The loveliest one of all

Sophisticated grads will love to get the most beautifully designed and capable smartphone HTC has ever created, the One M8. With a smoothly curved chassis sculpted from aluminum, the M8 feels both luxurious and comfortable in the hand. Running Android KitKat with HTC’s latest software over it, the One M8 also happens to be extremely intuitive and enjoyable to use. Also onboard is a camera that lets you refocus images after the fact, plus software for automatically making video and picture montages.

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Photo by: Sarah Tew/CNET / Caption by:

More screen for less

Shown off at MWC 2014 in February, the G Pro 2 is LG's expansive, ultrapowerful phablet. Students and new grads certainly should keep their eyes peeled for bargains; this is one device that’s hard to pass up. With a huge screen that's great for watching movies or reading textbooks, the affordable G Pro 2 should be on your short list. Factor in its quad-core CPU, feature-packed camera, and huge 5.9-inch screen, and the G Pro 2 becomes an even more attractive purchase.

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Go big-screen with this Windows phone

Students who prefer deep support for Windows and Microsoft Office apps will find a friend in the Nokia Lumia Icon. Running Windows Phone 8, the handset enjoys tight integration with Microsoft's classic suite of software and productivity tools. The Icon also packs a sharp 20MP camera that performs well under low-light conditions.

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Pen and phone united

Students and grads on the job hunt need to stay organized by jotting down notes and making lists, which is why Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 is an excellent option. A fast performer with a beautiful, large screen, the Note 3 is also the best phone/tablet/pen combo we've seen yet.

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Everything but the kitchen sink

Outfitted with a remarkable level of advanced gear and high-tech gizmos, the Samsung Galaxy S5 will certainly entice grads who want to be prepared for any mobile situation. The phone's large 5.1-inch OLED screen is gorgeous and colorful and its Android KitKat software and Samsung UI is cutting-edge and refreshed. Also, the 16MP main camera is swift and packed with loads of extras.

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Slim, trim, and waterproof

For grads who love the beach and don't fear water, Sony's next-generation Xperia device is perfect. Able to be dunked in the surf, sand, and rain without dropping a beat, the Z2 is also a slight improvement on its predecessor, the Z1. This phone has a larger 5.2-inch screen and a slightly faster 2.3GHz Qualcomm processor. It's running the freshest version of Android, 4.4.2, and has a camera that shoots 4K video.

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The iPhone experience for less

Grads straight out of school likely won’t have many coins to rub together, which is shame if they have their hearts set on a new iPhone. Why not take the frugal iOS route? The iPhone 5C is a great $99 phone that basically replicates the well-reviewed iPhone 5 in a more colorful case.

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Give a galaxy of value

Sure, the new Galaxy S5 looks compelling but its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S4, still packs a mobile punch. The phone's big, bright OLED screen captivates almost as much as before and the camera is still one of the best you’ll find on a smartphone.

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The old One still has some strut

Last year's ground-breaking HTC One is still a handsome, stylish, and impressive hunk of mobile machine; scooping one up on the cheap for grads makes a ton of sense. To refresh, the HTC One flaunts a lovely metal design, a speedy quad-core processor, and a beautiful 4.7-inch, 1080p screen. It has also been updated to Android KitKat and has a feature-packed camera app.

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Cortana on a budget

Securing a smartphone running the best mobile software Microsoft can muster doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. For $159, grads can nab the Lumia 635, which also comes with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Cortana virtual assistant to tackle voice commands and hands-free Bing searches.

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