That’s one battle LG wins with ease, although it goes without saying the war remains wide open.

Design and build quality

Aesthetically speaking, this is very much an apples and oranges comparison. Which is not to say we can’t like one fruit more than the other. Can you guess which one? Of course you can. The scrumptious, stylish, robust, metal-and-glass dual-edged treat, measuring 154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9 mm and tipping the scales at 153 grams.

Galaxy-S6-edge-plus

Thanks to a slightly smaller screen and polycarbonate build, you’d expect the G4 to undercut the S6 Edge+’s weight, but that’s not really the case. Granted, the difference is negligible, as the leathery (or metallic) heavyweight contender weighs in at 155 grams.

At its thickest point (remember, the G4’s got a curve too), the 5.5 incher measures a fairly chunky 9.8 mm. And it’s also a bit wider than the GS6 Edge+, although shorter, courtesy of those now iconic physical buttons moved to the back.

LG G4

At the end of the day though, this is a crushing victory for the odds-on favorite. Ladies and gents, we have an exciting tie so far on our hands!

Display and cameras

5.7-inch Super AMOLED with 2,560 x 1,440 pixels and 518 ppi pixel density vs. 5.5-inch IPS LCD, 2,560 x 1,440 and 538 ppi respectively. Before you call this another tie, perhaps you’ll be interested to hear what DisplayMate had to say about the Quad HD panels on the Note 5 and S6 Edge+. Without going into too much detail, they’re “the best performing displays ever tested.” And that includes the G4.

lg-g4-camera

Now, cameras are a delicate subject to tackle for the moment, as we haven’t taken the photographic units of the S6 Edge+ for a real-life spin yet. On paper, the rear shooter should be as remarkable as the one on the G4, with 16 megapixels, optical image stabilization, autofocus and LED flash offered across the board.

Selfie addicts will likely find more comfort in the 8 megapixel front cam of the older flagship, as the new kid on the block only sports a 5 MP secondary camera.

Processor, RAM and battery life

This is where G4’s dreams of glory are completely smashed to pieces. We already showed you a series of Note 5 benchmarks, in which the S Pen phablet obliterated its predecessor, not to mention its Snapdragon 808-powered arch-nemesis.

Samsung 4 GB RAM

The S6 Edge+ features the same exact octa Exynos 7420 silicon, with a matching 4GB RAM for good measure. Ergo, expect a similar 30 to 35 percent gap in system performance, plus a noticeable advantage in energy efficiency for the S6 Edge+ also, despite its larger screen and identical 3,000 mAh battery.

A conclusive recent autonomy test put the Galaxy S6 Edge+ near the top of the charts, with 9 hours+ of single-charge endurance, whereas the LG G4 trailed way behind, at a modest 6 hours of so. Let’s not forget the new guy also comes with wired and wireless fast charging capabilities in tow, compared to wired only as far as the “veteran” is concerned.

Storage, software and others

What’s the score now? Five, six to one in favor of the S6 Edge+? Give another point to the G4 on account of microSD expansion. And a third one for the user-removable battery. Which still doesn’t make our verdict very hard to cast.

LG-G4-battery-microsd

Particularly when you add the touch-based fingerprint recognition technology of Samsung’s bad boy in the equation, as well as its arguably superior copy of Android 5.1 Lollipop. Proprietary UIs are mostly a matter of personal taste, but we think we speak for the vast majority of our readers when we say TouchWiz is prettier than Optimus 4.0.

Bloatware? Both phones are filled to the brim with non-Google apps, yet Samsung actually provides a few you’ll find use for. S-Voice, S Health, Kids Mode, plus a bunch of free “Galaxy Gifts” typically worth a good few hundred bucks.

Galaxy Gifts S6 Edge+

Connectivity-wise, neither device features a futuristic USB Type-C port, with LTE speeds slightly enhanced on the S6 Edge+, and Bluetooth 4.2 superseding 4.1. We have a clear winner therefore, and it’s exactly who you think.

This week’s best deals on phones, tabs, wearables and accessories: July 6 – 12

With the Fourth of July weekend regrettably behind us, it’s time we evaluate our losses and… allocate a bit of extra cash for more shopping. Worry not, you won’t end up on the street, living in a cardboard box while obsessively building mighty new “Minecraft” castles.

Bargain

That’s because we only have extreme bargains to recommend after scouring the discounted depths of Amazon, with a bunch of low to mid-end and mid to high-end Android smartphones leading our deal list for the week, joined by respectable tablets, fancy smartwatches and a slew of perhaps modest yet oh-so-convenient mobile accessories. Here goes:

Handhelds on the cheap

 

Motorola Moto E second-gen 4G LTE – $99.99 unlocked

Do we even need to highlight the limited and time-sensitive nature of this promo? Well, to better understand just how much you’re saving, let us mention the non-LTE original E still costs $84 in a US GSM configuration, and $92 global GSM.

Moto E LTE

Of course, there’s a lot more separating the two Es than merely 4G connectivity. The 2015 edition is larger, punchier, offers twice the internal storage space, an improved rear camera and VGA front snapper. Also, a considerably heftier battery. Overall, if the Independence Day celebrations left you with a Benjamin in the bank, the wisest way to spend it is the advanced Moto E… if you can get it.

Huawei Mate 2 – $260 factory unlocked

We’ll be honest, for a second there (or a million), we lost all hope the otherwise venerable Mate 2 would ever be brought (relatively) up to date software-wise. But credit where credit is due – Huawei delivered on their ancient promises. Big-time!

Huawei Mate 2

Now, with Android 5.1 Lollipop on board, the big-battery 6.1 incher is maybe more enticing than it ever was. Especially at $40 off its list price, 720p screen resolution, quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip, 2 GB RAM and all.

LG G3 Stylus – $200 unlocked international

To make it clear off the bat, this isn’t the G4 Stylus, aka G Stylo. It’s a 2014 precursor, with decidedly 2014 mid-range material, including Android 4.4, 1 GB RAM and 8 gig ROM. Alas, the 5.5-inch 960 x 540 panel is quite crappy, but on the plus side, the 13 MP LED flash cam and 3,000 mAh cell… aren’t. And neither is the pen support.

Motorola Moto X second-gen – $299.99 GSM unlocked in white/bamboo, black soft touch or black leather

Moto X second-gen

5.1-upgradeable and due for a hardware renovation before long, the X+1 has plenty of juice left in the tank, but it might be discontinued any day now. Perhaps not altogether canned, but if it becomes really hard to score, its tariff could jump back up to over $400. The clock’s ticking, y’all.

