Best Verizon phones: 10 we recommend

22nd Jan 2014 | 07:49

Best Verizon phones: 10 we recommend

What's the best Verizon phone? We're here to help you choose

Introduction and Samsung Galaxy S3

Update:We've completely overhauled our ranking to show you all the pros and cons of the best phones on Verizon wireless. All the heavy hitters are here, including the HTC One, the Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5S and 5C, as well as the Moto Xand the LG G2.

Verizon Wireless is a top tier cellular service provider in the Unites States. Since its launch in December 2010, the Big Red net of 4G LTE coverage has spread quickly across the country, providing reliable and speedy service for those willing to pony up for it. Since you know you're getting reliable call service and fast data speeds, one question remains: what's the best Verizon phone for your dollar?

Being a Verizon customer doesn't come cheap, and as with AT&T, those generous unlimited data plans have gone the way of the dodo. It does have its benefits though. You don't just get access to one of the biggest, fastest 4G LTE networks on the continent, you'll be able to choose from a wide selection of the best new smartphones on the market, all at affordable prices when purchased with a two-year contract.

A new Verizon phone can cost a pretty penny, so we've rounded up our favorite phones and assembled the reasons why they're worthy of our praise and your dollars. While it's awfully hard to pick an overall best phone on the market, it is possible to pick the best phone for you. So click through, browse the choices, and be sure to leave us a nice comment about why we're a Samsung, Apple, HTC or Motorola fanboy/hater for putting some phone somewhere on the list.

Remember, this is a living document, and we'll continue our quest to find the best Verizon phone. Also, Verizon often discounts certain phones on its website. Make sure to check out the online deals before you make an in-store purchase. Shop around and save a little money, why don't you?

Best Verizon phones

10. Galaxy S3 - Verizon's best free phone

Ah, the Galaxy S3. A long time best phone champion here at TechRadar, now it's the best budget option on Verizon.

If you're will to sign on for a two-year contract, Verizon will let you have 16GB model in blue or white, for no charge.

Why you want it

It's free. Before the smartphone market got so competitive, the free phones you got for signing a contract were often junk. That's not the case anymore. The Galaxy S3 might be dated, but it's an absolute steal as a giveaway device. If you can't afford to put down a hundred dollars or so for a newer phone, getting a free S3 is not a bad deal at all.

MicroSD and a removable battery. You might balk that Verizon's S3 is only 16GB, but remember you can boost that with an extra 64GB of microSD. That and you can swap out the battery for a fresh one, if needed. Those two features make a great budget option for those who want lots of space and battery life to burn.

The camera is still quite good. Sure its been bested by all the modern tech, but there's nothing shameful about the S3's snaps. Samsung's software makes those 8-megapixel shots worth taking.

Why you may not it

Being stuck with a dual-core for the next two years. The S3's specs are showing their age. It may not perform so well in the twilight years of your contract.

Who knows when it will get Android updates? Not that any of the carriers are terribly fast, but Verizon has a bit of a reputation when it comes to dragging its feet with Android updates. The S3 is still waiting on 4.3 while all the modern flagships are waiting on Android 4.4: Kit Kat. And who knows how well it will even run that software, which was designed around the quad-core Nexus 5.

You could buy it off contract. Whenever a new phone comes out, that phone's predecessor plummets in value. Now that we're living in a post-Galaxy S4 world, if you shop around a for an S3, you might find a great deal. Then you can bring the phone to Verizon (make sure it's CDMA) and sign up for a month-to-month plan.

Nokia Lumia 928

Best Verizon phones

9. Lumia 928 - Verizon's best Windows Phone

Verizon doesn't have a whole lot of Windows Phone options, but it does have quite solid choice in Nokia's Lumia 928. It runs Windows Phone 8, the latest version of Microsoft's good looking smartphone OS, and Verizon sells a 32GB model for $99 with two-year agreement.

Why you want it

A great price. Windows Phones are often competitively priced, and the Lumia 928 is no exception. A $100 price tag makes this phone downright affordable, and it's a less than you'll pay for most phones with 32GB of space. The runner up would be the LG G2 at $150.

Cool Windows Phone design. Microsoft's mobile OS is uniquely stylish and functional, with Live Tiles that act like Android widgets, display updated information and image previews. It makes for an experience you won't find on other phones, and since Verizon doesn't stock a whole lot of Windows phones, it's easy to pick the 928 as the best.

The camera is great in low light. Most phones pack decent snappers, but Lumia phones are known for their low light performance. The 928 is no exception, it really surprised us during our testing.

