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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 10 super-slim smartphones you can actually buy today – April 2015

Update:  Check out our updated article on the latest Android phones available that are considered the best slim phone 2017

The world’s thinnest smartphone title has become a thorny affair in recent years, as new contenders basically pop up out of nowhere once every few weeks. Most of the times, no-name Chinese manufacturers are behind these designs that defy gravity common sense, and the goal is to score free publicity for future products with better build quality.

BLU-Vivo-Air

Essentially, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with scouring the market for sub-7 or even sub-6 mm “supermodels”, there is such a thing as too slim. Too slim to handle daily use and abuse, too slim to offer decent hardware performance and, especially, too slim to last more than a few hours between battery charges.

At the same time, it’s important to distinguish the obvious vaporware from handhelds destined for a long, happy life on the catwalk. Here are ten ultra-slender gadgets available via the world’s largest e-commerce outlet that aren’t going anywhere in the coming months and aren’t too svelte for their own good:

ProductBrandNamePrice
SamsungSamsung Galaxy Alpha G850a 32GB Unlocked GSM 4G LTE Quad-Core Smartphone (Gold)Buy on Amazon|$94.95(Price as of 02/19/2019 12:31 ET)

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BLU Vivo Air – $190 in black; $200 in white gold

BLU Vivo Air

At 5.1 mm, aka approximately a fifth of an inch, the 4.8 incher promises up to 24 hours of continuous juice in talk time. Via 2G networks, that is, with 3G speeds draining the 2,100 mAh cell twice as fast. That’s far from impressive, but compared to other ridiculously thin phones, the Vivo Air is at least quite cheap and, according to folks who’ve touched it, not as frail as you’d expect.

It’s compatible with every US GSM carrier you can think of, caps off at HSPA+ in the connectivity department and tips the scales at, get this, 97 grams. Fashionistas, that’s probably your cue!

Huawei Ascend P6 – starting at $170 unlocked

Huawei Ascend P6

6.2 mm won’t break any records… anymore, yet it allows the P6 to come in at a 120 grams weight with 4.7-inch glass in tow and a robust all-metal chassis. Even less expensive than the Vivo Air, the P6 is old news, having seen daylight in June 2013, but rumor is it’ll nab over-the-air Lollipop treats eventually.

Samsung Galaxy A7 – $444

The mobile ruler’s newfound fondness of swanky, graceful gear has recently translated in not just the company’s handsomest flagship to date, but prettier-than-ever-before mid-rangers as well. Case in point, the aluminum framed A family, headlined by a fairly steep 5.5 incher with Full HD screen resolution, octa-core punch and 2 GB RAM.

Samsung Galaxy A7

The middle spectrum of the Android décor has sure come a long way. Alas, the A7 can’t possibly deliver respectable autonomy, given the 6.3 mm profile forces battery capacity to cap off at 2,600 mAh. With such a bright Super AMOLED panel, plus an Exynos Octa powerhouse in the equation, that’s a goner in a few casual gaming hours.

Huawei Ascend P7 – $324

Huawei Ascend P7

The follow-up to the critically acclaimed P6 is, as you’d presume, better-looking, more technically impressive and pricier. Also, slightly thicker, at 6.5 mm, which is a good thing, proving once again a little meat on the bones comes with its share of advantages. Most prominently here, a significantly larger 2,500 mAh ticker.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra – $288

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

This oldie but goldie gargantuan phablet measures 6.4 inches in diagonal, weighs in at 212 grams yet touts a 6.5 mm wasp waist. It’s almost a paradox, but one you’d be lucky to get at less than $300. Yes, you’ll bear your charger with you at all times (or maybe an external power bank), however the 1,080p Triluminos display, IP58 water resistance and 2 GB RAM will make the efforts and sacrifices all worth it.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha – $298 and up unlocked; starting at $0.01 with AT&T

Galaxy Alpha

Credited as the one that started Samsung’s metal revolution, the 6.7 mm Alpha preserves plastic remnants of an age past, standing out with amazing construction prowess in addition to style and slimness. Also, fingerprint recognition technology, Lollipop software (on Ma Bell at least), octa-core muscle, 2 GB RAM and generous 32 GB internal storage space.

Oh, but how tiny the 1,860 mAh cell sounds!

Samsung Galaxy A5 – $321

Samsung Galaxy A5

The middling member of the middling Galaxy A family looks a lot like the Alpha, measuring the same 6.7 mm in depth, only it’s bigger, at 5 inches, heftier (123 grams), and longer-lasting, presumably, courtesy of a 2,300 mAh battery.

Definitely longer-lasting, since a frugal quad-core 64-bit Snapdragon 410 processor runs the performance show, paired with 2 gigs of random-access memory.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – $750 factory unlocked; $200 with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon pacts

You can’t have a “best of” list sans the as-yet uncrowned heavyweight champion of the world, the 6.8 mm/138-gram “next big thing.” Sure, it’s costly opposite every other mobile on our roundup, but it’s most likely a battery champ too, which is certainly no easy feat.

Galaxy S6

Okay, maybe not a champ per se, yet I think we can all agree 17 hours of “moderate usage” is a substantial number for an octa-core Quad HD beast with an eating disorder. What more can we say about the S6 we haven’t already said? It’s a must-buy. Period.

Samsung Galaxy A3 – $238

Samsung Galaxy A3

Practically tied with the S6 in physical narrowness, the SIM-free A3 is less than a third of the top dog’s price, and consequently, offers specs that are thrice as humble. A lackluster 4.5-inch 960 x 540 pix res screen, quad-core 1.2 GHz S410 CPU, 1.5 GB RAM, 1,900 mAh heart, etc., etc. On the plus side, the metal-clad budget trooper can probably keep the lights on from dawn to dusk if you take good care of it and don’t exert too much pressure on the average qHD display/64-bit processor combo.

Lenovo Vibe X – $127

Lenovo Vibe X

How is this “anorexic” 6.9 mm fellow so cheap? Well, it’s ancient for one thing, turning one and a half recently, and it’s also still on an archaic Android iteration – 4.2 Jelly Bean. Then again, the quad-core 1.5 GHz MediaTek MT6589T SoC is probably good for cell endurance, while the 5-inch FHD IPS display, 2 GB RAM, 13 MP and 5 MP cameras are really mind-bending features for Vibe X’s price range.

Forget Moto Es and Gs, this is the real low-cost MVP!

ProductBrandNamePrice
SamsungSamsung Galaxy Alpha G850a 32GB Unlocked GSM 4G LTE Quad-Core Smartphone (Gold)Buy on Amazon|$94.95(Price as of 02/19/2019 12:31 ET)

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Best waterproof Android smartphones money can buy – fall 2015 edition

If you like singing in the rain, swimming in shark-infested waters (literally), and just generally exposing yourselves to various types of liquid interaction while packing Android “heat”, then chances are you’ve been on the prowl for the perfect waterproof phone.

Underwater smartphone

First of all, sorry to break to you, but there’s no such thing. Secondly, even the world’s objectively best waterproof phones often come with limitations as to underwater use. Want a handheld to handle rain drops and shower splashes? Your selection is virtually limitless.

Seeking a device completely impervious to any and all liquid contacts, no matter the time spent immersed, depth and pressure? That’s a lot trickier to find. Be wary of hidden warranty conditions before choosing one of the following ten contenders to the title of world’s best waterproof phone, and make sure you understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active – $650 unlocked

Galaxy S6 Active

The first Android soldier on our list isn’t necessarily the all-around top choice for everybody. But it’s the costliest, and not without reason. IP68 certification means you’re technically covered against 30-minute dunks up to 1.5 meter in addition to fully protected for dirt damage.

Then, you have your MIL-STD-810G approval for salt, dust, humidity, vibration, solar radiation, transport and thermal shock shelter. Basically, the GS6 Active is indestructible in normal real-life circumstances, and you’ll need to want to harm it to do so. Which shouldn’t be the case, also given the beautiful 5.1-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen, powerful Exynos 7420 SoC, smooth Lollipop software, and generous 3 GB RAM.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact – $540

Xperia-Z5-Compact-water

We could have easily recommended the “standard” Full HD Z5 or the 4K-enabled Premium over this “diminutive” 720p model, but both those powerhouses are too damn expensive. Granted, the 4.6-inch Xperia Z5 Compact is pretty prohibitively priced itself, due to import taxes and whatnot.

Hopefully, Sony will give it the official US green-light soon, and perhaps reconsider the controversial water-related warranty policies. Wouldn’t it be awesome to take proper advantage of the IP68 rating here, and snap 23 MP photos in the pool if not in the ocean as well?

Sony Xperia Z3 Plus – $465 factory unlocked

Sony-Xperia-Z3-Plus

The eerily familiar Z3 sequel is protected for half-hour swims beyond 1.5 meters, but no deeper than 9 feet or so. It also sports scratch-resistant glass, a 5.2-inch 1,080p IPS LCD panel, octa-core Snapdragon 810 muscle, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, 21 and 5 MP cams, and 2,930 mAh battery.

It’s hard to tell why the high-end Xperia incremental upgrade received so much flak in the first place. As long as you don’t pay attention to its family tree, it’s actually a fairly robust flagship, don’t you think?