Hisense HS-U688 – $155 factory unlocked

Hisense? What the fudge is that? Actually, it’s a decent Asian brand, with a history of nearly half a decade in the electronics industry, although obviously, not a stellar background in the Android niche.

For a little over a Benjamin and a half, the Chinese OEM offers an uber-stylish, 0.31-inches thick 6-inch phablet capable of sharp 720p images, crisp sound, 3,000 mAh endurance and 8 megapixel stills.

This week’s best tablet deals

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 – $199 in smoky blue

Galaxy Tab A 8.0

Not exactly a first-class iPad mini 3 rival, Sammy’s newest 8-inch budget soldier at least mimics the 4:3 display aspect ratio and squeezes it into a slender 7.4 mm frame. Plasticky but fairly fashionable. Meanwhile, under the hood, you get quad-core power, 1.5 GB RAM and 4,200 mAh battery juice, which isn’t half bad at $30 off the $230 list tag.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 – $265

Essentially the same average slate, only bigger. And $65 pricier, which is $35 off. Oh, and the screen-to-body ratio hits a sweet 72 percent, albeit at the expense of clarity. Come on, Samsung, 132 ppi?!?

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 – $232

An oldie but goldie, the 8.4-inch Tab Pro is stuck on KitKat. Otherwise, it’s so much better than the Tab A 8.0 that the very comparison feels ridiculous. 359 vs 160 ppi panel, 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800 vs… 400, we presume, 2 vs 1.5 GB memory, 8 vs 5 MP cam, 4,800 vs 4,200 mAh pacemaker. Shall we go on? Probably not.

Lenovo IdeaPad S8-50 – $169 certified refurbished

Lenovo IdeaPad S8

It’s pre-owned, which is never ideal, but boy, are those specifications impressive for sub-$200! 1,920 x 1,200 IPS panel, Intel Atom inside, 8 MP rear camera with f2.2 lens, 2 GB RAM, 7-hour battery. Too bad Lollipop seems but a sweet, distant dream.

Discounted Android-compatible wearable devices

 

Motorola Moto 360 – $149 in black or stone grey leather

Reduced at all major US retailers, the OG 360, like the Moto X2, is waiting on a sequel. Prettier, more powerful and, hopefully, longer-lasting. Also, a lot costlier. Hence, this remains a smart buy, at least until we can thoroughly gauge the value and performance gap.

Pebble Steel – $176

Pebble Steel

It’s a good time to be in the market for upgraded versions of the smartwatch classics, including the Pebble Time and Time Steel. But it can be thoughtful to turn to the actual classics too, particularly if they stand the test of time as robustly as this black matte, full-week, metallic, waterproof, iOS and Android-supporting wrist-clock.

Fitbit Flex – starting at $84

The savings are by no means massive (a humble 15 bucks), yet the resulting deal is virtually unrefusable for fitness nuts who don’t need a fancy screen, complex smartphone notification pushing and the works to reliably monitor the things that count: steps, general distance covered, calories burned, active minutes, sleep duration and quality.

Accessories steals

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 case armor – $5.99

It’s no secret the GS6 can crack under the “right” amount of pressure, so in the spirit of safe before sorry precautions, a “heavy duty” cover feels obligatory for folks who tend to frequently drop their precious gadgets. At the price of a couple of Happy Meals, the “dual layer” case on hand provides “maximum drop and scratch protection”, with rubberized edges and flawless shock absorption.

Motorola Droid Turbo rugged protective case with built-in kickstand – $5.95

Droid Turbo rugged case

It’s basically the same thing, only it fits the Turbo best and vows to shield its already muscular exterior and gigantic 3,900 mAh battery from harder contacts against tougher surfaces, scratches, crashes and… bullets? Probably not, but close enough.

Sony MDRXB950 extra bass Bluetooth headset – $158

You had to be very thrifty during the recent extended national holiday period to save money for a pair of high-end wireless headphones. Or take advantage of Sony’s promotion, and cough up $40 less than usual for Electronic Bass Boost circuitry, 40mm drivers, ergonomic, stylish design, and up to 20-hour endurance.

RND Ripple Bluetooth speaker – $28

RND Ripple

A couple of front speakers, subwoofer, microphone, 8 to 10 hours battery life between charges, NFC capability up to 30 feet distance, and universal Android compatibility. In other words, the basics at a more than reasonable price. Definitely not an audiophile’s wet dream, though.

Best Android-powered selfie smartphones: updated for June 2015

Typically, we’d wait a little more than nine months to bring an old listicle up to date. But Android device release cycles in general have shortened lately, and when it comes to trendy smartphones endowed with skillful front-facing cameras, a year changes everything.

Best Selfie Phones

ImgAmazon.com LinkBrandProductAmazon.com LinkPrice on Amazon.com
HuaweiHonor 7 Octa Core Dual Sim474
SonySony Xperia XA Ultra299.99
SamsungGalaxy J7 Dual Sim299.97
HTCDesire EYE 4G LTE GSM279.01
SamsungGalaxy J5 SM-J500 GSM189.99

Selfie

Even six months flip over selfie hierarchies, which is proven by the fact only one of last September’s narcissistic-targeted “magnificent seven” endured age and booming competition, winding up in our top ten for June 2015.

And on the horizon, there’s the front dual-LED flash-sporting Asus ZenFone Selfie, as well as Samsung’s most gifted handhelds yet in this department, the low-cost Galaxy J5 and J7. Let’s not obsess with the future, though, stay in the moment and check out the best of the best selfie soldiers available today stateside, ordered by Amazon’s no-contract price tags:

Samsung Galaxy S6 – $565 factory unlocked; $200 with Verizon or Sprint pacts

Far from a specialized gadget, the G6 is what you’d call the ideal multitasker, always ready to play the part of cameraphone, a hardcore gamer’s wet dream, diminutive media streamer, prodigious web browser and, last but not least, super-sharp selfie producer.

Granted, next to the Quad HD AMOLED display, octa-core Exynos 7420 SoC, 3 GB RAM and 16 MP OIS rear cam, the secondary 5 MP snapper feels like a trivial selling point. Yet the wide-angle lens supposedly “changes the way you take selfies” completely, fitting everybody and everything into the same frame. Technically therefore, the Galaxy S6 is an excellent “groupie” phone, but you know, potayto, potahto.

LG G4 – $565 factory unlocked in leather brown; $200 with Verizon or Sprint contracts

LG G4 selfie

Another multi-purpose flagship rather than a niche product, once again a bunch of specs more glamorous and eye-catching than the 8 MP front shooter. But, ahem, 8 megapixels! Also, Gesture Shutter, Gesture View and a “soft selfie light that brightens around the border of the photo preview window.”

