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The 6 best smartphones to buy this holiday season

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
These are the smartphones your loved ones will be clamoring for this holiday season.

The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, which means if you’re in the market for a smartphone prepare to be inundated by a ton of incredibly tempting deals. But instead of heading to the store and grabbing the first handset you see on sale, you’re going to want to make sure the phone you purchase is the right one for you … err, I mean, your loved one.

Fortunately, we’ve got the lowdown on the best smartphones for everyone on your holiday shopping list. And, you know, you too.

For the ultimate Apple lover

Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus is the ultimate phone for Apple fans.

If you’re shopping for an Apple (APPL) lover, you’re going to get an iPhone. And of the five models currently on the market, the best of the best is Apple’s $770 iPhone 7 Plus. The 5.5-inch behemoth takes the top spot thanks to its fantastic dual-camera setup, which features an optical zoom and a portrait mode that produces a depth-of-field effect.

Oh, and then there’s the phone’s blazing performance, beautiful display and water-resistant design. Basically, if you’re shopping for someone who lives and breathes for Apple, this is the phone to get.

The iPhone for the first-timer

Apple’s iPhone SE is the perfect iPhone for first-timers.

Whether your kid is begging for her first iPhone, or you’re shopping for your dad who’s still desperately clinging to his 15-year-old Nokia, the best iPhone for smartphone first-timers is the iPhone SE.

The $400 handset runs the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating system, and features the same great camera and powerful processor as the $550 iPhone 6s in a slightly smaller package. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s a solid choice for someone taking his or her first steps into the Apple ecosystem.

The Google phone for Google enthusiasts

Google’s Pixel is the ultimate Google smartphone.

Google’s Android is the most widely used smartphone operating system in the world, which means there are plenty of Android handsets on the market. But if you’re shopping for someone who loves Google (GOOG, GOOGL) products, then you’re going to want to get them the smartphone that represents the epitome of what Google thinks a handset should be: the Google Pixel.

Available for $649 for the $5-inch model and $770 for the 5.5-inch XL version, the Pixel runs an unaltered version of Google’s Android 7.0 Nougat operating system. What’s more, it’s got a brilliant camera, vibrant display and speedy processor. It’s the Google phone for Google fans.

The Samsung fan who still believes

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 is still one of the best phones you can get.

Samsung took a huge hit this year with the recall of its fire-prone Galaxy Note7, but the company’s Galaxy S7 is still one of the best smartphones on the market. Untouched by the issues that plagued the Note7, the S7 features a crisp, colorful display; razor sharp camera and incredibly fast performance. The fact that the S7 is water-resistant is just icing on the cake. Better still, you can find a host of deals packaging the Galaxy S7 with Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset.

A smartphone for those looking for something a little different

You might not know OnePlus, but the company makes great phones.

Among Android smartphone makers, China’s OnePlus is a major standout since the company produces high-end handsets at relatively low prices. The smartphone maker’s latest effort, the OnePlus 3T, is a perfect example of the company’s “Never Settle” motto.

That’s because this handset, which runs a customized version of Android called Oxygen OS, features a whopping 6GB of RAM, a high-end processor and your choice of either 64GB or 128GB of storage. You’ll also get a 16MP rear and front cameras, so your selfie and portrait games are always on point. At $440 the T3 is practically a steal. If you want something a bit less expensive, you can always opt for the standard OnePlus 3, which features a slightly less powerful processor and 8MP front camera for $400.

The control freak

The Moto Z Force can transform into a speaker, point-and-shoot camera or projector.

There’s always that one person on your list who wants things their way, which can make buying them anything a bit tough. Lenovo’s $720 Moto Z Force (Verizon only) and $700 Moto Z, however, can make things a little easier. That’s because these handsets feature modular components that expand their capabilities. An $80 JBL speaker turns your handset into a portable speaker, while the $300 Insta-Share Projector lets you project movies directly from your phone to the nearest projector screen or wall.

The Moto Z’s camera mod turns it into a point-and-shoot with 10x optical zoom.

Then there’s the $300 Hasselblad True Zoom camera mod, which turns the handset into a point-and-shoot camera with a 10x optical zoom. Talk about total control.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.