Holiday tech gift guide: Five smartphones to put a smile on anyone’s face

Tablets may be some of the most in-demand gifts this holiday season, but nothing beats the day-to-day practicality of a smartphone. And with a seemingly endless selection of phones to choose from, picking just the right one for a gift is no small task.

Check out our suggestions for some of your best choices for recently-released smartphones:


Motorola RAZR HD LTE

If the last time you looked at a Motorola RAZR was in the flip phone days, you're in for quite a surprise with the Motorola RAZR HD LTE. Its key selling point is its massive 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display, with a screen resolution of 1280 x 720. It's a little heavier than some of the other phones on this list, but if you're someone who likes a phone with some substance, this isn't a downside. The large screen also makes it comparable to a device like the Samsung Galaxy Note II, almost entering the 'phablet' range at this size. Reviewers have found the phone to be quick and responsive, and many have described it as having a "premium feel," with a Kevlar fibre coating on the back, which also keeps off daily grime from handling the phone. Oh, and if the name didn't give it away, the phone is LTE-ready.

Available from Rogers for $99 with select 3-year plans.


HTC One X+

An update to the earlier HTC One X, this phone takes many of the aspects that made its predecessor a pretty good phone and turns it into a great one. Running Android's 4.1.1 Jelly Bean OS, the One X+ boasts an improved battery life and more storage, both issues on the prior model. The screen size and resolution are the same as the Motorola Razr HD LTE at 1280 x 720 pixels and 4.7-inches, but with a Super LCD 2 display. One of the biggest changes from the earlier One X, though, is the addition of the quad-core NVIDA Tegra 3 processor, which makes it possible to access games exclusively for that chipset that allow for more detailed visuals.

Available from Telus for $79 with select 3-year plans.


Nokia Lumia 920

For anyone who wants a break from the Apple-Android war, Windows Phone 8 is the newest kid on the block. And Nokia is fighting for the title of top Windows Phone on the market with the Lumia 920. The large 4.5-inch screen is touted as being 'better than HD' by Nokia at 1280 x 768, and delivers a bright, crisp picture. You can add some of your own pictures, too, with the Lumia 920's built-in 8.7-megapixel PureView camera, designed to perform well in low-light conditions and capture high-def video at 1080p. Nokia has also included a wireless charging option, so all you have to do is put your phone down on a compatible charging mat instead of fiddling with charger cords and plugs.

While the apps available for Windows Phone 8 users are still paltry compared to iOS and Android users, the actual interface on the Lumia 920 capitalizes on this new and considerably different operating system. You can customize the Live Tiles that appear on your home screen with what you use the most, right down how large they appear in relation to one another. Nokia has also included some apps that may be missing in the overall Windows Phone library, including navigation software Nokia Drive and audio software Nokia Music.

Available from Rogers for $99 with select 3-year plans.


iPhone 5

It should be no surprise that the iPhone 5 comes highly recommended from so many tech reviewers online. It's a thinner, lighter and faster version of the iPhones that have come before it, and continues to be a leader in the increasingly crowded smartphone market, despite a glut of patent lawsuits from competitors. The new iPhone has an improved battery life, a larger screen that fits 16:9 videos perfectly, and can perform at LTE speeds in areas where the service is offered. Love or hate its omnipresence in popular culture, the iPhone 5 boasts a massive library of apps, all specifically designed for the device (as opposed to Android apps, of which there are just as many, but that need to accommodate dozens of different devices and form factors), which is immediate added value.

Before you run out and buy an iPhone 5 for yourself or the person in your life begging for one, however, there are a couple of things worth noting about it: Maps in the new iOS 6 has been widely mocked for how far it falls short in comparison to the previously-integrated Google Maps, so chances are you'll have to download a third-party application or visit the Google Maps webpage. You'll also likely have to invest in a case, because the new aluminum backing, while looking great, can be susceptible to scratches, which Apple has called 'normal.'

Despite all that, though, it's still the best iPhone yet, and is a great choice for just about anyone looking for a smartphone that does everything he or she wants.

Available from Rogers, Bell and Telus starting at $179 on select 3-year plans.


LG Google Nexus 4

It's hard to compete with a Google-endorsed Android phone, if Android is your OS of choice. LG has packed this phone with a quad-core processor and a 4.7-inch screen with HD resolution (1280 X 768). It is one of the first devices to run Google's latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system, which has brought new camera menus and settings, improved Gmail, and lots of little tweaks to the overall user experience. The Nexus 4 delivers better battery life than its predecessor and includes the ability to charge the phone wirelessly with compatible accessories.

An added bonus to the Nexus 4 is the fact that you'll be buying your phone outright, and aren't tied to a specific carrier. You'll have to pay more up front than you would if you were locking into a three year contract with one of the big three, but you'll pay significantly less than if you were to buy any of the other phones outright without a contract, and you have the freedom to use the phone just about anywhere in the world on local networks.

The only hiccup with the Nexus 4 is a lack of native LTE, but even then, some Canadians have found that they could access LTE networks if they tweaked some settings. It should be noted, though, that these changes aren't supported or endorsed by LG or Google, and will likely void your warranty. Still, that shouldn't stop you from using the Nexus 4 on the HSPA+ service in Canada, which is what the phone will connect to by default, and performs on well.

Available through the Google Play store starting at $359; can activate on Rogers, Bell or Telus networks.

For more gadget gift ideas for the tech head in your life, visit our Holiday Tech Gift Guide and follow @yrightclick on Twitter.