Sooo, mostly gimmicks, except for the rear camera-grade megapixel count. That’s one thing you can’t argue with.

HTC Desire Eye – $414 unlocked; starting at $0 down with device financing for AT&T

HTC Desire Eye

Forget the overpriced, boring, underwhelming One M9. The Desire Eye is true flagship material for self-portrait fanatics, despite a chintzier plastic build, with a 13 MP camera on the back… and another on the front. Both offering autofocus, dual-LED flash and BSI sensors for exceptional low-light clarity.

Oh, and you can even strike a pose underwater, as long as you keep the Full HD 5.2 incher above 1 meter depth for less than 30 minutes.

Sony Xperia C4 – $379

Sony Xperia C4

Yeesh, that’s expensive for a 5.5-inch phablet with octa-core MediaTek power, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage, a 2,600 mAh battery, 13 MP main photographic unit and “just” a 5 MP 720p LED flash selfie pro. The thing is Sony hasn’t released the “explosive” C4 stateside yet, so basically, you’re also paying import taxes.

On the bright side, the costs should go down very soon, and Sony has a slew of software tricks up its sleeve to polish your prettiest duckface. Plus, natural light-mimicking LED prowess.

Lenovo Vibe Shot – $378

Also not technically launched in the States, the imported Vibe Shot is a slightly better deal, thanks to a more “mainstream” Snapdragon 615 chip, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB ROM and especially 16 and 8 MP cameras.

Lenovo Vibe Shot

Clearly, the former is the standout performer, with OIS and triple-LED flash, but the latter is no slouch either, with handy gesture controls, advanced voice commands and various post-processing effects and ploys to make you look your very best. Probably better.

HTC Desire 820 – $319 unlocked

We’re trudging on decidedly affordable turf now, so you might expect a share of compromises. Guess the 720p resolution of Desire 820’s 5.5-inch panel fits the description, and the 2,600 mAh battery sounds like a featherweight as well.

HTC-Desire-820

Not the 13 and 8 MP cameras, though, even if the selfie specialist lacks flash. Such a shame US carriers, including prepaid operators, have so far avoided picking up the budget-friendly 2014 giant.

Huawei Ascend P7 – $279

Huawei Ascend P7

And here’s our beloved veteran and sole survivor of last year’s selfie rampage. Turned one already, the P7 still runs Android 4.4 KitKat… and still impresses with a potent 8 MP “secondary” camera. Of course, you can do better (cough, Desire Eye, cough), but not at sub-$300, with steel and glass all over and a 441 ppi IPS LCD screen.

Sony Xperia C3 – $239 factory unlocked international

There’s no comparing the decrepit C3 to its remarkable follow-up, however for a touch of nostalgia… and tight budgets, a 720p 5.5-inch display, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB RAM, 2,500 mAh cell, 8 MP and 5 cams will do.

Sony Xperia C3 selfie

No ordinary 5 MP front shooter either, but one with a “soft” LED flash headlining its bag of tricks, alongside a 25 mm wide-angle lens and very convenient Superior Auto mode for automatically adjusting to the perfect settings for the perfect situation and environment. Yeah, yeah, you know better to manually prepare everything, but why refuse professional help?

BLU Selfie – $218

BLU Selfie

Tacky name, sleazy design, unimpressive 4.7-inch 720p screen, fairly meager 2,300 mAh battery, antiquated KitKat software, but boy, what amazing cameras for the price point! 13 megapixels on the back, 13 on the front, a dual-LED flash plus a single LED flash, autofocus and something called BLU Bright + Technology for “consistent quasi-professional lighting.” Also, “an instant image enhancer that gives you multiple levels of beautifying effect”, dubbed BLU Final Touch Software.

Photoshop? Who needs that anymore to look like a model with minimal makeup on? Facebook and Tinder hook-up perspectives: unlimited.

Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime – $170 factory unlocked

Before the J5 and J7 drop, we’re afraid you’ll have to settle for this bag of 960 x 540 pix res/1 GB RAM/8 GB ROM mediocrity. If you absolutely need to buy Samsung, that is, and can’t spare over $200. Now, repeat after me – it’s only $170, it’s only $170, only $170… And again, and again, and again.

Samsung-Galaxy-Grand-Prime

Otherwise, you won’t be able to make all the compromises. Including the non-LED 5 MP front camera sacrifice. Good thing the 85 degree wide angle lens can capture the entire family for the occasional group portrait.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4 Pro – rumor roundup and preview

Call us rash, call our efforts premature and the venture into speculation territory pointless, with so many unknowns to the Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4 Pro equation. Nothing to argue there, given one phone’s ETA remains up in the air, while another’s very identity and existence can’t be authenticated at the moment.

LG G4 vs Galaxy Note 4

But someone has to tackle the “next big things” early, so as to assess their prospective potential and current Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and LG G4 worth. Otherwise put, should you jump the gun and board one of those fancy yet soon-to-be-dated bandwagons, or wait a few more months?

Always a tricky predicament, since there’s always something better on the horizon. The question must therefore be how much better? Well, let’s see what the magic 8-ball tells us, based on recent rumors, good old fashioned detective work and common sense:

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs LG G4 Pro – the background factor

The OnePlus One is perfect living proof you don’t need history to make it in today’s competitive, uber-crowded mobile landscape. But it certainly helps to slap a name people easily recognize and greatly respect on a newborn flagship smartphone.

Galaxy Note 4

Besides, keep in mind even OnePlus barely sold a million One copies to date, which feels like a milestone real heavyweights should hit within days of their commercial debut. But we digress. The point is the Note 5 will ride a remarkable wave of enthusiasm on the back of its hailed predecessor and a rapidly rising “cousin.”

Meanwhile, the G4 Pro, thanks to that very moniker (if it holds water), will be instantly associated with the “standard” G4. Pretty impressive on paper, the leather-clad 5.5 incher could however fizzle by the time its Pro heir bows, especially if next-gen iPhones break out.

LG G Pro 2

And don’t forget this isn’t part of a long, proven and fruitful dynasty, as its S Pen-capable rival. Quite on the contrary, with the Optimus G Pro and G Pro 2 generating mostly sad memories of affordable, mediocre phablets. Maybe it’d be a good idea to just choose a different suffix. Max? Plus? Ultra?

Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent innovation

That’s now how the saying goes, we know, and it’s definitely not how device manufacturers approached things these past few years. Ask them, and they’ll tell you there’s little room for true innovation, which is why we should settle on iterative upgrades.

Iris recognition

Pardon our French, but what a load of crock! Clearly, iris recognition is ready for primetime, taking biometric authentication to the next level. Innovative feature idea #1. How about a universal wireless charging solution offered for free instead of $35 or $55?

