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Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

Best business-friendly and enterprise-ready Android smartphones money can buy

Browsing the web, social media activities, taking the occasional selfie, playing mostly rudimentary but highly addictive games, loading up on YouTube cat videos and catching up on one’s favorite TV shows while away from a larger screen.

Business smartphone

For many of us, those are the essential purposes of a smartphone, and if it can adequately tick all the boxes, it’s a must-buy. Even better if it doesn’t cost a fortune. But then there is this particular category of mobile consumers, with a particular set of needs and requirements, which Android device manufacturers seem to be largely ignoring these days.

Not us, though. We’re here to make sure every specific necessity is fulfilled, so we’ll do our best to dig up your top options for work projects. Enterprise users, listen up:

LG Enact – $0.01 with Verizon contracts, $360 outright

  • The typing crackerjack

LG Enact

It’s beyond sad professional typists have to settle for a two-year-old with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean pre-loaded, no KitKat, let alone Lollipop update hopes, a cringe worthy 4-inch 800 x 480 touchscreen, laggy dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU and crappy 5 MP rear camera.

Not to mention the preposterousness of that no-contract price tag! But until BlackBerry goes for broke with a Google-endorsed, Samsung-co-manufactured slider, we’re afraid the Enact has to do. Oh, well, purely as far as text message and e-mail writing goes, the entry-level handheld is the closest you can get to a powerhouse. So, so depressing!

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – $545 unlocked; $0 with AT&T financing; $200 and up at Verizon

  • The big, bad, ultra-secure, multi-purpose juggernaut

Galaxy Note 4 S Pen

If answering to urgent e-mails as fast as possible is only part of your job description, the Note 4 offers a huge on-screen keyboard, plus a host of extra business tricks. You have your S Pen always handy for note taking, a security-enhancing fingerprint sensor, full Knox compatibility and stellar multitasking prowess.

The non-optional stylus accessory needs no introduction, your unique fingerprint can be used to unlock the phone if PINs don’t feel safe enough, Knox services let you easily switch between personal and work modes and keep everything separate, while the large 5.7-inch display and generous 3 GB RAM ensure seamless running of multiple apps at once. Which you often yearn for when juggling various documents, files and projects.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active – $0 and up with AT&T agreements; $559 unlocked

  • The bulletproof outdoor companion

Galaxy S5 Active

Travel a lot? Involved in construction or other potentially hazardous line of activity? Simply worried you’ll drop your precious, and both your personal and professional lives will spin out of control? Perhaps the S5 Active can’t take a bullet per se, but it’ll definitely survive a few bumps and contacts with hard surfaces, as well as up to 1 meter/30-minute swims.

Too bad Knox doesn’t work on the AT&T exclusive… for some reason, and despite the hefty price, there’s no fingerprint authentication provided either.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact – starting at $380

  • The cheaper, more condensed nature-loving alternative

Xperia Z3 Compact

As tough as the S5 Active looks, it’s also short of portable excellence, which for many is probably a deal breaker. Enter the waterproof but not shock-proof Z3 Compact, endowed with advanced Smart Lock functions after a recent Lollipop update.

This fast and furious munchkin tips the scales at 40 grams less than the GS5 Active, and is far shorter and narrower for easier pocketability, all while handling everything you throw at it with grace, courtesy of a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and 2 GB RAM.

Motorola Droid Turbo – $150 and up on-contract; $650 outright for Verizon

  • The heavyweight battery champion

Droid Turbo

We can’t think of anything more annoying than remembering to take your charger or an external power bank on all your business travels, and always getting interrupted by skimpy cell capacity. Well, the Turbo is made of an entirely different mettle, with a gigantic 3,900 mAh pacemaker under the hood rated at a staggering 48 hours of continuous 3G talk time.

The design is ideal to complement your classic, classy, businessy look, with sharp edges, an overall industrial vibe, robust ballistic outer shells and a splash-resistant chassis. Last but not least, the 5.2 incher can go from 0 to 60 percent juice in half an hour, thanks to Quick Charge 2.0 technology.

Motorola Moto G (2nd generation) – $175 unlocked

  • The ultra-affordable option

Moto G 2nd generation

Not everyone is lucky to have their employer offer them gratis gadgets or start at a six-figure salary allowing them to score the costliest “tools” off the bat. So, provisionally, the 2014 G can get the job done.

It’s not any more secure than other Android soldiers, but on the plus side, runs a silky smooth, modern, near-stock OS iteration. No bloatware means fewer security risks, less chances of random system crashes or reboots, as well as vital data loss.

Blackphone – $629

  • The untraceable, privacy-first phone

blackphone

Listed as “temporarily out of stock” on Amazon, but likely to come back soon (hopefully, before the sequel drops), the extravagantly priced 4.7 incher protects your online anonymity like no other, through VPN.

Then you have a slew of privacy-centric functions for phone calls, emails, texts and even cloud backup, some of which unfortunately expire and require additional payments after a year of undercover use. Paranoid individuals will no doubt find extreme happiness in Blackphone’s arms, although we have to underline Android here is essentially unrecognizable, due to severe customization and “PrivatOS” forking.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – $590 factory unlocked; $200 with Verizon or Sprint pacts

  • The one you may not need, but really want

Samsung Galaxy S6

Today’s mainstream top dog isn’t specifically targeted at enterprise users, with a tiny, non-removable battery and sealed internal storage hands down its biggest flaws. Also, there’s no protection against liquid interaction whatsoever, let alone more advanced ruggedness.

