Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Best Phones for Teens and Tweens
For teens, the phone is an important device. Not only is it a lifeline to friends, but the type of phone they use is also an extension of their identity.
If you're a parent, choosing the wrong phone can be social suicide for them. Not only will their peers judge them for it, but they'll have to carry it for the life of the contract -- either one or two years. For a teen, that's an eternity. Worried yet? Don't be. We'll walk you through the styles and features, so your kid will love their gift this holiday season.
Holiday Gift Guide points you to the most appropriate phone picks for every lovely person in your life.
To Spoil Them Rotten
If you really want to pick up a treat for those who've been especially good this year, go with the most coveted phones on the market. The iPhone still carries enormous cultural cachet, plus, the iPhone 5 is an extremely good handset: well-designed, with an excellent Retina display. The larger screen makes it easier than ever to enjoy movies or television shows on the go, and the superb 8-megapixel camera is perfect for shooting the coolest shots using third-party apps like Instagram, Hipstamatic and Snapchat. The only drawback: the cost, of course.
If you want to spoil an Android fan, you won't go wrong with the Google Nexus 4, since it offers the most exciting and purest version of Android. Since Google had a hand in designing the phone, the software works seamlessly, making it highly coveted. Besides the beautiful, smooth, intuitive version of Jelly Bean, the Nexus 4 has a lot of other great features: a gorgeous design that's sure to impress friends, a powerful 8-megapixel camera that's especially good at capturing details, and a plethora of apps from the Android marketplace. If you want a phone to impress the Android fanboy in your life, this is it.
For the Music Lover
Kids do more than make calls with their phones. Like everyone else, they want to listen to music, play games and browse the Web. That means entertainment is a big deal when choosing a phone. If you're a parent, not taking this into consideration can lead to big missteps. So here are a few devices that'll satisfy any music-loving kid.
Some phones are designed for entertainment fiends, and the HTC Droid DNA is one of the finest. The massive, insanely clear and bright 5-inch screen is the ideal canvas for consuming entertainment. It's an absolutely top-notch display, and frankly, one of the best on the market -- even better than the iPhone 5 -- with wide viewing angles ideal for enjoying movies or television shows in any situation (except, of course, in the classroom).
And the DNA is not just a stand-out in the display: it comes with HTC's signature Beats Audio feature, so the music player provides exceptionally rich sounds by optimizing low bass and crisp high frequencies. What's that mean? If your kid loves music, it's the ideal device to pump out thumping rap or dub step.
For the Creative Soul
If your kid loves to take photos, the Lumia 920 is a great device for the shutterbug. Not only does it come with "PureMotion HD+," which produces crystal-clear images and videos, ideal for watching movies, but it also comes with Nokia's revolutionary image-stabilizing technology, called "PureView," that actually makes it hard not to take a sharp photo. Pictures come out stunning and colorful, with filters for Panorama, Cinemagraph and SmartShot so they won't miss out on capturing amazing moments. It's a great pick if your kid likes to take action shots.
Another excellent device is the HTC One X+, which comes with a great 8-megapixel camera. The X+ also does a nice job with photos and video, but it's the front-facing lens that makes it stand out. Unlike other devices, the X+'s secondary camera stays in focus and provides detailed images for self-portraits and video chat. And toggling between photos and video, you don't have to wait a few seconds for a change: it happens in an instant, so you have greater flexibility when you're trying to record an event. This is also fantastic for young people trying to capture important events like school dances or sports competitions, because it will give them options in the way they want to capture the moment.
In addition, the One X+ has a beautiful matte finish, giving it a hip look, so your kid will be happy showing it off. It's large, as are most of the trendy phones, and the design combined with top-tier features is a sure-fire successful present.
For the Sports Star
Not everyone is careful with their phone, and if you have an active kid, chances are you'll need a durable and hardy device that can roll with the punches. The Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro is a decent choice: it's so tough, it's passed military standards for rain, wind, dust, shock and just about every other extreme condition. The Android-based handset is made of a mix of rubbery and hard materials, so it can easily survive drops unscathed.
Overall, it's not the most fashionable device out there, but it's an excellent gift if your kid plays water sports or teeters on extreme. If they've been known to drop phones into toilets, from balconies, or on the rainiest days of the year, consider the Rugby Pro.
For the Elementary Schooler
If your kid is still in elementary school, you don't want to overwhelm them with a bunch of functions, but a basic phone won't satisfy them. Fortunately, you can ease them into smartphone ownership without embarrassing them with the Pantech Flex. It's a fantastic Android option because it includes an "Easy Mode" to streamline the software. Menus are simpler, functions are fewer -- it's akin to training wheels on a smartphone, providing an apt choice for the very young. Once they've master the simple version, you can switch to a full version, which runs Android. It's not the newest version of the OS, but it's fine for a first-timer. In addition, this is an affordable phone, so if they end up losing it, you won't rip your hair out.
Best Bang for Your Buck
If you're on a budget, give the last-generation iPhone 4S a look, or the Samsung Galaxy S3, depending on whether they'd prefer iOS or Android. You'll still be getting top-notch quality and the software is similar, but you won't have to break the bank, or set up an expectation that you'll always get them the latest and greatest.
The 4S is now available at very affordable prices, and you still get an excellent, sleek design, an easy-to-use interface and nifty communication tools like FaceTime and iMessage, which you can use to communicate with other family members with Apple devices. This means picking up an iPhone for your kid makes a lot of sense if you're an Apple user, since you'll have extra ways to get in touch.
The S3, Samsung's flagship Galaxy device is less than six months old, but in smartphone years, that may as well be a generation. No matter, that also means you'll get it at a discount. It offers a premium Android experience but lacks the physical elegance of Apple's phones. On the plus side, the 4.8-inch display provides a larger canvas for entertainment, and its 8-megapixel camera takes crystal clear shots.
Neither are cutting-edge as they were a few months ago. But that shouldn't dissuade you. Either way, both the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S3 pack a lot of appealing features, including excellent cameras for detailed photos to share with friends on Facebook, and most enviable third-party apps out there. ♦
Categories: Gadgets & Gear