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