While we’re on the subject, if you even think of snubbing USB Type C connectivity until next year, Samsung and LG, get ready to lose. The groundbreaking one-cable-fits-all tech will also enable accelerated charging, and reaching 100 percent battery capacity in, say, half an hour likely headlines many wishlists for late 2015.

USB Type C

 

Okay, what else? Well, we haven’t heard much of flexible displays in a while. As in, curvable, not curved out the box. But it’s no doubt too soon for a wide-scale Youm spread. Still, the bottom line is if they want to innovate, they can find ways. They can enhance autonomy without hurting slimness and form factors… somehow, improve security via eye and fingerprint scanning, boost mobile payment support with the help of Android M and Android Pay.

Note 5 vs G4 Pro – the numbers’ race

It’s nice to dream with one’s eyes open once in a while, but at the end of the day, it’s sensible to put both feet on the ground and admit this duel’s outcome, like so many before it, depends on the iterative specification revisions we so love to hate.

Galaxy-Note-5-concept

Beyond small novelty elements, gimmicks and the works, beyond even marketing expenses and brand recognition, what weighs the heaviest is who will produce the sharpest screen, fastest system, most gifted cameras and largest cell.

The rumor mill alludes to a predictable tie in the display resolution department (2,560 x 1,440 pixels all around), an impossible to rule CPU bout (Exynos 7420 successor vs Snapdragon 820), and most likely, another draw as far as the RAM count is concerned (4 gigs across the board).

LG G4

Then there’s silence on the Note 5 camera front, and mystery surrounding G4 Pro’s ticker size. But we “know” the former will pack a gigantic 4,100 mAh pacemaker, and the latter should thrill with a one-of-a-kind 27 MP rear shooter.

Really, really hard to name an early frontrunner, as screen diagonal is tipped at 5.8, 5.9 inches for both, and LG has its sights set on a construction approach switch from plastic and leather to “genuine” metal. We’ll tell you this though – if you feel bigger is better, don’t compromise and go for the GS6, S6 Edge or G4. Just wait.

All about timing?

This isn’t real estate, and location, location, location is unimportant, unimportant, unimportant, but the when of the equation feels hugely relevant. Samsung ultimately rises as the odds-on favorite once again ergo, with the Galaxy Note 5 scheduled to go on sale in September. Perhaps as early as August.

ifa-berlin

The G4 Pro? Well, LG needs the Snapdragon 820 chip to discard the scorching 810 and laggy 808, so the best case scenario is October. Worst? November. Too close to the holidays, and probably behind both the GNote 5 and iPhone 6s/6s Plus duo.

Multitasking champs: top Android smartphones available with at least 3 GB RAM

Some say 4 GB RAM is overkill for today’s smartphones. Others feel they don’t even need 3 gigs. After all, Android Lollipop was specifically optimized to work smoothly on 1 GB memory systems, right?

Android multitasking

Yeah, well, that didn’t quite go as planned, based on rampant recent reports of 5.0-induced memory bleeds, but nonetheless, you’ll hear many mobile consumers, including so-called power users, advocating for a more moderate technological progress.

They’ll argue you can’t multitask on a 5-inch screen as you do on 15 or 17 inches, and point at the vast majority of semi-affordable laptops which do just fine with 4 gigabytes of the good stuff. Surely therefore, their smaller, humbler “brothers” should handle everyday tasks using less memory.

4 GB RAM

While that may in part be currently true, it doesn’t mean it’ll be tomorrow as well. And overall, don’t you want your flagship devices to offer future-proofing? That’s the big challenge hardware manufacturers tackle with each high-end release, and we’re glad to see so many of them watching our backs.

No, 4 GB RAM handhelds aren’t standard yet, but the road has been paved, and here’s a lengthy list of readily available multitasking powerhouses with at least 3 gigs:  

Asus ZenFone 2 – $299

A pioneer and record breaker back in January, the world’s first 4 GB RAM phone has recently gone on sale via Amazon, ahead of both Xiaomi’s Mi Note Pro and Lenovo’s K80. Even more remarkable, it’s significantly cheaper than essentially all its 3 gig rivals.

Asus ZenFone 2

You’d think such a feat can only be possible with the adoption of a lackluster CPU, and while the Intel Atom Z3580 is no Snapdragon 810 contender, it delivers plenty of raw speed. Other stellar features? 1,080p 5.5-inch screen, 64 GB internal storage, LTE connectivity, 13 MP and 5 MP cameras, Android 5.0.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – $200 with Verizon or Sprint pacts; $0 with financing at AT&T; $615 unlocked

Samsung Galaxy S6

The non-curvy and the edgy S6 variants are equally muscular and very impressive activity jugglers, with a phenomenal Exynos 7420 SoC holding up the generous 3 GB memory. Why did we pick the “bland” S6 for today’s little listicle then? Simple – it’s far more affordable. Plus, fashionable in its own right.

LG G4 – no upfront charge for AT&T; $200 on-contract at Verizon and Sprint

Barely out for a few days stateside, the G4 can be purchased with a number of freebies, but its most precious assets are perhaps the controversial, always chilly hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chip and 3 GB RAM.

LG G4

Photo buffs will no doubt have a field day dabbling in the 16 MP “professional” camera’s advanced controls and post-processing effects, all of which however need copious amounts of memory to function properly and without a stutter.

LG G3 – $0.01 with Verizon or Sprint agreements

LG-G3

Watch out for the (suspiciously) inexpensive $333 factory unlocked international D855 model. There’s a good reason it’s so cheap. Unlike Big Red and the Now Network’s G3 editions, that one caps off at 16 GB storage space and – gasp – 2 GB RAM. Unacceptable, since Android M is nigh, and the platform’s memory thirst could well increase. Probably not, but you never know.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – starting at $230 for Verizon; $548 factory unlocked

Galaxy Note 4 Verizon

 

Why so expensive, Sammy?! Do you forget the GNote 4 is yesterday’s news, with quad-core Snapdragon 805 or octa-core Exynos 5433 inside? 3 gigs of RAM alongside the aging SoC(s), of course, but sooner or later, prices, especially with contracts, have to drop. Extensively.

Sony Xperia Z3 – $480 factory unlocked; $30 and up in Verizon-exclusive Z3v configuration

Sony Xperia Z3

Also yesterday’s news, the Z3/Z3v, which is not one and the same as the Z3+, packs an older Snapdragon family member, namely the 801. Needless to highlight general system performance stands decidedly behind the GS6 or LG G4, but on the plus side, $490 is no $650. Granted, it’s close, yet every penny counts when dealing with all-around similar hardware configurations.

