Editor's Note (Mar. 14, 2012)
With Mobile World Congress 2012 come and gone it's time for an update to our smartphone buying guide. There are some new players in the horizon, such as the HTC One range or the new Xperia, as well as some that didn't make the cut by the time our last update was published like the Nokia Lumia and Samsung Galaxy Note. Expect a full update shortly.

Smartphone manufacturers are bringing out the big guns as we move into the final months of the year. While much of the attention will undoubtedly center on Apple's new iPhone 4S, Android fans are spoilt for choice this holiday season. Anticipation is growing with Android 4.0 (code-named Ice Cream Sandwich) expected to arrive any time now.

We also have high hopes for Microsoft's renewed mobile platform, but we are still waiting for the latest Mango-powered hardware to hit U.S. shores. In particular, Nokia's first Windows Phone devices. Notably absent from this update to the Smartphone Buying Guide are webOS devices, which were put on life support last August. RIM's BlackBerry devices have also failed to impress lately, so you will note the company is represented by a single model, the BlackBerry Bold 9930.

Without further ado, check out our selection of the hottest devices currently out there. Each phone is listed alongside its feature highlights, specs and prices, broken down in three categories depending on its time of release. We've added metascores from our Product Finder engine besides each phone to further aid you in making well-informed decisions on your next purchase.

  • New & Upcoming Releases
    Samsung Galaxy Nexus * Motorola Droid Razr * Apple iPhone 4S * Windows Phones * Motorola Atrix 2 * Motorola Droid Bionic
  • Current Popular Smartphones
    BlackBerry Bold 9930 * Motorola Photon 4G * Samsung Infuse 4G * Motorola Droid 3 * Samsung Galaxy S II * HTC EVO 3D
  • Other Noteworthy Alternatives
    HTC Sensation 4G * Samsung Nexus S 4G * T-Mobile G2x (LG G2x) * HTC Arrive * Apple iPhone 4
Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Available: November 2011

Samsung's newest flagship is the first handset in the world to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, introducing a whole new look and feel for Google's mobile platform. The Galaxy Nexus features a curved 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED display running at 1270 x 720 resolution, a 1.2GHz dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 5MP rear camera with zero shutter lag, backlit-illuminated sensor, built-in stabilization and LED flash and a 1.3MP front-facing camera for video chat. The unit is powered by a 1,750mAh battery and is 8.9mm at its thinnest point.

Additional views:

Carrier: Verizon (rumored) Talk Time: --
Price: TBA Standby Time: --
Manufacturer: Samsung Weight: 4.76 ounces
Platform: Android 4.0 Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC
Network: CDMA, EV-DO Rev. A, LTE Storage: 16GB, 32GB
Motorola Droid Razr

Available: November 2011

Motorola has revived its popular Razr brand with the new Droid Razr. The device features a stainless steel frame with Kevlar on the back and includes a dual core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a 4.3-inch display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass and an 8MP camera. This ridiculously thin 7.1mm phone can run on Verizon's LTE network and access what Motorola calls Moto Cast, a "personal cloud" that let's you share files in the cloud. It also offers a wealth of optional accessories including screen and keyboard docks and portable chargers.

Additional views:

Carrier: Verizon Talk Time: 12.5 hours
Price: $300 with two-year contract Standby Time: 8.5 days
Manufacturer: Motorola Weight: 4.48 ounces
Platform: Android 2.3.5 Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Network: CDMA, EV-DO Rev. A, LTE Storage: 16GB
Apple iPhone 4S

Available: October 14, 2011

88 68 Reviews The iPhone 4S features an upgraded A5 dual-core processor, a faster wireless network and an 8MP rear camera with improved optics. The 4S retains the same size and shape of the iPhone 4, categorizing it as an evolutionary upgrade rather than a revolutionary device. Its standout feature is a new voice assistant program called Siri that's described as an "intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking."

Additional views:

Carrier: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Talk Time: 8-14 hours
Price: $199-399 with two-year contract Standby Time: 8.3 days
Manufacturer: Apple Weight: 4.93 ounces
Platform: iOS 5 Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Network: GSM, CDMA, HSPA+ 14.4 Storage: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
Second generation Windows Phones

Available: Holiday 2011

The second generation of Windows Phones with upgraded specs and Mango preloaded is set to arrive this holiday season. We'll have to wait a bit more until they officially hit U.S. shores but there are some interesting prospects on the horizon: HTC will be releasing the high-end Titan, wielding a 4.7-inch SLCD display, dual cameras and a single-core 1.5GHz processor, as well as the Radar featuring a more modest 3.8-inch screen and a 1GHz processor.

Meanwhile, Samsung is adding the Focus S and Focus Flash to its lineup. The first is an update to the original Focus with a thin 8.55mm body, a 1.4GHz processor under the hood, and a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. The Focus Flash is a lower-end offering but still carries a a 1.4GHz CPU. It has a 3.7-inch Super AMOLED screen and a 5MP shooter on the back.

Little details have been mentioned about Nokia's first Windows Phone handset but we might hear some news at the Nokia World trade show, which takes place October 26-27 in London. Rumored specs include an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a 3.7-inch Gorilla Glass-protected touchscreen.

Motorola Atrix 2

Available: October 16, 2011

Motorola's first iteration of the Atrix smartphone promised a lot. It had a 4-inch "qHD" (960x540) display, thin body, and ability to gain PC-like functionality with either a laptop-sized expansion dock or HD multimedia dock. Although it wasn't the bit hit that the company was hoping for, its follow-up picks up the pace with an improved camera, more storage, and 'true' 4G speeds (AT&T's HSPA+ network topping out at 21Mbps). You'll also get a 1GHz dual-core processor and the same expandability that its predecessor offered – all for a lower price tag starting at $100.

Additional views:

Carrier: AT&T Talk Time: --
Price: $99 with two-year contract Standby Time: --
Manufacturer: Motorola Weight: --
Platform: Android 2.3 Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Network: GSM, WCDMA, HSPA+ 21.1 Storage: 8GB built-in, 2GB microSD included
Motorola Droid Bionic

Available: September 8, 2011

80 14 Reviews The Motorola Droid Bionic has had a storied past. Although it was originally announced way back at CES in January, Motorola went back to the drawing board and came up with a device that could be a doppelganger for the Droid X2. But don't be fooled by appearances; this dual-core phone runs on Verizon's speedy LTE network, supports a range of accessories that utilize its Webtop software, and offers solid battery life. It sports a 4.3-inch, qHD (540x960 pixel) display and can record 1080p HD video.

Additional views:

Carrier: Verizon Talk Time: 11 hours
Price: Free with new two-year contract ($220 extension) Standby Time: 16 days
Manufacturer: Motorola Weight: 5.6 ounces
Platform: Android 2.3.4 Wireless: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1
Network: CDMA, EV-DO Rev. A, LTE Storage: 16GB internal, 16GB microSD included