Sony Xperia M5 – $430 factory unlocked

Xperia M5

Why would a mid-ranger be worth about as much as a high-ender? Well, because despite what the name suggests, the M5 is no pushover. It’s different, as it trades the SD810 chip for a MediaTek Helio X10, and it’s 0.2 inches smaller, but it’s not necessarily inferior to the Z3+.

IP68-certified too, the 5 incher stands out in the photography departments, courtesy of 21.2 and 13 MP cameras, it’s Full HD-capable, and a multitasking workhorse, thanks to 3 gigs of memory.

Kyocera DuraForce – $0 with AT&T device financing; $419 outright

Kyocera DuraForce

Durable, tough as nails and… a tad on the chunky side, this Ma Bell-exclusive 4.5 incher flew under our radar back in March in spite of a commercial launch last November, but shouldn’t escape your attention now. It’s both IP68 and MIL-STD-810G authorized for everything from water dives to drops on hard surfaces and lengthy solar exposure.

It’s ideal for one-handed use, although you’ll need a firm grip, at 4.5 inches in screen diagonal and 200 grams weight. Finally, it should go on for ages between charges, backed by a massive 3,100 mAh battery.

Moto X Pure Edition – starting at $400

Moto X Pure Edition

Technically not waterproof or water-resistant, the 5.7-inch new X, alternatively dubbed Style, features a so-called water repellant nano-coating and much weaker IP52 certification than all our nominees so far. What that means is you probably shouldn’t willfully expose the Snapdragon 808 giant to either immersion or water jets, but mild rainfall won’t harm a hair on the vanilla Android-running phone’s head.

This is far from the X Pure’s main selling point, with the quality-price ratio boosted chiefly by the respectable hexa-core CPU, 3 GB RAM, 21 and 5 MP LED cameras, 3,000 mAh juicer, and Quad HD display.

Cat S50 – $400

Cat s50

If you want to get things done on construction sites and possibly even war zones, the 4.7-inch 720p S50 won’t take a bullet for you, but close enough. Aside from an IP67 stamp of approval that falls just short of others’ excellence, the bad boy withstands plunges onto concrete from 1.2 m high. The rest of the specs start feeling somewhat trivial in the face of such a unique engineering feat, don’t you think?

Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 – $300

Galaxy Xcover 3

In a nutshell, this could be considered the smaller, humbler, less snazzy, non-Galaxy S, IP67-powered brother of the GS6 Active. That said, it looks a little obsolete, although it only saw daylight six months or so ago, with a dreadful 4.5-inch 800 x 480 pix res screen in tow, as well as a quad-core Marvell chip under the hood, 1.5 GB RAM, 8 GB on-board hoarding room, and 5 MP rear shooter.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – $200

Xperia M4 Aqua

 

Before spawning a remarkable follow-up, the M4 Aqua stole the mid-priced IP68 waterproof spotlight, with an unusually slim 7.3 mm profile, decent overall specs (HD 5-inch display, octa-core SD615 processor, 2 GB RAM, 13 and 5 MP cams), and flamboyant colors. Too bad the coral red flavor is $228, compared to the two Benjamin-valued black variant.

Motorola Moto G (3rd generation) – $179.99

Moto G 2015

Isn’t this odd? Not to mention ironic. Lenovo saw fit to make its subsidiary’s latest X hero IP52 water repellant, while the “low-end” G3 skips dust protection altogether, upping the liquid resistance ante to level 7, where you shouldn’t sweat over accidental falls in the typically destructive toilet bowl. As long as it’s less than a meter deep, you’re fine.

Needless to mention the 2015 G is much more than an adequate, semi-rugged device, offering plenty for its wickedly low sub-$200 tag: a 5-inch HD display, Marshmallow readiness, Snapdragon 410 punch, 13 MP photography skill, 2,470 mAh energy.

Top 10 Android smartphones capable of fingerprint recognition

Fingerprint scanners. Can’t have a flagship smartphone without one in this day and age, but the Android handhelds that do support the futuristic method of biometric authentication are often accused of shoddy, gimmicky execution.

Fingerprint scanner

Even when done properly, the technology continues to stir up controversies, although Apple fans were very quick (and proud) to adopt so-called Touch ID recognition on the iPhone 5s, then the 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus models, as well as the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro.

Many will argue Cupertino managed to deeply integrate the feature into iOS straight off the bat, letting its customers not only unlock devices via fingerprint, but also seamlessly authorize online payments, and logins in various proprietary apps.

Then again, as Samsung Pay gears up to roll out to a bunch of Galaxy stars, including some that don’t shine as bright as the S6 Edge+, and Android Pay looms large on the horizon, as part of Marshmallow’s basic set of native goodies, it’s time we took fingerprint-capable gadgets more seriously than ever.

Android Pay

To that end, we’ve gathered a handy list of ten Android smartphones available on Amazon today which support fingerprint magic. Before long, this will noticeably grow, as the Xperia Z5 trio, 2015 Nexus duo, and others join the party, but once again, let’s focus on the now:

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus – $710 factory unlocked international

First and foremost, let us stress we’ve tried to make today’s top ten as diverse as possible, so as not to be accused of Samsung fanboyism. Otherwise, we risked the Android manufacturer kings taking over nearly the entire ranks, having introduced mobile fingerprint compatibility back in early 2014, with the now ancient GS5.

Galaxy S6 Edge+

That said, the S6 Edge+ predictably headlines the roster, despite its extravagant price tag, with silky smooth touch-based fingerprint functionality, Samsung Pay around the corner stateside, and an entire slew of unrelated ultra-high-end features, like a dual-edge 5.7-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen, Exynos 7420 SoC, 4 GB RAM, and 16/5 MP cameras.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – $698 and up

Galaxy Note 5 fingerprint

No flashy curves, no European availability… just yet, a bundled S Pen accessory that you should be extra-careful with, and as for everything else, it’s the same as above. The fingerprint sensor is integrated into the home button, and unless a super-skilled, super-vicious hacker makes you his target, authentication and payments are nice and secure.

HTC One M9 Plus – $509

htc-one-m9-plus

Technically unreleased in the US, the MediaTek Helio X10 powerhouse is up for grabs on Amazon via import specialists sans an American-valid warranty. The home key-incorporated fingerprint scanner is actionable by touch here too, and it allows you to set up to five different profiles for sharing the device, and its state-of-the-art data protection, with family and friends.

Why haven’t you heard more chatter about the M9+? Well, the cameras aren’t great, battery life is somewhat underwhelming, and HTC’s marketing moolah was wasted on Iron Man.

Lenovo Vibe P1 – $459

Hello there, battery monster that literally just got unveiled at IFA 2015! It’s excellent to see you commercially available, even if likely in very limited, imported inventory. It’s even nicer to hear Lenovo hasn’t skimped on fingerprint recognition quality, promising half a second unlock times.

Lenovo Vibe P1

The overall quality-price ratio is what makes the Vibe P1 stand out from the crowd, with octa-core processing power in tow, 2 gigs of memory, a 13 MP dual-LED flash rear cam, 5.5-inch Full HD display, 32 GB internal storage space, microSD support and, above all, a gigantic 5,000 mAh ticker.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – $419 factory unlocked

Speaking of giants, the Mate 7 is no, not 7 full inches in diagonal, but pretty close, at 6. Much like the P1, its key strength is endurance, courtesy of a slightly smaller 4,100 mAh cell. The IPS LCD panel is 1,080p-capable, the 16 GB ROM microSD-expandable, and the Kirin 925 SoC octa-core-packing.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Too bad the rectangular fingerprint rig is a little harder to operate around the phablet’s back, and Android Pay capabilities baked into 6.0 Marshmallow are a sweet but unrealistic dream, as Lollipop hasn’t even replaced KitKat yet.

Meizu MX5 – $387

Stop being skittish about Chinese brands who haven’t officially penetrated the American market. Meizu’s time, for instance, will come, mark our words, either when the MX5 spreads worldwide, or when the just-announced Pro 5 takes off.

Meizu MX5

What makes the MX5 special? Take your pick – an always reliable touch-manipulated fingerprint ID apparatus, 5.5-inch FHD AMOLED display, octa-core Helio X10 CPU, 3 GB RAM, 20.7 MP photography virtuoso, 3,150 mAh battery, etc., etc.

Meizu MX4 Pro – $365

Meizu MX4 Pro

Don’t let the first part of the name fool you. The MX4 Pro is as high-end as smartphones came in late 2014, touting 2,560 x 1,536 pixels resolution on a 5.5-inch IPS LCD screen (resulting in 546 ppi), Exynos 5430 octa punch, 3,350 mAh juice, and 20.7 and 5 megapixel camera excellence.

Lenovo ZUK Z1 – $379

This brand and this device essentially came out of nowhere last month, with so-called 360 degree U-Touch tech among the primary selling points, plus Cyanogen OS support, a clean, minimalistic design, USB Type-C connectivity, and massive 4,100 mAh battery endowed with fast charging functions.

ZUK Z1

Expected out “internationally” in the near future, the Z1 should be in line for a Marshmallow update in a few months, which means Android Pay is coming to seal the already tempting deal including 3 GB RAM, 64 GB ROM, a 5.5-inch 1,080p screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip, and 13/8 MP cams.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha – $284 AT&T unlocked

When’s the last time you thought of the venerable metal-framed 4.7 incher, the upper mid-ranger that started the high-end aluminum construction trend, and also registers and remembers your fingerprint… once you swipe it across the home button repeatedly.

