There was a time when the only personality you could impart into your phone was through a polyphonic ringtone of the James Bond theme and a “Carbon fiber look” faceplate. Today things are a little bit different. Customization has been elevated to the next level by devices like the Motorola Moto X, which offers customized exteriors in materials like bamboo, wood and a ton of colored plastics. The HTC One Max (among others) has a fingerprint sensor to identify a user solely by his or her touch; the Moto X learns your voice; and LG’s G2 has an OS that can be customized in nearly every element. If you still think customization means a new background, you should head to Best Buy and get to know your new phone (and vice-versa). And it’s not just customization that’s gone off the mobile charts. We’ve rounded up five of the most exciting technologies that manufacturers are rolling into their phones today.
We've only just begun
Masters in Mobile
We know what you’re thinking. Making three picks for the best smartphone of 2013 instead of crowning one ultimate winner is a total cop out. But our job here was clear: highlight innovations that benefit us all as users of smartphones. If there’s one defining comment to draw from our award winners below, it’s that a deliberate collaboration between hardware and software is critical to creating an excellent mobile device. Each of our Best Smartphone picks — the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Motorola Moto X and the iPhone 5s — pushes the boundaries of consumer technology and attempts to redefine the mobile experience in its own way.
Lighter, Better, Faster, Stronger
The original iPad’s unveiling generated a buzz world-over, and for good reason: it looked like something out of the Jetsons, and brought to life Steve Jobs’ dream of a portable, easy-to-use device that allowed users to connect to the Internet, play games, and consume media. Although some didn’t see the value (as Tim Cook gleefully pointed out in yesterday’s Apple Keynote), it was undoubtedly a commercial success. Yesterday, we witnessed the newest members of the iPad family: the iPad Air and the iPad Mini. Follow along as we break them down.
Coming soon to a galaxy near you
Pebble, Toq, Smartwatch 2,
Cupertino Wristbeauty — how did the explosion of the “smart watch” segment catch us so by surprise? While we were busy reeling, the Samsung Galaxy Gear ($299) for Galaxy Note 3 (and soon, the Galaxy S4 and SIII) has been declared potentially the best option yet. What exactly does that mean? We break it down.
Yet again, Motorola has the chance to hijack the industry-wide road map for mobile development and design. Its latest creation, the Moto X, was destined by birthright alone to make headlines as the first smartphone fully conceived and nurtured under the wing of Motorola’s new parent, Google. Still, few expected the type of heir that was eventually unveiled
That’s because the Moto X refuses to compete in the specifications arms race currently occupying the rest of the Android market, (arguably sparked by another Motorola Device — the original Droid) and instead dares consumers and competing manufacturers alike with another question. Is a top-notch mobile user experience really still dependent on top-notch specs?
It’s a familiar concept for Apple devotees. But to somehow dismiss the X’s accomplishments as a simple grafting of Apple’s strategy onto the Android platform is a serious misjudgment. This phone blazes several important new trails, including taking the crown as the first smartphone to be made (or more accurately, assembled) right here in the U.S.A.
There was a time when shopping for a cell phone was ridiculously simple. You’d waltz into the nearest Radio Shack, browse through a handful of demo devices anchored onto the wall, and spend a good four to five Benjamins on a BlackBerry 8700 or RAZR V3 (or the Nokia with the changeable covers, which was awesome). What hasn’t changed: we’re enslaved to our mobile devices. What has: the field of competitors.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen new entries from every major smartphone manufacturer spread across all four mobile platforms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and believe it or not, BlackBerry. The result for you: choosing the right smartphone can be an overwhelming decision at the moment. Well, we took the liberty of breaking down the top handsets on the market to help simplify the process. Here are the 10 smartphones worthy of your upgrade.
Ditch the hulk for some helpful tech
Most of us are out of touch with our bodies. We clueless about calories, how much we’re walking in a day, or even how to check our own heart rate. Luckily, there’s a host of new fitness trackers that make training truly personal. Strap them onto your wrist or toss them in your pocket and they’ll track your every move — every step you take, every minute you sleep, every calorie you inhale or burn off. Read on for our five best bets for prying you off the couch — and tracking your efforts.
Call for backup
Doubling battery life is a no-brainer. Options run the gamut for solutions to Apple’s latest quick-to-die wonder — and we really mean run the gamut. It’s a bit of the Wild West in the battery case world at the moment, so start here with our five best selections, then do your homework and make sure what you choose will get you what you want.
This system is no P.O.S.
Brick-and-mortar merchants looking for a point of sale system that isn’t a POS can end their search here. Powered by Square’s mobile payment system, Business in a Box ($249+) is a point of sale solution designed to handle small business needs with ease while keeping the IRS at bay.
Finally the One for you?
HTC has a solid track record for making incredible Android phones such as the One X and more recent Droid DNA. But they’ve never gained the brand recognition of titans like Samsung. Thanks to a newly announced flagship, dubbed the HTC One, their time in the spotlight may finally come — granted a few bold bets pay off.
Skinny, not mini
The 1 pound, 6.9mm-thick Sony Xperia Tablet Z pushes gadget bulimia to new lows as the thinnest 10-inch fingerprint magnet on the market. But while the fat’s been trimmed, all the muscle’s still there — including a Qualcomm 1.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, an 8.1MP Exmor R rear camera, 2MP front camera, NFC, LET, a microSD slot, “S-Force” virtual surround sound and a 10.1-inch full HD screen.
Get... chained down?
We’ve never been inside the R&D division of Ion Audio, but based on what we’ve been seeing lately we have a sneaking suspicion that the department is comprised of a gaggle of bros sitting around on torn-up leather couches with some fairly potent recreational products at their disposal. How else to explain their Cordless Phone System?
