T-Mobile Buyer’s Guide for Android (November 2014)

In the hunt for a new smartphone from T-Mobile? 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, Ma Bell has plenty to choose from. In fact, counting variations, there are roughly two dozen models to choose from today.

As the first carrier to adopt Android, T-Mobile is doing a great job in supporting Google’s mobile platform.

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.

sony-xperia-z3If 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.

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. T-Mobile
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge: The first device of its kind, Samsung’s plus-sized smartphone is the best of the Note series with some extra ticker-width screen on the side. T-Mobile
  • 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. T-Mobile
  • LG G3: LG’s increasingly popular family of phones, this one is unique in that it features rear button configuration under the camera. T-Mobile
  • Google Nexus 6: Motorola‘s take on the annual Google flagship experience, the 6-inch handset runs the latest version of Android (5.0) and offers users plenty of battery and top-notch power. T-Mobile
  • 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. T-Mobile
  • Sony Xperia Z3: The lone Sony model on this list, it’s a sleek, sexy, waterproof phone with a top-shelf camera sensor and one heck of a powerful processor. Toss in 3GB RAM and 32GB storage and it’s among the best available today. T-Mobile

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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 T-Mobile middle-of-the-pack handsets.

  • Samsung Galaxy S4: One of the most popular smartphones of all time, this one is offered in a variety of colors.  Features include a 5-inch display, 16GB storage, and a quad-core CPU. T-Mobile
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3: As the plus-sized Samsung flagship from 2013, its quad-core CPU and camera make it a moderately strong device one year later. T-Mobile
  • ZTE ZMAX: One of the largest models in T-Mobile‘s lineup, we find a 5.7-inch screen, 2GB RAM, and a quad-core 1.2GHz processor. Powered by Android 4.4 KitKat, it’s considerably less expensive than other plus-sized handsets. T-Mobile

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Entry-level

  • Alcatel OneTouch Fierce 2: The second generation device offers users a nice sized, 5-inch display paired with a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, and 4GB storage. Powered by Android 4.4 KitKat, it packs a 5-megapixel rear shooter. T-Mobile
  • Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2: Slightly smaller and lesser-powered than the aforementioned Alcatel, you’ll find a 4-inch screen, 512MB RAM, and a dual-core 1.3GHz CPU. T-Mobile
  • LG Optimus F3Q: One of the few smartphones on the market with a physical QWERTY keyboard, the LG doesn’t stand up to many of today’s other Androids. Details include a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel rear camera, and 4GB storage. Powered by an outdated version of Android: 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. T-Mobile
  • LG Optimus L90: More in line with yesterday’s typical LG Android phone, you’ll find 8GB internal storage, 1GB RAM, and a quad-core 1.2GHz chip. Screen size is 4.7-inch with a still-sharp qHD resolution.  T-Mobile
  • Samsung Galaxy Avant: Running Android 4.4 Kitkat, this is the low end of Samsung’s spectrum for T-Mobile. Screen size is 4.5-inches and storage space is 16GB; the 1.5GB RAM is higher than most entry-level models. The microSD card only allows up to 64GB external storage which keeps long-term capacity more limited than others. T-Mobile