HTC One M9 – $200 with Verizon or Sprint pacts; $649 factory unlocked

HTC One M9

Speaking of similar endowments, the M9 fails to shine on the display resolution or camera fronts, not really offering a lot to work with for hardcore photo or video editing multitaskers. For gaming, web browsing or 1,080p content consumption (or all at once), the octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor inside is ideal… when it doesn’t overheat.

Google/Motorola Nexus 6 – starting at $500

Nexus 6

Word of advice – grab it while it’s hot discounted. At $650 and up, it wasn’t worth the effort. At $500, it’s a bargain, the key downside remaining the finite local hoarding space. No microSD support for Nexus buyers, though the gargantuan, sharp 6-inch Quad HD panel, quad-core S805 CPU, 13 MP OIS camera, 3,220 mAh battery and, last but not least, 3 GB RAM should more than make up for the inconvenience.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – $505

Surprised to see the nichey, more or less Asian-exclusive Mate 7 in such outstanding, Western mainstream company? Importers are the best, particularly when they don’t get too greedy and sell premium flavors of exquisite China-made gadgets at (relatively) fair prices.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Don’t even think of going for this $445 Mate 7, equipped with a 16 GB ROM and 2 GB RAM. 60 bucks extra is surely not a lot to ask for double the storage space and a full gig of random-access memory more. Anything else you should be psyched about here? Of course – a nearly record-setting 77.6 percent screen-to-body ratio, fingerprint sensor, beautiful FHD 6-inch screen, 7.9 mm waist and octa-core heat.

Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro – $343

Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro

Another unpopular choice to wrap up a very popular list, the Z2 Pro ain’t easy to find on American shores, but if you follow our lead, you’ll get it at a highly lucrative price. Less than $350 for 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage (non-expandable, unfortunately), 6-inch Quad HD glass, 16 MP dual-LED flash OIS rear cam, 5 MP selfie shooter and 4,000 mAh battery juice? This is madness! No, this is Lenovo looking for global fame.

LG G4 availability and pricing roundup: Amazon, Best Buy and all the carriers

Oh, how rumors can distort the truth sometimes. Remember what “credible” insiders said about LG G4’s prospective valuation on the eve of the superb smartphone’s announcement? Shame on us for believing for a second Korea’s first manufacturer runner-up would ever think of topping Samsung’s prices.

LG G4

Still, nobody could have predicted LG’s extreme generosity, as the G4 is essentially much cheaper than even the underwhelming HTC One M9 after a series of discounts and bundle deals.

To start with, we definitely wouldn’t call the leather-clad handheld extravagant, but once you add the free batteries, microSD cards and gift cards in the equation, it’s like they’re paying you to get one of the greatest overall Androids around. Well, close enough.

Now, we know it’s hard to keep track of all the amazing promos offered by various retailers and carriers, let alone pick the one that suits you best. We’re always here to lend a hand though, so we’ve gathered all the availability intel from Amazon, Best Buy, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular for your convenience.

LG G4 front

But first, allow us to quickly recap the reasons you should maybe favor the G4 over the G3, G Flex 2, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge or HTC One M9:

  • Genuine leather. It’s premium, it’s exquisite to the touch and it’s nowhere near as pricey as you’d expect. Enough said.
  • Large, sharp 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS LCD display with slim surrounding bezels. Okay, so the G4 ain’t the heavyweight screen-to-body ratio champ, at 72.5 percent. But it’s more compact than the S6 and M9 by a landslide.
  • Stellar battery life. Roughly 14 hours in “consistent” use, according to Engadget, compared to 12 tops for the GS6 “twins.”

LG-G4-battery

  • 16 MP rear camera with laser autofocus and optical image stabilization, plus 8 MP selfie shooter. Sometimes, the numbers do all the talking. Not as far as the One M9 is concerned, of course, as the 20 megapixel “beast” there is a bitter disappointment.
  • Bang for buck. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor is no S810 or Exynos 7420. But wait until you hear how much this thing costs. Why would anyone be willing to pay close to $900 on gimmicky curves is beyond us.
  • MicroSD support and user-removable battery. Aha, so you can tick those boxes and retain first-rate construction, albeit sans metal or fancy glass. You’ve been feeding us a lie, Samsung, and one of these days, your greed may get the best of you.

Convinced yet? No pressure, although you’ll want to purchase the LG G4 before June 30. Otherwise, you won’t qualify for a complimentary 32 GB microSD card, extra battery and charging cradle, offer redeemable here, no matter your seller of choice out of the following:

Amazon

LG G4 white

Standard tariffs with carrier agreements, outright premium with the Now Network, no black leather flavor for Verizon. Also, no AT&T for some reason. Tempting, but let’s see what else is there around.

Best Buy

LG G4 camera

Tricky choice, even if it’s made pretty easy if you’re in the market for a no-contract leathery model. Nicely done, Sprint, and above all, kudos to Best Buy for further incentivizing prospective G4 owners with gratis $100 gift cards. Yes, the coupons can be redeemed alongside LG’s memory card + backup battery + charging cradle package.

Essentially therefore, if you commit to Verizon or Sprint for 24 months, you get the G4 for free. A-mazing!

Verizon

  • Starting at $22.91 with Edge, $200 with pacts, $550 full price for genuine leather black, metallic gray or ceramic white versions

lg-g4-verizon

Wait, so $550 can really buy the handsomest smartphone in the world today? With over $100 worth of accessories bundled in? Pinch us, this must be a dream.

AT&T

Um, no! Just… no! No, thanks, hell, no, nope, niet, non, take your pick, Ma Bell. And maybe reconsider your entire pricing structure. Not to mention the G4 is still listed on pre-orders, with deliveries requiring 3 to 5 days. On the bright side, the G Pad F 8.0 comes bundled with its little brother for no extra charge when bought on-contract. Too little, too late!

Sprint

  • $0 down and $18 and up monthly payments with leases; $0 down and $25 a month with Easy Pay; $200 and $600 on and off-contract respectively in metallic gray or genuine leather black

LG G4 Sprint

Pretty good, Sprint, even if you want a little more moolah than Big Red sans lengthy pledges and only sell the two G4 variations. The two best-looking, for what it’s worth.

T-Mobile

  • $24.99 a month for two years or $599.76 full retail in metallic gray or brown leather with free 128 GB microSD card (limited-time offer)

LG G4 brown

We know what you’re thinking. LG hit it out of the park aesthetically with the black leather G4, but dropped the ball on the brown leather. That one still feels great in the hand, but looks, how should we put this kindly, somewhat pukey. You know, vomity, like back in R&D, someone had a little too much to drink, threw up on a black G4 prototype and decided to just go with the flow, no pun intended.