Ergo, the S6 could break, fall apart or shut down on account of low battery in the middle of the most important video conference of your life, or while out on the job. But think about how good it’ll make you look in the eyes of your clients, partners and even superiors.

After all, your image is key for your deal-sealing abilities. Besides, it’s got touch-based fingerprint authentication, the most complex Knox support available and device protection-adding Android 5.1 software in certain territories, with others on the way.

Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge vs Galaxy S5 – What’s new, what’s not

Who knew Samsung was capable of change? Better yet, who knew the Android kings were capable of so much change, so sudden and at a time they’re still on top of the world? Sure, Apple keeps making a lot more money per gadget sold, and strictly from a flagship standpoint, iPhones have no real threat.

Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S6

Meanwhile, Android competition is unquestionably heating up, as rising Chinese stars shine brighter and brighter on the global sky. But all in all, Samsung rules, and everyone else drools. It’s the way things stand, and even if the Galaxy S6 rehashed S5’s design, build and specs, total domination was guaranteed at least another year.

Bottom line, the reinvention effort is more than commendable as it wasn’t necessarily coerced by a financial or identity crisis. If only Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC had employed a similar strategy back when they mattered.

Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge

Enough market outlook and history lessons, though. We’re here to discuss all the ways (good and bad) Sammy altered the GS5 to come up with this stunning S6/S6 Edge duo, and what, if anything, remains the same old, same old.

Price and availability – a striking resemblance

Usually, we’d leave this for last when contrasting two or more devices. But we know you’re dying to hear if you can squeeze an S6 purchase into your spring budgets without ending up in a box on the street.

The answer? Definitely, as long as you’ve been saving up for a few months. In fact, the best news we could bring you is the S6 will start around the same mark on April 10, 2015 as the S5 on April 11, 2014. Namely, $700 outright, compared to $650 a year ago. And $200 with 24-month Verizon, AT&T or Sprint pacts.

Galaxy-S5-Verizon

Obviously, today’s Galaxy S5 is a lot cheaper. $446 or so factory unlocked in black, or $448 in white. Also, a measly buck on Verizon, $79.99 and up through AT&T, and $100 over at Sprint. Still worth it? It depends. If life in plastic is fantastic for you, and you’d much rather have microSD support, a replaceable battery and water protection than Quad HD screen resolution and 64-bit processing power, then sure, why not?

By the by, in case you’re pondering an S6 Edge “investment”, you may want to, well, eat less. The cheapest least expensive dual curved configuration should cost $850 off-contract, and $250 or even $300 with carrier agreements.

Design and build quality – the Beauties and the Beast

Remember when Jimmy Kimmel’s cronies tricked people on the street the “ancient” iPhone 4s was the sizzling hot unreleased iPhone 5? Remove the Samsung logo from the S6, re-do the experiment and watch how easy it is to pass the new Galaxy as an iPhone.

galaxy-s6-galaxy-s5-back

We’re not saying this to accuse Sammy of anything, far from it, it’s just that’s how different the S6 is from everything the Koreans ever made. And it’s not like the S6 resembles an iPhone per se. It simply sends the premium construction vibe previously associated with Cupertino designs. Which is good.

Back to our comparison, robust, shiny aluminum frames and a clean, simple, stylish glass rear replace ugly plastic and an even uglier perforated “polycarbonate” back cover. Then you have S6 Edge’s unique curves, far slimmer profiles (6.8 – 7 mm vs. 8.1), and slightly lighter bodies (132 – 138 grams vs. 145). So much win here!

Specifications – not all change is good

Let’s take the “upgrades” one by one.

The most thought-provoking, curious and, until a couple of months ago, unexpected is hands down Qualcomm’s Exynos stand-in. Sorry, Q, you botched the Snapdragon 810, and there are no do-overs and second chances when collaborating with this Seoul-based champion.

Exynos 7

Now, early benchmarks show Samsung was right going with the Exynos 7420, no matter if S810’s overheating glitches are behind it. The 14 nm chip is both faster and more frugal than the 20 nm silicon… on paper. In real life, things could level out. Not counting the 3 GB RAM (up from 2), that is, which will no doubt ensure buttery smooth multitasking.

Rear camera megapixel count? It’s all the same across the board – 16. But the S6 and S6 Edge add optical image stabilization in the mix, and that may well be a bigger performance boost than, say, four extra, non-OIS MPs.

Galaxy S6 camera

The front snappers are very obviously improved, from 2.1 to 5 megapixels, and so is the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen, from Full to Quad HD. Only the jury is out on whether you’ll be able to tell the difference between 1,920 x 1,080 and 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.

It’s also unclear if battery shrinkage (from 2,800 to 2,600 mAh) will result in a palpable autonomy downgrade. After all, the Exynos 7420 is reportedly great for low power consumption. Finally, there’s no question about it – you’ll miss having the means for external storage expansion, and affording to drop your “precious” in the toilet bowl. The S6 Active can’t come soon enough.

