The world of Android is fast and furious (maybe too fast and too furious). We made a Best Android handsets list six months ago, but it’s already woefully outdated. Our late 2010 picks were the Motorola Droid X, HTC EVO 4G, HTC Droid Incredible, T-Mobile G2, and Samsung Captivate. While these are all still excellent Android devices, time marches on, and so do our picks. Below are five of our favorite Android handsets currently on the market.
($100 on AT&T with two-year contract)
The Inspire may not have the fancy dual-core processor that some of the newest Android phones have, but it’s a great device at a great price. We’re big fans of HTC’s Sense user interface (UI), which may be the best Android user interface on the market, especially for new users. If this is your first smartphone and you’re on AT&T, the 4.3-inch phone is a great choice. For those wondering, the Inspire 4G has 4GB of internal storage, an 800MHz TI OMAP 3610 processor, 4G HSPA+ support, and a 480 x 800 pixel display. It has a few shortcomings, however. It lacks a front-facing camera and the battery cover is oddly placed and difficult to remove. We are also still waiting for an upgrade to Android 2.3, which HTC says will come soon.
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($200 on AT&T with two-year contract)
Motorola made a big splash with its series of Droid phones on Verizon, but its flagship AT&T phone has had a rough time catching on with consumers, likely because of its far-too-expensive laptop dock attachment. We’re honestly not sure what Motorola was thinking when it released the $500 peripheral with the Atrix 4G. Remove the dock from the equation though, and the Atrix 4G is one of the best phones on the market today with a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 540 x 960 qHD 4.0-inch screen, 4G HSPA+ support, and a built-in biometric fingerprint reader. The only downside to the handset is that it uses the MotoBlur UI, which just doesn’t hold up well compared to the modified UI by HTC and other manufacturers.
($200 on T-Mobile with two-year contract)
The T-Mobile G2x is actually an LG Optimus phone, and shows that LG is beginning to lead the pack with its high-end Android devices. We don’t have a full review out yet, but we got the chance to spend some time with this phone at CTIA in late March and walked away highly impressed. Though it has a 1GHz dual-core processor, its specs don’t quite match up to the Atrix, but hey, it’s probably the best phone on T-Mobile right now, and fast enough to satisfy the most demanding of users. We also like that LG tends to leave Android alone, for the most part. Unlike Motorola, which seems to tamper just for the sake of tampering, the Android UI changes in LG’s newer phones are minimally invasive and seem to make sense. We can’t complain about the HDMI mirroring either. This is a device worth switching carriers for, if T-Mobile coverage is good in your area. The carrier also has some of the best data rates.
($250 on Verizon with two-year contract)
If you’re willing to live on the cutting edge, the Verizon HTC ThunderBolt is a good choice for you. This is the first phone that can tap into the carrier’s next-generation 4G LTE network, which is up and running in many cities across the United States. Obviously, you’ll want to check your local coverage, but give it a spin if it’s available. There are downsides to living on the bleeding edge, however. Verizon’s 4G network has had a few hiccups and ThunderBolt users have complained of shorter-than-average battery life for the handset. Still, it could be worse, and Verizon’s network is poised to have the best actual 4G coverage for some time to come, as AT&T’s LTE network is still in early testing.
Google Nexus S 4G
($200 on Sprint with two-year contract)
Sprint’s EVO line of phones is great and we’re looking forward to Samsung’s Galaxy S II, but for now, the Google Nexus S, made by Samsung, is a great option for those who’d like a full-featured Android phone on Sprint. Co-designed by Google to deliver a pure Android experience, the Nexus S is just about the only handset currently on the market that has Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). The update adds some graphical enhancements to Android and needed upgrades to core features like battery management. Better yet, the Nexus S is equipped with Sprint WiMax 4G capabilities. While not as fast as Verizon’s LTE network, WiMax is an actual 4G technology whereas T-Mobile and AT&Ts’ HSPA+ networks are more like 3G networks on steroids. Another perk of having a Google phone is that you may actually get the next version of Android when it comes out, not six to 12 months later, as seems to be the norm these days.