Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Smartphones For 2015

Surefire Smartphones

Could an Apple fanboy and an Android fanboy ever agree on a best smartphone for 2015? Fat chance. There is no one smartphone to please them all. That puts holiday smartphone shoppers in a pickle when it comes to easily choosing the right phone.

This holiday season it feels there are just too many phones to keep track of. Should you buy an iPhone 6S, a Galaxy S6 or a Nexus 6P? And what about the new BlackBerry phone that's really an Android phone? Maybe you're in the market for Microsoft's new Lumia 950. If you're a Verizon customer, you're out of luck.

For smartphone shoppers, here is a cheat sheet that breaks down the best phones for key user preferences such as speed, battery life, camera and business use. We'll also let you know what carriers have what phones and provide average pricing.

Here is a look at your best bets when it comes to 2015's flagship phones for doing everything from taking videos, editing Office documents, to going days between battery recharges.

Also, check out the rest of CRN's tech gift ideas for the 2015 Holiday Season.

Model: Galaxy S6 Active

Category Champ: Best Battery Life

Carriers: AT&T Wireless

Description: The 5.1-inch Galaxy S6 Active is the phone to beat when it comes to battery life. This phone is rated for 16.8 hours of use between charges when tested playing video loops. The secret to the Galaxy S6 Active's epic battery life is the 3500 mAh battery has a 40 percent larger battery capacity compared with other Galaxy phones. The Galaxy S6 Active's battery life is 22 percent longer than the next closest competitor - Sony Xperia Z3.

AT&T Wireless currently has an exclusive with the Galaxy S6 Active, which will run you about $20 a month for 30 months (about $600) for the 32 GB model.

Model: OnePlus X

Category Champ: Budget

Carriers: AT&T and T-Mobile

Description: Unlocked and priced at $250, the OnePlus X is 2015's highest rated and most affordable smartphone. Specs include a 13-megapixel camera and fast quad-core processor housed inside a stylish metal and glass chassis. The manufacturer, China-based OnePlus, requires anyone interested in buying the OnePlus X to obtain an invitation before buying the phone. You can sign up for an invite at the OnePlus website or keep your eyes open for several pop-up stores surfacing in malls this December. The company has also promised to open up invite-free sales through its website this month. However, last time we checked an invite to buy one was still required.

Model: 5.5-Inch iPhone 6s Plus

Category Champ: Phablet

Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon

Description: Apple's release of its 5.5-inch iPhone pushed the limits on consumer smartphone sizes with its 6 Plus phone. Apple's 6s Plus release, with the fast A9 chip with 64-bit architecture, Retina HD display and 3D Touch, makes it the strongest option for anyone seeking a quality phablet with real estate and CPU horsepower to spare.

Apple's iPhone 6s Plus has a starting price of around $300 to $400 with carrier subsidy and a starting price of $650 for the introductory 16GB version.

Model: BlackBerry Priv

Category Champ: Privacy & Security

Carriers: AT&T

Description: BlackBerry's new security-focused, Android-powered smartphone called BlackBerry Priv aims to deliver state-of-the-art security coupled with the phone maker's hallmark physical QWERTY keyboard.

Some of the 5.4-inch Priv's security features include a DTEK app that alerts users which apps on their phone access personal data and alert you to how secure your phone is overall. It bases the score on factors such as password strength, encryption settings and apps installed on the phone. The phone also has native support for authenticating and monitoring access to personal data on the phone called Hardware Root Of Trust.

Off contract, the Priv has a starting price of $700 for the 32 GB model.

Model: Nexus 6P (Huawei)

Category Champ: All Around Best Android

Carriers: Sprint and Verizon

Description: Sometimes you just want a solid phone that does a good job taking pictures, has decent battery life and wont buckle under pressure if the CPU is maxed out playing a game. If that's the case, then the Nexus 6P is the right phone for you. Manufactured by Huawei for Google, the pure Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) phone has a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 5.7-inch 2560 x 1440 AMOLED display, excellent cameras (12.3 MP rear and 8 MP front) and over 12 hours of battery life.

