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The Smartphone Gift Guide for Family and Friends

Moe Long 05-12-2016

Everyone wants a mobile phone. With the advent of smartphones, mobile devices morphed into multi-purpose gadgets. Smartphones can do everything from calling and texting to office productivity and gaming. They’ve even all but replaced the dedicated mp3 player.


There’s a lot of variety. Operating systems range from Android and iOS to Windows Phone and Ubuntu. That doesn’t necessarily mean iOS and Android are superior, though, as the Ubuntu Phone has its perks 5 Reasons to Switch to Ubuntu Phone You're sick of Android and iOS - you want a new mobile experience, one that isn't tainted by Microsoft, or the failing BlackBerry. What you need is Ubuntu Phone! Read More . However, finding the right phone requires sifting through mountains of data. Whether you’re picking out a phone for that special someone, or a not so special someone, here are the right devices for family and friends.

Smartphone Gift Guide Criteria

Narrowing down smartphones into a single gift guide was a daunting task. Therefore, I first set my criteria. Android and iOS dominate the market (sorry Windows Phone and Firefox OS folks). According to a study by IDC, as of 2016 Q2 Android held 87.6% of the smartphone market with Apple coming in second at 11.7%. Windows Phone and “Others” don’t even account for 1% of the market. Thus, I only included iOS and Android handsets.

I further narrowed my criteria by concentrating on phones available across most of the major networks. It’s near impossible to find phones compatible with every carrier. Instead, I picked smartphones offered by at least some of the big four (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) as well as their respective MVNOs.

Finally, I sorted gadgets into tiers by price and recipient. We’ll look at low-end ($0–300) and mid-range ($300–700). Purchasing a phone for a friend or loved one often means getting it off contract. Translation: significantly higher price. Your relationship to the recipient likely dictates how much you’re willing to pay.

Best Smartphone Gifts for Your Partner

In general, smartphone buying is one area to splurge. Ideally, you’re making an investment in a device that will last a year or two if not more. You’ll especially want to aim high when selecting a phone for a partner.


Mid-Range Smartphone Gifts

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge unlocked smartphone, 32 GB Silver (US Warranty - Model SM-G935UZSAXAA) Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge unlocked smartphone, 32 GB Silver (US Warranty - Model SM-G935UZSAXAA) Buy Now On Amazon $155.00

galaxy s7

Samsung Galaxy S7: The Samsung Galaxy S7 may be a flagship handset, but clocking in at just under $700 off contract, it qualifies as a mid-range device for our guide. On contract, it’s a bit cheaper. The Galaxy S7 is an excellent pick for your partner since it’s renowned for its superb camera. Tom’s Guide rated awarded the S7 their “Best Phone Overall,” and “Best Camera Phone” in a 2016 roundup. You’ll probably be more willing do drop some serious dough for your partner, and moreover want a device that shoots quality photos of you both.

With its 5.5″ 2560 x 1440 screen, 4 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of internal memory, the Galaxy S7 is guaranteed to deliver high performance. Plus the S7 boasts expandable memory, meaning you can add up to a 256 GB microSD card. That should provide plenty of space for pictures and music.


Low-End Smartphone Gifts

Motorola Moto Z Play 32GB 4G LTE GSM Global - NO CDMA - Black (Unlocked) Motorola Moto Z Play 32GB 4G LTE GSM Global - NO CDMA - Black (Unlocked) Buy Now On Amazon $194.00
Moto Z Play: Motorola crushes the budget device sector, and the Moto Z Play is no exception. It’s a pretty customizable phone — you can pick your design. The Moto Z also features a sizable screen. A unique touch, it’s available unlocked and should be compatible with most GSM and CDMA providers. Multi-network Android devices are uncommon in today’s cellphone market.

The Moto Z Play comes equipped with either 32 GB of memory as well as a microSD card. Add to that a water-repellant coating and 16 MP camera, and you’ve got a budget winner.