Galaxy Alpha

Okay, so the implementation is seriously flawed here, the margin of error way too large, and the real-life utility of the biometric authentication mechanism almost nonexistent. But if you’re looking for bragging rights over owners of phones caught behind the times, and don’t want to spend a fortune in the process, this is still an option.

Besides, it’s supermodel skinny (6.7 mm), lightweight yet fairly robust, compact and Lollipop-running, thanks to a recent software makeover.

HTC One Max – $333

HTC One Max

Aged 2 going on 3, the cumbersome 5.9 incher belongs in a museum rather than a user’s (humongous) trouser pocket. But it’s affordable… at last, welcomes all your content on a 32 GB ROM and microSD card slot, Full HD-sporting, 2 GB RAM-packing, and LTE-enabled on GSM networks. The actual fingerprint scanner is pretty glitchy, we’ll be honest with you, and almost impossible to reach, as it’s situated on the rear of an 164.5 x 82.5 mm slab tipping the scales at 217 grams.

Top 10 Android smartphones better than Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

They say the new iPhones could easily break the mind-blowing sales records posted by their forerunners, both for the first week-end of pre-orders and as far as total shipment numbers go, though of course that latter tally is much harder to forecast.

Android-VS-Apple

And why shouldn’t they? Because they look identical to last year’s 6 and 6 Plus models? Pfft, Apple could have repackaged the original 3.5-inch 2007 iPhone, and their clueless iFans would still be swept away by the “higher-res-than-ever” display.

Any other reasons you can think of possibly blocking the 6s and 6s Plus ascent to 100 million unit sales? Well, here’s a very obvious one. The two aren’t the best of the best in stores this year. Not even close, as we had relatively little difficulty selecting ten, count’ em, ten Androids that are just better, and you can either already buy, or that should roll out before the holidays.

Disclaimer – the selection is extremely subjective and totally biased, but if you can’t find at least one device that’s objectively superior to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus on the following list, you’re probably an ideal candidate for a Jimmy Kimmel interview.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus – available for $728 unlocked on Amazon

Why it’s better: To sum up our recent 1,000+ words comparison in a phrase, it’s nice to see Apple recover some lost ground in departments like photography or memory, but after years of stagnation, a radical revolution is needed to ensure a fair fight.

iPhone 6s Plus vs S6 Edge Plus

You know, a bit like how Sammy completely started from scratch when designing the S6 and S6 Edge, further polishing the looks of the already handsomest, swankiest, curviest gadget around. More to the point, the S6 Edge+ offers better specs, customizable software and an extra razzle-dazzle exterior at the price of a boring 16 GB iPhone 6s Plus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – $726

Galaxy Note 5

Why it’s better: First of all, it bundles for free a stylus accessory Apple charges a ridiculous $100 for when paired with the iPad Pro. Number two, it targets those who may feel the S6 Edge+ design is a little tacky, eclipsing the iPhone 6s style thanks to a winning combination of metal and glass, as well as super-slim screen bezels, and aristocratic sharp corners.

Last but not least, it’s a powerhouse, exactly like its edgy cousin, and it’s sensibly priced, all things considered.

Samsung Galaxy S6 – starting at $540 factory unlocked

You’d have probably expected to see the S6 Edge, not the standard S6 make the cut here. But we wanted to also pick something genuinely affordable… for a flagship, free of distracting curves, S Pens, or other gimmicks.

iPhone-6s-Samsung-Galaxy-S6

It’s great the GS6 perfectly slots between the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus in terms of display diagonal too, illustrating the triumph of the Korean company’s engineering efforts, as it’s essentially just as tall, wide and thick as the rival 4.7 incher despite sporting a 5.1-inch Quad HD panel, and stellar battery endurance figures.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

Xperia Z5 Premium

It may not be as impervious to water damage as you had hoped, it’s not up for grabs yet, and most content is shown in 1,080p quality instead of 4K to save juice. Nonetheless, when it finally rolls out, the Z5 Premium shall humiliate Apple’s newfound 4K video capturing capabilities by also playing the clips back.

Oh, yeah, and Sony has the greatest smartphone cameras in the world, with nearly twice the pitifully upgraded megapixel count of iPhone shooters.

LG G4 – $432 and up SIM-free

LG G4 vs iPhone 6s

Why it’s better: It’s leather-clad and elegant in a retro, evergreen way, it’s decidedly inexpensive, and yet, can still hold its own in a direct specification battle against the GS6 Edge+. Maybe not win the war, but survive it enough to give iPhones a healthy run for their money, courtesy of a vivid 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS LCD screen, agile hexa-core Snapdragon 808 SoC, 3 GB RAM, 16 and 8 MP cams, and 3,000 mAh battery.

Motorola Moto X Style (Pure Edition) – $399.99

Moto X Style

Why it’s better: Largely because it’s cheap. For crying out loud, it’s less than half the no-contract tariff of a 64 GB iPhone 6s Plus, and though it only accommodates 16 gigs of data internally, it’s got a microSD card slot for 128 more.

Not to forget the massive, high-res 2K 5.7-inch display, water-repellent coating protection (no immersion, just spills, splashes, and rain), 21 megapixel dual-LED flash rear snapper, TurboPower charging functions, stock Lollipop software, guaranteed Marshmallow support and beyond, as well as the generous 3 GB memory.

Google Nexus 6 – $350 with 32 GB storage; $400 in 64 GB configuration

Nexus 6

There’s no way to know how long Amazon intends to sell the one year-old “pure Google” giant at the heavily discounted tag, or if the arrival of a Huawei-made sequel might wipe out the OG altogether.

What we’re certain of is this is the current top bargain for power users who don’t mind “settling” for a quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, 13 MP dual-LED flash main photographic unit, 2 MP selfie camera, and 3,220 mAh battery.

Wait, 3,220 mAh is quite a lot, and the 6-inch Quad HD screen is also remarkable by any standards, not to mention the vanilla Android Lollipop experience, stereo speakers, and wireless charging support.

ZTE Axon Pro – $450 factory unlocked

ZTE Axon Pro

We’re entering dark horse territory, where you’re advised to tread carefully, and remember Chinese brands aren’t awfully popular stateside for good reasons. Some of them, given the Axon Pro is manufactured in America, for an American audience, designed as robustly as you’d expect from tier 1 OEMs, and fitted with pretty much all the best 2015 technologies at a hard to beat price.

You have your 4 gigs of memory, which Apple will probably match in 2020, Hi-Fi audio playback and recording, free bundled JBL headphones, Quad HD 5.5-inch screen, dual-camera 13 + 2 MP lens, 8 megapixel selfie prowess, 4K video shooting abilities, large 3,000 mAh battery with fast charging functions, and octa-core Snapdragon 810 chip.

OnePlus 2

OnePlus 2

Hard to come by without an invite, the “2016 flagship killer” is almost worth the $475 charged by a resourceful third-party Amazon seller. Almost, as it “kills” the memory count and juicer capacity of the iPhone 6s Plus, tying its Full HD 5.5-inch glass, fingerprint recognition skill, photography muscle, and autonomy numbers.

How embarrassing it must be for Apple to admit defeat against a Chinese startup! Of course, they’ll never do that, spending billions of dollars on TV commercials, newspaper ads and billboards revolving around the “perfect blend” of homebrewed software and hardware.

Huawei Mate S

Huawei Mate S

If you absolutely, positively need to own a device with a pressure-sensitive display, why not be original and purchase the Mate S… when it commercially launches? The top-of-the-line Force Touch-enabled model will cost you an arm and a leg, make no mistake about it, but at least you’ll get 128GB internal storage plus microSD space, 3 GB RAM, 13 and 8 MP cameras (both equipped with flash systems), and octa-core punch.

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 Apple iPhone 6s Plus – specs comparison

Oh, this is so going to piss off the hordes of already insecure, delusional iFans irritatingly navigating the interwebs to find and insult anyone who doesn’t share their distorted world view. Why delusional? Well, because it only takes a modicum of common sense to realize Apple’s “it’s not about specs, it’s the user experience” rhetoric is flawed.

Galaxy S6 Edge+ vs iPhone 6s Plus

Of course it’s (also) about specs, and Tim Cook knows it full well. The sole reason iPhones refuse to engage in a numbers war against Android flagships is high-end components like Quad HD displays, 20 MP cameras or 4 GB RAM require much heftier investments than current production costs, which would mess with Cupertino’s precious, inflated profit margins.

Like it or not though, we will put the features of the iPhone 6s Plus under the microscope opposite Galaxy S6 Edge+’s specifications, just to show you yet again how far behind Apple is, and perhaps make the cash machine’s executives understand it’s time they brought a major upgrade to the table next year.

apple-vs-samsung

This probably goes without saying now, but we won’t even pretend the battle is fair, and our comparison unbiased. After all, we’re The Droid Guy, not The Apple Guy, and we stand by our lethal weapons, especially when they’re objectively better.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ vs iPhone 6s Plus – design and build quality

Without actually referencing last year’s “Bendgate” controversies, Apple assured their keynote’s attendees and the public at large a repeat is unlikely, following a move to 7000 Series aluminum, “the same grade used in the aerospace industry.”

samsung-galaxy-s6-edge-plus

Good for them, and while we’d never call an iPhone ugly (except for the plasticky 5c), the 6s Plus simply pales in comparison with the stunning S6 Edge+. It’s thicker, at 7.3 vs 6.9 mm, a lot bulkier (192 vs 153 grams), as well as taller and wider, yet Samsung’s flagship phablet offers the superior screen real estate, at 5.7 vs 5.5 inches.

