Best Verizon phones: 10 we recommend
18th Jul 2013 | 18:11
What's the best Verizon phone? We're here to help you choose
Introduction and Apple iPhone 4S
Update: at long last, the HTC One has been announced for Verizon Wireless. It could very well become the best phone on Verizon, but we're not adding it to the list until its available and we've had some in-hand time to confirm its awesomeness.
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?
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?
10. Apple iPhone 4S - we've got your budget iPhone right here
Ah the iPhone 4S. Remember when it was called the most amazing iPhone yet? We can't fault you if you don't recall, it was all the way back in 2011, after all. That's practically ancient history by Apple standards.
Its time in the sun may have brief, but it remains one the best 3G phones on Verizon (even though it can't do simultaneous talk and data, unlike iPhones on AT&T). Now, don't let the 4 in iPhone 4S confuse you, the only Apple smartphone that can take full advantage of Verizon's 4G LTE speeds is the iPhone 5. But the iPhone 4S still has plenty going for it to earn itself a place on this list.
On the software side, the 4S is very close to the iPhone 5. Since launch, its been upgraded to iOS 6, giving it access to Passbook, panorama photography, FaceTime over cellular, shared photostreams, an improved Siri and the infamous Apple Maps (don't worry, you download Google Maps on this one too).
- Read more: Apple Maps vs. Google Maps
Internally, it's definitely a beat behind the iPhone 5 and those quad-core Android phones, but its A5 processor still holds its own shockingly well.
Lastly, it's reasonably priced, for an iPhone, at least. With a new two-year contract its only $99 for a 16GB model, in either black or white. Off contract, it's a hard-to-swallow $549.
However, potential buyers and contract signers should be wary: do you really want to be committed to a dated 3G phone for two whole calendars? If you think the dismissive looks from iPhone 5 fanboys will be bad now, just wait until they have the iPhone 5S or iPhone 6, and you're still rocking the 4S. Talk about a one-way ticket to the lame kids lunch table. Say hi to the Android 2.3: Gingerbread users for us!
Also, Verizon only stocks the 16GB model, but 32 and 64GB models are still available from Best Buy and other retailers at subsidized two-year prices. Or you could try and score one off Craigslist. Maybe you can trade your coffee table for one?
- Read more: iPhone 4S review
Droid Razr M
9. Droid Razr M - the littlest Razr
Exclusively for Verizon, Motorola used 2012 to refresh the Droid Razr lineup with three new phones. The Droid Razr M is the smallest and most affordable of the three.
It may not have the long-lasting battery and higher resolution screen of its brothers, but this $99 device is under 5-inches, so it'll fit your pocket and your budget with ease.
The Droid Razr M shipped with Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich but has since received the Jelly Bean update. It also packs Motorola's custom UI, our second favorite piece of manufacturer software after Samsung's TouchWiz. Circle Widgets give it a bold, stylish look and also offer useful information.
The build of the phone is great as well. With an aluminum body and tough rubberized backing, it feels great to hold and won't slip out of your hand easily.
The small form factor means a shorter, lower resolution screen as well as less storage space than the other new Droids. It's a less media focused device than the Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr Maxx HD. Its easy to toss in a bag or pocket and forget about.
The Droid Razr M is a great choice for someone who wants a distinct and durable device, but also doesn't plan to obsess over their smartphone. Choose the M if you like its looks, and don't plan to spend all day gaming and streaming movies on your phone.
- Read more: Droid Razr M review
HTC Windows Phone 8X
8. HTC 8X - Windows Phone 8 with few reservations
You can't deny the visual appeal of the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8 in general. The OS is built around colorful and animated Live Tiles, and the candy-colored aesthetic of this handset matches them perfectly. Available in black, red and blue from Verizon, the HTC 8X also sports wireless charging when purchased from the Big Red carrier.
It's also surprisingly affordable, with a new contract at least. Sign up for two years and the 8X will only set you back $99. Not bad for a 4G LTE device. Full price is a whole lot steeper at $549.