Best Smartphone for Your Child

Times have changed. I didn’t get my first phone until my freshman year of high school, and it wasn’t until after university that I upgraded from a feature phone to a smartphone. However, the norm is for children to have smartphones.

Mid-Range Smartphone Gifts

iphone se7


iPhone SE: While your kid may want the latest and greatest, this might not necessarily be the best decision. Buying the flagship Android or iOS device is risky when there’s the potential that the phone will get lost or damaged. Enter the iPhone SE. It’s essentially an iPhone 6S in the body of an iPhone 5S. Rocking an A9 processor and 12 MP camera, the SE packs a wallop into a small form factor. The 4″ screen is ideal for smaller hands, and it’s uncompromising in performance. The smaller size also means a lower price than going with an iPhone 7.

Low-End Smartphone Gifts

Moto G (4th Generation) - Black - 16 GB - Unlocked - Prime Exclusive - with Lockscreen Offers & Ads Moto G (4th Generation) - Black - 16 GB - Unlocked - Prime Exclusive - with Lockscreen Offers & Ads Buy Now On Amazon $42.46

Moto G4: Motorola is known for producing superb handsets for quality prices. The Moto G4 is no exception. Outfitted with a Snapdragon 617 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal memory, the G4 is the best sub-$200 handset you can find. Its 5.5″ 1920 x 1080 screen and 13 MP camera put the Moto G4 on par with premium phones. CNET notes that the G4 is marvelous as a daily driver with its large, vibrant screen and bloatware-free ecosystem. Plus, the Moto G4 is water resistant, ideal for an active lifestyle.

The processor may not be spectacular, but it’s the best at this tier, particularly in combination with the vanilla Android operating system.


Other low-end options: consider a rugged phone such as the Alcatel OneTouch Go, or anything in the Kyocera Hydro line. These might not win any benchmarking tests, but the durability is more of a priority when shopping for the kiddos.

Best Smartphone for a Relative

Depending on how well you get along with your relatives, you may be tempted to gift them the Galaxy Note 7. While the Note 7 does provide literal bang for your buck Samsung Kills the Galaxy Note 7, Because Boom! If you're currently in possession of a Galaxy Note 7, then you may soon be holding a very rare item in your hands. This is because Samsung could be planning to kill it off entirely. Read More , there are other less explosive options. 5 Non-Exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Alternatives Looking to avoid a fireball in your home? You may need some Samsung Galaxy Note 7 alternatives. We've rounded up five of the best Note 7 alternatives which range in cost from $360 to $610. Read More What you choose in this category depends on how close you are. Is this an aunt or uncle who is like a parent, or that strange cousin who you always forget you’re related to? To account for either side of the spectrum, we’ll focus on the happy medium of “not quite top of the line, but not a flip phone.

Mid-Range Smartphone Gifts

Apple iPhone 6S, 16GB, Rose Gold - For AT&T / T-Mobile (Renewed) Apple iPhone 6S, 16GB, Rose Gold - For AT&T / T-Mobile (Renewed) Buy Now On Amazon $146.06

iphone 6s again

iPhone 6S: A second-gen flagship can make a great present for a relative. Often someone like a cousin, aunt, or uncle can be pretty difficult to shop for insofar as phones are concerned. Unlike a partner, child, or parent, you might not understand their gadget needs as well. A last-gen top-tier phone gives them most of what they need without crushing your wallet. Even though Apple launched it iPhone 7, the previous generation iPhone 6S remains a quality device.

The A9-powered phone sports improved graphics, and the 2 GB of RAM was an improvement over previous models. New LTE Advanced and a Touch ID sensor update make the iPhone 6S also comes in two varieties, the standard and the iPhone 6S Plus with a larger screen. There’s even slight water resistance, a major perk.

