Buying a smartphone isn't as easy as it used to be. Faster processors, sharper screens, and a never-ending line of new releases have made it a lot harder for consumers to make purchases without any regrets. Fortunately, this Android and Windows smartphone buying guide is chock full of some of today's best phones at the best prices around. We've even crawled the Internet for new release rumors so you know when each phone's successor is expected to debut. (After all, that might effect when you can get the best deal on the current model.)
Samsung Galaxy S4 ActiveSpecs: Qualcomm Snadpdragon 600 1.9GHz quad-core processor, 5" 1920x1080 touchscreen display, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean with TouchWiz)
Word on the Street: The Samsung Galaxy S4 has dominated the Android market becoming the holy grail of Android smartphones. Not one to lose momentum, Samsung recently introduced an entire line of Galaxy S4 smartphones, the most promising of which is the Galaxy S4 Active. A tad thicker than the original S4, the S4 Active packs a water- and dust-resistant exterior giving this handheld a little more ruggedness than your typical smartphone. PC Mag gives the S4 Active an excellent rating (despite its lower resolution camera), while Engadget recommends it for the accident prone.
Rumored Replacement: None to date. This just-released smartphone debuted alongside the Galaxy S4 Mini and Galaxy S4 Zoom.
Best Deal: Samsung Galaxy Active S4 4G Smartphone for AT&T for $100 with free shipping, a low by $100.
HTC OneSpecs: Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz quad-core processor, 4.7" 1920x1080 touchscreen display, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal memory, 4-megapixel rear-facing camera, 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean with Sense 5 UI)
Word on the Street: "The HTC One gets what Samsung doesn't," proclaims The Verge. The phone's impeccable industrial design, ultra-sharp screen, and above-average Beats speakers place HTC back in the running for best Android smartphone. However, a mediocre camera along with some Sense UI issues are also worth consideration.
Rumored Replacement: The HTC One is expected to makes its Verizon debut in the coming days. (It's already available for Sprint.) In addition, there are rumors of a smaller, HTC One Mini in the works, albeit with a less powerful dual-core CPU.
Best Deal: HTC One 32GB 4G Android Smartphone for Sprint for $49.99 with free shipping, a low by $50.
Sony Xperia ZSpecs: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 5" 1920x1080 touchscreen display, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, 13.1-megapixel rear-facing camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, and Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean)
Word on the Street: A T-Mobile exclusive, the Xperia Z is proof the magenta network is heading in the right direction despite its trailing both Verizon and AT&T. Engadget called this device "Sony's best-looking smartphone ever." Indeed, this 5" handheld takes high-end smartphone to a new level with its waterproof design (it can stream music perfectly when dunked underwater) and its Bravia video engine, which Engadget says provides a host of contrast and sharpness enhancements to your photos and helps smooth out low-quality video. Shutterbugs take note, this phone features Sony's new Exmor RS sensor, which offers a bigger dynamic range of lighting in your video captures.
Rumored Replacement: 5" not enough? Sony also offers the IMAX of smartphones, the 6.4" Xperia Z Ultra, which is slated for a Q3 global release.
Best Deal: Sony Xperia Z GSM Android Smartphone for $99.99 with free shipping.
Nokia Lumia 928Specs: Qualcomm Snadpdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.5" 1280x768 touchscreen display, 1GB RAM, 32GB internal memory, 8.7-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 3.0, and Windows Phone 8
Word on the Street: A distant (and skinnier) cousin of the Lumia 920, CNET says "the 928 is undoubtedly Verizon's highest-end Windows Phone." Even better, we've recently seen this phone for free on contract; it's typically a $100 phone. And if you're cautious because of the lower-than-average CPU speed, The Verge says the 928 "seems to make smart use of the processing power it has available ... unlike Android, which seems to be in perpetual need of more cores and gigahertz to overcome stutter and lag."
Rumored Replacement: Although the Lumia 928 was just released this spring, its big brother, the Lumia 1020 (see below), is set to debut next week.
Best Deal: Nokia Lumia 928 Windows Phone 8 Smartphone for $29.99 with free shipping, a low by $70.
Nokia Lumia 1020Specs: Qualcomm Snadpdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.5" 1280x768 touchscreen display, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal memory, 41-megapixel rear-facing camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 1080p video recording, 4G LTE, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 3.0, and Windows Phone 8
Word on the Street: "Nokia's Lumia 1020 absolutely brings the wow factor," says CNET. With its over-the-top 41-megapixel camera, the phone is powerful enough to even replace your SLR. And before you write this phone's camera capabilities off as a gimmick, CNET explains that the phone's "41-megapixel sensor, which actually captures raw images at 38 megapixels or 39 megapixels depending on the aspect ratio, is really about giving people the opportunity to be able to zoom in much closer on images and not lose details."
Rumored Replacement: The Lumia 1020 was just released and is debuting on AT&T July 26th for $299.99. (Pre-orders started July 16th.) That said, Windows smartphones (particularly those from Nokia) tend to see steep discounts within weeks, so we recommend waiting a few days before making any purchase.
Best Deal: Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone 8 Smartphone for $299.99 with free shipping.
While the iPhone 5 is also an excellent smartphone, we didn't include it because iOS 7 is just around the corner and chances are very high we'll see a new iDevice along with its release. So even though you can find excellent iPhone 5 deals today, we expect them to get even better with the release of iOS 7 this fall. In addition, Motorola is scheduled to announce a new batch of Android smartphones next week including a possible update to the Motorola Droid Ultra and Droid MAXX.
With all these Android and Windows smartphones on the market, which are you, readers, most excited about? Tell us in the comments below.