The best smartphones of 2012

At Ars Technica, Andrew Cunningham offers an epic, 5-page guide to the best smartphones of 2012. Our Gift Guide recommendations are more succinct: get the iPhone 5, Nexus 4 or Nokia 920.


  1. Galaxy Note 2 is the next generation. Nothing else on the market gives me jealousy, or makes me feel like I have to defend my phone, I simply feel pity for the rest. I know that sounds like a one sided fanboy thing to say, but it’s my honest truth.

    The phone is very expensive for Android, so that is going to hurt sales. And while the size of the screen spoils me, it is really a two handed phone (or phablet as some are calling it). That’s never a problem for me until I use my wife’s smaller phone and am pleased by how it is easier to handle in some situations. But 99% of the time I am thrilled with the larger screen. I’m also disappointed by the low light no flash photo quality(same camera as the S3), but I’m a photographer and will likely be more critical than the average user.

    Another great feature is the battery life. Right now, my phone has not been on a charger for 26 hours and I’m currently at 20% battery life while typing this reply. I’m a moderate to heavy user and gamer, and I make no attempts to save battery usage- there is no need to.

    1. Oh yeah. … full disclosure here, the dang carrier and manufacturer ROMs (Crapware) on all non nexus androids can go stuff themselves. (Although I do love me some S voice)

    2. I dunno, I used one once and it made for a great PDA, but if it doesn’t sit comfortably in my pocket it’s not a phone.

      I’m not even a big fan of the bigger iPhone5, I much prefer the form factor of the 4S.

      Each to their own though, obviously, but I don’t think I’d describe having a bigger screen ‘next gen’. I imagine the use-case for the note is people that need tablet like functionality as much as phone functionality, and so a combined unit better suits the task than a phone and a tablet – for me I’d rather have both.

      1. I bet you wear skinny jeans? The thin, tapered body hasn’t caused me a pocket problem since I bought it. Not attacking you, just wondering if your style is the problem more than the phone? If the style was pocketless pants… I wouldn’t blame the phone. :) Of course, I would still understand the problem though. I work for a mobile phone company so I come into contact with many people and their opinions. In my experience, potential buyers are worried and concerned about the size of the Note, but you are the first actual Note user that I have talked to that did not like it after actual use. Also, the trend in top tier phones continues to be a larger and larger screen, and the Note 2’s early success indicates that Samsung is still defining the outlier consumer’s max size limit.

        And I think my comment about being next gen is simply because no other phone I encounter now has any amount of swoon factor for me. I’m not even jealous of the iphone’s good looks anymore… it looks clunky and small to me, and the OS is still rocking 2007. 

        You are correct, I’m imposing my own desires onto an entire commercial audience- but these phones do continue to get bigger and bigger with each new release, so I don’t feel too whacko in my statement.

  2. To be fair, the Nexus 4 probably doesn’t belong on the gift guide anymore. Not because it isn’t a good phone, but because if you haven’t ordered it by now, you aren’t getting it in 2012.

  3. I heart my Lumia 920. I couldn’t give a shit about WP8, although it seems okay, but I’ve always loved Nokia’s designs so I bit despite the compromises (less than I had to make with my N8, anyway). It really isn’t too big and heavy, the camera and screen are great and I’m not feeling a lack of apps. Only drawback is pretty poor battery life, even with most background tasks turned off.

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