Not to mention the 6s Plus and 6 Plus are easier to mix up than the Olsen twins. Forget “more of the same”, this is the exact same frigging design as back in the fall of 2014. Oh, yeah, and as Sammy humorously pointed out in a recent commercial, that guy’s edge sits there and vibrates, nothing more.

Display and cameras

“Retina HD” screen vs plain Super AMOLED Quad HD glass. Can you guess which is sharper? That’s right, our non-Retina, non-gimmicky 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 pix res panel. The ppi sits at an impressive, although far from record-breaking 518, while the iPhone 6s Plus barely delivers a density of 401 pixels per inch.

Now, we aren’t going to claim Force Touch, aka 3D Touch, isn’t a big deal. It is, and we definitely wish Samsung could have devised similar technology first. But is it really a deal breaker that the S6 Edge+ lacks support for gestures like “Peek” and “Pop”?

Not as far as this writer is concerned, seeing as how it’s going to take users a while to get accustomed with all the new interaction methods. Besides, we’ve had a stock long press function for years, which isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s close.

galaxy-s6-edge-plus-camera

In the photography department, it’s genuinely nice to see Apple recover some lost ground, but 12 megapixels are still less than 16, and 4K video recording capabilities are nothing new to us Android aficionados. Both selfie cams tout 5 MP sensors, and though Apple will try to push a so-called “Retina Flash”, that’s not a real LED flash, and it doesn’t make the front snapper better than the one slapped on S6 Edge+’s face.

Processor, RAM and battery life

The 64-bit A9 chip is allegedly 70 percent faster in CPU muscle and 90 percent in graphics performance than the A8, which sounds remarkable… if it’s true. But even if it is, the Exynos 7420 also beats its predecessors and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805, 808 and 810 with ease, so until we see benchmarks and get to test the two handhelds for real-life speed, we’ll call this battle a tie.

iPhone 6s Plus

Which is not what we can say about memory, where Samsung almost certainly crushes Apple once again with 4 gigabytes of the good stuff. Why almost certainly? Because as usual, Tim Cook “forgot” to share info with us on the RAM front. Don’t hold your breath for 3 or 4 GB, iFans, and consider yourselves lucky if you get 2, which would be twice as much as the 6 Plus.

Battery life? Apple builds up respectable numbers, such as 24 hours of continuous 3G talk time, or up to 80 hours in audio playback, but we expect cell capacity to circle 2,900 mAh, 100 south of S6 Edge+’s ticker size.

Software, storage, and others

iOS 9 or TouchWiz-modified Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, due for a 6.0 Marshmallow makeover before long? Our choice is crystal clear, but you may be shocked to hear we understand the appeal of iOS. It’s clean, silky smooth, less cluttered than Google’s platform, easier to master for a novice, and hides more tricks up its sleeve than ever, thanks to 3D Touch.

ios-9

Still, you can’t replace Android’s openness and freedom, and for once, TouchWiz enriches the user experience instead of plaguing it.

Want microSD support? Then we suggest you head over to Sony or LG’s camps. Here, internal storage space is all you get, plus cloud room, the former starting at 16 and capping off at 128 GB for the iPhone 6s Plus, and 32 and 64 respectively inside the S6 Edge+.

S6 Edge Plus wireless charging

Something else worth mentioning? Maybe fingerprint recognition, billed by both tech giants as significantly faster than before, with increased resulting security, and very similar Samsung Pay and Apple Pay services.

Also, rapid charging, both wired and wireless, offered squarely by Samsung. In fact, iPhones don’t even support conventional wireless charging yet, but fret not, as when they’ll do, they’ll try to make it seem like they were the first there too. Snark aside, it’s tough to pick a winner in connectivity, as both giants feature LTE Advanced speeds on a myriad of global bands.

Pricing and availability

iPhone prices

And so, it all comes down to this. Well, not really, as the Galaxy S6 Edge+ comfortably beats the iPhone 6s Plus, with or without an affordability advantage. But the final nail in Apple’s coffin is a 16 GB 6s Plus essentially costs as much as a 32 GB S6 Edge+. Namely, $749 off-contract for the former on pre-orders beginning Saturday, September 12, and $766 unlocked for the latter through Amazon now.

Try to justify that, Apple, with 3D Touch, “Live Photos”, “Taptic Engine”, Retina Flash, rose gold colors, and other marketing mumbo jumbo.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+: specs comparison

Just when you thought Sony’s mobile branch was doomed to follow the recent ill fate of Nokia, and BlackBerry’s probable future downfall, the Japanese device manufacturer threw a Hail Mary pass at IFA 2015 in Berlin which may well end up in a spectacular last-second touchdown.

Xperia Z5 Premium vs Galaxy S6 Edge+

Of course, one swallow does not a summer make, and a single home run can’t win you the World Series with a certain rival racking up win after win for several consecutive seasons. Still, the Xperia Z5 Premium might just propel Sony into this year’s playoffs in time for the holiday season, subsequently helping set up a proper revival of the high-end smartphone family in 2016 and beyond.

Perhaps a new beginning, or the building of a brand that, to be fair, has never been held in high esteem by American mobile audiences. First, though, the Z5 Premium must prove it can play in the same league as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, a feat previously impossible to accomplish for the Xperia Z3+ when compared to the smaller GS6 and S6 Edge.

Xperia Z5 gold

The S6 Edge Plus already thrashed the LG G4, and with the G4 Note, G4 Pro or V10 (?!?) shaping up far less “super-premium” than once teased, its path to global acclaim seems cleared. There’s also a so-called HTC One A9 reportedly around the corner, but given its striking iPhone 6 resemblance, we find it hard to include in the race for gold.

Bottom line, this one’s for the H2 2015 Android crown:

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium vs Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ – design and build quality

Yet again, rumors sparked hope for an aesthetic Xperia revolution a while back, and yet again, we ultimately got an OmniBalance-obeying design. Only much more refined than ever, with the same eye-catching industrial vibe, glass and metal construction, plus a fancy new Xperia logo engraved on the left-hand side, and tiny fingerprint scanner masked as a power button to the right.

Galaxy S6 Edge Plus

The S6 Edge+ obviously does an even better job concealing the biometric authentication feature inside a frontal power key, with a similar half metal/half glass build executed more… originally. Point Samsung for slimness (6.9 vs 7.8 mm), and lightweight (153 vs 180 grams), but point Sony for never compromising premium ruggedness and retaining IP68 certification for water and dust protection.

At the end of the day, the battle is settled by the glitzier, albeit somewhat gimmicky curves of the dual-edged Galaxy S6 Edge+. 1-0 Samsung.

Display and cameras

4K resolution. Also known as Ultra HD. 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. 806 ppi pixel density on a 5.5-inch IPS LCD panel. Gimmick? Probably. Overkill? Almost certainly. But the smartphone landscape is one where excess and luxury have become the norm a long time ago, and Sony is just riding that wave.

Xperia Z5 Premium 4K

Besides, who says we’re only supposed to crave the practical? Let this be our guilty pleasure, and stop worrying if we can physically notice the difference between an 806 and 518 ppi screen. Speaking of, the 5.7-inch 2,560 x 1,440 pix res Super AMOLED on the S6 Edge+ is clearly no slouch, and was even recently deemed the best smartphone display ever made. Until the Z5 Premium entered the picture.

Sony’s newest flagship comfortably wins the megapixel wars too, at least as far as rear cams go, with a 23 count, compared to 16 MP. Meanwhile, both selfie shooters sport 5 MP sensors, and it remains to be seen whose add-ons will prevail. Our money is on the S6 Edge+. Nonetheless, the score is now 2-1 Sony.

Processor, RAM and battery life

As hard as Qualcomm tried to complete the Snapdragon 820 SoC in time for the fall spate of Android launches, Sony had to pick between the vastly inferior hexa-core 808 and robust but problematic octa 810. In the end, they went the latter route, and somehow fixed overheating, yet contending the potent and energy-efficient octa-core Exynos 7420 is mission impossible.

Galaxy-S6-edge+

Now, we realize both smartphone software and hardware have to greatly progress over the next years for 3 GB RAM to feel inadequate, and thus, the Z5 Premium is in no way a worse multitasker than the 4 gig-packing S6 Edge+ at the moment. But if we admit 4K resolution is an irrational craving, so is more memory than you can actually use.

In terms of juicer capacity, it’s mind-boggling how Sony managed to squeeze a 3,430 mAh cell into a 5.5-inch, sub-8 mm package when Samsung merely offers 3,000 mAh energy with a larger footprint and marginally skinnier profile. Still, there’s no saying how the Xperia Z5 Premium’s ultra-high-res display will impact real-life endurance, so let’s call this a tie right now. Which brings Samsung back in the lead, 3-2.

Software, storage and others

Since the beginning of time, the Xperia UI has aimed to provide a few truly useful proprietary add-ons and tweaks, and otherwise let Google do its near-stock thing. But now, the bloat and clutter are almost entirely eliminated, and, were it not for apps like Playstation Remote Play, you could easily mistake the Z5 Premium for a Nexus.

