User ranked top LTE smartphones

Here’s what customers of three carriers say about their LTE smartphone purchases.

For each of the Big Three LTE carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless -- we looked at LTE smartphones with at least 20 user reviews (as of Nov. 26), and picked the five top, user-ranked phones at each carrier. T-Mobile doesn’t offer LTE service, though its HSPA+ 21 and 42 service delivers very good performance, rivaling LTE in some locations.

Some of these are high-end but older models, or budget or mid-priced phones. Some may have lower-resolution screens, or cameras with fewer megapixels, and less powerful processors compared to the newest high-end, and high-priced models. But they may offer everything you really want. And holiday price deals are creating some very good values.

User rankings of LTE phones reveal wide range of options

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy Note II,

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy Note II, Android 4.1, $300, 4.8 rating, 41 reviews, 95% recommend

Users love the “huge, vivid display” of this big-screen (5.5-inch) phone, the “phenomenal” battery life, and the “beastly” processor. This second edition adds a slightly larger display, quad-core CPU, twice the RAM, more internal storage, and new S Pen functions.

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AT&T - Samsung Galaxy S III

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy S III, Android 4.0, $200, 4.7 rating, 701 reviews, 96%

Users like that it’s “easy to use,” even “fun,” and praise the “Large bright display, superb performance.” One thought Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and the AT&T-installed apps “detract from the experience.”

Related story: User rankings of LTE phones reveal wide range of options

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy Note

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy Note, Android 4.0, $200, 4.7 rating, 618 reviews, 94%

First introduced October 2011, with 5.3-inch screen, and S-Pen stylus with “switch” that lets it grab screenshots, annotate content. The big screen is easy on the eyes and “better, easier to read, to write, etc.” The “battery life is amazing and so is call quality and strength” though another said the battery was “wimpy.” “I don't even carry my laptop any more,” one user confided.

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate

AT&T - Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate, Android 2.3.6 [upgraded to 4.0], $0.99, 4.7 rating, 28 reviews, 96%

One of the surprises: an attractive budget phone that doesn’t feel like it’s on a budget: it has “as many of the same features as the higher priced phones.” It’s “low cost, relatively fast processing strength, and the capacity to upgrade the OS to Ice Cream Sandwich [Android 4.0].” Many reviewers are first-time smartphone buyers: "i think this phone meets all the stuff i need in a phone."

AT&T - Nokia Lumia 920

AT&T - Nokia Lumia 920, Windows Phone 8, $100, 4.5 rating, 28 reviews, 86%

Users praise the “easy and friendly to use” software, “incredibly fast” performance, “awesome” screen and “unbelievable price point.” But at 5.1 by 2.8 by 0.4 inches, and weighing over 6.5 ounces, the 920 is a “pig,” says one unhappy user.

Sprint - Samsung Galaxy Note II

Sprint - Samsung Galaxy Note II, Android 4.1, $300, 4.9 rating, 90 reviews, 99% recommend

The Note 2 is a top scorer on all the carriers. “The fastest that I ever seen a phone.” Movie watching is “awesome.” The big screen is “like having a smartphone and laptop computer available in your pocket.” And it has the “longest battery life I've had in a smartphone.”

Samsung Galaxy S III

Sprint - Samsung Galaxy S III (16-Gbyte), Android 4.1, $200, 4.2 rating , 1,919 reviews, 85%

“Battery life is a little low (others complained in stronger terms].” The “hardware is more than capable, running a wide range of intensive apps.” The touch screen “is very responsive and on point.” But one said it was “just okay.”

Sprint -- HTC EVO 4G

Sprint -- HTC EVO 4G, Android 4.0, $100 with mail-in rebate, 4.0 rating, 1,219 reviews, 76%

Users praise the “beautiful display,” and “the camera and video are the best!!!” “Storage is miles above my old Evo.” “OS is very stable.” There’s a mix of opinions about battery life. “I need to bone up on my battery saving tips.” Some complained of “bad signal and call quality,” hard-to-get connections, and the non-removable battery.

Sprint - Google Galaxy Nexus, by Samsung

Sprint - Google Galaxy Nexus, by Samsung, Android 4.1, $0 (with online “Web Special” offer, usually $30-100), 3.9 rating, 334 reviewers, 73%

First released in late 2011 on Verizon, the phone won good reviews. Galaxy Nexus came to Sprint earlier this year, and it’s still charming most of its users, especially first-time smartphone buyers. The display is “gorgeous,” it runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. An “outstanding phone at a good price.” Average score for battery life is 3 of 5 stars; some improved it with a free upgraded battery from sprint or management apps.

Sprint - Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE

Sprint - Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE, Android 4.0, $200, 3.7 ranking, 147 reviews, 66% recommend

Photon Q is a slider phone with a full QWERTY keyboard and this “is where this phone shines.” The OS is “super fast and stable.” “For an everyday phone this one will do just fine.” Battery life is “passable.” One user with lots of photos concluded “I don't think it can handle the amount of data we use these days.”

Verizon - Nokia Lumia 822

Verizon - Nokia Lumia 822, Windows Phone 8, $100, 4.7 rating, 47 reviews, 93% recommend

Technically a rung below Nokia’s top-end Lumia 920, “in no way does this phone feel cheap.” It’s “very responsive,” the screen is “beautiful, fast and fluid,” and the“battery seems to be lasting well under heavy use.” Unlike many phones in this price range, users rated the camera as “outstanding.” And all at a “great price for what you get.”

Verizon - Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD

Verizon - Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD, Android 4.0 upgradeable to 4.1, $300, 4.7 rating, 156 reviews, 93%

The Maxx model added a much higher capacity battery, and now it’s available with a high-definition 4.7-inch screen. Users are astounded by the Maxx HD’s long battery life, often running two days before recharging: “unreal” and “unbelieveable.” Call quality is “fantastic”, as is the HD display. One user singled out the design of the Settings page: “all laid out for easy access.” Camera is acceptable to most: “camera suits my needs just fine.” One complaint: no FM receiver.

Verizon – LG Spectrum 2

Verizon – LG Spectrum 2, Android 4.0, $100 with online discount, 4.7 ranking, 24 reviews, 85%

Users like the “beautiful, large screen,” and the “awesome speed.” The phone has “a great feel in your hand” and “call quality and reception have been excellent.” One user says “the sound could be better.” Weakest point is battery life, with a range of experiences: some complaints, some doing careful husbanding of resources, while some say it’s “fantastic.”

Verizon - Motorola Droid Razr HD

Verizon - Motorola Droid Razr HD, Android 4.0 upgradeable to 4.1, $200, 4.6 rating, 68 reviews, 90%

Razr HD differs from its Maxx cousin by having less storage and a less powerful battery. But most users aren’t complaining: one bought a 32-gig SD card for the phone, and says the CPU is “lightning fast” and the big high-def display is “very crisp and clear,” “outstanding.” And battery life is still “beyond my wildest expectations.” Users don’t like the Verizon and Motorola “bloatware.”

Verizon - Apple iPhone 5

Verizon - Apple iPhone 5, iOS 6.0, $199 (16GB model), 4.6 rating, 809 reviews, 85%

The first iPhone with a 4-inch screen and LTE. Overall, the Apple iPhone 5 gets solid reviews from users. It’s “super fast, light, and fun to play with,” and “so compact and lightweight.” Siri enthusiasts think the voice feature makes typing “seem so 20th-century when you can dictate to this phone.” Sound is “outstanding” and camera quality “top notch.” The main complaint is that iPhone 5 battery life seems to some to be less than that of the iPhone 4S.