Bottom line, if we were T-Mo, we wouldn’t be so proud of this color exclusive. On the plus side, the 128 gig memory card is huge and typically costly. Talk about first world problems, huh? Wait, we got the solution to this conundrum – settle for the metallic gray. It’s not as pretty as the black leather, but it’ll do.

US Cellular

  • $29.50 a month, $100 with contracts and $490 prepaid in metallic gray or shiny gold; $30.50, $100 and $510 respectively in black leather

LG G4 US Cellular

Well, I’ll be damned! The nation’s fifth largest and most overlooked operator just went and outshined all of the “big four.” Granted, USC doesn’t throw in an extra microSD card, and both the on and off-contract tags include $100 mail-in rebates.

But at the end of the day, this is by far the cheapest you can find the LG G4 across the States. Oh, yeah, and the golden version isn’t available anywhere else. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, you got pwned!

Best affordable Android smartphones already on Lollipop

According to official Android distribution numbers harvested by Google during the week leading to May 4, a measly 9.7 percent of all devices with the world’s most popular mobile OS inside run 5.0 or 5.1 Lollipop.

Android Lollipop

That’s certainly disappointing, given 5.0 source code was freely disseminated back in early November 2014 and Android M’s “final” release is a few months away, tops. Ecosystem fragmentation clearly remains an issue, nay scourge in dire need of a universal cure.

But alas, there’s no such thing. The best we can do to fight the widespread epidemic is probably not commit to a handheld or tablet for over a year, and replace them as soon as they show their first signs of wear, tear and imminent software oblivion.

Lollipop

Either that, or resign ourselves to the lag of fresh OS flavor distribution. Not in a million years? We didn’t think so, which is why we’ve compiled a list of ten low-cost phones flaunting Lollipop goodies today. All available under $300 off-contract stateside, these can be replaced with M-powered newcomers in the fall or winter sans remorse:

10. Samsung Galaxy S4 – $290

Well, hello there, old friend! Good to see you looking so young past your conventional prime, despite launching when Jelly Bean was still a thing. We wouldn’t hold our breath for a forthcoming 5.1 update, but 5.0 will do, as long as memory bleeds are a thing of the past.

galaxy-s4-lollipop

Remember, the GS4 is a couple of generations behind the times, so it can’t afford to waste a single MB of RAM. It’s “only” got 2 gigs in total, plus a decrepit octa-core 32-bit Exynos 5410 chip in tow.

9. Samsung Galaxy Alpha – $284 AT&T unlocked

Something old, something new, something metallic, something… dazzling white. Pre-installed with 4.4 KitKat, but upgradeable to 5.0.2 Lollipop worldwide. Endowed with a generous 32 GB of native storage space, though unfortunately short of microSD external expansion possibilities.

samsung_galaxy_alpha_lollipop

Still a great bargain, offering fingerprint recognition support, octa-core Exynos 5430 power, 12 MP photography skill and a wasp 6.7 mm waist.

8. Sony Xperia Z Ultra – $280 factory unlocked

As is the case with most gizmos on our list today, the Z Ultra has recently begun its global Lollipop spread, so certain territories may need to give it some time. A few weeks, worst case scenario. LTE-enabled on US GSM networks, the 6.4 incher was a big deal, literally and figuratively, when it debuted on store shelves.

Xperia Z Ultra

Almost two years ago, that is, so part of the phablet’s mojo dwindled. Not the Snapdragon 800 muscle, IP58 waterproof robustness, 6.5 mm delicacy or stylus, pen and pencil functionality. Bottom line, it’s a must-buy for folks who believe size matters.

7. Sony Xperia C3 – $255

It really would have been outrageous if Sony squarely brought Lollipops to Xperia Z family members, considering the C3 is one of the most feature-packed phablets in its price range. 5.5-inch 720p screen, 8 MP rear cam, 5 MP selfie shooter, quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC, 1 GB RAM, microSD card slot.

Xperia C3

What more could you want at a little over a third of Galaxy S6’s no-contract costs?

6. Sony Xperia T2 Ultra – $235

To answer our own question, 13 megapixel camera dexterity is certainly better than 8 MP, and many will also favor T2 Ultra’s gigantic 6-inch IPS LCD panel over C3’s “minuscule” footprint. Of course, this is no selfie champ, with a humble 1.1 MP snapper slapped on its face, and the odds of scoring a 5.1 promotion, let alone 6.0 (5.2?) Marshmallow seem microscopic.

Xperia T2 Ultra Lollipop

5. LG G2 – starting at $208

A fellow Galaxy S4 classic, LG G4 and G3’s ancestor is rapidly closing in on its demise, so don’t be surprised if the handful of lingering Amazon listings begin to vanish before long. The rear physical button pioneer, this ultra-compact 5.2 incher that’s nearly 76 percent screen is at the end of the software support road, so in a way, it’s the perfect transitional device while you wait for “Macadamia Nut Cookie” treats.

LG G2 Lollipop

4. Asus ZenFone 2 – $199 with 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage; $299 in 4/64 gig configuration

First, a piece of advice. If you can afford to choose, go with the upper-tier version. It’s totally worth it, sailing through multiple graphics demanding games at once like no other Android soldier before it. Besides, 300 bucks is a ridiculously low tag for what’s ultimately a high-end product.

Asus ZenFone 2

Full, not Quad HD, with frugal Intel Atom inside, a 13, not 16 or 20 MP camera, but the best multitasker the mobile landscape has to offer at the moment. And yes, guaranteed to jump on the M bandwagon soon after merely seeing the light of day last month powered by Lollipop.

3. Motorola Moto G (2nd generation) – $179.99

Budget mobile tech consumers, things can’t get much better than this. Stock, up-to-date software, the solid promise of additional support, wide American carrier compatibility (no 4G LTE, though), spacious and sharp 5-inch HD display, punchy quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU, 1 GB RAM, microSD capabilities, 2,070 mAh battery juice.

Moto G 2014 Lollipop

Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, buy the 2014 G, get one for your parents, GF and best friend. It’s so cheap yet so awesome that you won’t spend much, but still look like a hero.

2. Motorola Moto E (2nd generation) – $143

Willing to trade screen real estate and great pixel count for “universal” LTE connectivity? Meet the 2015 4.5-inch 960 x 540 E. Already upgradeable to Android 5.1, this is no doubt on its sure way to battery efficiency-enhancing M.

Moto E 2015

Not that it needs radical autonomy enhancements, what with its more than respectable 2,390 mAh cell. Granted, the cameras are pretty crappy (5 and 0.3 MP), but on the bright side, the S410 processor is 64-bit Lollipop-ready, contributing to superior speed and system stability.