Sony-Xperia-Z5-Premium

Which is phenomenal news as far as Android purists are concerned, and it also means “optimizing” and rolling out Marshmallow to replace the pre-loaded 5.1 Lollipop should take Sony less time than Samsung. That said, some folks dig TouchWiz, and the version sprucing up the S6 Edge+ is likewise one of the cleanest, smoothest yet.

Will we have another tie in the storage department? Not even close, as both devices start at 32 GB space, but only the Z5 Premium can further accommodate up to 200 GB external data via a microSD card.

Xperia Z5 Premium

The heavyweight clash is therefore deadlocked, and with no USB Type C connectivity or out-of-the-ordinary audio improvements anywhere, it all comes down to retail costs. Well, to be fair, the S6 Edge+ also has the theoretical advantage of wireless charging and quick cable-free power-loading, but you need accessories, and wires and plugs are involved anyway.

Pricing and availability

Sony’s biggest problem isn’t the Xperia Z5 Premium will be expensive. It’s expected to go for €800 in EU countries, and £700 on British shores. That’s almost $900 and over $1,050 respectively, and it’s more or less on-par with S6 Edge+ unlocked tags on the old continent.

Xperia Z5 Premium camera

The pickle remains tackling the demanding, competitive and uber-profitable US market, where T-Mobile has already passed on the Z5 Premium, and the other three influential carriers all keep their ominous silence. The S6 Edge+? It’s available from them all, starting at $768 outright through Verizon, $300 with AT&T pacts, $780 on full retail at T-Mobile, and $350 on-contract with Sprint.

And that, dear readers and friends, is the way the cookie crumbles.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4 – specs comparison

Now that things are crystal clear on the internal storage front as far as both the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ are concerned, and we also know exactly where the former is headed, it’s time we matched up the new S Pen flagship to its forerunner.

Galaxy Note 5 vs Note 4
Photo: Forbes

It’s not a matter of which is best, obviously, but by what sort of margin, and more importantly, it’s a matter of bang for buck factor. As in, do the Galaxy Note 5’s upgrades justify the price hike? Because the Note 4 sure as heck merits $540 or so factory unlocked, even as it’s about to turn the human equivalent of 40.

No midlife crisis there, begging the question: do we really needed a sequel? An arguably handsomer but restrictive, non-expandable, non-battery removable follow-up? Stay tuned for the complete side-by-side comparison:

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 vs Galaxy Note 4 – pricing and availability

Photo: Android Central
Photo: Android Central

Fans of apocalyptic theories strongly believe the end of the wildly successful phablet family is near. They speculate that Sammy will gradually phase out GNotes, starting in Europe this year. Optimists expect Note 5’s limited global availability to be a temporary situation, caused by the Korean manufacturer’s wish to rapidly spread out the S6 Edge+ love.

Whatever the case, we’re glad to see the non-edgy 2015 top dog out and about stateside already, with shipments live or soon to be kicked off by all big four carriers. No-contract tariffs range from $696 at Verizon to $740 at AT&T in 32GB configurations, while Ma Bell and Sprint are prepared to sell you the 5.7 incher for as little as $250 with pacts.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Amazon doesn’t accept Note 5 orders yet, but is hands down the most generous retailer when it comes to the Note 4. A cool $150 or so separates the white, gold and black OG from its successor contract-free, which is really the only sensible purchase option.

Alternatively, you can be crazy and cough up $200 upfront for the Now Network-locked GNote 4, or $300 (!!!) with Verizon.

Design and build quality

Realizing the spec wars are costly and produce casualties in the form of lagging sales numbers, Samsung shed his image of stubborn, old-fashioned OEM at the beginning of the year. An age of aesthetic rather than hardware renovations was inaugurated, and the torch was passed from the S6 and S6 Edge onto the Note 5 and S6 Edge+.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Long story short, the Galaxy Note 5 looks nothing like the Note 4. For better or worse, it’s made of robust metal and fragile glass now, with no signs of plastic, faux leather or faux anything, for that matter.

It’s also noticeably thinner (7.6 vs 8.5 mm), ever so slightly shorter and narrower (153.2 x 76.1 mm vs 153.5 x 78.6 mm), as well as 5 grams lighter (171 vs 176). Is it more durable and less prone to bending? Too early to call. But it’s definitely prettier.

Display and cameras

Photo: Android Central
Photo: Android Central

On paper, Samsung Xeroxed the 2,560 x 1,440 pix res Super AMOLED screen of the Note 4 because, well, there was simply no room for improvements. Yet DisplayMate, the ultimate authority in panel quality evaluation, deems the Note 5’s Quad HD glass as “very impressive”, “the absolute best” in color accuracy and “the best performing smartphone display ever tested.”

Alas, the cams are probably identical to the ones fitted on the S6 and S6 Edge, barely beating the Note 4 in selfie prowess, courtesy of a 5 MP front-facing sensor. Around the back, you get 16 megapixels from both powerhouses, with optical image stabilization, autofocus and LED flash provided across the board.

Processor, RAM and battery life

Source: Phone Arena
Source: Phone Arena

Qualcomm may have botched the heir to Snapdragon 805’s throne, but the 14 nm octa-core Exynos 7420 SoC manages to easily eclipse the E5433 and SD810 in raw speed and energy efficiency. Early benchmarks graded Note 5’s hardware at close to 70,000 points in AnTuTu and roughly 4,700 in Geekbench multi-core.

That’s 25,000+ and 1,500 points respectively north of Note 4’s marks, which the superior RAM count also contributes to. Call it overkill if you will, we’ll look at the 4 gigs of memory as a shrewd future proof tactic. You never know what kind of system requirements Marshmallow or subsequent versions of Android could introduce.

Galaxy Note 5 battery

Now, it might feel like Samsung downgraded autonomy with a smaller 3,000 mAh battery, but thanks to the Exynos 7420’s frugality, it seems endurance will in fact increase, from under to over 9 hours in the most strenuous conditions.

And don’t forget, it takes you less time to fully juice up the GNote 5, including wirelessly. You wanted palpable, real-life performance enhancements, and your wishes are Samsung’s command.

Storage, software and others

Don’t complain too much of 128GB variant elimination. After all, the Note 4 is squarely available with 32 gigs of local hoarding space. You can of course lament the microSD support’s absence, but it’s good to keep in mind some of those cards do more harm than good when zippy UFS 2.0 technology is involved.

samsung_galaxy_note_4

As far as software goes, the TouchWiz UI on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop is only lightly tweaked from what you’re getting from the Note 4 with 5.0. Enough to thankfully remove a bit of clutter and “bloat”, while at the same time squeezing even more productivity out of the revamped S Pen.

Speaking of, the new stylus is spring loaded, meaning you don’t have to manually take if off its slot anymore. That’s clearly a minor yet eye-catching improvement. The same goes for the fingerprint scanner, operated by touch now, not swipe, and if you’re patient, you’ll soon be able to make fast, secure, easy mobile payments through Samsung Pay. First on the Note 5, then eventually on the Note 4 too.

Galaxy Note 5 S Pen

Any connectivity upgrades? Just a trivial move from Bluetooth 4.1 to 4.2, and LTE Cat.9 advancements… in markets where the network speeds are attainable. No reversible USB Type-C port, no iris recognition contraption, no water protection this time around either.

To recap, the Galaxy Note 5 is better-looking, sharper, speedier, longer-lasting and, possibly, more robust than the Note 4 all in all. That’s plenty to justify the $150 price gap, and make Europeans rue their bad luck.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ vs Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge – specs comparison

Originally, we intended to take things very gradually when explaining Samsung’s new high-end smartphone roster, first spelling out the differences between the just-announced Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+, then pitting the latter against the “standard” S6 and S6 Edge, and finally comparing and contrasting the Note 5 and its faux leather-clad predecessor.

Galaxy S6 Edge+

But we think we’ll skip the GNote 5 vs GS6 Edge+ post, given the two are basically the same exact device, with S Pen functionality on the former and a dual edge display on the latter. That’s it, and it’s all you need to know before choosing one or the other.

Which brings us to the S6 Edge+ vs S6 Edge vs S6 “battle.” At first glance, there’s not much to talk about here either. The key distinction between the S6 and S6 Edge is given away in their names, and the Plus simply widens the screen real estate. Or does it?

Photo: Android Central
Photo: Android Central

Well, let’s take a more thorough look at the three’s designs, dimensions, specifications and features, and see if there’s more than what meets the eye to the Galaxy S6 Edge+. It better be, considering the price premium.

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge vs Edge+ – pricing and availability

If you’re looking to cut a lucrative deal, the non-edgy GS6 is definitely the way to go. It costs $570 factory unlocked in blue, $574 in white, $575 in black, or $585 in gold. With two-year carrier contracts, you can drop the tariff to $200 for Verizon, or $100 at Sprint.

galaxy-s6-blue

Meanwhile, the S6 Edge isn’t as prohibitive as back in the day, but it’s still a far more extravagant buy than the S6, at $648 and up unlocked, $200 on-contract with Sprint, or $300 for Verizon.

Extravagant? Hah, you ain’t seen nothing yet, as the S6 Edge+ starts at $768 outright, or $32 a month, through America’s largest wireless service provider. The second largest, AT&T, charges $815 free of contractual obligations, or $300 with pacts.

