Choosing a new phone used to be about choosing between the iPhone and the other guy. Those days are long gone. Today, there's a phone for everyone: humongous phones, Windows phones, and the return of phones with physical keyboards. Finding the right one can make your head whirl, so we've whittled it down to the only ones that matter.
If you're ready to drop some money on one of the latest and greatest smartphones, you have some great choices -- too many, in fact.
Turbocharged quad-core processors and wireless charging have nearly become standard on top-of-the-line Android phones. As always, the latest iPhone and its gorgeous screen and vast ecosystem of content is worth your consideration. For those looking to break free of iOS or Android altogether, the underrated Windows Phone 8 awaits.
How can you possibly decide? I've rounded up the 7 best smartphones available and I'll tell you what makes them good.
For a more detailed comparison of these and even more smartphones, you can visit the up-to-date smartphone comparison chart on my site. Don't forget my tablet comparison chart if you're in the market for one of those.
Honed from a slab of aluminum, this 4G LTE flagship from HTC wows on looks and specs. It features a high-resolution 4.7-inch screen, 32 or 64 GB of storage, and is powered by a quad-core processor.
HTC also worked hard on customizing the latest version of the Android operating system, Jelly Bean. The BlinkFeed feature gives you a live-updated home screen similar to Windows Phone 8. You pick the social networks and news feeds you want to stay tuned into.
While other phone makers race to up camera megapixel counts, HTC went in the other direction with the One's UltraPixel Camera. It has fewer megapixels, but a bigger sensor than other smartphones. If you love to shoot in low light or at night, you should give the One a serious look.
Cost: Not known yet. Available in April at AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.
Apple's flagship smartphone - introduced last September - has a 4-inch Retina screen and the ability to connect to 4G LTE networks from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.
Because of the new Lightning dock connector and dual-core A6 processor, the iPhone 5 is notably slimmer than the 4S and twice as fast.
The rear camera's sensor matches the 4S in size, 8 megapixels, but captures much better pictures in low-light situations.
For many users, the iPhone 5's best feature will be access to the App Store, which is rapidly approaching the milestone of 1 million apps.
Cost: $199 (16GB); $299 (32GB); $399 (64GB) with 2-year contract.
Apple also sells an unlocked, contract-free iPhone 5 starting at $649. It only works on GSM networks, such as AT&T in the U.S.
Want something different than iOS or Android? The Windows Phone 8 operating system is a good place to look. Its unique "live tile" home screen is a definite winner.
If you want to try it out, the HTC 8X with 4.3-inch display is an excellent choice.
This sleek and compact phone boasts a speedy dual-core processor and 1GB RAM on the inside, which is a big improvement over past Windows Phone units. Plus, it's 4G LTE-capable.
The Windows Phone 8 operating system has far fewer apps available for it, compared to iOS and Android, but you'll stay productive with mobile versions of Excel, Word, OneNote and PowerPoint. The built-in People Hub keeps all your social media feeds organized in handy place.
Non-expandable storage maxes out at 16GB, but that can be extended with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service.
Cost: $100 (16GB), with a 2-year Verizon or AT&T contract; $130 with a 2-year T-Mobile contract.
Although thicker and heavier, the Nokia Lumia 920 ($100, AT&T) is another great option for Windows Phone fans.
Launched last November, this popular unlocked phone from Google and LG has a 4.7-inch display. How popular is it? It's often back-ordered 1 to 2 weeks!
The wait is worth it, though.
The combination of quad-core processor and stock Android Jelly Bean - unencumbered with carrier "extras" - make the Nexus 4 a very snappy smartphone.
Although it's limited to HSPA+ "4G" connectivity, that's fast enough for an average user. Note that it will only work on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile.
The previous version of the Nexus had a so-so 5MP camera. The 4's 8MP camera is a lot better and more fun, especially when taking panoramas. Both vertical and horizontal images can be stitched into stunning Photo Sphere pictures.
Cost, unlocked from Google: $299 (8GB); $349 ($16GB). T-Mobile is currently selling the Nexus 4 for $50 (Web-only, after a mail-in rebate of $50) with a 2-year contract. Learn how a no-contract phone can save you money in the long run.
Samsung Galaxy Note II
There were a few jeers when Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note II, a "phablet" (phone + tablet) with a gigantic 5.5-inch screen that's includes an advanced S Pen stylus. Despite that, it has become a top choice of many mobile business users who need 4G connectivity and like to quickly jot down notes, make annotations and run two apps side by side.
The Galaxy Note II features a quad-core processor and runs on Android Jelly Bean. You can expand the 16GB or 32GB of internal storage up to an additional 64GB using a microSD card.
Cost: $300 (16GB) with 2-year contract from Sprint, Verizon and AT&T $369 with T-Mobile contract.
Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy is the phone line that grabbed attention away from the iPhone and shifted it toward Android.
The 4G LTE Galaxy S4 is the best version yet. With its polycarbonate shell available in white or gray, it looks a lot like the S III, but the S4 is lighter and thinner and features an expanded 5-inch HD screen, 13 MP rear camera and faster quad-core processor.
Samsung integrated a ton of useful, customized software features into the 4.2.2 Android Jelly Bean operating system. S Translator allows you to converse in 10 different languages while using email or the ChatOn instant messaging app. With S Health, fitness buffs can turn the phone into a pedometer and calorie-counter. In the car, control the phone hands-free with S Voice Drive.
Infrared technology allows users to tilt the phone up or down to scroll. You can also use your finger like an S Pen, but there's no need to actually touch the screen - just hover slightly above it. A video will pause if you look away from the screen and resume when you look back. The IR capability, by the way, also puts the S4 to work as TV remote.
Choose storage of 16, 32 or 64 GB, which can be expanded with up to a 64 GB microSD card.
Cost: Not known yet. Available in late April at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
LG Optimus G
LG proved it can still make a splash in the smartphone world with the Optimus G, a close cousin of the Nexus 4.
Sprint's version features a powerful 13MP camera, although AT&T's model is no slouch at 8MP. Sprint's model has 32 GB of non-expandable storage, while AT&T's 16GB Optimus can be expanded via microSD card.
Either way, you'll get a blazing fast quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a nice 4.7-inch display.
Right now, the Optimus G is stuck on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, but it should get an update to the newer Jelly Bean soon.
Cost: $50 ($32GB) with a 2-year Sprint contract, new line only; $100 (16GB) with a 2-year AT&T contract.
Copyright 2013, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit: http://www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free email newsletters, sign-up at: http://www.komando.com/newsletters.