The best smartphones of 2012: Verizon Wireless

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2012 was a huge year for the mobile industry. Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (005930) each released their fastest-selling smartphones of all time and smartphone penetration in the United States surpassed 50% for the first time. Now that 2012 is winding down, BGR went back and put together a collection of all the most impressive smartphones for each of the four top U.S. carriers. Here, we run through Verizon Wireless’ (VZ) best smartphones of 2012.

HTC DROID DNA ($199.99)

HTC’s (2498) DROID DNA could very well be considered the king of smartphones at Verizon Wireless right now.

Released late last month, this beast of a smartphone trounces nearly every other handset on the planet on paper. Beyond the class-leading Super LCD3 display that packs full 1080p HD resolution into a 5-inch panel (440 ppi), the DNA sports a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, an 8-megapixel camera with dedicated HTC ImageChip technology and a 2,020 mAh battery.

The DROID DNA is also one of the few handsets on the market that ships with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, making it a cutting-edge phone that sets the bar high moving into 2013.

iPhone 5 ($199.99+)

2012 saw Apple launch the sixth iteration of its popular iPhone line of handsets and it quickly became the fastest-selling smartphone of all time.

Apple sold more than 5 million iPhone 5 smartphones during the device’s first three days of availability. The phone was only available for nine days during the fiscal fourth quarter but unprecedented demand pushed iPhone shipments to 26.9 million units, a September-quarter record for Apple.

Moving into the holidays, the iPhone 5 will undoubtedly continue to be a best-seller for a number of reasons. The incredibly thin new unibody aluminum design is gorgeous, the bigger 4-inch Retina display is one of the best in the world, the 8-megapixel iSight camera is likely rivaled only by Nokia’s (NOK) Lumia 920, and the dual-core A6 processor makes the iPhone 5 Apple’s fastest iPhone yet.

Samsung Galaxy S III ($199.99+)

Behold, the world champion of Android smartphones.

No Google (GOOG)-powered handset has shipped more units than the Samsung Galaxy S III and our guess is no handset will — until the Galaxy S IV launches next year. Samsung moved a whopping 30 million of these smartphones in just 150 days, proving once again that the South Korea-based vendor has found a recipe for success.

The flagship Galaxy S III features a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with 720p resolution, quad-core Exynos processor, an 8-megapixel camera, a 2,100 mAh battery and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Newer smartphones are starting to include Jelly Bean and Verizon isn’t terribly efficient when it comes to updates, but Samsung’s TouchWiz interface and its unique accompanying features make the Galaxy S III one of the best smartphones released in 2012.

HTC Windows Phone 8X ($199.99)

Verizon Wireless has historically not been one of the leading U.S. carriers when it comes to Windows Phone support. It has picked up a few Windows Phones here and there, but the most exciting offerings always seem to end up at either AT&T (T) or T-Mobile. With the launch of Windows Phone 8, that changes.

Verizon picked up the HTC Windows Phone 8X right out of the gate, giving users looking for a breath of fresh air a fantastic option. Android phones are great… the iPhone is great… but sometimes the status quo needs to be shaken up a bit.

I reviewed the HTC Windows Phone 8X back in October and my feelings on the handset have not changed at all since then. The hardware is fantastic, with a great ergonomic shape and a unique soft-touch feel. The software is smooth and responsive, with apps that open instantly and slick animations that are never tripped up. Microsoft’s productivity software is the best I have found on a smartphone, Outlook is the best email client I have found on a smartphone, and the overall experience is top notch.

The downsides, of course, are the app selection (many popular apps from other mobile platforms are nowhere to be found on Windows Phone) and the scarcity of the platform itself. Android and iOS are everywhere and buying into the Windows Phone ecosystem makes a user an outsider among his or her friends, family and colleagues.

This is the same problem Microsoft’s (MSFT) mobile platform has faced for more than two years now and while some Windows Phones are showing signs of life, even a best-case scenario makes Windows Phone a relative rarity for many months or even years to come.

Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD ($299.99)

Spending $200 on a smartphone is a tough pill to swallow when you know you’ll be forking over hundreds of dollars each year on service. As such, Verizon’s $300 price tag on the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD will probably seem as ludicrous as giving a smartphone a name composed of 15 capital letters.

The MAXX HD isn’t your average smartphone, however. Beyond the big, bright 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display with 720p resolution, the dual-core 1.5GHz processor, the 8-megapixel camera and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, this phone packs a monster 3,300 mAh battery despite being only 9.3 millimeters thick. Combined with Motorola’s awesome Smart Actions software, which I have discussed at length in the past, the MAXX HD can last about twice as long as other leading smartphones on a single charge.

Motorola has tough competition among the rest of Verizon’s Android lineup, but it should definitely not be overlooked by power users who find themselves charging their current smartphones more frequently than they would like.

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