Galaxy S6 vs S6 Edge

Then you have Sprint, where the curved phablet is cheaper on full retail ($792), and pricier with lengthy agreements ($350), and finally, T-Mobile, which merely lets you pre-register for “the next big thing”, but promises an uber-attractive Netflix promotion. When the Uncarrier kicks off sales, the S6 Edge+, along with a year of Netflix, will set you back $860 and up.

Design and build quality

“More elegant, understated, and finely crafted” than the S6 Edge. That’s how Samsung describes the Edge+, but we call BS. It’s exactly as elegant and “finely crafted” as the original, which is by no means an insult. On the contrary, we applaud Samsung for not trying to fix what was obviously not broken.

Galaxy S6 Edge+ rear

Kudos for keeping bulk in check too, with a skinny 6.9 mm metallic frame and 153 grams weight. The 5.7-inch S6 Edge+ is only 15 and 21 grams heavier respectively than the 5.1-inch S6 and S6 Edge, which sounds like a tough and rare engineering feat.

Alas, the glass rear, while beautiful and robust, is even more slippery when jumbo-sized, and so the first thing you may want to purchase after the S6 Edge+ is a good old fashioned protective cover. Unless you’re into that painfully clunky physical keyboard case.

Display and cameras

Let’s make it extremely easy for you. Like gigantic phones than don’t fit into your pocket? Then pick the S6 Edge+. Favoring a compact form factor and sharper screen? The S6 and S6 Edge are smaller and better, with their Quad HD resolution capable of producing 577 ppi, compared to 518 on the Edge+. And yes, the Edge+ is Quad HD, aka 2K-gifted also.

Galaxy S6 Edge display

Cameras? Don’t worry about them, they’re identical across the board. 16 megapixels around the back, with optical image stabilization, LED flash and autofocus, 5 MP for selfies, with auto HDR and 1,440p video recording support at 30fps.

Processor, RAM and battery life

All-in-one Exynos 7422 SoC? Samsung said nothing of such an upgrade for the S6 Edge+ or Note 5, so they’re probably sticking to conventional 7420 solutions. Conventional but wickedly snappy, not to mention energy-efficient, thanks to 14 nm architecture.

Speaking of frugality and power-saving potential, all three phones need all the help they can get, considering they pack comparatively tiny cells with strenuous internals and super-sharp screens. Namely, 2,550 mAh inside the S6, 2,600 for the S6 Edge, and 3,000 mAh as far as the S6 Edge+ is concerned.

You’re right to be worried of sub-24 hour endurance numbers, but on the bright side, you get fast charging from the entire lineup of Androids, and even fast wireless charging from the Edge+. Prepare to go from 0 to 100 in under 120 minutes, no cables required.

Wireless charging

With 4 GB RAM in tow, up to 3 on the S6 and S6 Edge, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is the ultimate multitasking champion, breezing through the most difficult and diverse tasks, including hardcore gaming, multimedia and photo editing.

Storage, software and others

No microSD expansion possibilities anywhere in sight. Such a bitter disappointment! Predictable but bitter. What wasn’t quite easy to foretell, and makes little to no sense, is the absence of a 128GB internal storage configuration for the S6 Edge+. Some people just can’t make do with 32 or 64 gigs of data depository. And no, the cloud ain’t always an option.

MicroSD card

Moving on to software, the roots are all the same… if you got the Android 5.1 Lollipop update on the S6 and S6 Edge. Even so, the UIs aren’t interchangeable, with TouchWiz adding a bit of extra edge functionality to the S6 Edge+. You’ll also notice a few generic tweaks in notifications and icons, but nothing extreme.

What else? LTE Cat.9 connectivity? We’ve stopped caring a long time ago. No USB Type-C? We’re a little disgruntled, but we expected that. Samsung Pay support? Finally, though it’s probably set to work on all recent flagships, so it doesn’t help the GS6 Edge+ stand out.

Photo: Forbes
Photo: Forbes

Fingerprint recognition technology? It’s become a standard, boring feature. No IR blaster? Who watches TV nowadays anyway? Bottom line, it’s hard to recommend the Galaxy S6 Edge+ as a triumph of innovation. It’s way too familiar… and expensive.

Our advice? Swim against the tide and score an “aging” S6 or S6 Edge. They’re practically as powerful and capable, plus cheaper.

Best back-to-school Android smartphones for 2015

We realize you probably don’t want to think about this yet, but the start of the school year is nigh. There’s still time to have some fun, lie under the scorching sun all day and party all night, but sooner or later, you’ll need to deal with the reality of the sweet dream coming to a bitter end.

Smartphone in school

Luckily, we know just the perfect pick-you-up. Nothing like shiny new Android gear to get you through the pains of math classes and perhaps help with homework. As you can imagine, the list of smartphone must-buys this back to school season looks radically different from last year’s index of distractions/work tools.

There’s something for everyone in our collection of student-centric handhelds, as we want to cater to all budgets, needs and preferences:

Motorola Moto E (2nd generation) – $89.99 GSM unlocked; $99.99 with 4G LTE

Our cheapest proposition is obviously the least technically gifted as well, but that’s not to say it’s a pushover. Besides, some of you more understanding youngsters may want to give old mom and dad a break from excessive spending. After all, they also have clothes, various taxes and other expenses to take care of.

Moto-E_2nd-Gen

That said, the 2015 Moto E, particularly the LTE-capable version, offers a lot for very little money. A compact and respectably sharp 4.5-inch qHD IPS panel, quad-core Snapdragon 410 power, 1 GB RAM, 2,390 mAh battery juice and 5 MP autofocus rear camera, among others.

HTC Desire 816 – $150 with prepaid Virgin Mobile plans

It’s not entirely fair to compare this robust phablet’s prepaid tariff with unlocked tags of rival devices, but at the end of the day, contractual obligations don’t enter any of the equations and Virgin Mobile’s arrangements are extremely convenient in the long run.

HTC Desire 816

As far as the actual Desire 816 goes, this definitely targets lovers of jumbo-sized phones, as well as fashionistas and shutterbugs. It tips the scales at 165 grams, measures 7.9 mm thick, 5.5 inches in screen diagonal and features a 13 megapixel main photographic unit.

Motorola Moto G (3rd generation) – $179.99

Though not that different from its predecessor on the outside, the 2015 G adds water resistance in the mix, cranks up the autonomy to around 24 hours and vastly improves both cameras, upping the sensors to 13 and 5 MP.

Moto G 2015

The pre-installed stock Android 5.1 Lollipop makes this the perfect choice for purists too, also guaranteeing extended and steady software support.

BLU Selfie – $193 GSM unlocked

We have a strict “no judging” policy here at The Droid Guy, so if selfies are your thing, even during school hours, we think it best you don’t deny your heart what it wants. You only live once, and these early formation years are some of the most precious ones.

BLU Selfie

Have fun while you still can, and take all the selfies… teachers will let you, courtesy of BLU Selfie’s unbeatable 13 MP LED flash front-facing camera.

Asus ZenFone 2 – $199 in 16 GB configuration; $299 with 64 GB ROM/4 GB RAM

The “entry-level” model isn’t half bad, with Intel inside, 2 gigs of random access memory, a 5.5-inch Full HD display and 13 MP/5 MP cams. But by all means, try to amass an extra hundred bucks and go for the 4 gig RAM champ.

Asus ZenFone 2

Juggling with various tools, apps, social media websites and games is an integral part of teenage life nowadays, so why skimp when you can score a multitasking beast for a short of prohibitive price?

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – $449.99

Oh, noes, your phone expired again halfway through that exhausting classical Chinese poetry seminar. Why you took that course in the first place is beside the point, as you expected to have your Instagram keep you company while your parents thought you were getting a solid education.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7

Anyhoo, the fact of the matter is you need a ridiculously long-lasting gadget. Enter the 4,100 mAh cell-packing Mate 7. With a 1,080p 6-inch screen in tow, octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 925 SoC and 2 GB RAM, so not exactly energy-draining hardware. All-day battery has never been so easy to achieve.

LG G4 – starting at $469 factory unlocked; $100 with Verizon or Sprint pacts

A mainstream, universally acclaimed flagship, the G4 should nicely tickle the fancy of scholars, what with its stylish leather exterior, 5.5-inch Quad HD LCD panel, 3 GB RAM, 16 MP OIS rear camera, 8 MP selfie pro and 3,000 mAh ticker.

LG G4

It’s great for everything from watching videos on the go to playing graphically-demanding games, snapping crisp photos and surfing the web with ease, all while being perfectly capable of keeping the lights on for hours on end.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – $544 factory unlocked

Soon to be refreshed, nay, replaced and made obsolete, the GNote 4 remains the go-to productivity powerhouse of today, thanks to S Pen support, an octa-core Exynos 5433 chip, fingerprint recognition, 5.7-inch 2K display, 32 GB internal storage space, 3 GB RAM and 3,220 mAh endurance.

Galaxy Note 4

Sure, the Note 5 will upgrade the 16 and 3.7 MP cams, not to mention it’ll swap plastic and faux leather for a premium metal-and-glass combo. But the “next big thing” is also set to ditch microSD capabilities, seal the likely smaller battery, and raise the price bar through the roof. Bottom line, don’t disregard the OG altogether.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – $662 unlocked; $250 on-contract at Sprint, $300 with Verizon

Arguably the coolest-looking Android in the world, the S6 Edge is a lot more than just a phone. It’s a fashion statement, it’s a way of expressing your unique style and persona, and ultimately, showing the other kids you can be original and afford such an extravagant buy.