Galaxy S6/S6 Edge vs Galaxy S5 – is anything really the same?

Sure it is. The software, while a bit less cluttered than before, follows the verified winning equation: Android (5.0 Lollipop) + TouchWiz. Besides, even if you’ll perceive clear-cut UI distinctions, odds are Sammy will bring the S5 in line with its successors eventually via an OTA update.

Galaxy S6 Edge Lollipop

Connectivity isn’t vastly revised either, with Bluetooth up from standard 4.0 to 4.1, no Wi-Fi advancements whatsoever, and LTE… probably upgraded in theory, but unlikely to perform considerably better in reality.

As far as sensors and scanners go, there’s no word on any heart rate enhancement, whereas fingerprint recognition is now touch-reliant instead of swipe-based. Can you say useless gimmick uselessly overhauled to seem less useless when in fact no one cares about it or finds it half-beneficial?

Samsung-Galaxy-S5-Waterproof

Why couldn’t you have dropped this and kept the microSD slot? The water-resistant chassis? So close to perfection once again… Yet clearly, up a notch (or ten) compared to last year.

Best water-resistant and waterproof Android smartphones money can buy

For the first time in many years, mobile consumers seem to overwhelmingly approve of a next-gen Samsung flagship. The Galaxy S6 and particularly the S6 Edge are (almost) all they could have been, with metal frames (finally!), robust Gorilla Glass back covers, uber-crisp displays, powerful yet frugal processors, highly competent OIS cameras and smoother than ever software.

Android water

Still, haters gonna hate. Fueling the muffled criticism, Sammy removed external storage support, shrunk down battery capacity and, above all, “forgot” water protection. There’s no word on an “Active” variant on the horizon either, at least not yet, so if toilet bowl slips are your worst fear, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Luckily, respectable, “mainstream” liquid-proof Androids can be easily found on Amazon these days. Thanks chiefly to Sony, but also Samsung, they’re not as restrictive, rare and, well, crappy as a few years back.

water splash with bubbles isolated on white

In fact, believe it or not, we had trouble narrowing down our selections for today’s list. And because the final drafts are too different, we’ll give them to you in no particular order. Here are the best water-resistant Android smartphones money can buy in March 2015:

Sony Xperia Z3 – $534 unlocked international; $70 and up on Verizon

If your gadgets keep collapsing after accidental dives into pools and, ahem, restroom commodities, who you gonna call? The veteran water-busters from Sony, clearly. The Japanese have been dishing out semi-rugged mobile products in their homeland for many years, only recently getting the idea to transport some of the magic across the borders. And it worked.

Sony Xperia Z3

Now, a slew of Western Xperias offer various degrees of shelter, and cover different price ranges and performance classes. Probably the most advanced, in every aspect, is this 5.2-inch bad boy, what with its Full HD screen resolution, quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip, 3 GB RAM, 20.7 MP rear camera and IP68 certification.

IP68, for those of you not fluent in Ingress Protection code, essentially means the Xperia Z3 is “dust tight” (6), and all guarded against “continuous immersion” in water beyond 1 meter and 30 minutes (8).

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact – starting at $420 unlocked

As the name suggests, the only difference between this and the “full-sized” Z3 is the footprint. Well, that, and display clarity, RAM count, and battery capacity. But what you should take into account first and foremost is the 4.6-inch 720p Z3 Compact also carries an IP68 stamp of approval. Meaning it too can theoretically lie in a body of water for hours and hours without cracking.

Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z2 – $403 free of contractual obligations

Another Sony Xperia? What can we tell you, they’re the best of the best at this. And incredibly enough, the one year-old Z2 doesn’t show signs of aging. The familiar-looking 5.2 incher (the Z3 is a near-identical copy on the outside) is IP58 licensed.

Xperia Z2

That may sound vastly inferior to the IP68 credentials, but it’s actually the same thing as far as liquid contact is concerned. Remember, the 8 designates resistance under 1 m and above 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the 5 refers to dust “collision”, and entails partial protection. In other words, you’ll want to keep the Z2 out of harm’s way when traveling the Sahara Desert by foot.

The good news is, with the Z4 close by, you can probably expect massive Z2 discounts. And at, say, $300, the 1,080p panel, quad-core S801 CPU, 3 GB RAM and 20.7 MP camera will get really hard to turn down.

Samsung Galaxy S5, S5 Active and Sport

Samsung-Galaxy-S5

How could Samsung abandon rugged and semi-rugged functions after so much effort put in the GS5 family? It boggles the mind, but maybe it’s not over yet. For the time being, your choice of a waterproof top-tier Galaxy is between the conventionally designed S5, the slightly quirkier Sport and uber-muscular Active.

