Mobile / Buying Guide

Back to School Cool: 6 Phones to Study Up On

School is back in session and that means it’s time to outfit the favorite student in your life with the latest and greatest gear and gadgets. Topping that list should be a brand-new smartphone, capable of navigating the sometimes-challenging waters of post-elementary life. To make sure you or your student is well-equipped and not left holding something technologically passé or last year, we’ve compiled and analyzed five cool smartphones that recently hit the market. Time to study up!

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge

Recent years have seen the emergence and sustained presence of Samsung among leaders in the smartphone market, and the debut of the powerful Galaxy S6 only solidifies their good standing. Re-imagined from the inside out, the S6 features a larger-than-most 5.1" Super AMOLED screen, which thanks in large part to its detailed Quad HD 2560 x 1440 resolution, delivers vivid details and fully rendered, high-definition content. It’s equipped with dual cameras: a front-facing, 5MP, wide-angle lens—great for shooting selfies—and a powerful rear-facing 16MP camera with built-in optical image stabilization and Auto High Dynamic Range (HDR). Powering the S6 is Samsung’s Exynos 7420 Octa-core 64-bit processor, which in tandem with its 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, ensures students will be able to text, talk, and multi-task with ease—they might even get some homework done while they’re at it.

Offering near-identical performance specs as its sister phone, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, nonetheless, deserves its own discussion for its unique design difference: the innovative dual-edge display. Thanks to its curved-glass design, the Edge’s 5.1" Super AMOLED screen runs to its vertical sides, allowing users to see call information and other important notifications by simply swiping the display’s edge. We’re not saying this would allow someone to subtly check their Twitter account or Facebook messages while they’re in the middle of class, but… it would. As mentioned, the S6 Edge is powered by the same processor and chipset as the original S6, sports identical specs on RAM and storage, and houses the same powerful camera technology, so users will get the same great performance in an innovative new design.

HTC One M9

Lauded for the innovation of its previous efforts, HTC once again demonstrated why it’s a go-to brand for bold and creative with its latest flagship, the new One M9. One of the most notable enhancements of the M9 is its previously unheard of 20MP (5376 x 3752) UHD 4K rear camera. Its front-facing camera was reconfigured with UltraPixel technology, which enables it to take in more light—better for selfies and video chatting with friends—and its wide-angle lens means more friends can appear in group shots. In addition to its impressive camera technology, the M9 houses a 5" touchscreen with Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution and pixel density of 440 ppi. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 810 Octa-Core CPU and features 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in memory. And in case of a study hall dance-off or cafeteria flash-mob, the M9 features dual front-facing speakers for a surround-sound-like effect that converts the M9 into a mini-boombox.  


ASUS ZenFone 2

Available on the stateside market for only 3 months, the ASUS ZenFone 2 is already an important phone to know in 2015. ASUS launched the ZenFone 2 in a bid at delivering a flagship-quality smartphone below the standard flagship price. It comes in two variants, a 16GB of storage, 2GB of RAM version and the more robust 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM model. Both models feature a 64-bit Intel® Atom™ quad-core processor and G6430 PowerWR GPU, though the enhanced version runs at 2.3 GHz (compared to the lesser 1.8 GHz). As of this writing, the top-tier ZenFone 2 is the only phone on the market to offer 4GB of RAM, which means any student holding it will be wielding the most powerful phone on campus. Both variants of the ZenFone house a 5.5" IPS capacitive display with 1920 x 1080 screen resolution that delivers vibrant imagery and color depth and enables users to enjoy Full HD content without pixel loss. Front- and rear-facing cameras are onboard: a 13MP f/2.0 five-piece Lagan rear camera and 5MP front camera. Both lenses feature image-enhancing PixelMaster technology and a number of supplemental features that ASUS included to enhance the picture-taking experience. The ZenFone 2 is available in a variety of colors, some specific to their model version.

Nexus 6

For the Android-purist, the Nexus 6 offers an unadulterated Android software experience. Running a true stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop and integrating seamlessly with Google suite of applications (Gmail, Google Drive, etc.), the Nexus 6 is the phone for students who want to integrate all their mobile devices and be the first to receive the latest Android updates. The Nexus 6’s screen is a 5.96" AMOLED display that goes beyond HD with its native resolution of 2560 x 1440, meaning your HD content might not be able to keep up with the phone, and not vice-versa. It’s equipped with a 2MP front-facing camera and a 13MP rear that features both optical stabilization and HDR+ technology for shooting quality photos by day and at night. Driving the Nexus 6 is the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, which clocks at up to 2.7 GHz, and is supported by an Adreno 420 GPU, 3GB of RAM, and 32 or 64GB of internal storage—meaning the Nexus 6 can handle almost any task that gets thrown at it.  


Perhaps the best challenger to the Samsung Galaxy S6's photo-taking capabilities is the LG G4. The G4 features a powerful and impressive camera array: an 8.0MP front-facing camera with 1920 x 1080p 30 fps video-recording capability and a 16.0MP (5312 x 2988) rear camera that’s bolstered by back side illumination, optical image stabilization, and HDR technology—powerful enough (or just about) to match the Samsung S6 shot for shot. In addition to its enhanced photo-video specs, the G4 boasts several design enhancements that position it as a top phone choice. Its 5.5" Quantum display with QHD 2560 x 1440 native resolution supports playback of Full HD content; the onboard in-plane switching (IPS) technology means wider viewing angles and less glare, even when using the G4 outside. The G4’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset features a big.LITTLE configuration, which uses two processors that work independently from each other for more energy-efficient performance. As an added user-friendly feature, the LG G4 is the only phone on this list that features a user-replaceable battery—a very big deal for active phone users who can’t easily get to an outlet (like, say, in homeroom).