Galaxy S6 Edge

Is it tacky to purchase a gizmo because you can? Not if you truly appreciate the razzle-dazzle design, and if you’ve worked for your dough. Have you taken at least a part-time gig this summer? Then you probably deserve to spoil yourself a little.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active – $695 outright for AT&T

Galaxy S6 Active

Wait, when did the Active become costlier than the Edge? That’s ludicrous, as the waterproof 5.1 incher looks terrible at a first glance. Then again, it’s virtually indestructible, handles drops, shocks, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation and the works, plus lasts a while between charges on a 3,500 mAh juicer.

A microSD card slot, and outdoorsy individuals in the market for a back-to-school slab would have had all their prayers answered.

OnePlus 2 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 – specs comparison

After making the world wait a little longer than initially anticipated, Android’s 2014 breakout star finally entered the second chapter of its rapid and captivating evolution. Now that OnePlus isn’t exactly an underdog anymore, a wild card or question mark, the expectations are set much higher, which is why some folks believe the 2 is a bitter disappointment.

Galaxy S6 vs OnePlus 2

To remove the subjective facet of the “no-compromise” affordable flagship’s evaluation, we’ll pit the OnePlus 2 against the Samsung Galaxy S6 as follows in a battle mostly centered on numbers and cold facts.

Why the GS6? Well, we realize the two handhelds may not be cut from the same cloth (both figuratively speaking and literally), and there’s quite a massive price gap between them. But OnePlus did pompously trumpet the 2 as a “2016 flagship killer”, and we don’t want to let the Chinese OEM off the hook just yet.

Photo: Android Central
Photo: Android Central

Besides, if the Full HD 5.5 incher manages to at least come close to the excellence of the reigning Quad HD 5.1-inch champ, you know it’ll be able to comfortably outshine its direct rivals in the $300 – $400 range.

OnePlus 2 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 – price and availability comparison

Who’s ready for another irking round of “hunt the OnePlus invite”? Not your favorite online adventure/survival game? Then simply head over to Amazon, and purchase the factory unlocked S6 at $563 in white, $570 in blue, $573 in black or $580 in gold.

OnePlus 2 pricing

On-contract, Sprint and Verizon charge $200 via everyone’s favorite e-retailer, while AT&T is ready to let you have the “next big thing” for $0 down with device financing. Sounds fair all in all, yet poor sales numbers will reportedly force Sammy to execute reductions worldwide.

Already, T-Mobile sells the Galaxy S6 at $580 outright in lieu of the $680 MSRP.

samsung-galaxy-s6-white

Meanwhile, if divine patience is your strongest suit, the OnePlus 2 will be available (not so) soon starting at $329 in a 16 GB configuration and $389 when capable of accommodating 64 gigs of data. Seems well worth the wait, doesn’t it?

Design and build quality

By no means an ugly slab, the new kid on the block pales in comparison to the majestic “veteran”, despite sharing a number of technical similarities. The metal frame somehow feels flimsier on the OnePlus 2, and though we certainly dig the choice of StyleSwap covers, none of the optional backplates are as stylish and premium as the only variant on the S6 – the beautiful Gorilla Glass.

OnePlus 2

Supplementary screen real estate obviously produces a larger overall footprint for the OnePlus 2, which measures 151.8 mm in height and 74.9 mm in width, as opposed to 143.4 and 70.5 respectively. Now, that doesn’t work as an alibi for the chunkier profile also (9.9 vs 6.8 mm), but as you’ll see below, battery capacity mostly justifies the extra bulk.

Speaking of, the OnePlus 2 tips the scales at 175 grams, a full 37 grams more than the S6.

Display and cameras

Is Quad HD resolution a gimmick? To each their own, but we’re absolutely sure of this – on paper, the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED and 5.5-inch LTPS LCD panels set side by side here are as different as chalk and cheese.

Galaxy S6

The pixel density gap is staggering, and whatever you might tell yourselves to sleep better at night, it’s noticeable. 577 vs 401 ppi? We’ll take the former, thank you very much, given the choice and plentiful budget.

Another no-contest victory recommends the S6 as the far superior photographic machine, thanks to a 16 megapixel rear-facing camera endowed with everything from LED flash to speedy autofocus and optical image stabilization.

OnePlus 2 camera

The lower-cost antagonist itself comes brimming of high-end add-ons and optimizations, but at the end of the day, sports a mediocre 13 MP sensor. Selfie fanatics have nothing to worry about, regardless of the manufacturer choice, as both Samsung and OnePlus provide 5 MP front shooters.

Processor and battery life

OnePlus and Qualcomm insist all overheating woes are behind the otherwise potent octa-core Snapdragon 810 chip, but until we see the 2 in action, we’d rather keep our skeptical hats on. Besides, even if the SoC is fully stable, it’s likely throttled and thus incapable of matching Exynos 7420’s dominant raw power.

oneplus-2-snapdragon-810

Or its energy efficiency, which boosts the paltry 2,550 mAh cell to respectable durability figures of around 17 hours in continuous 3G talk time. Nonetheless, a 3,300 mAh juicer is a 3,300 mAh juicer, and if something doesn’t go terribly wrong, OnePlus 2’s autonomy should circle 24 hours.

RAM, storage, software and others

Are 4 gigs of random-access memory overkill? That’s up to debate, much like the Quad HD display controversy. Seeing as how we awarded a point to the Galaxy S6 in the screen res section though, we’ll do the same here as far as the OnePlus 2 is concerned.

oneplus-2-ram

The heavyweight contender starts off with 3 GB RAM in combination with a 16 GB ROM, only requiring a $60 premium to upgrade to 4 and 64 gigabytes. Meanwhile, all three storage configurations of the current champion (32/64/128 GB) are decked with “just” 3 gigs of memory.

Software-wise, the Android 5.1 Lollipop roots look identical, with proprietary customizations and “optimizations” making the end products run nothing alike. We’re hesitant to proclaim a clear winner, as the decision comes down to personal preference.

Samsung-Galaxy-S6-Black

Those who favor cleaner, more simplistic and minimalistic takes on Google’s mobile OS will endorse the Oxygen UI on the OnePlus 2, with fans of bloatware bells and whistles better serviced by TouchWiz.

What else? Before you think it, no, you can’t expand the on-board storage via microSD slots on neither device. Nor can you take the two for swims without causing catastrophic damage. On the biometric authentication front, there’s plenty of fingerprint support to go around, and the gimmicky futuristic sensors are hidden inside similar home buttons.

OnePlus 2 USB Type C cable

As the younger gadget, the OnePlus 2 was able to incorporate a cutting-edge technology that the GS6 didn’t have access to back in March. Namely, reversible USB Type-C connectivity. Merely one of the many reasons the cheaper phone isn’t necessarily the worse gizmo, and deserves consideration from cash-strapped power users.

2016 flagship killer? Not even close. 2015 flagship equal? Pretty much.

Samsung Galaxy A8 vs Galaxy A7 vs A5 vs A3 – specs comparison

After (hopefully) helping you better understand the “deal” with LG’s far too similar mid-range G4 derivations, our mission of clarifying convoluted Android smartphone families enters a new phase. Today, we’re all about praising the Samsung Galaxy A roster’s full-metal diversity.

Galaxy A3 A5 A7

Yes, for once, you’ll see us endorse so-called “brand dilution” instead of bitching and complaining. That’s mostly because the Korea-based manufacturer dominators have been wise enough to separate the top-shelf Galaxy S line and slightly humbler A clan.

Besides, before the A8 came to light, the differences between the A3, A5 and A7 were crystal clear, and their target audiences easy to deduce even only judging from the names and numeric suffixes. The A3 is the entry-level member, although nowhere near as modest as, say, Moto Es, the A5 takes up a higher branch of the totem pole and the A7 comes fairly close to flagship material.

Samsung-Galaxy-A8

Not as close as the A8, obviously, but we’ll tackle the specifics of the quartet’s key variations as follows:

Samsung Galaxy A8 vs A7 vs A5 vs A3 – pricing and availability

It’s perhaps needless to mention the new head of the household hasn’t gone on sale yet. However, we have a pretty good guess of how much it’s going to cost – north of $500 contract-free. Steep? A little, especially as the GS6 was recently dropped by Amazon to a palatable $555.

Samsung Galaxy A7

Of course, if the A8 gets a similar global push (which is highly unlikely), discounts will come for it too. Meanwhile, a factory unlocked Galaxy A7 with 3G connectivity sets you back $400 in black or white. The A5 starts at $280 (not bad), and the A3 is roughly 50 bucks cheaper.

Any US carrier pickups on the horizon? We can hope, but they feel rather implausible at the moment.

Design and build comparison

Samsung-Galaxy-A5

Construction is one of the main reasons we dig the Galaxy A family as a whole. You don’t often see low-enders as robust and premium as their superior siblings, yet save for footprints, the A3, A5 and A7 are essentially identical. All-metal, slender, with slim screen bezels in tow, sharp corners and neat industrial vibes.

Oh, okay, maybe A3’s bezels are a bit chunkier. And the A8 is hands down the clan’s looker, shaving vertical display borders off almost altogether and measuring a mouth-watering 5.9 mm in depth. But all four As catch the eye with svelte figures: 6.9, 6.7 and 6.3 mm for the A3, A5 and A7 respectively.

