Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Smartphones

Looking for the best smartphones, tablets, wearables and accessories for yourself or a loved one? There’s some great tech out there these days, so let’s look into the best ones available at a variety of price points.

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iPhone 6s Plus

Simply the best phone for most people, the iPhone 6s Plus has the power, the apps and the battery life to hit most peoples’ needs for both a smartphone and a computer.

The large 5.5-inch screen is vibrant and responsive, and the newly-upgraded 12MP iSight camera is best-in-class, with hundreds of apps to add to the experience.

The iPhone 6s Plus features 3D Touch, a new way to interact with your smartphone inside apps and games, and a much-improved Touch ID fingerprint sensor that works with Apple Pay, which recently launched in Canada.

There is a downside to all this power: the iPhone 6s Plus is the most expensive phone in Canada today, starting at over $525 on contract for the 16GB model. If money (and size) is no issue, this is the iPhone to get.

iPhone 6s Plus review

Best: App ecosystem, speed, design, camera quality
Worst:
Price
Price:
$500+
Availability:
Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile, Videotron, SaskTel, MTS, Koodo, Fido

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Samsung Galaxy Note 5

The best phone Samsung has ever made, the Galaxy Note 5 combines what made the Galaxy S6 so good and combines it with the S Pen productivity prowess of previous Note devices.

With a screaming fast processor, a great camera and excellent battery life, the Galaxy Note 5 is a powerful computer for your pocket, and one of the best Android devices currently available.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review

Best: Camera, performance, build quality, S Pen
Worst: Price, software quirks
Price: $300+
Availability: Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile, Wind Mobile, Videotron, SaskTel, MTS, Koodo, Fido

galaxy s6 edge review

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

Samsung pulled off quite a feat when debuting a dual-curved version of its Galaxy S6 earlier this year, with one of the most striking and elegant smartphone designs we’ve seen to date.

It also didn’t hurt that the Galaxy S6 edge, as its called, is fast and fluid, with a great camera to boot. With the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ on the market, the smaller Galaxy S6 edge is available for a steal at most Canadian carriers, and is one of our recommendations for Android devices.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge review

Best: Screen quality, edge features, camera, performance
Worst: Battery life
Price: $100+
Availability: Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile, Wind Mobile, Videotron, SaskTel, MTS, Koodo, Fido

iPhone 6 review

iPhone 6

As with all iPhones, the iPhone 6 lives on in Apple’s lineup as a more affordable alternative to the company’s latest and greatest. And with the weak Canadian dollar, the iPhone 6 is a great choice for anyone looking to get into the iOS ecosystem, with the great app selection and high-quality camera, without paying through the nose.

iPhone 6 review

Best: App ecosystem, ease of use, customer service, build quality
Worst:
Battery life
Price: 
$200+
Availability:
Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile, Videotron, SaskTel, MTS, Koodo, Fido

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Nexus 6P

The best Android device currently available, the Nexus 6P is a huge leap for Nexus hardware, offering a high-quality metal design and, finally, a great camera.

The best thing about the Nexus 6P continues to be what separates Nexus products from other Android phones: the latest software, updated directly by Google.

Nexus 6P review

Best: Screen, performance, newest software
Worst: Tall, some software bugs
Price: $200+ (on contract), $699+ from Google
Availability: Google, Rogers, Bell, Telus, Wind Mobile, Videotron

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Nexus 5X

One of the best mid-range Android devices out right now, the Nexus 5X improves on every aspect of the beloved Nexus 5, a phone that today still garners warm feelings for many Canadians.

With a one hand-manageable size, a great screen, fast processor and much-improved 12.3MP camera, the Nexus 5X runs the latest version of Android, Marshmallow, and like its 6P sibling, promises monthly security updates and new software editions before any other handset.

Nexus 5X review

Best: Price
Worst: Build quality, some camera software issues
Price: $0+ (on-contract), $499+ from Google
Availability: Google, Bell, Telus, Wind Mobile

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LG G4

A surprising edition to the list, the LG G4 wowed us with its well-rounded feature set earlier this year. It doesn’t quite match the Galaxy S6 in performance and camera quality, but it has no equal in terms of versatility. Its replaceable covers, battery and microSD slot make it a power user’s dream, and its 5.5-inch QHD display is one of the largest on our list, making it perfect for watching video or reading.

