HotHardware's 2010 Back To School Shopping Guide

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Smartphone Shopping Guide

If you're attending a school that's within a 4G region, it'll be hard to pass up America's first 4G smartphone. HTC's EVO 4G isn't just one of the biggest phones out there, but also one of the smartest and most powerful. Android 2.2 has been passed down to the phone, and Sprint's ramping up WiMAX coverage at a nice pace. It's also fully capable of handling multi-media, so once you're done texting your teacher for help on that Spanish assignment, you can fire up a 720p video and blow off some steam.

A 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 4.3" display, 3G/4G support, 8MP rear camera, integrated kick stand, front-facing 1.3MP camera and plenty of horsepower to handle video calling are included. It's $199.99 on a 2-year Sprint contract, but you'll be paying $40/month for the 4G data plan regardless of whether you live in a 4G region or not.


If you're looking for an Android smartphone with a screen that's larger than life, Samsung's Galaxy S is a safe bet. It's available on all four of the major U.S. carriers under various names, so feel free to select whichever variant responds to the carrier that gives you the best reception. The massive 4" Super AMOLED display provides a clarity and crispness that's tough to find on a standard LCD phone, and the 1GHz processor keeps thing snappy even while multi-tasking. If you aren't sure if you'll use it enough to justify a $30/month data plan, AT&T's version (the Captivate) is available with a $15/month data plan that provides 200MB per month. Also, Sprint's version (the Epic 4G) is the only one of the four that supports WiMAX, but you'll be forced to pay $10/month extra and you'll need to be in a 4G area to take advantage of the extra speed.

Despite the reception issues, Apple's iPhone 4 is a solid smartphone if you're willing to use a case. We'd recommend using a case anyway for protection, but that's another story for another day. The new iPhone is still the world's only iOS 4 native smartphone, and it's packed with new features that are hard for loyal Apple users to ignore.

The Retina Display is second-to-none in terms of quality, and the A4 CPU is lightning quick. The addition of multi-tasking and FaceTime make this an easy sell, but the fact that it's only available on AT&T may make you pause. Most universities are within range of AT&T 3G (in our experience, anyway), so some of you may be in the clear. It's definitely AT&T's best smartphone, but it may not remain that way for long once a flood of Windows Phone 7 and Android phones come over. But regardless, the iPhone 4 still has the most abundant App Store and the most games available...for now.

While touch screen-based smartphones are all the rage right now, some users still prefer physical QWERTY keyboards. If that's you, the DROID 2 is likely your best option (or the DROID Incredible if you don't want a QWERTY keyboard, or the DROID X if you don't mind carrying a larger phone in exchange for a huge screen). The second generation of Motorola's DROID just recently shipped, and it'll be equipped with Android 2.2, support for Mobile HotSpot and a new design that's sleeker and more pocket-friendly.

It also feature a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, support for Flash videos and websites, increased processing power and Verizon Wireless' heralded 3G coverage. At $199.99 on a 2-year contract, it's the same price as the other recommendations here. The network just might win you over, though.

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