Why you may not want it

Underwhelming battery performance. If you're just making calls and sending texts you'll be fine, but where's the fun in that? Power users won't make it through the day with a single charge of the 928. Get a charger for the office.

The colors, Verizon, the colors! Windows Phones, especially Lumias, usually have vibrant colors to match those playful Live Tiles. The 928 bucks that trend, coming in just white or black. Why no red version Verizon?

Windows Phone 8 needs apps. WP8 still comes up short in the app game. If you're not a big app user, you won't mind, but if you're coming from Android or iOS, you'll find Microsoft's app store quite anemic.

Motorola Droid Maxx

Best Verizon phones

8. Droid Maxx - the battery behemoth

Verizon has recruited all kinds of manufacturers to make handsets with the Droid name. It's Big Red's private brand, from the HTC's Droid DNA to last year's Motorola offerings like the Droid Razr Maxx HDand the Droid Razr M.

Next to the Droid Ultra and the Droid Mini, the Droid Maxx is the flagship of the three new Verizon Droids. A black 32GB model goes for $199 with contract.

Why you want it

Exceptional battery life. No other phone short of a monstrosity like the Galaxy Note 3 can match the Maxx's charge performance. If you need a phone where battery life will never be a concern, and don't want to haul around a monstrous device, the Maxx is the answer.

It's practically stock Android, with a few cool extras. Motorola has really scaled back its UI, to the point where the Droid Maxx is almost unadulterated Android. The only big additions are hands free voice recognition features like you'd find on the Moto X.

That Kevlar body is durable and feels great. The body of the Maxx is rubberized and has great grip. While it can scuff, it won't crack or chip like metal or even plastic-bodied phone.

Why you may not want it

The camera isn't great. The Maxx is in a similar boat to the Moto X. Its camera is being patched to improve its performance. In our review, we found it to be an unreliable snapper.

Dual-core processor and 720p screen. On the Moto X, specs like this were easier to forgive. They helped it to achieve great battery life without the room for a huge cell. However, the Maxx has a huge cell, hence the large frame, and Motorola still opted for internals that may not age so well. Also, its screen is considerably larger than the Moto X's, so its lower resolution is more noticeable.

Apple iPhone 5C

Best Verizon phones

7. iPhone 5C - a cheaper iPhone, not a cheap iPhone

Surely the iPhone 5C is the iPhone Jony Ive saw when he closed his eyes. Colorful and sleek, it walks hand and hand with his iOS 7. Is the right iPhone for you, the Verizon customer?

Currently, Verizon stocks all four colors, in 16 or 32GB variants. Apple doesn't make a 64GB option.

Why you want it

It's an iPhone at $100 less. Maybe your iPhone 4S is starting to creak, or perhaps you're looking to enter Apple's ecosystem for the first time. Now you can do so without spending $200 for a 16GB phone.

For the colorful. It's subjective as to whether or not this is a good thing, but if you find the black, gold and grey of the 5S to be dull, the lively hues of the 5C will be a nice change.

Inside, it's an upgraded iPhone 5. Apple usually keeps last year's iPhone around at a reduced price. Its bucked that trend by discontinuing the iPhone 5 in favor of the 5C. It's a pity that we won't be getting the 5's metal body and 64GB option at a lower cost, but the 5C features an improved camera that the 5 never had.

Why you may not want it

No A7 processor. With the iPhone 5S, Apple introduced the A7 processor, a 64-bit chip for its smartphones and tablets. It's obscenely fast and seems highly future proof. Unfortunately, the 5C is stuck with the A6. When apps start to be optimized for that 64-bit architecture, it'll be far behind the curve.

$100 more buys you a lot more iPhone. A hundred bucks buys a lot of apps, but it'll also get you much faster iPhone. Remember you'll be stuck with this phone for 2 years, assuming you sign a contract. The 5S has Touch ID, a better processor and a sharper camera. The 5C might be cute, but there's a lot more to be had for not much more money.

It's plastic. Another subjective one. While the 5C has charm, we love the machined aluminum body of the iPhone 5 and 5S. Ditching that has made the 5C colorful, but given it a less than premium feel. This one's up to you, but don't just go on looks. Duck into a store and hold one in your hand before you just order one online.


Best Verizon phones

6. LG G2 - the powerhouse underdog

LG's G2 might be the most eclectic phone on this list. On the one hand it's your typical spec monster Android phone, with cutting edge innards and a sharp screen. On the other hand it's a real left turn when it comes to design, with rear mounted power and volume buttons.