The Grand S is ZTE’s first ultra-smart smartphone, entering a field peppered with rather esteemed — and, well, huge — company (the Grand S is over 5.5 inches tall and nearly 3 inches wide). Similar in most every specification to other biggies from Droid, Huawei and Sony, the Grand S boasts some serious kit. Its…
As if you needed more options
Tablets tablets everywhere — how’s a man to choose? Vizio’s MT11x Windows 8 slate adds another drop in the bucket of great selections. A full-HD 1080p capacitive touchscreen with 10-finger multi-touch gestures pleases eyeballs from the start; it’s the guts, however, that make the 11.6-inch device a top-line competitor. 64GB SSD storage, AMD’s Z-60 APU…
For the notary public and/or spy in your life
We have a ton of questions about the Ion Audio Air Copy, which was just announced at CES 2013. The primary one is, what’s a company most known for making inexpensive USB turntables doing throwing out a wireless scanner? More importantly, who actually needs — literally, needs — a wireless scanner? From our deep and…
That's one hot (home media) librarian
Hard drives are about as exciting as, well, hard drives. Seagate Central ($190-$260) aims to change all that as the world’s first shared storage device with a Smart TV app, enabling you to access files on your flatscreen and just about every other device in your home. In short, the Seagate Central allows access to…
A different kind of POS
Forget the confusing title, and remember this: the ShopKeep iPad POS by Griffin is going to make a lot of small business owners very happy. The new point-of-sale iPad mod — consisting of a protective case with built-in magnetic card reader that works in conjunction with the ShopKeep app — makes manning the cash register…
Built for thrills and spills
Sony’s finally taken the gloves off in the smartphone ring with its Xperia Z and Zl flagship Android handsets. Externally, the perfectly rectangular 0.31 inch thick Z is a classic example of Sony design and definitely different, — but it’ll likely take some getting used to in the hand. Its hardware rap sheet also stands toe-to-toe with premium devices like the Droid DNA, Optimus G and Nexus 4 thanks to a 5-inch 1080p “Reality Display”, Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, NFC, LTE, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a MicroSD slot.
Sheltered no longer
It’s hard to comprehend, but there are people out there in this great land of ours who don’t have high-speed internet access. Some, by choice (like your grandfather, who asked you to explain what Facebook is) and others by lack of choice, hamstrung by providers that ignore less populated areas due to high installation and…
If the world really does end on the 21st, this app will be useless. But if Zero Hour doesn’t hit, 1 Second Everyday could be a life changer. Using your iPhone camera, this personal hobby turned TED Talk turned funded Kickstarter project chronicles your life one second at a time. Its creation story is blessedly…
Road trippers of the world, celebrate
It’s safe to go out on the streets again. No more following driving directions into a lake a la “The Office”. Google Maps for iOS 6 (free) is the same quality tool it’s ever been, with a new streamlined look and a deliciously intuitive UI in addition to search, voice guided turn-by-turn navigation and street…
Most people are perfectly content to store and experience their music collection on a computer (we do it everyday at the office). The convenience of accessing massive amounts of music and rich metadata on a whim with just a click or a search is simply unparalleled. For audiophiles, though, this ease of use comes at…
12 gifts for the tech obsessed
To the inexperienced, the words “techie” and “guy” seem synonymous. Sure, most guys do like technology these days — but like does not true a techie make. So while this list can absolutely be applied to any modern man, its real target is the hardcore gadget nut. The one who scours the blogs and refreshes…
Compressed for size, not sound
The Astell & Kern AK100 portable audio system ($699) aims to be the iPod of audiophiles. It’s the first portable music player capable of playing Mastering Quality Sound files (MQS) from online stores like HDtracks.com, in addition to a slew of other lossless formats like Ogg, FLAC, WAV, WMA, APE and yes, even MP3 audio…
Your current case is on the edge of extinction
Seems like you can customize just about anything these days. From kicks to cars, people want to be their own clever, intellectual, trendy (or not), unique snowflake — just like everyone else. Which is why we’re shocked someone didn’t think of the Dodo Case Customizer Tool ($80+) sooner. Fueling your one-off narcissism, Dodo Case enables…
1080p beyond the TV
Every six months or so, a smartphone arrives that raises the bar for the entire industry. HTC’s newly announced Droid DNA is by far the most advanced device available to date: it’s the first mobile phone capable of supporting full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) on its 5-inch Gorilla Glass 2 super LCD 3 display….
Dialed in on 007
Sony has struggled to create a successful smartphone in a U.S. Android handset market stuffed tighter than Oddjob in a dinner jacket. Its latest Xperia TL flagship, however, is the first compelling device we’ve seen from the lauded Japanese electronic giant, thanks to a spec list that can finally stand toe to toe with other…
The Nexus in line to the Android crown?
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was announced a little over a year ago, and right on queue, Google has officially shared its latest pure-Android flagship device, simply dubbed the Nexus 4 ($299+). As the slew of early leaks suggested, the LG handset touts plenty of impressive hardware specs — and we’re not talking about that Gorilla…
Keeping tabs on the tablet market
Steve Jobs had a lot to say about the market for 7-inch tablets back in October 2010: in his eyes, it boiled down to a conflict of hardware and software. “Apple’s done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff… there are clear limits of how close you can…
Putting off aires
While iDevices flipped the consumer audio industry ass over tea kettle in a brush of a click wheel, the audiophile world stubbornly weathered the storm for years, hoping the digital compression nightmare might just vanish away in time. The introduction of the McIntosh McAire hints that convenience is gaining ground with the stuffy, stubborn niche…