The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

Summary: With the rise of Android, the reboot of BlackBerry, and the redesigned iPhone, 2010 can rightly be called the year of the smartphone. Here are the best devices of the year.


With the rise of Android, the reboot of BlackBerry, and the redesigned iPhone, 2010 can rightly be called the year of the smartphone. After reviewing nearly all of the top devices, here is my countdown of the best devices of the year.


Slideshow: The 10 best smartphones of 2010

10. BlackBerry Torch

BlackBerry came under intense pressure in 2010 from the rapid growth of iPhone and Android. The smartphone incumbent fired back with the release of the BlackBerry 6 OS and a new form factor with a slide-down keyboard in the BlackBerry Torch. The device is a bit underpowered, the OS isn't a huge step forward, and overall it hasn't been enough to stem the losses to Apple and Google. But, there are still a lot of BlackBerry fans out there -- not to mention all of the enterprises locked into BlackBerry -- and for them, the Torch is now the pre-eminent device on the market.

9. Motorola Droid 2

This shows how much progress the smartphone market has made in one year. Last year, I would have ranked the original Motorola Droid and the Apple iPhone 3GS as the two best smartphones on the market. This year, the Droid got a very nice upgrade but still struggled to make the top 10. Still, due to its increased specs, solid build quality, and very usable form factor, the Droid 2 belongs on this list. Also, don't miss its cousins, the Droid Pro and the Droid 2 Global.

8. HTC Incredible

With much the same innards as the Google Nexus One (although not nearly as strong of a build quality), the HTC Incredible was a consolation prize for those who had been salivating for the Nexus One on Verizon. Unfortunately, Google and Verizon pulled the plug on those plans and instead HTC offered the Incredible through Verizon with the traditional two-year contract. The Incredible did get one thing that the Nexus One didn't have: HTC's Sense UI. Some viewed that as a bonus over the stock Android OS on the Nexus One, while others saw it as a detractor.

7. Samsung Focus

Microsoft finally got itself back in the smartphone game in 2010 with the launch of Windows Phone 7, and the first widely-available WP7 device was the Samsung Focus, which didn't disappoint. The Focus sported nice hardware specs in an attractive, futuristic form factor (albeit with a lot of plastic, similar to the Galaxy S). And, Windows Phone 7 offered a new take on smartphone UI that is a little but more polished and fluid than Android or BlackBerry, although not quite as finished as the iPhone.

6. Motorola Droid X

Verizon Wireless went all-in on Android in 2010, launching a steady stream of new Android-powered devices throughout the year and replacing BlackBerry with Android as its primary smartphone platform. The Droid X served as Verizon's flagship Android phone, with its huge screen, 8MP camera, enterprise-class hardware, and extensive list of high-end features.

5. HTC Desire

While the HTC Incredible had the same guts as the Nexus One but a much different outer shell, the HTC Desire had similar internals and an outer shell that closely resembled the high quality metal casing on the Nexus One. The Desire quickly became one of the most popular smartphones in Europe and Australia by mid-2010 and has spread to other carriers through the globe since then. Along with the Nexus One and the iPhone 4, the Desire feels like the most substantial and high quality smartphone on the market. You should also keep an eye on the HTC Desire HD and the HTC Desire Z.

4. Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung joined the Android movement with all guns blazing in the middle of 2010 by releasing its line of Galaxy S smartphones in a variety of different form factors (and a confusing array of product names) on all four US wireless carriers and a fleet of international carriers. In the US, the Samsung Vibrant and the Samsung Epic 4G were the most impressive of the Galaxy S phones, but all of the models across the globe have same technology base and generally provide a very good Android experience.