However, it's not all roses. The 8X packs only 16GB of internal storage, and with no microSD option, that's all you're getting. Also, as with all HTC devices, the battery is non-removable. This is hard to stomach since the 8X struggles to cross the 24-hour finish line with frequent LTE use.
The Windows Phone 8 OS also has an issue or two, mostly due to being so new. The number of apps available for it pales in comparison to Android's Jelly Bean and iOS 6, though the essentials like Facebook and Netflix have arrived. The OS is also no good at managing multiple calendars.
However, if you're a big Xbox 360 fan or use a Windows 8 PC, you'll love the ecosystem Microsoft is forming. SmartGlass is a unique, if inessential, second screen app for gamers and HBO GO fans. Skydrive makes it easy to unify your files across your phone and laptop. You'll also be able to enjoy any music or videos you've purchased from Microsoft right on your 8X. It's not iTunes yet, but it's a fine start.
Finally, HTC did a lovely job designing the 8X's build. At a time when every phone seems to be big as a brick but delicate as a Christmas ornament, the 8X is both reigned in and durable. It's a tall 5.21-inches, but a slim width, 4.59 oz weight and super grippy rubberized backing make it a pleasure to hold. It also maintains HTC's reputation for quality cameras, with an 8-megapixel snapper that gets the job done right.
- Read more: HTC Windows Phone 8X review
Droid Razr HD
7. Motorola Droid Razr HD - thinner Razr, just as sharp
The Droid Razr Maxx HD got higher placement on our list because of its mammoth battery and 32GB storage, but the Droid Razr HD is not a phone to sneeze at. It's got the same dual-core processor and gorgeous HD screen as its big brother. The main difference is a smaller but still potent power cell.
A size down in the battery department makes the Razr HD a few millimeters thinner and $100 cheaper. It still has no trouble making it through the day, even with that shiny screen and 4G LTE from its exclusive carrier Verizon.
It's also got the same impressive build quality, all aluminum body and rubberized backing, plus that unique Kevlar pattern. It's also got support for a 32GB microSD card, which is nice compensation for the HD being a 16GB-only phone. However, it's more stylish than its big brother, as it comes in either white or black.
Available for $199.99 with two-year Verizon agreement, the Droid Razr HD is a solid, reliable phone at a fair price. Of course, you can get an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3 for that money, but if Apple makes you angry and you dislike Samsung's faux-aluminum, give this Razr a whirl.
- Read more: Droid Razr HD review
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 - can we please stop calling it a phablet?
Like your phones big, bordering on unwieldy? Then Samsung's Galaxy Note 2 is for you. At a hair's breadth from six inches, it's what marketing types have termed a "phablet." Others just call it a really big, powerful phone, because hearing that term makes us want to jam an S-Pen in our ears.
Since it's a Samsung product, it resembles the Galaxy S3, but don't think it's just an S3 with a bigger screen. This puppy has a peppier processor and twice the memory of its little cousin. It also packs Samsung's TouchWiz UI, which does more good than ill for Android 4.1: Jelly Bean.
If we had to issue some gripes, which we do, we'd say it's a pity American carriers only stock the 16GB model. That's not much of an issue though, since the Note 2 supports a 64GB microSD card. Pick up one of those and you shouldn't want for storage.
Then there's the S-Pen, which is something of a gimmick. If you meet someone who actually uses theirs you should sell them to a zoo as a rare and exotic animal.
It's also an expensive phone, going for $299 with two-year contract. And, of course, it's very big, so if you're not the type to carry a handbag or "murse" (man purse. Or satchel, like Indiana Jones) then maybe opt for a less monolithic phone.
- Read more: Galaxy Note 2 review
HTC Droid DNA
5. HTC Droid DNA - gamer's delight
Verizon commissioned a whole lot of Droids this year. It had Motorola build three great phones, the Droid Razr Maxx HD, Droid Razr HD and Droid Razr M. Then Big Red called up HTC and had them craft the Droid DNA, a mammoth handset that's nearly five and half inches long and packed with power. As a Droid, it's exclusive to Verizon, and offers improved battery life compared to other phones from HTC.
