HotHardware's 2011 Back To School Shopping Guide


HTC Thunderbolt

Verizon Wireless is continuing to expand its 4G LTE network across the country. If you live in an area with LTE coverage, you'll want a phone that will let you take full advantage of the high speed connection that's available. That's where the HTC Thunderbolt comes in. This phone not only features 4G LTE connectivity, but it also has plenty of power to match. Key specs include a fast 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 4.3-inch WVGA (480x800) display, preinstalled 32 GB microSD card, and more. The phone can also act as a mobile hotspot for up to eight devices, so you'll be able to share this high speed connection with your laptop, tablet, and other devices as well.

With the Thunderbolt's 8 megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera as well as its kickstand and large display, you'll be enjoying multimedia, surfing the Web and sharing your favorite photos and videos with friends in no time. This Android-powered smartphone is currently available for $249.99 with a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S II

Likely one of the most anticipated Android-powered smartphones of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S II is currently only available as an unlocked model from overseas. This is expected to change by the end of the month, however, when Samsung is expected to announce the US versions of this smartphone. Rumors suggest that all of the major carries in the US could get their own variant of the phone, so chances are good you'll have some options.

Part of what makes the Samsung Galaxy S II so appealing is its potent dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 16GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM, and of course, the latest version of Android (2.3, or Gingerbread). The phone also boasts of an extra slim body (measuring just 8.5mm thick) and a lightweight design that weighs in at 4.0 ounces. The phone's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display adds to the phone's overall beauty and capabilities. Although this phone isn't currently available through US carriers, we're anxious for the launch date and expect the Samsung Galaxy S II to sell like hotcakes in the US just as it already has sold overseas.

Motorola Photon 4G

If you're looking for a high-end smartphone that's compatible with Sprint's network, the Motorola Photon 4G is definitely one to consider. This phone features a dual-core 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, a 4.3-inch qHD touchscreen display, 16GB of onboard memory, and 1GB of RAM. The Photon 4G runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and also features an 8 megapixel rear camera and VGA front-facing camera.

As you'd assume from its name, the Photon 4G connects to Sprint's WiMAX network, offering 4G speeds on the phone. You can share this high-speed data connection with up to eight devices using the phone's Mobile Hotspot capabilities. For worldwide travelers, you'll be interested to know that the Photon 4G supports worldwide GSM capabilities. The Photon 4G is available for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Apple iPhone 4

For some time now, Apple has been enjoying much success in the smartphone market with handsets that consumers love with a dedication we've yet to see with any other smartphone. Although there are plenty of rumors to suggest that a new iPhone, the iPhone 5, is just around the corner, the Apple iPhone 4 is still in high demand today and remains Apple's top of the line smartphone.

This smartphone is available in 16GB and 32GB variants for $199.99 and $299.99, respectively. For carriers, you currently have the choice of either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. In addition, you'll get to choose whether you want a white or black body. Apple touts the iPhone 4's Retina display, which boasts of a resolution of 960-by-640-pixels and claims to be the sharpest, most vibrant phone screen available. The iPhone 4 also offers FaceTime, letting you stay connect with friends and family regardless of if they're five minutes away or across the globe. If you want an iOS device, the iPhone 4 is still it as of today. The iPhone 5 is coming soon though, so if you can wait, it's probably a good idea to see what Apple has in store. At the very least, the iPhone 4 should see a price drop when the new model arrives.

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