Verizon sells it in black for $150 on contract, with 32GB of internal storage.

Why you want it

It has the specs you crave. The screen is gorgeous and it's fast, fast, fast. The G2 packs a 2Ghz quad-core, 2GB of RAM, a 13 megapixel camera and a 5.2-inch 1080p display.

The camera is really good. In our review, we were really impressed with the G2's camera performance. It stands among the best snappers you can get on a smartphone, and LG's software gives it plenty of nifty tricks.

It's well priced. $150 is a fine deal for a phone with specs like this. It's a 32GB quad-core that's cheaper than a 16GB Galaxy S4. The off contract price also undercuts the S4 by $50, going for $550.

A removable battery. The G2's battery life is solid, but if you feel the need to swap out the cell, you have that option. Oddly, there's no microSD support.

Why you may not want it

The buttons are on the back. Those rear mounted volume and power buttons are not a bad choice, necessarily, but they will take some getting used to. The G2 isn't going to win any beauty contests either. It's a bit blasé looking over all.

An open body, yet no microSD. On everything but the Galaxy phones, being able to add extra storage is going the way of the dodo, but it's surprising that LG would build a phone with a removable battery, but no microSD.

LG's interface is all over the place. The UI on the G2 is a doing a TouchWiz impression, and it's just as overstuffed as Samsung's offering. While you may appreciate the plentiful camera options, everything else comes off as busy and occasionally tacky.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Best Verizon phones

5. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - the big phone to own

The word phablet is dead to us. Scratch that, it never even lived. Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 is a big screen phone that is indeed fab though. In fact it's a monster. It's got specs that scream, a killer 1080p screen, and a form factor that will send most running for the hills. Still, for the right kind of buyer, this phone is a dream come true. It's also the only phone currently compatible with Samsung's Galaxy Gear, if that interests you.

Verizon stocks a 32GB model in black or white for $299 with contract.

Why you want it

A big, borderline ridiculous screen. The Note 3 itself is just shy of 6-inches, and the screen is 5.7-inches. It's a real pocket stretcher, and might work better for someone who carries a purse or bag to keep it in, rather than tucking it in a pair of skinny jeans. It's an awesome way to surf the web, game and watch videos, though.

A performance monster with battery life to match. With a great form factor comes plenty of space for a great battery. It has a 3200 mAh battery, a real whopper of a cell. That sucker will easily see you through the day, and then some. It also has a quad-core processor with a world beating 3GB of RAM. That's some future proofing right there.

MicroSD support. If you're buying a phone with a screen this big, you're going to be playing games and watching movies, right? Verizon's Note 3 already has 32GB of space, so being able to jack it up with an additional 64GB is almost nutty. You won't want for space with this guy.

Why you may not want it

It's huge! That's the biggest stopper. It's a two-handed phone to say the least, and not something that can fit comfortably in most pants pockets, even if you've opted for a reasonably cut pair of Levis. Definitely try this guy in your hand before you put any money down.

It's plastic, with some tacky design. Samsung tried to address complaints about its the slick feel of its phones by giving the Note 3 a faux leather backing. It is an improved in-hand feel, but that goofy plastic stitching really shouldn't be there. Didn't you hear Jony Ive? Skeuomorphism is totally last year.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Best Verizon phones

4. Samsung Galaxy S4 - plastic fantastic

Samsung's Galaxy line has a long and storied lineage. The Galaxy S2 was one of the first Android phones worth shouting about, and the Galaxy S3 was our top phone for a long time. Then the Galaxy S4 arrived, and briefly shared the glory of its predecessor, but had its reign cut short by the arrival of the HTC One. It's still an excellent device though, and for the right user, there are legitimate reasons to choose over the competition.

Verizon stocks a 16 and 32GB model. On its website, it offers fewer color options than rival AT&T. There's white, black and a truly awful brown.

Why you want it

Top end specs all around. For big but still manageable phones, the S4 is hard to beat. Its screen is really, really good, on par with the HTC One, we'd say. It's bright, sharp and sensitive to the touch. It's a pleasure to look at with a full HD resolution and 441 ppi. The S4 is also blazing fast, with a quad-core processor and an ample 2GB of RAM. The camera is also stellar, snapping high megapixel shots that'll look great on your tablet or computer screen.