One very interesting tidbit is all three are IP67 authorized to deal with dirt no matter what and H2O in small doses. Specifically, up to 1 meter and half an hour. In addition to that however, the Sport rocks “Side Grip enhancements” for a better, stronger hold, and the Active survives transport and thermal shock, as well as solar radiation and vibration with ease.

galaxy-s5-active

Hardware-wise, they’re practically identical, featuring S801 chips, 2 GB RAM, 2,800 mAh batteries and 5.1-inch Full HD screens.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active – $420 factory unlocked

Let’s be sincere, the only reason this aging fellow may tickle your fancy over the S5 or S5 Active is the lower price. The thing is, it’s not low enough. IP67 certified and nothing else, the 5 incher carries a quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor under the hood, alongside 2 gigs of RAM and a 2,600 mAh juicer. Yawn!

galaxy-s-4-active

Kyocera Brigadier – $100 with two-year Verizon contracts; $450 outright

A living legend and instant classic, the Brigadier shined in our best rugged handheld roundup back October, holding its own now despite the advanced age. With an almost extraterrestrial design language, both IP68 and MIL-STD-810G creds and respectable mid-end specs, this is so much more than a stellar waterproof smartphone.

Kyocera-Brigadier

It’s a powerhouse, it’s a fashion statement, and it’s a trend defier, looking like nothing else you’ve ever seen. In numbers, it’s 13 mm thick, tips the scales at a whopping 187 grams, measures 4.5 inches in diagonal, and features a 1,280 x 720 display pixel count, quad-core 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 400 SoC, 2 GB RAM and 8 MP camera.

Kyocera Hydro Life – $99 for T-Mobile with no contract

Unusually cheap and more “classically” handsome than the Brigadier, the Hydro Life is drop-proof, shock-proof and waterproof up to 3 feet, courtesy of IP57 and MIL-STD-810G authorizations. Obviously, it’s no Galaxy S6 “killer”, but at $100 it delivers impressive value for money.

kyocera-hydro-life

The 4.5-inch IPS LCD screen is tolerable, at 960 x 540 pixels, the pre-loaded 4.3 Jelly Bean software… not that old, and the 1.5 GB RAM ideal for smooth multitasking.

HTC Desire Eye – $419 factory unlocked

Hold on, since when does HTC produce water-resistant gear? Since a few months ago, apparently, though you should probably not expect the world from the Desire Eye. The rookie stab here tends to miss the mark more often than not, and we’d call this 5.2 incher anything but robust-looking.

HTC Desire Eye

At the end of the day, it vows to withstand short immersions up to 1 meter deep, and it’s also KitKat-powered, Snapdragon 801-packing and 1,080p LCD-sporting. Not the worst deal you can make at 420 bucks.

Best rugged Android smartphones money can buy – Updated for October 2014

Alright, manly men, hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, war seekers, iPhone haters and, last but not least, Android lovers. We’re back with a new set of rugged gear recommendations. We’ve just tackled the best, most durable tablets around, so this time, we’ll shine the spotlight on some of the toughest smartphones in the world.

Bruce Willis phone

Better put, we’ll shine it back, as, believe it or not, a lot has changed in the world of John McClane-friendly Android handhelds these past months. Specifically, four brand new contenders want to bid for the heavyweight title in robustness, pushing out of our top seven four aging heroes.

Farewell, Kyocera Torque, our silver medalist from back March, bye-bye, Hydro XTRM, CAT B15 and Runbo X5. We wish we got to know you better. But there’s no time for nostalgia. Without further ado, we’ll sink our teeth in the rookie quartet, then evaluating the wow factor and vigor of our veteran trio.

Army phone

For the record, we haven’t ordered the list this time around, as we didn’t feel comfortable directly pitting two-year-olds against gadgets literally just launched. Here’s the magnificent seven ergo, in no particular order:

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active – $150 with AT&T contracts, $660 outright

Okay, so the S5 Active isn’t exactly the sturdiest of the bunch. As Pocket Now put it in their review, it’s not “everything-proof”. But it is really your only flagship rugged option. Flagship through and through, that is, with not just a muscular exterior.

There’s brawn under the hood too, courtesy of a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and 2 GB RAM, and the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display is extremely sharp, at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, aka Full HD resolution.

Galaxy S5 Active

Available exclusively on AT&T, the GS5 Active is perfect for Android power users who spend a fair amount of time outside, but don’t intend on starting a war anytime soon. Water resistant up to 1 meter and 30 minutes, the camo green or titanium gray-coated device is also theoretically protected against vibration, solar radiation, dirt, humidity or thermal shock.

Kyocera Brigadier – $100 with Verizon pacts, $400 outright

Considerably cheaper than the S5 Active, both on and off-contract, the Brigadier is the exact opposite of Samsung’s top-shelf rugged effort in almost every way. It’s nowhere near as zippy, the spec sheet on the whole is mediocre, but it’s virtually indestructible.

Kyocera Brigadier

And it definitely looks the part, tipping the scales at 187 grams and measuring 13.2 mm thick. That’s 17 grams and over 4 mm more than the S5 Active, even though this is a 4.5 incher.

But did we mention exactly how unbreakable the Brigadier is? Phandroid’s abuse compilation video, embedded below, speaks volumes to that. Spoiler alert: these torturing guys dunk the chunky phone in various liquid-containing objects, toilet bowl included, drop it… repeatedly, throw rocks on it, let a dog lick it (?!), knife it and try to blend it, and the 4.5 incher escapes without a single scratch.

But, but, but how does one kill it in a rise-of-the-machines scenario?

