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7 best phones out there

| Friday, March 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

If you're ready to drop some money on one of the latest smartphones, you have some great choices — too many, in fact. Here are seven.

• HTC One

This 4G LTE flagship from HTC wows on looks and specs. It features a high-resolution 4.7-inch screen, 32 or 64 GB of storage and is powered by a quad-core processor.

HTC also worked hard on customizing the latest version of the Android operating system, Jelly Bean. The BlinkFeed feature gives you a live-updated home screen similar to Windows Phone 8. You pick the social networks and news feeds you want to stay tuned into.

While other phone makers race to up camera megapixel counts, HTC went in the other direction with the One's UltraPixel Camera. It has fewer megapixels but a bigger sensor. If you love to shoot in low light or at night, you should give the One a serious look.

Cost: Not known yet. Available in April at AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.

• iPhone 5

Apple's flagship smartphone — introduced last September — has a 4-inch Retina screen and the ability to connect to 4G LTE networks from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.

Because of the new Lightning dock connector and dual-core A6 processor, the iPhone 5 is notably slimmer than the 4S and twice as fast.

The rear camera's sensor matches the 4S in size, 8 megapixels, but captures much better pictures in low-light situations.

For many users, the iPhone 5's best feature will be access to the App Store.

Cost: $199 (16GB); $299 (32GB); $399 (64GB) with 2-year contract at AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. $100 down (16GB), plus $20 per month for 24 months at T-Mobile.

Apple also sells an unlocked, contract-free iPhone 5 starting at $649. It only works on GSM networks, such as AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States.

• HTC 8X

Want something different than iOS or Android? The Windows Phone 8 operating system is a good place to look. Its unique “live tile” home screen is a definite winner.

If you want to try it out, the HTC 8X with 4.3-inch display is an excellent choice.

This sleek and compact phone boasts a speedy dual-core processor and 1GB RAM. Plus, it's 4G LTE-capable.

The Windows Phone 8 operating system has far fewer apps available for it, compared to iOS and Android, but you'll stay productive with mobile versions of Excel, Word, OneNote and PowerPoint. People Hub keeps all your social media feeds organized in handy place.

Non-expandable storage maxes out at 16GB, but that can be extended with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service.

Cost: $100 (16GB), with a 2-year Verizon or AT&T contract. $0 down, plus $18 per month for 24 months at T-Mobile.

• Nexus 4

Introduced in November, this popular unlocked phone from Google and LG has a 4.7-inch display.

The combination of quad-core processor and stock Android Jelly Bean —unencumbered with carrier “extras” — make the Nexus 4 a very snappy smartphone.

Although it's limited to HSPA+ “4G” connectivity, that's fast enough for an average user. Note that it will only work on GSM networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

The previous version of the Nexus had a so-so 5MP camera. The 4's 8MP camera is a lot better and more fun, especially when taking panoramas. Both vertical and horizontal images can be stitched into stunning Photo Sphere pictures.

Cost, unlocked from Google: $299 (8GB); $349 (16GB). $50 down (16GB), plus $17 per month for 24 months at T-Mobile.

• Samsung Galaxy Note II

There were a few jeers when Samsung revealed the Galaxy Note II, a “phablet” (phone + tablet) with a gigantic 5.5-inch screen that includes an advanced S Pen stylus. Despite that, it has become a top choice of many mobile business users who need 4G connectivity and like to quickly jot down notes, make annotations and run two apps side by side.

Cost: $300 (16GB) with 2-year contract from Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. $200 down, plus $20 per month for 24 months at T-Mobile.

• Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy is the phone line that grabbed attention away from the iPhone and shifted it toward Android.

The 4G LTE Galaxy S4 is the best version yet. With its polycarbonate shell available in white or gray, it looks a lot like the S III, but the S4 is lighter and thinner and features an expanded 5-inch HD screen, 13 MP rear camera and faster quad-core processor.

Samsung integrated a ton of useful, customized software features into the 4.2.2 Android Jelly Bean operating system. S Translator allows you to converse in 10 different languages while using email or the ChatOn instant messaging app.

With S Health, fitness buffs can turn the phone into a pedometer and calorie-counter. In the car, control the phone hands-free with S Voice Drive.

Choose storage of 16, 32 or 64 GB, which can be expanded with up to a 64 GB microSD card.

Cost: Not known yet. Available in late April at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

• LG Optimus G

LG proved it can still make a splash in the smartphone world with the Optimus G, a close cousin of the Nexus 4.

Sprint's version features a powerful 13MP camera, although AT&T's model is no slouch at 8MP. Sprint's model has 32 GB of non-expandable storage, while AT&T's 16GB Optimus can be expanded via microSD card.

Either way, you'll get a blazing fast quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a nice 4.7-inch display.

Right now, the Optimus G is stuck on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, but it should get an update to the newer Jelly Bean soon.

Cost: $50 ($32GB) with a 2-year Sprint contract, new line only; $100 (16GB) with a 2-year AT&T contract.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet;

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