Verizon Buyer’s Guide for Android (November 2014)

In the hunt for a new smartphone from Verizon? Regardless of whether you’re buying your first Android or upgrading for the fourth time there’s something for everyone. And, as you might suspect, Big Red has plenty to choose from. In fact, counting variations, there are roughly two dozen models to choose from today.

As the lone carrier to offer the Droid series, Verizon transitioned the family away from other hardware makers into an exclusive relationship with Motorola. Beyond that, you’ll also find some devices that are exclusive to the nation’s largest wireless provider.

Defining high-end

Today’s top Androids feature big, gorgeous displays, fantastic high-resolution cameras, and lots of memory. Toss in some quad-core and octa-core processors and some killer high capacity batteries and you’ve got mobile devices that would rival your computer from just a few years back.

As 2014 draws to a close and we look at the hardware from late model Androids it’s not uncommon to find screens hovering at 5-inches or larger. Thanks to ever-shrinking bezels we have phones with massive displays that also happen to fit comfortably in our hand. And, they’re not only big, but they’re sharp, too. Resolutions across the the top models are 1080p and higher. For what it’s worth, we’re starting to get our first glimpses of 2K and Ultra HD screens. It can be argued that average users cannot discern much beyond 720p/1080p on such a small device.

If you’re not coming to the table with at least a quad-core processor and 2GB RAM then you’re not going to sit at the big boy’s table. Most of the bleeding edge stuff you’ll find today comes with 3GB memory and chipsets of around 2.3GHz – 2.7GHz.

Storage capacities, for the most part, haven’t moved forward quite as quickly as other areas. You’ll still routinely find 16GB and 32GB models in most models though some are creeping into the 64GB space. Given that many handsets offer external storage via microSD cards it should matter little where you start out – especially if cost is a factor.

Another important factor in determining a smartphone purchase is the version of Android. Typically, it’s a simple case of “the newer the phone, the newer the operating system”. Today’s most recent phones are powered by Android 4.4.4 KitKat but anything running at least 4.4 should suffice for the average person. You will still find an occasional straggler, though, running something older.

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Flagships & Exclusives

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Launched in October, this is Samsung’s annual plus-sized experience. Thanks to the release time-frame, these are typically a step-up from the Galaxy S series of smartphones. Standout specs include 32GB storage, a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, 3GB RAM, an S Pen stylus, and a 3220mAh battery. Verizon | Best Buy
  • Samsung Galaxy S5: Released in spring 2014, it’s the most popular series of Android models to date. Hardware includes a 5.1-inch display, 16-megapixel camera, 16GB storage, and a 2800mAh battery. Verizon | Best Buy
  • LG G3: LG’s increasingly popular family of phones, this one is unique in that it features rear button configuration under the camera.  Verizon | Best Buy
  • Motorola Moto X (2014): Motorola’s now annual flagship model, the Moto X is significant for its stripped down Android experience. Slightly bigger than last year’s model, this one has been very well received in the space. Verizon | Best Buy
  • Sony Xperia Z3v: The first Sony smartphone for Big Red, it’s sleek, sexy, and waterproof. Featuring a 5.2-inch 1080p display, the handset also boasts a stellar 20.7-megapixel rear camera, and 3200mAh battery   Verizon
  • Motorola Droid Turbo: The first Droid from Verizon in over a year, it’s big and beautiful with a lean Android 4.4 KitKat experience. Standout features include turbo charging (8 hrs juice in 15 minutes) and a Quad HD display. Verizon | Best Buy
  • HTC One M8: Perhaps the oldest model in this list, HTC’s flagship handset received very high marks for its build quality and toned-down custom UI. Often cheaper than others in the group, it’s still plenty of bang for the buck.  Verizon | Best Buy


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Mid-range

While not always the case, the mid-range Android is typically made up of last year’s top models. This is not to suggest, however, that there’s not a one-off model or variation that sneaks in every once in a while. Specs, as you can imagine, are often a step below. Processors, cameras, and batteries are sometimes the key difference though many of them also feature a screen resolution of 720p or 1080p. What follows what could be considered some of Verizon‘s middle-of-the-pack handsets.

  • LG G2: One of LG’s breakout devices over the last few years, the smartphone was the first to employ the rear button setup. Killer hardware and a refined UI make this one hard to resist even a year later. Verizon | Best Buy
  • Samsung Galaxy S4: Quite possibly one of the most popular handsets ever, this Samsung features a 5-inch 1080p display, 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 2600mAh battery.  Verizon | Best Buy
  • Droid Maxx: Centered around its all-day battery life, the Droid Maxx is one big and powerful device. As often is the case with these signature Motorola handsets, this one features Kevlar coating and a splashproof screen. Verizon | Best Buy
  • Droid Mini: Still powerful enough for the typical smartphone user, this Droid is smaller in hand. At 4.3-inches it might feel diminutive by today’s standards, however it gets the job done. Verizon | Best Buy
  • HTC Desire 612: As a budgeted approach to the flagship One M8, you’ll find slightly less powerful hardware and a plastic housing. The 4.7-inch qHD display looks sharp and shows off the modern approach to HTC’s Sense UI. Verizon
  • HTC One Remix: Also an offshoot of the One M8, this HTC packs a 4.5-inch screen and eschews Ultrapixels in favor of 13-megapixels. The front-facing 5-megapixel shooter is a selfie-lover’s dream. Verizon | Best Buy
  • LG G Vista: A twist on the flagship G3, the G Vista boasts a massive 5.7-inch HD display and an 8-megapixel rear camera. Toss in a 3200mAh battery and a quad-core CPU and you’ve got an excellent option for plus-sized smartphone lovers. Verizon | Best Buy


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Entry-level

  • LG Lucid 3: Employing the more traditional button configuration, LG’s phone comes with a 4.7-inch qHD display, a 5-megapixel rear camera, and 1.2GHz quad-core chipset. Still present are some of LG’s custom software enhancements. Verizon | Best Buy
  • Kyocera Brigadier: The most, if only, rugged Android in Verizon’s lineup today, the Brigadier can withstand water, dirt, drops, and even tough weather conditions. Strong enough to get the job done, you’ll get a 4.5-inch screen and an 8-megapixel camera, too.  Verizon | Best Buy
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini: A smaller take on the 2013 flagship model, the S4 Mini has a very pocketable 4.3-inch display, an 8-megapixel rear shooter, and plenty of Samsung software features. Verizon
  • Droid Razr M: Thanks to a 4.3-inch, nearly edge-to-edge screen, this Droid simply feels great in hand. Kevlar coating and a scratch resistant glass make this one tough phone.  Specs, including software, are a step behind the others listed here.  Verizon | Best Buy