10 smartphones for holiday gift giving, 2013

Hottest smartphones for the holidays

PM Images | Stone | Getty Images

Smartphones are a hot holiday item, but with new devices coming out so frequently, it's hard to keep up with all the latest features and know what to pick for people on your holiday gift list.

The welcome news is that advanced technology increasingly means gaps are closing between smart devices. Still, it may be wise to think about how recipients will use the phone. Are they shutterbugs or movie junkies?

CNBC scoured the choices and talked with analysts to find the 10 best phones for every type of user.

—By Evelyn Cheng, Special to CNBC.com.
Posted 1 Dec. 2013

For the jack-of-all-trades: iPhone 5s

Apple iOS7 on the iPhone 5s
Getty Images

Price: $200 (with contract from major carriers)

Apple's latest iPhone is still the most popular smartphone for its dependable performance across the board. Strong support by developers means plenty of apps are available to enhance the iPhone's photo and video capture capabilities.

Gamers and developers on your holiday list will enjoy the device's top-notch processor capabilities, while fingerprint recognition is a convenient touch.

For the budget-conscious: Moto X

Motorola's Moto X is displayed in many different colors as the American-manufactured smartphone.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

Price: $99.99 (with contract)

If your top priority is value, consider this smartphone from Google's Motorola brand.

"Moto X now is at a really good value and still 'future-proof' for the next two years," said Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research.

This phone can be personalized by choosing the backplate and accent colors online. The device features voice control with Google Now. And it's battery-friendly with an active-display feature that lets you read a text or an email, or receive a Facebook notification without turning on the entire phone.

For the shutterbug: Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Oyj Lumia 1020 mobile device at a Microsoft Corp.
Kelvin Ma | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Price: $99.99 (with AT&T contract); $644.99 (unlocked from Amazon)

A review in Laptop Magazine puts the image quality of the Nokia Lumia 1020 on par with the iPhone. But the raw image support, 41-megapixel camera and native camera controls packed into this Windows Phone make the Lumia optimal for photography geeks.

For the accident-prone: Kyocera Hydro XTRM

Kyocera Hydro XTRM
Source: Kyocera

Price: $169.99 (no contract, MetroPCS); $29.99 (with U.S. Cellular contract)

Internal specs may not match the iPhone, but Michael Morgan of ABI research recommends Kyocera's Hydro XTRM for a midpriced phone that is fully featured—and waterproof. A rubberized case protects the phone's components from submersion and shock.


For the globe-trotter: Samsung Galaxy Grand

Samsung's Galaxy Grand smartphone
Angel Navarrete | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Price: $290 (unlocked from Amazon)

Rather than suffering with a primitive flip phone while traveling abroad, pop a local SIM card into the second slot of the Samsung Galaxy Grand and use two numbers at once. Although multiple-SIM phones haven't quite hit the U.S. market, CNET highlighted the Galaxy Grand in its round-up of dual-SIM devices from the Mobile World Congress earlier this year.

For the bookworm: Samsung Note 3

The new Galaxy Gear smartwatch and Galaxy Note 3 smartphone
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

Price: $299.99 (with contract)

The Samsung Note 3's 5.5-inch screen lets users read comfortably on the go. Its display technology "really does a good job for differentiating [color sharpness]," said ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan. The Note 3 also emits the least amount of radiation among smartphones, studies show.

For the power-hungry: LG G2

The LG G2 smart phone
Getty Images

Price: $200 (with contract)

LG's G2 tops reviews from ABI Research, Strategy Analytics and Laptop Magazine for the longest battery life: 10 hours.

This phone also has an innovative knock-on feature that turns the phone on just by tapping the screen.

For the audiophile: HTC One

HTC J One HTL22 smartphone.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Price: $74.99 (for 32GB with AT&T contract); $299.99 (for 64GB with AT&T contract)

Both Laptop Magazine and ABI Research rank the HTC One top in audio quality, citing the Beats Audio technology in its speakers. The phone is available in 32-gigabyte and 64-gigabyte versions.

For the keyboard-lover: Motorola Droid 4

Motorola Droid 4 smartphone.
Getty Images

Price: Free (with Verizon contract); $240 (unlocked)

Have someone on your gift list who mourns the advent of touchscreens? The Motorola Droid 4 may be a good choice for Qwerty keyboard diehards.

For the entertainment junkie: Sony Xperia Z1

Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Sanjeev Verma | Hindsutan Times | Getty Images

Price: $649.99 (unlocked)

Graphics capabilities stand out on Sony's flagship phone with its 5-inch HD display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with a 2.2 gigahertz CPU. The device is also water-resistant.