Updated: Top 11 smartphones to end 2010

Summary:We now see most of the holiday smartphones out and about or coming soon so it was time to take a look at the top 10 that are out there for you to consider.

Back in May I wrote my Top 10 Smartphones of 2010... for now article and continue to be amazed at how many visits that article sees from readers on a weekly basis. Now that we have seen the release of the iPhone 4, some new BlackBerry devices, coming release of five new Windows Phone 7 devices, and MANY new Android devices it is time to let you know what I think are the current top 10 smartphones available at the end of 2010.

Let me start by stating it was fairly easy to identify the top 10, but extremely difficult to rank them and I am sure that many will agree and not agree with my personal choices for the top 11 10. I tried to rank it due to features and functionality, but that alone doesn't define a good smartphone or the Nokia N8 would clearly be number 1. I had to look at the user interface, extras such as WiFi hotspot capability, and personal experiences with the devices to help me define the ranking.

As you know, the smartphone world moves fast so this list will be different in a few months when the rumored Verizon iPhone may be available, lots of Windows Phone 7 devices are out and about, Android devices with a new OS are out, HP and Palm finally come out with some new hardware, and Nokia releases their MeeGo devices. You can check out several product photos of these top 10 11 devices in my image gallery, but I also highly recommend you visit your carrier store to get some hands-on time with a device before you make a huge monthly commitment.


Image Gallery: Check out photos of the top 11 smartphones to end 2010.
Image Gallery: HTC EVO 4G
Image Gallery: HTC HD7

The new standard price for high end subsidized smartphones is $199.99 and nearly all of the phones released today are priced at this level. Keep in mind this price is for a new two-year contract or added line so if you are already in a contract that hasn't been completed the prices are much higher, $450 to $700. Where I know this unsubsidized price I will list it with the carrier subsidized price in this article.

Each carrier is different for all of us and is highly dependent on where you live, work, and play. I recommend you figure out which carrier works best for you before buying a device you won't be happy with because of the carrier. There are many excellent smartphone options today and you honestly can't go too wrong with any of the available choices. Like carriers, different smartphone operating systems work for different people because of their different strengths and weaknesses, 3rd party applications, and available form factors.

Let's now take a look at my list of Top 10 Smartphones to end 2010.

Number 1: Sprint HTC EVO 4G

I know it has been over 5 months since I last provided my list of top 10 smartphones, but after listing all of the devices I have to honestly award the EVO 4G the top spot yet again. The Sprint HTC EVO 4G still has top of the line specifications, features, services, and capability and deserves the top spot yet again. Specifications of this beast include a 4.3 inch 480x800 display, 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 4G integrated wireless radio that can be used to share the Internet via WiFi for up to 8 devices, 8 megapixel camera capable of 720p HD video capture, HDMI video output, video calling capability, and latest Google Android 2.2 operating system with HTC Sense. You also get free included Google Maps and Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV and NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile. You won't find another smartphone with these specifications, services, and functionality and as a result of this I purchased my own HTC EVO 4G and have no plans to replace it with anything else on Sprint, at least through the rest of 2010.

The EVO 4G launched on 4 June for $199.99 with a two-year contract and minimum voice and data plan of $79.99 per month that includes 450 Anytime minutes and free unlimited calls to mobile phones. There is a $10 premium on data services for the EVO 4G, but this is not just for the 4G access. You get true UNLIMITED data on the EVO 4G while Verizon limits to 5GB and AT&T limits to 2GB or 5GB, depending on the plan you purchase. T-Mobile also offers unlimited data, but throttles down the speed a bit if you exceed 5GB. The full no-contract price of the EVO 4G is $449.99.

To share your Internet via WiFi you will need to pay $29.99 per month for unlimited data and this can be turned on and off as needed, which is how I personally use it with my EVO 4G.

Number 2 (tie): Motorola Droid X and HTC Droid Incredible

Even though Android devices launched in late 2008 on T-Mobile, it wasn't until Verizon and Motorola launched their Droid devices that Android really took off in the United States. The Motorola Droid X has specifications similar to the HTC EVO 4G with fewer included services and more expensive monthly plans.  The HTC Droid Incredible is a smaller brother to the HTC EVO 4G with form factor that may appeal to even more people than the Droid X. I know several people that purchased the Droid X and HTC Incredible after talking with me and they think it is the best smartphone they have ever owned.

The Droid X has a 1GHz processor, 8GB internal memory with microSD card slot, 8 megapixel camera with 720p video capability, 4.3 inch large display, WiFi hotspot support, and more. The Droid X feels fantastic in your hand and if you are on Verizon then it is definitely one to consider. The Android 2.2 OS recently rolled out for the Droid X so it has the latest operating system too. The Motorola Droid X is available for that standard $199.99 price with a full no-contract price of $569.99.