CAT S50 – $600 factory unlocked

Standard drop test? You’ll have to do better than that to harm a single hair on CAT S50’s head, as this Terminator candidate can bounce back after hard contacts with concrete from heights of up to 1.8 meters.

Almost exactly as fat as the Brigadier, and 2 grams lighter, the S50 does offer a bit of extra screen real estate. 4.7 inches in total, with 720p resolution. Also, a decent quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and, get this, 2 GB RAM.

CAT S50

On the not so bright side of things, the rubberized corner-sporting device is bizarrely rated on-par with the S5 Active for water and dust resistance. IP67 certification is clearly not enough to justify the extravagant price tag, so it’s perhaps wiser to hold off for discounts. They’re definitely coming.

Kyocera Torque XT – $50 with Sprint service agreements

Well, well, well, what do we have here? A slightly tweaked version of the OG Kyocera Torque, available, like its predecessor, squarely on Sprint. Just as robust and unflinching in the face of danger as the original, the Torque XT offers 20 GB internal storage space (say what?), and improved battery life.

Also, pre-installed Android 4.4 KitKat software goodies. And sure, it’s disappointing to see it pack dual-core processing power and tout a sub-par 4-inch WVGA panel, but that’s perhaps for the best.

kyocera-torque-xt

If Kyocera were to increase screen resolution and size, they’d need to adapt with a different design and possibly mess the perfect indestructibility of the MIL-STD-810G-compliant Torque. There’s also the question of unrivaled pricing.

And if you want to save an extra buck or two, the OG Torque can be had at a penny with contracts, and $107 outright.

Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro – $1 with AT&T pacts; $200 unlocked

The first of our three veterans still standing is a classic. It almost needs no introduction, and right now it’s mighty affordable. For crying out loud, it’s dropped a whopping $250 outright in six months. Remember, the Rugby Pro continues to run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (damn it, Sammy), and handle anything you throw at it, from dust to rain to solar radiation to thermal shock.

Galaxy Rugby Pro

NEC Terrain – $85 unlocked

This retro Alpha male wasn’t treated with the same discounts as the Rugby Pro, chiefly because it was dirt-cheap right off the bat. And it’s dirt-cheap these days too, plus it’s the only rugged smartphone aimed at elders.

NEC Terrain

Or just text messaging nuts who can’t wrap their heads around touchscreens and on-screen keyboards. IP67 certified for short, shallow water immersions, the Terrain of course adheres to military standards, and is thus usable on any sort of terrain, wink, wink.

Casio G’Zone Commando 4G LTE – $300, no contracts needed

The key selling point of Verizon’s latest G’Zone Commando? It’s in the name of the gizmo. 4G LTE connectivity, which is a pretty big deal at $300. Of course, the technically discontinued 4 incher cuts a number of corners in various areas, such as screen resolution (800 x 480), processing power (dual-core 1.5 GHz), or battery capacity (1,800 mAh).

Casio GZone Commando 4G LTE

Not camera performance, though, as an 8 megapixel sensor is fairly neat for this price range, and certainly not rugged features. You have water resistance, a shock and drop shield, incredible opposition to extreme temperatures, the whole nine yards.

That’s a wrap, gentlemen and… gentlemen, and now it’s time to take your pick. Will you go for affordability, power and good looks or maybe a retro feel in your hands? Let us know in the comments section below, and feel free to add any other rugged contenders we may have forgotten to mention. Let’s see some teamwork, mmkay?

Back to school shopping guide: best Android smartphones for students

Things just got real. The start of the new school year is less than a week away, so it’s high time you stopped daydreaming about the good old early days of summer. But September 4 doesn’t have to be a time of grief and sorrow.

smartphone students

Not entirely. You might as well embrace the beginning of the rest of your life, and make the most of it. And what better way than loading up on sizzling hot Android gear to ensure you’ll stand out from the crowd once that first bell rings?

Already stacked on tablets, convertibles, laptops and/or multi-purpose Android PCs? Then let’s get you a pocket-sized computer too, and kick the school year into gear in style. We’ve rounded up the best options for every budget, unlocked, on prepaid plans and with standard contracts, and without further ado, here they are in no particular order:

Motorola Moto E

We realize it’s cool to hate on your parents, and them getting you cheap, sub-par mobile equipment for back to school season is always a great pretext to let the rage flow. But would you cut them some slack? They probably work hard for every penny they earn, and besides gadgetry, they have to take care of feeding, clothing you and shipping you off on all those spring break vacations.

Moto E

Besides, say what you will about the Moto E, but Motorola’s budget champion is anything but sub-par. In fact, it offers one of the best bang for buck values around, it’s petite, decently punchy and up to date software-wise, plus the wet dream of any geeky stock Android aficionado. No reason to hide, we know you’re out there.

Motorola Moto G

Be honest, you don’t really need all the “premium” features high-end Androids accommodate. But maybe Moto E’s low-res display, dual-core chip and scanty 4 GB of internal storage space don’t entirely fulfil your needs either.

MOTO_G_4G

Enter the Moto G, the perfect low-cost, mid-range smartphone, with a perfectly sized, one-hand-friendly 4.5-inch 720p screen, beefy quad-core processor, 1 GB RAM, 8 gigs and up of on-board storage, plus microSD support and 4G LTE connectivity in a model available at a sensible $220. No strings attached and free of any and all contractual obligations.

