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The best smartphones of 2012: T-Mobile

Zach Epstein
December 7th, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Last but certainly not least in our four-part series on the best smartphones of 2012 is T-Mobile. The nation’s No.4 carrier has a lot on its table following the failed AT&T deal late last year, and an imminent merger with MetroPCS (PCS) was certainly the biggest development of the year for the company. Known for its great plans that offer great bang for the buck compared with most comparable offerings from rival carriers, T-Mobile sweetened the pot in 2012 with a variety of great smartphones. Here, we lay out our picks for T-Mobile’s top five in no particular order.

Galaxy S III ($279.99+)

Samsung’s (005930) Galaxy S III is no stranger to best-of lists, and it now finds itself on yet another.

While other Android vendors continue their struggles to turn a profit, Samsung has managed to build an Android empire with its numerous Galaxy-branded smartphones. At the top of the pile in 2012, the Galaxy S III sold a jaw-dropping 30 million units into channels during the phone’s first 150 days of availability and it’s still going strong — our sources at various carriers including T-Mobile state that the Galaxy S III has been among their best-selling smartphones during the holiday shopping season.

Key features include a stunning 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 16GB or 32GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera and Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean.

The only real downside to the Galaxy S III on T-Mobile is that it’s pricier than it is on rival carriers. The 16GB version that sells for $199.99 elsewhere costs $279.99 with a standard plan at T-Mobile and the 32GB version costs $329.99.

HTC One S ($149.99)

HTC’s (2498) One S isn’t the most powerful smartphone in T-Mobile’s lineup. It doesn’t have the biggest display, the sharpest resolution or the fastest processor. So why are we including it on this list?

The HTC One S has the most phenomenal build of any Android phone on the planet.

If it wasn’t for Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 5, HTC’s One S might be the most sleek and solid smartphone, period. The unibody aluminum case is just 7.8 millimeters thick and it features a micro-arc oxidized finish that looks and feels incredible. The design is sleek and the phone’s manageable size makes it one of our favorite Android handsets to date.

Where specs are concerned, the One S isn’t exactly cutting-edge but it also certainly isn’t a slouch. Highlights include a 1.5GHz dual-core processor just like the Galaxy S III, a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display with a respectable pixel density of 256 ppi, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera with HTC’s dedicated ImageChip technology, and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

HTC Windows Phone 8X ($199.99)

The Windows Phone 8X is HTC’s second entry on our best-of list for T-Mobile, and the phone is now making its third appearance in this series. Long story short, it’s an awesome smartphone.

HTC’s Windows Phone 8X features almost everything that makes a smartphone great. The handset is sleek and unique, the build is outstanding, the performance is top-notch and the overall is experience is outstanding. The only thing the 8X doesn’t have that other flagship smartphones do is impressive sales numbers.

Recent checks performed by Canaccord Genuity found that Windows Phone 8X sales are topping the Lumia 820 at T-Mobile and the Lumia 822 at Verizon Wireless (VZ), but our sources have suggested that the figures are still nothing to write home about. We’re also told that the phone’s performance at AT&T (T) has been disappointing, which makes sense considering the Lumia 920 is overshadowing it there.

It really is a shame, though. Like most HTC phones, the Windows Phone 8X is a gorgeous piece of hardware with performance that absolutely won’t disappoint.

Galaxy Note II ($369.99)

The Samsung Galaxy Note II is one of the most expensive smartphones on the market and at T-Mobile, it’s even more expensive than it is elsewhere — this mammoth handset will set you back $369.99 with a two-year contract and a standard plan, which is unheard of for a phone with 16GB of memory.

If there’s any phone that can command such a sky-high price though, it’s Samsung’s latest phablet. Key features include a 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display, a 1.6GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera, an integrated “S Pen” stylus and enhanced stylus support, and Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean.

$370 for a subsidized smartphone with 16GB of memory is enough to make anyone cringe, but if you consider that the phone pulls double-duty as a smartphone and a tablet, it’s a somewhat easier pill to swallow. And with cutting-edge specs, one of the most impressive displays on the market and class-leading performance, those who do cough up the cash won’t be disappointed.

Google Nexus 4 ($199.99)

Our final pick on T-Mobile’s list almost didn’t make the cut, which is odd considering it is one of the best Android smartphones ever made.

Google’s (GOOG) LG-built Nexus 4 features a quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon Pro processor, a 4.7-inch high-resolution display, 16GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

So why was it almost left off this list? Because its $199.99 price tag with a two-year contract is just $100 cheaper than it would cost to buy the phone unlocked with no contract directly from Google.

$200 isn’t a terrible price for this phone but we definitely recommend spending the extra $100 to buy the phone directly from Google — you’ll still have access to T-Mobile’s high-speed HSPA+ service and you won’t be tied to a two-year service contract.

Other segments in this series:

The best smartphones of 2012: Verizon Wireless

The best smartphones of 2012: AT&T

The best smartphones of 2012: Sprint

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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