Preorders for the iPhone 5 are underway, and show that despite some disappointment with the device's features (or lack thereof), it's going to be popular. But not everyone likes Apple, iOS, or the iPhone. The good news is the competitive smartphone market offers plenty of alternatives to Apple's latest and greatest.
If you need a new device, consider these top choices from the top five carriers in the U.S.: AT&T, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless. These devices are available today.
1. AT&T. AT&T is sort of home base for the iPhone because it had an exclusive deal to sell the device until February 2011. But AT&T sells gobs of other smartphones.
The HTC One X, though a few months old, is still my top choice of smart devices from AT&T. In fact, it is my daily driver. Everything about the One X is fantastic, from the look and feel, to the performance and features. It has a large HD display, excellent 8-megapixel camera, and, of course, LTE 4G. It's also a steal at $99.
2. MetroPCS. MetroPCS is the country's fifth largest wireless network operator and offers prepaid service. That means you might pay a little bit more for the phone up front, but you'll more than make up for it with cheaper service.
The LG Motion 4G is an excellent choice. It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and comes in a compact little shell. It has a 3.5-inch screen, a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, a dual-core 1.2-GHz processor, and, of course, LTE 4G. The best part? It costs only $149 and doesn't require a contract.
3. Sprint. Sprint, number three in the market, is fighting its two larger rivals with everything it's got. The result? Its plans offer a lot of value--such as unlimited data--and a clean conscience, thanks to its environmentally friendly efforts. Its LTE 4G network is just getting underway, but it already has a few solid choices.
The Motorola Photon Q, for example, is a great alternative to the iPhone 5 for Sprint customers. It runs the latest version of Android, offers a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a dual-core processor, and an 8-megapixel camera. The screen looks great, and performance of this device is top-notch. It costs $199 with a new contract.
4. T-Mobile USA. T-Mobile is the fourth-largest network operator in the U.S. and doesn't yet offer LTE 4G. It will next year. In the meantime, it has a ripping fast HSPA+ network.
The Samsung Galaxy S III performs very well on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. The GS3 is one of the best Android 4.0 smartphones available and offers plenty of advanced features. It has a luscious 4.8-inch display, powerful 8-megapixel camera, capable dual-core processor, and plenty of software goodies. It's a bargain at $199.
5. Verizon Wireless. Verizon is the largest operator in the U.S. at the moment and offers a broad array of smartphones. Its LTE 4G network is the most pervasive and very fast.
The brand-new Motorola Droid Razr M is an impressive addition to Verizon's lineup. Motorola took everything that was attractive about last year's Razr and made it smaller. The Razr M might be billed as a mid-range device, but don't let its $99 price fool you. It's the best phone Motorola has delivered this year. It has a 4.3-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera, Android 4.0, and a raging dual-core processor.
Down the road, there will be other phones to consider, but we don't know when they will be available. The Nokia Lumia 920, for instance, looks like it will be a good smartphone alternative to the iPhone 5, but it probably won't be available until November. Same goes for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. This follow-up phablet is like a GS3 on steroids, and the 5.5-inch screen offers an amazing canvas on which to scribble notes with the S Pen stylus. Late October is the earliest the Note 2 will reach the U.S. No carriers have announced support for these devices yet, so it is unclear where they will be sold.