3. Google Nexus One

The first big smartphone of 2010 was the Google Nexus One, launched just after the new year and right before CES 2010. As a product, the long-rumored "Google Phone" wasn't a disappointment. It had excellent build quality (developed by HTC) and ran the stock Android OS, which got all of the latest Android updates directly from Google. However, the phone failed in its larger mission of moving the US telecom market toward the European model of being able to buy phones and wireless service separately. The Nexus One was sold as an unlocked device at full price ($500) through Google's online store. Google was not well prepared to handle customer service and didn't give US consumers enough time to warm up to the idea of buying a full price device. It also never released the promised CDMA version of the Nexus One. Eventually, Google abandoned the product altogether and replaced it in December with the Nexus S, built by Samsung and available under traditional contract with T-Mobile.


The premier Android device of 2010 was the HTC EVO 4G. It was the first major smartphone to break the 4-inch screen barrier. It was the first 4G smartphone in the US. It was the first major smartphone with an 8.0 megapixel camera. It was the first major smartphone to feature a kickstand (for video viewing). I pejoratively called it the "Hummer of smartphones" because of its massive size and the fact that it's such as battery hog, but there's no arguing that the EVO 4G stretched the boundaries of what was possible in a smartphone and forced all of its competitors to play catch-up.

1. Apple iPhone 4

With all of the momentum that was gathering around Android during the first half of 2010, Apple's iPhone 3GS was starting to look pretty stale by mid-year -- especially since it was only a slight upgrade over the iPhone 3G from 2008. Then, Apple unveiled iOS4 and the iPhone 4 and launched itself back to the head of the class with top-quality hardware and a software experience that still outpaces all of its rivals in terms of ease of use, responsiveness, polish, and third-party software. The iPhone 4 antenna problem, which was more severe than Apple acknowledged but a lot less severe than the tech press portrayed it, was a wart for the iPhone 4. It also still lacks the widget capability of Android (and now Windows Phone 7). But, overall, the iPhone 4 remains the gold standard of the smartphone market.

Honorable mentions

  • Motorola Droid Pro
  • HTC HD7
  • Dell Venue Pro
  • T-Mobile G2
  • BlackBerry Bold 9780
  • HTC Aria

Also read

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Google, Hardware, HTC, iPhone, Mobility, BlackBerry, Smartphones

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  • I own a Samsung Galaxy S and I must agree...

    I am elite.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
  • Re-read the HTC Evo Description

    I think you just outlined why the Evo should be #1. I owned an iphone and now have an Evo. There's nothing that the iphone4 can do that the Evo cannot do. Plus, you get 4G and more "open" facets (like a non proprietary head phone jack)...
    • RE: The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

      @luispaez Yeah, the proprietary headphone jack was only on the 1st generation iPhone. That has not been on any other model.

      You might want to compare the current iPhone to the EVO. It isn't really fair to compare the EVO to an iPhone model that is roughly 4-5 years old.
  • It was the year of the iPad

    It certainly was a good year for smartphones but the game changer was the iPad - a new category of hardware was born.
    • What version of the Ipad

      allows you to make calls like a cell phone? I have to try that one out.
      John Zern
  • iPhone 4 Number ONE

    As it should be.

    I've had mine since launch, I've dropped it, sat on it, stepped on it, and not once have I had any issues with the signal, glass case breaking, or any of the other issues reported.

    Yes, I put a case on mine, but only because I put a case on every phone I get all the way back to my Palm devices, because when you get a new phone and sell the old one, CONDITION IS EVERYTHING!!

    My last 3 iPhones sold were in near mint condition, no scratches on the face, and hardly a blemish on the body. Anyone with half a brain knows that when you get a new one you want top dollar for the old phone, and keeping it as pristine as possible is key.

    Even my iPad has a case and screen protector on it so when I get a new one the old one can get top dollar.
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  • RE: The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

    Must be really delusional, the iPhone 4 is on the top of the list. Samsung Focus is better than that other phones on the list.
  • RE: The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

    Very unfortunate that I don't see Nokia N8 in this list. Perhaps it must be one of the top 5 contenders.
    Arun (sreearun)
  • RE: The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

    I also think a shame not to see the Nokia N8 on this list, it must be one of the top five candidates, but I like the iPhone, perfect!
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  • RE: The 10 elite smartphones of 2010

    I own a samsung galaxy note. Its a wonderful phone.