Discussion > Back to school! Now, which smartphone should you buy this season?

Back to school! Now, which smartphone should you buy this season?

Joined: November 2008

Total Posts: 32
August 22, 2011 at 2:48 PM

Welcome to Engadget's Back to School guide! We know that this time of year can be pretty annoying and stressful for everyone, so we're here to help out with the heartbreaking process of gadget buying for the school-aged crowd. Today, we're tapping away on our smartphones -- and you can head to the Back to School hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the month. Be sure to keep checking back -- at the end of the month we'll be giving away a ton of the gear featured in our guides -- and hit up the hub page right here!

Now more than ever, collegiate studies require a wide variety of devices to help you get that prized "A." The thirst for knowledge you so desperately seek can strike at any time, and you're not always going to have that desktop or laptop nearby to find the answer to a burning question. Perhaps you just need to hurl birds at pigs for a while to blow off your stress. Whatever the case, you'll need something to help you study, store (and edit) all of your important term papers, keep you in touch with classmates or family, and everything in-between. What better way to get all of that than with a smartphone? We've picked nine respectable candidates that can help you through your upcoming semester -- three for each budget level. Oh, and while you're looking, we're giving away $3,000 worth of essential back to school gear to 15 lucky readers, and you can be one of them by simply leaving a comment below! So, which phones are most likely to help you get smart? Head past the break to find out.

Prepaid / Budget

LG Optimus One

LG certainly made a big splash with its massive lineup of Optimus One devices, which spans several mobile providers in the US. Much of LG's success here is owed to its simplicity; instead of trying to be the best out there, the company seemed intent on making sure the One was the best-performing phone in the prepaid world. Even nine months after its debut, this phone is still making the grade.

Key specs: 600MHz CPU, 3.2-inch HVGA display, 3.2MP camera, Android 2.2

Price: varies by carrier

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Motorola Triumph
The Triumph is a curious name for a phone designed specifically for a prepaid provider, but nevertheless it's still a powerful device when you consider what you'll pay at retail (remember, prepaid = no contract). It comes with a punchy 1GHz CPU, 5MP camera and 720p HD video capture, and a 4.1-inch WVGA screen. And it'll definitely be the subject of jealousy among your roomates.

$270 (without contract) on Amazon

HTC Merge
After a long wait, this Android handset finally has a home at US Cellular -- good news for anyone who would rather have a solid phone with a QWERTY keyboard than the latest and greatest slate phone on the market. Throw in an 800MHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, and a 5MP camera, and the Merge is a tempting deal.

$300 (without contract) on US Cellular


T-Mobile G2x

The G2x may have started off on the wrong foot, but it's become one of T-Mobile's flagships for a reason. Also known worldwide as the LG Optimus 2X, it's a power-packed HSPA+ Android handset, and is one of the most reasonably priced dual-core phones you can find. Oh, and make sure you check out the Tegra Zone for cool games to play during a boring lecture.

Key specs: 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 CPU, 8MP rear / 1.3MP front cameras and 1080p video capture, 4-inch WVGA display, stock Android 2.3

Price: $150 on T-Mobile

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Samsung Nexus S 4G
With the recent drop in price, the Nexus S 4G is now the least expensive WiMAX-powered handset on Sprint's lineup. But don't let that fool you -- it's a high-quality phone despite the budget-conscious pricetag. Oh, and built-in NFC will make it easier to purchase decorations for your dorm room with Google Wallet.

$.01 on Amazon

Samsung Focus
Android may dominate our list, but we don't want to forget Microsoft's recent push into the market. Windows Phone 7 may still be an underdog behind Android and iOS, but it's still a solid choice for school -- and the Focus has the hardware to back it up. With this fall's Mango update forthcoming, the package is even more appealing.

$.01 on Amazon

Money's no object

Samsung Galaxy S II

Were you expecting to see an Apple device up here? We think it's a worthy contender, but with a pending (unannounced) refresh on its way, the iPhone 4 just didn't make the cut for back to school. This time, Samsung bested Apple as the class valedictorian with its Galaxy S II. It's currently available as an unlocked GSM device that will work -- and very well, we might add -- on any GSM network around the world. The GSII is one of the fastest (if not the fastest) devices we've played with to date, and fully embodies the term "superphone." The best news is that we can expect one on each major US carrier very soon.

Key specs: 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos CPU, 1GB RAM, 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, 8.49mm thick, 8MP rear / 2MP front cameras

Price: $629 unlocked on Amazon

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Samsung Droid Charge
The Droid Charge is a wonderful choice to harness Verizon's blazing-fast LTE speeds, with a gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus display, excellent performance, and the best battery life among its Verizon 4G brethren. A winning combination for looking up last week's lecture notes online.

$70-170 on Amazon

T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide
It's got all of the specs you need to capture memories of tonight's frat party and get work done tomorrow: a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU and an 8MP camera with 1080p video record are just a couple reasons why we like the myTouch 4G Slide. Need one more? A stellar QWERTY keyboard for easy notetaking.

$200 on Amazon
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