This is the home stretch, people: the final days of the Christmas shopping season. And you’ll be using all four-er, three of them with extreme prejudice. Amazon Prime two-day shipping won’t save you at this point, so you’ll either have to search the store shelves or be okay with yourself shipping a late gift. Well, maybe not too late, though — we’ll get to that in a bit.
However timely it may be, the question has to be, “What’s that gift I’m going to give?”
Smartphones? You have dozens of choices from so many outlets this year when it comes to those phones, tablets and perhaps even some smartwatches. Isn’t that the problem with choice? — it can come at you like an avalanche.
Luckily for you, we’ll help you sort out who’ll get the most out of any of this year’s major releases. They’re all worthy in their own ways!
All of the following price tiers refer to MSRP of the base model and the discounted (if applicable) prices are current as of this post and in US Dollars (because most of our audience is in the US). We’ll keep away from carrier-tied deals and stick with GSM devices. We will note exceptions to these conditions as they come up.
$300 and under
If you’re not at a prepaid carrier’s store, you’ll find it a little more tougher to score a deal on low-margin devices. But you shouldn’t overlook the category because you’d miss out on underappreciated gems. We have great entries in this category including a capable “little sibling” entries from TCL and ZTE as well as a purpose-fit series from Motorola.
The TCL-made Alcatel Idol 4 is exclusive to Cricket Wireless, but you can an equivalent device in the form of the BlackBerry DTEK50, manufactured by TCL. It has some powerful front-facing stereo speakers, a hardware security stack to beat and a nicely swimming processor.
Competing against the media aspects of the DTEK50 is ZTE’s Axon 7 mini — spec-to-spec, the two are toe-to-toe, but you could argue for the superiority of the Axon’s speakers and screen. But only just by a bit. Thing is, the Ion Gold version on sale at Best Buy at $100 off, making this a $200 puppy.
Motorola has been able to run the table below $300 with its fourth generation of G series phones. Nothing spectacular about them except for the fact that Amazon is willing to give you a discount for the Moto G4 Play and Moto G4 if you let the Prime Editions take up your home and lock screens with product placements. Also, all three of these phones work with all four major US carriers.
After a brief security scare this year, BLU claims that it is not shipping your data out to China. That doesn’t help the fact that it doesn’t do the best job at supporting the software on its disparate devices, so no matter how much of a bargain you think it has, be a little cautious if you want to shop the company.
|Device||Best deal||Conditions||Other offers|
|BlackBerry DTEK50||BlackBerry ($300)||Best Buy / Newegg|
|ZTE Axon 7 mini||Best Buy ($200)||Discounted price for Platinum Gray is $250||ZTE ($250)|
|Moto G4 Plus||Motorola ($250)||Financing is available|
|Moto G4||Amazon ($150)||Prime Edition has ad-filled lock and home screens||Motorola ($200)|
|Moto G4 Play||Amazon ($100)||Prime Edition has ad-filled lock and home screens||Motorola ($150)|
|BLU R1 HD||Amazon ($50)||Prime Edition has ad-filled lock and home screens||Regular version is $100|
$301 to $500
Just when the $300 price tier wore out its welcome, we came to the $400 level with intense convergence. Let’s not split hairs, here.
The glassy Alcatel Idol 4s, which is boxed inside a VR headset, is known as a high-tier, sound-pushing phone. So has the very loud ZTE Axon 7, made of aluminium. But if you want stronger cameras and unique glass layering, you definitely have the Honor 8 on your side. And for those who have smaller hands, you have two choices this season: the Sony Xperia X Compact and the iPhone SE. We have reviews for all of these devices (minus the X Compact) in the links above.
On the other side of the size spectrum, Sony also has a 6-inch phablet with high-res cameras called the Xperia XA Ultra — it’s on major discount as well.
Unfortunately, we can’t in good conscience recommend the OnePlus devices for gifting — shipping for the 3T is only promised to begin within three weeks while the OnePlus 3 has been discontinued from sales. Also in this bin is the Idol 4s with Windows 10, which we think to be the only real consumer option in the Windows 10 Mobile space these days — it’s stuck with T-Mobile for now.
