Many Android users are looking to upgrade their phones, either to save on end-of-the-year taxes, or to start the new year off with improved productivity. Unfortunately, there are a lot of choices and prices for a new phone. If you’re looking for a new phone, and you can’t (or won’t) get one on contract, you’re probably also concerned about price. And the truth is, an “unlocked” — no contract with a carrier — phone will cost you dearly. Expect to spend well above $350 US for a quality Android phone.
Determining your features
You should perform a needs analysis before you embark on your new phone quest. Sometimes, depending on your actual needs, you can save money by using a simple “dumb phone” and invest in a small tablet. Similarly, since I use the cloud to store a lot of documents, photos, and other files, when I looked for a new phone I knew an SD card wasn’t a top priority, and neither was internal storage — I settled with a 16GB Nexus 5 versus the 32GB model. (I had a similar “epiphany” with battery life.) Evaluating your true needs before you buy a new phone will help narrow down your choices.
The best devices right now
But even a well conceived needs analysis will inevitably make you realize you need a smartphone. I’ve selected the best devices for 3 different price points. Your budget will ultimately determine how far you can go.
The best phone for under $400: Nexus 5
I love my Nexus 5 phone, even with some small issues like the picture quality from the camera. Google Play has the 16GB model for $349, and the 32GB model for $399. Unfortunately, the Nexus 5 is currently out of stock on Google Play — it’s available/not available quite often. But if you want a phone today, I suggest visiting a cellular retailer and purchasing a phone off-contract. More importantly, Nexus 5 runs the newest releases of Android OS.
The best phone for $401 to $650: Moto X (2nd Gen)
Moto X (2nd Gen) is an awesome phone that you can grab for $499 of contract. Motorola also runs regular deals that helps lower the price. Motorola shows it’s committed to keeping the phone updated with the newest version of Android OS. You’ll love the camera and Motorola’s helpful additions (like Moto Assist).
The 3 best phones for $650-plus: HTC One M8, Nexus 6, and Galaxy Note 4
If you’re prepared to spend some serious money, then you won’t want to miss purchasing either the HTC One M8, the Nexus 6, or Galaxy Note 4.
Google offers a Google Play Edition version of the HTC One M8, which basically means that you’ll receive top-notch device, running the latest version of Android OS for about $699. I love this phone, especially the camera, which takes excellent pictures.
But I’m pretty sure that if you’re going to spend $699 US, you’ll pick up the 64 GB Nexus 6 for the same price.
Nexus 6 features a bigger screen, beefed up camera, and runs Android 5.0. It’s everything Google wants a phone to be.
Samsung (and others) fans will want to stick on Samsung’s side — if only they’d ditch TouchWiz — and purchase the Galaxy Note 4.
At $750 US, you’ll drop some cash for a massive screen, fun features, and a great camera. Mrs. The Droid Lawyer longed for the Note 4 over her Nexus 5.
The choice is yours
Well, there you have it, three different price points with a number of phones. I should throw out an honorable mention to the Moto G (2nd Gen.) phone, which prices at $179 US. There are some flaws with the phone, but overall this is a good value replacement.
Also, bargain hunters will want to check out the site, Swappa.com. This is the eBay of phone selling, which basically functions a lot like Craigslist. The seller posts, and the buyer buys. No bidding, no hassles, and you can verify you’re getting a quality used phone. I’ve sold and bought a couple different phones here. The phones tend to sell well below retail.