Best Android-powered smartphones

Best Android-powered smartphones

Summary: Rather than price, I'm going to look purely at features.

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After the post I did on the best Android-powered tablets the other day, I was expecting this question to land in my mailbox:

In your -- not so humble ;) -- opinion, what are the best Android smartphones currently available?

When I looked at Android tablets, price was a major factor in determining what was best. Smartphones are tricky because it's almost impossible to compare them on price because subsidies vary from carrier to carrier, and even based on how good a customer they think you are.

Because of that fact, I'm going to ignore price as a differentiator. All I'm going to say on the subject of pricing is that if you're on contract then it might be worth you shopping about for the best deals. And for those of you not on contract who are looking to buy an unlocked handset, then you might want to sit down before looking at the price. Some of these handsets are very expensive.

Rather than price, I'm going to look purely at features.

Note that I am only covering handsets that are currently available -- which is why the Samsung Galaxy S III isn't in the listing.

Best Android-powered smartphones


Image Gallery: Best Android-powered smartphones Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

This handset tops my list for a number of reasons. First, it runs the latest Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' operating system. It has a gorgeous contour display that has to be seen to be believed. It's also unlocked, so you can use it on over 200 GMS networks worldwide.

An excellent all-round Android handset.

HTC One X

Here's another excellent handset powered by Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich'. It features a stunning screen, an excellent camera, and a superb built-in speaker system. When combined with AT&T's LTE network, it also offers blazingly fast browsing.

Samsung Galaxy S II

The first handset in this list not powered by Android 4.0. This one features the older Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' operating system. Still, if you can look beyond the operating system, you'll find that the Samsung Galaxy S II is a very capable handset.

Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX

Another awesome handset powered by Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich'. This one comes fully-loaded with a fast dual-core processor, Verizon 4G/LTE high-speed data, and excellent battery life -- enough for a 21-hour conference call.

It's also tough, constructed form DuPont Kevlar fiber and Corning Gorilla Glass, and features water-repellent nanoparticles to shield against water, even on the internal circuit boards.

Probably my favorite handset in the list.

Motorola Photon 4G

Another handset in this list not powered by Android 4.0, this one also features the older Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' operating system. Don't let the older operating system put you off, though; this is still a very capable handset.

The unique feature of this handset is that it can be combined with an optional $129 desktop dock to turn the smartphone into a webtop system running a bare-bones version of Linux.

Image sources: Google, HTC.

Topics: Mobile OS, Android, Google, Hardware, Mobility, Processors, Security, Smartphones

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13 comments
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  • Galaxy Note

    If you ask most Galaxy Note owners, including myself, they would want you to include it in your list. The extra screen size, coupled with the 280 ppi resolution and a super amoled screen, is absolutely fantastic. Also, the memo taking software is surprisingly useful. The size of the phone has never bothered me and people who say that you look stupid holding it up to your face when making are call are far too self-conscious.
    Perhaps you didn't include it because it is a "phablet", in which case it belongs in its own category - the best android powered phablet you can buy.
    an10e
    • I second that.

      Galaxy Note is awesome and it beats the rags out of every phone there on the list. taking notes, surfing web and responding to email chain is really good. Only thing is if you want to talk sometimes it is not that handy, using a handsfree headset helps. Also I have seen voice quality issues with both the Motorola phones out there. The other side of the phone can't really hear what you are talking.
      Ram U
      • I only wish Samsung will be able to produce SAMOLED+ displays for Note, ...

        ... rather than just SAMOLED, which has pentile matrix.

        SGNote is expected to be updated with SAMOLED+ screen by the end of this year.
        DDERSSS
  • None - they are all SUCK-tastic

    Have a Droid X and it sucks. Can't wait to dump the POS.
    itguy10
    • You were abandoned as a child.

      That has to be the answer.
      William Farrel
      • The galaxy nexus really does suck

        Too bad in cannot hold on to 4G and even drops 3G calls, cause the screen looks great and ICS is an improvement over the last Android fudge cake sandwich release.
        otaddy
    • they have service

      under the bridges troll live under?
      timspublic1@...
  • Motorola and Sprint are updating the Photon 4G

    to ICS in the third quarter of this year. I am a proud owner of the Photon 4G.
    soonerproud
  • Which, if any, of the Android handsets...

    can run for longer than a week or two without having to be re-booted? That has been the one thing that drives me nuts about Android. An app that suddenly crashes, or the phone suddenly locks up, or just slowly gets slower, and slower, and slower... Til you get fed up and re-boot it.
    LYU370
    • hear about this

      but have not seen it. I've had two Android phones now and one tablet. Still waiting for the doom and gloom you speak of. Guess it's just you.
      timspublic1@...
  • ICS Now??

    Adrian,
    I have been watching Verizon and specifically their Razor Maxx. As of today, 5/9/12, it is still listed as having Android Gingerbread not ICS. I understand the upgrade is in the works but still sells with Gingerbread 2.3.5. You are saying it has ICS now. WHERE?
    "Operating System
    Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) OS with Motorola Application Platform
    Display"
    ronalddpowell
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    Best android experience ever... enjoy :)
    nishanth123
  • Nice article..

    Nice consolidation of a best android smartphones..
    nishanth123