Finally, we top things off at about $500 with some better spec-loading from BlackBerry (TCL) and the DTEK60.
|Device||Best deal||Conditions||Other offers|
|BlackBerry DTEK60||BlackBerry ($499)||Amazon / Best Buy|
|Alcatel Idol 4s||Amazon ($350)||No VR headset bundled||Alcatel ($400)|
|Apple iPhone SE||Apple ($399)||Free next-day delivery if bought by Dec. 23|
|Honor 8||Amazon ($286)||B&H Photo / Honor ($300)|
|Nextbit Robin||Amazon ($145)||Nextbit ($299)|
|Sony Xperia X Compact||B&H Photo ($350)||White version (other colors up to $400)||Amazon / Best Buy / Fry's|
|ZTE Axon 7||Best Buy ($350)||B&H Photo / Newegg / ZTE (full price)|
$500 and above
The premium range has not seen a setback with the increased competition up above (or down below, in terms of price). So hasn’t the Samsung Galaxy S7 series. It has seem only limited depreciation in price since its springtime launch. You can thank the complete failure of the Galaxy Note 7 for its slow roll down the cost slope.
Going for the bog standard for either (or both) of the two major mobile platforms? The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are getting to same-day availability at the Apple Store. There’s also free next-day delivery through the 23rd. The Google Pixel is quicker to ship than the Pixel XL, though if you’re willing to get the 32GB Really Blue phablet, you’ll see it ship starting December 29 as opposed to three or four weeks later. Both Apple and Google phones can be used even at the CDMA carriers in the US, too.
While you won’t see much in terms of depreciation for the recently-launched (and most expensive of the entire list) LG V20, — there’s one big offer at Newegg — you’ll have better luck with the G5, the HTC 10, the Moto Z and especially the Xperia XZ.
|Device||Best deal||Conditions||Other offers|
|LG V20||Newegg ($750)||Open box available at $720||Amazon / B&H Photo|
|Apple iPhone 7 Plus||Apple ($769)||Same-day pickup available|
|Google Pixel XL||Google ($769)||32GB Really Blue ships earliest — December 29|
|Samsung Galaxy S7 edge||B&H Photo ($570)||International version||Amazon / Newegg|
|HTC 10||HTC ($499)||Really the best place for US unlocked units|
|Motorola Moto Z||Amazon ($500)||Motorola|
|Sony Xperia XZ||Amazon ($500)||Pretty much the same price everywhere available except Fry's (not listed)||Best Buy / B&H Photo / Newegg|
|Apple iPhone 7||Apple ($649)||Same-day pickup available|
|Google Pixel||Google ($649)|
|LG G5||Best Buy ($400)|
|Samsung Galaxy S7||B&H Photo ($500)||Dual-SIM version||Amazon / Newegg|
If you last bought a tablet back in 2011 and still want a tablet today, it’s probably high time to buy something new. Yep, we opened up last year’s tablet section this way, too.
But another spin around the sun and we find some of the same entries from Amazon and Apple in 2015 making it onto this list. Okay, maybe the iPad Pro is a new thing that, if you’re looking to grab one, maybe you should grab soon.
Well, fortunately, we have some fresh players in the Windowsphere (we’ve included Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 as well as products from Samsung and Huawei in this list) and with Lenovo’s unique take on a laptop — two tablets in one with the Yoga Book.
All of the following tablet deals are for the base models.
|Device||Best Deal||Conditions||Other deals|
|Amazon Fire 7"||Amazon ($40)|
|Apple iPad Air 2||Target ($300)||Apple ($399) / Amazon|
|Apple iPad Mini 4||Target ($275)||Apple ($399) / Best Buy ($300)|
|Apple iPad Pro 9.7"||Target ($450)||Apple ($599) / Best Buy ($475)|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (i5 / 4GB / 128GB)||Best Buy ($700)||Amazon has m3 / 4GB. 128GB for $652||Microsoft ($799)|
|Huawei MateBook (bundled with Folio keyboard)||B&H Photo ($549)||Amazon lacks keyboard for $409||Microsoft ($628 after cart add-on)|
|Samsung TabPro S||Newegg ($530)|
|Lenovo Yoga Book (Android)||Lenovo ($500)|
|Lenovo Yoga Book with Windows||Lenovo ($549)|
Well, this year was pretty tough on smartwatches, huh?
The no-good, very-bad run for Android Wear and Pebble fans results in a very condensed list this year. We do have new entries from Fossil and heart rate tracking specialist Polar in one column plus a discounted oldie from Huawei, just to make things up to the former group. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put the ASUS ZenWatch 3 on this list as it was sold out at all major retailers, including direct from the company.
Let’s hope for a better 2017, though, shall we?
Apple Watch Series 2 – $369
Apple Watch Series 1 (Target) – $200
Samsung Gear S3 – $300
Huawei Watch (Amazon) – $199
Polar M600 – $330
Fossil Q Marshal (Amazon) – $221
Fossil Q Founder 2.0 – $275