Of all the major carriers, Verizon is the most improved and offers the best selection of great devices. The company’s LTE network is the largest by far, and it stretches even to remote areas these days, and is growing every few weeks. That growth is only made more relevant by the number of great devices now available to Verizon users, which specialize in every area you can think of, from power consumption to gaming to low-end devices.

The beauty of it is that if Verizon grows at the rate it has for LTE, by the time you have to upgrade next (holiday 2014), they’ll have full nationwide LTE coverage and it’ll be even faster than it is today. Which means that the company will have more time and money to focus on better phones, better deals on plans, and who knows what else.

Motorola Droid Razr HD MAXX

Last year we found the Droid Razr Maxx was one of the best phones ever built because it featured the largest battery ever used for a smartphone. The latest model, the Droid Razr HD MAXX, follows suit with the bulkiest 3300mAh battery you can find on the market. This is smaller than last year’s mega-battery, but the improvements to Android’s efficiency and battery life make the MAXX last a few hours longer. It can easily last two days of extended use without a recharge, even streaming full movies over LTE, using GPS, the hotspot, and anything else that typically burns through battery life.

While the Razr HD MAXX doesn’t have the very latest quad-core CPU from Qualcomm, it is still a very fast and powerful device. Motorola’s software implementation is the best of any Android device that includes additional features from the manufacturer. Still fairly thin (though not as thin as the Razr HD), the MAXX features a new 720p 4.7″ AMOLED display. It is an expensive gift for $300; for $100 less users can opt for the equally powerful Razr HD, which has a significantly smaller battery, but the peace of mind offered by the MAXX isn’t available on any other device in the world. Whether you’re a business person or teenage girl, this phone will take any beating you can give it.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung’s flagship smartphone is, so far, the best smartphone we’ve ever reviewed. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Just like the Note 2 it has a great 4.8″ 720p display, though it isn’t quite as fast or quite as large. As a slightly older phone (by a few months), the Galaxy S III is the phone I’ve recommended to everyone curious about smartphones. It’s available on all carriers, supports LTE, has expandable memory and an excellent camera, and easily lasts all day. Among smartphones, the Galaxy S III is king. You can’t go wrong with it.

While the Note 2 may be too large for you to hold in the hand or the pocket, the Galaxy S III is a great size. 4.8″ may seem huge, but the thin frame and light weight make it easy to hold in the hand and slip into a pocket.

Apple iPhone 5

If you aren’t sure what to get as a smartphone, the iPhone is always a safe bet. The latest update to Apple’s smartphone is the fastest and best yet with an all-new processor that doubles the speed of everything, from web browsing to playing games. It’s actually remarkable for a device like this to keep improving so quickly.

On top of the general improvements, the iPhone 5 is the first iPhone with LTE, and it’s also the first iPhone with a 4″ widescreen display. That means that now, for the first time, users can watch all of the media they buy on iTunes without letterboxing. No more annoying smaller screens and black bars with the iPhone 5! It’s also the thinnest, lightest, and sleekest smartphone you can buy today, with one of the best cameras of any smartphone and  the best selection of apps available on any device.

You can’t go wrong with the iPhone 5. It’s great for gaming, great for music and media, and overall an excellent device. There’s a reason why most of our smartphone comparisons include the iPhone 5: because even if it isn’t the best smartphone, the combination of excellent hardware and software and the amazing app ecosystem make it a no-brainer for buyers. I am more inclined towards the 4S myself; I like the slightly thicker build and heavier feel, and am a huge fan of the glass-on-glass design from the iPhone 4/4S. But I would never recommend an older model phone like that when you can get the boost in performance and functionality like on the iPhone 5. A real winner.

Motorola Droid Razr M

The Droid Razr M may appear to be a low-end smartphone, but that notion couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s an extremely powerful Android 4.1 device that shares some basic specifications with older smartphones — like the 4.3″ 960×540 resolution display — but is just as powerful as its larger Droid Razr HD brethren. What it lacks in size and resolution it makes up for in finesse and the smaller frame that a lot of people desire in a smartphone.

The Razr M, exclusive to Verizon, is compact yet very sharp and sleek. Comfortable to hold in the hand and pocket, the Razr M offers excellent performance across applications and is inexpensive for today’s smartphones. Starting at $100, the Razr M is a great deal for users either switching away from the iPhone or who aren’t interested in the giant screens featured on competing devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S III, but don’t want to sacrifice performance for size.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.