Graduation Day is approaching at high schools and colleges all over the US. Millions of grads will be getting ready to enter college, or leave college and enter the workforce. If you want to get that important grad in your life a special gift, a new smartphone is a great gift idea. Today’s grads need a device that can help them stay productive, read work emails on the go, and stay on top of the latest news. Our list includes iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone smartphone models. Devices on this list include unlocked smartphones, smartphones on contract, and even a pay-as-you-go, no-contract smartphone. Read on to see five great smartphones that would make gifts for any high school or college grad. Want more great gift ideas? Check out our post on the best gifts for women, or read our ultimate guide to the best gifts for men.
1. iPhone 6
The iPhone 6 is a top-rated smartphone that will appeal to students and recent grads who already use a MacBook. Features like Handoff make it easy to start a task while on the go from your iPhone, and finish up on your iPad or MacBook.
The iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches with a display of 1334 x 750 pixels. The 6 is 6.8mm thin. The Apple A8 chip powers the phone. It is a 64-bit chip that has 2 billion transistors, but is 13% smaller than the previous A7 chip.
We like the idea of buying an unlocked iPhone 6 as a gift. This means your lucky giftee will own the phone outright, and will be able to choose their carrier and plan to suit their needs. Plus, you don’t get stuck with a monthly bill. To protect your graduation gift, consider adding a rugged case to keep the iPhone 6 safe. You can check out our recommendations in our post on the best iPhone 6 cases, which is helpfully organized by budget.
Price: $703.90 for the 16GB version, unlocked (34 percent off MSRP)
2. Samsung Galaxy S5
Why not the new Samsung Galaxy S6? While both are solid phones, the S5 has a couple advantages over its newer sister product. First, it is slightly cheaper. It’s also rated at IP67 for waterproofing, which the S6 is not.
There is a fingerprint scanner that allows you to quickly make secure payments with your fingertip. Your fingerprint also unlocks “private mode” files that are only visible when your fingerprint is logged in. In addition, the S5 has great power-saving features that help to get the most out of very low battery life. If you go this route with your graduation gift, it’s still a good idea to add a portable phone charger to ensure your grad never has a dead battery.
Price: $0.01 – $1 on contract, depending on carrier and plan selected
3. HTC One M8
The HTC One M8 is another older device we recommend as a graduation gift. Why not the newer One M9? Again, price is a factor for many families, and plenty of parents need to select a gift that’s also budget-friendly. But more importantly, the M9 just isn’t a big enough improvement over the M8. As we noted in our comparison of the Samsung Galaxy S6 vs. HTC One M9, some reviewers found the camera on the M9 to be a step backward from the camera on the M8. If you love HTC, then this 5-inch smartphone running a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core is definitely going to be powerful enough for a new grad.
Price: $1 with a two-year contract
4. Motorola DROID Turbo
The DROID Turbo is a nice, low-cost option for grads and students that don’t require a glitzy flagship smartphone. This 5.2-inch smartphone boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, the ability to capture 4K video, and a great low-light camera. Plus, the included Turbo Charger lets you get 8 hours of battery life after just 15 minutes of charging. When fully charged, your grad can expect a staggering two days of battery life. This phone provides solid value for the money. You might also want to toss in one of our favorite DROID Turbo phone cases.
Price: $49.99 with two-year contract
5. AT&T Nokia Lumia 635 (No Contract GoPhone)
Powered by Windows Phone 8.1, a Quad core processor and supporting a microSD card for up to 128GB of memory, this powerful smartphone is a great option for fans of both the Windows phone platform, as well as those who prefer no contract smartphones. This phone also includes the digital voice assistant Cortana, which some people prefer over Siri or Google Now. Grads will love the ability to customize their tiles, as well as the learning keyboard that helps people to text more quickly and accurately. The camera may not be the most amazing option out of all the smartphones on our list, but it’s still perfectly serviceable.
Price: $46.24 (54 percent off MSRP)
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