HTC One M8

But mom, all the cool kids own these metal beauties called iPhones, and I want to show them off by getting an even more gorgeous, larger, zippier all-aluminum slab. Cheaper too. The answer to your iPhone slaying dilemmas is the One M8, and if your parents can afford it, don’t think about it, just buy, buy, buy.

HTC One M8

And the greatest advantage of the metallic design isn’t the visual effect and the envy it’ll breed in the schoolyard (although that’s nice too), but the robustness and durability of the chassis. Plus, the M8 is a selfie beast, courtesy of a 5 MP front-facing camera, and a battery champion.

LG G3

Where to even begin? The LG G3 is such a stunning little portable PC that it would honestly be easier to list the reasons it’s not the top choice for students. But let’s focus on the good and try to keep it short. First, the design. No metal, no deal? Think again, because the G3 ain’t a phone, it’s a fashion statement.

LG G3 Verizon

And then you have the state-of-the-art 5.5-inch Quad HD display, the explosive quad-core 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU, massive 3,000 mAh battery, 3 GB RAM and beautiful 13 megapixel rear camera. This, my friends, is the textbook definition of a powerhouse, and at least until the Galaxy Note 4 drops, it’s the all-around best Android handheld. Besides, it’s really not that pricey either.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active

So you want something a little more outdoorsy and capable of keeping up with the challenges of being young, always on the move, always ready for everything. But conventionally ruggedized devices feel bulky, look fugly and lack that certain je ne sais quoi in the performance department.

galaxy-s5-active

All hail Samsung then, which have finally brought rugged into the mainstream. Sure, the S5 Active can’t exactly take a bullet for you, but it can swim, it dismisses dust contact, rain, vibration, solar radiation and thermal shock like it’s nothing.

And the beauty of it is the 5.1 incher measures a measly 8.9 mm in thickness, tips the scales at 170 grams and packs (almost) everything that makes the standard GS5 so great, quad-core S801 SoC, 16 MP camera and heart rate monitor included.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Okay, guys, play is over, it’s time to look at an option good for the classroom too. The thing is the Note 3 is really the best of both worlds, supporting your creative and learning-thirsty side with S Pen support and offering bleeding edge specifications, from an outstanding 5.7-inch Super AMOLED Full HD screen to 3, yes, 3 gigs of RAM to a 3,200 mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

And yes, we’re fully aware a drastically improved sequel is on the way, but this OG is available for free on carrier agreements and $520 outright, whereas the Note 4 will probably start at $300 and $800 respectively.

HTC Desire 816

Given the recent rise of prepaid carriers and plans, it’d have been a terrible shame to wrap up our little back to school shopping guide without offering an option for folks who are opposed to contracts, but also unwilling to drop a fortune on an unlocked, SIM-free gizmo.

And Virgin Mobile’s Desire 816 is a prepaid instant classic. Clearly targeted at budget-restricted phablet lovers, this Herculean fellow will no doubt cater to the needs of photo buffs as well, thanks to a 13 MP rear-facing snapper and, yes, a 5 megapixel front camera.

htc-desire-816

But that’s not all. The design is a winner too, despite the somewhat chintzy plastic, you get a generous 1.5 GB of RAM and, last but not least, Android 4.4 KitKat with Sense UI 6 on top.

That’s a wrap, boys and girls, and it’s now time for the tough decisions. Regardless of what you end up buying though, this is shaping up to be an epic school year. Keep at it.

Render Of The Samsung Galaxy S5 Active Surfaces

galaxy-s5-active

Today Evleaks has revealed a press render of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active. It confirms that it will be similar to last year’s Galaxy S4 Active with being more water resistant and making capitative buttons become physical keys.

Even though the normal Galaxy S5 has an IP67 rating for protection against water, you really shouldn’t take it swimming. This phone however might be better for areas like pools, so you can record what is going on without possibly losing your phone. There still isn’t an exact release date, but the GS5 Active is expected to come in mid-June. Will you be buying this device?

Source: Evleaks

Rumor: Samsung Galaxy S5 Active could launch via major U.S. carriers

Galaxy S4 Active

Galaxy S4 Active

Renowned source of leaks on Twitter, Evleaks, has yet again revealed the existence of an upcoming device. According to this new revelation, the rumored Samsung Galaxy S5 Active will arrive via major U.S. carriers carrying the model number SM-G870(x) very soon. Now as with any rumor, we are taking this with a pinch of salt, so don’t hold your breath for its arrival.

It will be interesting to see as to how Samsung will differentiate this from the standard Galaxy S5. Water and dust resistance is already available on the Galaxy S5, so we’re guessing the Korean manufacturer has something special with this handset.

It has been speculated that the handset could come with military grade certification which would give it resistance to thermal shocks, radiation, sand and other forces of nature. And with water damage complaints from the Galaxy S4 Active last year, Samsung will have to be extra careful this time around. We also hope that the smartphone becomes available through a wide range of carriers as last year’s variant was only limited to AT&T in the U.S.