1. Motorola Moto G (original) – $139.50

Bet you forgot all about the non-expandable 8 GB storage-packing 4.5 incher released in late 2013. We don’t blame you, and while it’s not inexpensive enough to return under the limelight… yet, it definitely has more discounts in the pipeline.

Moto G

Then, at, say, $120, maybe $100, you’ll surely move past the 5 MP cam, 2,070 mAh battery and outdated design inconveniences. Remember, 720p display resolution, Snapdragon 400 heat and AT&T and T-Mobile 3G access.

Best Android camera phones available today. Bonus: three future contenders

Quick, can you remember the last time you used a standalone digital camera? It was back when you were still listening to ”new” Rolling Stones hit singles on your dedicated MP3 players, right? Boy, have smartphones changed the game and sent a bunch of once crowd-pleasing gadgets to the pits of oblivion.

Android photography

Multimedia performers, skilled point-and-shoots, personal assistants, self-portrait producers, these are only some of the tricky roles Androids undertake day in and day out without flinching. Forget “convertible” tablets and laptops, our routine handhelds are the real 2-in-1, 3-in-1, 4-in-1, all-in-one MVPs.

Of course, while nearly all of today’s smartphones are versatile enough to transform into modern Walkmans, complex cameras and miniature PCs at will, only certain models can fulfil every task flawlessly.

Android camera

And if you don’t need a cutting-edge multi-purpose device, but rather the perfect machine for a specific imaging function, you may want to revisit our selfie specialist roundup or stay tuned for the ultimate list of camera phone pros.

That’s right, it’s time to put the selfie fad behind you, and concentrate on the best rear-facing cam-equipped Android contraptions available today, as well as a few imminent photography savants:

Samsung Galaxy S6 – $657 factory unlocked; $200 with Sprint, AT&T or Verizon pacts

It’s difficult to find something the GS6 (and its “edgy” sibling) aren’t great at. Cam performance is no exception, with 16 megapixels, optical image stabilization, autofocus, LED flash, face detection, auto HDR and panorama features covering all key areas a shutterbug might need when not in possession of a DSLR.

Galaxy-S6-Camera

Granted, the actual lens remains tiny compared to bulky digital single-lens reflex cameras, whereas the f/1.9 aperture system is no longer the cream of the crop after LG G4’s introduction. Yet at the end of the day, this powerhouse will produce amazing pics in whatever conditions… all things considered.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – $540 unlocked; starting at $230 with Verizon contracts

At first glance, Note 4 and S6’s main snappers are virtually identical. The same 16 MP count, OIS across the board, LED flash and so on and so forth. But if you look close enough, you’ll find Sammy’s newest top-shelf phablet boasts narrower f/2.2 aperture, resulting in slightly less low-light muscle.

Galaxy Note 4 camera

Needless to point out the on-contract GNote 4 is also pricier while packing an inferior processor that could well influence shutter speed.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom – $411 unlocked

This weird hybrid is more digital camera than phone, and it’s nowhere near as widely available stateside as the mainstream new members of the S and Note families. But hey, it can make and receive voice calls, and when it comes to photography skill, it’s Android’s best shot at keeping Microsoft’s PureView technology at arm’s length.

Galaxy K Zoom

Hands down the 10x optical zoom is what makes this chunky monkey a shutterbug’s wet dream, alongside 20 hefty megapixels, 24 – 240 mm focal length, Xenon flash and a CMOS sensor.

Sony Xperia Z3 – starting at $465 international SIM-free

Though it also rocks 20.7 remarkable MPs, the Z3 is hardly an ideal DSLR replacement, since it lacks the sharp close-up miracles of optical zoom. Not to mention optical image stabilization.

Xperia Z3 camera

On the bright side, the CMOS 1/2.3″ sensor is a standout performer, and you get LED flash, autofocus , Burst Mode, HDR, a decent digital zoom and image stabilization system, plus 4K video recording at 30 fps in the 5.2 incher’s bag of tricks.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact – $380 unlocked

Xperia Z3 Compact

Smaller but not humbler than Sony’s most recent full-sized global flagship, this diminutive beast also unleashes the fury of a 20 megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, autofocus and 2,160p vid shooting at 30 fps. Including underwater.

LG G3 – $353 factory unlocked; $0.01 on-contract at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint

Let’s not beat it around the bush. 13 MP is low when pitted against the 16 and 20 megapixel giants listed above. F2.4 aperture certainly doesn’t help G3’s cause, letting less light in and thus harming both overall night-time photo performance and focal quality.

LG-G3-Camera

Thankfully (for LG), the perennial Korean underdogs were wise enough to adopt a proficient OIS solution, as well as offer dual-LED flash and something called laser autofocus to improve just what the narrow aperture hindered. All in all, for a market veteran, the G3 holds its own decently, keeping up with the times.

Google/Motorola Nexus 6 – $630 unlocked; $180 with AT&T contracts, $200 for Sprint

Yes, it’s expensive, somewhat precarious to handle with one hand and no, it doesn’t break any sensor records, at a humdrum 13 megapixels. But there’s OIS class to be had, f/2.0 aperture, autofocus, face detection, HDR, panorama functions and 30 fps 4K video recording.

Nexus 6 camera

Besides, the always up-to-date, stock software guarantees nothing will get between you and capturing that mesmerizing sunset the way God intended man to admire it – no bells and whistles, little to no post-processing correction.

What’s on the horizon

LG G4

Moar megapixels (16, to be specific), record-setting aperture size (f/1.8), “truer colors”, improved white balance, beefed-up optical image stabilization, ultra-sharp UHD video capture, manual settings for fine-tuning everything from shutter speed to ISO sensitivity and exposure compensation.

LG G4 camera

Frankly, I’ve no idea what half of those things do or mean. What I’m pretty sure of nevertheless is the leather-backed soon-to-be G4 drastically perks up its predecessor’s already impressive camera performance, going up against Nokia’s PureView virtuosos with great aplomb. Let’s just hope LG finds the pricing sweet spot eventually.

Asus Zenfone Zoom

Unveiled back at CES in January, this direct Samsung Galaxy K Zoom opponent is nowhere to be found on store shelves stateside or around the globe. Even worse, we doubt it’ll ever be picked up by a major American carrier.

Asus Zenfone Zoom

The best we can hope for therefore is a reasonable price tag outright and an adequate distribution effort. What makes this so desirable? Simple – 3x optical zoom, dual-LED, dual-tone flash, OIS and laser autofocus. Unfortunately, the megapixel count is mediocre at best. Yes, we’re afraid you can’t get rid of the unlucky 13 here either.

