What Are the Best Smartphone Gifts for the Holidays?

What Are the Best Smartphone Gifts for the Holidays?

Retailers have started putting up the Christmas and holiday decorations. They’re also rolling out deals including pre-Black Friday specials. It’s insane. We’d like to enjoy Thanksgiving first. But we also try to shop early rather than doing it all last minute.

Best Smartphone Gifts for the Holidays?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid al-Adha, Festivus, or none of the above, this is a popular time of the year to trade up for a new smartphone or phablet.

When it comes to shopping for a smartphone, the two biggest questions are:

  1. What operating system do I want?
  2. Which model should I get?
    1. IPhone.
    2. Android.
    3. Windows Phone.

Most people usually know straightaway which operating system they want. Still, plenty of folks struggle to decide especially between an iOS and Android. Here are tips on how to pick the right OS for you or the recipient.

Which iPhone should I get?

One nice thing about the iPhone is that you only have two choices unless you go for an older model refurbished iPhone. The iPhone 6S Plus offers more, but it’s also larger. Those wanting a smaller phone rather than a phablet should be happy with the iPhone 6S.

The iPhone 6S comes with 3D touch control that can differentiate a light tap, a press, and a deeper press. Each one triggers specific controls. The chip has been upgraded from an A8 to an A9, which means the 6S gets 70 percent more CPU performance and 90 percent more graphics performance than the A8.

The rear camera on the 6S climbs to 12 megapixels, up from the iPhone 6’s 8 megapixels. Video recording is more powerful at 4K. Its screen size is 4.7 inches and resolution is 1334-by-750-pixel at 326 ppi.

With the Plus, you get Apple’s largest ever smartphone that has a 5.5-inch display and 1080-by-1920-pixel resolution at 401 ppi (the higher the number, the better). The camera is the same as the 6S, but this one comes with optical image stabilization for both pictures and videos to reduce blurring in images. Both phones’ cameras have less color leak between pixels, which helps the images look sharper.

The battery is smaller than the previous models. The iPhone 6S can comfortably provide a full day of moderate usage, while the iPhone 6S Plus can stretch that to two days. The bigger phone is an easy choice if you often find recharging opportunities hard to come by.

The iPhone 6S has only one advantage over its bigger sibling, practicality. It’s easier to carry, store, and use with one hand. Of course, the Plus also costs about $100 more. All things being equal, if you don’t mind the larger size and higher price tag, the iPhone 6S Plus is the clear choice especially with its longer battery life, higher screen resolution, and optical image stabilization feature.

What are the best Android devices?

With all the makes and models available, it’s an impossible task to recommend just one Android. Instead, here are a few options each with its special trait. (It’s a lot fewer than what’s out there!)

Best Android on the market: Samsung Galaxy S6

We’ve written about the Samsung Galaxy S6 before, but here are the highlights. Its body contains a mix of metal and Gorilla glass, a nice upgrade from plastic. The S6’s 5.1-inch display is the same as the Samsung Galaxy S5 except the pixels per inch climbs from the S5’s 532 to 577, larger than the iPhone 6.

The rear camera is an impressive 16 MP and the selfie camera is 5 MP, typical of most good phones. Supposedly, it has one of the fastest launching cameras in which you just press the home button twice. Although the battery isn’t removable, it allows the phone to be 11 grams lighter and 1 mm thinner than its predecessor. Storage is not expandable, so you have a choice of 32, 64, or 128 GB of storage.

Samsung Galaxy S6 is regarded as the best Android smartphone on the market right now. Since the S6’s release, Samsung has come out with a more powerful S6 phone, the Samsung Galaxy Edge 6+. The S6 edges the S6 Edge+ because of its more affordable price.

Most rugged Android: Sony Xperia Z5

Aside from the premium build and great camera that comes with a 1920-by-1088 scratch-resistant glass display, Sony Xperia Z5 is the only major flagship phone with IP68 certification. This means it’s dust-proof and resistant to water for up to 30 minutes in up to almost 5 feet of water. Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and black, aluminum frame, and rubber bumpers on the corners help the phone absorb shock when dropped reducing the chances of damage.

