The winter holidays are a special time of the year. Christmas lights are going up on homes, carolers are filling the streets, fireplaces are glowing, and we’re taking stock of the best smartphones of 2011. Whether you’re planning to purchase one of these amazing devices for yourself or a loved one, Engadget’s smartphone buyer’s guide is your essential source for selecting a handset that best suits your desires and budget.
No doubt, you’ve already had an opportunity to review our holiday gift guide for 2011. The smartphone buyer’s guide is a bit different. Here, we examine the variety of options from each carrier, large and small, along with its most solid alternatives. Those insistent upon QWERTY keyboards will find each provider’s pick of the litter, and we also select a high quality budget offering with $80 as the absolute ceiling. Compared to our previous buyer’s guide, Samsung is lighting up the scoreboard more than ever — largely in part to the Galaxy S II, but that isn’t keeping other manufacturers from pushing back. The past 12 months have shown amazing development in the smartphone arena, so join us after the break as we round up the most exciting options of the year.