Sony Xperia Z4

Looking familiar as ever, the latest “Sony flagship nobody asked for” pulls off the “amazing feat” of once again snubbing optical image stabilization. No words on an LED or aperture upgrade yet, but ultimately, even if nothing’s changed, this 20.7 MP shooter remains a classic.

Xperia Z4

Do keep in mind that, while identical on the outside, the Z4 stands out from the Z3 under the hood with a state-of-the-art octa-core Snapdragon 810 chip. That perhaps doesn’t directly boost photography excellence, but it definitely aids with the phone’s general wow factor.

LG G4 vs LG G3 vs LG G Flex 2 – Specs comparison

Quick show of hands, who here is disappointed by the knife LG just brought to the gunfight against Samsung’s “explosive” Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge? That many, huh? Well, we can’t blame you, as our gloomy recent G4 predictions essentially all panned out.

LG G4 vs LG G3

It’s like LG, HTC and Sony resigned themselves to eternal underdog status, and they’re not even trying to stay in the race for gold anymore. But maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. It’s pretty obvious the G4 has nothing on the GS6 dyad, yet if it at least improves on last year’s phenomenal G3 and this year’s remarkable G Flex 2, it’s worth a bit of praise.

Evolution is good after all, no matter how marginal. So, is the G4 better than its predecessor and curvier “cousin”? Let’s dig in:

G4 vs G3 vs G Flex 2 – pricing and availability comparison

This wild rumor from last week called for a G4 tag exceeding the base S6 valuation and, until now, LG hasn’t come out to confirm or disprove it. Which could be interpreted as validation of its own. Yes, ladies and gents, the genuine leather version will most likely cost a whopping $800+ outright stateside in late May.

LG G4

Meanwhile, metallic gray, ceramic white and shiny gold models (read plastic-made variations) should be able to considerably lower the ask. $100 is the minimum gap, $150 seems like a possibility too, whereas $200 is a bit of a stretch. Bottom line, the no-contract G4 shall start at $650, give or take. With carrier agreements, we’d expect standard fares of $200 and $300 respectively.

It’s no shock ergo that both the G Flex 2 and G3 hold the affordability advantage, although you may find the two surprisingly inexpensive compared to the new Snapdragon 808 flagship. The former goes for $600 unlocked in red and silver and $690 in black via Amazon, as well as $100 with Sprint pacts in “platinum silver” and “volcano red.”

LG G Flex 2

The G3? It’s a bargain, a steal, and it’s this close to rivaling Moto G-grade budget heights. Silk white factory unlocked variants are $360 a pop, 9 bucks extra will buy you a G3 in metallic black, and the SIM-free gold config is $378. No charge needed if tying up to a 24-month contract ain’t a problem, regardless of your preferred network between Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.

Design and build quality face-off

Despite a series of incremental performance upgrades, G4’s main claim to fame is without a doubt the reformed visual approach. You have your optional leather rear cover, which only one other OEM offers, base scratch-resistant “ceramic” coating, 3D back patterns, slightly arched chassis and an overall boxier, sharper vibe than G3’s.

LG-G4

A winning combination? We’ll see, but as elegant as LG deems natural leather, it’s no match for Samsung’s uber-premium glass-and-metal blend in terms of robustness and style.

Set side by side with its ancestor, G4’s “personality” clearly stands out. As for the G Flex 2, we’re afraid the “fully” curved phone has a big ace up its sleeve: self-healing rear protection.

LG G3

Dimension-wise, the three are extremely similar, sporting 5.5-inch displays with fairly narrow bezels. Still, the G4 is a couple of mm taller than the G3, 1.5 mm wider and 0.9 mm thicker. It’s also 6 grams heavier. Sounds like a step back to us.

Display and cameras

Wondering what a Quantum IPS screen is? According to LG, it’s 25 percent brighter, delivers 50 percent greater contrast and 20 percent superior color reproduction. We call BS. There’s no way you’ll be able to tell G4’s Quad HD panel apart from G3’s Quad HD display. Sure, pitted against G Flex 2’s 1,080p glass, you’ll notice better contrast and color reproduction and whatever. But that’s probably it.

LG G4 display

Moving on, we have two vastly improved photography champs that make G3 and G Flex 2’s 13/2.1 MP cam duos look ridiculous. Namely, a highly gifted 16 megapixel shooter on the fresh spearhead’s posterior, endowed with phase detection, laser autofocus, an enhanced optical image stabilization system, dual-LED flash and ultra-wide F1.8 aperture for cutting-edge low-light performance.

Plus, an “industry-leading” 8 MP front cam for “selfies good enough to frame.”

Processors, RAM and battery life

Here’s where things get… sensitive. Qualcomm says Snapdragon 810’s heavily publicized overheating woes did not lead to LG’s S808 adoption for the G4. In fact, the chip maker claims the call was made months ago.

LG G4 benchmark

Whenever it happened, we’d much more like to know why. As in, why in the world did LG settle for a processor that’s clearly not the best? It’s decently close, with six cores and 64-bit capabilities, but according to benchmarks run by GSM Arena, it’s behind the 810, Exynos 7420 and even S801 (!!!) inside Sony’s Xperia Z3 in certain synthetic speed tests.

Maybe it’s record-setting autonomy the G4 is after? Maybe, although LG modestly expects the “new” 3,000 mAh battery to last 20 percent longer than the “old” 3,000 mAh cell. Speaking of, the battery remains user-removable, unlike the one under G Flex 2’s hood.

LG G4 camera

A RAM war is basically futile, given the G4, G3 and G Flex 2 all pack 3 gigs of the good stuff. On the plus side (or maybe not), you no longer get a downgraded 2 GB alternative.

Software, storage and others

Hello there, Android 5.1 Lollipop! It’s good to check you out in the flesh in non-stock attire before you can replace the 5.0 builds on the G3 and G Flex 2. The “human-centric” proprietary UX 4.0 is at the moment exclusive to the G4 too, bringing neat add-ons to the table such as Gesture Interval Shot, Quick Shot, Manual Mode, Quick Help and a revised Smart Notice notification system.

lg-ux-4-0

At the end of the day, the list of software modernizations isn’t impressive, and they’re all headed to older LG flagships anyway. But if you want them now (read next month), the G4 is the only way to go.

With 32 GB on-board space and external microSD support up to an additional 128 GB, the G4 matches its kins and nothing more. Then again, storage is a department you can’t tremendously boost right now.

LG G3 wireless charging

Any “other” features you should know about before concluding the G4 isn’t that big of a deal? Optional wireless charging, perhaps, plus Quick Charge 2.0 functions and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. Yawn!