The HTC Droid Incredible (see my first impressions article for more thoughts) sold out almost immediately and was an extremely difficult product to find. It has specs matching these top Android devices with a 1GHz processor, 8GB internal memory with microSD card slot, 8 megapixel camera with dual LED flash, and more. It has a more compact form factor with a 3.7 inch WVGA AMOLED display. I personally prefer HTC Sense on Android and you will find it on the Droid Incredible. It supports 3G mobile hotspot, which was added after I took a look at the device back in April, thanks in large part to the Android 2.2 update.

The HTC Droid Incredible is available for the same standard $199.99 subsidized price and at a no-contract price of $529.99.

Number 3: Apple iPhone 4

The Apple iPhone 4 is the 4th generation Apple iPhone and offers some nice improvements over the previous 3GS, including a super high resolution 3.5 inch 960x640 pixel resolution display (called a retina display), 5 megapixel camera with 720p video recording capability, front facing camera for WiFi video calls, and 1 GHz Apple A4 processor.

The iPhone 4 also runs the latest 4.x version of iOS that supports folder organization and limited multi-tasking. The iPhone 4 is tightly controlled by Apple and still does not have the ability to serve as a WiFi hotspot for the iPad or your computer. There are hundreds of thousands of apps for the iPhone 4 so this alone may encourage people to buy one of these devices.

The iPhone 4 is one of the most expensive smartphones at $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB with no-contract prices of $599 and $699.

Let's see what we have for numbers 4 through 7 »

Number 4: T-Mobile G2

HTC has been making Android devices for a couple of years now and has continued to improve and refine the hardware and software. One of the ultimate devices in their lineup this fall is the T-Mobile G2 that is sold elsewhere as the HTC Desire Z. The T-Mobile G2 is a successor to the first T-Mobile G1 with a hardware QWERTY keyboard, but one that has been greatly improved over that found on the G1.

The G2 has one distinguishing aspect that makes it stand out against all the other T-Mobile Android devices and that is the HSPA+ wireless radio support. This allows you to connect with the latest T-Mobile data network at speeds in the 6 to 8 Mbps range. The G2 has a 800 MHz Qualcomm chip, 4GB internal memory, 512MB RAM, microSD card slot, 3.7 inch 800x480 display, and 5 megapixel camera with 720p video recording support.

The slide out keyboard has a unique hinge and is very functional and easy to use. The G2 runs a Google version of Android and not HTC Sense like you may have thought. The G2 is priced at $199.99 with a 2-year contract and $499.99 without a contract.

Number 5: T-Mobile HTC HD7

Some of you may think one of the new Windows Phone 7 devices should be up in the top three and after playing with Windows Phone 7 for a few months I would not be opposed to that either. However, I think we have to see how they do in the smartphone market before ranking them too high. Their success is also highly dependent on how well Microsoft promotes the new devices. That said, the T-Mobile HTC HD7 looks to be the best of the five devices first rolling out in the U.S.

The HTC HD7 is similar in form factor to the HTC EVO 4G and HD2 with a large 4.3 inch 800x480 pixel resolution display. It also has a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 5 megapixel camera with 720p video recording capability, 16GB integrated memory, and Windows Phone 7 operating system. There are already quite a few apps and Xbox LIVE games for the HD7, including Netflix, Slacker, TeleNav GPS navigation application, and more.

The HD7 will be available starting November 8th for $199.99 with a likely full no-contract price of something like $500.

Number 6: Dell Venue Pro

Dell had some great Pocket PC devices back in the day, but hasn't had a good smartphone device so it was a bit surprising to me when I saw the Dell Venue Pro announced with support for T-Mobile USA. The Venue Pro will be sold through Dell and not T-Mobile so it will be interesting to see how well it does on the market.

Some may rank the Dell Venue Pro above the HD7, but the HD7 is a device with a known form factor from a company who has been doing this for a while so I though that deserved some consideration. The Dell Venue Pro is unique in the Windows Phone 7 lineup with a 4.1 inch WVGA AMOLED display that slides up to reveal a full portrait QWERTY keyboard. I held the device and it is very well constructed (more than I thought it would be) and I may just end up with both an HD7 and a Dell Venue Pro when all is said and done.

There is not yet any official pricing for the Dell Venue Pro, but you can probably count on it being about the same as the HTC HD7 at $199.99 and $500 or $600 without a contract.

Number 7: Nokia N8

I know that there will probably be many who do not think the Nokia N8 deserves to be in the top 10, but after using one for a few weeks I honestly think it deserves to be in this spot. The Nokia N8 has a few unique hardware features that set it apart from all these other smartphones, including the penta-band 3G radio that lets you connect via AT&T, T-Mobile, or virtually every other GSM carrier in the world via a 3G data connection. The Nokia N8 also has a fantastic 12 megapixel camera with Xenon flash and Carl Zeiss optics that has been proven to be the best camera phone on the market today.