With it's Bunsen burner of a name and matte black finish streaked with red highlights, the Droid DNA looks like some straight up science fiction. The internals are from the future as well. It's got a 1.5Ghz quad-core and a bruising 2GB of RAM. That's like a laptop from a couple years ago.
Thanks to its size and stats, the Droid DNA is a mobile gamer's delight. Games load fast and look great on the DNA, and all that screen real estate means plenty of room for thumb action. You won't be misplacing your Wall-Nuts in Plants vs Zombies using this phone.
It also comes with Android 4.1: Jelly Bean right out of the box, and the stellar camera that HTC phones have become known for.
Sadly, the issues that HTC detractors complain about are here too. The DNA's battery life is just ok. Game or stream a lot and you'll probably wear down the charge before the end of the day. That's the consequence of having a quad-core, massive screen and 4G LTE data. Stick to more standard tasks like browsing, email, texts and calling and you'll be fine, but a spare charger for the office is not a bad idea.
Finally, we're not crazy about HTC's Sense UI. It makes some odd and ineffective choices, like a recent apps selector with previews that look that floating space prison from "Superman II."
- Read more: HTC Droid DNA review
Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD
4. Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD - the long-living battery king
Verizon may have to shell out to George Lucas to use the name, but the Droid is Big Red's baby. Ever since the Droid Razr Maxx, the ethos with the Droid Razr has been battery life uber alles. Motorola has also improved its custom interface, designing a slick and useful manufacturer UI.
The Droid Razr Maxx HD is a battery behemoth. As far as processor and RAM go, it's the exact same phone as the Droid Razr HD. It just has much bigger power cell and a 32GB hard drive jammed in it. At $299, it's not cheap, a $100 more than its little Maxx-less brother. It's just slightly heavier and thicker, but if you want a phone that will never leave you stranded without a charge, this is the one, and it's only on Verizon.
Aesthetically, the Droid Razr Maxx HD and its brethren are real winners, second only to iPhones for touch appeal and straight up handsomeness. Its 4.7-inch HD display isn't quite edge-to-edge, but it boasts a remarkably thin bezel. The rear and sides of the phone are coated in a smart looking, rubberized matte black finish that's super grippy. It's also water-resistant and stands up very well to scrapes. This is not a phone that needs to be babied with a case.
It also supports a 32GB microSD card, which will double your storage, and its 1.5GHz dual-core processor is none to shabby. As we mentioned, battery life is where the Droid Razr Maxx HD really shines. If you're looking for a phone that can double as a reliable mobile hotspot, sharing its 4G LTE connection with your tablet, laptop or other device, the Maxx HD is a fine choice. Just be ready to shell out for a high-end data plan.
Power and reliability come at a price though. At a little over 5–inches long and more than 2.5-inches wide, it's a whopper of a handset. It's a hefty 5.54 oz and the price tag is none to light either. When you consider that it's the same phone as the Droid Razr HD with excellent rather than great battery life, and goes for one hundred bucks more, you may want to size down. You won't be losing that much. Also, the screen is 720P, not full HD, which something of a missed opportunity given the size of the display.
- Read more: Hands on Droid Razr Maxx HD review
Samsung Galaxy S3
3. Samsung Galaxy S3 - once the king, now deal of the week
Ah, the good old Galaxy S3. It's had to give up its throne to new Galaxy S4, but it's also had a price slash. For $99 with two-year contract, the 16GB S3 is now the budget device that's way too nice to be called a budget device.
It hardly needs any help from Verizon's 4G LTE network, but those data speeds help streaming videos remain bright and clear on its Super AMOLED HD screen. With 16GB of storage and support for up to 64GB of microSD expansion, you've got a ton of room for media that won't eat up your data plan. With extra memory support appearing on fewer and fewer phones these days, this feature really helps Samsung phones stand out.
The Galaxy S3 is available with 32GB and 64GB of internal storage, but Verizon and most other U.S. carriers don't stock it. It's practically a moot point though, because microSD cards are dirt cheap, cheaper than getting an S3 with larger storage.