You can buy the Nexus 6P directly from either Google or Huawei's Web site for $500.

Model: Samsung Galaxy S6

Category Champ: Great Camera

Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon

Description: Samsung's Galaxy S6 is the best camera phone around. Its 16-megapixel sensor captured bright and sharp photos, offering vivid colors in both bright and low-light conditions. Specs include a front facing camera that can capture 2988 x 5312 pixel images, optical image stabilization, autofocus and LED flash. The front facing 5-megapixel camera supports full 1080p video recording as well as ’wide selfie’ mode so you can get more people in the shot without having to sit on someone's lap.

Pricing varies between wireless carriers. Verizon Wireless is offering a zero down and just under $20 a month for 24 months (or $475). Otherwise expect to pay around $580 with no carrier subsidy.

Model: Nokia Lumia 950

Category Champ: Windows Phone

Carriers: AT&T

Description: Microsoft's latest smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 950, represents an important chapter in Microsoft's smartphone campaign for one reason – Windows 10. The Lumia 950 runs Microsoft's latest Windows 10 Mobile operating system and delivers to its customers a powerful mobile device that can plug in and sync up with other Windows devices and ecosystems.

First off, the Lumia 950 supports Microsoft's Universal Windows Apps, which run on the Universal Windows Platform. That means the same application will run on the Lumia phone and a Windows 10 tablet, laptop and desktop.

But let's not forget about flagship Lumia 950 specs. The 5.2-inch phone sports a 2560 × 1440 AMOLED screen, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, USB Type C connector with rapid charging, Qi wireless charging, a 20 MP rear and 5 MP front camera, and a biometric iris unlocking option. Powering the phone is Qualcomm's fast Snapdragon 808 hexa-core CPU running at 1.8 GHz.

Expect to pay $600 with no contract or you can sign a 2-year contract with AT&T and only pay $150.

Model: Xperia Z5 Compact

Category Champ: Small Form Factor

Carriers: T-Mobile and AT&T

Description: Bucking the trend of bigger is better is Sony's Xperia Z5 Compact 4.6-inch screen phone. This diminutive phone is perfect for anyone who shuns the trend where smartphones have gotten so big they no longer fit in your pocket.

But don't let the size of the Xperia Z5 Compact fool you. This phone packs the same punch as a full-sized phone. The Z5 Compact has a great 23-megapixel camera, a fast octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, a water-resistant chassis, a fingerprint scanner, expandable storage and a battery life of 13 hours.

Now here is the catch. Sony hasn't officially made the Xperia Z5 Compact available in the U.S. yet. That doesn't mean you can't buy it via third-party resellers such as Amazon and reseller Expansys. Amazon currently has it priced at $490.

Model: Samsung Note 5

Category Champ: Business Friendly Phone

Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon

Description: Samsung's Note 5 is perfect for business thanks to its spacious 5.7-inch AMOLED display and, most important, the new S Pen stylus that comes standard with the phone. The S Pen, which has a dedicated slot for storing the stylus inside the phone, brings some unique features to the Note 5. For example, with the S Pen you have the ability to write short notes while the screen is in standby mode. The battery is rated for 12.5 hours for tasks such as web browsing via WiFi and 10.6 hours for web browsing via 4G LTE.

Pricing varies, with AT&T charging $250 with a two-year contract or $25 a month for 30 months for the 32 GB model. The full retail price for the Samsung Note 5 is $740.

Model: iPhone 6S

Category Champ: Fastest

Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon

Description: Defining fast when it comes to phones goes beyond benchmarks and includes smooth gameplay, hiccup-free video editing and large files that open in an instant. Apple's iPhone 6s delivers on all those fronts thanks to the introduction of the speedy A9 processor. Apple says the new CPU smokes its predecessor, the A8, with a 70 percent faster CPU and 90 percent better graphics processing.

Expect to shell out around $650 for the full retail price or about $27 a month for 24 months from Verizon Wireless. AT&T charges $22 a month for 30 months or $200 with a two-year contract for the 16 GB version.