For the storage fiend. Support for microSD memory is how the S4 really stands apart from the pack. It's the only flagship phone to include it, making it a very attractive option for consumers. You could conceivably buy a 16GB Verizon S4 for just $199, then bolster it with another 64GB of storage. It also has an open design that allows you to remove the battery, so you can carry a spare if you're going to be away from your charger for a stretch.

Caseless and carefree. Some might object to the S4's slick plastic build, but it's not a phone that's going to scratch and ding nearly as easily as an HTC One or an iPhone. A drop to the floor usually means picking up a few pieces, the phone, the back casing and the battery, but snap it back together and everything should be peachy.

Why you may not want it

That plastic body. While it's a scrapper of a phone that doesn't need a case, the S4 doesn't feel as premium as an HTC One, an iPhone or a Moto X. It's slick, and the back feels a bit flimsy due to its open design.

You want stock Android, or a sense of taste. TouchWiz is Samsung's UI and it's a crime against Android. It's full of cartoony fonts, cheesey icons and gimmicky software tricks. With the exception of some novel camera features, for most users, things like Smart Stay, Smart Scroll, Air View and Air Gestures will amount to little more than wasted space. If you're planning to root your phone or use a launcher, it's a non-issue, but if you don't know what those terms even mean, then you'll be stuck with how your S4 looks, forever.

You think it's too big. Like the HTC One, the S4 is over 5-inches long. Depending on how big your grip is, it might not be feasible to work it with one hand. Find a friend who has one or pop into a store and give the S4 a grip, stick it in your pocket and generally get a feel for the size before committing.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Motorola Moto X

Best Verizon phones

3. Moto X - the everyman's Android

Remember when Google bought Motorola? The Moto X is the fruit of said acquisition. It bucks almost every trend an Android phone design, in ways both good and bad.

The Moto X is very nice phone, but Verizon is currently not the best carrier for it. Right now, you can't yet use the Moto Maker, which lets you customize the exterior of the phone, to make a Verizon Moto X. We've been told this will change, but as of this writing, we don't have an ETA for the Moto Maker on Verizon. Also, Big Red only stocks the 16GB model, with a puny 11GB of storage available to user, while there's a 32GB sold directly from Motorola. Unfortunately, it's not Verizon compatable. Hopefully that will change when Big Red gets the Moto Maker.

Currently, Verizon is selling the black and white models for $99, which is a competitive price for an on-contract phone.

Why you want it

Reliable battery life. It's no marathon runner, like the Galaxy Note 3 or Droid Maxx, but the Moto X can easily see you through the day on one charge. That's due to restrained specs, like a 720p display and a dual-core processor.

Unique Google features. The Moto X can be trained to recognize your voice and yours alone, so you can engage its search and Siri-like features by saying, "Ok Google Now." The camera can be opened with a gesture, it has a do not disturb mode that rivals the iPhone's and it can automatically read you your texts and send replies when it detects that you're driving.

A reasonable size. With all the best Android phones coming in at well over 5-inches, there's not a lot of choice for consumers that want something more manageable in the hand and less bulging in the pocket. At just 5.09-inches, the Moto X feels downright restrained, and still offers a size up for iPhone converts looking for a larger screen.

Why you may not want it

The camera is not great. The Moto X's camera is very hit or miss, and it's miss more often than hit. It's camera app also lacks the options of Galaxy phones, and LG's G2. That's what we found during our review testing. However, Motorola has distributed a patch that has supposedly improved its performance. We're currently testing it and will update with our findings.

Those specs may not age well. The Moto X is a dual-core phone in a quad-core world. Its also 720p while most other Androids are full HD. That helps it get great battery life, and achieve an affordable price. However, if this is a phone you'll use for two years, how well will it perform down the road, with the latest version of Android? We're a bit unsure.

Motorola's apps aren't perfect. A few of them still need some work. We're talking about Motorola Connect, which lets you text from your computer, but is full of hiccups compared to iMessage. And its drive mode can't tell when you're the passenger or the driver, which is understandable, but can lead to some embarrassing moments on the bus.


Best Verizon phones

2. HTC One - the reigning Android king

It sure took its sweet time, but the best Android phone on the market has arrived on Verizon Wireless. That would be the HTC One, in all of its brushed aluminum glory. This metal monster has set the bar high for both build quality and powerful processing guts.

Why you want it

The build quality is impeccable. Nothing feels as good in your hand as an HTC One. The iPhone 5S is up there, but if you love the feel of Apple's phone but don't want iOS, or that puny 4-inch screen, the HTC One is a perfect option.

