Sony Xperia T (Pricing unavailable; store.sony.ca)
It’s the James Bond phone, as seen used by Daniel Craig in Skyfall. That will be the only sales pitch necessary for some folks. Others should be suitably impressed with some of its cutting-edge specs, including a 13-megapixel camera, support for near-field communication (NFC) one-touch (so you can simply tap it with compatible devices to share content), and PlayStation certification for access to a Sony-curated store of Android games.
iPhone 5 ($700-$900, or starting at about $180 with a contract from a service provider; apple.com/ca)
Apple’s latest whiz-bang gadget is 18 per cent thinner and 20 per cent lighter than its predecessor. It’s so svelte that it hardly feels real the first time you pick it up. And yet it sports a much larger four-inch widescreen Retina display ideal for watching movies and a powerful new processor twice as fast as that of the iPhone 4, an upgrade that could eventually lead to a minor revolution in iOS game graphics. Just make sure you add a link to Google Maps on the home screen before you wrap it up for your loved one. Apple’s new maps app is still a work in progress.
Motorola RAZR HD ($550, or starting at about $100 with a contract; motorola.ca)
The first Android flagship device to come out of the new Google-owned Motorola, the RAZR HD is the skinniest and most compact 4.7-inch phone around (it measures just 8.4 millimetres in thickness). Yet Motorola’s engineers still managed to stuff in a 2530 mAh battery, making this handset the closest thing to an Energizer Bunny you’re likely to find in a smartphone this size. And with a tough, Kevlar-infused aluminum body topped off with a sheet of Gorilla Glass, this delicate looking phone is actually a lot sturdier than you might think. The sugar on top is a proprietary app called Smart Actions that makes your life easier by doing things such as automatically texting back pesky friends who call during movies.
Samsung Galaxy S III ($600, or starting at about $150 with a contract; samsung.com/ca)
Samsung’s top-selling handset is the most popular Android smartphone on the planet, and with good reason. Its giant 4.8-inch, high-definition screen is bliss to view, it has a terrific eight-megapixel camera that may occasionally convince you to leave your dedicated picture popper at home, and its speedy 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor seems custom made to deliver a silky smooth Android experience. Plus, word has it Samsung will be rolling out an operating system update to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean for Canadian customers before the end of the year, ensuring this device keeps its place as one of the most coveted available.
LG Optimus G ($600, or starting at about $130 with a contract; lg.com/ca_en)
This one’s all about speed. The first phone north of the border capable of accessing the 2600 MHz band in 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks, it’s capable of reaching theoretical download speeds of up to an astounding 100 Mbit a second (real-world results will likely be a fair bit slower). It can draw content from the cloud quicker than any other smartphone in the country when in areas with supporting networks. And with a four-core Snapdragon processor – another first in our market – LG’s new signature device might safely be called the fastest phone in Canada.
iPhone 4S ($450-$850, or starting at $0 with a contract; apple.com/ca)
It may no longer be the latest or greatest Apple gizmo, but the HD video-capable, Retina display-equipped iPhone 4S is still a fine and stylish little phone. And since the launch of its successor, it’s become more affordable. Most carriers now fully subsidize the basic eight GB model when you sign a contract, which means you can bring a smile to the little hipster on your list for the cost of just a monthly payment.
BlackBerry Bold 9900 ($500, or starting at around $50 with a contract; rim.com)
With new BlackBerry hardware still months away, the best bet for the Research In Motion loyalist in your clan is the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900. With both a touchscreen and a thumb keyboard, it lets users speed-type when sending texts and e-mails, then intuitively swipe down Web pages and pinch to zoom in and out of pictures. Plus, it doesn’t look too shabby, thanks to the thinnest and most elegant BlackBerry chassis yet.
Samsung Galaxy Note II ($650, or starting at around $200 with a contract. samsung.com/ca)
If your gift recipient is of the mind that bigger is better, then the best phone on the market this fall is the Galaxy Note II, hands down. With its ginormous 5.5-inch screen, this Jelly Bean-powered Android device stretches our idea of what a phone is. Still, there’s no denying the extra real estate is a boon for everything from movies to games, multitasking and note-taking (it comes with its own stylus). It’s a standout, especially for folks partial to clothing with big pockets.
Nokia Lumia 920 (Pricing unavailable; nokia.com/ca-en)
This signature Windows 8 phone from Nokia has a bevy of hardware and software perks. Its advanced floating lens camera is meant to grab more light from dark scenes, and wireless charging tech means you won’t have to fiddle with any cords for its nightly refuelling. It also comes with the latest suite of Nokia location services, including Maps, Drive, Transit and a feature called City Lens that turns map-viewing into an augmented reality experience.
HTC Windows Phone 8X (Pricing unavailable; htc.com/ca)
With a rounded-edge unibody case available in a quartet of colours, HTC’s Windows Phone 8X makes a bold statement while conforming to the curves of your hand. Live Tiles let users customize their home screens by setting up custom updates for everything from e-mails and meetings to events happening in your friends’ lives. It also sports an ultrawide-angle lens to help you fit more subjects into tight shots, and a built-in amplifier to add a little oomph to your music.