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Holiday Gift Guide 2015

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Nov 25, 2015, 3:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The holiday season is upon us once again, and it is time to think about our closest friends and family members. Picking the right phone can be a chore, but Phone Scoop's annual Holiday Gift Guide is here to lend a helping hand. We curated a fine list of phones for every type of device and every budget. If you need a recommendation or two, look no further.

That special time of the year, when we turn our thoughts to family, friends, and giving, has finally arrived. Shoppers will flood stores and web sites alike over the days and weeks ahead looking for the perfect gift for that special someone. Phones, which allow us to remain connected to one another throughout the year, are always a welcome gift.

The last 12 months have served up plenty of change in the mobile industry. New companies have fully taken the place of old ones, while some brands still cling to the hope of revival. Technology may not have evolved at the most rapid pace over the last year, but carriers have made significant alterations to their business models. These changes gave us pause and forced us to reflect on why people buy the phones they do, and how people go about buying them.

For example, carriers hardly offer simple feature phones. Most include just one or two in their selection. Messaging phones — those with physical keyboards — are all but dead. Virtually all handsets are now smartphones, and range from small to large, and from cheap to eye-poppingly expensive. Thankfully, you can find capable devices at every price point.

Choice of operating systems has dropped to two — Android and iOS — for all intents and purposes. Microsoft still pushes Windows Phone, but the selection of hardware is severely limited. The vast bulk of our recommendations reflect this change in the market.

Most high-end phones include excellent cameras. Flagships and phablets alike have come a long, long way in improving the photo and video experience — so much so that we've eliminated a category reserved for cameras.

This year we've broken down our device categories somewhat differently. We are still dividing them in larger postpaid and prepaid groupings, but have eliminated some of the irrelevant categories and added new ones at the same time. Perhaps the most important new category is that of unlocked devices. Many phone makers, lacking carrier distribution deals, are selling their devices online, unlocked directly to consumers. More than a handful of these are excellent phones that deserve attention.

The Phone Scoop Holiday Gift Guide 2015 takes a practical approach in suggesting phones we've spent time with and know to be decent. We didn't shoehorn recommendations into the individual categories just to fill up space. We also looked at user reviews, pricing, and general popularity across each carrier's device lineup to make sure the phones are current and available. We hope you find the Guide helpful in finding the right phone for everyone on your shopping list.

Surely there will be good deals in stores and online during Black Friday, but don't fret if you can't get any shopping done the first weekend of the season. In years past, carriers have shown a propensity to vary their sales and promotions on a weekly basis. Keep your eyes and ears open, as the best sales may be yet to come.

It goes without saying that you shouldn't stick your old phone into a drawer. You'd do well to take it to your carrier to recycle it or trade it in. Phones retain more value than you might think, so swapping it might save you some cold, hard cash on that shiny new precious.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.



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Nov 30, 2015, 4:35 PM

I will probably regret this

But I bit the bullet and went ahead and upgraded to a Note 5 and a Galaxy S6. I really wanted the LG v10 or the Microsoft Lumia 950XL, but neither device was available for Sprint. The only other viable alternative was the the G4, but I finally decided the buttons on the back were too cludgy and that the multi tasking experience will be inferior. So, goodbye battery and SD card. I just know I'm gonna regret this in a few months.
The note 5 in particular is far superior than most devices on the market, including all of the phones listed in this post.
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