Source: @evleaks – Twitter

Via: Droid-Life

Samsung Galaxy S5 family previewed: everything we know about the S5 Zoom, Mini, Active and Neo

Whether you’re delighted about Samsung’s Galaxy S5, deem it too fugly to be worth a shot, or reckon it’s a solid albeit not spectacular slab of silicon, you probably know full well what’s coming. A towering marketing campaign set to squash every rival in sight as far as advertising buzz is concerned, followed by the already customary brand milking, or dilution.

samsung-galaxy-s5-colors

Look, it’s basic math. No matter how successful would a Galaxy S5 become on its own, the launch of multiple variants increases the line’s potential and appeal. Sure, the standard model loses a few customers, however the Zoom, Active, Mini and Neo undoubtedly win them back, and then some.

Wait, do we actually expect four additional S5 versions to break cover in the foreseeable future? Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, and maybe more. Remember, an ultra-high-end Galaxy S5 Prime, aka Galaxy F, is still a possibility, though it’s becoming somewhat of a long shot with no palpable evidence it exists revealed after the original S5’s intro.

Samsung-Galaxy-S5

And who knows what quirky, eccentric ideas Sammy may come up with prior to next year’s S6 unveil? An S5 Round, maybe, with a curved display. Or an S5 Pro with S Pen support, although the lines between it and Galaxy Notes would then be dangerously blurred. Ooh, I know, a QWERTY-toting Galaxy S5Q. Dream on, right?

Oh, well, the S5 Zoom, Active, Mini and Neo are likely very much real, so for the time being, let’s focus on them:

Galaxy S5 Zoom – rumor roundup

Be honest, did you give last year’s S4 Zoom a second thought once you saw its appalling design? Actually, I don’t think appalling does it justice. It was ghastly, daunting, horrific. No, I give up, there are no words to describe it.

Galaxy S4 Zoom

Long story short, if Samsung wants their upcoming camera phone stab to be taken seriously, they need to get back to square one, and rethink aesthetics. Which rumors out of Poland say they’ve done. Too bad there are no pictures to prove the S5 Zoom is indeed slimmer, thinner and capable of better hiding its gigantic lens.

Meanwhile, credible benchmark data confirms a number of hardware upgrades, including a display size and resolution bump (to 4.8 inches and 720p), and a RAM increase, to 2 full gigs. The reports on S5 Zoom’s processor are conflicting, probably suggesting two slightly different versions are in store. One with a hexa-core Exynos 5 chip under the hood, and the other powered by a mysterious quad-core CPU.

S5-Zoom-specs

Of course, the key feature remains the rear-facing camera, expected to pack a 20 MP CMOS sensor, Xenon flash, 10x optical zoom and optical image stabilization. Enough to give Nokia’s PureView Lumia 1020 a run for its money? We’ll see in May. June, at the latest.

Galaxy S5 Active preview

Since the Galaxy S5 is already IP67 certified for dust and water resistance, there’s no point in Samsung also releasing an S5 Active, right? Well, wrong, as @evleaks, who’s almost never wrong, claims the SM-G870 we thought was the S5 Mini is in fact the S5 Active.

Galaxy_S5_water

I’m confused, and likely, so are you. But as I recently explained, there are different degrees of ruggedness. So maybe this SM-G870 headed to AT&T and Sprint “among other carriers” is set to be the first top-shelf truly rugged handheld.

With better water protection, plus, say, military approvals for things like thermal shock, solar radiation, vibration, salt and humidity resistance. It’s a stretch, as it would entail a major design overhaul and abandonment of cuteness and thinness, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.

samsung-galaxy-s5-features

That, or simply equipping the S5 Active with a stronger water shield while giving up a few camera megapixels, as well as the display’s Super AMOLED technology.

Everything we know about the Galaxy S5 Mini

This section is going to be awfully short, as in all honesty we know nothing for sure vis-à-vis the S5 Mini. Except it’s coming next month or the month after. There are two cryptic Samsung smartphones no doubt tied to the standard S5 we haven’t yet managed to crack, namely the SM-G750 and SM-G800.

Odds are one’s the S5 Mini and the other the S5 Neo, but how to tell which one’s which? The sure-fire way is simply wait for their stories to unravel, however patience is so 20th century. Instead, I’ll go with my gut and assume the SM-G750 is the S5 Neo, and the SM-G800 the S5 Mini.

Samsung-Galaxy-S4-Mini-and-S4

Too bad the SM-G800 model number is joined by an extremely short list of features at the moment. Again trusting my instinct, I say the S5 Mini will measure around 4.5 inches (maybe 4.7), sport a 720p display, quad-core Snapdragon 600 chip, 2 GB RAM and 13 MP camera.

Galaxy S5 Neo – rumor roundup

The idea of offering slightly toned-down versions of your flagships for more competitive prices is not bad per se, yet so far the execution has been Samsung’s biggest problem. Take the Note 3 Neo. The big guy is rather handsome and decently punchy, but it’s so damn expensive.

Galaxy-Note-3-Neo

So yeah, we’re excited about a Galaxy S5 Neo with possibly a quad-core Snapdragon 800 SoC, HD screen and 13 MP main snapper, but not if it costs $600.

