The newest version of Apple's flagship device has arrived, and many early reviewers are smitten with the iPhone 5's bigger and brighter Retina screen, cool new features in iOS 6, and a gee-whiz A6 chip that's twice as fast as before.
But not everyone is impressed. Over at Pocket-Lint, Stuart Miles noted that the pretty "chamfered" edge scuffs easily, revealing the silver aluminum beneath the slate-colored coating on the black model. Some early adopters also found that their new iPhones were scratched fresh out of the box, or that have scratched easily within days of use. And then there's the map mess in iOS 6, which turned the Manhattan Bridge into a roller coaster for one user and directed another to get gas at a furniture store. Some users, too, report hearing a strange rattle within the casing of the phone itself.
Perhaps, if you aren't one of the 5 million people who currently own the new iPhone 5, you might now (or, still) be weighing your smartphone options. There is, of course, an assortment of very-capable previous generation iPhones available at great prices with a contract. But there are also a slew of Apple competitors now nipping at the Cupertino giant's heels. These phone manufacturers have spent the past few years not just playing catch-up, but innovating. So if you're cool on the iPhone, here are some other hot options to consider.
HTC One XSpecs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.7" 1280x720 touchscreen display, 1GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
The flagship device from HTC's new One series has a sleek and practically seamless design. The standout feature for many reviewers is its the X's super-thin chassis. T3's David Phelan described it as a "highly tactile phone that you want to stroke and roll round your hand like a worry stone." Meanwhile, Gareth Beavis of TechRadar cautioned that the One X feels large in the hand, but compensates with a stunning 720p 4.7" screen. As a result, its pixel density or screen sharpness rivals the iPhone 4S, but does so on a screen that's over an inch larger. On the flip side, he found that the screen sucked a huge amount of life from the battery having to power all those pixels. Engadget seconded the battery concern, noting that it didn't last a "full workday."
As for HTC's modifications to the core Android 4.0 OS, Beavis cautioned that the phone lacks "iPhone levels of simplicity," but a user who grasps the "widget-astic" design will find the One X both intuitive and powerful. Engadget's Myriam Joire describes the One X's 8-megapixel camera as a knockout, delivering one of the best imaging experiences without sacrificing quality. This is achieved through an extra-wide aperture f/2.0 autofocus lens (vs. f/2.4 on the iPhone 5) and an extra processor called the ImageChip.
Best Deal: HTC One X 4G Google Android Smartphone for AT&T in Gray (pictured) or White for $19.99 with free shipping, a low by $80
Samsung Galaxy S IIISpecs: 1.4GHz dual-core processor, 4.8" 720x1280 touchscreen SuperAMOLED display, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless, a microSD slot, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
In its flagship Android device for 2012, Samsung implemented Android 4.0 as its base for several enhancements, including S Beam, S Memo, S Planner, S Voice, Smart Stay, and Direct Call. The Verge found that the Galaxy S3's software as a whole preserves the core strengths of Android, but groused that many of Samsung's "enhancements" — such as Direct Call — are more gimmick than feature. However, Vlad Savov then noted that call quality on the S3 is remarkable and noticeably superior to most other phones. Read the complete Samsung Galaxy S3 meta review here.
TechCrunch's Jordan Crook raves about the Samsung's HD Super AMOLED screens as the best out there, and remarks that the S3's 4.8 inches of display offer super crisp content. But he reserves highest praise for the phone's performance, which "beats out every Android phone I've ever tested" and leading the pack with lightning-fast web browsing.
Best Deal: Samsung Galaxy S III 4G Android Smartphone for Sprint in White (pictured) or Blue for $99.99 bundled with a $36 Activation Credit, a low by $35
Motorola DROID RAZR MSpecs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.3" 960x540 touchscreen SuperAMOLED display, 1GB RAM, 8GB internal memory, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless, NFC, a microSD slot, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Google-owned Motorola's new line of smartphones include the DROID RAZR HD, the DROID RAZR MAXX HD, and the DROID RAZR M. The M — the runt of the lot — launched in September; its bigger siblings won't hit shelves until the holiday shopping season.
The textured Kevlar material on the M's back and Corning Gorilla Glass on its front have earned praise from reviewers. JR Raphael of Computerworld found that the phone feels rugged and durable while still achieving a high-quality, premium look. He found Motorola's custom modifications to Google's Android 4.0 OS "quite mild compared to other manufacturers;" and in some cases, the changes made the software "a little less cohesive and appealing." Raphael noted that the phone's button-free design — which is unusual in the Android world — results in a much better, and less-dated, user experience.
The M runs on a 1.5GHz dual-core S4 processor, which TechHive's Armando Rodriguez found to offer a zippy experience, with apps opening instantaneously, menus flying past, and high-def videos playing back without stutter. But Brian Bennett of CNET griped about the device's non-removable battery and the camera's 8-megapixel camera. Despite its LED flash, outdoor shots were better than indoor captures and "details could have been clearer and features more crisp."
Nokia Lumia 920Specs: 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.5" 1280x768 touchscreen display, 1GB RAM, 32GB internal memory, 8.9 megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless, NFC, Bluetooth 3.1, and Windows 8
Powered by Windows — the underdog smartphone OS — the Lumia 920 made a big impression on CNET's Lance Whitney soon after its unveiling. He noted that the Lumia 920 appears to have an edge over the iPhone 5 with its larger and sharper screen, better front-facing camera, and superior touch sensitivity. Other reviews praised the Lumia's intuitive new features, including offline maps and built-in wireless charging. But until the currently-unreleased Lumia ships (reportedly in early November), these early assessments are speculative at best.
Best Deal: The Nokia Lumia 920 is not yet available for preorder
Overall, the iPhone 5 boasts a number of improvements over its previous iteration. But its rivals for the title of World's Best Smartphone score big on several fronts. These assortment of Android and Windows smartphones offer the consumer far more choices on hardware design and take greater risks on the software front. So if, as a consumer, you've fallen in the camp of iPhone naysayers, it's okay. These smart iPhone alternatives are just as noteworthy.
Front page photo credit: Glance World