Android is a fantastic operating system; it’s my mobile OS of choice, and I love just about everything to do with it. But of course, you can’t hold bits and bytes in your hand. At the end of the day, if your Android smartphone is sub-optimal, using the OS could end up being a frustrating experience, plagued by force-closes (program crashes in Android-speak), memory issues, and other annoyances.
So here are five of the best Android phones that make for very solid choices. I won’t try to say which one is the better than all other Androids, but it’s definitely safe to say that none of these are a lemon.
Google Nexus S
The Google Nexus S has been out for a while now (since December 2010), but it’s still a great phone. First of all, this is Google’s official reference Android device, at least for the time being (the next one will probably be made by Motorola, whose mobile division Google recently bought).
Since this is the Android phone, you can expect it to always be running the very latest Android build. It receives constant over-the-air updates from Google, and the OS itself is pure vanilla Android, unencumbered (or “enhanced”) by any vendor-specific add-ons or layers (such as the HTC Sense interface, or Motorola’s MOTOBLUR). This is also the first phone to get cool things like Google Wallet, for example.
Another great thing about the Nexus S is its slick curved screen. This side view clearly shows how the glass curves inwards, to make the phone more rounded:
In terms of specs, the Nexus comes with a 4-inch screen, 512MB RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a 1 GHz Cortex A8 processor. Its onboard camera packs 5.0 megapixels. So this isn’t the most powerful hardware platform I’ll be covering in this roundup, but it’s definitely no slouch, either.
Now here’s a phone so large, it’s got its own kickstand. The Thunderbolt has a 4.3-inch screen, 768MB of RAM (more than the Nexus S), but “only” 8GB of internal storage (compared to the Nexus’s 16GB). On the other hand, it ships with a 32GB microSD card, so you could say it comes with 40GB of storage space. HTC invested in a great camera, too – 8.0 megapixels, flash included.
The phone comes running Android 2.2, with HTC’s own Sense UI on top. I’ve never used Sense myself, but I understand it’s an acquired taste. You can’t really miss those huge widgets featured prominently in most Sense screenshots, like the clock/weather widget above. This is not the first time we’ve mentioned the fantastic ThunderBolt either. Truly an alluring phone.
The Atrix is the only smartphone on this list that has a laptop as an accessory. You read that right – Motorola sells something called a “Lapdock” for the Atrix. The Lapdock basically looks like an 11″ laptop, but it uses the phone as its brains. Plug the phone in, and it books a full version of Firefox instantly. It’s a bit weird Motorola went for Firefox rather than the obvious choice in this case (Chrome), but this just gives you a small taste of the Atrix’s raw power. The Atrix has several other crazy accessories, such as the HD Multimedia Dock, that includes an HTMI port and room for up to three USB devices.
The Atrix features a 4-inch screen running at 960×540 (versus 800×480 on the Nexus S), has a dual-core 1 GHz processor, and runs Android 2.2 with MOTOBLUR on top. Oh, and it’s got its own integrated fingerprint reader too, for added security. An absolute beast of a phone.
LG Optimus 3D
The reason I’m showing you the back of the Optimus 3D rather than the front is so you could gawk at its two cameras. While many modern smartphones boast two cameras, it’s usually done as a front/back camera combo (back for pictures, front for video calls). The Optimus puts both cameras at the back, spaced apart so they can take 3D video (720p at 30fps). Of course, it can also take plain old 2D video, at 1080p and 30fps.
LG also says the display supports glasses-free 3D. The whole 3D angle sounds a bit gimmicky and may not work as well as you would expect it to, but in terms of raw hardware power, this phone has nothing to be ashamed of. It comes with a 4.3-inch display and a dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor.
Samsung Galaxy S II
Last but certainly not least comes the mind-blowing Samsung Galaxy S II. This phone is my own personal choice – I got one a few weeks ago, and have been overjoyed with it ever since. With its 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and 1GB of internal RAM (twice as much as the Nexus S), the Galaxy S II positively flies. I just can’t make this phone slow down, no matter what I throw at it. Oh, and did I mention MakeUseOf is giving one away?
None of these phones are what you would call cheap, and none of them are perfect, either. But they all provide plenty of performance in an attractive package.
What do you think is the best Android phone? Did I miss an important one? Let us know in the comments!