AT&T Buyer’s Guide for Android (November 2014)

In the hunt for a new smartphone from AT&T? 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 last of the big four carriers to adopt Android, AT&T is doing a bang-up job in supporting the platform. It seems we’re constantly hearing about an exclusive model or head start on the competition.

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.

mtoo_x_2014As 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.

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. Best Buy | AT&T
  • 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. Best Buy | AT&T
  • LG G3: LG’s increasingly popular family of phones, this one is unique in that it features rear button configuration under the camera. Best Buy | AT&T
  • 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. Best Buy | AT&T
  • 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.  Best Buy | AT&T
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha: The first device from Samsung to employ the new “design language”; features a svelte body wrapped in metal trim. Best Buy | AT&T
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 Active: A variation of the flagship with pre-installed apps based around the more active user. Rugged and durable, with a trio of new colors. Best Buy | AT&T


Mid-range

179215-overviewtab-lgz-immerseWhile 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 AT&T 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. Best Buy | AT&T
  • LG G Flex: The first smartphone from LG to offer the curved display; six inch screen and a 3500mAh battery make it big and long-lasting. Best Buy | AT&T
  • 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.  Best Buy | AT&T
  • Amazon Fire Phone: The first smartphone from Amazon, it’s exclusive to AT&T. It might be a little more gimmick than seasoned Android users might enjoy but plenty for new users. Works great for those who can’t get enough Amazon (Prime). Best Buy | AT&T


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Entry-level

  • 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. Best Buy | AT&T | Amazon
  • Motorola Moto G: A perfect starter smartphone, it has a 4.5-inch screen, a quad-core CPU, and LTE support.  Best Buy | AT&T | Amazon
  • HTC Desire 610: Low-cost take on the form factor from the One M8, you’ll find front-facing speakers and a host of HTC custom tweaks.  Best Buy | AT&T | Amazon
  • Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro: Features a 4-inch display, enhanced push-to-talk (PTT), and is built tough to resist shocks, water and dust. Best Buy | AT&T | Amazon
  • NEC Terrain: The only one on this list that features a physical keyboard; rugged design and PTT make this a great option for people who spend their days in the field. AT&T | Amazon


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