Who’s with me? And who thinks Samsung should altogether stop with this aggressive brand dilution? Does the world need a standard S5, Prime, Zoom, Active, Mini, Neo, Value Edition, Black, etc., etc.? Let your opinions be heard below.

Samsung Galaxy S5 (Early) Rumor Roundup: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

The ink is barely dry on Samsung Galaxy Note 3’s reviews, the phablet hasn’t even reached all four major US carriers yet (there’s still we know who keeping us hanging), the world’s first curved display smartphone has only broken cover earlier this week, yet, believe it or not, the Galaxy S5 rumor mill is already grinding at full throttle.

Samsung Galaxy S5

No, you haven’t slept all through the fall, winter of 2013 and spring of 2014. It’s just Samsung is allegedly thinking of tweaking its production cycle so as “the next big thing” to be official as soon as January 2014 and go up for grabs a month later.

But that’s not right, is it? And it can’t be true. It just cannot. Only it can, as long as we buy the speculation about Galaxy S4 sales bombing of late and the GNote 3 being in even lower demand.

And think about it. The S4 hit 20 million units sold two months after its launch, then it wasn’t able to cross the next milestone, 30 mil, in another three full months. If that’s not reason for concern, I don’t know what is.

Samsung Galaxy S5-2

Meanwhile, have you seen one retailer, one store, one lousy salesperson claiming to be out of GNote 3 stock? Exactly. With all that in mind, let’s see what we know and what are our hopes for the Galaxy S5.

Design, build materials and quality

You won’t usually hear me complaining about a piece of high-end mobile technology landing earlier than expected (I’d actually commend that under normal circumstances), but in this particular case the messing up of Samsung’s traditional production cycle can only be interpreted as a bad omen.

Metal-Samsung-Galaxy-S5

It’s no longer just gossip or the word of an anonymous “insider” against those of the company’s officials. The Galaxy S5 will bring a major overhaul of the Galaxy S design language. If the designers can pull the whole thing off in time.

And that’s exactly the problem. If the GS5 were to come one year after its predecessor, so around March or April 2014, it would definitely either rock an all-aluminum exterior or sport a curved screen right off the bat. Or maybe both.

But if everything has to be worked out by January, chances are the design overhaul will be put off… again, and we’ll be stuck with a boring, plastic-clad “flagship” phone for another year or so. Or at least by the time the Note 4 goes official.

samsung-Galaxy-S5-flexible

On the bright side, there’s more than an outside shot the S5 will be “Active”, meaning water and dustproof, right out the box even if its ETA is January. Plus, if it won’t rock any kind of curves or flexible parts in its standard variant, it will definitely do so in a super-premium flavor dubbed “F” a few months later.

Hardware features – display, CPU, RAM, cameras

Another worrisome aspect about GS5’s potential January intro is it could end up being next year’s Sony Xperia Z. I’m pretty sure you all remember how the Z debuted as the first true flagship device of 2013, undercutting both HTC’s One and Samsung’s Galaxy S4, but having to make do with a Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, compared with the S600 that was eventually found inside its two fiercest rivals.

samsung-galaxy-s5-3

There’s absolutely no way Qualcomm will have Snapdragon 800’s follow-up(s) all ready for February 2014 shipments, so the S5 is likely to pack the SoC that’s now the cream of the crop, but which could look fairly outdated come next spring.

True, there’s also the Exynos 5 Octa option, more so as the processor will finally be able to make use of all its eight cores at once, courtesy of Heterogeneous Multi-Processing. Yet let’s be honest (and blunt): Samsung is incapable of producing enough of these CPUs to handle the global demand of a top-of-the-liner.

Samsung-Exynos-5-Octa

As far as other features go, the screen is expected to measure the same 5 inches as the GS4 (5.3 tops) while possibly maybe upping the resolution ante and further narrowing the bezels, the RAM could go up to a record-breaking 4 GB and the rear-facing camera is tipped to bump up the sensor to 16 MP and add optical image stabilization and a number of other goodies in the mix.

Software

I’ll be honest with you, I have very little to go on in regards to GS5’s possible on-board software. It definitely won’t be Tizen and it won’t dual boot Android and Windows either. Also, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell it’s quite possible there will be pre-loaded 4.4 KitKat here.

ANDROID KIT KAT

But as far as TouchWiz goes, the overall look of the UI’s next version, particular customizations, tweaks, special features and so on and so forth, I’m afraid we’ll have to wait and see. At least a little bit longer.

Release date, pricing and availability

We’ve already talked a great deal about ETAs, unveiling and release timelines, so let’s focus on the dough a little. “Slim” is the word of the day as far as actual pricing rumors and reports go, though it’s not that hard to make an educated guess. Or two.

samsung-galaxy-s5-concept

It all depends on whether or not Samsung ultimately decides to push the envelope in any way. Will there be a curved display? All-aluminum exterior? Fingerprint scanner? OIS camera? Then expect a starting price tag north of $800. Maybe even 900 or 1,000 bucks.

If on the other hand the S5 turns out to be just a rehash of the S4 or some kind of S4-Note 3 combo (think Galaxy J), you’ll probably be asked to cough up roughly $700 for an outright model. Now, which one would you prefer? And I’d like you to give it some serious thought.