Display and cameras

Samsung Galaxy A3

From top to bottom, we have 5.7-inch 1,080p, 5.5-inch 1,080p, 5-inch 720p and 4.5-inch qHD Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreens. The resulting pixel density sits at 386, 401, 294 and 245 ppi. See, a smaller panel can definitely have its benefits.

Above all, we’d like to underline there’s something for virtually everybody here, and camera sensors make it even more abundantly clear various classes of customers are catered to. The best photographic unit is evidently provided by the A8 (a 16 MP powerhouse), with A3’s 8 megapixel shooter at the other end of the spectrum.

Galaxy A7 camera

 

In the middle, the A5 and A7 don’t disappoint, with interchangeable 13 MP autofocus/LED flash rear cams. As far as selfie equipment goes, there’s no discrimination – everybody gets 5 MP front-facing snappers, no flash included. Bummer? Nah, Sammy always knows how to treat its most narcissistic fans.

Processors, RAM and battery life

Qualcomm may have lost probably the biggest Android chip-supplying contract of 2015, “forcing” Samsung to go the Exynos path to dodge the overheating woes of the Snapdragon 810. But they didn’t lose the OEM’s trust in the low to mid-end segment, with octa-core Snapdragon 615 SoCs on the A8 and A7, and quad-core S410 arrangements delivered to the A3 and A5.

Snapdragon-615

You get 2 GB memory, you get 2 GB memory, everybody gets 2 GB memory… except for the 1.5 gig RAM Galaxy A3. But hey, that’s plenty to adequately ensure Android 4.4 or 5.0’s average requirements, as well as great bang for your buck at sub-$250.

As always, autonomy is a delicate issue and depends on a number of subjective factors. Not to mention no one’s got the chance to fiddle with the Galaxy A8 until now. In theory, even if it’s the thinnest handheld put under the microscope today, the A8 should last longest between charges, thanks to a sizable 3,050 mAh cell.

Galaxy A family

The A7 renounces around 400 mAh capacity, the A5 further trims the volume to 2,300 mAh, and the A3 settles for a tiny 1,900 mAh pacemaker. On the plus side, the energy needs of the four devices are different, so at the end of the day, they all likely boast 12 hour+ endurance numbers in continuous talk time.

Software, storage and others

The new guy runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out the box, the OGs all come pre-installed with 4.4 KitKat and upgradeable to 5.0 L. On top of that, TouchWiz UI sprinkles a few goodies and add-ons across the board, and hopefully, Android M bumps are also guaranteed across the board.

galaxy_a_lollipop

Digital hoarders should be happy to hear microSD expansion isn’t restricted on any of the A-series phones, with 16 GB the base internal capacity of the entire ensemble, and 32 gigs offered as a costlier alternative on the Galaxy A8.

Connectivity-wise, 4G LTE support has your back for speedy network access everywhere (just not stateside), with Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC covering all the standard bases. Wait, no, sorry, the A8 is Bluetooth 4.1-enabled.

Galaxy A8

And it’s also the only one capable of recognizing your fingerprint and using it as a security-enhancing feature, via home button touch. Ah, what we wouldn’t give for at least one easily removable battery or water-protected body. Maybe premium sound enhancements of sorts…? Samsung Pay support? Wireless charging?

Guess you really can’t have it all at $230 or $280. Or $700, for that matter. We’ll always find something to undermine a smartphone’s excellence. That said, these four come so close to non-flagship perfection, they can almost touch it.  

Best premium metal Android smartphones available today

You can defend plastic handheld construction all you want, but like it or not, “polycarbonate” is a word mobile enthusiasts will soon forget. And thank God for that, since this writer became tired of being fed the most ridiculous excuses from lazy, profit-driven manufacturers years back.

Metal Android

Admit it, everybody, metal is better, and the only reason Samsung & co. opposed design evolution for so long was indolence. Yes, it’s trickier and costlier to build gadgets out of robust materials like aluminum or steel, but you have to spend money to make money.

Besides, a “premium” smartphone doesn’t need to be all about the metal. In theory, that would be ideal, yet in reality, some of the world’s handsomest, sturdiest devices are merely metal-framed, with hard as nails glass used to finish the first-class assembly.

htc-one-m9-rear

They say aesthetic judgment is subjective. So, you may not entirely agree with our following selection of the best metallic Android smartphones around, ordered by price, from the extravagant to the cost-conscious. Still, we dare you to question the prime build quality and overall attractive nature of these bad boys. If not the very finest, they’re among the best-looking:

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – $700 unlocked; $300 with Verizon and Sprint contracts

Galaxy S6 Edge

Granted, the alloy employed to enclose the Gorilla Glass 4 rear of the dual-edged Samsung flagship isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking “man, is that phone sexy.” But it definitely helps send a top-drawer vibe, and unless you’re the YouTube destroyer type, shields the GS6 Edge from catastrophic damage on moderate impact with hard surfaces.

Given a “Plus” version is probably around the corner, Amazon has finally started to ask a reasonable price for the Quad HD 7 mm slim 5.1 incher. Not quite affordable yet, but reasonable nonetheless.

HTC One M9 – $585 factory unlocked; $200 with Sprint or Verizon pacts

HTC One M9

They say you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, and despite public outrage murmurs of disapproval, the struggling Taiwanese OEM basically came out early this year with the same high-end blueprint as in 2014.

If you choose to ignore this nagging little detail though, you’ll find yourselves mesmerized… again by an award-winning execution of a rather sensitive concept. The M9 is the hallmark of unibody mobile designs, with five-star aluminum everywhere, “sophisticated curves” and a breathtaking gemstoney finish.

Sony Xperia Z3 – $465

Sony Xperia Z3

Another company that refused to change its ways for the sake of change, yielding indifference more than indignation. The problem is the Xperia head of the family looks nowhere near as impressive as the last two HTC One installments, with a combination of metal and glass that Samsung effortlessly managed to surpass in wow factor.

Affordability and water resistance thus become Z3’s only real shots at a saving grace. And the former is meh, considering we have six more contenders to the title of heavyweight metal champ to go through.

ZTE Axon – $450 on pre-order

ZTE Axon

Wait a minute, where exactly did this flamboyant 5.5 incher come from? And how come it’s so cheap, with Quad HD screen resolution in tow, octa-core Snapdragon 810 power, 4 GB RAM (!!!), a dual lens rear camera arrangement, Hi-Fi audio and “clean” Android 5.1 Lollipop experience?

Right, it’s because the ZTE name doesn’t inspire trust, let alone excellence stateside. And the exterior perhaps needed further refinement work. It’s a decent blend of metal and glass, don’t get us wrong, but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Some razzle-dazzle, if you will.

Huawei Ascend Mate 7 – $440

Huawei Mate 7

It’s big, probably too big for many, and tries too hard to replicate Apple and HTC’s visual magic to retain an identity of its own. At the end of the day though, it’s both stylish and muscular, measures 7.9 mm thick, can scan and recognize your unique fingerprint and sports a record-setting 83 percent screen-to-body ratio, according to its designers.

Other sources say 78 percent or so, which is still mouth-watering. So long, bezels, hello to you, borderless aluminum skeleton.

HTC One M8 – $420 unlocked; $70 on-contract at Verizon

HTC One M8

We already pretty much covered what makes the M8 stand out by summarizing its successor’s key appearance selling points. Wondering about the aging 5 incher’s insides and their capacity to keep up with the times?

Well, the quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor is adequate for the price range, and the same goes for the 2 GB RAM or Full HD LCD panel. Alas, the dual 4 Ultrapixel main photographic unit is a disaster, no matter how you look at it.

Samsung Galaxy A7 – $399.90

Samsung Galaxy A7

Will the improved, larger, fingerprint-IDing A8 make the 5.5-inch A7 obsolete? Not a chance, given the latter’s outstanding all-metal build, skinny 6.3 mm waist and 72 percent+ screen-to-body ratio. No bezels + economical MSRP + 64 bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 SoC + 2 GB RAM + 13 MP LED flash cam = must-buy.

Lenovo Vibe Z2 – $245

Lenovo Vibe Z2

We bet prior to this charming 5.5-inch 720p hunk, you thought it was impossible for a household name in the industry to charge a penny under $400 for a matte-finished, metal-covered phablet. Entirely enveloped in vigorous aluminum, mind you, with minimal screen bezel and a triumphant business demeanor.

Of course, the hardware isn’t exactly premium, and on the software side of things, you’re stuck on 4.4 KitKat. But we can all agree a quad-core S400 chip, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage, 13 and 8 MP shooters and 3,000 mAh battery are competent enough tools, all things considered.

BLU Vivo Air – $179

BLU Vivo Air

Mark our words, Motorola, Sony, Samsung, HTC and whoever else feels cash-strapped buyers don’t deserve superior build quality. This is the low-cost future! The 5.1 mm gaunt, 91 grams light Vivo Air, made of an aluminum magnesium alloy and glass, with sharp edges, a clean, polished guise, octa-core processing power, 16 GB ROM, 1 GB RAM, 8 MP LED flash rear camera, 5 MP selfie snapper and 1,280 x 720 pixels resolution AMOLED display.

Do we need to get nasty and point the obvious? If you’d slap a Samsung logo on the Vivo Air, Amazon would likely sell it at close to $300. Time to rethink pricing strategies for big brands!