The N8 is also the first Symbian^3 powered device. While the user interface doesn't function much differently than what we see in S60 and Maemo, it does have improvements that will appeal to Nokia and Symbian fans around the world. As I have said in my articles, and as echoed by many others, Nokia fans will find this to be the best Nokia ever and will be pleased with the N8.

Specifications include 5-band 3G data support, anodized aluminum casing in five colors, 3.5 inch 640x360 pixels resolution OLED display, 720p video recording capability, 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, internal 16GB memory with support for microSD expansion cards, HDMI port, microUSB, FM transmitter, 680 MHz processor, free Ovi Maps for offline and online GPS voice-guided navigation, and USB On-the-Go so you can plug in USB devices to use them without a PC.

The Nokia N8 is only available in SIM-unlocked fashion with no contract and at $549 from Nokia USA is one of the lowest cost smartphones in the lineup. You can already find it for less online too, such as for $449 from Dell.

Check out numbers 8 through 10 and some final thoughts »

Number 8: Palm Pre 2

The Palm Pre and webOS were announced back at CES in January 2009 and we have had a couple iterations of the same form factor. The hardware has been rather poor quality so far while the webOS operating system is fantastic. The upcoming Palm Pre 2 looks to continue with the same form factor (3.1 inch display and slide-up portrait QWERTY keyboard), with a couple internal improvements. The Pre 2 has a 1 GHz processor and 5 megapixel camera with flash.

It remains to be seen whether or not Palm has worked out the quality issues with the keyboard and hardware, but I have to rank this new device in the top 10 because I think the webOS operating system may just be the best available today.

Applications are being released on a fairly regular basis too so I don't think there is much worry about application support for the platform any longer. There is no price yet for the Palm Pre 2, but will launch on Verizon and will likely be at the $199.99 level too.

Number 9: Samsung Epic 4G

Samsung released their four Galaxy S devices on the four major US wireless carriers with the T-Mobile Vibrant, AT&T Captivate, Verizon Fascinate, and Sprint Epic 4G. I had the chance to try these devices and think the Sprint Epic 4G is clearly the best one. The others didn't quite feel finished with GPS issues and other software problems. The Epic 4G is s very good Android device, but still has not been updated to Android 2.2

The Samsung Epic 4G has most of the typical Galaxy S specifications with the 4 inch Super AMOLED display, 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, and more. The Epic 4G supports Sprints 4G WiMAX network, WiFi hotspot functionality and comes with a full slide-out hardware QWERTY keyboard. If you want an Android device from Sprint with a keyboard then this is the one to get.

The Sprint Epic 4G is available for $249.99 with a no-contract price of $499.99.

Number 10: Motorola Droid 2

The Motorola Droid is what put Android on the map and this holiday season we see Verizon and Motorola following up with the Droid 2 that improves upon the original Droid in several areas, including the keyboard and processor.

Specifications of the Droid 2 include a 3.7 inch 480x854 WVGA display, 5 megapixel camera, Google Android 2.2 OS, 1 GHz TI OMAP processor, 8GB internal memory and included 8GB microSD card. The QWERTY keyboard has been improved with directional arrows replacing the strange gold pad and better spacing and design of the keys.

If you want an Android device on 4913Verizon, then the Droid 2 (or even the R2D2 version) is one you should consider. The Droid 2 is available now for $199.99 or $559.99 without a contract.

Final thoughts on my top 10

UPDATE: OK, I hear all of you in the comments and in the many emails I have received and honestly overlooked the HTC Incredible. I reviewed this device and like many of you I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. As you can see, I have now placed the Droid Incredible in a tie for 2nd with the Droid X on Verizon and honestly think that is where it deserves to be placed.

Looking back at the list, we see that there are five Android devices, two new Windows Phone 7 devices, one HP weboOS device, one Apple iOS smartphone, and one Symbian^3 smartphone. I did not include any BlackBerry devices because I don't see any that are compelling enough over the other smartphones I chose. Android is currently the hottest smartphone OS and it shows in this list. Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's attempt at coming back and after using the operating system extensively I think people are going to embrace the devices eventually coming across all carriers. Apple will continue to sell its iPhone consistently. HP (ex Palm) and their webOS is one of the most enjoyable mobile platforms I have ever used, but they are having trouble getting good hardware out on carriers.

Back in May I mentioned that I was considering the Sprint EVO 4G, Nokia N8, and myTouch 3G Slide. I ended up buying the EVO 4G and Nokia N8 and do not see any device replacing the EVO 4G anytime soon. The Nokia N8 is a fantastic piece of hardware and while the OS doesn't live up to the level of the new smartphone devices it works well for Symbian fans. Looking at this current list and new smartphones I am next going to purchase the HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 device in a couple of weeks. I would also love to get an HP webOS device if the hardware gets improved and a device comes to Sprint or T-Mobile.

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Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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