Hello - I always turn to (and recommend) Mobile Tech Review for smartphone reviews, so I figured I'd pose this question to you guys for help.
My GSM Galaxy Nexus is starting to feel a little dated and I've got a serious case of "new phone jones". I'm on T-Mobile's pre-paid service, so I'm looking to take advantage of their fledgling LTE network but I also have to bring my own device, which limits my budget.
Must have: T-Mobile LTE; close to 5" screen; 720p+; $300 used or new (+/- 8%)
Probably needs to have: SDCard slot (this nixes the Nexus', but even with a relatively high data cap and ready access to Wi-Fi, I still struggle making Google Music perform how I want - it would probably just be easiest to have my 39GB library on a card); decent 3rd party ROM support (Cyanogenmod); Quad-core (I admire what Motorola has done with the X, but I need this phone to be fresh in 2 years and I don't trust any dual-core to do that); 2GB RAM
Would like to have: on-screen as opposed to capacitive or physical buttons; respectable camera; nice aesthetics; beautiful display (I really enjoy this AMOLED display...)
I'll tell you my thinking thus far:
Nexus 4: Can be hacked to work with T-Mo LTE; good price; no sdcard + max 16GB internal Nexus 5: LTE; no sdcard but 32GB internal is almost reasonable; currently too pricey for my budget Moto X: Well reviewed; 32GB available; no sdcard; don't trust dual-core to hold up over time Xperia Z: Don't really need waterproof, and not a fan of the gigantic bezel needed to accomplish this Xperia ZL: I really like this phone and it fits many of my requirements, but I worry about the off-angle display issues... are they a deal breaker, especially coming from an AMOLED? I really need this phone to FEEL sleek and sexy for the foreseeable future so I don't get tired of it and talk myself into another costly device purchase! Galaxy Note 2: AMOLED display, but only 720p for such a large display diminishes PPI; I can probably handle the size but not my preference; don't care for Touchwhiz at all, and Cyanogenmod support is nearly non-existent because of Exynos 4 chipset issues.
I'm currently leaning towards the ZL ... but I still have reservations about the display angles. As was pointed out in this site's review, it does matter.
Well, after an aborted attempt with the Xperia ZL (eBay seller selling the wrong model # followed by lengthy return process) I went back and forth for a bit on the Nexus 5 and LG G2, and ultimately decided on ...
... the Xperia ZL again. This time purchased used from Amazon. Looking good so far - the viewing angle is definitely noticeable compared to my old Galaxy Nexus, but I'm liking everything else. I particularly appreciate that Sony's Xperia skin is not completely out of sorts with the stock Android experience. There are some nice UI flourishes (the zooming in the gallery, the rubbery "bounce" of the icons as you move them around the screen) that are nice to look at while not feeling like cruft. Still not as nice looking as stock 4.4, but I'll try to be patient.
I really enjoy the dedicated camera button that auto-launches the camera, complete with half-press shutter for focus.