Welcome to a new weekly column where we break down each carrier to let you know the best devices and current promotions. Verizon Wireless was voted the top carrier in our Android Bowl (and it’s my personal carrier), so we thought that would be a good place to start. Each week we will rotate between the big four US carriers, so that each buyer’s guide gets refreshed every month. Read on for Verizon’s best devices and deals.
Current Promotions and News
Double Data: As we expected, Verizon just brought back their Double Data promotion that gives users double the data allowance for the same price. With the special promotion, subscribers will get 4 gigabytes for $30, 10 gigabytes for $50 and 20 gigabytes for $80. Double Data also applies to mobile hotspot plans where subscribers can now get 6 gigabytes for $50 and 12 gigabytes for $70 a month. We don’t know how long this promotion will last, so take advantage of it while you still can.
BOGO: Verizon has a current Valentine’s Day promotion that allows you to purchase the 16 GB Droid RAZR at $199 and get one free. We think there are some better options for devices (see below), but if you love the thin form factor of the RAZR then this is a good deal.
Usage Controls: Do you have a family plan? Verizon just added a new feature called Usage Controls that allows you to control the amount of data that each line uses. For $4.95 per month, users can limit the amount of data consumed by lines, block ringtone purchases, and manage which apps and games are accessed.
Expanded 4G LTE Coverage: Don’t have 4G LTE in your city yet? Verizon announced this month that they are investing millions in Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan to expand their network.
Even more deals: If you are not quite ready to buy yet, make sure you follow @VZWDeals for the latest Verizon offers.
Best Android Phone: Galaxy Nexus
This was a pretty easy pick and will likely remain the best Android phone on Verizon for awhile. Google’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone on any carrier and that’s why I picked one up on launch day. I’ve been extremely satisfied with my purchase and so have many others.
Verizon normally sells the phone for $299 with 2-year agreement, but Amazon has it on sale at $99 for new customers, and $259 for upgrades.
The main selling point of this phone is Android 4.0 and the promise of speedy software updates from Google. Their Nexus line of phones are always the first devices to receive the latest version of Android, which has many benefits. For example, Google just rolled out their Chrome Beta browser that is only available on Android 4.0.
Even though this is my favorite phone, there are still some weak areas that we should point out incluidng camera quality, battery life, and the external speaker. I’m quite happy with the 5 megapixel camera, but I have noticed it is not quite as good as some other Android phones, like the 8 megapixel shooter on the Galaxy S II. For the battery life, I would suggest picking up the official 2100 mAh extended battery. Verizon had it on sale for $25, so shop around and see what offers are available. Leaked details also show that Google will improve the sound volume in their Android 4.0.4 update.
Check out Anthony’s full review of the Galaxy Nexus for more details.
Runner up: It’s worth nothing that the Droid RAZR MAXX is also an awesome device, but it still runs Android 2.3.x at this time. We reviewed the original RAZR last year and found it to be a quality purchase, and Motorola has improved upon that with the new model that has a 3300 mAh battery with all day battery life.
Comparison of top Verizon phones: To see a complete comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola RAZR MAXX, HTC Rezound, and LG Spectrum head over to gdgt.com.
Best Android Phone with Keyboard: Droid 4
Once again, this was a pretty easy choice. Many Verizon customers consider the original Droid one of their all time favorite devices, and Motorola has continued to innovate with each new model. Our very own Sean Riley will be posting his full review of the device soon, but we are confident enough in the Droid series to go ahead and recommend this device now.
The Droid 4 just launched today on Verizon, where it is being sold in stores for $199 with 2-year agreement. Like always, Amazon has it priced cheaper at $99 for new customers, and $149 for upgrades.
The most notable features of the Droid 4 include support for Verizon’s 4G LTE network, LED edge-lit 5-row QWERTY keyboard, 4 inch qHD display protected with Gorilla Glass, and Motorola’s new Smart Actions app.
Verizon is shipping the Droid 4 with Android 2.3.5, but Motorola already announced that the Droid Bionic, RAZR, and Xyboard would be receiving Android 4.0. We expect the same treatment for the Droid 4. Motorola just delivered on their promise to upgrade the Xoom tablet to Android 4.0, and if their merger with Google goes through we should see improved software updates.
About the only negative thing we can say about the Droid 4 is its locked bootloader, something that is comment with Motorola phones. If you want a fully unlocked phone, then go with the Galaxy Nexus.
Best Android Tablet: Droid Xyboard
Because of the current data plans, I’m not a huge fan of carrier branded Android tablets. However, if you need an Android tablet with 4G LTE connectivity, then the Droid Xyboard should be your pick.
Verizon currently offers five different Xyboard models with different sizes and storage options to fit multiple budgets. The 8.2 inch Xyboard is selling at $429 for the 16 GB model and $529 for the 32 GB model. The 10.1 inch Xyboard is priced at $529 for 16 GB, $629 for 32 GB, and $729 for 64 GB. All prices are with a 2-year contract and require a data plan.
As you can see these tablets are some of the most expensive around, but they are the best tablets on the largest and fastest 4G LTE network.
If you would rather purchase a WiFi-only tablet and tether it to you phone, then I’d suggest the Asus Transformer Prime 32 GB model (available at $499 from multiple retailers).
Best Android Phone on a Budget: Incredible 2
Now that online stores offer high-end devices for $99 with new 2-year agreement, it is becoming harder and harder to suggest a budget phone. The lower priced devices generally don’t receive major software updates to newer versions of Android and are outdated as soon as you buy them.
Highlights of the Droid Incredible 2 include 4-inch WVGA display, 1 GHz Snapdragon S2 processor, 8 MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front camera, 16 GB internal storage, and support for Verizon’s 3G network.
HTC recently announced that they were updating the Incredible S to Android 4.0, which happens to be the international version of the Droid Incredible 2. There is no guarantee that Verizon will also upgrade their model, but it’s a good sign that it could be possible.
What’s Coming Next
Not many leaks have appeared for Verizon phones launching in the next 1-2 months. The only thing on our radar is the HTC Fireball, which is likely to be a high-end 4G LTE phone with slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Mobile World Congress is taking place at the end of February, which happens to be one of the largest wireless trade shows. We expect every handset maker to announce new phones, so keep an eye on our MWC 2012 coverage. Most of the specific models that get announced will be headed to the European market, but it’s a good indication of what’s next for the US carriers.
We have long wanted to maintain buyer’s guides for every carrier, but it’s just something we have failed to produce. As one of the most influential sources of Android information on the web, we realize that our opinions are valuable and the average consumer just wants to know what phone they should buy without having to do all the research.
Our hardcore audience lives and breaths Android, so most of them already know what device they want to buy next. However, I realize that for most of the public, reading our blog is like trying to read Swahili or some other foreign language. The purpose of these guides is to try and help the average consumer.
Having said all that, consider this first guide as a rough draft that will continually be updated and improved over time. We would love to hear your feedback on what other sections or information should be added to the next version. Our lead developer Clark has some amazing site features that are coming down the pipe, and we are 100% committed to this community. I ask for your help by sharing this guide with your friends on Verizon and leaving suggestions in the comments below.