The Z5 has a 5.2-inch screen, 3 GB memory, 32 GB internal storage expandable up to 200 GB with a microSD card, mind-blowing 23 MP rear camera, and a 5.1 MP front camera. Sony completely revised the camera and designed a new Exmor RS image sensor and camera module. With the new image sensor and camera module, Sony claims that the Z5’s camera has the fastest autofocus in the world at 0.03 seconds. The time-to-focus is the fastest of any smartphone currently available and around 10 times faster than the blink of a human eye.

This phone has one of the cleverest fingerprint scanner. The scanner has been integrated with the power button on the side to unlock the phone and turn it on in one fell swoop.

Like many phones, the battery isn’t removable. However, Sony promises the phone delivers a day’s worth of usage after 45 minutes of charging and 5.5 hours after 10 minutes of charging.

The Xperia Z5 is the strongest phone Sony has ever produced with its powerful camera, innovative biometric power button, and ruggedness. It should put it right up there with the more powerful Android phones on the market today. The downside is that it’s relatively expensive.

Cheapest Android with premium features: OnePlus 2

We’ve written about the OnePlus One phone, which is an unusual phone as it attempts to be a flagship killer in offering premium features without the premium price. Furthermore, you can’t go out and buy this phone at a store. It requires an invitation. However, some third party vendors sell them, but for a higher price, defeating the purpose of the phone.

Like the OnePlus One, the OnePlus 2 undercuts the big-name competitors —Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, and HTC One M9 — by almost half the cost while offering a similar phone experience. Its basic specs: 5.5-inch screen and 1080-by-1920 pixel resolution. You have a choice of 3 GB or 4 GB memory, and 16 GB or 64 GB of internal storage. The OnePlus also uses the new reversible USB C-port.

The selfie camera is 5 MP and the rear-facing camera has a 13 MP sensor with optical image stabilization like the one on the iPhone 6S Plus. It also has two-tone flash and a laser focusing system.

Although the megapixel count hasn’t changed, the size of the individual pixels has. The bigger pixels capture more light per pixel than smaller ones. This reduces the amount of digital noise or grain in photos, especially in low-light situations. OnePlus claims the camera has the largest image sensor that features six-element lens to prevent distortion and take crisp pictures, day and night. The camera also has manual camera mode, an atypical feature of smartphones.

The OnePlus One runs Cyanogenmod. That has changed to OnePlus Oxygen OS for the OnePlus Two. OnePlus has kept many of the OS features and made a few customizations of its own.

One of the big additions to the OnePlus 2 is a fingerprint scanner below the 5.5-inch display. Like Apple and Samsung, the digit reader doesn’t require swiping your print. Instead, you hold your finger on the reader without waking the screen. You can register up to five fingerprints.

The OnePlus 2 is not the best phone on the market. Overall, its specs are better than most mid-range smartphones. If the Samsung Galaxy S6 is more than you want to pay and you don’t mind a few shortcomings such as a processor that’s slower at 2.3 GHz, then the OnePlus 2 might work for you.

Which Windows Phone should I get?

We’ll keep it simple for you. If you want a Windows Phone 10, go for the Microsoft Lumia 950. Here are its specs:

  • Screen size: 5.2 inches
  • Resolution: 2560-by-1440 pixels (564 ppi)
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB
  • Battery: 3,000 mAh
  • Rear camera: 20 MP
  • Front camera: 5 MP
  • Video capture: 4K

Notice its rear camera at 20 megapixels is better than the iPhone 6S’s 12 megapixels and not far behind the Z5’s. Resolution and pixels per inch are about the same as the Samsung Galaxy S6, but it crushes both iPhones. Unlike the iPhones and some Android phones, the Windows Phone supports MicroSD to expand memory up to 200 GB.

No more entering a pin every time to unlock your phone. The Lumia 950 includes Windows Hello Beta for unlocking the phone with your face or fingerprint.

