The Android platform hasn't yet managed to entirely shake-off its geeky image, but it is on track to become the most popular type of smartphone in the world. Now in its third year, Android offers enough smarts to baffle all but the most ardent of phone nuts, yet it has now matured into an easy to use and approachable system. All that's left is to choose which device best suits your needs, so to help you cut through the nonsense, we've compiled a list of the top 10 Androids around, from pre-pay bargains to high-end superphones.
Of course, with CES having just past and Mobile World Congress around the corner, there are oodles of new handsets, like the Sony Ericssion Xperia Play, LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix that will be arriving soon but right now we reckon the following phones are your best bets.
One of 2010's top large-screen phones, the 4-inch Samsung Galaxy S boasts one of the brashest mobile phone displays ever, and not just because of its large size. It uses a Super AMOLED display, which isn't illuminated by a standard backlight like on LCDs. OLED illumination lets dark areas of the screen remain pitch black, and the resulting image offers unbeatable contrast and black levels, in turn producing rich, vibrant colours.
The Samsung Galaxy S makes good use of this screen splendour, packing-in unusually good video support. DivX and Xvid compatibility is included from the off, on top of the Android standards of H.264 and MP4, meaning it can play most of the videos you have downloaded from the net. With a 1GHz Hummingbird processor running the show, the Samsung Galaxy S can handle HD-resolution videos too, although the video transcoding ninjas among you will want to stick to the Samsung Galaxy S's 480x800-pixel resolution when encoding your own clips.
Where it falls down some is its lack of flash for the camera and, being built from fairly thin plastic rather than metal, the Samsung Galaxy S feels a bit flimsy given its price tag. However, that sacrifice means the phone is just 9.9mm thick and 119g, making it the most portable 4-inch phone around.
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Big, beautiful and powerful, the HTC Desire HD is the daddy of Android phones - for now. This year it'll be beaten by dual-core young upstarts, including some of HTC's own offerings, set to be unveiled at February's Mobile World Congress event. For now though, the HTC Desire HD owns our hearts, having won our 2010 Smartphone of the Year award.
At the top of its feature list is the gigantic 4.3-inch screen, which may concern wearers of tight jeans. It does make the HTC Desire HD a great media player though, boosted by HTCâ€™s inclusion of native DivX video playback ─ a feature left out of the original HTC Desire.
Sticking to the philosophy that "more is more", the HTC Desire offers a 1GHz processor, separate Adreno 205 GPU and a massive 1.5GB of RAM, guaranteeing slick performance whether you're gaming or just letting a half-dozen apps whir away in the background. The 8-megapixel camera is also up there with the best Android phones snappers available.
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Just as the Google Nexus One is eerily similar to the HTC Desire - no great surprise given HTC manufactured the phone - the Google Nexus S takes design tips from the Samsung Galaxy S. Launched in December 2010, it was the first phone to feature the Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, yet to land on any other Android phone.
In many ways it's just like the Samsung Galaxy S, with excellent video playback skills and that Super AMOLED screen that still makes us sigh in admiration, but bizarrely it leaves out a microSD slot.
The vast majority of Android phones we've tested have offered a microSD slot. Dropping the feature caused uproar at launch, with Android fans speculating that Google was "doing an Apple", stopping us from expanding memory cheaply, but with 16GB on-board it has enough memory to store a decent-sized music collection plus a few movies. Does it spell the end for microSDs in Android phones though? We still don't know, as Google hasn't released full details on what Android 2.3 Gingerbread will demand in terms of minimum specs.
HTC is responsible for many of the best Android phones released so far, including the Desire HD and classic HTC Magic, but the HTC Desire Z is its first full-Qwerty Android phone. Thankfully, it's a hole-in-one.
It was released alongside the HTC Desire HD, but doesn't try to replicate that alpha dog's specs like-for-like. Instead, it uses a less powerful 800MHz processor rather than a 1GHz model, and a 5-megapixel camera in place of an 8-megapixel jobbie. In practice, this'll mean there's a fraction more lag in everyday navigation once you have a few apps running in the background, but these cuts allowed HTC to pack-in a top-quality Qwerty keyboard without launching the handset's price into the stratosphere.
If you want an Android with a full Qwerty keyboard and aren't after a budget model, this is the phone to seek out.
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We've already mentioned it several times throughout this round up and finally, HTC's classic gets a couple of paragraphs all of its own. Packing a 3.7in screen, it started off AMOLED but latter versions have changed to LCD panels. Nonetheless, the 480 x 800 pixel resolution panels both offer an excellent viewing experience.
Despite being among the oldest handsets in this roundup (though it's still less than a year old), the Desire still holds its own in design, and its build quality puts the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S to shame. Performance won't be an issue either as this was one of the first handsets to offer a 1GHz Snapdragon processor. You also get 512MB of RAM and a microSD slot to add lots of storage. Even the 5-megapixe camera holds up to today's competition.
The optical trackpad may be a bit of a throwback and considering its pedigree, you might it expect it to be a bit cheaper, but otherwise this granddaddy is still worth picking up.
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