Low-Range Smartphone Gifts

Samsung Galaxy J7 SM- J700H/DS GSM Factory Unlocked Smartphone-Android 5.1-5.5", Gold Samsung Galaxy J7 SM- J700H/DS GSM Factory Unlocked Smartphone-Android 5.1-5.5", Gold Buy Now On Amazon $404.99

Samsung Galaxy J7: Ok, so the Galaxy J7 is a far cry from the top-tier S7. Yet the J7 is a commendable, budget-friendly Android handset. With its phablet-sized 6″ screen, the J7 has the looks of a premium phone at an entry-level price. Moreover, Samsung outfitted its J7 with select specs usually relegated to high-end devices. The J7 is one of the few phones in its class that boasts dual-band Wi-Fi and NFC.

PC Mag found the J7 suitable for moderately intensive use, like playing high-end games including GTA San Andreas and Asphalt 8. As one of the more powerful options at this price level, the J7 features a massive screen and impressive performance.

Best Smartphone for Your Parent

It’s your parent. You (hopefully) want to show them how much you love them. Or maybe you want to buy them Galaxy Note 7s in bulk. We’ll assume the former.

Mid-Range Smartphone Gifts

OnePlus 3 A3000 64GB Graphite, 5.5", Dual Sim, GSM Factory Unlocked U.S.A Version OnePlus 3 A3000 64GB Graphite, 5.5", Dual Sim, GSM Factory Unlocked U.S.A Version Buy Now On Amazon $335.00

muo reviews oneplus3 front

OnePlus 3: The OnePlus 3 really shouldn’t even be in the mid-range category, aside from its extreme affordability. The Snapdragon 820-powered OnePlus boasts 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal memory. On the back you’ll find a 16 MP camera, and a front-facing 8 MP shooter. The 5.5″ 1920 x 1080 screen provides crisp images. The only minor drawback is a lack of expandable memory. Even so, 64 GB should go a long way, especially when coupled with cloud storage.

At just around $400, the OnePlus is a seriously amazing deal OnePlus 3 Review OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 were tricky to get hold of, despite attracting favorable reviews. This time around, things are different. Read More , and certainly an excellent pick for a parent. Further, OnePlus feels unique in the smartphone market, and it’s a great way to show the ‘rents that they’re one of a kind as well. Tom’s Guide even declared the OnePlus the “best phone for the money.”

Low-Range Smartphone Gifts

zenfone featured

ASUS ZenFone 3: The ASUS ZenFone 3 is uncompromising Asus ZenFone 3 Review The Asus ZenFone 3 rivals similar phones like the OnePlus and the ZTE Axon 7 that offer high-end specs for several hundred dollars cheaper than other flagship devices. Read More . While it’s price tag may fall under the low-range category, it’s specs prove otherwise. With at least 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM, it’s a well-crafted device. A 5.5″ screen and 12 MP camera ensure that your parental units have a bright screen and vibrant pictures. There’s even a surprisingly good 13 MP front-facing camera for selfies. It comes with a microSD slot too. Overall, the ZenFone 3 is a great mix of premium features at a budget-friendly price.

What Smartphone Gifts Are You Buying?

What smartphones are you giving to your family and loved ones? Let us know in the comments section!

Explore more about: Android, Gift Guide, iPhone.

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  1. Mark Tristan R. Ocampo
    December 6, 2016 at 7:35 am

    My Mom's birthday falls on December, so its a dual Birthday-Christmas gift from us to her... The Family gifted her a HUAWEI HONOR 5X for her special day. Its not so new anymore, yet one of the best bang for the buck deals you can find around. Being a long-time Samsung faithful and loyalist, I thought it would be difficult to jump ship to another brand (though same Android), but with apps like CM Backup and/or G Cloud, the transition becomes smooth and flawless. And now, having her new Android phone set-up by me, I'm also thinking of moving from Samsung to Huawei - playing with a new UI altogether makes a lot of difference, and a fresh new feeling, too. :)

    Happy Birthday, Mommy, and Merry Christmas, too! <3 <3 <3