The S3's camera is 8-megapixels, which may seem small compared to 10 and 13-mp monsters like the S4 and Optimus G, but the S3 still manages to take stellar shots. Finally, while we're not crazy about the plasticy faux-aluminum the phone is constructed with, we will admit that it's surprisingly durable. And you can deck it out with a flip cover, an accessory so stylish even iPhone 5 owners will turn their heads.
Verizon also has the S3 in the most colors of any carrier, offering Samsung's flagship device in blue, white, black and red. Its also given it the Jelly Bean update, and Samsung's TouchWiz UI isn't half-bad either.
The S3 is competitively priced with two-year contract. A 16GB model is just $99. Off contract it's still a very steep $500.
- Read more: Samsung Galaxy S3 review
Apple iPhone 5
2. Apple iPhone 5 - of course it's the best iPhone yet
Surprised? You shouldn't be. The iPhone 5 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.
Let's be honest: we care about the look and feel of our phones, and the iPhone 5 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.
It's got a fantastic screen, and an excellent camera. All round it's blazing fast when loading apps or browsing the web. So fast it's made us question the value of doubling down on processors, since its dual-core processor generally keeps pace with the Galaxy S3's quad-core.
Then there are all those apps. While Android's Google Play has caught up to the App Store in size, iOS 6 still gets the most love from developers. Its Facebook app is the best mobile version of the preferred social network. And it all plays so well with iTunes, iPhoto and iCal, to the point where you're practically outsourcing your life to the engineers in Cupertino.
There are holes in the armor, of course. It's not a cheap phone, by any means, with 16, 32 and 64GB models going for $199, $299 and $399 with two-year agreement. Off contract they're downright unaffordable at $649, $749 and $849.
If your main concern is storage space, the microSD capable Galaxy S3 is a more cost effective option. The iPhone 5 is also highly prone to scratches, to the point where we recommend fitting it with a case from minute one.
- Get scratchproof: Best iPhone 5 cases
We'd also like to pretend the whole Apple Maps vs Google Maps fiasco didn't happen, but it did. Thankfully, Google Maps is back, and better than it's ever been on iOS, but the best version is still found on Android. And Siri won't play nice with Google Maps, which means any time you ask her for directions, you're getting her dopey friend's best guess, not Google's info.
iOS is also starting to feel a bit boring compared to Android 4.2 and even the Windows Phone 8 OS. No widgets, no live tiles, no up-to-date information being piped to the home screen. Finally, iOS is a real walled garden. Good luck getting your iTunes and iBooks purchases onto a non-Apple device if you don't like the look of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 or whatever they end up calling it.
Samsung Galaxy S4
1. Samsung Galaxy S4 - the new king
Make no mistake - the Samsung Galaxy S4 is far, far more than a Galaxy S3 'S' - Samsung may be copying Apple according to some people, but it's not as brazen as the Cupertino brand in flogging the exact same design with a slightly uprated processor and calling it a new phone.
The Galaxy S4 is a great, great device in its own right, re-inventing what it means to own a brilliant smartphone in a number of ways. The gestures are cool, the touch-less experience amazing at times - in short, it's a wonderful phone you want to pull out of your pocket again and again and again.
The design issue is overblown, but not without merit. Yes, it's plastic, and yes, compared to the competition you wouldn't choose to spend your money on it for the chassis. But it's a very solid device that belies that exterior and shouldn't be discounted for it, although it still feels like the cheapest of all the top end phones on the market - we're slightly amazed that Samsung hasn't gone a few steps further with the design after the S3's criticism.
TouchWiz is getting a little complex now, though. The simplicity of HTC Sense shines through, and the HTC One is a superior device in many ways because the innovation is based on things users want. Where Samsung brought the ability to wave to move photos, the HTC One made the speaker better. Unfortunately, it's not available on Verizon, which makes the S4's bid for supremacy a lot easier.
The Galaxy S4 is a stunning smartphone that won't let you down for a variety of tasks. There's no doubt Samsung will have to make a big step forward to keep users interested with the Galaxy S5, but for now we love the S4 and would be proud to have it in our pocket.