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10 Best Smartphones of 2012
By Mark Spoonauer,
Laptop, 12 December 2012.

In 2012 the smartphone wars became less about bragging about who had the most cores and more about screen size and innovative features. Samsung made the biggest overall impact with two hit phones: The Galaxy S III introduced the world to breakthrough sharing features, while the category-busting 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II took phablets to new heights.

Meanwhile, Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone 5 pushed the design envelope with a jaw-droppingly thin and light sequel with a bigger (but not too big) display. But Apple and Samsung were far from the only winners. In fact, two devices on our top 10 list run Windows Phone 8 - one from Nokia and one from HTC - which says there’s plenty of competition for your smartphone dollar. Here are our top picks of the year.

1. iPhone 5

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The iPhone 5 gives Apple fans what they’ve been waiting for, including a bigger screen, 4G LTE and easier Facebook sharing. But it’s the design of this phone that makes it truly stand out. Measuring just 0.3 inches thick and and weighing a mere 4 ounces, the iPhone 5 is so light and svelte that you really have to hold it in your hands to believe it.

This one-hand-friendly handset also boasts one of the sharpest cameras around, a fast A6 chip and more than 7 hours of battery life. Yes, the Maps app is flawed, but otherwise the iPhone 5’s combination of portability, performance, apps and accessories can’t be beat.

2. Samsung Galaxy S III

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The most innovative smartphone of the year makes it easier to share everything, whether you’re looking to transfer videos between Galaxy phones with a tap or broadcast your photos to an entire group over Wi-Fi. The S III has a ton of other nifty features behind its 4.8-inch HD screen, including Direct Call for dialling a contact just by lifting the phone to your head and Pop up Play for watching a video while you’re using another app. While the screen could be brighter, a slim design, swift camera and smooth performance solidify the S III as one of the very best phones of 2102.

3. Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD

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The Droid RAZR Maxx HD is the marathoner of smartphones. In fact, this Verizon device lasts more than two hours longer than the average smartphone. We’re talking 8 hours and 13 minutes in the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over 4G LTE.

But the Droid RAZR Maxx isn’t all about its beefy 3,300 mAh battery. It sports a sleek but strong Kevlar-infused design, a very bright and crisp HD display and loud and clear audio. A recent upgrade to Jelly Bean adds welcome enhancements like Google Now and offline voice typing. You’ll pay a premium for the Maxx’s extra endurance, but it’s well worth it.

4. Nokia Lumia 920

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If you haven’t considered a Windows Phone, the Lumia 920 will make you a believer. In addition to sporting Microsoft’s compelling Live Tile interface, this Windows Phone 8 device features a breakthrough PureView camera that takes some of the best low-light pictures we’ve seen.

Nokia sweetens this $99 steal of an AT&T phone with integrated wireless charging capability and useful and entertaining apps like Nokia Drive and Nokia Music. Although the Lumia 920 is on the hefty side, we love how colours pop off the 4.5-inch screen, as well as the multiple colour options for the phone itself.

5. Samsung Galaxy Note II

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Proving that bigger can be better, the Galaxy Note II makes the most of its ginormous 5.5-inch HD display, starting with an S Pen that makes it easy to take notes and preview emails just by hovering the pen above the screen. It gets better. Samsung’s multi-window feature lets you run two applications side by side, so you can surf the Web while you watch YouTube or check Facebook.

The Note II is also a powerhouse, thanks to its quad-core Exynos, and lasts more than 9 hours on a charge. Those with smaller hands may want to steer clear, but overall the Note II is the big-screen phone to beat.

6. HTC Droid DNA

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The first smartphone with a 1080p display is a true eye-opener. HTC’s Droid DNA for Verizon Wireless crams a 5-inch full HD Super LCD 3 screen into a design that’s compact enough to use comfortably with one hand. Not only is this panel the crispest in all the land, it beats the Galaxy Note II on brightness and offers ultra-wide viewing angles.

The DNA also benefits from a blazing quad-core processor, a camera that can shoot up to 4 frames per second and Beats Audio. If you want a big and beautiful canvas in a design that won’t weigh you down, the DNA is the superphone to get.

7. LG Optimus G

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LG stepped up its game big-time in 2012 with the Optimus G, which combines impressive quad-core speed (courtesy of a Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU) with innovative features. One of our favourite perks of the Optimus G is QSlide, which lets you run apps on top of a video that’s playing in the background.

QuickMemo enables users to capture screens, add a note with your finger and then share it with ease. Other highlights include a beaming 4.7-inch IPS display and a high quality 8-megapixel (AT&T) or 13-MP (Sprint) camera that’s quick on the draw.

8. Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro

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Don’t try this with a regular Android phone. The Rugby Pro survived multiple drops on New York City streets, as well as sitting in a vase of water for 30 minutes. The rubberized Rugby Pro meets military standards for dust, rain, humidity and shock resistance, making it the ideal handset for people who are rough on their phones. When you’re not knocking it around, the Rugby Pro stands up well as an everyday smartphone, offering fast 4G LTE speeds on AT&T’s network along with nearly 8 hours of battery life.

9. HTC Windows Phone 8X

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You know HTC is serious about Windows Phone when it puts the name of the OS in the product name. The 8X is a beauty, sporting a slim soft-touch design available in multiple colours. (The design was actually inspired by Microsoft’s Live Tile interface.)

A wide-angle front camera allows users to fit more people in the frame when making Skype video calls, while a dedicated ImageChip ensures quick shutter speed for snapping stills. Add in Beats Audio for rocking out and wireless charging (Verizon model only) and you have a lot of reasons to switch to Windows Phone.

10. Motorola Droid RAZR M

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In a year dominated by giant phones, the Droid RAZR M stood out by offering a big screen in a small package. This Android device weighs just 4.4 ounces and measures 0.3 inches thick yet packs a 4.3-inch display. No, it’s not HD, but this AMOLED screen is more than bright enough to read in direct sunlight.

The RAZR M also makes Android approachable, thanks to a selection of easy-to-use circle widgets and settings shortcuts on its home screens. Despite its somewhat diminutive dimensions, the RAZR M’s speaker gets plenty loud, which means you’ll have no problem hearing those GPS directions or impromptu conference call.

[Source: Laptop. Edited.]

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