You can use the Windows Phone to power up a monitor and run full-blown Windows with Continuum and Microsoft Display Dock. It’s like turning your phone into a PC to get work done faster and on a larger screen.

Microsoft’s phone comes with USB 3.1, which charges speedy quick. It uses the USB Type-C connector, which is reversible. Like Apple’s Lightning cable, you can plug the Type-C without worrying about whether it’s facing in the right direction. Another big plus is that it can transfer video both ways: phone to PC and PC to phone.

Unlike Lightning, Type-C is open standard and not limited to Microsoft. Notice the OnePlus 2 uses it. Apple’s newest Macbook has it. The USB is backwards-compatible so you can use it with older ports if you have an adapter. And best of all, it’s tiny. If all of your cables were Type-C, they’d take up a lot less room allowing devices to get thinner.

Should I get an iPhone, Windows Phone, or Android smartphone?

Are you or the recipient looking for the phone that’s the easiest to use? Apple’s iPhone’s wins hands down as the most user-friendly and ideal for non-techies. The other advantage of iPhones is that your choices are limited. Androids and Windows Phones have many brands and models that it can be overwhelming to choose.

Some of the known Android brands include HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, NEC, OnePlus, and Samsung. Even BlackBerry has entered the Android game with its BlackBerry PRIV. Most of them carry more than one model. Samsung alone currently sells Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, Samsung Galaxy Edge+, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy Core Prime, and Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

How’s anyone supposed to figure out which brand, much less which model? One advantage Android has over iPhone is that some allow you to use an SD card to expand storage. However, not all Androids include this. IPhones also don’t have a removable battery. If the battery goes bad, then it means going to the Apple Store or the wireless provider to get it fixed. Some Androids come with removable batteries. This is becoming a less common feature as removable batteries add heft.

Google Play has the most apps of all the mobile operating systems at 1.6 million. As of July 2015, Apple’s App store is close behind with 1.5 million apps. Windows Store has more than 600,000 apps, but that includes Windows apps.

If you’re a Windows power user who wants a seamless and adaptable Windows experience that changes based on device and screen-size, then Windows Phone may be ideal.

One more gift idea

Help yourself or another Outlook power user protect information and be more productive with one potent product. AkrutoSync is Windows PC software that can automatically and privately sync Outlook with phones and tablets. Unlike other sync Outlook apps, Akruto does not use the cloud. It transfers Outlook Calendar and Contacts directly between PC and devices.

Yes, the cloud helps people be more productive because you can access your data anywhere. But you don’t want to store everything in the cloud especially not your appointments, contacts, notes and to do items. You get the benefit of cloud-like behavior in that Akruto automatically and wirelessly updates your information across your devices. No plugging in cables and no remembering to sync. Yet, you keep your most precious asset off the hackable and sometimes accessible cloud.

Unfortunately, Windows Phone does not sync with Outlook PC out-of-the-box. Instead, it tries to sync with Outlook.com, which puts your personal information in the cloud. Android devices try to connect you with the Google Calendar and Contacts. Apple’s iTunes no longer supports Outlook sync with the later versions of Microsoft Outlook. What’s more is that Outlook sync via iTunes breaks a lot.

Save yourself time and headaches and sync Outlook with phones with a free trial of Akruto to see how you like it.

We wish you a great holiday season for you and yours!

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Join the discussion

  • Patrick M. Donovan November 28, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    An excellent summary of what the pros and cons of the 3 operating systems are as well as what manufacturers are like.

    One thing I would have like to have learned is which version of the Android system they are using.

    • Akruto Support November 30, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Thank you for the question, Patrick. Please see the information below, but keep in mind that this may vary somewhat depending on where you buy and what wireless carrier you use. With that disclaimer, here it goes:

      • Samsung Galaxy S6: Android OS, v5.0.2 (Lollipop), upgradable to v5.1.1 (Lollipop)
      • Sony Xperia Z5: Android v5.1.1 planned upgrade to v6.0
      • One Plus 2: Android v5.1
      • Samsung Galaxy Tab S2: Android v5.1
      • Microsoft Lumia 950: Windows Phone 10