While its rear button placement won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it takes only a short time to grow used to, and is well worth the effort. With improved ergonomics over the G3, the G4’s beautiful screen and excellent battery life, along with its fantastic 16MP camera, make it well worth considering if you’re in the market for a high-end Android smartphone.

That it comes with both a leather and plastic back out of the box makes it particularly interesting.

LG G4 review

Best: Versatility, camera
Worst:
Design, update longevity
Price: $100+
Availability:
Rogers, Bell, Telus, Videotron, SaskTel, Wind Mobile

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Moto G (2015)

After debuting on our Back to School guide, the Moto G 2015 is still our pick for entry-level smartphone. Its $200 take-home price tag belies its high quality minimalist approach to design and performance; there are few, if any, true showstoppers.

An improved 5-inch 720p screen compared to the last generation model, the Moto G 2015 features an upgraded 13MP camera, waterproofing, and universal LTE support. It also retains many of the qualities that made the previous two generations so enticing: excellent battery life, replaceable back covers, expandable storage, and a near-stock version of Android.

If the budget is tight, this is the phone to buy. But even if you can go higher, the Moto G 2015 is still worth looking at.

Moto G (2015) review

Best: Stock Android, camera, waterproofing, stereo speakers, price
Worst: Only 1GB RAM, low out-of-box storage
Price: $0+
Availability:
Telus, Bell, Videotron, Wind Mobile

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OnePlus 2

Another online-only smartphone, the OnePlus 2 needs no introduction.

The OnePlus 2 hits all the fundamentals of a good smartphone, with a large, high-quality 1080p screen, a modern processor, plenty of memory and storage, and a clean, unfettered Android build with relatively quick updates.

OnePlus has been accused of showboating, but its in-your-face marketing tactics only highlight the phone’s extensive feature set, including a USB-C port, fingerprint scanner, and replaceable back cover.

Of course, the price of the OnePlus 2 is what gets people interested, and at $409 CAD it is one of the more powerful unlocked Android phones in its price range.

OnePlus 2 review

Best: Price, performance
Worst:
No fast charging or NFC
Price: $409 (3GB / 16GB)  to $479 (4GB / 64GB)
Availability:
Online

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Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

Another winner in the price to performance crowd, Alcatel OneTouch is far from a household name in the mobile space, but it’s earned its place in this list.

The Idol 3 is, for its price, one of the best deals in mobile, with an excellent screen, intrepid performance, and a camera worthy of devices nearly twice its cost.

Alcatel Idol 3 review

Best: Price to performance ratio, camera
Worst:
Software design, bloatware
Price: $0+
Availability:
Bell, Telus, Videotron

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BlackBerry Priv

The only phone on the list with a physical keyboard, BlackBerry hit all the right marks with its first Android phone. Great performance and a decent camera are expected in a phone of this class, but BlackBerry added considerate and useful software additions to run on top of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop.

Even if the keyboard doesn’t match BlackBerry’s best, the company’s first Android phone is a vital and important addition to the ecosystem, especially if privacy and security are fore in the buying decision. You may want to wait until its price drops, though.

BlackBerry Priv review

Best: Design, physical keyboard
Worst: Wonky software, some build quality issues
Price: $390+
Availability: 
Rogers, Bell, Telus, Wind Mobile, Videotron, SaskTel

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ZTE Axon

A newcomer to the Canadian market, the ZTE Axon is only available at Fido, but it’s an incredibly versatile and well-made smartphone for the price. And it looks pretty nice, too.

Featuring a 5.5-inch HD display, a quad-core processor and 32GB of storage, the ZTE Axon is tailor-made for video and music consumption. It also has a great 13MP camera, and a 3,000mAh battery that should outlast most devices in its price class.

Hands-on with the ZTE Axon

Best: Design, price
Worst: Older software, limited carrier availability
Price: $0+
Availability: 
Fido