So fast and so sharp. Speedy internals are a standard on top tier wireless devices. There aren't any slow phones on this list, but you can't ignore the performance of the One's 1.7 Ghz quad-core and 2GB of RAM. From games to web to the general interface, everything just plain flies on this phone, and looks great too. Its 4.7-inch HD display rocks a world-beating 468. It's among the best out there.

Sense UI is solid. As far as Android overlays go, HTC's Sense isn't bad. It has a handsome, stark look, takes a unique and functional approach to Android by letting you rearrange the app drawer, and amalgamates Twitter, Facebook, a news feed as well as your calendar in Blinkfeed, which is as close to channel surfing the web as you'll find on a phone.

Front facing speakers. It may not seem like a big deal, since the best way to enjoy smartphone music is with a pair of headphones. However, but if you've ever been outside, trying to share a YouTube video with a friend on tiny, rear mounted speakers, you'll appreciate this feature.

Why you may not want it

It's big and delicate. TechRadar has given the HTC One five stars for all the reasons above, but there are a few roadblocks that make it less than perfect for certain users. First off, at 5.41-inches long, it's a large phone, and rather scratch prone, thanks to that metal body. If you're rough on your phones, you should consider a case, which does spoil some of the fun of having such a nicely built phone.

Storage limitations. The biggest HTC One detractors (Samsung fans, perhaps) bemoan the lack of microSD. That's a legitimate complaint, since HTC apps like Zoe can take up space fast, and Verizon only stocks the 32GB version (the 64GB One is an AT&T exclusive).

Verizon bloatware. Big Red has put its usual smattering of apps on the phone, unnecessary filler like a Verizon Tones and VZ Navigator. It's all stuff that's better handled by Google apps or the Play Store. It's easy to ignore, but the fact that it's taking up space on a phone without microSD is bothersome. A 32GB HTC One from Verizon comes with about 25GB available.

Read our full HTC One review

Apple iPhone 5S

Best Verizon phones

1. iPhone 5S - the best iPhone yet all over again

Surprised? You shouldn't be. The iPhone 5S is an undeniably excellent phone. While the Verizon and Sprint versions have a slight disadvantage to the AT&T model in that they can't make calls and do data at the same time (no checking Facebook while you pretend to listen to your friends), nothing goes better with Apple engineering than a little 4G LTE.

Why you want it

Stellar build quality. Let's be honest: we care about the look and feel of our phones, and the iPhone 5S looks and feels great. Made from aluminum and edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass, it's like a phone from the future, and not some scuzzy Blade Runner future. We're talking Stanley Kubrick's 2001 here. It's like having your own sleek, shrunken monolith in your pocket.

The 64-bit A7 processor. The 5S offers several key improvements over the last model, the now retired iPhone 5. First, it's faster, with a blazing performance from Apple's 64 bit A7 chip. You can really only tell just how much faster the 5S is from raw benchmarking numbers, as there aren't really any apps that take advantage of its full power. That may sound like a knock, but it means that you'll have a phone that'll stay sharp well through your two-year contract.

New iPhone features. Touch ID lets you unlock your phone with a fingerprint. Passwords are so passe, and were never exactly mobile optimized. Your fingerprint can now serve as your iTunes password, making media and app purchases even easier. Good for you, bad for your wallet, right?

A fantastic camera. iPhones have long had powerful, reliable cameras. An improved sensor and dual LED flash have given the 5S one of the most versatile snappers on the market. The camera's interface has been improved as well, letting you see previews of your photos with Instagram style filter before they're even applied.

Why you may not want it

You have an iPhone 5. Last year's iPhone runs iOS 7 very well, and while you may be jealous of Touch ID and that upgraded camera, there's not really enough here to merit an upgrade just one year later.

No display upgrade. The screen still packs the same Retina pixel density of 326, which has been bested across the board by Android flagships like the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. The display is also quite small compared to the competition. That makes it nice manageable size in hand, but for extended reading and watching TV, it can be a bit cramped.

It's pricey. A 16GB iPhone 5S from Verizon is $199. A 16GB Galaxy S4 is the same price, but consider the fact that you can bolster the storage with microSD and there's a valid value argument to be made. Also, the 32GB iPhone 5S is $299, while the same size S4 is $250. That's all with a two-year contract. Off contract, it goes from unaffordable to astronomical, with 16, 32 and 64GB versions selling for $649, $749 and $849. A premium product at a very premium price.

Read our full iPhone 5S review

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