Many of the new smart phones in our just-updated smart-phone Ratings have displays that approach and even exceed 5 inches. Yet most of these giants are surprisingly comfortable to hold, thanks to thin bodies (between a quarter and half an inch) and 16:9 aspect-ratio displays, which put most of the extra screen real estate on the top and bottom of the phone rather than making the phone wider. And these new models are loaded with some of the industry's newest technologies to help you get the most out of them.
Here are some of the more notable newcomers. All prices listed are for two-year contracts, including rebates and other discounts.
LG Optimus G. This phone (available on AT&T and Sprint for $200) has a 4.7-inch, high-definition display and a smorgasbord of state-of-the-art apps and controls. These include a front-facing camera that can prevent the screen from timing out while you're looking at it, an interesting way to view videos while multitasking, and clever apps for composing memorable memos and multimedia presentations.
The QSlide feature makes videos float transparently behind other apps on the screen so that you can perform other tasks, such as send a text or browse the Web. And Quick Memo, a pull-down menu option app, lets you use your finger to scribble notes on anything you see on the phone's screen, from photos, e-mails, and calendar appointments to the home screen itself. The finished "memo" actually becomes a picture that you can easily e-mail or text to others, as well as share on social networks. Also onboard is Video Wiz, an app that can quickly turn a tossed salad of video clips, photos, and sound clips into a polished multimedia presentation.
Samsung Galaxy Note II. This phone (on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon for $300, and T-Mobile for $370) has a 5.5-inch, high-definition, touch-screen display that makes the phone a compelling choice for note takers, e-book fans, and heavy Web users. You'd think that one-handed operation would be impossible on a phone that measures 6.0 by 3.2 by 0.4 inches, but this model lets you shrink the dial pad and keyboard and slide them to either side of the phone's screen to bring them closer to your thumbs in portrait mode, something the original Galaxy Note can't do.
The phone's stylus lets you jot down notes more easily, as well as clip, crop, and share photos, maps, and other content with just a few strokes. You can also preview e-mails, videos, photo albums, Web pages, and other content just by hovering the stylus over them on the page.
Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD. Available on Verizon for $300, this model has a 4.7-inch high-resolution display and promises to be a marathon performer, thanks to one of the largest-capacity batteries on the market. In addition to the larger display, it beats its predecessor, the Droid Razr Maxx, by adding NFC (near field communication) to support e-wallet services and enable wireless data exchanges between similarly equipped phones.
The Razr Maxx HD's Smart Actions feature lets you maximize its already outstanding battery life by enabling you to program the phone to change its settings according to your GPS location or battery level. For example, you can set it to turn on Wi-Fi and shut off Bluetooth when you arrive at home or work.
For more on these and other new models, see our updated cell phone Ratings.